Month: March 2016

Dumpling & Strand Label

Naming: Dumpling & Strand

When food scientist Jeff Casper and entrepreneur-designer Kelly McManus decided to launch a noodle company — fresh noodles featuring locally sourced cold-milled organic grains! — they asked me to help them come up with a name. What fun! Based on the team’s brand (quirky, earnest, smart, inventive, and driven by curiosity), aesthetic, and diverse offering, I came up with a list of possibilities. They chose: Dumpling & Strand Noodlers at Large. See the whole label

Concept: The Nature Conservancy

I partnered with Kelly McManus to brainstorm themes and taglines for a Nature Conservancy gala in St. Paul. At the time, the Nature Conservancy was raising public awareness of the ways in which conservation impacts not only wilderness and wildlife, but also big business–you can’t have Coke if you don’t have water. Our tagline and theme: Investing in Nature’s Return.

The Songbird’s Egg

A letter arrived on Saturday, describing an incident with an egg that filled me with bright-green envy and true delight at once. Although one cannot blame the author for declining to pass along the pale, blue egg of hope, it might have smarted less if she hadn’t expressed it quite so poetically. Here follows the lovely little note: Yesterday, while bringing out the garbage early in the morning, I nearly stepped on a pale, pale blue bird’s egg — an egg no longer than the bowl of a baby’s spoon. I expected the egg to be smashed or cracked given that it was on the concrete and within [word smudged] of someone’s shoe, but it was not. The egg was intact and shaded, in part, by a fuzzy bird feather that was stuck to the top of the egg like a royal fascinator. Knowing your fondness for little birds, my initial thought was to ship off this brown-speckled, pale-blue egg to your doorstep. surely this egg must be a sign of good fortune, and that is where …

a pile of pretty letters

Letters of Condolence

I love letters, and recently there have been a great many letters exchanged — as you can see from the photo here. Letters from far-flung, eastern hotels on lovely, thick stationery. Handmade notes with tidbits of poetry and garden updates. Silly postcards and brief, but heartfelt birthday wishes. There have also been notes of condolence. My sweet grammy passed away. She was the last of the grands, and a very good friend to me. As a kid, she let me run straight from the lake into the house — barefoot and sopping wet — and filled me with homemade pies, cookies and jam, another contributor to my lifelong love of good food. She indulged my eccentricities, allowing me not only to sleep in the musty room over the garage rather than in the house, but also to hunker down in an ancient feather bed there for hours, sometimes whole days, reading. Of course, we didn’t always get along: She insisted on good manners and took away my sweets the day I bit my older brother on the stomach for …

On Raising Chickens

One spring, a friend purchased a $2 carton of fertilized eggs at the farmers’ market and stuck them under a borrowed incubator. Twenty-one days later, the resulting clutch threatened to overwhelm her modest backyard coop, and so she farmed the chicks out to adoptive parents. I presented two of those pullets, Hazel and Lydia, to my husband for our second anniversary. At the time, it felt terribly romantic. On one of our early dates, William had used the butcher paper covering a cafe table to draw me an elaborate plan for the kitchen garden he hoped to one day build. In addition to vegetables and fruit trees, it included an ingenious chicken hutch. Since then, we’d relocated to San Antonio, Texas, and it seemed like we’d be missing out on part of the experience if we didn’t keep some kind of livestock in the yard. Chickens would be charming pets. They would bring us fresh eggs. When I brought Hazel and Lydia home, they were six weeks old, still small and fluffy. Their feathers were …

Unpacking Our Palates

I AM A FOOD WRITER. At restaurants, I taste as much of the menu as possible. I bring people who are willing to let me eat off their plates. I come to the meal ready to be delighted, to coo over the red kuri purée, and gamely tuck into the Scotch eggs, jellied head cheeses, black corn fungus, whatever you’ve got, yes please. At home, I like to cook and to feed people — the best of my friendships have been established over long-winded meals — and, being a food writer, people like to feed me. Friends bring me bourbon from Kentucky, pork rillette from California, and truffle flour from France. They bring me pocket melons and wonder beans from their gardens, and all kinds of goodies from their kitchens, too — crumbly shortcakes, goat-milk ricotta drizzled with honey, pickled watermelon rind. If it all sounds a little precious, let me say that I’m equally pleased to receive a piece of hot, buttered toast. In the words of Jonathan Richman, I eat with gusto, damn! …

the skate at Vincent

Review: Vincent

There is something luxe about dining at Vincent – A Restaurant. Even a midweek lunch, even on the most impossible spring day — when chunks of ice are flying down Nicollet Mall and pummeling the restaurant’s great windows — even when the dining room is filled with grownups in fussy work clothes. Even when all these things would signal otherwise, the light-filled dining room, the low murmur of conversation, the comfortable chairs, and a glass of wine at your elbow (if you’re lucky) all conspire to create a relaxed air. It feels like a real break in the day. The other day, we had just such an experience as we lingered over the Signature Prix Fixe Lunch ($13.50). The prix fixe offers two courses, with a choice of Belgian endive salad, an open face sandwich of leg of lamb, or a farro risotto. We opted for the latter and were not sorry for it. Non-rice grains can sometimes fail to produce the creaminess that risotto implies, but this was not so with the humble farro. …

Beth Dooley

In Winter’s Kitchen

In a recent essay in The New York Times, chef Jacques Pépin talked about how meals are fleeting, “You make it, it goes, and what remains are memories.” For him, for all of us, ingredients and dishes are forever associated with people and times in our life, and tastes and smells — even the seasons — have the power to evoke those food memories. “These memories are essential for the cook, the food critic, and the writer,” Pépin says. “They enrich your day-to-day life and your relationships with your family and friends.” This quote came to mind reading Beth Dooley’s latest book, In Winter’s Kitchen ($25, Milkweed Editions, 2015), in which she uses food memories, friendship, and family as a way into conversations about our food system. Fans of the local author will be surprised to learn this is not a cookbook — though there are some recipes — but a kind of hybridized memoir. Read more [Appeared in Heavy Table magazine]