By Adam Estrem
Food and poetry go hand in hand. I couldn’t help but think of the poetic writings of M.F.K. Fisher as I walked around the North Coast Nosh, put on by HeavyTable.com and the Peace Coffee Shop in the Longfellow neighborhood in Minneapolis.
“Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly,” Fisher writes, and James Norton and Becca Dilley of the HeavyTable.com never took it lightly. Norton’s idea of a great food event is somewhat more intimate than the large format festivals I have been covering the past few months.
Tickets were limited to the Nosh, topping out at 200 people. Norton believes, and I whole heartedly agree, that it gives the attendees a chance to converse with each food purveyor, hold a meaningful conversation and make a connection. After all, that is what the whole local food movement is about — knowing exactly where your food came from.
I arrived at the Nosh slightly late, but just in time to taste some extraordinary food. Tickets were $16 in advance and $20 at the door, which got you everything from cheese, cured meats, wines, beers, cupcakes, honey, to hot dogs and artisanal sodas.
Fisher also writes, “In America we eat, collectively, with a glum urge for food to fill us. We are ignorant of flavor. We are as a nation taste-blind.” Norton’s North Coast Nosh is out to prove Fisher wrong, not only in general, but specifically with local food. Sometimes it takes an event, or a place, or a dish, or a specific ingredient to realize what we are missing in our lives. The lust for sublime tasting food is awakened in our souls, and for some, becomes a lifelong quest to find the best food possible.
Most of the time, I have found, that superlative food is often found closest to its source. That’s the whole idea of the Nosh, let regular people meet artisanal food purveyors, taste what they have to offer, realize that some of the best food is found here in Minnesota and hopefully continue a long relationship with each other.
Three food trucks were surreptitiously parked in the back in a neat row, handing out delightful samples of their menu. Vellee Deli, Hola Arepa and World Street Kitchen food trucks always impress me, and all of them had extremely flavorful food to try. I like when I am surprised by flavors, or try things I have never tasted before.
Pork belly is a hot ticket item in the gourmet food scene. I am a lover of all things pork, I do after all, have a butcher chart of a pig tattooed on my arm. But World Street Kitchen’s lamb belly taco with basil and a “secret” sauce may convert me over to all things lamb. The taco had extraordinary grassy lamb flavor, with a mild heat from their “secret” sauce reminiscent of a spicy aioli drizzled on top. Served on a corn tortilla, I could eat three or 13 of these in one sitting.
Wash the taco down with Joia Soda’s grapefruit cardamom soda, and a magical combination arises. Joia Soda, a local company, was strategically placed outside next to the food trucks, all of which were serving samples with a kick to them. All of Joia Soda’s beverages combine fruit, herbs and spices in combinations that you could only get from a mixed cocktail. That is the inspiration of Joia, make a non-alcoholic beverage that rivals the best of the mixed drinks. Complex, balanced, and surprising, all of Joia’s drinks can compete with the best of them.
I do want to mention a new friend, Nate Beck, owner of Natedogs food cart. Like I said earlier, I take my pork seriously, especially when it comes in tube form. Beck is taking the hot dog to new and elevated levels. I’ll be honest, in my opinion, anybody can start a hot dog cart and sell them on the streets and probably turn a profit. But it takes someone like Beck, to elevate the hot dog to gourmet heights and keep customers coming back for new flavors. Not only are Natedogs’ hot dogs from a local farm, but they are chemical and hormone free.
Did I mention he makes all of his own toppings? Homemade sauerkraut, and the flavors in his mustards will make you cry. Beck likes to include local beer and other local ingredients in his mustards, and from what I have heard, will start jarring them and selling to the public. Be sure to get your hands on his mustards before I do, or you will be out of luck.
Inside Peace Coffee, many other artisans were handing out samples. Between the coffee machines grinding beans, and foodies prattling about the flavors, a hum of food was enveloping my head. Everywhere I looked, I saw what was on peoples’ plates and I wanted it, now. Green Ox Meat Company was handing out a smorgasbord of cured meats — some of the best local cured ham I have ever had. The Caves of Faribault were handing out blue cheeses, one of which was beer soaked and absolutely delightful.
Summit Brewing, Harriet Brewing, St. Croix Vineyards and Crispin Cider we quenching the thirst of foodies, which may or may not have been contributing to the buzz in the room.
The lucid dream atmosphere at the Nosh had a formidable effect on my soul, warming me to the core. Look for more of these events, and rearrange your schedule to attend the next North Coast Nosh. It is a value beyond belief, and if you like food, the nourishment to the quintessence of who you are far outweighs any calorie count.
As Fisher says, “There is communion of more than our bodies when bread is broken and wine drunk.”
Adam Estrem is a writer, photographer, foodie and cook. After traveling the world and tasting the cuisines and wines of Mexico, Spain, France and much of Europe and the middle east, he has gone local and focused on restaurants and food producers of Minnesota. When he isn’t working you can find him in his kitchen, creating recipes and entertaining friends. You can follow him on Twitter (@mspfoodie) or email him (firstname.lastname@example.org).