Taste of Duluth-Superior from Duluth~Superior Magazine

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Despite torrential rains, 175 hardy souls descended on the first-ever Taste of Duluth-Superior Wednesday evening to sample dozens of wines and fresh-made culinary delights from four of the Northland’s top restaurants.

In Ferguson Enterprises’ kitchen and bath showroom on Airpark Boulevard, they tasted  yellowfin tuna tartare, hoisin baby back ribs, roasted and fresh beet salad and loin of rabbit with prosciutto and honey fennel glaze. They tasted glasses of Italy’s Astoria Lounge Prosecco and Toad Hollow’s classic Russian River pinot noir.

And they toasted the evening’s chefs - Sean Lewis, Scott Graden, Bob Bennett and Tom Linderholm - as well as its host, Duluth-Superior Magazine, and its beneficiary, the American Heart Association.

For more of this article click here » or check out the video on Duluth Dish TV.

For the love of food, journalist trades notepad for hoe

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by Janna Goerdt

I think it’s because I like dirt.

I like the way it feels between my fingers, underneath my nails. Gritty and good. Earthy.

So I think that being around dirt is one reason I became a farmer this year, one reason among others to leave journalism and turn towards growing food.

Former newspaper journalist Janna Goerdt has never been afraid to dig for the good stuff.

Former newspaper journalist Janna Goerdt has never been afraid to dig for the good stuff.

For years and years, my dirt time was restricted to weekends and the occasional early morning weeding session. I had to keep my fingers and hands reasonably clean for work, and I spent a lot more time with a computer and notebooks than seed packets and earth.

That all changed this spring, when I started a small farm at our home in Embarrass. It’s a small but well-rounded farm - carrots and cantaloupe, free-range chickens and turkeys, hayfields and honeybees.

I wanted to grow good, simple food for people. I have been lucky enough to eat this kind of food for most of my life, and, as people learn more about how most of the food in this country is grown, there is more and more demand for the truly fresh, home-grown variety. People should be able to eat a locally-grown, honest carrot, not a tortured, tasteless orange torpedo raised on chemicals and trucked in from across the country. We should care more about what’s good for our bodies, what tastes good naturally, rather than some kind of corn-based snack product that’s glued together with chemicals to make it taste like something exotic.

And so I’m farming.

So far, it’s been good to be around all this dirt. At small farms, farmers do a lot of dirt work with their hands, unlike at corporate-owned thousand acre farms where most everything is done by machine. Here, my hands are in dirt all day long: planting seedlings, pulling weeds, checking the soil moisture, breaking up lumps of clay, working in compost.

I give my hands a good scrub at the end of each day. The soap lather usually turns a bright yellow as it mixes with the pollen covering my skin, and some of the dirt is so worked into the creases of my fingers that it never does come off.

But I like it. It feels good to be so grounded, so entwined with the soil that we all depend on for our food, though we often forget that. It feels good to grow.

On their car, Duluth musicians really cook

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One cold winter not too long ago, Jason Wussow needed a ride to Taos, N.M., to visit his girlfriend. He needed to do it cheap, and he needed to eat well. The eating well part was mandatory.

So he teamed up with his friend and musical collaborator, Dan Dresser, to help him drive. They played some gigs to pay their way, and they cooked all of their hot meals on the manifold of their car.

The proof of their excellent adventure  is in their 18-minute short film, “Cooking on the Car,” culled from 6 hours of raw video shot in February of 2008 and released this spring. In July, it premiered at Wrenshall, Minn.’s Free

Range Film Festival.

Wussow runs Beaner’s Central Coffee Concert Coffeehouse in West Duluth, and his restaurant’s carefully crafted menu, from blueberry scones to red pepper hummus, speaks to his love of food. He’s not the kind of guy who’d fast food it all the way to New Mexico.

Despite the fact that two musicians were involved, their journey was not “all about the music.” It was all about the car, or more specifically, the manifold, and what they could cook on it.

Dresser convinced Wussow that they had to acquire a certain 1987 to 1991 vintage Toyota, for its ideal cooking attributes, which they bought and fixed up just for the trip. “For doing what we wanted to do, it was totally important,” Dresser says. “You could do baked potatoes or heat up cans on any car,” Dresser continues before Wussow interrupts.

Venison quiche, the first of many meals, cooked on the manifold of Dresser's 1989 Camry.

Venison quiche, the first of many meals, cooked on the manifold of Dresser's 1989 Camry.

“I’d heard about canned beans and hobo stew and ‘Manifold Destiny’ all that,” Wussow says, naming a book on the subject of car cooking. “Dan told me if we found this certain car, the engine holds a bread panjust perfect so it doesn’t spill.”

“It’s got an alumnimum heat shield so it holds the pan about a half inch off the manifold so it doesn’t burn,” Dresser says of the 2-liter marvel.

Dresser scoured the classifieds and used car dealerships for a month. Finally, for $900, they bought two totaled 1989 Toyota Camrys at a car boneyard  somewhere near the shores of Lake Superior. They raided one for parts and the other they dubbed Ellen, named after the woman whose name was on some receipts in the glove compartment. It was a Saturday in Febuary, five days before departure.

Dresser, a former body shop mechanic, scrambled to get Ellen ready in time, using a tree limb and chain at one point to bend part of the body back in line. The test drive happened Wednesday night at 11 p.m., mere hours  before their Thursday morning departure. “It drove perfectly,” Dresser says. Never mind the dings and two-tone door/body styling, it got an average of 35 mpg on the trip and had a kickin’ new stereo besides.

They wisely drove up Duluth’s steep hillside before placing their first dish in its foil-covered bread pan atop the manifold shield. “We didn’t want it to spill going uphill,” Wussow explains. About two hours — make that 90 miles later,  despite sub-zero wind chills, their noses told them their venison quiche was done. And it was good.  Surprisingly good. “I can’t believe how perfectly it was browned,” Dresser says in the film.

In Aberdeen, S.D., they bought provisions at Natural Abundance, a whole foods store, and later performed at The Red Rooster coffeehouse.  They used a similar approach to

Sara Softich, Jason Wussow and Dan Dresser, musicians and rustic gourmands, share a meal of mahi-mahi, broccoli and new potatoes in Taos, N.M.

Sara Softich, Jason Wussow and Dan Dresser, musicians and rustic gourmands, share a meal of mahi-mahi, broccoli and new potatoes in Taos, N.M.

cook their way through Hot Springs, S.D., Boulder, Colo., and Alamosa, Colo., where a blizzard waylaid them. The delay was frustrating, but it set the stage for their triumphant finish: mahi-mahi in Taos with Wussow’s girlfriend, Sara Softich, a musician who had some gigs in town.

One word of advice: don’t make “cowboy coffee” on the car engine, even though dumping grounds in a pot and boiling seems so right when you’re traveling the West. “It was bad,” Wussow admits. “I’m a coffee snob and I should have known better.” His suggestion: get the water boiling in a separate pot and use a French press for brewing.

They’d like to turn their recipes and knowledge into a cookbook to go with their video. They have a website — www.cookingonthecar.com — which is under construction. And they’re talking about another trip (note the sly “Episode 1” on their DVD’s cover.) They’re toying with ideas of combining music and food and car cooking, maybe even bringing other musicians in on the act. Picture this: player-chefs car-cook their way to a great big gig in a central location and share the food, love and music in a sort of “traveling fun show,” as Wussow puts it.

For now, they’re glad they brought the camera, which doesn’t blink. “The best stuff, you don’t even remember,” Wussow says.

Venison Quiche

Below is recipe for Wussow and Dresser’s first dish, taken from their short film, “Cooking on the Car.” Cooking distance: 90 miles, give or take 30, depending on wind-chill factor.

6 eggs

1/2 pound ground venison
1/4 cup diced green pepper
1/4 cup diced onion
2 cloves garlic
Canola or other high temperature cooking oil
salt and pepper to taste
Aluminum foil
Oil pan to prevent sticking. Mix ingredients. Pour into large loaf pan, cover with two layers of aluminum foil.  When it smells done — 40 to 60 miles — lift foil to check. Caution: watch for burns, a burst of steam will escap.

Ah, summer in Duluth, time for breakfast

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tom-wilkowske3 Living on the western shores of Lake Superior, Northlanders justify a hearty breakfast with myriad excuses: Cold wind off the lake. Long summer day ahead. Long winter night ahead. It's raining. It's foggy. It's sunny. It's snowing, in May. I've used them all, but the handiest excuse for me is this:  "Dang, I've been fasting for 8 hours. " Here's my breakfast baseline: hot, fresh, fast. Eggs exactly as ordered. Real butter, clean table ware. Strong, fresh coffee. Everything else is ... bacon fat in the pan. I discovered most of these places through my former newspaper column and some I haven't visited in awhile. But most  still appear to be in good hands. There are two obvious omissions from this list -- Pizza Luce and Hell's Kitchen. I've heard about the brie-stuffed French toast and Sunday brunch at the former; I've had the Manohmin Porridge and from-scratch preserves at the latter. But I haven't personally experienced a full breakfast at either place. (Maybe a follow-up article is in order.) That said, here are some of my favorite Northland breakfast restaurants. What are yours?

Vanilla Bean Bakery & Café

812 7th Ave., Two Harbors, MN
(218) 834-3714)
A straightforward-looking café, the Vanilla Bean offers the most decadent omelet I’ve ever tasted. It’s a baked, not crepe-style, and it’s puffy, rich and full of delectable fillings, whether it’s the Mediterranean, the Yucatan or the Green Eggs and Ham (pesto, green onions – you get the idea). Area chef Scott Graden designed much of the menu before he went on to open the New Scenic Café. (The walleye and bread pudding are tops on the lunch and dinner menu.) www.thevanillabean.com

Uncle Louis’ Café

520 E. 4th St., Duluth, MN
(218) 727-4518)
This neighborhood short-order grill in Duluth’s Central Hillside brought my love of Greek culture and eggs together in one dish: the Gyros Omelet. This classic  neighborhood joint, rebuilt in 2007 after a fire, also serves up nutmeg-kissed pancakes with a bewitching flavor profile.

The Delta Diner

14385 Bayfield County Highway H, Delta, Wis.
(715) 372-6666 (MMMM))
This is a 1941 Silk City diner car, refurbished, plunked in the middle of the Town of Delta, 12 miles south of Iron River, Wis., on County Highway HH. The weird urban/rural juxtaposition is as striking as the menu contrasts – straight up omelets, Norwegian pancakes and weekend prime rib and fish fry specials lie next to more unusual items like Memphis barbecue, New Orleans red beans and rice and Hungarian goulash. My son and I always fight for the last of the sautéed pears over ice cream. Wait, that’s not breakfast. Never mind.
www.deltadiner.com

Sunshine Cafe

5719 Grand Ave, Duluth, MN 55807-2541
(218) 624-7013
There's nothing faux about the retro feel at the Sunshine Cafe. It's all real. The only thing lacking is layers of grease on the windows, cigarette smoke, and surly wait staff. This tidy, bright, friendly cafe serves up right-sized breakfasts (try the omelets or Swedish pancakes), made-from-scratch hot sandwiches, burgers, pie and hand-breaded walleye. If you're still in need of a lift, check out the wall 'o' inspirational Post-It notes toward the back.

Swamp Sisters Shop

7249 Industrial Rd, Saginaw, MN 55779
(218) 729-0088
Tucked inside a small barn on a historic farmstead in Twig, a few dozen miles outside Duluth, the Swamp Sisters restaurant is only open 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, April through November. It started as a way to sell some of the bison one of the sisters raises. The bison’s still part of the store, but now, dishes like Bonnie’s Swamp Skillet (with buffalo sausage) and Siggi’s Salsa Salad pull in the senior-centric crowd. You’ll probably share a shabby-chic antique dining room table with another party. And you’ll probably like it. www.swampsisters.com

Duluth Grill

118 S. 27th Ave. W., Duluth MN
(Phone 218-726-1150)
The Duluth Grill has chucked its link to the old Ember’s greasy spoon chain and forged out on its own. It wasn’t much of a stretch; the menu was mostly created by the Hanson family anyway. It’s now a 100-percent small neighborhood restaurant focusing on the fresh ingredients, from-scratch cooking, numerous low-fat and low-cholesterol options and even a substantial vegetarian menu. Yes, they still have burgers and big breakfasts. But you might just be tempted to order ‘em with red flannel hash (with beets, people), or a side of fruit – or have your omelets yolk-free. My son Isaac loves the fish; we all used to love the edamame (soybeans in the pod) before they were pulled from the menu. :-( Still, it’s on my family’s Top 10 list. (Website under construction: www.duluthgrill.com)

Larry’s Café and Coneys

4899 Miller Trunk Highway, No. 100, Duluth, MN
Phone: 218-740-1010
Café owner Larry Davis says he’s going for “a home-cooking-style café like the little corner cafes that used to be around here.” Although he uses a mix for pancakes, he loads them with enough of the plump, tart orbs to turn your teeth purple. Eggs come out fast and the coffee's topped off before it has a chance to cool. For lunch and dinner, Larry serves up real mashed potatoes, gravy and oven-baked meats for hot pork, beef and turkey sandwiches. Speaking of turkey: Every Sunday is a full turkey dinner made with real roasted turkey breast, not turkey roll, for $6.99. For $1 extra, you get a salad. Although he's not Greek, Davis worked for the Regas family for 37 years at Duluth’s Coney Island restaurant before striking out with his own café a few years ago. “I make my own sauce for the gyros, and also for Coneys,” he said. Between the gyros items and the Coneys, “People say mine are the best they’ve had around town,” Davis says.

The Egg Toss

41 Manypenny Ave., Bayfield, WI 54814
(715) 779-5181
Casual class is how I’d describe the Egg Toss. The menu’s sophisticated enough to serve The Crabby Benny -- Eggs Benedict, substituting a crabe cake for the Canadian bacon -- and huevos rancheros with green chile sauce, but down-to-earth enough to have the Fisherman’s Platter, a typical down-home breakfast combo and the restaurant’s most popular entrée. The Egg Toss and Maggie’s, another Bayfield restaurant, share two full-time bakers in the summer and they crank out artisan bread, croissants, cinnamon and caramel rolls and assorted pastries daily. www.eggtoss-bayfield.com

Bang for your Buck

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Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about value wines. Wine drinkers are looking to get the most bang for their buck.

My favorite value country is Chile (actually Chile is probably my favorite wine producing country regardless of price). Concha Y Toro is the largest vineyard in Chile covering over 17,300 acres. They produce wines at all different price levels; the most inexpensive being Frontera, the #1 Chilean wine in the United States.  brand_img_frontera_01You can find Frontera at all local liquor stores; it is mostly sold in the larger1.5L bottles for around $10. Frontera produces many different varietals, their most popular is their Cabernet/Merlot blend. This spring they released a Malbec, making them the only 1.5L Malbec in the United States market. The whites, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are very popular during the summer time and the reds, Carmenere (which put Chile on the map), Merlot, Cabernet, and Shiraz are popular year round. Next in line for Concha Y Toro is Estate Reserve Casillero del Diablo, which is available at all local liquor stores, in the regular 750mL size, for around $10. brand_img_casillerodeldiablo_01In the 19th century, Concha Y Toro founder Don Melchor discovered his workers were stealing and sampling his greatest wines.  This led him to hide his greastest wines in Casillero del Diablo - Cellar of the Devil. Just like Frontera, Casillero del Diablo is known for their reds including; Carmenere, Cabernet, Shiraz, Merlot, and Malbec. In addition, Casillero del Diablo offers a Pinot Noir which is simply delightful. In addition to Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, Casillero del Diablo offers a Gewurtztraminer. This Gewertz is dry with some spice to it, making it perfect for sushi or to simply sip on a hot summer patio. Along with great prices Concha Y Toro frequently receives “Best Value” and “Best Buy” along 85+ point ratings on both Frontera and Casillero del Diablo.  I’m not finished with Chilie yet; there is still one more vineyard to look at, Santa Rita. sr_120sauvblanc_lab_smSanta Rita’s best-selling “120” series recalls the heroes of a pivotal event in Chile’s successful 19th century struggle to overthrow Spanish rule. In the early 1800s, Doña Paula Jaraquemada, then proprietor of the Santa Rita manor house and estate near the Chilean capital of Santiago, famously gave refuge in the cellars of her property to 120 Chilean patriots, following a fierce fight with soldiers of the Spanish Crown. When a brigade of Spanish soldiers arrived at the expansive one-story ranch house in search of O’Higgins and his band of rebels, the feisty matriarch stated she would rather see the Spanish burn the property to the ground, with her inside, then let them step foot within her family home. Thus, O’Higgins and his band of 120 men lived on to fight another day. Santa Rita 120 is found in all local liquor stores, in the regular 750mL size, for around$10. It offers Cabernet Sauvignon, Cermenere, Merlot, and Shiraz. However, it is most known for Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Recent awards include; Carmenere 2007 “Extreme Value” Wine & Spirits Magazine; Sauvignon Blanc 2007 “Best Buy” 87 pts, Wine Enthusiast; and Cahrdonnay 2007 “Best Buy” Wine Spectator.

Don’t rule out boxes! Box wine had a very negative stigma for a long time but now that stigma is changing. The stigma is changing for good reason! Good quality wines are being put into boxes. Keep in mind that a 3L box is equal to 4 bottles of wine! Boxes better preserve wine because the bag does not allow oxygen to get in. Also, you do not have to deal with the problem of corks; having to always remember a corkscrew, difficulty removing the cork, breakage, or cork tant. If you are trying to be “green” boxes are definitely the way to go - they greatly reduce transportation costs and thus carbon emissions. Here are the numbers: 55% less carbon footprint, 3L box requires 1/2 the emissions of the 750mL to create, and 85% less landfill waste. Another point is that living in Minnesota many of our local parks do not allow glass - so drink in public with boxes! About a year ago Italy’s bibo_family_lg1Agricultural Ministry announced some wines would now be able to be sold in boxes! Italy!! Introducing Bibo, the first premium 3L from Italy. Pronounced BEE- BO, it is Latin for “I Drink.” from the island of Sicily Bibo brings two blends, a Cabernet/Shiraz and Pinot Grigio/Chardonnay. Priced just above $20 ($5/bottle) it is available at Cashwise Duluth. Funf is a QBAfunf51Riesling from Schmitt Sohne vineyards in Germany. Also brand new on the market it is a croud pleaser. Priced around $20 it is available at Mount Royal and Cashwise. It’s 5 o’clock somewhere! Last but not least, is Andes Peak from my favorite value country Chile. Andes Peak is also new to the market, offering Cabernet, Merlot, and Chardonnay. The winery is ISO14001 certified which means they practice sustainable agriculture and natural pest mangement. They are also certified IMO for life which means Andes Peak provides nuturing and fair working conditions for all workers. brand_img_andespeaks

I hope this list gives you some new ideas to try. So get out and try some tonight. Cheers!

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