What you need to know to dumpster dive in the Twin Cities

Categories: Road Trip

Wilder Burnham navigates a dumpster
When I was in my early teens, being punk and loving trash went hand in hand. Dumpsters cut out the middle man, providing my friends and me with all the snacks and random trinkets we desired -- without us ever having to enter a store. At punk shows and potlucks, we came equipped with crates of Odwalla juice scavenged from a suburban dumpster, where whole cases were thrown away if one bottle was defective. The same went for wine, beer, and anything else that came in a pack. There were dumpsters for everything -- a chip dumpster, a bagel dumpster, a pizza dumpster, and even a toy dumpster. And we're not talking small quantities either. On a good night, we'd score enough bagels to feed a punk house for a month (and yes, the amount of carbohydrates I consumed was slightly appalling).

But dumpster diving isn't reserved for smelly teenaged punk kids. Anyone can search for treasures in the trash, whether they do so for anti-consumerist, ecological, profit-driven, or survival purposes. All it takes is a willingness to move past the stigma and get a little dirty.

"It's kind of like going to vintage stores but for food," said diver Greg Baker. "Instead of looking through a box of records, you're looking through a bag of lettuce or something."

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A painful tour of the hottest peppers at Pepper Palace

Emily Eveland
Sometimes people do stupid things just for the sake of saying they did them. YouTube is rife with idiotic decision-making, with videos of people doing everything from jumping off rooftops to lighting firecrackers off in their butt cracks. In 2007, the ghost pepper was named the world's hottest pepper by the Guinness Book of World Records and quickly gained notoriety when online "daredevils" began filming themselves taking the ghost pepper challenge (a.k.a. eating whole dried ghost peppers).

Though the ghost pepper has since been unseated by the Trinidad Scorpion Moruga and, more recently, the Carolina Reaper, the ghost pepper continues to lure adrenaline junkies to the Mall of America's Pepper Palace, a one-stop shop for pepper everything.

"What's your hottest hot sauce?" The question is asked at 10-minute intervals by pepper-heads and the heat sensitive alike. But not everyone gets the pleasure of subjecting themselves to a blazing, internal bonfire -- customers have to be 18 to work through Pepper Palace's wide array of samples, including everything from hot sauces, barbecue sauces, salsas pickles, ghost pepper peanuts, horseradish, and wasabi peas. And if you really want to try their hottest hot sauce, the "Hottest Sauce in the Universe, Second Dimension," you have to sign a waiver.

See also:
Top 5 spicy bar bites in St. Paul

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Top 3 road trip-worthy burgers up Interstate 35

Categories: Road Trip
Joy Summers
Somewhere out there, this burger waits for you

Sometimes we just need an excuse to hit the open road. For us, the promise of a perfect burger is just enough to gas up the car and go -- like a dangling meaty carrot at the end of a sunshine-soaked journey. Few experiences are a better slice of Americana than jumping out of the car and digging into a delicious burger, still sizzling from the flattop, juices soaking into a plush bun, draped in orange cheese, occasionally graced with some extra crispy bacon or a pile of fried onions. Here are three of our favorites to be found by driving north up Interstate 35.

See Also:

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Dinner on the Farm series returns this summer

Dinner on the Farm features local chefs cooking local food on local farms

Eating, drinking, and hanging out with good company is really what summer in Minnesota is all about. There's nothing like sparking the grill in the backyard or packing up a basket of goodies and trucking down to the beach for a day of relaxation and slow grazing. Couple that concept with some seriously talented local chefs, high quality, locally produced ingredients, and a captivating setting that needs to be seen to be believed -- and you have Monica Walch's Dinner on the Farm dining series.

Dinner on the Farm is a summer dinner series that pairs local chefs with local brewers on local farms. The idea is fairly straightforward, but the experience is one not to be missed. We had the opportunity to check out an event at Little Foot Farms in Afton, Minnesota, that featured chefs Dan Stepaniak and Chad Townsend from St. Paul's Heartland Farm Direct Market as well as the Lucette Brewing company from Menomonie, Wisconsin.

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Bike to dinner: A course for your courses

Dawn Brodey
The chariot of the dining bicyclist.

The Twin Cities is regularly voted among the most bike-friendly metro areas in the country. Bicycling.com currently has us in the #1 spot although we regularly swap the prestigious ranking for second place with Portland, Oregon.

Similarly, publications such as Travel and Leisure also have the Twin Cities and Portland sharing top spots for best cities for foodies.

The situation has us asking two big questions: One, how do we get rid of Portland; and two, how do we best pair our Cities' tremendous and unique opportunities to bike and eat out?

Biking to dinner can be a trick. Does the establishment have a bike rack? Will my helmet hair and wrinkled right cuff solicit snubs from the other diners? Do they serve Surly?

Well, Hot Dish cooked up a sample course for your courses: a scenic, bike-friendly, 10-mile loop with recommended stops for beer, apps, dinner, and, since you've earned it, dessert. On your next date night, why not ditch a couple of wheels and take this road less traveled.

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Winter Culinary & Wine Experience invites foodies for a weekend getaway

Categories: Events, Road Trip

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Grand View Lodge
This weekend Grand View Lodge hosts it's first Winter Culinary & Wine Experience

Looking for a last minute winter weekend getaway? On January 25-27, the Grand View Lodge (in Nisswa, just north of Brainerd) will be hosting it's first Winter Culinary & Wine Experience. The event will feature a slew of wine and culinary professionals from around the state offering their expertise in the form of various demonstrations and seminars focused around food and wine.

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Smalley's Caribbean Barbeque on 'funniest episode ever' of 'Diners, Drive-ins and Dives'

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Smalley's viewing party starts Monday at 7 p.m.
Last December, the temperamental host of the Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, Guy Fieri, and his crew rolled through Minnesota filming new episodes of their show. One of their stops was Smalley's Caribbean Barbeque and Pirate Bar in Stillwater. That episode will be airing for the first time on Monday at 9 p.m., and Smalley's is planning a viewing party for the public.to celebrate its national TV debut, which owner Shawn Smalley was told features one of the most hilarious scenes the film crew had ever witnessed.

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Tutti Frutti now serving frozen yogurt in Maple Grove

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A new fro-yo store comes to the Twin Cities
Frozen yogurt with self-serve toppings? Driving 25 miles to Maple Grove was certainly not out of the question for me to check out this phenomenon. Tutti Frutti has stores in several other states, but this seems to be the only store in the Twin Cities.

Here's what we found:

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Dock Cafe in Stillwater: Fine food at reasonable prices

Categories: Road Trip

​Take a drive right to the border on the edge of the St. Croix, and you'll find Dock Cafe, a beautiful Stillwater staple. Although it's too early in the year to appreciate the fine view of the river while dining on the patio or glancing through the large row of panoramic glass windows, you can enjoy tasty food in a contemporary setting year-round.
We ventured to Stillwater recently, and here's what we found.

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Val's Rapid Serve in St. Cloud: a burger joint with retro flair

Yael Grauer
Val's Rapid Serve: Blink and you'll miss it!
Located off of Highway 10 in St. Cloud, Val's Rapid Serve is certainly not much to look at. Blink and you'll miss it, and don't plan to dine in. You'll be waiting for your order in a teeny tiny room that looks like any other hole-in-the-wall.

Val's Rapid Serve is fast-food takeout with an old-fashioned flair. Val Henning opened the restaurant in 1959 and sold it to his sons Bill and Dave Henning in 1979. The burger joint likely hasn't changed much since then.

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