Enter to Win Reetsyburger's Cheese Giveaway!

When a box of cheese arrives at your doorstep, an average day gets upgraded to first-class - especially when it’s Culture Magazine sending you new cheese from Coach Farm. And today could be YOUR most excellent day too. Right here, right now, you have an opportunity to win free Coach Farm goat cheese from yours truly.

Earlier this month, I was selected by Culture Magazine for their "Hello My Name Is...Blogger Contest" to write about a new style of cheese. For this particular contest, they sent me a shipment of Coach Farm goat cheese including a brand new variety of raw goat’s milk cheese.

Many remember Miles and Lilian Cahn as the owners of the famous Coach Leatherware Company – you know, the makers of belts, wallets, and those oh-so coveted handbags. Well, in 1985, the Cahns sold Coach Leatherware, and since then they’ve been “held hostage” by their herd of more than 1000 Alpine French goats at Coach Farm. 

Located outside of New York City in the Hudson Valley, Coach Farm's cheesemaker Mark Newbold crafts artisanal goat cheese for a wide variety of customers, including foodie major leaguers like Mario Baltali and Pierre Chambrin. Coach Farm bagged a 1st place prize at the 2008 World Championship Cheese Contest for their Triple Cream Wheel, and that’s just one of many awards they’ve locked down.

Coach Farm's new, raw goat's milk cheese. Photo by Marie Flanagan.
The as yet unnamed, Coach Farm raw milk goat cheese that arrived on my doorstep was all dolled up in an insulated box, tucked in alongside a few cheesy companions. As I unpacked the box, I smiled when I got my mitts on the big hunk of raw goat’s milk cheese. Reminiscent of bûcheron, a French cheese which is usually aged for 25-50 days, Coach Farm's raw milk cheese is made with unpasteurized milk and aged for at least 60 days. 

It has a bloomy, edible rind, and inside the rind, the cheese proffers two layers of flavor and texture. A thin creamline of smooth pâte gives way to a substantial layer of semi-firm, slightly tangy chèvre. Pair it with a glass of sparkling Vouvray and some grapes, and enjoy it at brunch or for an evening dessert. The flavor is clean and bold enough to pair with your beet salad, but it expresses itself more nobly alongside some simple fresh fruit. And for that reason, I suggest Noble Raw as the name for this new cheese. 

My first-ever cheese giveaway. A collection of Coach Farm cheeses. Photo by Marie Flanagan.
With so much cheesy splendor in the house, I'm obligated to pay it forward, so I’m sharing some of this shipment with one, lucky reader. Included in the shipment will be a round of their award-winning Triple Cream, 4 ounces of their classic fresh goat cheese, and a piece of their brand new, unnamed raw goat’s milk cheese. 

The time is NOW. Do what the readers of this blog do best – gush about food. To enter for a chance to have this cheese shipped to you, either share this post on facebook -OR- write a description of your favorite goat cheese dish in the Twin Cities in the comments section below (if you live elsewhere, share a favorite restaurant's goat cheese preparation in your locale). This is your chance to WIN FREE CHEESE! Enter by the 18th.

Please note: This has been posted on multiple blogs. You need only enter on one of them.

[where: Minnesota, Food, Minneapolis, Twin Cities, 55418]

Rachelle's Fanciful Figolli

Look at this awesome wedding. 
A couple of our travel junkie pals, Dan and Rachelle, got hitched in Malta in 2004. To commemorate their time spent in Malta, the ever-thoughtful Rachelle started making a Maltese speciality - figolli - for Easter celebrations. 

Figolli are
colossal, splendid cookies stuffed with almond paste. Rachelle's figolli always steal the show with their ultra-mega size and fancy-pants decorating. Scads of people asked about them at our Easter lunch this year, so I asked Rachelle if I could share her recipe and story.


Rachelle's Fanciful Figolli 

(Adapted from the Gourmet Worrier recipe, which was adapted from The Food & Cookery of Malta recipe (1999))   

This quantity will give you enough dough to make approximately SIX average sized Figolli. 

For the pastry:  
  • 800g organic plain flour, sifted
  • 350g caster sugar
  • 400g butter
  • 4 organic egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • Grated rind of a lemon, lime and orange 
For the filling:
  • 600g icing sugar, sifted
  • 600g ground almonds
  • 4 organic egg whites
  • Grated rind of 2 lemons
  • A couple of capfuls of Orange Blossom water 
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F
  2. Rub the butter into the flour and sugar until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolks, lemon zest and a little cold water. Knead it gently to form a smooth ball. Wrap in cling wrap and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.  
  3. Meanwhile add the lemon zest, orange blossom water and sugar to the ground almonds. Add the egg whites and mix until well combined.
  4. On a floured surface roll out your pastry to a 2-3mm thickness. Cut out your desired shapes ensuring that you have two of each figure as they will be sandwiched together with the almond filling.
  5. Lay the figolla on a lined baking tray and spread the almond filling at least 1cm thick. Lay the second shape over the top and press the edges together sealing it with a little water. Bake for 20 minutes until a pale golden colour. Allow to cool before decorating with lemon glace icing. Use royal icing to hold the chocolate eggs in place. 
From the baker herself, (Rachelle):

"This is my fourth or fifth time baking these and I tend to use a different recipe each time, learning new tricks each year.  I really liked how the cookie and filling turned out this year, but I ran out of mojo by the time I got to the decorating and had a few frosting fails, so I didn't get as elaborate with the decorating."

Rachelle and Dan = couple crush

[where: Minnesota, Food, Minneapolis, Twin Cities, 55418]

The Last Supper - at Travail

When news broke that the beloved Travail Kitchen and Amusements in Robbinsdale, MN would be closing, as we know it, we hightailed it to their dining room for one last prix fixe tasting.

We arrived at 5pm on a Thursday, waited 30 minutes, and were seated at the shag rug "hot tub" table, along with 4 young gals who were out for a "dinner club" meeting (Dinner club? I'm all about it.).

Because our meals at Travail have been memorable and exceeded our expectations, I wanted to document our last supper at the original Travail - you know, for posterity. I should have toted along our Panasonic Lumix, but instead I took pics with my iPhone (mea culpa).

A riff on grilled cheese and tomato soup, this saucy little number included an American cheese fritter in a sauce that tasted suspiciously like Campbell's tomato soup.

This nod to fish n' chips included a salmon and potato croquette with potato waffle chips, pickled goodies, and deconstructed tartar sauce.

The simple beef tartare was served on buttery toast with a zesty cornichon and tangy mustard.

Their angliotti never disappointed, and this night was no exception - with asparagus, a poached egg, and a buttery foam sauce reminiscent of hollandaise.

The perfectly seared scallop was served with lime mascarspone, candied pear, and cauliflower. 

A deconstructed version of fried chicken featured crispy fried chicken skin, fried thigh, fried breast, and a rich gravy, poured when served.  

 The beef course combined a succulent braised short rib, a piece of 32-day aged beef tenderloin, beer cheese "soup" with popcorn, caramelized brussels sprouts, and a rich potato gratin.

An over-the-top dessert course included a variety of tiny bars, including white chocolate fudge, an apple tart, a smores bar, chocolate cake, carrot cake, creme brûlée, and an "Orange Julius."

We're looking forward to their new ventures, Pig Ate My Pizza and The Rookery, and we're excited to snag a table when Travail reincarnates itself in September 2013.
[where: Minnesota, Food, Minneapolis, Twin Cities, 55418]

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things: 2012

Luciano Pavarotti once said, "One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating."

My fourth annual recap of my favorite bites and meals reminds me that I pay attention to things like noodles, pickles, dairy products, booze, and obsessive people. From bowls of steaming noodles, to the best pork belly on the other side of the Mississippi, I noshed on morsels prepared by devoted chefs using ingredients raised by dedicated producers. These bites were usually shared with sweetheart friends, family members, friendly strangers, and/or the ever-awesome mustachioed gerg.

Here are my edible hits of 2012, in no particular order:

 L'ETOILE. Tory Miller, owner and executive chef at L'Etoile and Graze, was named Best Chef in the Midwest by James Beard in 2012. Lucky for us, two of his restaurants are located in Madison, Wis, which is just over the river and through the woods from Minneapolis. I visited both restaurants this year, but one dish at L'Etoile was particularly noteworthy. It was a crispy Willow Creek pork belly small plate served with yellow doll watermelon "kimchee" and then topped with a little frisée, fried peanuts, cilantro, and scallions. The salty pork belly paired with the fresh, tangy fruit was the bombdiggity.

LANTERN. As for James Beard winners, Andrea Reusing was the 2011 winner of the James Beard award for Best Chef in the Southeast. Gerg's sister and her husband treated us to dinner at Reusing's restaurant, Lantern, in Chapel Hill, NC. I ordered the crispy slow-cooked duck soup with fresh egg noodles, oyster and shiitake mushrooms, Shanghai bok choy, and scallions. The egg noodles were dreamy. The crispy duck added body and flavor to a broth that jived with the mushrooms and fresh scallions in a good way. And the dessert - roasted banana ice cream with caramel, soft cream, and locally made peanut brittle - was aces. Bananas never tasted so good.

THE OLD FASHIONED. The Old Fashioned Tavern and Restaurant in Madison, Wis, was a semi-finalist for the James Beard award for outstanding bar program in 2012. As I enjoyed many old fashioned libations there, I also ordered the #7 Appetizer THRICE in 2012. Check it out; they load a "lazy Susan" with local dilly beans, deviled eggs, dill potato salad, pickled beets, poppy seed coleslaw, dill pickles, Widmer’s Brick cheese spread, Vern’s Sharp Cheddar cheese spread and then set it in the middle of your table with a side of crackers and rye bread. It's about as irresistible as a Donald Driver Lambeau leap.

SINGING HILLS GOAT CHEESE. Singing Hills Goat Dairy is Minnesota’s goat farm darling on the interwebs. Lynne Reeck and Kate Wall operate Singing Hills Goat Dairy, a 25-acre farm in Nerstrand, where they’re raising goats and crafting fresh, artisan goat cheese. Light and mild, the brine on their slabs of feta-style goat cheese gently coaxes the milky flavor from the cheese. And their fresh curds are soft, slightly salty, and squeaky between your teeth. We made a homemade homerun this year - Singing Hills feta piled on a rosemary, parsley, and garlic seasoned lamb burger, with olives.

KATANA-YA. On a cool and misty afternoon in San Francisco, I took a chance on Katana-ya Ramen. The waiting line at the joint is legendary,  but when I wandered there at 4pm on a Tuesday, I was seated promptly. I immediately ordered a bowl of the Katanaya Ramen - ramen noodles in a miso broth served with corn, fried chicken, fried potatoes, seaweed, scallion, bbq pork, and boiled egg. The noodles were oh-so silky and the miso-based broth was complex and soothing.

BOURBON and BRANCH. While lounging in my hotel lobby in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco, I met a gal who eventually squealed, "Oh! You're a foodie!" As I owned up to my foodie status, she invited me to join her for a drink at a nearby speakeasy, Bourbon and Branch.  Yep, I was reluctant, but it was just around the corner, she was wearing dope eyeliner, and she had a reservation and the password. We had a blast. Despite the passwords, rules, and goofy guests, the cocktails were on point. They had a bunch of hand-numbered bottles, and some real gems like Rittenhouse 21 Year and Glenmorangie Margaux Cask Finish.

INDEED. Adding to the growing list of Twin Cities’ taprooms, Indeed Brewing Company opened their taproom located in the Solar Arts Building in NE Minneapolis in August. We've taken a shine to the founders, friends, and college roommates Tom Whisenand, Nathan Berndt, and Rachel Anderson (along with Nathan's wife Nancy and her rad sisters).  Although we've enjoyed their seasonal beers, we keep coming back to their citrusy Day Tripper Pale Ale and the sweeter (and slightly chocolatey) Midnight Ryder American Black Ale.

AMAZBALLS JELLO MOLD. My gal pal, ShannyPants, just had to make a boozyjello mold for Halloween this year. She had her heart set on this 12-layer, bundt cake sized boozy jello mold, so we got together on a Friday evening and spent five focused hours making layer after layer of booze-laden jello. It was consumed in three hours at an epic party involving a flaming pizza toss. Top that.

VALENTINO PASTA. Speaking of gal pals, the summer before I moved away to college, I met another gal named Marie. We spent a summer being invincible, and then I moved away. We grew apart. We grew up. Fifteen years later, writing about local and regional food, I stumbled across a new artisan pasta maker in Illinois, and discovered that my friend, Marie Valentino, was the wife of the pasta maker. Perfectly made fresh pasta is sublime, but sometimes it just isn’t practical, and for that reason, dried pasta is considered a pantry staple for most of us. Valentino Pasta in Roscoe, Ill.has taken a glimpse into our pantries and wants to improve them with this new line of dried, artisan pasta. Their duram creste de gallo pasta is a dream come true for a crema di funghi sauce.

TANPOPO NOODLE SHOP. I'm a fan Tanpopo Noodle Shop, and each time I dined there before 2012, I longingly gazed at the large dining table in the dining room. You know the one I mean - the space, the lighting, and the table always inspire imaginary dinner scenarios involving a couple of handfuls of lovely people, steaming bowls of noodles, and fancy talk. This year, we finally gathered a group and made a reservation for the big table. It was just as I imagined - a group of awesome people telling bad jokes in a classy dining room slurping top notch noodles. Photo by Sarah Kriha. 
FROZBROZ. Ben Solberg and Erik Powers’ scratch-made, small batches of FrozBroz ice cream are making a big stir in the Twin Cities. Smooth and creamy, FrozBroz’s stellar brown butter base (used for their Brown Butter Corn Bread and Apricot Maple French Toast flavors, among others) is reminiscent of a butter pecan ice cream base, but with a much more assertive butter flavor. Local and organic ingredients are a mainstay in their flavors, and I hope they get public distribution ASAP. 

Other notables:
  • Picking and eating the first cherries from our tart cherry tree.
  • A picnic operetta at the California Street Farm with farm-grown snacks.
  • The gorgeous birthday cake that Carrie Vono made for me. I repeat, GORGEOUS.
  • Grilled Sogn Harvest sausages from Shepherd's Way Farms.
  • That killer soft-shell crab sandwich from Left Handed Cook. 
  • Stopping by the Pearson's house to share my CSA goodies, and being invited to dinner. Score!
  • Entering jams, jellies, and pickles in the MN State Fair, even though I didn't win a ribbon.
  • Winning Aimee Tritt's Pudgy Pie Contest with my Cubano pudgy pie, and winning a pie at the Toewe's Fry Fest with my pulled pork egg rolls.
Previous Years' Recaps:

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things: 2011
These Are a Few of My Favorite Things: 2010
2009: A Few of My Favorite Edible Things


[where: Minnesota, Food, Minneapolis, Twin Cities, 55418]