Local Foragers Release New Field Guide to Mushrooms of the Upper Midwest

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Tammy Kimbler
King Bolete

The upper Midwest is a haven for mushroom hunters and fall is an excellent time to hunt. The Hot Dish spent this past weekend with expert foragers Kathy Yerich and Teresa Marrone, who recently co-authored a pocket field guide, Mushrooms of the Upper Midwest: A Simple Guide to Common Mushrooms. The guide details nearly 400 common mushroom varieties found between the Dakotas and Indiana, and while 400 is far from a complete guide (there are over 4,000 cataloged species in this area alone), the book is well organized into easy-to-use sections starting with "Top Edibles" and "Top Toxics," followed by a detailed identification guide.

The guide's high quality photos, easy-to-understand descriptions, and habitat keys will have beginners and experts alike wanting this book in their back pocket.

See also:
The Forager Chef on mushroom hunting and almost poisoning himself [VIDEO]

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Chef demos, tastings, and garlic flavored ice cream at the Minnesota Garlic Festival

Categories: Events, Road Trip

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Photo by Muffet via Flickr
People generally fall into three different categories when it comes to garlic consumption: those who avoid the taste and smell at all cost, the secret lovers who enjoy garlic but avoid eating it in public, and the die-hard garlic enthusiasts who embrace the taste and smell, despite the moans of those subjected to their garlic breath.

Garlic enthusiasts, your day has finally come. On Saturday, farmers, chefs, and musicians will gather at McLeod County Fairgrounds in Hutchinson to celebrate the oft-loathed bulb to the fullest extent at the annual Minnesota Garlic Fest. The event comes just after harvest season, so plan on consuming the freshest (and most potent) garlic around.

See also:
Brooklyn Brewery comes to town to celebrate craft beer culture


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Suburban Bites: The 7 best places to eat in the Stillwater area

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Jana Friebrand
A big ol hunk o' meat at Smalley's Caribbean Barbeque and Pirate Bar in Stillwater

Stillwater, Minnesota, and Hudson, Wisconsin, both located within about a half-hour drive from most launchpads in the Twin Cities, are practically busting at the seams with antiquey, boutiquey, bed-and-breakfast charm. Their prime location in the St. Croix River Valley means there are lots of hiking trails with impressive vistas (and even better secret picnic spots), warm-weather festivals (just say yes when someone asks you to go to Lumberjack Days), and a ton of waterfront bars and restaurants. 

That last item is, of course, the one that interests us most, and while neither Stillwater nor Hudson is technically a suburb, they are indeed perfect places for a mini road trip and some destination dining. So with the weekend upon us and humidity levels expected to reach tropical highs, let us suggest a few places to go eat and drink in the Stillwater area.  

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Dessa's mom, Sylvia Toftness, shows us around her Wisconsin cattle farm

Categories: Road Trip
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Emily Eveland
Sylvia Burgos Toftness was raised in the third-story walk-up of a brick tenement building in the South Bronx. In the early 1970s, she moved to Duluth, Minnesota, where she worked as a television reporter for three years. She then transitioned to public relations, where she remained 40 years, 20 of which were spent in the Twin Cities. In 1981, Toftness gave birth to Margret Wander, better known as Doomtree rapper Dessa Darling.

For the last five years, though, Toftness has lived on Bull Brook Keep, a farm in central Wisconsin where she and her husband, Dave Toftness, raise and harvest cattle for beef. In her spare time, Toftness runs a radio show called Deep Roots Radio that's broadcast on WPCA Radio on Saturday mornings and offers public relations services to farmers.

"It is a big change [but] it's just what I wanted. Having grown up in NYC, I really wanted to be in the Midwest," she says. "I guess I've been on this track for a long time, getting smaller places, more country, but did I see myself owning a herd of cattle? Not really. Does it shock me? No. It feels like a progression."

See also:
Stone's Throw Agricultural Co-op unites urban and rural farmers


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A painful tour of the hottest peppers at Pepper Palace

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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
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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.

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Dinner on the Farm series returns this summer

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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

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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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