Blog

Ep 93: Interview – Chef Karl Gerstenberger, Food Deserts vs Food Apartheid, Culinary Medicine (aired 05/19/18)

Our interview with Chef Karl Gerstenberger offers enlightenment about the Waldmann Brewery & Wurstery located in St Paul. Find out about some history, the cuisine and what is ‘wurstery’.

It’s the time to focus on why there is food inequality within our communities. Lets talk about ‘food apartheid’ and the problem with American groceries.

Check the organization that is advocating and educating for black farmers to have a seat at the table. (Black Urban Growers)

Food Matters for Health Professionals : the art of cooking with the science of using food as medicine

Protect the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)that helps low income households to feed their families.

The Un-Bougie Foodie: Episode 93

Minneapolis Is Ready to Get Funky!

Imagine sitting with a group of friends and enjoying some soul food, as reminiscent old school funk/soul music like Brothers Johnson, Parliament, or Funkadelic plays in the background.  Well that’s just what general manager and chef partners Jared Brewington and Jordan Carlson will be introducing on April 1st to the Twin Cities.

 

With an upbringing from his grandmother and father, Jared Brewington’s life has been rooted in the south side of Minneapolis.  So, when it came down to finding a location for their soul food inspired and chef driven restaurant, the general manager of Funky Grits settled in the area that would tell stories and fond memories of his growing up in the neighborhood.

 

After working with a local interior/architectural designer studio, the aesthetic will consist of wood elements, yet bright and comforting, just like the cuisine.  Booths, round tables, along with a table for communal style dining will encourage patrons to gather together to enjoy great food and rare funk music artistry.  Both partners believe this will embrace the atmosphere and feel of the restaurant being welcoming, and community-minded, while still speaking to how the brand appeal should be.

 

When asked how the restaurant’s name came to be, Brewington replied, “It hit me.  That was it. I was thinking of what a place like this would be called.  Funk is my jam, you know as far as music goes. Then fast casual comfort food, soul-food inspired…Funky Grits. Done”

 

Yet, this was something that was long in the making similar to that of a food truck that would play music, serving soul food right as downtown Minneapolis bars would be closing.  But after researching, Brewingon realized that modern fast-casual dining was the right path to follow and still be able to provide the same type of vibe.

 

The cuisine promises to focus on food that is best for any individuals diet or lifestyle.  With chef partner Jordan Carlson at the kitchen’s helm, he brings leadership and creativity that showcases his culinary expertise along with his passion for food.

 

Although not his initial career path, Chef Carlson started cooking to help his family, specifically his grandfather.  While cooking at an establishment that quickly transition to a scratch kitchen bistro pub, his passion for cooking intensified.  A world of creativity with food became apparent and with his love to help his family, it motivated Carlson to become involved even more with food to share this gift with those that enjoyed what he prepared.

 

In creating the menu, Carlson and the general manager plan on taking a different approach when it comes to the southern style dishes that will be offered.  Historically, vegetables and grains have always been important to every culture.  Because the items on the menu are soul food inspired, you won’t find typical items such as fried chicken or bar-be-que listed.  Rather it’s the regular side staples from southern cooking (grits, greens, root vegetables) that will be showcased as the entrees.  These dishes will be rich with wonderful flavors and other items that accompany them with different variations.

 

The creators of Funky Grits are for the community and will wholeheartedly strive to provide a place where “everyone is welcome, all the time, forever…” while sharing a common interest of enjoying great food.  To them, every single dish counts.  So, whether your interpretation of soul food is by way of a Merriam-Webster dictionary, an urban definition, or your own personal life experiences, consider the commonality; love and intention.

Minneapolis, you ready to get funky?

 

Funky Grits

805 East 38th Street

Minneapolis, MN 55407

www.funkygrits.com

 

World Class and Made With Love

Everyone has their favorite type of breakfast pastries that helps them start the day.  Whether it be muffins, cinnamon rolls, a Danish, or a buttery croissant culturally these tastes run the gamut.

 

Because of living in the Midwest, it’s become so easy for me to jump on the bandwagon and desperately grab a muffin.  However, I realize that when I’m with my family I crave a slice of creole bun, jam roll or powder (pronounced pow-dah) bun.  You can have any of them as a great addition to your morning coffee or hot chocolate for your children.

 

On my recent trip to Los Angeles, CA I had the opportunity to visit a popular Belizean restaurant called Ella’s Belizean Restaurant.  This charming café in the South Central neighborhood of the city, endearingly referred to a ‘Little Belize’, is well known for providing authentic Belizean pastries.  Once inside we are greeted by Mrs. Velda Gordon, a friendly, yet reserved cashier who took our order. My sister and I chatted briefly with her as she placed the items we ordered in a bag, and as we continued, she became even more warm and welcoming.

 

We complimented the restaurant saying they had the best creole bun and bread in town. She proudly informs us that although she doesn’t cook any of the entrees for the restaurant, ‘the delicious buns you have, or are going to be eating have been prepared by my hands.  It is the only thing that I do here aside from serving or dishing up food’.

 

Considering that many Belizeans long for the same quality and goodness that their moms or Grannies would do, Mrs. Gordon agrees that Ella’s is providing a much needed service to the community. Because it is her bread and butter, she takes pride in her work and that of the restaurant.  Plus, she enjoys the chance to meet and greet people from all over the world that come for a taste of authentic Belizean cuisine.  She is so confident in the food that she assures visitors that they WILL be back for sure.

 

The mindset is one of love, joy and happiness.  Mrs. Velda points out that because there is no time to repeat preparation of the items; love is always in the kitchen.  Music plays, the workers hum, laugh and dance while they work.  All to demonstrate the care for the food, and their customers.  Even to the extent of bun and breads receiving a few pats from the person who baked them!

 

If you’re ever in the City of Angels, make sure to visit a little piece of Belize and get some of that world class food made with love.

 

Ella’s Belizean Restaurant

3975 S. Western Ave

Los Angeles, CA 90062

Emotions in Cooking

Stewed chicken

When it comes to cooking, many are familiar with the phrase ‘you put your foot in it’ basically to pay a compliment to the chef that demonstrated their expertise in preparing a really great meal.  Could it be the technique of the chef or their emotion that might be evoked through the food?  In either case it’s certainly worth the conversation.

 

I remember watching the film Like Water for Chocolate (1992) which told the story of a young woman whose meals where affected by her emotions. So certain ingredients that ended up in the pot, like her tears when she was sad, or rose petals when she was in love, resulted in those same emotions being demonstrated by her family and friends when they consumed the food.  Immediately, the thought of a person so moved by food that they are compelled to demonstrate a specific emotion, fascinated me.

 

As I began to cook more regularly after seeing that movie, I promised myself that I would pay more attention to the way I was feeling when I was preparing a meal.  I not only did that with myself, but with family members when I would go home to visit. Currently, I’m in Los Angeles visiting my parents and watching as my father is in the kitchen preparing his famous pork roast. I could see the level of focus on his face.  His intensity in chopping cilantro, garlic, and other items. He seemed to be in a great mood. I took this all in and ‘felt’ that he wanted to make this meal special, even though I know that he’s made it many times before and he could so it in his sleep.  Along with the pork roast, he knocked out rice, beans with smoked neckbones, and stewed chicken.  All which turned out awesome.

 

I believe that this is demonstrated in the restaurant world also.  If a chef is stressed, or not focused it can show in the preparation of a dish. Perhaps the measurement of a specific ingredient was incorrect, or maybe that last minute idea doesn’t marry the flavors that they hoped for.  Often times they are self-critical and apologetically, will state this was an off day.  For the most part we do experience the happy, caring, joyful emotions when we go to restaurants.

 

Infuse your cooking with good thoughts for your loved ones, and those you care for.  Demonstrating an enthusiasm for cooking, preparing it lovingly will come across naturally and encourage anyone that eats what you prepared, to love and love your food as well.

 

 

Popular Belizean Snack Foods

Panades – various fillings are placed in this folded over corn tortilla

Every culture has their own snack or fast foods that are very popular to inhabitants of that country.  For Belizeans, some of these favorites are salbutes, garnaches, and my favorite…panades.

 

Being raised in a Belizean household, my parents often prepared dishes that have rice and beans, chicken, beef, pork or fish. But sometimes preparing these meals was labor intensive. Even more so if you were hosting a party for more people than your immediate family.   This is where these snack foods effectively serve their purpose.  Tasty for appetizers at a party, or just as a snack, they were filling and didn’t require a whole lot of prep work from the host.

 

Garnaches, for example, are simple to make because you are just stacking the ingredients. When you take a corn tortilla, spread it with black or refried beans, add cheese, and then garnished it with cortido (a cabbage, onions, carrots mixture similar to sauerkraut), you end up with a delicious salty, spicy, and satisfying snack. In less than an hour you can make about a dozen of these!

 

Similar to garnaches, is salbutes. Even though this wonderful treat is enjoyed across the country of Belize, it’s a dish that has its origin with individuals that were of mixed race or ethnic ancestry called Mestizo.  With salbutes, it’s common that the tortillas are handmade, but rather than beans, cheese, and cortido that you would put on the garnaches, you would stack stewed chicken, lettuce, sliced tomatoes, pickled onions, and a spicy sauce.  I love that you can have it as spicy as you want, and Belizeans love habanero.

 

Now we come to my favorite… panades. Invite a Belize over for a card party, some drinks or just to hang out, and you’ll make a new friend.  Tell them that you’re making panades, and you’ll have a friend for life.  Similar to an empanada, panades are basically corn tortillas that are folded over with various types of fillings like smoked fish, beans, or cheese.  They are then fried, but best in a cast iron skillet.  No matter what fillings you choose though, you can’t forget the cortido garnish.  The same cortido you would make for the garnaches, can be the same you use to garnish your panades. I prefer my cortido without carrots, but always prepare it how you’d like.

 

Young and old alike will enjoy these appetizing snacks. You will find that introducing it to friends that are not familiar with food from Belize will be excited about the preparation process, and rave about the flavors.  Making these Belizean snack foods is also a great opportunity to get friends to eat together and having your party become a huge success.

 

Commodities of the Spice Islands

Mace and nutmeg

Found on the Maluku Islands of Indonesia, a tropical fruit from the myristica fragrans tree produced two spices.  Uniquely this fruit, when it ripened or matured, would split open displaying a seed that was also encased in a bright red extra seed-covering or aril.   The aril is remove from the seed, flattened out, and then set aside to dry producing golden colored ‘blades’ known as the spice mace.  The seed however, is set out in the sun to dry for up to eight weeks, until the kernel or nut on the inside rattles.   When that shell is cracked, the kernel on the inside is the spice we commonly known as nutmeg.

 

These spices became extremely popular during the 16th and 17th century.  So much so that nations such as the Dutch, French and English aggressively fought to gain control and monopolize the native trees of the ‘Spices Islands’.   However, what made these spices such a hot commodity?

 

One reason was that these evergreen trees when mature, could produce up to 2,000 nutmegs per year from a single tree.  There wasn’t a specific harvest season because the fruit from the trees ripened all year round.  So, harvesters had a steady income.  Specifically, what made the spice mace so precious was that is was used as a meat preservative, but also thought to be a cure for the plague at that time.  Nutmeg also had its medicinal purposes; from aiding persons suffering from digestive issues, vomiting and nausea, improving appetite and reducing flatulence. Go figure!

 

Modern day familiarity with nutmeg is that it is ground, and then added to sweet or spicy dishes resulting in a fragrant, and at times, pungent aroma.  But chefs, and culinary authors alike are suggesting a variety of other uses for nutmeg.  Some of these include combining it with cheeses and sauces, or to flavor sausages or lamb dishes.   Mace, on the other hand offers a much lighter flavor, especially if you feel that nutmeg may be a bit overwhelming for you.  Whether you use the blades, or use ground mace, it’s perfect for stews, curries, or similar Indian cuisine dishes.  Just remember to remove the blades, as they are not edible.

 

Every holiday season, my favorite thing I’ve learned to make from my Belizean parents is homemade eggnog that’s called Rum PoPo.  Try the recipe, and toast to the upcoming new year.

 

Belize Eggnog (Rum PoPo)

2 cans evaporated milk

3/4 can of condensed milk

1/2 of a fifth of rum (dark or light)

2 tsp nutmeg

1 Tbsp. vanilla

5 eggs

Combine all ingredients and blend well.

 

 

Respect in the Kitchen

I’ve been thinking how as a columnist I could speak to the conversation that has been on the minds of women, and men, regarding harassment in the workplace, specifically in the culinary industry.

I realize that being a man, that I can only empathize with women that have been subject to inappropriate descriptive language about their bodies, experiencing unwanted touching or invasion of personal space, by men with whom they work with.  But at the same time, I’m embarrassed and ashamed at men that feel they have some right or privilege as men to talk about, or make comments to a woman any way they want to because ‘that’s what guys do’.

Where does this narrative start?  I mean aren’t we all adults and have had some experience with respecting people in the workplace?  What about growing up, didn’t our parents provide some form of direction or guidance about how we should speak to a person of the opposite sex?   Maybe all of those past experiences were just that… in the past.  You would hope that as we build families, or establish relationships that those would-be words of wisdom would offer a moral sense of decency when working alongside culinary professionals.

Sadly however, it seems that the direction of our moral compass has been affected to the extent that women are being harassed while they attempt to involve themselves in a field, or career that they love. Some women feel they have to compromise and stay in an uncomfortable environment, suffering internally, just so they are able to advance or become successful as a culinary expert/chef.  Others, break under the emotional stress and harassment they face, leaving what they once thought would be a dream job only to find that it had nightmarish results.

I recently listened to a TED talk guest speaker, Justin Baldoni, who challenged men to identify and ponder on the characteristics that they feel defines them as men; like strength, courage, toughness.  It wasn’t just to focus on themselves.  More importantly encouraging men to demonstrate those same characteristics when they witness women being harassed or being taken advantage of.  Are you willing to be brave and speak up when others around you are being inappropriate?  When a woman expresses that they are have been harassed or assaulted, will you have the strength and fortitude to support them in their anguish, and let them feel confident that you believe them.

Become the person that prevents these stories from continuing.  Search deep within and consider if this were someone you loved that experience these scenarios.  Let’s all work to improve our interactions between each other and demonstrate that we all value a safe workplace environment where inequality and harassment do not reside.

 

TED Talk. Justin Baldoni: Why I’m Done Trying to be ‘Man Enough’

Twin Cities Plant-Based and Vegan Options

I’ve always wondered what were the compelling factors for individuals to choose a vegan or mainly plant-based diet.  Talking to friends, some explained that going the whole plant-based route was best for them as their goal has been to prevent any chronic illness or disease, and sometimes reversing the effects of those cases.  Others more supportive of the vegan/vegetarian lifestyle felt they were concerned with the ethical treatment of animals. In either case, listening to what our parents have told us for decades about eating our fruits and vegetables has greatly influenced businesses and restaurants to offer more plant-based or vegan options.

Health resources remind us of the importance of lessening our intake of processed foods and meats because these are treated with ingredients, preserving agents, and byproducts.  Often the same foods and meats contain saturated fats that clog arteries.

But what if you start if you want to begin this type of lifestyle?  Do you have to rely on going out and having a food establishment prepare a meal for you?  Not really.  Changes within the dishes you are familiar with can help you as you progress maintaining a plant-based diet.  For example, when you make chili, why not substitute the meat for extra beans or other vegetables, or make stir fry with tofu instead of with chicken.  Don’t forget that there are also tons of simple recipes available online and in cookbooks too, so don’t be afraid to try something new!

For those that aren’t comfortable yet with taking on the full task of cooking from a recipe, even small changes can help.  According to the Mayo Clinic, just a cup of raspberries, or cooked green beans amounts to 8 grams of fiber or more.  With the suggested daily servings of fruits and vegetables being updated to more than 8, finding ways to consume more, little by little you’ll experience the benefits and success you want from your new diet.

Some friends and I recently went to Fika Café (www.fikacafe.net) for an early lunch and was pleasantly surprised by the vegetarian options such as roasted golden beets salad, or Nordic Cobb without meat. Why not visit some of the following restaurants?  They offer excellent dishes for those maintaining a plant-based lifestyle within the Twin Cities

Fika Cafe – Roasted Beet Salad
Fika Cafe – Gravlax

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tongue in Cheek

989 Payne Ave

St Paul, MN 55130

 

J Selby’s

169 N Victoria St

St Paul, MN 55104

 

Common Roots Café

2558 Lyndale Ave

Uptown, MN 55408

A Trend in Culinary Food Collaborations

In 1917 Grand Central Market in Los Angeles, CA opened on Broadway in downtown and served as a main place for companies along the business and entertainment corridor to obtain a meal from local vendors.  It’s been over 100 years and it still reflects the changes to the populations of the downtown area.  This collaboration of vendors made up of florists, butchers, fishmongers, bakers …etc, are now what we call a food hall.

Whether you choose to call it a market place, a bazaar, or social gathering spot, food halls have become an effective way for those in the food industry to work together to engage more with the communities they are in.   Unlike any fad venture that is short-lived and novelty driven, businesses creating a market type collaborative maintain a longer life span, and only get stronger over time.

Growing up in Los Angeles in the late 1970’s, my parents would often take us downtown to shop for school clothes and things for the house. I remember that as a kid, it seemed every building was a towering structure that I would strain my neck in an effort to see the top.  There were vendors always selling postcards, clothing, and other touristy trinkets. But I believe our excitement as children grew as we stopped in Grand Central Market after shopping the majority of the day.

The scent of fish, meats, and of different vegetables within the market place was fascinating!   Yet nothing could compare to the food that was being prepared with ingredients being exchanged between vendors.  Mexican, American, Chinese cuisines.  Some foods that I’m certain my parents weren’t familiar with.  But often times we were there because particular spices or ingredients for a dish they were about to make, couldn’t be found at the grocery store and only found there.  We were always glad when Mommy and Daddy were ready to leave though, because it was our chance to get a taco, a doughnut or some ice cream. Being there made you feel like you were involved with the downtown vibe.  There was always some new food to see or aroma that made you hungry.

Even though it’s origin was not American based, the concept has truly taken hold.  Vendors of these food collaborations are focusing not only on providing familiar and unique foods, but offering someplace where people are able to gather together in a social setting, building relationships, and where community and cultural events may be attended.  We see the success in this concept with the establishing of Midtown Global Market in 2006, which has become a place that culinary flavors from across the globe can be found.

Still, the interest for these types of collaborations is growing.  The Lowertown neighborhood of St Paul welcomed Market House Collaborative with vendors such as Peterson’s Meats (butcher), Salty Tart (pastries), and Octo Fish Bar (seafood).  In the upcoming new year, watch for the opening of new food halls like Keg and Case in the Schmidt’s Brewing building in St Paul, and Malcom Yards Market in the Prospect Park neighborhood.

Want to visit a casual place that has a collective of food professionals creating dishes for a market-inspired café?  Check out the Lynhall (www.thelynhall.com) where you can get rotisserie meats, baked goods, coffee, or even learn to make a specific dish.  On my recent visit I thoroughly enjoyed the Pork Belly Benny (pictured) and their Tres Leches Cake.  The eggs benedict style included a melt in your mouth savory slice of pork belly, with a corn salsa or slaw.  I saw this beautiful pastry within their display by the register and indulged a bit.  It was moist, with whipped cream dollop peaks all in different colors, and garnished with what seemed like salted-caramel pearls.  Great place to people watch or make a new friend as you dine at one of the many long communal seating areas.

LynHall – Pork Belly Benny

Take A Break at Fika !

I’ve never had any form of Swedish style cuisine, and yesterday’s early lunch didn’t disappoint!

Fika, the Nordic-inspired café created by the American Swedish Institute inside the Nelson Cultural Center, offers comfort foods from the early start of the day.  My co-workers and I enjoyed items from the menu that included  seasoned meatballs, gravlax, and braised rabbit.

The cafe serves espresso and pastries as well as seasonal items.  Lunch is available from Tuesday to Sunday from 11am -3pm, and Wednesdays from 11am-8pm  (a happy hour entitled ‘After Work Wednesdays’, 3pm-8pm)

Fika

2600 Park Avenue

Minneapolis, MN 55407

http://www.fikacafe.net

Fika Cafe – Meatballs
Fika Cafe – Gravlax
Fika Cafe – Braised Rabbit