north coast nosh
On Saturday I enjoyed top-notch samples of food and drink from throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin and felt as though I was floating through one of the most enjoyable and stimulating sensory experiences I have ever had. It’s called North Coast Nosh, and as far as I’m concerned, this gathering is the premier food and beverage event in the entire Twin Cities all year long.
The wide range of meat, spice, tea, chocolate, cheese, and – yes – beer, made me swell with pride for the Twin Cities and the upper Midwest. If you have never been, I am not exaggerating when I say that this event could have been held in Manhattan.
But it wasn’t on the top floor of some building on the east coast, it was here in Northeast Minneapolis on our own north coast. The unassuming artist’s staple, The Soap Factory, provided an ideal venue for the much-anticipated event almost as though it was designed for it. With hundreds of people milling about it its vast rooms, adding warmth to the brick and steel, it became one big dining room.
After being greeting with a glass jar and a program printed on cardstock so substantial it put many weddings to shame, I dove in. Buckle up – this was an intense three hours and I couldn’t bear to leave anything out.
Rich food hit my nose and my empty glass begged for beer, but I was suddenly drawn in to the accompaniment- the poster show of local food vendors hosted by Midwest Pantry to benefit The Smile Network. Take a look:
After admiring these and wisely drinking a glass of water, I walked towards Heather’s Dirty Good Seasoning. Three ladies were assembling their bruchetta-like samples live.
Next to Heather’s was one of the best savory samples of the evening: barbecue pork sandwiches by Triple Crown Barbecue Sauce. The sauce is amazing, made with no weird stuff like high fructose corn syrup. It has been a State Fair premium blue ribbon winner for three years in a row. They don’t need to cross any fingers for this year. It’s dang good. The bun was also incredible, I might add.
It was clearly time for a beer. I started with Dangerous Man’s Cream Ale. Cream ales can be boring, and often are. True to form, however, this one is full and even a bit spicy, it stood up unexpectedly well to the barbecue sauce. I also tried the Trippel and this iteration tasted better than when I had it at the brewery months ago.
Another satisfying thing about North Coast Nosh was seeing some of my friends and other familiar faces representing their own product. There is nothing better than being this close to your food; having the ability to speak directly with the producers is essential to the future of America’s eating and drinking. Matt Wallace of Dangerous Man and Qiuxia Welch of Boom Island were happy to pour me some beer and chat about the Nosh despite how busy their booths were.
I enjoyed a Boom Island Hoodoo and ventured into the next room.
I was immediately drawn to the Poorboy Candy table which was so packed I couldn’t even snap a photo. Their tiny fleur de sel caramels and and excellent chocolate-dipped toffee bites hit the sweet spot instantly and brought out the complexity of the dubbel in my glass.
Against a far gray brick wall, in a column of dusty light a line had formed for authentic brats and sauerkraut. Gerhard’s Brats are produced in Minnesota but are authentically Austrian. The brightly fermented flavor of the kraut and the fresh-tasting brat were worth the line.
To balance the salt and meatiness of the brat, I headed for Verdant Tea’s chai tea and their neighbor, Sweet Science Ice Cream. Located in the old Seward Co-op location, the tea and ice cream share the space and serve up some creative and authentic flavors. Verdant’s Chai is spicy and authentic, just like their business model: the company deals directly with small producers who otherwise would not export their product and select only the best. They were also offering a caffeine-free version, but I had an upcoming bike ride home and wanted to stave off a food coma.
I started to smell some nutmeg and it wasn’t just the Chai. I took one step to turn around and was immediately at the end of the line for what looked like pasta. Well, I wasn’t going to argue. Pasta was next.
The line for Sunrise Creative Gourmet went quickly and when I stepped up to the friendly server he explained that I would be tasting a butternut squash ravioli with Parmesan sage sauce.
Although it was only one succulent bite, I had to pause at a proper table to enjoy this piece of pasta. I have no sufficient words except that I will be buying this pasta on Saturday at the Farmer’s Market. As long as we both shall live.
After collecting myself, I visited St. Croix Choloate Company for a sample of cherry amaretto goodness. Their shop is located in Marine on the St. Croix and features handmade, artisan-style truffles and bonbons. Do you know what bon bon litterally translates to French? “Good Good”. Yep.
And here comes the best pairing of the evening : IPA and Wisconsin premium gouda.
Actually, all three of the Holland’s Family Cheese selections worked well with the Sweet Child of Vine. I tasted foenegreek, onion-garlic, and the gouda which was aged for over a year.
Tucked away in a private little nook was Alemar Cheese and to my utmost delight, they were featuring a Surly Bender washed cheese. It was pungent and unique and brilliant. They wash the cheese in beer weekly for three weeks and is named after one of the creator’s favorite town names: Good Thunder.
Most beautiful item goes to BT McElrath Chocolatiers for the creation at left. Of course it tasted amazing with a Amerena cherry and hazelnut praline, but how they kept these glistening beauties from melting I am not sure.
Yogurt with blueberries, Birchwood Cafe granola and honey sounded relatively healthy after that bite of sin. I spoke with Steve Young-Burns of Kalona Organics of Iowa about their use of Amish-produced dairy for their products. I was exceedingly impressed to learn that they promote healthy relationships with these farmers through simple practices like not doing business with them on the Sabbath. Their yogurt creation was a simple and tasty bit of breakfast.
The second Chai of the night came from Gray Duck Chai. They also served a cream puff made with their concentrate that was a brilliant combination of creaminess and spice.
It was back to the beer aisle for some Badger Hill High Road, and then a visit to The Golden Fig. The Fig is located in St. Paul but keeps a commercial kitchen in Northeast Minneapolis where they produce their special items like spice rubs and drink mixes. Their Autumn Elixir drink mix is filled with typical fall spices but is served cold. It will be available in September.
Before assessing what I had missed, my friend and Badger Hill co-owner Britt told me I had to try the cheese from Faribault Caves. She told me how visiting their caves is one of the best dates she has ever been on.
Well I was by myself this time, and no one was present at the booth when I wandered over. That didn’t stop me, though. Their blue cheese and aged cheddar were outstanding.
I began making my way back towards the door I had originally come through after having a palate-changing experience that stands out in my mind as a critical point in my eating and writing world. It felt like an long interview over the best dinner of my life with friends and new faces alike.
I sipped a cocktail featuring Gamle Ode and Bittercube spirits while I chatted with Chad Gillard about Malone’s Simple Syrups. Founded by two vendors from the Mill City Farmer’s Market, the venture belongs to a former extract maker and jam/jelly artisan. Chad also organizes the annual poster show and is excited about the good that North Coast Nosh offers from the poster sales.
I was full.
I don’t mean that I had eaten too much, I actually felt satisfied and comfortable. I mean that my head was spinning, my ideas were flowing, and my heart settled in with the fact that all these individuals had dedicated themselves to something that otherwise would not exist.
The North Coast Nosh deserves recognition for the well-tuned organization that it must have taken to pull this off. The vendor selection alone was superb. I did not have a single negative encounter with anyone, which speaks to the caliber of people that care to support these artisans, brewers, and chefs.
On my way down the boardwalk towards a pleasant ride home I encountered The Moral Omnivore Food Truck which offered the final sample of the night: a fried tomato BLT and beet slider which was a nice savory finale to the evening.
The ride home was glorious. Despite the amount of food and beer I had just consumed, I felt lighter.