Too Close to the Fire: A chef’s story of restaurant burnout and rekindling his love of cooking

This is the third installment of Off the Map, a column by chef J.D. Fratzke. It appears monthly on growlermag.com and occasionally in print. For literally decades, one of the most zen-like and enjoyable tasks of my 14-hour work day was the 45 minutes before dinner service wherein all the chopping, dicing, braising, searing, emulsifying, and reducing … [ Read more]

Bite of the Week: Pork Tacos at Casa Lupita in White Bear Lake

Bite of the Week is a weekly feature showcasing an exceptional meal or dish, curated by The Growler. White Bear Lake’s Casa Lupita is a taco joint that straddles two worlds. It offers some familiar Mexican styles of taco, but also tacos described simply as “chicken” or “pork.” And it offers classic toppings (onions, cilantro) … [ Read more]

Northern Lights: Talent and ambition powers the dining room of Poplar Haus on the Gunflint Trail

Ask a handful of Minnesotans about going “up north” and you’ll probably get a cluster of different responses that share a few things in common. Up north isn’t a specific place, although many people have a place in mind. It’s not a where, it’s a what—a slower pace of life, a retreat from the lacerating … [ Read more]

The Cheese Stands Alone: Willi Lehner forges world-class wheels on his self-sufficient wisconsin farmstead

Above the rolling hills near Blue Mounds, Wisconsin, at Willi Lehner’s 16-acre farmstead, a turbine spins in the wind. It looks like a child’s toy on top of an Erector set, but that wind turbine, in combination with a fleet of solar panels,  generates about five times as much power as the whole farm needs. … [ Read more]

I Left My Heart in Shafter Ghost Town

This is the second installment of Off the Map, a column by chef J.D. Fratzke. It appears monthly on growlermag.com and occasionally in print. It was in the waning years of the Clinton administration that I found myself standing on the roof of an abandoned blacksmith and livery in a southwest Texas ghost town. The journey had … [ Read more]

Disturbing the Peace, Honoring the Place: Amy Huo is cooking farm-to-table in Eau Claire, damn the cost and consequences

Amy Huo will tell it to you straight: she isn’t the easiest person to work with. “I have an addiction to doing something new, even if I piss off everyone,” she laughs. As a food truck chef and entrepreneur, she has built her reputation in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, by dishing farm-to-table food from her roving … [ Read more]

Four Minnesotans are 2019 James Beard finalists

The finalists for the 2019 James Beard Foundation Awards were announced from Houston this morning, and four Minnesotans have punched their ticket to the awards galas. They are: Best Chef Midwest Ann Kim, Young Joni (See: Kim chats with Steve Hoffman about KFC and Kimchi) Jamie Malone, Grand Cafe (See: Steve Hoffman’s interview with Malone and … [ Read more]

A Tale of Two Butcher Shops: In a society where meat is usually mundane, two Minneapolis businesses break the mold

A friend called us recently, raving about a local butcher shop. She’d never been to one before and she spoke with all the gushy enthusiasm of the newly converted. “They have all the meat,” she said. “And they’ll do whatever you want to it—he spatchcocked my turkey!” And, to think, she could have had it ground, … [ Read more]

Dollars to Dumplings: Tim Niver’s relentless hustle keeps his culinary mini-empire current and profitable

If you watch Tim Niver casually assemble an order of bucatini all’amatriciana, you might easily mistake him for a chef. “I love that browning effect on the garlic,” he says, the smell of pancetta filling the kitchen at Mucci’s Italian. “You get that slight tinge of bitterness and you can even find some of those … [ Read more]

Private Recipe to Public Product: The Cost of Starting Up a Food Business

It starts with a cracker. Or, rather, the lack of a cracker—the perfect cracker; the exact cracker you want. You start experimenting in your kitchen, and experimentation leads to coming up with something you like. Soon, you discover it’s not just you who’s a fan: your moody teenagers love it, your crabby aunt loves it, the … [ Read more]

Behold: The Minnesota Taco Atlas!

It can be easy to lose sight of the fact that we live in a taco paradise. Legitimate taquerias—shops that make soulful, beautiful, ravishingly delicious food—are scattered all over the metro area and beyond, but they have a tendency to blend into the background. Their marketing and decor aren’t always as polished as the food, … [ Read more]

Wild-Fired Kitchen

For Ryan Stechschulte and KZ ProVisioning, feeding the Minnesota Wild is a job and a passion Deep in the bowels of the Treasure Island Center in downtown St. Paul, chef Ryan Stechschulte stands over two enormous metal pots of gourmet goulash and talks about Minnesota Wild hockey. If the TRIA Rink practice lair is the Batcave, Stechschulte is … [ Read more]

Little Shrimp on the Prairie

The uncertain future of the world’s oceans is propelling the establishment of saltwater farming in Minnesota No one believed that Paul Damhof had ordered 20 above-ground swimming pools. His credit card company flagged the purchase and called to verify it. The FedEx guy called believing the delivery was a mistake. The retailer was also perplexed—ultimately … [ Read more]

To Discover the Future of Food, Ask the Chefs

Three leading Minnesota chefs break bread, drink wine, and talk about the way food will be eaten—and cooked—in the decades to come W When we start talking about the future of food, we immediately consider questions of waste and sustainability, or whatever the cake-pop-like-object of the moment might be. It’s easy to get immersed in protein … [ Read more]

Minnesota Soul: A state with a sparse history of black-owned restaurants looks toward a bountiful future

It isn’t an accident that “Minnesota” and “soul food” are not exactly bedfellows.  Unlike other major northern cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul did not see a significant migration of African-Americans between the first and second World Wars. By the 1940 census, there were just 4,646 black people living in Minneapolis, and about as many in … [ Read more]