5 bites from the newly opened Keg & Case West 7th Market

Keg and Case West 7th Market // Photo by Brian Kaufenberg

Keg & Case West 7th Market in St. Paul // Photo by Brian Kaufenberg

The newly opened Keg & Case market on West 7th has the potential to become St. Paul’s answer to Chelsea Market in Manhattan, the Ferry Building in San Francisco, or the North Market in Columbus, Ohio. The natural breadth and height of the former Schmidt Brewery complex has been filled with an ambitious combination of carefully curated local vendors and some jaw-dropping visuals provided by on-site beekeeping, mushroom farming, and a second-story brewery.

Anchor tenants In Bloom and Revival aren’t yet open (they’re expected to be slinging food at the end of next week), but there are still plenty of intriguing spots at which to eat in the new marketplace—everything from gourmet cotton candy to artisan sausage to doughnuts to halva.

The November print edition of the Growler will feature a major holistic assessment of the Keg & Case project, but the spot’s too interesting to ignore now that the doors are open; what follows are a first few bites to give you a taste of the market.

Kung Pao Tofu Lettuce Wrap | Wandering Kitchen

The Kung Pao Tofo lettuce wrap from Wandering Kitchen // Photo by Aaron Job

The first thing to know about the Wandering Kitchen lettuce wrap is that it’s intended for human consumption. The colocation Wandering Kitchen’s grab-and-go cooler with the Barkley’s Bistro bespoke dog food shop is a little disconcerting, but it makes sense once you’ve processed it.

In terms of texture and flavor, there’s not much to complain about here—the tofu is firm enough to crumble and adds a nice contrast to the dish’s numerous peanuts, and there’s enough heat and depth of seasoning to keep what could be a bland lunch option from slipping into monotony. Whether $12 is a fair price point for a double handful of seasoned tofu and three large pieces of lettuce is up to you—we feel as though it might be borderline.

Turkish Delight and Halva | House of Halva

Turkish Delight, left, and Pistachio Chocolate Halva, right // Photos by Aaron Job

Turkish Delight, left, and Pistachio Chocolate Halva, right, from the House of Halva // Photos by Aaron Job

Turkish delight (a nutty, gelatinous sweet typically flavored with rosewater and lemon) is one of those things that can, in theory, keep forever. It therefore gets treated like industrial fruitcakes—packaged, shipped, passed around, forgotten, rediscovered, tasted, and then immediately discarded.

Freshly made, however, it’s worthy of its name. The stuff at House of Halva is tender and absolutely lovely—delicately sweet, beautifully spiced, tender, and dusted with a perfect coating of powdered sugar.

Our chocolate pistachio halva ($8 for a quarter pound) was a fairly dry example of the food, but the flavors were good—the nuttiness of the pistachios dominated, but the mild, natural flavor of chocolate and the mellow warmth of the sesame-based tahini also came through and made for a complex and pleasing overall profile.

There’s no way we’d ID our creme brûlée halva ($8 for a quarter pound) as being creme brûlée flavored, so intense was the nutty kick of the tahini that dominated its flavor. This was one of House of Halva’s dairy-based halva flavors, and the creaminess was welcome, in terms of providing a background richness and making the texture a little more yielding than its non-dairy cousins.

Serrano Strawberry Cotton Candy | Spinning Wylde | $6 for a single size serving

Spinning Wylde’s Serrano Strawberry cotton candy // Photo  by Aaron Job

Spinning Wylde’s Serrano Strawberry cotton candy does everything you’d want it to: it’s sweet, it’s gossamer-thin, and it combines a palpable (but not excessive) hot pepper kick with a strawberry sweetness accentuated by a sprinkling of real freeze-dried strawberries. Bonus: they make it as you watch.

Salami di Carl | K’nack | $8

The Salami di Carl from K'nack in the Keg & Case market // Photo by Aaron Job

The Salami di Carl from K’nack in the Keg & Case market // Photo by Aaron Job

K’nack’s signature salami split our group—its coarse texture put some tasters off, but others appreciated its clean, bright flavor profile. At $8 for a reasonably large log of meat, it struck us all as a pretty good value.

What: Keg & Case West 7th Market
Where: 928 West Seventh Street, Saint Paul, MN
Website: www.kegandcase.com
Hours: Monday–Friday: 10am–8pm; Saturday: 9am–9pm*; Sunday: 9am–6pm; Check individual vendors for extended hours.

*House of Halva is closed from sundown on Friday through Saturday evening in observance of Shabbat.