January in Minnesota brings many challenges but this year was exceptional. Besides a sub-zero cold punch and bouts of political strife, the beloved Oak Grill is slated to close. Popovers are on the endangered eating list – at least in downtown Minneapolis.
The Oak Grill tradition goes back a long way with my family. I can see my mother and sister seated up straight against the backdrop of over-sized chairs and an old English fireplace. Everyone is dressed in her Sunday best right down to her purse strings. Our worries fade into a melody of agreeable table conversation. It’s the 70s. We’re on holiday. The country club-style surroundings feel comfy and inviting. These oak trimmed walls are a public forum, the crowning glory of a shopping paradise that defined the civic pride of Minnesota since 1947.
Decades pass. The glitz and glamor is gone. An elevator ride to the restaurant’s 12th floor confirmed my worst worries. On the way up, the doors opened up to cavernous floors dotted with remnants of merchandise. The premiere shopping spot of Minneapolis was reduced to a clearance sale.
Neither the familiar setting of the Oak Grill nor the company of a dear friend soothed my strain. Even a succession of three popovers did little to curb the pain and not just because they charge extra for seconds now. No. I wanted my store back, the Oval Room trimmed to the hilt with alluring top designer fashions, the Marketplace with those ornate boxes of Long Grove candy that looked almost too beautiful to open.
What happened to my childhood shopping mecca?
I was loyal. This was still the place I came to buy clothes, luggage, cosmetics, candy, sheets, towels, china, stationary, pots, pans, kitchen gadgets and more. My house is filled with the bounty of Dayton’s turned Marshall Field’s turned Macy’s.
But it wasn’t really the things, it was the experience buying them that counted. Nothing beat an indoor Bachman’s flower show during the slow thaw of spring. The cleverly animated Easter and Christmas shows were as much for the adults as the kids. We came to the 8th floor shows and they marked the passing of the seasons better than any calendar ever could. Throughout it all, we ate at the Oak Grill. No shopping trip was complete without a good old fashioned meal started by popovers.
It’s a sad day for retail. We’ll miss you Dayton’s and Oak Grill, more than you’ll ever know.
When the weather turns hot and humid with chattering song of cicadas, corn suddenly appears. Local corn season starts about mid-summer. Good fresh corn with a grainy sweet juicy kernel tastes good served just about any way.
Here’s how to dress up something good and turn it into something better. Picture crunchy sweet corn kernels bursting with milky juice, smooth creamy white beans, salty crisp bacon bits and an emerald green confetti of online-like chives. Indulge in a harmonious savory mix of late summer flavors.
Everyone loves corn, bean and bacon salad. Save some leftover fresh corn and cut it off the cob to make this tasty summer treat. This salad mixes together quick with only four ingredients.
Corned In for Summer
Fresh from the field sweet corn holds a special place is my heart. My dear Grandmother would take us for a “buggy ride” to buy ears from Drowns in Green Springs, Ohio. This was no ordinary corn. Drowns was a working farm that sold a just snapped from the stalk harvest.
Many Happy Returns
So many years and miles later, we still enjoy corn. Generations of happy corn eating go into my corn, bean and bacon salad.
Corn, Bean and Bacon Salad
Ingredients:1 ½ cups fresh corn, cooked and cut off the cob (about 4 ears) 1 – 15 ounce can of Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed 10 slices of bacon cooked and drained 3 tablespoons of fresh, snipped chives
Cook fresh corn on the cob in salted boiling water for 7 minutes or until tender. Drain and once ears are cool, place on a big, edged cookie sheet and cut off kernels with a sharp knife. Set aside.
Rinse beans in a colander and shake to dry. Set aside.
In a large heavy skillet, fry bacon to cook and drain away grease. Allow to cool and cut into dime-sized pieces. Set aside
Carefully wash, dry and snip chives into a large bowl. Gently combine corn, white beans and bacon to the chives.
Serve cold. This stores well and makes a perfect picnic or potluck cold casserole dish.
This is an adaptation of a recipe from Bon Appétit magazine from the 90’s when life and food were much simpler.
Swift as a summer breeze, a new Lakewinds has come to town. A new chapter in healthy eating and co-op community began today. Richfield has been a co-op free zone for far too long.
Opening Weekend Store Specials
Lakewinds Food Co-Op Richfield started things off right. A series of outdoor events along with in-store specials, samples and freebies made for a memorable shopping trip. What can be better than free cheese? The generous slabs of Parmesan-like hard cheese made a nice take home gift.
The crowd was impressed. In the deli section, I overheard observations like, “Everything looks so mouthwatering.”
The deli had more tempting salads than I had time to try. The staff was very accommodating, helpful and friendly. They didn’t seem to mind doling out samples from the caverns of the deep rimmed deli case. I bought more as a result of their attentive patience. The chili lime quinoa salad won me over with a refreshing citrus and smoky spiced punch. The creamy turkey artichoke salad flecked with aromatic dill made an ideal light lunch.
Also amazing was how large the building felt even with a thick, right on your heels, opening day crowd. The parking lot was full at 9 a.m. No small feat for a first day. Still, the place is welcoming with small touches for everyone and offered much more than the average grocery store. Outdoor tables and chairs were available outside and inside too. Plenty of bike racks are situated around the building. Bowls of fresh water were situated outside for thirsty dogs.
And Butterflies Are Free
A butterfly release kicked off the grand opening on Saturday morning. “We decided a typical ribbon cutting was way too boring,“ proclaimed general manager Dale Woodbeck.
The crowd was won over by the pro-pollinator, environmentally friendly alternative to balloons. All eyes were on the monarchs and painted ladies.
The butterflies came in a pair of carefully sealed boxes from the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. With a turn of the lid on each container the butterflies flittered away vanishing like specs of dust into the clouded sky. A few butterflies returned for a glorious moment to flutter on an outstretched cheering hand. The butterflies were breathtaking and symbolic. In many cultures butterflies are associated with hope and change.
Location and Hours
Lakewinds Food Co-Op Richfield is located at 6420 Lyndale Ave. S., Richfield, MN 55423; (612) 814-8000. Hours are 7 a.m. – 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 7 a.m. – 9 p.m. on Sunday.
The coming of spring causes celebration then asparagus season starts and the cooking party really begins. Don’t miss out on the asparagus feast. Asparagus season comes and goes as fast as the pastel-hued landscapes fade during spring.
The marked vegetal taste of asparagus is subtle yet pronounced. With its early spring light qualities tree sprout-like build asparagus tastes best with no conflicting harsh flavors.
The creaminess of scrambled eggs compliments the slight woody astringency of asparagus. A bit of cottage cheese in the eggs adds a pleasant richness without adding too many extra calories.
My scrambled eggs with asparagus are light up but still delicious. Total preparation takes less than 10 minutes once the asparagus is ready to go. It is possible to have the best of all worlds at least in scrambled eggs with asparagus.
Scrambled Eggs with Asparagus
Ingredients:4 eggs ¼ cup cottage cheese Dash of nutmeg, freshly ground Salt Pepper 1 tablespoon butter, salted ½ cup asparagus, blanched, cut into bite-sized pieces ¼ cup Uniekaas Holland Danish cheese, (quality aged Gouda) finely grated
Crack an egg onto a saucer, checking for shell then slide into a small bowl. Repeat for all four eggs. Add cottage cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Whisk together with a fork until just combined. To have fluffy eggs, do not over mix.
Melt butter in an 8-inch, non-stick skillet over medium heat. If your skillet is worn, use more butter to prevent sticking.
Add egg mixture. Scatter asparagus evenly on top. Using a heat-resistant rubber spatula, lift up edges as the eggs set so uncooked egg liquid will flow underneath. Cook only until set. Flip if necessary. Do not let eggs become brown or they will get tough like shoe leather.
Sprinkle with grated cheese and serve immediately.
Farmers Market Wisdom in a Cookbook
Shop at your friendly neighborhood farmers market and cook up a storm. A little technique and a good cookbook in hand make mastering a new menu of vegetables and fruits more fun.
The last Kingfield and Fulton Winter Farmers Market was an event in itself but also included a cookbook signing and lecture. As a dedicated cookbook collector of 30 years, I had to skip shopping and hear more about the new Minnesota Farmers Market Cookbook.
The rewards were many: an informative discussion on food, three fresh-made vegetable dish samples and a chance to purchase a beautifully illustrated Minnesota-focused cookbook from the author’s very hands.
Cooking with Local Foods
Tricia Cornell signed books and talked about preparing Minnesota produce. Wholesome, true to the earth, seasonal foods are her passion. As a longtime Consumer Supported Agriculture (CSA) supporter, Cornell cooked local and farm-fresh before it was fashionable.
Name any Minnesota Grown vegetable; Cornell knows how to cook it. While you’re cooking up those veggies, embark on a different taste palate. Challenge your kitchen sensibility. Go raw instead of cooked. Roast rather than boil. Try a new vegetable like Jerusalem artichokes. Dare to cook on the wild side.
Cornell encouraged audience participation and just about everyone chimed in the discussion at some point. Proof that the only thing better than eating well-prepared local food is talking about it.
Bring on the samples! After the food talk, we queued up for recipe samples. As the line scattered, I confess to going back and filling a second Dixie cup with yellow beet salad. Others did the same.
Simple Foods with Big Flavors
What a wonder, how good simply prepared foods can be. All samples were vegetarian friendly and refreshingly summery tasting on a bleak “Marchuary” morn.
Cornell’s yellow beet salad full of earthy sweet beet crunchiness shined with sweet-acidic flavor. Surprise, the beets were actually from last fall’s harvest. A simple vinaigrette mellowed the sharp snap of raw beet shreds.
A thick as porridge spring pea dip livened up plain whole wheat crackers. With a few additions, raw whirled peas make a vegetable dish as lively in color as in flavor.
Cauliflower tabouli resembled vegetable confetti. A melody of other vegetables glistened with bright flecks of feathery parsley and deep cherry red tomato. Cauliflower chopped to the right consistency makes the ideal rice substitute – lots of white fluff with virtually no carbs.
Minnesota Farmers Market Cookbook
Cornell knows how to prepare Minnesota vegetables just right for the season. With recipes from Twin City food celebrities and local farmer’s market staff, her Minnesota Farmers Market Cookbook guides the way. Now I’m ready. The summer market season can’t come soon enough.
Valentine’s Day gives the perfect excuse to dive into dessert decadence. Like a cake-cream-coffee-chocolate combination? Go ahead, fall in love with tiramisu.
Tiramisu for Two
Lunds and Byerly’s has a terrific tiramisu treat. Rich coffee-infused sugary Italian cake and cream flavor comes with all the trimmings, ready to go. Tiramisu for two has a catchy name that suggests this is a dessert to share with your sweetheart. In reality, Tiramisu for Two easily becomes a big splurge for one.
Like clockwork, come every February, Tiramisu for Two appears in Lunds and Byerly’s stores. Off to the nearest market I go, to buy a few for two.
Lovely Layers of Lusciousness
Piped swirls of whipped mascarpone cheese filling surrounds moist buttery sponge cake. Coffee liqueur adds a depth of European sophistication to this thick as butter, creamy-rich dessert. A dusting of espresso-dark powdery cocoa adds contrasting flavors of chocolaty goodness. A ladyfinger cookie garnish, half enrobed in dark chocolate, looks like a fancy made-edible version of a wooden spoon, the kind that comes with a frozen malt cup in the summertime.
But it is winter, the dead of a long snowy, cold winter full of gray shadowy days. A bit of tiramisu sparkles like a ray of warm Italian sunshine veiling through rows of cypress trees. With or without the dreams of Italy, all 8 ounces of Lunds and Byerly’s, Tiramisu for Two are a befitting translation of the Italian translation for tiramisu, “lift me up” or “pick me up”.
Charitable Chow and Cupid Favored
Lunds and Byerly’s tiramisu is something to feel good about buying for just $6.99. Proceeds go to a charity for kids and in keeping with the Valentine’s Day holiday the cause is heart related. Children’s HeartLink helps children with congenital heart disease in underserved regions of the world.
Satisfy a sweet tooth, spread heartfelt happiness and help a charity for children. Now there’s the real crowning finish to a terrific tiramisu to go.
Try a Taste of Tiramisu
Tiramisu for Two is available at Lunds 3945 West 50th St., Edina, MN 55424, (952) 926-6833 and other Lunds and Byerly’s locations around the Valentine’s Day holiday.
Food trucks may be coming to a crossroads in Edina. Food trucks are prohibited but discussions are going at full speed.
Take a glance at Speak Up Edina. Food trucks are sparking lively debate.
The City of Edina is asking for public comment throughout January and not just from Edina residents. While no change is proposed at this time, a debate is going full gear. Speak Up Edina poses questions about food trucks in Edina, including:
- Should food trucks be allowed? City code does not allow food trucks in Edina. Would you support food trucks coming to Edina?
- Should protection in place for brick-and-mortar businesses against mobile food trucks?
- If food trucks were allowed, should they be restricted to certain areas? Where would you like to see them?
- Should the city limit the number of licenses available annually?
- When should food trucks be allowed? What about time of day?
Opinions About Food Trucks
The census seems to be that brick and mortar restaurant owners are opposed. On the other hand, foodies love the idea of new food options on wheels. Somewhere in the middle, the rest of the general public varies in opinion from “yea” to “nay.”
“Yes” to Food Trucks at the Centennial Lakes Farmers Market
The Edina’s famers market could use more ready-made food selections. During my visits last year, the choices were limited to grilled hotdogs or bratwurst.
Sadly, Big River Pizza was not a vendor during the 2013 season and their slot remained empty. A food truck would be a perfect fit in that spot. A few more trucks could go in front of Hughes Pavilion and at the tail ends of the market beside the last vendors.
The market generates substantial foot traffic from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursdays in Centennial Lakes Park. Minnesota’s fickle weather is at its best during this period while the market is running from mid-June until the end of September. Food trucks would make a good fit at the market where all vendors are setting up a temporary shop.
“No” to Food Trucks in the Rest of Edina
Location is everything. Consider Edina’s unique business climate and city dynamic.
- Competition: Brick and mortar restaurants have huge year-round, fixed expenses operating in Edina where rent and land values are some of the highest in the metro. Some casualties of the high cost of doing business in Edina include:
- Congestion: Edina has high traffic levels. The adjoining streets of the Crosstown and Highway 494 are not without bumper to bumper backups. 50th & France and 44th and France have ongoing parking issues, especially during peak business times. Food trucks would add to the traffic challenge.
- Noise: Edina business areas already have noise from traffic, airplanes, construction sites and general city clatter. Truck engines and generators would add to the clamor.
- Image: An upscale retail and restaurant mix is a draw for Edina Business. Would food trucks be upmarket additions?
Just About Edina
Remember food trucks in Edina are the focus, not the validity of food trucks as a whole in general terms. The debate is whether food trucks would make Edina an even better place for living, learning, raising families and doing business. At the Centennial Lakes Farmers Market, they would do just that.
Corn Feed Days
End of summer hothouse weather brings out the sugary dew in corn. Late August corn ears boast tightly library book-like packed rows of kernels.
In the Twin Cities, some of the freshest local farm corn comes from Untiedt’s Vegetable Farm Inc. of Waverly, Minnesota. At the Minnesota State Fair food obsessed visitors eat it by the acre. The going price is $3 an ear.
I prefer to buy my corn by the baker’s dozen at a farm stand. Sometimes, the vendor will throw in an extra ear. We talk about the current corn crop, compare it to other years and complain about the hot weather.
A Family Tradition
Around this time of year, back at my Grandmother’s house in the fertile rich Fireland’s District of Northern Ohio, farmers claimed that you could hear the corn grow. Linear forests of brown tasseled ears formed fortified live walls around entire farmsteads.
“We’re corned in!”
Oh, save room for the harvest. Truckloads of corn snap off rows stretching out to infinity.
Corn everywhere, yes, but always best served hot with clouds of sweating on a plate. Just add a dusting of old-fashioned salt and a dabble of butter if you must.
The abundance of the harvest dwarfs all issues of the day. Eat up and enjoy the corn harvest. The season fades away all too fast like a double rainbow into the haze of the horizon. Good farm corn is the pot of gold.
Corn Cooked the Right Way
Below is a real farm grown recipe for boiled corn. First, buy the freshest, corn available. Corn picked straight from the field is best. The tassels and husks should feel moist and show no signs of withered drying.
Next, run straight home and cook your corn. Timing is everything in life so make haste to take care of your corn. As corn sits around, the sugar converts to starch, and who wants to eat boiled corn starch?
Ingredients:12 ears of good fresh corn Salt Butter
Fill a 16-quart lobster pot 1/3 full of plain, cold water. Place on a high flame to bring water to a boil.
While the water is coming to a boil, carefully peel the husk off the corn, trim away any bad spots or bugs and dust away tassel fringes. Corn husking is best done outside where the mess doesn’t matter.
By the time all of the ears are husked, the water will probably be at a rolling boil. Carefully drop in six or so of the ears. Cook for about six minutes, rotating the ears a few time so they cook evenly. Remove cooked ears one by one with a pair of tongs and place in a colander in the sink.
Repeat the process for the remaining ears.
Serve immediately with salt and real butter. Store any leftover corn covered in the refrigerator. If you like, cut the kernels off of the ears before storing.
The Fulton Farmers Market easily becomes a weekly habit. Like clockwork every Saturday morning during market season, my family meanders over for a farm-fresh food fix.
Bursting with neighborhood charm as cozy as a homemade quilt, the Fulton Farmers Market ranks as a weekend destination point and never a cumbersome, ho-hum, got-to-go-there-because-I-need-something, desperation-driven sort of errand. Similar to the older sister Kingfield Farmers Market, this is a place where the big city feels like a small town.
A Lake Wobegon skit could take place for real among the makeshift vendor stalls and rickety folding tables lined along the shadows of the Lake Harriet United Methodist Church. Kids play, neighbors gossip and vendors from all over showcase their prize foods and more.
If fruits or vegetables are in season locally, chances are they will be available at the Fulton Farmers Market. The cornucopia varies week by week with raspberries, strawberries, honey, peas, kale, corn, carrots, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant and other enticing healthy finds. Besides the standard famers market produce, more unusual items like dainty dots of gooseberries, crisp mounds of micro greens and lunar-looking king oyster mushrooms make appearances. Some of my favorite vendors for quality, fit-for-Mother’s-table, fresh produce include:
- Gardens of Eagan
- Mary Dirty Face Farm
- Mississippi Mushrooms
- Peter’s Pumpkins & Carmen’s Corn
- The Beez Kneez Bicycle Delivered Honey
- Waxwing Farm
- Uproot Farm
Throw in a few brand-name, nationally-recognized ready-made food vendors and a stellar farmers market shines with possibilities. Feel like a real Julia Child-style French pastry, gourmet fresh hand-cut pasta, wood-fired custom pizza or fried-to-order serving of hangover hash? It is all here and more. Food comes in many appetizing forms from an impressive line-up of vendors, including:
- Big River Pizza
- Broders’ Cucina Italiana
- Chef Shack!
- Groveland Confections
- Patisserie 46
- Singing Hills Goat Dairy
Just The Right Size
Low stress shopping around the busy corridors of the 50th and France and Fulton neighborhoods comes at a premium. Yet, the Fulton Market has mastered the precious space to vendor ratio with accommodating grace for all concerned.
With a spacious layout that stretches half of the more than football field-sized, church parking lot, navigating through the Fulton Famers Market is easy even during peak times. Yes, you can actually mosey through the market, take it all in, circle back and feel at ease.
Some planned entertainment event is always on hand at the Fulton Farmers Market. Activities vary from week to week but include everything from live puppet show theater to hands-on market lawn sign design and an occasional cooking demonstration from a local business like the Edina Grill.
The Fulton Farmers Market packs in dog visitors. Often, farmers market folks are dedicated dog people. When the family goes to the market, doggie comes along too.
In a true spirit of dog-friendly accommodation, the Fulton Market has a dog sitting service. The Urban Dog loves to watch every kind of dog – big and small — and will do so for up to ½ hour on a complimentary basis. Dog owners can shop at the Fulton Market and know that their pets are in good hands.
A pleasant parade of people come every Saturday by bike, car and on foot. The Fulton Farmers Market brings together a world of fine, fresh food and fun family fun that builds community. Some habits are too good to ever break.
Location, Dates and Hours
The Fulton Farmers Market is located at 4901 Chowen Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55410, (612) 207-7893. For the 2013 season, the market is open every Saturday from May 18 – October 26 during the hours of 8:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.