Doug Dalager Takes The Shack Smoke Free

140x70-the-shackWisconsin Governor Jim Doyle signed a proclamation at The Shack declaring that establishment a safe and healthy smoke-free workplace and clean air zone for its employees and customers on Friday, July 10th.

The Shack’s owner Doug Dalager has decided to go smoke-free one entire year before the state-wide smoke-free law goes into effect. Dalager, owner of The Shack for the past four years, has chosen to take a leadership role on the issue of clean air and hospitality. “I am elated that Wisconsin is finally going smoke-free, but rather than wait for an entire year for the law to take effect, I am moving ahead on my own,” said Dalager. “I saw the positive effect that Minnesota’s smoke-free law has had on restaurants and bars in Duluth, and came to recognize this was a good business decision. I also want to protect my employees from secondhand smoke and provide my customers a clean and healthy environment in which to dine.”

SmokeFree Wisconsin, other health organizations and Governor Doyle applaud the decision to go smoke-free for public health. Also attending the event were local elected officials, Senator Bob Jauch and Representative Nick Milroy, who were co-sponsors of the statewide smoke-free law. “I am proud to sign the smoke-free proclamation at The Shack,” said Governor Jim Doyle. “This is a long-established community resource that has chosen to be ahead of the curve on smoke-free air. I applaud their effort to protect the health of their employees and customers.”

Wisconsin’s smoke-free air law was signed by Doyle on May 18, 2009. The law will go into effect statewide for all workplaces, including restaurants and taverns on July 5, 2010. The Shack however has elected to go smoke-free on July 10, 2009, one year before the law takes effect.

The Shack will also host a fund-raiser for the American Cancer Society on Monday, July 20th featuring the Big Time Jazz Orchestra. For more information regarding this “good time for a good cause”, call (218) 529-7627, ext. 15.

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Taste of Duluth Superior » Duluth Superior Magazine Event

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Quick heads up on a new event this year. It’s called Taste of Duluth Superior and is being organized by Duluth-Superior Magazine. There will be four chefs involved: Tom Linderholm (the flaming cedar plank salmon king himself) of Odyssey Development/Larsmont Cottages, Scott Graden from the Scenic Cafe, Sean Lewis from Nokomis Restaurant & local legend… the one… the only… Chef Bob Bennett of Restaurant 301. We’ll be covering the event & shooting video. Stay tuned friends…

Taste of Duluth-Superior

Date: August 19, 2009

Time: 5:30-9pm

Location: Ferguson Enterprises

Tickets $20

Tickets available by calling 888.525.1739, going to  Duluth-Superior Magazine or at any of the participating restaurants mentioned above.

A Little Inspiration for Jaded Duluth Cooks

ferranadriaIf you work in a kitchen but haven’t really experienced Michelin level cooking this is good learning material. It’s valuable because I’ve eaten at quite a few restaurants in Minnesota where chefs and cooks attempt to be “creative” just for the sake of being creative. It’s like Bobby flay and Jackson Pollock got together and fired up the crack pipe. There’s a lack of thought and process, two things that can take you to new heights as a cook.

Ferran Adria is widely considered the best Chef in the world right now (of haute cuisine) because he has been pioneering new techniques his entire career. He invented various kinds of “foams” and “airs” which offer a nice way to sauce and flavor lightly textured and delicate dishes. He has created Jellies that remain jelly at hot temperatures and even desserts that disappear when they hit your tongue… literally vanishing with only a trace of the flavors he intended (see video).

Even with all of this accomplishment and rock star status in Europe the guy likes simple cooking. If it doesn’t make sense and taste good he doesn’t do it. I think the old saying goes: “self-limitation is the mark of mastery”- something like that. Anyway, that saying applies here. There’s nothing he’d rather eat than peasant food from around Spain when he’s not in his kitchen or his laboratory.- Oh yeah, he has a laboratory. The restaurant El Bulli is only open 6 months of the year, not because it dies in the winter (they get 8 million reservation requests for some 8,000 seats each season) but because he spends the remainder of the year in his lab creating and perfecting new dishes and techniques.

I’ve included two videos here. One of Bourdain eating a number of the courses with Ferran at the chef’s table as well as an extensive conversation (about 1 1/2 hours). If you get time, expand the second video to full screen, grab some wine and enjoy his personality. It’s interesting if you enjoy this kind of thing.

Revisited: Where’s The Beef? Minnesota Steak & Why You Should Eat Intentionally

This was posted before the blog really took off and earned a following. It deserves a few more hearts and minds… I think. Don’t worry, we’re preparing an array of new content which takes time (and money) to produce. So, have another look, let it sink in and get aggravated about how difficult it is to eat well these days. Also, tell us what you think about this subject by posting a comment. Comments make our day.

Chef Nelly Boy

Welcome to any professional kitchen across America. It’s 8:00 pm and the pressure is on for the cooks at your favorite restaurant…

Order! Three salmon, two halibut, one lobster and six beef; 5 beef medium rare, one well done… well done? I need runners to table 35 NOW!

Pablo, go to the emergency room and have them bill the stitches to the restaurant. They’ll take care of you- comprende? I’ll see you mañana.

Order! Three arugula salads, two spinach… LET’S MOVE!

It’s hot in the kitchen, 110 degrees, 150 near the grill. The cooks have been working in this heat for 6 hours, ever since they arrived to relieve the lunch crew. The Chef is concerned because it’s now 20 minutes after he called for that order of salmon, halibut, lobster and beef.

The head server notifies Chef of the customer complaint and he begins to yell at the grill cook who is the object of his frustration: “Twenty minutes for a steak?” he shouts, “how hard is it to cook a steak? LET’S GO”. The cook is visibly flustered and drops a precious filet mignon while spinning to assemble his plates. Your well done beef is now lying on the ground. He stops abruptly and considers his options…

cooksfinalHere is where the story could take two very different paths, but it depends largely on where you’re eating this meal. Are you dining at a prix fixe (fixed price) restaurant serving 7-courses for $110 in the Napa Valley, or is this a common corporate steak house in Duluth? If it happens to be the latter, you can fully expect your meal to contain a sample of the petri dish that has become the kitchen floor. It’s covered with fryer grease, salad dressing, beef jus & sludge tracked in from the cooks who smoke cigarettes by the dumpster. If you’re lucky, the guy who dropped your food is considerate and manages to flash it in the deep fryer, killing anything that may have attached itself to your meal. But rest assured, sanitation is the last thing on our hero’s mind. You’ve ordered a steak well done and disrupted the rhythm of the kitchen. You’re also the black sheep of the dining room because you ordered a $29 filet of shoe leather. In addition to that, the gentleman preparing your meal possessed some form of resentment for you before you even walked through the door. Not because he dislikes his job, but because he’s being forced to appease you on a Saturday night while his friends are having fun at the Pearl Jam concert. At this point, he has no reservations about serving you a dirty piece of meat.

Still reading? Hang on, there is a light at the end of this tunnel. But why do I mention this appetizing tale in the first place? Anyone would be furious if they knew this were happening to them (let alone paying for it). So called “Lifestyle Websites” such as this are supposed to be fun and inspiring- so is food for that matter. The story is important because there is hidden truth buried deep within. Truth that speaks volumes to the condition of our culture, corporate values and even politics.

Many of us in the culinary community think that the general public has lost it’s reverence for food and what it can bring to daily life. We forget that food is meant to be a celebration. We forget that throughout history, meat has gathered tribes, and pacified wars. And yet, our insatiable appetites and fast food expectations have transformed this ritual into an industry, one that has evolved into a viscous pollution machine. This machine defines flora and fauna as a commodity. These commodities are engineered and produced with no greater admiration than raw plastic or aluminum. Such views permeate our entire food system and culture. In all truth, eating from the floor (as noted above) becomes a pleasant thought if you consider how your meal actually came to fruition. That said, let’s get back to your piece of beef and dig into its origins (and that of our food culture).

feedlotfinalImagine if you will the average calf being raised for modern meat production. Chances are, it was born at pasture on a farm somewhere in the Dakotas, or possibly Southern Minnesota, then weaned from his mother’s milk and grass after birth. Next, he endures a long and wildly stressful trailer ride to a strange feedlot somewhere in Kansas where he arrives up to 100 lbs lighter than upon departure (again due to stress). His new home is a network of fenced cattle pens stretching as far as the eye can see. Each pen is a massive bovine city with lovely views of what are commonly called waste lagoons; toxic byproducts from the cattle & their engineered food which settles in low-lying areas.

The landscape is anchored by a tall feed mill that grinds corn for the cattle, much of which is produced right here in Minnesota. It operates 12 hours a day, barely keeping pace with the huge demand from thousands upon thousands of cattle. This is your future steak, and he is continually fed a strict diet of corn. However, the young calf cannot even digest its own food naturally (as a Ruminant grazer). So, the corn ferments within the animal and acidifies their delicately balanced stomachs, causing inflammation of the organs and asserting enormous pressure on the lungs. Eventually, the animal begins to suffocate.

While this fatal problem could simply be remedied with grass (returning its digestion to normal), it is considered too expensive. Thus, the calf continues his diet of corn, along with antibiotics and some form of animal antacid, included as a form of life support. As the calf begins to adjust to the feedlot lifestyle, yet another ingredient is introduced to his diet (get ready): it’s the remains of other cattle from the slaughter house. That’s right, your steak has been fattened on the flesh of it’s own kind.

The cheap slaughterhouse “food” boosts protein intake and delivers that wonderful marbling so highly prized at the grocery store. When your steak finally reaches slaughter weight, the calf is briefly fed grass to neutralize his stomach and to purge mutated forms of “super E-Coli” which have now evolved to survive powerful stomach acid. These are the same E-Coli that have found their way to humans since this “industrial revelation” of corn fed beef (yet another example of public health becoming the consequence of ingenuity).

We certainly didn’t arrive at current standard procedure overnight. To fully understand, let’s take a moment and step back in history even further- to the 1930s. Back then it took nearly five years to reach slaughter weight on a diet of grass. By the 1950’s production time had been reduced by half; slaughtering at approximately two and a half years of age. Today, it takes just 14 months to transform this marvel of industrialized America into food for the masses– from 80 to 1400 pounds to your plate in just one year! We’re fortunate to have developed this efficient method because most cattle would certainly not live in excess of 10 months at the feedlot. In fact, it’s hard to imagine survival of any significant duration given an environment where, for the majority of their lives, cattle sleep in three feet of their own dung and spend the days kicking up suffocating clouds of dust that surprisingly contain very little dirt. Increases in production such as this are simply not natural and we have only one collective entity to thank: corporate America.

One of the largest producers of beef in America (which shall remain nameless but which we’ll call P.B.I.) utilizes this same method. This brand or some form of industrialized meat can probably be found in 99% of rural middle American restaurants. In fact, that $29 Filet Mignon at your favorite steakhouse arrives at the restaurant beautifully packed, labeled, and branded with the “PBI” logo.

But don’t blame the restaurant or even the Chef for serving this atrocity. To me, the stuff smells like absolute death when you open the package. But then, I have been exposed to meat that’s been raised responsibly. Surprisingly, there is very little information provided to local Chefs unless they’ve attended a good culinary school, independently seek the information or have worked at prominent fine dining restaurant in one of America’s five largest cities.

In addition to sheer lack of knowledge, there are many financial incentives for restaurants to purchase this meat, it’s simply cheap and if you’re operating the average restaurant with a profit margin of less than 10% you must keep your costs low. Bottom line: the same feedlot cattle that produce IBP filet mignon also go into your hamburger at the grocery store. Ah, the wonders of intelligent meat marketing!

lemonadfinalNow, this whole story of steak is just one indication of what’s happening to our entire food supply, not just beef. The more we genetically modify, breed, clone, process, package & market our food, the further we move from the very source of nourishment that supports human life itself. It’s easy to close your eyes as you enjoy that Big Mac, isn’t it? Just as long as you’re not aware of the filthy industrial food chain that created it. Ignorance is bliss baby!

The vast rift that has now formed between Americans and their food is not the result of ignorance, nor is it an accident. It’s the very intentional result of highly paid marketing teams who manifest things like spaghettios, pop tarts, lunchables and “butcher’s cut grilling meat” (whatever that is) to satisfy the latest market trend or Bobby Flay episode. Often times, processed foods begin as a logo and a brand before it’s known how the item will be produced on a mass scale. What most of us don’t realize is just how catastrophic the consequences have been.

There is no disputing the affect which this common system is having on your life at this very moment. Know anyone with cancer? Concerned about global warming? Both epidemics are closely related to your dinner. And while this topic is complex, I’ll attempt to generalize: First, we must realize that our entire industrial food system is driven by the corn market and that the steak we’ve talked so much about here eats one half of one bushel of commodity corn each day. Commodity corn is the stuff we grow here in Minnesota, Iowa, and throughout the grain belt. Very little of this corn is used directly for human consumption unless it’s transformed into things like emulsifiers for processed foods, filler for fast food hamburgers or high fructose corn syrup for soda, even adhesives and other construction materials.

Get this: corn production itself indirectly consumes nearly 50 gallons of oil per acre, that’s if you take into account things like farm equipment and the production of nitrogen, a necessary fertilizer that supports heavy planting. The corn has also been genetically modified for maximum efficiency and immunity to pesticides that are heavily applied to increase yields. However, growing of the corn that feeds the cattle that feeds the human is not the only consumer of oil. If you adjust for food distribution, your dinner is now causing 1/5 of total carbon emissions in the United States. In fact, one head of cattle ultimately consumes around 35 gallons of oil at the feedlot!

Take your pick; pesticides or not, fuel consumption, pollution and growth hormones can all lead to cancer. Now consider the devastating effect of obesity, diabetes and the general loss of identity we’ve experienced due to optimized food systems, the fast food nation, and the extinction of the family farmstead. We’re talking about a problem of epic proportions, potentially dismantling our economy and threatening our way of life.

At this point, you have to wonder who the benefactor is of this agricultural twilight zone. Is it the American people? Is it the government? What about the farmer? Certainly the farmer would benefit from all of this corn consumption. While that’s a nice thought, the process actually shifts money from the farm to corporations like Cargill who develop new brands of patented seed, each requiring more pesticide and fertilizer than the last. Corn production does go up, but gains further reduce the price for corn and before you know it, corn actually costs more to grow than it can fetch at market. Flat out, family farming is no longer a sustainable business… period. The answer here is that everyone loses except the executives at Cargill, and believe me they can afford to eat at restaurants where commodity corn is not on the menu in some form or another.

marketfinalSo what’s the solution? Activism? Legislation? All out war? Well, we’re already fighting for the oil that grows our federally subsidized corn, but the solution is simple: BUY LOCAL! While the blossoming movement of locally grown food still requires broad public support, there are interesting solutions coming onto the market that can incent restaurants and supermarkets to buy locally (and sustainably).

Challenge yourself to look at what’s available in the supermarket and you’ll find sweet potatoes from Louisiana, Russet potatoes from Washington, apples and pears from Oregon, avocados from Chile, maple syrup from Quebec, cheddar cheese from Vermont, mushrooms from British Columbia and strawberries from Mexico.

It’s important to understand that the greatest potential for change lies with you (and I) and our purchasing habits. It’s time we also realize that being a responsible consumer means eating with the seasons and therefore some level of self-education and diligence.


Don’t get me wrong, seasonal eating can be a challenge in its own right, but it also offers an ever changing menu dictated by season and surprise: morel mushrooms, ramps, asparagus and tender lettuces in the spring. Tomatoes, zucchini, corn & bell peppers in the summer. Pumpkin, squash & apples in the fall (just to name a few).

If you look hard enough, there are even seasons to be found within the seasons. Nature offers an even greater abundance of ingredients that you may have never even heard of: kohlrabi, salsify, fiddlehead ferns and more- each more delicious than you can imagine.

All things considered in our fast paced world, we should welcome this new found calling for radical change within our food systems. It presents us with a rare opportunity to slow down and take the scenic route toward a satisfying meal. While it’s clear that a healthy diet is not something that can be rushed, great ingredients can inspire the Chef in all of us to get back behind the stove, around the table, and into the farmers market.

Most of all; let us be thankful for and support the hard working Chefs, Nutritionists and Physicians around the country who are raising awareness about this epidemic. In conjunction with new forms of media such as the food network (argh) and the internet, we are slowly changing public perspective and priority. As we’re further exposed to a growing sea of food related content (such as this) please pay attention to the restaurants and markets who place emphasis on local products and who know the difference between organic and sustainable.


Finally, please keep this in mind: while operating any kind of food service business is an epic challenge, local purchasing is what truly separates the good Chefs, Restaurateurs and markets from the great. When you find them, make an effort to support them on a regular basis, even if they are slightly more expensive (in the short term) and be confident that you’re actually getting what you pay for. Afterall, with your continued support, prices will fall and we’ll experience a new renaissance of locally grown, wholesome food that directly supports the farmers and entire communities in which we live.

Duluth Cooking Classes at Blue Heron (Spring Schedule)


Schedule of Upcoming Spring Cooking Classes:


Richard Selz. Thursday, April 3, 6:30 P.M.

Join us for an informative evening showcasing both sweet and savory tarts: Lavender and Lemon Curd Tart; Dark Chocolate & Chile Pepper Tart; Goat Cheese, Roasted Bell Pepper & Fennel Tart; and a Smoked Trout & Fennel Tart with a Basil Chive Crust. Additional recipes and demonstrations as time permits.


Eric Goerdt. Thursday, April 10, 6:30 P.M.

This class will feature some of Eric’s favorite cheese and fish creations he serves when entertaining. Simple to prepare, but with great flavor and creative presentation: Smoked Salmon Mousse; Cheese Tile (arranging & pairing techniques); Cheese Torta, a beautiful layered concoction with blue and mascarpone cheeses; and Gravlax-Cured Salmon (how to make it along with some variations on the basic recipe).


Steve Zachar. Thursday, April 17, 11:00 A.M. and repeated at 6:30 P.M.

Just reading the menu for tonight’s class has got my mouth watering… White Asparagus wrapped in Prosciutto; Grilled Shrimp with Watermelon, Cucumber & Poblano Peppers; Chicken Salad Rag Dolls - a fun individual salad for kids and kids at heart; Smoked Lake Trout & Apple-Pear Waldorf Salad; Asian Vegetables with Pan-Seared Ahi Tuna; Roasted Corn & Yukon Gold Potato Salad; Broccoli Coleslaw; and Wild Rice Salad with Summer Fruits & Berries.


Bob Bennett. Thursday, April 24, 6:30 P.M.

Bob’s new menu at Restaurant 301 features “locally inspired cuisine and seasonal classics”. Tonight you’ll have an opportunity to learn more about his approach to cooking as Bob creates fresh spring cuisine using locally available ingredients. Get ready for summer entertaining with some great new recipes and techniques!


Kay Turk. Thursday, May 1, 6:30 P.M.

Enjoy an evening of fresh and flavorful recipes as Kay prepares Chilled Cream of Avocado Soup; Couscous Vegetable Salad with Salsa Vinaigrette; Wine-Drenched Potato Salad with White Wine Vinaigrette; Moroccan Chickpea Stew; Grilled Chicken with Corn & Roasted Pepper Salad; and Smokey Black Bean Salad.

GOOD FOR YOU! (Repeat of class offered May ‘07)

Jan Cohen. Thursday, May 15, 6:30 P.M.

Join Jan as she lets you in on some of her favorite healthy, quick, and easy recipes. There’ll be a refreshing Cold Tomato Soup with Toasted Walnuts, a Mustard Lime Marinade that makes quick work of fish or poultry, fresh ideas for wild rice side dishes, and several spring salads.


Rita B. Thursday, May 22, 6:30 P.M.

Rita B’s flavorful menu is inspired by the cuisine of interior Mexico. This complete company meal will include Ceviche Tacos; a bright Jicama-Melon-Apple Salad; Pork Tenderloin in Adobo Sauce; Corn Pudding; and finished off with a Tres Leches Cake and fresh berries or fruit.

REGISTRATION: Unless otherwise noted, each class costs $25.00. You may register for classes at the store or over the phone (218-722-8799). Payment must be received before we can reserve a place for you in the class. You may use your credit card to pay by phone if you wish. A 10% discount, food samples, and recipes will be given at most classes. If you find you are unable to attend, please notify us 3 days in advance in order to receive a refund (the Monday before the class). Please understand we are unable to make exceptions to this policy. Thank you!

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