Our 11th annual chilēfest is upon us! What better reason to get together than to meet over hot chilē and cold beer and great company! Hosted this year by Summit Brewing Company – We are taking over their bar in Building A – the “secret” bar of Summit! Bring a non-perishable food item or a cash donation for Second Harvest Heartland as your ticket of entry.

More information to be posted soon. Stay tuned in to our Facebook Page for more from mancuisine.

With a name that may be best served in this beer advent as an addendum after and not its initiator, Born Yesterday Pale Ale is a hop-forward unfiltered array of flavors. On the nose there is a nuttiness to the aroma that is a mix of hop resin and mashed cashews. For me a fresh hop beer is all about the wafting aromas, and this one gave me a pause… With all of the leaves absent from the trees in MN right now the idea of a fresh hop being fresh is a bit of a stretch – but with the cold settling in I almost invite how these flavors have mellowed into a decently malty, resinous mass of a beer. A good OneHitter for their series.

Unless you were born yesterday, you heard that a few years ago Lagunitas sold 50% of its company to Heineken in order to be able to have wider reach and expand their brewery to a second location. What you may not have heard is that recently Heineken purchased the other 50% and now owns the company outright. The more you know.

Wait, does he mean Lamb, or Lard, or what? No, there was no misspelling. It is Laab because the Hmong people I worked with called it that, but it is also known as Larb, Laap, Lahb, ລາບ or a couple iterations depending on where you are in the world. No matter how you name it, the dish is all defined the same: “a meat salad”. And that is something I think we can easily get behind.

This recipe is a midwestern spin on the Lao version of Laab. Traditionally it is composed of meat, fish sauce, lime, herbs and spices. For those of you who like to experiment, I will give a few substitutions as to what you can put in depending on what you have available. The great thing about this dish is how much variability you can give it and still maintain the “meat salad” definition. Bolded items are preferred in the process.

What you need:

1/4 cup (or more) barley, rice (not the minute variety), or wild rice
1 lb ground pork, chicken, turkey or beef
2 small aromatic onions like purple, yellow or shallots
1/4 cup chopped cilantro or basil
1 tablespoon ground red pepper flakes (or less if you are like my good Scandinavian mother)
1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 tablespoon white sugar or Mirin
1 tablespoon soy sauce
20 mint leaves

Put it together:

In a warm, oil-free frying pan on medium low, pour the wild rice and stir until the rice has become quite aromatic. It should smell like baked bread and become slightly darker in color, about 10 minutes. Pour the rice into a food processor or mortar and pestle and mix until it is a course flour. Set aside.

Dice the onion into a bowl and chop the basil and keep separate. In a large saucepan or pot stir the ground beef until almost cooked. Add the onion and finish cooking the meat to get the onions a slight translucence to them. Turn off the heat and remove the pot.

Drain the liquids if you would like at this point. Add the rice flour from the first step, basil, red pepper, apple cider vinegar, mirin and soy sauce. Stir, taste the mixture, and add any flavors from here that you want to exploit more: basil for pepper/tangy, red pepper for heat, vinegar for sour, or mirin for sweetness. Add the final ingredient of the mint leaves and mix gently to incorporate.

Serve with a side of rice, warmed lettuce for a wrap, or put into a bun to make a version of the sloppy joe! All are great options. Happy eating, and remember – Laab is made to be created as your own! What will you add when you make it?

Happy National Mojito Day Everyone!

Sitting at Fair State Brewing today after picking up my CSA from Costa Farms I had a startle – I did not have the proper ingredients for a mojito on National Mojito Day! Once my pulse settled and I realized where I was (and what was available to me there) I started the crafting of this drink. After a few – ahem, test runs, this is what the wife agrees may be the best Mojito she has ever had (and that is saying a lot from her):

3 parts Fair State Brewing Company‘s Roselle
1 part Skaavlenn Rum
1 part Mirin
6 mint leaves (fresh)
Ice cubes

Muddle mint leaves and Mirin together in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add the rum and a couple ice cubes and shake until chilled. Use a strainer and pour in a cold glass. Add the Roselle and stir together. Enjoy!

What other local ingredients have people used to make some wonderful mixed drinks?

image source: blackmarketbarbecue.com

If there is one thing that we can say that we know, it is barbecue. For years we have competed with our ribs and brisket – and hesitated buying meat from others as few compare to the level of care we give to the preparation, cooking and rest needed to create great meals. Chain BBQ joints and local favorites always seem to miss an element of what makes barbecue great: a feeling of friendship between the guests, the meat and the cook preparing it. The moment you walk up to the table where Black Market BBQ has parked you instantly feel like you are a member of the team and have been there all day with them and shared the experience.

The crew rolls up in the smoker trailer in the early morning and fills it with racks of ribs and slabs of brisket. Talking with the chef he says there is “no better time to be out, the birds are singing and the sun is just in the right spot”. I wish I could be that chipper that early in the morning. The smoker gets up to temp and the meat rotates away within the trailer, soaking up and absorbing all the flavors with it.

After hours of cooking their truck rolls up, and the meat is released from its vessel. Go ahead, ask them to look inside the smoker, he will bring you right up to the doors and show you the Narnia-esque land of meat inside, dark from the history of smoke brought through the trailer with the redolence only a pitmaster can bring. 

But all this does not build you up for the tastes you are going to get from this system. Note: If you are a person who needs a sauce to go along with your meat you will not find that here.  This is a dry-rubbed, brined type of place. Order a brisket and it comes in a asian take-out style container overfilled with meat and the juices that come with it. Ribs come in a coffee bag with about 4 bones in each. Nothing more, nothing less, and we like it that way.

image source: blackmarketbarbecue.com

We will leave this review with some excerpts taken from their website, because it summarizes them so well: “This is Minnesota BBQ directly off the pit, with a dry rub that never needs sauce. This isn’t Memphis. This isn’t Texas. It’s not whatever you’ve had that was supposed to be the best barbecue ever. This is Minnesota BBQ, and it’s really, really good. Just like it’s supposed to be.”

Food: 5/5 If you are looking for smoked meats cooked slow, this is it.
Drink: -/5 Food only, although it is known to park at breweries.
Atmosphere: 5/5 The best people, doing what they love.
Overall: 4.5/5 Why the ding? They are not open more (but thats it)!

It was a Thursday night lull that brought us again to Mayslacks. One of those nights when you are sitting down after a day on the job and the thought of going to the fridge and concocting a delicious dinner sounded more like a marathon than a sprint. This night, we were guided to Mayslacks – no real reason why, just a compass guiding the steering wheel after we pulled out of the driveway to delicious meats.

The place was surprisingly bare. In previous trips to this joint it was either hard to find a table or hard to hear the people across the table because of the joviality of the patrons. Tonight had neither, and it was a wonderful spring night so we headed out to the patio to find the same concentration of people.

A few Summit Maibocks were ordered ($4 a pint this month!) and we looked at the same menu we have looked at over all the years logged since our first visit. Roast beef is, and deservedly so, their best menu item in whatever vessel you choose to eat it with. This time, I went with the Hot Italian Beef  (pictured here) that comes with shoestring fries, cup of au jus  and a generous helping of what I can only define as the spiciest relish I have ever tasted (that came with the resulting 4am wake up call).IMG_6346

The bun was soft, the fries were well cooked and the roast beef was amazing. Like I said before, anything that comes with the beef is worth trying at this place.

Stan Myslajek would still be proud of this place. Put his roast beef in the ring with any competitor an his would still come out on top.

Food: 4.5/5 Roast beef. Garlic, juicy and delicious
Drink: 3/5 impressive list, all beers came mostly flat
Atmosphere: 3/5 If dark and damaged is your thing, this is your place
Overall: 3.5/5 Great food and lots of character in its history

The head brewer at Modist is a part “the dude” and part “Doc Brown”. Talking with him you see the gears turning about what the conversation is about but you also get that shimmer in the eyes that his mind is really working out what he has left to do for his brew day. The members of mancuisine had the opportunity to take a tour from this gentleman and their operation is one that should be dismantled and digested in its inner workings to appreciate its complexity.

First off, they don’t brew with broken grains through a mill the extract the sugars from. They take the grains and pulverize them into flour before introducing them to the brewing system. From this flour the generate cakes at the end of the process and not the oatmealy mash that most brewers have to decide what to do with. The flour is mixed with water and pumped into a giant horizontal press where are the sugars and grain flavor is pumped out of. This is what really marks Modist as being unique – instead of vertically pouring water over the grain to extract the sugars they press it our, making a much more efficient brew. The rest of their system is generally the same as what you would find in our new additions around the twin cities.

Thats all well and good, but how is the beer? I have to be honest, I tried their beer when it first opened and I had no love for any of them. Too dry, too acidic, tasted like tainted water, you name it – the problems were there. But now? I would recommend picking up a can in the store or trying a couple pints of what they make. This brewery is not for everyone, but then again neither was Summit or Surly, and look where they ended up! Wasteland was a great beer to try and compare with others that I thought mentally compared to it.

Just a heads up, they do not have their own growlers but do fill the vessels from any other place.

In May of this year I married the most wonderful person. It was a ceremony that people will remember (it was 32 degrees out in the orchard) and a reception people may not (we went through over 2,000 bottles of beer). 3 months later we went on our honeymoon to Colorado and stayed at a house near Edwards in the Vail Valley. It was there that we stumbled upon, literally, Crazy Mountain Brewing Company.

In Denver, where they began, rent is not cheap and space is hard to come by. In Edwards, the “downtown” is the opposite. Crazy mountain expanded into the community a few years back and their remote brewing facility began and the taproom we found opened. Touring the area we always found our way back to this one – it was small, yet developed, engaging and tasteful – something you will find in this Wit.

Drinking this beer takes me to a barbecue, and in winter that is not an easy task, mentally. On the nose there is a hint of molasses, mixed in with marmalade and a light green fruitwood smoke. Drinking it does not give the same flavors – its botanical like my father’s garden, full of floral and herbs. So the whole package here is late summer with the cookout made with the fruits of the labor in the garden. Its like my favorite event – smökathon – that we put on every summer, full of flavors and experiences you may not expect.

While Wit may not be my favorite style by far, this beer does well in my book for what it does in my head, remind me that I am fortunate to have all of you with me. So from the pit to the garden I raise this glass to you – thanks, and happy trails.

Holding this beer in hand you have to feel a little giantesque. Its a 14oz tallboy. Weird. Its like a small redbull with beer instead of funk. But the funk is still in there – this one gives it off as a funk of old malt on the nose instead of the funk of college. That comparison doesn’t quite do the beer justice, as this one also smells like college as well after drinking it for a while…

Its Crisp! The name got it right. This lager beer gives rise to grain fields and bubbly yeast. Its a flavorful beer in a small vessel. Hopefully in the future they can expand on their ideas and offer something more inside the can, either in volume or in flavor. That is all.