Monday, June 19, 2017

1031 Ways to Enjoy Minnesota Summers

Phyllis Louise Harris
June 2017

My first job other than babysitting was picking raspberries for 5 cents a pint. At age 13 this was a big deal because my weekly allowance was 50 cents.  On a good day I could earn $1.20 for four hours of picking and while the season lasted only a few weeks it was still more money than I had ever earned. The best part of the job was at the end of the season the grower allowed pickers to keep the berries they picked and I could sell them for 30 cents a pint! My grandmother canned a lot of raspberries that year and I had never felt so rich.

While the prices have changed, the opportunities for picking your own raspberries abound in Minnesota. Not only raspberries but also strawberries, blueberries, peas, beans, tomatoes, apples, and a variety of home grown produce and locally made products. But those are only a few of the opportunities available from local growers and producers. You can even stomp grapes in the fall at some wineries if that is your wish or how about popping corn right off the cob.

In fact, Minnesota has more than 1031 places to enjoy homegrown food and locally made products all carefully catalogued in this year’s Minnesota Grown Directory. It is free to you from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture at www.minnesotagrown.com .

If picking your own food sounds like too much work visit any of the state’s 180 farmer’s markets where everything is already freshly picked just waiting for you to take home. They are open all over the state featuring strawberries, peas, beans, greens, mushrooms, flowers and so much more. Next month it will be blueberries, raspberries, corn and tomatoes. Then apples, pumpkins and fall root vegetables.

One of my favorite local markets is the Mill City Market next to the Guthrie Theater open Saturday mornings with a wide variety of produce, products, entertainment and educational programs. Visit the museum next door and take a tour of the flourmill. It is a real eye-opener. Another Saturday morning favorite is the Northeast Market on University Avenue and 7th NE. It is small, easy to walk through and has a wide variety of choices. The Minneapolis and St. Paul Farmers Markets are always packed with shoppers so I like going to the smaller ones for easier access. Or check out the markets across the state. You might also plan a trip or two to the 41 wineries in the state or the 600 vineyards growing special Minnesota grapes for award-winning wine. Want to live on a farm for a few days? You can with farmstays.

You never know what you will find once you start looking around and that is really the best part. One Saturday at the St. Cloud Farmers Market I found a beautiful bunch of sweet peas, a flower I had not seen since I was a child. The unmistakable perfume was a wonderful reminder of the past and of course I had to buy them and take them home.

So from Ada to Zumbrota travel the state and enjoy the wonderful, bountiful beauty of  Minnesota homegrown everything! Or just stay home and check out local markets. Happy summer!!

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Read more about Asian food in Minnesota and try more than 160 recipes in Asian Flavors: Changing the Tastes of Minnesota since 1875, in bookstores and on amazon.cm.

Buy online: Asian Flavors: Changing the Tastes of Minnesota since 1875

Watch the EMMY® award winning “Asian Flavors” television show based on the book on tpt MN. Check local TV listings for broadcast times or view the show streaming online at:


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Sunday, May 7, 2017

“Best” Asian Restaurants

Phyllis Louise Harris
May 2017

Yet another best restaurant list has arrived. This time from City Pages with a list including Asian restaurants they consider “best.” Of the more than 9000 restaurants in Minnesota about 1100 feature Asian food so this list represents just a few selections. While one person’s best may be another person’s worst here are a few the tasters at the paper recommend. I am also including a few of my own favorites.

Best New Restaurant
Young Joni in Northeast Minneapolis. We wrote about this one in February and its exceptional food offered by a Korean chef and certified pizzalola Ann Kim who adds her family’s home cooking to some unusual dishes.

Best Egg Rolls
Pho Tau Bay on East Street in Minneapolis at 28th and Nicollet Avenue. One of my favorites would be Mai Village on University Avenue in St. Paul especially when served on their noodle salad.

Best Chinese
Dumpling at 40th and Minnehaha Avenue in Minneapolis. I would add Shuang Cheng in Dinkytown where my favorite dish is Chicken in Black Bean Sauce on Pan Fried Noodles. And if you are a seafood lover, this is a must try restaurant.

Best Vietnamese
MT Noodles at 84th and Broadway in Brooklyn Park. There are a number of really good choices in this category including Mai Village in St. Paul and Quang Restaurant on Eat Street in Minneapolis.

Best Ramen
Tori Ramen on Victoria in St. Paul.

Best Korean
Sole Cafe on Snelling Avenue in St. Paul. A good choice for a variety of dishes. My favorite is their Bibimbap served in a scorching hot pot creating a crisp, crunchy rice shell holding a variety of bubbling ingredients. Top it with a lightly fried egg and the flavors are more than satisfying.

Best Thai
Thai Café on University Avenue in St. Paul. Supenn Harrison is still a leader in offering Thai cooking to Minnesotans. Her original egg roll booth at the Minnesota State Fair in 1976 offered the state’s first taste of this wonderful cuisine and continues today in her Sawatdee restaurants.

Best Indian
Gorkha Palace on Fourth Street in Northeast Minneapolis.

If I want a taste of my childhood memories of Chinese food I go to David Fong’s in Bloomington for chow mein and egg foo young. For some of the best fusion food I go to Thom Pham’s ThanhDo and enjoy some of the best chicken broth in town surrounding fresh vegetables and tasty dumplings…a meal in a soup bowl. Tanpopo in St. Paul is still one of my favorites for Japanese cooking and Harry Singh’s Original Caribbean Restaurant offers the unusual blend of Indian, Chinese and the island cooking of Trinidad and Tobago on East Street. From hot sauce to jerk chicken to roti to chow mein it is truly a world of fusion food. And we have yet to mention the food of Sri Lanka, Himalayas, Malaysia, Philippine Islands, Hmong, Tibet, and Cambodia all here to enjoy.


What was once the home of Middle American, bland food, Minnesota has become a place that welcomes and supports the tastes of the world. What a nice change!


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Read more about Asian food in Minnesota and try more than 160 recipes in Asian Flavors: Changing the Tastes of Minnesota since 1875, in bookstores and on amazon.cm.

Buy online: Asian Flavors: Changing the Tastes of Minnesota since 1875

Watch the EMMY® award winning “Asian Flavors” television show based on the book on tpt MN. Check local TV listings for broadcast times or view the show streaming online at:


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Monday, March 13, 2017

Murray’s…decades of the best!

Phyllis Louise Harris
March 2017

There are more than 9,000 licensed restaurants in Minnesota. This month Mpls/StPaul magazine lists 50 as its “best” choices. That leaves more than 8950 restaurants that were not mentioned and some of them are my favorites.

I have favorites for a variety for reasons, but Murray’s has been on my “best” list for more than 57 years. It has been around even longer. Opened in 1933 in North Minneapolis, the Red Feather was the first restaurant run by Art Murray and his wife Marie. In 1939, they moved it to the Russell Hotel on 4th Street in downtown Minneapolis then in 1946 to 6th street off Nicollet Avenue and called it Murray’s Steakhouse. Here they took over a space once occupied by the Chinese restaurant Hankow Café that touted itself as the “finest and largest Oriental café in the Northwest.” That was interesting because it was just two doors down from John’s Place, the first and one of the most popular Chinese restaurants in the state.

Murray’s soon became a favorite of businessmen, visiting notables, sports legends, judges and lawyers for lunch and at night a place to eat, drink and dance to the music of the Murray’s Orchestra. In the 1950s it was a favorite afternoon luncheon choice for ladies who were also treated to fashion shows while dining. It was a time when ladies wore fussy hats and kid gloves anytime they went downtown.

I started going to Murray’s in 1960 when I was working in advertising and taking clients to lunch. Marie understood the difficulties of a woman working in a man’s world especially when the check came to the table. To eliminate the awkward situation when most men felt obliged to pick up the check, Marie opened a house account for me so I never had to deal with a check at the table again.  It was simply added to my account along with a decent tip and I paid the bill at the end of the month.

Over the years Murray’s won numerous dining awards including the Silver Butter Knife award for its outstanding steak. In the 1980s it was named as the source of America’s most perfectly cooked steaks. When I moved to New York in 1974 friends would take me to a variety of steakhouses and each one was simply not as good a Murray’s. Not the Palm. Not Peter Luger’s. Not a single one! And while my husband (a native New Yorker) publicly tolerated my allegiance to Murray’s quality, he privately agreed it was the best.

So what makes Murray’s so good? Quality food, outstanding cooking, consistent, friendly management, and an atmosphere of caring about customers. But most of all it is the delicious food year after year. Among my favorites are small steaks, au gratin potatoes, Caeser salad with house dressing, fresh raspberry pie, and, of course, Murray’s garlic toast. So many of the recipes date back decades and are still secret. If you are not a particular Murray, you do not get to see the recipe, and believe me I have tried.

Gone are the Murray’s Orchestra and the dance floor in the center of the dining room. Gone are Art and Marie and later their son Pat. Gone are the fashion show luncheons. But still here, still thriving, still serving some of the best food in the country are third generation Murrays who truly understand what “best” means in the restaurant business.  Thanks Tim, Jill and James Murray for continuing a tradition your grandparents and father so successfully carried on. We need restaurants like Murray’s to remind us what exceptional dining is all about.

(For more of the Murray’s story go to www.murraysrestaurant.com . Also take a look at their menu. If you really want the “best” hamburger in town, try Murray’s! And, so you don’t think I forgot this is a column about Asian food, try their Crispy Asian Chicken salad – not really Asian, but it has a few Asian ingredients and for a steak house that’s close enough.)
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Read more about Asian food in Minnesota and try more than 160 recipes in Asian Flavors: Changing the Tastes of Minnesota since 1875, in bookstores and on amazon.cm.

Buy online: Asian Flavors: Changing the Tastes of Minnesota since 1875

Watch the EMMY® award winning “Asian Flavors” television show based on the book on tpt MN. Check local TV listings for broadcast times or view the show streaming online at:


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Saturday, February 4, 2017

Nordeast pizza with a Korean accent

Phyllis Louise Harris
February 2017

When Korean native Ann Kim opened her third restaurant she chose a spot in Northeast Minneapolis, home of pubs and meat and potato menus that was originally settled by northern European immigrants. Nordeast, as it is sometimes called, is more bratwurst than sushi, more frame houses than high-rises, more beer than cosmopolitans.  Yet somehow Young Joni seems to fit in well with its own touch of international flavors.

It has been six years since Ann and her partner Conrad Keifur opened their first restaurant in south Minneapolis and brought a new look to Twin Cities pizza with Pizzeria Lola. A certified pizzaiola, Ann created a thin crust pizza, topped it with a variety of old and new flavors including kimchi and baked it in a wood-burning oven. In Young Joni she continues this menu of more than a dozen pizzas including some with an Asian flare including Korean BBQ and soy chili and Umami Mama with a variety of mushrooms and nori. The menu also includes Korean Beef Short Ribs and Kimchi. One dish I especially enjoyed was Grilled Treviso and Beets with leafy Treviso, smoky blue cheese, hazelnuts, and beets in charred shallot vinaigrette. The variety of flavors and textures makes it exceptional. Another was Grilled Confit Mushrooms in chestnut miso butter. The sauce was so good we kept the plate with the remains to use as a dipping sauce for pizza pieces.

Ann took more than a year creating the atmosphere for Young Joni resulting in the feeling of a chalet that would be at home in the Alps or Aspen. The vaulted ceiling and large glass-surround entrance make it inviting and the large bar at one side of the room with plenty of seating space offers a change from individual tables. Sit with a group? Sit alone? Your choice!  There is also a separate bar with a separate entrance for those folks who are looking for a quiet drink in a quiet, homey atmosphere.

By the way, the restaurant is named after Ann’s mother Young Kim and Conrad’s mother Joni, the partners’ first cooking teachers. Cocktails are special, too, with the creative touch of Adam Gorski, formerly of La Belle Vie.

Young Joni is closed on Monday. Hours are Tuesday – Thursday 4 -11 pm, Friday 4 pm -12 am, Saturday 12 pm  – 12 am, Sunday 12 pm – 10 pm. It is at 165 13th Avenue NE, Minneapolis. Phone is 612-345-5719.

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Read more about Asian food in Minnesota and try more than 160 recipes in Asian Flavors: Changing the Tastes of Minnesota since 1875, in bookstores and on amazon.cm.

Buy online: Asian Flavors: Changing the Tastes of Minnesota since 1875

Watch the EMMY® award winning “Asian Flavors” television show based on the book on tpt MN. Check local TV listings for broadcast times or view the show streaming online at:


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