Archive for the ‘Stuff’ Category

ok, and now a bit of self promotion

21 Apr

Best Neighborhood Cafe - Minneapolis


Beer Geeks Unite!

24 Feb

These are my beer guys. Everybody needs beer guys.  These two gentleman are affecting the beer scene in Mpls/St. Paul and beyond more than anyone really knows.  If you know who they are, you already know how much they have contributed to the beer movement in the Twin Cities.  If you don’t, here is a little insight into who they are. 

Corey Shovein – Hohensteins

Why beer, how did  you get in the business and why are you such nut-jobs when it comes to beer?

Got into this business while I was going to school to be a drama teacher. The owner of a company called All Saint’s Brands asked me if I had any time to put into second job. At that time I was going to school from 7 am to 2 pm and working at the empire known as Super America from 3 pm – 11 pm. Not a lot of time in there to squeeze in another job. I did however ask him what it was I would be doing. It was at that moment that the magical words “Beer Importer” were uttered and I told him that I think I could find a few hours here and there to help him out. Nut-job? Doesn’t everyone turn into a nut-job if you love what you do. I have to constantly pinch myself to make sure I am not in some sort of Super Bowl commercial. I get paid to talk about beer. Drink beer. Travel to places to drink beer and meet lots of great people. My wife tells me all the time its not a real job. 

What is worst beer you have drank?
Easily Bud Light. Tastes like spit.

Best beer experience?
I was In Belgium with Lanny and enjoying for the first time a delicious bottle of Westvleteren 12. My first “beergasm”. You always remember your first. Right?

What is your favorite wine?
What is wine? Turley Zin. Im a big fan of the bold fruit flavors in this wine.

What’s your suggestion to make beer drinking a better experience for people?
Try as many as you can and use a glass whenever you can because it opens the beer up a bit

Where do you see the industry going? What do you think of local brew scene?
I see the “craft beer” industry getting stronger every day. That has its positives and its negatives. Craft beer’s rise in popularity has opened the eyes of the large commercial breweries and forced them to find ways of capturing some of that craft scene. Lets just say good beer has gotten into a fist fight with commercial beer and has at least connected on a few blows. T.V commercials that talk about how much they nurture every beer before it gets packed up and shipped out instead of using scantily clad women or dogs to advertise their beer. The American consumer is drinking better beer at 21 than they were 10 or 15 years ago. If you start at 21 with the good stuff your palate won’t let you go back. Even in a tough economy. For the first time the U.S. craft scene is influencing the global beer community with their creativity and quality.

Local scene. Is is certainly more fertile than ever. Does that mean all the beer is good? No way! Brew good beer and people will drink it. Brew bad beer and people will send it back. Just because it is local does not mean it is all good. I believe people should support great tasting local beer not every local brewery. You are doing the industry a disservice by supporting mediocrity or worse. Unfortunately on the distribution side larger big money wholesalers, non-alcoholic wholesalers, wine wholesalers etc…. are trying to make a quick buck on the popularity of craft beer now. In my opinion stick to what you are good at. If everyone is trying to get a piece of the action be prepared for a lot of mediocrity on the shelves. The market will be flooded and their will be a ton of old beer being sold. When that happens all the band wagon jumpers will hop off again and go back to what they were doing before.


Lanny Hoff

Why beer, how did  you get in the business and why are you such nut-jobs when it comes to beer?
To be honest, I backed into the business. After graduating from college, I wandered the landscape almost aimlessly looking for a calling. I ended up at a homebrew shop, met a guy who was starting an importing company, took a position as an unpaid intern and before I knew it, I was national sales manager. Now, 14 years later I am part owner of Artisanal Imports, Inc. and represent my beer from the Mississippi River eastwards. Except in Minnesota where I cover both riverbanks.

What is worst beer you have drank?
With the exception of every bad homebrew of mine and beers that are just plain messed up, I would have to say Crucial Brew. It was a high-alcohol version of Red Stripe and tasted like Old Spice Aftershave. Don’t ask me how I know that.

Best beer experience?
The first time I passed through the gates of the Koningshoeven Trappist Brewery in Tilburg, Holland. It brought tears to my eyes it was so beautiful. I have a lot of love for that brand and the people that make it. Although I am pointedly non-religious, Koningshoeven and the Trappist Monks who run the place have my respect and radiate a calm, intelligent power. Very impressive.

What is your favorite wine?
One of the reasons I like beer is that it’s easier to keep track of. There are so many wineries, it’s hard for me to remember them, so don’t expect too many specifics. I like dry pink wines and am particularly fond of Spanish Rosado. For everyday wine, I’m a huge fan of Sineann Red Table Wine. Not sure if you can get it in MN, but I order from the winery and dig it very much.

What is your suggestion to make beer drinking a better experience for people?
Relax and trust yourself. If you think you don’t like it, move on. Don’t ever finish a beer you don’t like. It’s cheap and vulgar. Dump it out or order something else!

Where do you see the industry going?  What do you think of local brew scene?
There will be a continued expansion of craft and specialty beers and more people will jump on the bandwagon. It’s a genie that, once uncorked, cannot be bottled again. The local brew scene is looking better all the time, but without naming any names I would say I’m underwhelmed with some of the beer. We seem oddly satisfied with mediocre beer in this market and I am baffled at how some brewers can stay in business. It seems odd to me that some restaurants and bars have a “local only” policy for their beer list and choose to carry beers that are poorly made to satisfy this self-imposed limit. I don’t see any restaurants featuring “local only” wine, and I sincerely doubt that a good chef will choose low-quality “local” ingredients when other options exist. The localvore revolution is a good thing, but we can’t throw standards and quality out the window. Be critical! If the beer (or wine or food) is not good, do without or find something else.
Having said that, the bar is rising all the time and things are getting better bit by bit. There are many rays of sunshine and I am hopeful that our scene will continue to grow and improve.

All I can say after all that.  Get to know a BEER GUY!

Go ahead. Answer some of the questions yourself and let us know.

We are what we need now.

21 Dec

“But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope.”Barack Obama

This was something that was sent to me from an Obama campain worker.  I don’t really need to add anything to this message.  Just wanted some people to think about this.

Some thoughts about what I have learned over the past 18 months:  I have learned that people are generally good and that most of us try to do the right thing most of the time.  I have learned that no matter how people label themselves…there are fundamental things we all agree on.  I have learned that if you do not talk to people, you will never, ever find good solutions to tough problems.

There are opportunities every day in every person’s life to choose hope over fear.  Even for those of you who are still waiting for President elect Obama to prove himself, you cannot deny the number of people he has inspired to action, how many people he has inspired to have the audacity of hope.  And it is true that we are who we have been waiting for.  It is my HOPE that we all take that inspiration and keep moving forward.  How far we have come in less than 50 years.  This isn’t all about Obama, he is the inspiration…it is about us and our dedication to moving forward and taking care of one another.  

With that in mind, I implore you to stay involved in your communities, meet your legislators, talk to people who have completely different views, drop some food off at the food shelf.  We have some tough times ahead but I know that if we all join hands, we will come out of this stronger than we were before.

It’s not he, them, they or you…  it is us and we.

Thank you everybody, and have happy and safe holidays.

Now what?

30 Sep

Lets talk about the 10,000lb elephant in the room.  When money gets tight what is the first thing to go?


Is eating a luxury or not?  Of course not, it is something we have to all do every day.  But, spending money on ingredients is something that people will immediately cut back on when money gets tight.  “What is the difference between Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano anyway, no one can tell right?”  Well, can you tell?  (There is a question. Who can really tell, but that is another blog. )  I can not tell you how much we appreciate the people that are continuing to come to our restaurant and say that they are only spending money on going out at restaurants like this one, because it truly makes a difference.  Makes a difference?  To whom?  To the farmers, to the local economy, to the local neighborhood, to everyone in the chain. I know that sound like a cliche now, everyone is talking about local, heck, I even heard of a Tree company useing the term “Locally owned” as a selling point.  Of course they are local, no one comes from California to prune trees just before winter do they?  (I know, it is not their fault, they were told to use it by some marketing firm)  But, back to the question.  NOW WHAT?  What is everyone doing with their money?  Are you eating out?  Are you cooking for yourself?  What?

We are just starting to wind down on a crazy season of summer here in Minnesota and Wisconsin. This year the farms we have dealt with have had some roller coaster years.  When Pam at South East MN food network is asking for rain, Chad in Tomah, Wisconsin is wondering if it will ever dry out?  When Maurice with Six rivers co-op in and around Barron, Wisconsin is telling me how hard he works, (he does, really) and how they are in need of rain and sun, Joe, just north of them on the Hay river, is trying to get the field dry so they can get in and plant.  This is just all right here folks.  So, with all that going on.  What do they do?

I know, so many questions, what is the point of this post?  The point is NOW WHAT?  We pay attention to things that have value, things that cost something, right?  We spend money on things that are of high value and quality in our day to day life.  We will spend some money on a piece of furniture believing will last, we will spend extra on a phone, cause it will save us time?  Right?  But when it comes to food, we look for 1/2 price deals and happy hours, and value meals.

What are you going to do?  What are your thoughts?  I know it is something large to ponder.  But, it is very important.  What do you want?  Do you choose your restaurant based on philosophy or your bank account?

And, so we move onto the next point of discussion…

18 Sep

“…It also says something about how that chef & restaurant are willing to cook & develop menus. …you put yourself into the same boat as the farmer worrying about weather & rain & how that effects the crops. So, if the hail destroys the salad green crop or tomatoes you do without instead of buying some flown in from halfway across the country & change your menu based on what is available.”

This was written by “kat,” a commenter on a previous post.  I think about this every time I decide on where I am going to eat.  This to me, is what makes a restaurant committed when you put yourself on the line right out there with the farms.  Somewhere in this website there is a statement that we are a “farm driven” restaurant.  I believe that and practice that every day.  It does depend on what comes in from the farm, what the weather is like, it is truly a different way of thinking.

So, what is the point you are saying, he just said the same thing over and over.   Well, what is the point?  That is the question.  Why does this make a difference? We are a restaurant and you are the customer.  We should make what you want.  We should have things available year round.  We should be like every other restaurant out there.   REALLY?

What I strive for in my restaurant every day is to make better food, give better service, and help people enjoy their meal.  That simple.  Not to say that is not the goal of other restaurants.  But, I feel we are doing everything we can.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that we are the only one doing this, they are out there and they are making a difference.

There is the question.  Lets start with that.  Who do you trust?  Why does it matter to you?

Cue the R.E.M. song, one more time.

10 Sep

Don’t worry people, this is not the end of the world

This is a conversation that has been going on for a long time.  Is it safe?  Remember the food laws that are in place are there for a reason.  They are there becuase of mis-education, improper handling of food, and liability.  Food laws are not there to protect us from the food.  The are there to protect us from the people who have been handling our food.  I was asked a number of times in the last couple of years, how the news about salmonila, e-coli, (insert break-out here) affect us at the restaurant.  My answer is: it doesn’t.  We know where our food comes from. Simple as that.  I have not been informed by any of my farmers of any of the food that they are growing having these problems.  ( I should knock on some wood right now, I know.)  If we did, we would address the issue right away as we should.

I would love to hear your thoughts, how safe do you feel about the food in restaurants that purchase direct from farmers?

Topics We Ponder

14 Aug

We’ll be asking these questions at our table, and we’d love for you to chime in.

Food & Cooking

  • Eat to live or live to eat? :: Do you just eat because you aren’t full or do you eat because you are hungry for something?
  • Why do we want to watch people cook so much? :: What is it that we are looking for? Entertainment? Education? Both?
  • Learning to cook or leaning to make a recipe? :: Taking a cooking class, are you learning how to cook or are you learning how to read a recipe?
  • How do I cook that? Buy it and try, there is so much information out there.
  • Season + Season :: What is in Season and how do I season it?

Agriculture & Sustainability

  • What is a Farm?
  • What do we mean by local?
  • Ten chefs walk into a bar…?
  • Why should we be eating locally when we only have 6 months of growing season?