How do Minnesotans here experience their own Minnesota? Welcome to the first of an irregularly scheduled series which will appear sometimes in this space and explore that question. In this series I’ll catch up with people in food and drink in our community, and explore some of their touchstones and favorites.
Who better to kick things off than Jamie Malone, former chef of Sea Change, Food & Wine Best New Chef in America winner for 2013, one of the top toques at forthcoming Scena Tavern (the Italian restaurant in Uptown, currently scheduled to open Dec. 3), and co-chef of Brut, the restaurant she will open sometime in 2016 with her business and life partner chef Erik Andersen, formerly of Nashville’s Catbird Seat. What does St. Paul native Jamie Malone’s food life look like, to her right now?
It’s hard to pick one, but try. What's a favorite restaurant dish not-your-own:
At Burch the schupfnudel—it’s just delicious. Whenever we go to Burch, Erik and I do a bunch of crudos and carve up on dumplings [like the schupfnudel] and then have a big steak. It’s just the perfect date night. The schupfnudel—we always have to get that.
I’ve never been a brunch person, I find it kind of confusing, I don’t get when you’re supposed to eat sweets at brunch. Are you supposed to eat them before or after? Both? We do brunch at Bachelor Farmer and Spoon & Stable. Diane Yang’s stuff at Spoon & Stable is always really delicious.
At Eat Street Social one time (a long time ago but I always think about it, it haunts me) Marco Zappia, who’s a bartender and one of the partners in Bittercube, made this cucumber cocktail that had all the flavors of tzatziki, and it was really, really delicious. It was clear and tasted of cucumber, I think it was gin-based, a martini sort of. But it was one of those things: it hits you exactly right, what it reminds you of, how it’s new. I think about it all the time.
Favorite coffee shop?
Spyhouse in the North Loop. They do such a great job. I’ll watch them grind espresso beans, they’ll do a new roast, they’ll pull an espresso and throw it out if it’s not right. At first I thought it was annoying, sometimes you’re waiting 10 minutes for them to get it right—to them—but now when I go other places I think: Why are you serving this, it’s not good enough! I appreciate their consistency.
Favorite Twin Cities classic?
Jax Café is ridiculously fun, and recently I was thinking about Mancini’s. I’ll go there once in a while with my mom, we’ll go there for kicks. I do like Murray’s, too—I think they have good steak. I’m a sucker for an old steak house.
Most underrated Twin Cities spot?
It’s one you let us on to: On’s Kitchen in St. Paul. We’ll go and say we’re just going to go for a light lunch—10 plates later, nevermind.
Do you have a Minnesota food hero?
I have to say Tim McKee—his contribution to our food scene, it’s almost hard to understand, it’s so big. We food people of Minneapolis, myself included, I think lose sight a little bit of how we got to where we are. Young chefs get to be in our heyday here in Minneapolis, we don’t realize not that many years ago Tim was the first James Beard Award winning chef here in Minnesota, he’s really a huge part of what got us to where we need to be.
What do you crave from Minnesota when you’re far away?
When I travel these days, it’s usually to bigger cities, and sometimes you go to these restaurants in big cities you’ve heard so much about, and expect them to be great, but you get there and: You feel put on, it’s not that good. I always feel really thankful when I’m coming back to town, not for a food, but for the feeling. I feel like there’s a lot more honesty in the restaurant community here, people are a lot more personal, and open. And nice!