Up in Smoke: Alejandro Castillon is using the smoker at Prieto Taqueria to unite classic Mexican fare and global techniques

The fiery heart of Alejandro Castillon’s new restaurant is an Oyler Pit smoker big enough to be a sauna. “It’s probably the biggest in Minneapolis,” Castillon says. The monstrous red box can cook six or seven hogs at once and it sports a hood that could comfortably vent a burning SUV. The chef’s takeover of … [ Read more]

Boiling Point: The fiery Door County fish boil tradition has deep and native roots

It’s early June, and rain is falling near the tip of Wisconsin’s Door County peninsula. Despite the wet weather and a persistent wind, more than two dozen spectators are gathered together in a damp little community facing the water, awaiting the climax of a local ritual that dates back at least 350 years. At five … [ 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]

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]

Recipe for Reinvention: For Doug Flicker, Bull’s Horn is a revolt against his own success—and a return to his roots

If you walk into Bull’s Horn in South Minneapolis on the right night, and the scene hits you just the right way, you’ll experience a sudden, giddy rush of confusion. It’s not any single thing—it’s all the details taken in at once: the bubble hockey game, the pull-tab station, the plastic water glasses, the occasional little … [ 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]

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]

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]

Bright Colors, Deep Flavors: In Hai Hai, chef Christina Nguyen has created an autobiographical powerhouse

Three facts about Christina Nguyen, chef-owner at Hai Hai and Hola Arepa: 1. She believes that the customer is right…unless the subject is omelette larb. “It’s the one dish I won’t allow people to get less spicy, because I am a total tyrant and crazy person,” she says. “There are certain things that you should … [ Read more]

The Ramen Architect

John Ng of Zen Box Izakaya is a designer, engineer, and builder (of soup) If he weren’t a chef, John Ng of Zen Box Izakaya might be a kung fu master. This is literally true: the architect-turned-izakaya co-owner has been practicing martial arts for 16 years, having begun his training while living in San Francisco. … [ Read more]

Hunter, Writer, Butcher, Cook: Jamie Carlson and Minnesota’s wild foods movement

Jamie Carlson’s idea of a perfect field snack is a raw antelope liver, taken directly from the freshly killed animal itself. “Raw antelope liver is the sweetest thing you’re ever going to have,” he says while tending a campfire at Lebanon Hills Regional Park in Eagan. “Pull it out, rinse it off, put a little … [ Read more]

Food for Thought: A U of M partnership yields some exotic fruits

Across the country, campus dining tends to be where mediocre food comes to a bad end, ladled from plastic bags into heating vessels and then into troughs where it is consumed with a mixture of indifference and resentment. “Banquets” are sorry affairs, dominated by overcooked vegetables, cloying desserts, and rubber chicken entrees more appropriate to … [ Read more]

Taste of the Country, On an Urban Table: Lenny Russo and Daniel Cataldo of ninetwentyfive

If you’re going to tell the story of food in the Upper Midwest, it’s helpful to think of a circle. People here were once intimately interconnected with the land and seasons as farmers, hunters, and fishers, and every ingredient had a story about where it was from and when it was harvested that was intimately … [ Read more]

Spinning the Wheels: The goats (and cheese) of Capra Nera Creamery

The gently pitched and sprawling green fields of Altura, Minnesota, are part of the Driftless Area. The land shrugs and dips, and there are whorls and ripples that make their way across the turf. You are tenderly enfolded by the landscape rather than dwarfed by it. This is where Capra Nera Creamery cheesemaker Katie Bonow’s … [ Read more]

Smoke and No Mirrors: The effort and integrity behind Northern Waters Smokehaus

I spent a couple decades in real estate, where I saw every kind of sales pitch, from the clumsiest—delivered by a transparently thirsty postgraduate sweating through the armpits of his big-boy sport coat—to the most sophisticatedly smooth. One thing I learned is that we are all selling something almost all of the time, even if it’s … [ Read more]