Living in North Minneapolis we have welcomed the boom of the North Loop as it continues to bring in new places close to home, while still being far enough away to avoid the traffic that follows as well.

Modist Brewing has recently opened and ventured down there to test it out on a rainy Twins game day. The place is sterile, cement varnished floors cover their space and white subway tiles cover the walls that you look at, namely behind the bar. For as expansive it seems, their ceilings are quite high, but the layout makes it crowded even with a modest *ahem* crowd. Their brewing equipment has a unique layout, we will have to stop in for a tour sometime to see how they utilize it.

There was a lot of hype around Modist before its opening, with explanations of who they are and their ideals behind beer, but the night that we came in I did not see those come into play. We tried the beers that they had that night, pHresh, Toats, and Smoove – all with lackluster reviews from our tasting panel.

Modist – we know you have the ability and know-how to create wonderful brews, when should we stop back in to give them a try again after some “Calibration.”

If you live in the Twin Cities you have heard of Surly Brewing Co., beer drinker or not. They are a powerhouse of both brewing and initiating movements – it was the Surly Bill that opened the door for the over 100 brewery/taprooms that are now open in Minnesota where there were less than 10 in early 2011. We have been to Surly’s taproom restaurant many times since it had opened but always for family gatherings or to meet old friends, so our focus was on who we were with and not our surroundings or even what we had. With the temperature dropping below 0 outside and the holidays over we ventured over with hopes that others were going to stay indoors.

The place is a spectacle even by the time your turn onto their street. Located in a field of abandoned grain silos Surly is a beacon of modern. Their sign is a concrete sculpture and right after you walk through the football field of a parking lot you can take a moment to warm up with their olympic style torch at their front door. The interior is an homage to cement and stainless steel with a wood accent poetically conveying the idea of their growth.  Within their vast space is also a sea of people waiting to get a table or just a horizontal plane to set their beer down on. Our wait time on this blustering night was an hour and ten minutes, the hostess informing us that it was a “very typical wait these days”. We would like to think of it as more time for sampling the beer… Looks like our plan to avoid the crowd did not work, even on this frigidly cold day.

Surly Brewing Co. Destination Brewery Beer Hall and Restaurant
View of the beer hall

The hall is alive with streams of employees picking up empty glassware and dishes, and it was an ebb and flow to the people standing on the outskirts waiting for the levee to open and be given a table in the center. The fault in their layout was that the bar had only a small section where those waiting could come up and grab a beer, causing confusion as to who was in line or just standing around. It did seem that there is no ‘Minnesota Nice’ when it comes to getting in front of someone waiting for a beer here, with many groups properly directioned to where they should queue.

The beer list that is served every day is impressive – breaking the choices down by malt-forward and hop-forward categories with a few other beers not being able to be defined as thus as well.  Being regulars of Surly’s section in the coolers around town we tried a few irregulars (Devil’s Work and Witches Tower) and had wished we ordered those as tasters since we were unimpressed with the styles, but happy to have tried them at the source instead of grabbing them in four packs at home (are they even available elsewhere?).

Given a German beer-hall style table we cozied up next to the party already sitting there and ordered right away as we had menus in our hands during the wait. This was a different feel from our recent visits to RAMEN KAZAMA. There were people standing around us waiting for a table, but with beers in hand and merriment all around there was no feeling that we were being rushed or onlookers glaring at the people who continued drinking at tables with empty plates.

The food list is mouthwatering, and their prices match the ingenuity. We got a burger and a cut of pork steak with some cauliflower on the side. The pork was extremely salty but cooked to the right temp and the  sauce almost made you not notice. While rabbit food is not a typical staple next to our meats, the greens were mixed with fruits and sauces that were a bit overloaded on the tart and tangy side, but mixed well with the meat sauce. The burger was a high class big mac (even they say they use ‘fancy’ sauce, a nod to McD’s special?) and the fries that came with it were smaller and crispier than run-of-the-mill ones and quite delicious. We also recommend the cauliflower but avoid dredging them through too much of the sauce, the flavoring at the bottom is hard to get rid of from you mouth.

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Our one wish was that our server had been able to direct our beer orders in a more harmonious direction with the food we were concurrently putting on our bill. Ordering the Smoke with our plates left some bad tastes, but easily erased as we switched to water for a while. It would be hard to avoid this place in the future as it is on the radar for all those who live in the Twin Cities – and even those who do not – but with the atmosphere that they provide and a ever-improving beer list, why would you?

Food: 3.5/5 Unique and delicious, but tasted untested and experimental.
Drink: 4/5 Their usuals are amazing, but order others and you might be disappointed.
Atmosphere: 5/5 Hard pressed to find another place full of people enjoying themselves.
Overall: 4/5 A wonderful place to be and to eat. What’s next for Surly?

For our Take Out Test Night we picked up a few growlers from local breweries. The reviews are as follows:

Dangerous Man Chocolate Milk Stout

Dangerous Man’s flagship beer. It There is a reason Dangerous Man has a packed taproom at night and has grown as it has, and its foundation is this beer. Rating: 4.5/5

From their web site: The Chocolate Milk Stout is pitch black with an off-tan head and a large, roast and chocolate aroma. Thick and creamy, the flavors in the CMS range from dark and milk chocolate, coffee, and toasted bread. Boosted with lactose additions, this beer is distinct for its rich and creamy chocolate flavors.

Dangerous Man Peanut Butter Porter

This is one of those beers that you question the idea behind it but enjoy the product that it created. Like one of the brewers had a chocolate milk stout and was making a peanut butter sammy and ‘accidentally’ dropped some into their beer and loved it. While it is a wonder to try, know that the flavor stays with you. After one pint I was burping up PB for days. Rating: 3.25/5

From their web site: Desserts fo sho. Get creative with other peanut dishes. Pair with caramelized meats, curry dishes, and Thai food.

Indeed Wooden Soul #3 – Cherry Sour Ale – 5.25%, 14 IBU

Brad’s response at the first moment of tasting: “This is a beer?!”. It has a surprising taste to it. I have worked at a bakery making cakes and pies and this beer tastes exactly like an all-butter crust fresh cherry pie. Delicious to try if you are into the sweet/sour beer combo. Lightly carbonated, grapefruit colored. Rating: 3.75/5

Indeed Derailed Imperial Double Dangerous Chocolate Nitro Whiskey Queen Milk Stout – 10%, 70 IBU

The name says it all. Really! Its an imperial double so you get the depth of deep roasted grain flavor. The whisky is slight but lingering in the mouth after drinking. The milk stout nitro combo makes it a smooth drink with a healthy head. The only downfall is the punch that it packs – this one is a sipper. Rating: 4.25/5


P.S. We tried making a black & tan style beer with the WS#3 and the PBP. Although the densities of the beer did not allow for the layering, the resulting beer taste was an eyebrow raising lip smacking adventure in mixology!

republicThe crew had to find a burger joint where Isaac would finally find a burger that he could enjoy. After a brief search the crowd agreed that the Republic on Seven Corners might serve our needs. Mom earth helped by blessing us with a beautiful 75 degree evening and a West Bank campus full of students just excited to be able to be outside. It was tough to walk by the remarkable Town Hall Brewery on the way to the place.

IMG_0281Since we came for burgers the group covered the burger menu. Offerings from blue cheese to cheddar+bacon to Guac+Salsa and the fried egg topped wonder were all delicious with no complaints from the team. The side is lettuce (seriously) so we ordered the sweet potato fries and regular fries as sides. The side sauces were all good with the group loving the homemade sorta catsup sorta  vinagarette. Our concern with the place is that all burgers were in the 9 -12 dollar range which is fine for the hipsters and the urban elite but for regular guys looking for a great burger it seems a little silly, especially without some fried starch included in the price. It also seemed a bit odd for a college bar. But then, maybe that’s why college loans are so large these days.

On a more positive note, the beer selection was large and had a good run of local and not so local fermentations. Again, pricey with many pints running somewhere around $6-$8. Not a single Summit on the list which is always suspect in this area. Nonetheless, good selection and the flight of three 8 oz glasses for $10 was a good buy.

IMG_0282For those wondering, we believe that tIsaac is still searching for the good burger. His expectations are not high. A good burger will do. We are guessing that on our next outing he will once again find a good looking sandwich from the menu. Perhaps the rueben or some turkey concoction.

We had a great evening out with conversation running after sundown: and that counts for something. But in the future, when needing to meet someone on seven corners, there are a couple of better values available.

 

 

With the rush of the yearly Chili Cookoff Event behind us and the digestive systems back on track it might be good to give the highlights of the evening and tell the tale of the seventh annual event. Imagine that, out first post for this yearly celebration described a get together at Trevor and Missy’s place with six chilies and one judge (Scott).

From the first event!
From the first event!

Let’s do this in order. The group gathered as the bakery closed. The cooks came in the back door and slipped their chili into a soup warmer. Three warmers gave NINE chilies all numbered anonymously and waiting for the crowd.  Guests started arriving with a six pack of beer/ cider/ soda/ water with some folks walking through the door with a side dish. Isaac navigated the closing of the restaurant inviting the last couple customers to join us for the event. Somehow none took him up.

The crowd is always a great mix of ages, lifestyles, occupations, and connections to the cooks.  We’ve had some issues with the concrete sequential nature of the crowd in the past with many somehow needing to start with chili number one and tending to drain the lower numbered buckets first. The instructions to dig in were given with an extra suggestion to start anywhere and a quick plug for GS cookie sales. Both the chili eating and the cookie sales went well.

Here’s some details on the nine chilies (in no particular order)

Cook Chili Comments and Ingredients
Adam Adam claims that his secret ingredient was tomatoes
Brad This chili have homemade salsa and mole sauce
Carson Carson’s was the guest chili inspired by his dad’s chili it boasted beer and tabasco
Doug Doug often has the most heat. This year he worked with the amazing Habeneros
Isaac Isaac stepped up the meats using chirizo, turkey, beef combined with great northerns
Jeff Jeff went for Texas style chile using chunks of amazing brisket
Kyle Kyle went with ground turkey and plenty of heat (won the heat award)
Trevor Trevor’s winning entry added hominy and pumkin among other surprises
Turtle Bakery The Turtle donated at great chili made by one of their cooks
Cornbread diversity
Cornbread diversity

Eating started at six with the results announced around eight. All chilies went well with nearly equal amounts of each taken during the night. Something for everyone! Trevor won the event this year with Kyle winning the heat category.

The cornbreads were a new event this year and will certainly be continued next year. Here’s some details on the selections. Just like the chilies, each one was unique and well eaten.

Cook Cornbread Comments and Ingredients
Joan Joan made the mix with creamed corn and olives
Lisa Lisa baked the bread in cast iron with jalepenos
MacKenzie Macenzee blended cheddar cheese, creamed corn, and Jalepenos
Missy Missy had pumkin puree added to the bread
Pam Pam slipped in nutmeg and walnuts
Trina Trina used pumkin bread spices including ginger to make a sweet bread

Thanks to everyone who showed up.

Hope to see all of you at the Ribfest event next summer.

Nine Chili selections!
Nine Chili selections!
Cornbread diversity
Cornbread diversity

The 2013 ManCuisine ChiliFest is in the books! Another great turnout and easily the best combination of chilies we have seen yet. Nine entries including eight member entries and an invited guest covered the whole range from ground beef wonder through big chunk brisket. Nothing this year was silly hot but all the chilies had some kind of heat meets flavor. The drawing for next year’s guest gave the nod to Brandon, we’ll look forward to his creation

The winning recipe this year was Trevor’s with his Chili taking all categories but heat., The heat category went to Kyle with his ground turkey extravaganza. Trevor’s chili was a modification of last year’s continuing his hominy along with beans and a mad mixture of ingredients including rib meat that somehow tasted like chicken, but then, doesn’t everything. Trevor’s winning recipe is below.

In addition to the chilies, packets of corn bread were distributed to the spouse/ significant others and each hacked the basic recipe to provide corn breads ranging from great classic jalapeño pepper recipes to one with ginger and pumpkin spices. All were wonderful and the corn bread challenge will certainly become a yearly event.

The Turtle Bread Company on 42nd was a great host again this year. thanks for all the support. Please consider the Turtle Bakery sometime for a great breakfast or for some good coffee and bakery goods when you are near any of their locations.

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Winning Chili 2013

2 lbs boneless pork rib, cubed
1 lb smoked Bacon
2 cans fire roasted tomatoes (don’t drain)
1 large can of hominy, drained
1 can dark kidney beans, drained
1 can yellow corn
10 diced mini sweet peppers
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large red onion, large chunks
3 jalapeños in adobo sauce, diced
1/2 cup apple juice
1 packet Sazon Goya powder
Pumpkin purée (half can)
chipotle chile powder
cayenne chile powder
cumin
Cinnamon
adobo seasoning
oregano (mexican, common, or both)

This week the Mancuisine group will be assembling to have a great collection of BBQ ribs. Each member will be stopping by a favorite BBQ site on the way to Scott’s, arriving with a rack and a side. If anyone has a suggestion of a Twin Cities BBQ place worthy of a stop please let us know in the replies below.

Mancuisine members will be posting the sites they are claiming as well. First come, first taken on the locations. As you’ll notice Isaac has already claimed the mighty Ted Cook’s  from his old Neighborhood. Scott has taken an entirely different approach.

Here’s the early claims (updated post event). Check the replies as they come in for the rest:

Isaac

Scott

  • Rack- Nye’s Polonaise (Do the Poles really make ribs?)
  • Side- Sauerkraut and boiled potato

Kyle

Trev

  • Rack- Baker’s Ribs – full rack, St. Louis Cut, Texas Style with a delicious sauce on side.
  • Side- Smokey Baked Beans & Tomato Basil Salad

Brad

  • Rack- Baldy’s BBQ
  • Side- Delicious cornbread & Potato salad (white variety with bacon)

Doug

  • Meat- Pulled Pork from 
  • Side-

Jeff

  • Meat- Wings from B-Dubs (four varieties: Hot, Hot BBQ, Asian Zing, Mango Habanero)

Great turnout with almost all in attendance.  The ale selection included two varieties of Oskar Blues, Bells Two-Hearted, Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ (although the discussion was more on whether Kyle inspired the Lagunitas Sucks! brew after interactions with the head brewmaster when living in CA), and another sampling of Isaac’s fine Alt homebrew as he attempts to perfect his recipe.  All in attendance reached a state of meat coma, followed by random YouTube watching, Spam flavored Macadamia nut eating, and bourbon sampling around Scott’s fabulous bar set-up in his NE pad.

Inspired by their connection to the Star Prairie Trout Farm and recommended by several members, we made our way to Pat’s Tap on Nicollet and 35th in Minneapolis. A mere 103 blocks from Brad and six blocks or so from Isaac and Jeff. Very tasty, great selection of brews, yet a bit on the upper end of the mancuisine credit card limits.

Only four were able to make the event this time. One was working downstream on the MIssissippi about 100 miles, one was grouting, one somehow missed the announcements and plethora of emails, and one ended up in Chicago and surprised to get the “where are you” email. Nonetheless, the four of us who found our way through the Nicollet Ave. construction had a fine time.

Pat’s used to be called Casey’s and, in fact, when you do a Google Streetview of the place you get a fine look at Casey’s. The outside has not changed much with the exception of a clear lack of Shamrock in the color scheme and some serious construction on Nicollet. . Nice place inside with a bar, separate seating for tables, a patio, and a small skee-ball/ pinball room (free). The tables inside filled quickly during the 6:00 -8:00 time on Monday  but there was still seating outside on the patio. We had a great bench on the interface between the bar and eating area. The help was friendly, frequent and knowledgeable about the solid and liquid offerings. Not a loud establishment at this time of night but others have written about noise levels on the weekend.

The food was top notch. We had the Wisconsin fried curds with some kind of British ketsup sauce and fried beans with a great ginger dip.  Sandwiches varied form the well reviewed bacon burger (easily up to the review-Doug finished it in a heartbeat) to the cheeseburger , the pork terrine, and the Rachel. Every one was a hit. The pork had some kind of zesty salsa on it, maybe that’s what terrine means- well recommended by Trev. Many of the foods listed where the food came from and, for the most part, this place has some serious Wisconsin connection. Hopefully it has little to do with union bashing.

It was a pleasant visit with no complaints about the place. The bill was a bit of a surprise. With tip, the four of us managed a couple apps, dinner burgers, and two pints apiece for a total of $132. Not our usual night out. We’ll have to verify this but Pat’s may be our new highest per-person outing, replacing the Buffalo Tap in Savage.

Nonetheless, a fine evening. Our next outing will be with the prospective Rib Cook-off judges evaluating their qualifications: beer selection, familiarity with Douglas Adams, disgust with post-modern relativism and general zietgiests. Looking for a spot in the mid to south metro- any suggestions?

Rib cook-off is scheduled for September 1. Comment for an invite.

This year’s Mancuisine.com ribfest event is scheduled for the weekend of August 27 and the competitors are working hard on recipes and techniques. Trying to find the perfect blend of brine, rub and sauce (mop for you experts) is well underway. Thank goodness for the baby-back rib sale at Rainbow Foods and the plethora of tee shirts now splattered with sauces! Judges are mostly lined up with a fine selection of taste buds waiting in line. Isaac is refining the rules and will have them posted here soon.

The event is being held in the gentrification center of Minneapolis this year- the greater Uptown area. The back yard will be packed and the smell of hickory and mesquite will be in the air.

From where this participant sits my base is ready (referent for you experts still reading along) and three variants were tested today. The Masala inspired mix was a wash but the cajun and slow burn mixes were a hit. Now to tease the best from each and come up with a final blend that stays with the judges through the scoring. Perhaps a chemical reaction between something in the rub and something in the sauce? Wonder if they still sell pop-rocks? For other competitors looking for secrets all I can say is- lemon zest.  Of course the winning recipes and others will be posted on the site after the 27th just as we did with our chili creations.

Looking for an outstanding BBQ chicken recipe while waiting for ribfest? – Try this Beer Brined Chicken; it’s been a hit for all that have tried it.

Not far from Kyle’s new place is a bar just far enough from the Twin’s Stadium to not be renovated, yet close enough to have survived the downturn. Cuzzy’s is a fine neighborhood joint with dollar bills signed and taped to the walls and a slanted floor left behind from the days when the stage on the downhill side had partially clad brothel employees.

We stopped by on a Monday night with a small handful of other patrons ranging from suits to brown baggers but an early scouting report had the place with shoulder to shoulder customers on Friday night. The waitress was great. A bit of sass and a friendly air inflated the tip in her favor. It helped that the prices were great and an evening of good eats and a fine beer selection cost much less than we’ve been paying lately.

The food was a mix of sandwiches and burgers.  The SOB (south of the border) was a tasty bit of spice and Mr. Rueben was everything you’d expect. Isaac took the risk and left the sandwich menu for the Sirlion tips with mashed potatoes and fries drenched in the Cuzzy Gravy experience. He was still smiling when I saw him the next morning. Needless to say, plates were cleaned across the board (and table).

The brew selection surprised us as well. From Two-Hearted to Linnie’s original.   Seems to us that many places are expending their selections. Didn’t expect to find such a fine expansion in a place that seemed so neighborhood. Their web site does list a couple other restaurants run by the same folks. The other spots are decidedly surburban. Hopefully they’ll avoid the Bonfire’s problem as they expand.

We often rate places by the bathrooms. This one was perfect. Thick paint on the walls and not a great amount of room. Gotta enjoy a place where you walk by the open kitchen awhile traveling the hall to the head.

This is a place to return to when downtown. They do have a DMC card as well, for the thrifty mancuisine follower. Thanks to Scott for the tip on this place.