Minnesota Pride

I'm always proud to say that I'm from Minnesota – to which the most common response is usually "You don't have an accent at all!" (Believe me, it comes back as soon as I land at MSP) But something has changed since I moved away from there. Once considered a flyover state, Minnesota has become an actually cool destination – with restaurants, shops, and hand-made products to back it up. Of course, those of us who are from the Midwest have long known that Minnesota is pretty great, but it's nice to see the rest of the country give it a little recognition as well. Here are a few of my current favorite companies, all the better because they are based in my home state:

Red Wing Shoes

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A classic American brand, Red Wing Shoes have been around for years, but they seem to be having a well-deserved resurgence as well-made, good quality products have again become valued. If you're in the area, the town of Red Wing is definitely worth a visit as well – charming Minnesota living at its best.

Faribault Woolen Mill

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Minnesota's oldest mill was started in 1865, and their legacy as a family-owned company has been revitalized with new designs and the same commitment to quality. I'm coveting one of the wool throws, which start at $135 and come in many different beautiful patterns.

Pierrepont Hicks

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A launch story that I love particularly because it involves both Minnesota and Brooklyn, Pierrepont Hicks was started by Mac & Katherine McMillan (she's from my neighborhood in Brooklyn, he's from Minnesota) as a quest to find the perfect tie. They have since expanded the brand to include shoes, outerwear, and blankets (how great is this Track Parka with the wool hood?)

Leather Works Minnesota

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Started in 1999, this St. Paul-based company makes minimalist (and very affordable) leather accessories, including wallets, key chains and best of all, slingshots. I love the simple designs and the fact that every design is made-to-order in their workshop.

Duluth Pack Store

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My family has visited the flagship Duluth Pack Store in Duluth on pretty much every single trip we have made up to the North Shore (which, when I was growing up, was 2-3 times per year). There's a reason they have been around since 1882 – their products have a lifetime guarantee, and they really mean it. I have always loved their bags (like the navy tote pictured above), but they also make excellent clothing and other accessories as well.

Recently

I don't really have an excuse for my absence here over the last week, but if I did it would be that the batteries for my camera are currently dead and I left my charger at a friend's apartment. So until I get that back (I'm hoping by tomorrow) here are a few pictures from recent happenings, including a few from my trip to Minnesota (chickens! Wesley!) and from New York (trip to Rockaway Beach -- and Rockaway Taco -- a 1920's party on Govorner's Island, and movies at Brooklyn Bridge Park) as well. I'll be back soon with some great late-summer recipes, I promise.

The Bachelor Farmer

As many of you already know, Minneapolis is getting to be kind of a big deal. It seems that all of a sudden, lutefisk and mashed potatoes are being replaced by innovative new restaurants serving "Nordic-American" food (I'm told this is the newest trend). Of course, those of us that are from there know that this is not a new phenomenon, but rather one that has been in the making for quite some time -- but it's nice to know that the rest of the country is discovering the greatness of Minnesota as well. (See here and here). Of course, I don't get to visit home as often as I(/my parents) would like, and since I have been hearing about all of these new restaurants, it has been even harder. When I was home in May for my sister's graduation, my mom tried to get us a reservation at the newest of these -- The Bachelor Farmer -- to no avail. So she decided to make a reservation 3 months in advance, for August. After waiting practically all summer, we finally made it there last weekend. And believe me -- it was worth the wait.

Since we all wanted to try multiple things, we decided to order a number of items and split them. My dad, being a full-blooded Norwegian, had to start off the meal with a glass of aquavit (it's worth noting that they have multiple kinds). Not to my taste, but the herbal notes were certainly refreshing. We then commenced with beets roasted in duck fat with house-made cow's milk cheese and the duck liver pâté. Both were delicious -- but the pâté had even my mostly-vegetarian sister eating multiple pieces.

I then decided on an heirloom tomato salad with aioli and the steak tartare (I can never resist), while the rest of my family chose a variety of entrées, including duck, halibut, and poached eggs with spinach. The tomato salad was one of my favorite items -- the tomatoes were almost like candy, and they were perfectly complimented by crunchy croutons and the garlicky aioli.

We then finished the evening with a few desserts -- including a smoked vanilla ice cream that was pretty unbelievable. My favorite, however, was a peach upside-down cake that perfectly captured the flavors of summer. After dinner, we walked partway across a bridge over the Mississippi -- a perfect Minneapolis night.

Off to Minnesota!

I'm leaving tomorrow for a few days in Minnesota and Iowa to see my little sister graduate (so old!) While it will be great to have a couple of days off, what I am REALLY looking forward to is the food -- not only fresh rhubarb and eggs from my parent's house (and chickens), but also some of the great new restaurants in the Twin Cities. Anchor Fish & Chips is a must, and I am really hoping to get to the Bachelor Farmer, and Travail if I'm lucky. Not sure if there will be enough time, but I'll be back soon. I'm hoping also to cook a little with my mom and take some recipe pictures outside of my little Brooklyn kitchen. See you next week!

Minnesota in February

As promised, I have uploaded my photos from my quick weekend trip to Minnesota. Now, many of you may not think that MN is the best place to visit, particularly in February, but I beg to differ. Of course, being from there I may be slightly prejudiced, but the Twin Cities have exploded in the last few years with a number of great restaurants, and shops, not to mention the second-most theaters and museums per capita after New York City. If you don't believe me, just check out the James Beard Award nominations for this year -- Twin Cities chefs all over the place! Anyways, this trip was too short to eat at many places, but we did fit in breakfast at Barbette, one of my old favorites, and the BEST chocolate cake you will ever eat from Café Latte (get the turtle cake and don't ask questions. Trust me.) Much of the weekend was spent seeing my youngest sister's play (she was amazing) and hanging out with my family, though a few bottles of wine may have been consumed. The best one was a Domaine d'Auphilac Montpeyroux from Languedoc, which we actually had for the first time on the Upper West Side at Bar Boulud. It was excellent with our impromptu cheese plate and homemade pizza.

Tilia

Though I usually write about restaurants in New York, as that is where I live most of the time, this past weekend I was lucky enough to be home in not-so-snowy Minnesota. The trip was filled with family, food, lovely Christmas traditions, and more food (including, for better or worse, lutefisk). However, aside from the lye-soaked cod, one of the nicest parts of the trip was a lunch yesterday at Tilia with my family.

I had heard rave reviews of this restaurant from Twin City-darling Steven Brown from several sources, and couldn't wait to go as soon as I arrived home. Situated in the lovely Linden Hills neighborhood of Minnapolis, "tilia" is actually Latin for the Linden tree. Though Brown has worked at many of the Twin Cities' best restaurants, this is his first solo venture, and I couldn't wait to see if it lived up to the hype.

Fittingly, as soon as we walked in the door of the restaurant at 1:15, the host told us it would be at least an hour wait for five people. My face fell -- as I needed to leave for the airport in two hours, that would have been impossible. However, with a little flexibility (fitting five people into a booth), we were able to be seated immediately. Our server was engaging and funny, and had many recommendations. We ended up sharing several dishes, including pork belly with lentils and apple chutney (stellar), french fries (salty and marvelous), and the fish taco torta (crunchy and creamy and spicy all at once). However, I would have to say that the two stand-out dishes were on the sweeter side. The first was called, whimsically, "Millionaire's Bacon". This consisted of crispy-succulent bacon drenched in -- wait for it -- salted caramel sauce. More a dessert than a side dish, this was rather remarkable. Though I couldn't eat ore than a few bites, the saltiness of the bacon offset the sweet vanilla of the caramel perfectly.

My other favorite dish was the butterscotch pudding topped with crème fraîche. Wonderfully creamy, with subtle vanilla undertones and lovely butterscotch flavor, the crème fraîche added a nice tart note to the sugary pudding. This was accompanied by a perfectly made macchiato.

Overall, Tilia surpassed all of my expectations. The service was a little slow at times, but understandable given how busy their lunch service is. It feels like a real neighborhood restaurant, an excellent place to meet a friend for a glass of wine (or a beer from their excellent list). Make sure to share everything.