Each week here on All Things Considered, we welcome Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl to discuss food and culinary trends. This week Dara tells us about some of the best eating in the Twin Cities, as chosen in the latest issue of Minnesota Monthly magazine.
Tom Crann: How do you go about making the picks?
Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl: Research, research, research. For something like the best Specialty Beer Store, we might visit a dozen beer shops, comparing inventories, variety of products on offer, and customer service. This year's winner was the astonishing Four Firkins in St. Louis Park.
Crann: Let's talk about a couple of the more surprising picks. First, I don't think of the Twin Cities as a doughnut town. is that changing?
Moskowitz Grumdahl: Yes, it is, and rapidly! It all started with this year's winner YoYo Donuts in Minnetonka, for which owner Chris Moquist had a special flour blend made, a mixture meant to capture the excellence of Minnesota doughnuts of yore, like the long-gone Spudnut.
Moquist took that flour blend to the heights of doughnut madness. His maple long john, for instance, has a full slice of bacon on it, and he has a hilarious, kid-friendly worms-and-dirt doughnut topped with a bunch of Oreo-crumb "dirt" and a whole gummy worm.
In the last few weeks a new contender opened up, St. Paul's Mojo Monkey Donuts, and in another few weeks Minneapolis gets an avant-garde doughnut shop called the Donut Cooperative. Next year's competition will be even fiercer.
Crann: Another category is best vinegar. I didn't know they even made vinegar here in Minnesota.
Moskowitz Grumdahl: One brave husband-and-wife team does, in Long Prairie, Minnesota, through their fantastic farm-based business called Leatherwood Vinegary. They grow the fruit, raise the herbs, and then use a year-long conversion process called the Orlean process to make it. It's gorgeous stuff, so complex, so interesting, really as good as any wine vinegar coming out of France.
Crann: In the category of best barbecue, what style of BBQ are we talking about here?
Moskowitz Grumdahl: It's Minnesota style, of course! This is the barbecue of Charlie Johnson, descendant of a Swedish-born Minnesota butcher. Johnson went to the country's best cooking school, the Culinary Institute of America, ended up in Florida working with a longtime sous chef of Fredy Girardet's, and developed all sorts of complicated cooking techniques.
He decided to open his barbecue place, called Q Fanatic, in Champlin, on the northern edge of the Twin Cities, so he could raise his children in rural Minnesota. You won't find barbecue like Q Fanatic's anywhere else. It's unique to Charlie Johnson, but the results are phenomenal. Ribs as tender as warm butter, but still beautifully charred, and intensely flavored pastrami.
Crann: Rotisserie chicken is an easy meal for people, and they're available at a lot of grocery stores and as takeout. You have high praise for one you can buy at Lucia's. in Minneapolis.
Moskowitz Grumdahl: Yes. Lucia's has fresh, never-frozen chickens from West Concord, Minnesota, which are given the barest gilding of salt and herbs. It's a chicken I could eat every day for the rest of my life. It is truly perfect.
Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl talks food each week on All Things Considered. You can see all of the Best Of Twin Cities picks in the newest edition of Minnesota Monthly magazine.