Last Thursday evening, my cousin Alexandra and I attended our first North Coast Nosh. We had been looking forward to attending this event since Heavy Table and The Minnesota Historical Society released tickets in December. The event sold out and the lobby was packed with others like us who were excited to celebrate native food traditions. This particular North Coast Nosh was curated by The Sioux Chef Sean Sherman who’s creating a lot of momentum and interest in native food traditions and producers. He’s in the process of opening a restaurant in Minnesota that focuses on pre-colonial, Native American cuisine and its techniques, both traditional and modern. In this Heavy Table interview, Sherman states:
A culture without food is a lost culture. I think it’s extremely important to bring back some of this knowledge, this food, and to be able to serve it in a modern context that everyone can appreciate.
At seven p.m., the doors to the Nosh opened and we streamed into the Minnesota History Center. Powerful drumming echoed throughout the building.
Vendors were located on all three levels of the history center. Many served samples of food showcasing Native American ingredients or techniques and others displayed artwork.
I have to admit Alex and I lost track of time. We were having so much fun visiting with the purveyors that we missed some of the presentations. However, we arrived in time to hear Chef Lenny Russo of Heartland Restaurant encourage attendees to advocate for the food they want to eat with their pocketbooks and Chef Sherman touch on how Native American food traditions nourish our bodies and the earth. Sherman coordinated about 20 purveyors. Here are some of the foods we tasted:
Refreshing black bean, sweet potato and wild rice salad from Dream of Wild Health, a Native-owned organic farm in Hugo, MN. They even provided their recipe.
A sweet potato cake with a creamy cheese topping from Mississippi Market Co-op.
Duck confit tacos with salsa diablo, pipian sauce, pickled vegetables, and cotija cheese from Harriet Brasserie located in Minneapolis, MN. At the event, people kept telling us to try these duck tacos. The meat was tender and the flavors were so memorable, I wasn’t surprised to see it appear in last week’s Heavy Table Hot Five. You can still order these from Harriet Brasserie’s regular menu.
We sipped Spirit Lake Native Farms pure maple syrup and enjoyed tiny slices of cake made from wild rice flour. This purveyor was located next to Fabulous Catering who served little cheese-stuffed burgers on wild rice buns and blueberry tarts. My cousin encouraged me to try dipping the burger into the maple syrup which made for a perfect sweet and savory combination. Neither of us never keep enough maple syrup on our homes, because we love adding it to our coffee.
A sparkling maple candy (feel free to leave a comment if you know who provided these).
Buffalo meat Tanka Bars. I first learned about Tanka bars while studying herbal medicine in Minneapolis because many of the herbalists ate them. If someone was hungry, someone usually had a Tanka Bar in their pocket. My favorite flavor is Spicy Pepper that’s flecked with sweet, dried cranberries. Unlike typical beef jerky, these bars are meatier and more tender. The company’s Tanka Fund supports the return of buffalo to Great Plains Native American communities.
Hot Cedar Maple Tea from Dinner on the Farm/WonderGather. I’ve never tasted tea like this. It reminded me of the essence of a Christmas tree.
Smoked fish spread from Red Lake Fishery. We had a lot of fun talking to Robert Blake whose passion and enthusiasm for the fishery’s products stuck with us. The fish are sustainably wild-caught by tribal fisherman and filleted by hand. Red Lake Fishery ships fish to both restaurants and homes.
We tasted many other foods and made new friends with our table mates. I wish I had taken a better photo of Sherman’s incredible bean soup with maple braised turkey. I’m not exaggerating when I say it was the best bean soup I’ve ever eaten.
As someone who is not very knowledgable about Native American food traditions, I’m thankful for this opportunity to learn, taste, and connect. Sherman’s business The Sioux Chef also offers catering and pop-up dining opportunities.