Burgers are all the rage. Still. Locally there are dozens of great burgers to choose from. Recently I crushed the house burger at Manny’s—amazing beefy flavor, just stunning flavor of the meat itself. Could have been seared and crusted a little better but who is quibbling? Travail with its roasted sirloin fat rendered and paddled into its burger gives it a unique flavor profile that I think about constantly in my loneliest hours. Blue Door in St Paul has an entire menu of bodacious burgers and picking my favorite is way too tough. Don’t skip its fried pickles, by the way.
In many ways, the entire local burger revolution, check that, the global burger revolution is the by product of this man’s career, a fellow who is NYC’s most awarded restaurateur, Danny Meyer. This profile in the NYT Sunday Magazine says it all. Consider it required reading for anyone in our business. Hospitality is what Meyer understands best, as well as his own potential and limitations. He is a genius, and most importantly, he embraces patience in a way that no one in the industry does. His track record of successes speaks for itself: 23 or so openings and only one closing. And he waited nine years to go from one restaurant to two. Wow.
Anyway, local restaurateurs should take note. I am not saying Danny’s way is the only path, there are plenty of lessons to the contrary, but we can all learn so much from Danny, and his book is amazingly instructive.
Speaking of The Local, (clever of me, right!), Kieran Folliard is moving on to greener pastures, in a sense. First he diversified by starting Green Ox and partnering with cured meats maven Mike Phillips. Now he has ‘given up’ the restaurant life he built for almost 20 years to head on into the liquor business. Federal laws prohibit the ownership of both retail outlets (think bars and restaurants) and a liquor brand that is for sale in the same ‘marketplace.’ Folliard is giving up his role in the mother company that controls his restaurant empire in order to fully embrace his liquor line, 2 Gingers. For his Irish Whisky, that means first getting it off the ground in Minnesota, and then on to other states in the U.S.
Folliard’s protégé at large and long time GM, Peter Killen, will become the of CEO of Cara Irish Pubs, LLC. Folliard is one of my all time favorite people, and my only regret is that as someone who doesn’t drink booze I will never (just for today) taste his new pride and joy.
So local seems to be the word of the day, and since all politics these days are local, what are your food choices going to be? On one hand, do you support Minnesotan food systems, buy from local farms, shop at locally owned/operated supermarkets and co-ops, eat at homegrown restaurants, and so on? I think the choices we make today are more important than ever. We go out of our way to do all those things, we aren’t perfect, and we also are lotus-eaters every once in while. I long ago gave up charting a bottle of milk’s carbon footprint but we do buy local dairy products exclusively. Our food choices also can affect our planet at large, so if you think the extinction of our oceanic fish populations is a joke, read on. Like giant blue fin tuna we either, in the brilliant words of Mr. Gold, “stop eating shark fin to preserve the species or stop eating shark fin because there are none left.” Check out this op-ed in the LA Times from one of America’s best food writers.