Signature Dish: Cafe Levain's chef Adam Vickerman

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Photo Courtesy of http://hillaryrobertsphoto.com
Chef Adam Vickerman's chicken, kale, and polenta with simple pan sauce

In the search for the Twin Cities' best culinary creations, we often come across dishes that stop us mid-bite and force us to reflect on the level of thought and artistry chefs put into their work. The efforts of the chefs are often laborious, and the end results are regularly consumed before the full concept can be appreciated. We've been tracking down some of these dishes to get the chef's side of the story: their thoughts, motivations, and processes. It's our hope that we can give you a deeper insight into the talents of Twin Cities chefs and to have a better understanding of what you're getting when you sit down to dinner.

In a quaint little south Minneapolis neighborhood a little café sits just off the beaten path. Café Levain, the re-imagination of the now closed, once extremely popular Twin Cities eatery Restaurant Levain, sits quietly on the back side of the same building that also hosts one of the owner's other ventures, Turtle Bread Co. It's here that chef Adam Vickerman churns out some of the highest-quality food the Twin Cities has to offer. With a focus on local products and seasonal ingredients, Vickerman fuses classic French cooking techniques with modern takes on traditional home cooking.

Vickerman prides himself on his approachable take on fine dining, using rustic ingredients to create dishes that diners from all walks of life can enjoy. The goal of Café Levain is not to alienate but to provide diners with a window into the soul of what food can be.


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Signature Dish: Jamie Malone of Sea Change

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Photo by http://hilaryrobertsphoto.com/
Sea Change's Chef Jamie Malone presents her signature abalone & shaved asparagus

In the search for the Twin Cities' best culinary creations, we often come across dishes that stop us mid-bite and force us to reflect on the level of thought and artistry chefs put into their work. The efforts of the chefs are often laborious, and the end results are regularly consumed before the full concept can be appreciated. We've been tracking down some of these dishes to get the chef's side of the story; their thoughts, motivations, and processes. It's our hope that we can give you a deeper insight into the talents of Twin Cities chefs and to have a better understanding of what you're getting when you sit down to dinner.

Chefs are often known for their drive and work ethic. To be committed to a job that requires you to donate your life to it, especially on weekends, takes a special kind of person and Sea Change's Chef de Cuisine Jamie Malone certainly fits the bill. To say that Chef Malone is a driven person is to short sell her accomplishments. At an age much younger than most other chefs given the task of running a fine dining restaurant, she's already done more than many will do in their entire careers.

Chef Malone has a soft yet commanding presence in the kitchen and her attention to detail can be seen on every plate delivered to the dining room. Her current focus at Sea Change is on sustainable seafood, a difficult task for any chef and even more so for a chef in the Midwest. Malone goes above and beyond in this category as she has also been known to advocate the use of sustainable fish not just inside, but also outside the restaurant world.

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Signature Dish: Solera's chef Jorge Guzman

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Photo by http://hilaryrobertsphoto.com/
Solera Chef Jorge Guzman presents his Lomo de Cerdo, a historical representation of ropa vieja

In the search for the Twin Cities' best culinary creations, we often come across dishes that stop us mid-bite and force us to reflect on the level of thought and artistry chefs put into their work. The efforts of the chefs are often laborious, and the end results are regularly consumed before the full concept can be appreciated. We've been tracking down some of these dishes to get the chef's side of the story; their thoughts, motivations, and processes. It's our hope that we can give you a deeper insight into the talents of Twin Cities chefs and to have a better understanding of what you're getting when you sit down to dinner.

Chef Jorge Guzman has been the man behind the food at the Twin Cities' top tapas spot, Solera, for several years now.  He wasn't a man who was handed the keys to a golden kingdom, but instead walked into a restaurant with a troubled reputation. Guzman has spent a tremendous amount of time doing things to help breathe life back into what was once a Twin Cities favorite, and he has succeeded. It's quite possible that Solera is better now than it ever has been.

Chef Guzman maintains a wealth of knowledge he uses to create simple yet spectacularly delicious small plates that hold true to the tradition of Spanish tapas. The dishes are never overly complicated, and the balances of flavors is always exceptional and clean. While Guzman doesn't have a Spanish background, he's managed to develop a strong understanding of the flavors and techniques associated with the tastes of the region while incorporating some of his traditional Mexican roots.

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Signature Dish: Piccolo's chef Doug Flicker

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Photo by http://hilaryrobertsphoto.com/
Piccolo chef and owner Doug Flicker's signature, soft scrambled eggs with pickled pig's feet and truffle butter

In the search for the Twin Cities' best culinary creations, we often come across dishes that stop us mid-bite and force us to reflect on the level of thought and artistry chefs put into their work. The efforts of the chefs are often laborious, and the end results are regularly consumed before the full concept can be appreciated. We've been tracking down some of these dishes to get the chef's side of the story; their thoughts, motivations, and processes. It's our hope that we can give you a deeper insight into the talents of Twin Cities chefs and to have a better understanding of what you're getting when you sit down to dinner.

Doug Flicker, chef and owner of the critically acclaimed south Minneapolis restaurant Piccolo (and coming this spring Sandcastle), has been a staple in the Twin Cities food scene for close to three decades. Having worked in many local restaurants over the years, Flicker is more than just a product of his work experience. Piccolo features a unique menu that has helped to transform the current state of dining throughout the region. This week Piccolo turns three years old, and we sat down with Flicker to talk a bit about how he got where he is now and his legendary signature dish, soft scrambled eggs with pickled pig's feet and truffle butter. The dish has even received national attention, including high notes of praise from both Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain.


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Christmas cookies from the Black Forest Inn

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Kate N.G. Sommers

December is here, and that means holiday treats. As a society, food is as traditional as it comes, provoking the digital onslaught of latke recipes, how to cook a turkey in 2,341 different ways, and of course, holiday cookies. Being a traditionalist, I bake the same cookies my mother baked, many (if not all) of which came from my great-grandmother, all of which are published in Festive Foods from the Milwaukee Gas Light Company (where my great-grandmother worked in their test kitchen). I'm not sure peanut butter blossoms and Mexican Christmas cookies speak true to our German heritage, but the cookies I was gifted by the kind folks at Black Forest Inn certainly do.

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FEAST Minneapolis: The food

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Kate N.G. Sommers

If you're not familiar yet with FEAST (Funding Emerging Artists with Sustainable Tactics), you're missing out. The premise is simple: artists submit proposals, the public pays a suggested donation to attend, and the public then meets the artists and eventually vote to support one of the proposals. It's a fun and interesting experience... and of course, there's food!


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Gorkha Palace: A meal in photos

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Kate N.G. Sommers

I was excited to hear that the delicious momo I seem to crave on chilly Saturday mornings from the Mill City farmers market would be served at the new restaurant, Gorkha Palace. Gorkha features Indian, Nepali and Tibetan cuisine in the old Mairin's Table location, a cozy location just around the corner from other well known East Hennepin eateries. What separates Gorkha from the other restaurants nearby is its call for authentic and simply prepared dishes with, as their website states, seasonal and sustainable ingredients.


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Travail: an epic lunch in photographs

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Kate N.G. Sommers
The daily edition of charcuterie at Travail

This week I jumped on the bandwagon and headed to Travail. I had been there once before for lunch, but this visit blew that meal out of the water, with a lunch date that lasted more than two hours. We ordered each course with intention after having finished the previous plate. The only real hurdles were overcoming the four-plate dessert ensemble ($9) and resisting the temptation to order another glass of wine.



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Stanley's Northeast Bar Room: a first look

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Kate N.G. Sommers


I had been driving by the skeleton of Stasiu's for over a year, frequently wondering what was to become of yet another shuttered classic Northeast space. In July, I noticed a dumpster had joined the ranks of the Marina truck in the parking lot, and I perked up: Something was happening! Slowly but surely more details about the space on University and Lowry unveiled themselves, and with the news that Steven Brown would be helping to develop the menu, I was totally psyched for the new space to open. Though its grand opening is technically today, a little bird told me the place was opening its doors Thursday to select customers on their mailing list, or anyone who saw the fluorescent "Open" sign above the entryway.


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Frog legs--delicacy or eco-issue? Local restaurants weigh in

Categories: Foodography
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STF sticks up for frogs.
Frog legs enjoyed a certain level of kitschy popularity about 30 years ago, appearing regularly in Twin Cities buffets. But today, only a few of our restaurants serve the amphibs on their daily menus, and scant others offer them as seasonal specials. Perhaps it's because diners are more squeamish these days. Or, maybe it's due to a new group called Save the Frogs that insists that whether wild or farmed-sourced, consuming frogs decreases the natural population.

We asked some local eateries and wholesalers their thoughts on Save the Frogs's claims and about frog legs in general. So should you worry about the frogs or gobble down that tasty appetizer? 

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