Lots to talk about kids. Buckle up.
It's getting a little out of control at the Great Minnesota Get-together. Pig Lickers, Pickle Pops, Big Fat Bacon. Charlie Torgerson, who last year gave us Kool-Aid pickles, is doing the Pig Licker, chocolate-dipped bacon strips seasoned with sea salt. Sounds fine to me! Pickle Pops are freezer pops made with real pickle puree and juice. Sounds like that treat will only be as good as the quality of the pickle and the brine. If it is vinegar-based brine and oversized commodity cukes are used, then watch out, not so hot. On hot summer days, I have been known to tipple a juice glass of Ba-Tempte brand pickle juice.
Big Fat Bacon sounds glorious. "One-third pound of bacon, fried and caramelized with maple syrup and served on a stick," according to press releases. I think that barring large execution or quality snafus (always a problem!), this bacon treat should be a huge hit for years to come.
The pickle juice freezer pop will be a dud, and the unless there is a huge surprise, I could care less about the tater tots on a stick (I like mine in a cup or on a plate!); Norwegian-style cheese curds served with lingonberry sauce (again, this is less of a new item and more of a twist on something old—and not a very good one at that); and Leprechaun Legs, which are deep-fried green beans. That one sounds like a complete waste of time—although, I think that somewhere in there is a good idea . . . mixed vegetable tempura, anyone?
Oceanaire is launching a serious menu in celebration of Copper River and Yukon king salmon season. It all kicks off on June 28.
Salut in St. Paul is kicking ass and taking names . . . or not taking names in case you are one of the people who would rather not wait in long lines for tables at the outdoor café on Grand Ave. The early reports are very good, service is efficient and friendly, and the food is what we have come to expect from Salut, which is exactly what Grand Ave. needs: simple fare that is well-prepared in stylish and family-friendly surroundings.
Seth Bixby Daugherty’s new charitable endeavor, Real Food Initiatives, finally has an Internet presence; the site is up and running. You should check it out and forward this link on to all your friends and family. More than a year ago, Seth decided to make this his life’s work, and in that time, the issues he is confronting from a solutions-based perspective (child hunger, healthy school lunch programs, child obesity, rising food prices, etc.) have only grown louder in terms of national conversation. His appearances on national talk shows and his growing roster of contacts have made RFI a program to keep your eye on as the year moves onward.
Punch Pizza on Grand Ave. opens in September in the space that was formerly occupied by the short-lived Hazelden Book Store, across the street from the Wild Onion. The Punch location will not be one of the full-service restaurants (ie: Highland Park) but will be one of the quick-serve locales (ie: all the other Punch Pizza outlets). Now I don’t know about you, but the speed and efficiency of the Punch outlets doesn’t get me excited at all.
I keep going back to the Punch in Highland Park because I want the offerings of a true Neapolitan-style pizzeria: salads, antipasto, and all the pizza and calzone choices. I understand why the suits at Punch are eager to roll out the kiosks in certain locations (office and business districts, etc.): They are easier to build, replicate, and manage. But in residential areas, such as Grand Ave., I think they have misjudged the marketplace. I would create a duplicate of the Highland location on Grand Ave., and I don’t think it would cannibalize the business by having two sit-down eateries so close to each other. On Grand Ave., there are so many families, so many potential customers willing to contribute to the larger check averages associated with a sit-down eatery that I am dumbfounded as to why the Punch mavens would open a quick-serve property there. And as a customer who lives closer to the new locale than the Highland restaurant, I will continue to go to Highland Park. I love that place.