Defining a city by its food: 17 truly St. Paul dishes

Defining a city by its food: 17 truly St. Paul dishes

Much poetry has been written as an ode to the city; the place where we were born and/or raised, that has shaped us. Poetry, pictures, paintings and films. We look for these things and as the arts they help us to define ourselves as they define the world around us. However, as the “roving gourmand” Jim Harrison states plainly, “How feebly the arts compete with the idea of what we are going to eat next.” Isn’t it true that a good meal trumps all else? That the Mona Lisa cannot truly be enjoyed on an empty stomach? That we will walk out of an Oscar-worthy film to satiate a begging appetite? That we cannot read, or write, or dream, or laugh when hunger pangs beg the largest question of them all: Who am I, if not someone who needs to eat? So then we define the city by its food. It’s step one, maybe, the base (cornerstone) of how to describe the landscape. We start here. But then we ask what kind of food culture can be created when a city’s identity is changing; when people are moving in, and out, of its borders at a rapid pace? Regardless of what the landscape will look like in 5, 10, 20 years or more, these dishes remain truly representative of the Capital City’s soul. It’s core. And they will keep us fed today so that we may go on and enjoy everything else she has to offer.   17 dishes that define St. Paul Pelmeni at Moscow on the Hill These dumplings are simple. They are delicious. As a happy hour...
A taste of the good life | A philosophy of the good life

A taste of the good life | A philosophy of the good life

Life is short, they told us from the start. And, like the joke Woody Allen used in Annie Hall, “Two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of ’em says, “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.” The other one says, “Yeah, I know; and such small portions.” Well, that’s essentially how I feel about life – full of loneliness, and misery, and suffering, and unhappiness, and it’s all over much too quickly.” life is often viewed, perhaps sardonically, but with a certain modicum of truth, as something somewhat cruel. But, when utilized properly, filled with good food and drink, and good people on all sides to share it with, a moment can last a thousand years, each one better than the last.   Memory of a good life The smell of black coffee immediately brings me back to the childhood hours spent in airports across the world; flights to and from Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Reykjavik, Chicago. The fresh pastries; croissants with butter, raspberry cream donuts, kaiser rolls, and walnut snails ready to eat while waiting wide-eyed, watching a thousand people pass by, and then a thousand more. Getting together the last bit of change in my pocket to buy a fresh pretzel from the stand, or something warm to drink when the wind blows cold. A tall glass of orange juice reminds of the sun shining warm across the breakfast table. Three, four, five courses from some of the world’s most passionate chefs… It’s not just about luxury; not just about the foie gras with black truffle, or having caviar twice a day (though I would not object)....
What I ate when I was under the weather

What I ate when I was under the weather

Broth is the common cure for almost anything which ails you.  At least that’s my go to.  We all know grandmas have been taking care of business with their homemade soups and broths since the dawn of the soup bowl.  But more importantly I’m taking about spiced broth.  Spice gets the blood flowing, bringing more oxygen to all parts of your body.  Capsaicin, which puts the spice in spicy, can clear your sinuses, help against ulcers and get your metabolism running stronger.  Also can be a solid colon cleanse in large amounts. This is what I ate as I was laid up in bed for 48 hours craving nothing but spicy broth.   Pho ’79  (Nicollet Ave) Restaurant Grade: B Maybe it’s because I was dealing with a sinus infection, maybe it’s because we got it to go, or maybe the lazy cousin was working that day and forgot to put flavor in the broth, whatever the reason: this was the blandest Pho I’ve had in Minnesota.  Lacking on the spices and umami, only after adding the typical hoisin and chili sauce did it become appealing.  Pho broth is supposed to be this tried and true corner stone of depth that comes from hours of slow simmering and mélange of spices, so once you are given the necessary accompaniments you can tweak it how you’d like.  The lime, Thai basil, chili sauce, hoisin, bean sprouts, smoked chili oil, and scallions are all necessary and available for you to add the appropriate amounts.  These things are great but it doesn’t fix the missing layer of flavor from a boring broth....
Pajarito brings the heat to an already-sizzling West 7th

Pajarito brings the heat to an already-sizzling West 7th

The neighborhood Pajarito joins one of St. Paul’s oldest, now one of St. Paul’s hottest, avenues. West 7th was already cool, of course, peppered with great, if overlooked, places to eat and drink. There is no need to change West 7th or the West End neighborhood. But there was certainly room to add to it. The avenue is red-hot right now, from the Xcel Energy Center to Schmidt Artists Lofts. The success of new ventures, like Bad Weather Brewing Company, joins established hot spots like Mancinis and Cossetta’s, while looking to the future with Keg and Case Market, Stone Brewery, and New Bohemia coming this year. And Pajarito, which opened its doors during the final days of a tumultuous 2016, is making a name for itself in the midst of it all.   Pajarito, the restaurant We may have spent a few months lamenting the loss of the Glockenspiel (the space in which Pajarito is now housed), but the past is the past and the future is now. St. Paul is no longer lagging behind in creating neighborhood restaurants of note; in creating quality, awesome spots suitable for both a quick bite and cocktail or a nice sit-down-and-stay dinner. Pajarito embraces the fact that, on some level, it’s just a taco joint. The minds (and hands and hearts and souls) behind Pajarito don’t try and take on more than they can handle. This is evidenced by the beautiful simplicity of the menu. The tacos ($9) are great. The Carnitas is the best so far, and perhaps one of the best in the cities. You can truly taste the grill on the...
Winespiring: Bottles of memories

Winespiring: Bottles of memories

As a wine professional, I sample several wines each week.  Sometimes dozens in a single day.  When I taste a wine for work it is rarely with the thought of whether or not I like the wine.  I taste with the future consumer in mind.  I ask, will it go with the menu or is this price point going to deliver what the guest is looking for?  I look, sniff, swirl… all with the mindset of someone else. When you get into wine as a profession it is common to lose your passion for why you came to this inspiring beverage to begin with.  But sometimes, a wine will remind you of a memory, a snapshot of something ethereal and important.  Something forgotten that you find like a single earring under the rug.  A note of petrol that triggers a quick moment of sitting in the backseat of your parent’s car while they pumped gas with the windows open on a warm day.  Or graphite that takes you back to sharp pencils and algebra tests.  A Cabernet that brought back the taste of red currants growing near the front door of my grandmother’s house. I could not tell you what that Cabernet was.  But I can remember details of picking the sour currants and staining my lips with them.  I appreciate when a wine pulls the past out of my distracted brain.  It is like a microscope of smell and taste that connects me with a former time when I collected all the environmental clues that hold consistency in my glass. It is these olfactory moments that inspire me...
Selby & Snelling now home to Athenian Street Food: The Naughty Greek

Selby & Snelling now home to Athenian Street Food: The Naughty Greek

A Greek native finds his home in St. Paul, and brings tasty pork gyros with him. Flirt, be chic, get naughty at the Greek The scene on Selby just got a whole lot feta. The Naughty Greek, run by Angelo Giovanis, has become a hot spot for the neighborhood. Located in the old Cupcake space, the new eatery opened in November 2016. Lead by frustration in finding authentic Greek food in Minnesota, Greek-born Giovanis decided to become “The big feta” and open his own authentic shop, based on the tastes Giovanis misses from the Greek hills of the Peloponnese. The entire menu reflects things he always wants to eat himself, making it hard for him to choose a favorite off the menu: “I would say I have two favorite dishes followed by a dessert. My favorite dish is the ½ lb lamb plate. I love lamb, I love tzatziki and fries and the combination of the three on one plate makes me happy. My pork gyro is the reason why I opened this restaurant – eating this “sandwich” brings me back to the streets of Athens.  Lastly, the orange filo cake is a favorite of me and my family, it is my Grandma’s recipe (thus called Yiayias Orange Fillo cake) and reminds me of her; it’s also the best way to end a Greek savory meal.” Inspired by his grandma, and the rest of his family, he has now managed to create and open an adorable shop in the heart of St. Paul. From the authentic ingredients to the family feel, The Naughty Greek has nailed it. The shop roasts locally-sourced pork and...