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.

Pan-Fried Chicken with Lemon-Artichoke Sauce

_MG_5051 _MG_5055I almost never order chicken at restaurants. Somehow, chicken has gotten the reputation for being "boring" and usually, I'm more interested in trying fish or some kind of meat. There is one chicken dish that I will always order, however – the chicken Milanese at I Nonni. I worked at I Nonni, a great Italian restaurant just outside of St. Paul, the summer after I graduated college and before I moved to New York. It was a great summer  – the last time (probably) that I would live at home with my parents, the last summer I could be "a kid". (You're still a kid at 22, right?) I worked two restaurant jobs pretty much every day for those three months to save up money so that I could move to NYC at the end of August, and the nights I toiled away at I Nonni, I would usually end up ordering the chicken for dinner. Something about the lemony-buttery-bitter artichoke combination appealed to me – and of course, the crispy chicken and peppery arugula didn't hurt either.

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_MG_5065Later that fall when I was feeling a little homesick, I attempted to create the chicken dish to  bring back  little bit of home into my apartment full of hand-me-down furniture and less-than-desirable neighbors. I've changed it a bit over the past few years, but every time I make this dish, it reminds me of home.

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Pan-Fried Chicken with Lemon-Aritchoke Sauce (serves 4-6)

6 chicken breasts, pounded to 1/2-inch thickness

1/2-1 cup flour

2 eggs

2 cups panko breadcrumbs

4-6 tablespoons vegetable oil

6 cups arugula

Parmiggiano Reggiano, for serving (optional)

Sauce:

6 tablespoons butter

2 large shallots, chopped

2 14-oz cans artichoke hearts, drained and quartered

3/4 cup white wine

1/2 cup half and half

1/2 cup chicken broth

Juice of 1 lemon

1 lemon, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons capers

Place the flour, eggs, and panko into three separate, shallow bowls. Season the flour, and whisk the eggs lightly with a fork. Coat one piece of chicken lightly with flour, then dip into eggs, then panko so that it is completely coated. Lay on a baking sheet or cutting board, and repeat with remaining pieces of chicken.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. When shimmering, add 1-2 pieces of chicken (depending on the size of your pan) and fry until golden-brown, about 3-4 minutes per side. Keep cooked chicken warm in oven, and repeat with remaining pieces.

Once chicken is fried, let pan cool slightly, then melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium-low heat. When it has melted, add  shallots and cook until soft and slightly transparent, about 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium and add artichokes. Cook for 1 minute. Add wine, half and half and broth, and bring to a boil. Cook until reduced slightly, about 10 minutes. Stir in remaining butter and flour and cook until thickened slightly, 2-3 minutes. Add lemon juice, slices, and capers, and season with salt and pepper.

To serve: place a piece of chicken over a handful of arugula on each plate. Spoon sauce over and shave a few pieces of parmiggiano reggiano over the sauce. Serve immediately.

Juniper-Spiced Venison with Brown Goat Cheese Sauce

_MG_4924It's always hard to come back after a vacation, isn't it? After several shortened weeks from being in Minnesota and then from the holiday, I jumped right back into work on Monday and didn't really slow down until yesterday afternoon. It was a lovely week though, with an outdoor performance by the NY Philharmonic, a screening of Ferris Bueller's Day Off in my favorite park that included a spontaneous dance party, dinners with friends and, of course, some delicious food. Not a bad way to spend a week in New York, even if it feels like it's 100 degrees. _MG_4907 _MG_4910

Venison is not really what you think of as a summer dish; it always seems more suited to a cozy fireside meal than a summer dinner al fresco. However, when I was home, my dad had some excellent venison that was begging for a special occasion, and we decided that our whole family being together was the perfect excuse to try it. The venison was perfect, especially when we used this lovely recipe from the cookbook New Scandanavian Cooking. If you can't get venison, flank steak would be a lovely substitute. _MG_4911

 

 

 

 

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A couple of notes: gjetost, or brown goat cheese may be hard to find. If you can't find it, a smoked gouda or other pungent cheese would also be good. Additionally, we didn't have any lingonberry preserves on hand, so we quickly cooked some cranberries down with a little sugar, which was just as delicious.

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Maple-Balsamic Fig Crostini

_MG_4836This is one of my top-five appetizers. It was inspired by a lovely special at one of the best (and most underrated) restaurants in Minnesota, the New Scenic Café. A bright yet unassuming exterior with views of Lake Superior just across North Shore Drive hides wonderfully simple, local fare. Unfortunately, I don't get to make it there as often as I would like, but a version of this crostini was served as a special appetizer one of the last times I was there. Once I got home, I had to re-create it -- I love the contrast between the sweet balsamic-glazed figs and the salty gorgonzola cheese. You could also serve this as dinner with a salad (which I have definitely done)._MG_4813 _MG_4842

I'm actually in Minnesota this week (hooray for vacation!), and won't be making it up to Duluth, but I can't wait to check out some favorite restaurants, like The Bachelor Farmer (I wrote about it last summer here), Anchor Fish & Chips (best fish and chips I have EVER had), and hopefully a few more. But mostly, it's so lovely to hang out with my family, see some friends, and relax. Are you taking any trips this summer?_MG_4845

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Maple-Balsamic Fig Crostini (serves 6 as an appetizer, 2-3 as a main course)

1 baguette, thinly sliced on the bias

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

12 figs, cut in half lengthwise

1/4 cup maple syrup

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup white wine

Black pepper

1-2 oz gorgonzola or blue cheese

1/2 cup marcona almonds or walnuts, toasted

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place baguette slices on a large baking sheet and brush lightly with olive oil. Bake until lightly toasted and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Let cool.

Meanwhile, melt butter over medium-high heat in a large sauté pan. Place figs in pan, cut side down and cook for 30 seconds. Pour maple syrup, vinegar, and wine over figs and cook until liquid is reduced slightly and becomes syrupy, about 5 minutes. Season with black pepper.

To serve: spoon 2-3 fig halves on a piece of bread, then sprinkle cheese and toasted nuts over. Serve immediately.

 

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.

Grandma's Rhubarb Pie

Terribly sorry, everyone. I have been dreadful about posting over the last couple of weeks due to a trip home and a computer being upgraded. I also seem to have contracted a penchant for writing rather like a 19th-century Englishwoman, which may or may not be due to the fact that I have reread all of my favorite Jane Austen novels over the last several weeks.

Anyways, my love for Emma and Pride and Prejudice is not why you are here. My trip home was rather a whirlwind, mostly spent with family and much of it spent in the car on the five-hour drive to Iowa (which was quite pretty, actually). However, I did manage to take a few pictures of my grandma Nancy's famous rhubarb cream pie, homemade the day of my arrival by my mom. I can thus claim no credit for this recipe, but I do hope to pick up some rhubarb at the farmer's market this weekend to try to recreate it in my (much smaller) kitchen. 

Rhubarb Pie

Crust:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon sugar 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter chilled and cut into small pieces 1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

Filling:

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/4 cup flour

3/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Pinch salt

3 eggs, beaten

4 cups (or more) rhubarb, roughly chopped

For crust: Add flour, salt, sugar, and butter to the bowl of a food processor. Process until a coarse meal forms, about 10 seconds. Add ice water by the tablespoon, and process until dough holds together without being sticky, about 30 seconds. If too crumbly, add more ice water by the tablespoon until it comes together. Separate dough into two balls and flatten slightly. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, and up to 1 day.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out each ball of dough into a 12-inch round. Place one in pie tin and crimp edges to form crust. Cut the other into 1-inch strips and set aside. Mix sugar, flour, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl. Add eggs and mix until blended. Stir in rhubarb and mix until just combined. Pour filling into prepared crust. Braid 1-inch strips of crust over filled pie, working one at a time, to create a lattice. Trim edges and press down edge of crust with a fork. Bake for 50 minutes, until top is golden brown.