Category: North Dakota Bloggers

An Epic Food Crawl With Marilyn Hagerty

I never expected that, “Oh my goodness, more drinks?” would be a recurring thought running through my head on Thursday evening. 

The 2013 North Dakota Writers and Bloggers Workshop hosted by the North Dakota Department of Commerce June 6-7th was propelled by a food crawl through downtown Bismarck with Marilyn Hagerty. Our plan was to wander to a few of her favorite restaurants in downtown Bismarck and mingle over tasting menus. No one, not even the event’s organizers, predicted the extent to which the restaurants rolled out their red carpets.

Last spring, when Hagerty’s earnest review of The Olive Garden in Grand Forks went viral, I might have had some snarky things to say. But I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and I didn’t like what I saw. I had become the very thing I despised the most in other foodies. Pretentious. The Olive Garden review was my first introduction to Hagerty’s THE EATBEAT column published in the Grand Forks Herald and I’ve looked forward to reading it each week, ever since. 

Wednesday is EATBEAT day and it’s the first thing I enjoy with my coffee in the morning. I’ve read Hagerty’s reviews from years ago in addition to those written during the past year and appreciate how they range from chain restaurants to small town cafes to Le Bernadin. They’re concise and never boring. By the time she appeared as a guest judge on Top Chef Season 10: Seattle, this new North Dakotan felt like a real North Dakotan and cheered on our hometown hero.

On this evening, we began at Pirogue Grille and enjoyed a four-course tasting menu created by proprietors, Chef Stewart and Cheryl Tracy. We got acquainted over baskets of crusty bread with soft butter, rhubarb cocktails, and smoky red wine, followed by beet salad, venison sausage and a walleye cake, and a rosy slice of bison. Many of us were tickled pink to taste our first morel and then there was dessert that thrilled even me, who typically prefers salty over sweet. 

A silky ball of ice cream coated in crunchy nougat floated in a boat of rhubarb soup. It was Willy Wonka whimsical and filled me with glee. I’ve never tasted anything like it and have come to accept I probably never will.

From Pirogue Grille, we wandered to Peacock Alley and I was nervous to find myself sitting near Marilyn. She graciously answered all of our questions, asked some of her own, and shared stories. Peacock Alley’s tasting menu was as extravagant as its décor. Think newly renovated stained glass windows and billowy tent-like ceilings. I wasn’t surprised to learn it’s popular amongst suited legislators. Our eyes and stomachs bulged upon sight of an eight-course tasting menu complete with drink pairings. 

I won’t try to describe each course, but many contained beef that was every bit as good as their National Food Service Beef Backer award implied. It proudly decorated the middle of our table. I knew I was in trouble when I started feeling full after the first course of Asian Nachos made with crispy wonton chips and beef short ribs. 

After the third, I considered waving my napkin as a white flag. By the final course, I giggled at my collection of drinks ranging from a Bloody Mary to an espresso Martini and managed to push down a frosty, sugarcoated doughnut with the chew of a beignet.

Our walk to Fireflour Pizza felt more like a waddle. Those who attended Fargo’s Street Fair last year may remember Fireflour’s pizza oven. Co-owner Kenny Howard showered us with marinated olives and four of their Neapolitan-style pizzas with airy, blistered crusts. 

They reminded me of the Twin Cities’ popular Punch Pizza, except, dare say, bigger and better? We all stood up and raised our arms, trying to will more room into our stomachs. The evening ended as Howard passed around tiny cups of housemade gelato flavored like salted caramel and lemon.

What had originally been planned as a three-hour food crawl grew into four, and, over the span of a single evening, we left feeling like friends. Extremely full friends. I will always sitting on Fireflour’s sidewalk patio that cool summer evening listening to the trains passing. It was as lovely like Marilyn’s humility and inspiring like her confidence. In fact, I was humbled by the hospitality and warmth I found in the rest of the cohort, as well as the participating restaurants. I think her best piece of advice that evening was simply to be authentic, something that makes writers and non-writers, alike, stand apart. 

North Dakota’s rich with talented writers and bloggers and ripe with stories to tell. Come find us or try your hand at crafting some of your own.

Photo courtesy of ND Dept. of Commerce

You can read Marilyn’s thoughts on the workshop here.

What: Pirogue Grille
Where: 121 North 4th Street, Bismarck
When: Tues-Sat, 5 p.m.-close
What: Peacock Alley
Where: 422 East Main Avenue, Bismarck
When: Mon-Thurs, 11 a.m.-Midnight, Fri, 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Sat, 10 a.m.-1 a.m., Sun, Closed (Kitchen open until 11 p.m. Mon-Sat)
What: Fireflour Pizza
Where: 111 North 5th Street, Bismarck
When: Tues-Thurs, 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri-Sat, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

A Few Blogs I Like

Greetings to you on this happy Friday.

I’d like to take a moment to share a few blogs that have recently crawled onto my reading list. Most of which, I’ve never referred to in my posts. I like reading these blogs because they are fun, authentic, and most importantly, unpretentious. I hope you enjoy.

Road Tips: A Sales Guy’s Guide to Travel, Food, and Music in the Midwest and Beyond – And Much More
This dude’s been everywhere. His work travels have even taken him deep within the depths of the Midwest that I hold near and dear. This includes my old stomping grounds in Iowa, the greater Twin Cities, outstate Minnesota, and the far reaches of North Dakota. He’s dined in St. Cloud, MN, Newton, IA, and Dickinson, ND. I love that.

He’s often in pursuit of the best burgers and explores a wide variety of independent, family-owned restaurants. His reviews are straightforward and frank. I’m always look forward to reading about the next supper club or tavern that he might visit next.

Find him on Twitter at @RoadTips

Smokin’, Chokin’ And Chowing With The King: All Things Food and Sports With Some Sins and Grins Thrown In
This Chicago-based blogger has also explored the outer reaches of Minnesota. I was captivated by his documentation of road trips through Northern Minnesota and along The Great River Road in Wisconsin. He sent me a tweet mentioning that he likes to go up north in the summers. Like the author of Road Tips, he also focuses on independent, family-owned restaurants. Both explore with the spirit of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, minus the obnoxious shtick.

Find him on Twitter at @chibbqking

The Corporate Peon
Katey is a fellow, North Dakotan blogger who shares her life through sassy storytelling that is never, ever, ever boring. No sugar coating here and I find this refreshing.

Find her on Twitter @Katey911

North Dakota Kitchen
You won’t find any sarcasm or sass here. However, you will find that the most wonderful creations come from Shannon’s North Dakota Kitchen. The first page, alone, features homemade cranberry-pomegranate wine and a whimsical cake that looks like a movie theater bag of popcorn. Her photography is lovely and helpful. Plus, she was recently featured in a video produced by the Forum.

Find her on Twitter @shannoniolson

Fat Girl Hedonist: An Honest (Wo)man’s Perspective on Food. Sharing My South Florida Restaurant and Food Adventures
I find myself returning to this South Florida blog. I don’t have a particular connection to South Florida, having only visited Florida a couple times during my childhood. Regardless, I enjoy the author’s down-to-earth and balanced reviews of a diverse array of restaurants. The occasional recipes she tosses in are icing on the cake.

For more blogs I like to read, check out the list located in the column to your right. 

Q & A With North Dakota Food Writers: Food Haunts

I love a good story almost as much as I love good food.

At the TECHmunch conference in Minneapolis, Andrew Zimmern highlighted the importance of pairing good food with compelling stories.  And not just any stories, but those no one’s ever heard before.  When I’m searching for inspiration, I often turn to Chowhound discussion boards.  In my favorite discussion of all time, individuals contribute memories of food haunts they tasted once and haven’t found since.  I am both soothed and exhilarated by reading others’ accounts of foods so ethereal, they remain unforgettable, yet tragically out of reach.  However, they’re all worthy of a lifetime of rediscovery.

I’m constantly inspired by those who participate in the Twin Cities’ vibrant Fortify, A Food Community.  North Dakota’s community of food writers and bloggers may not yet be a force with enough leverage to be invited to restaurant tasting events, but this quickly growing group is compelling in its own right.  Three of my favorite North Dakota food writers join me in sharing their own stories of food haunts in my first Q & A feature.

Check out the North Dakota bloggers community on Facebook or find us on Twitter with the hashtag #NDbloggers. 

I’m often haunted by the food treasures I remember from my childhood and meals I enjoyed from afar.  Now that I live in North Dakota, I’m haunted by my favorite foods from the Twin Cities.  One day, when we leave North Dakota, I’ll be haunted by the foods I am presently taking for granted.I have a love-hate relationship with travel.  I crave exploration to no end, yet am simultaneously terrified by it.  Considering that I may have some manifestation of agoraphobia and become convinced I will face untimely death when I journey away from home, it’s impressive I even made it to China.  After a 12 hour flight, a two hour flight, an evening in a Guangzhou hostel, and an eight hour bus ride, my friend and I landed in Qinzhou.  Twice, my friend took me to a tiny shop where we slurped spicy bowls of noodle soup that cost about 30 US cents.  Rice noodles, fresh greens, pickled vegetables, and fried tofu pouches floated in an atomic red broth.  Although my friend asked the woman to only add a tiny splash of spicy liquid from her bubbling cauldron, my soup was still was so skalding I could only eat in tiny, painful bites.

More recently, I traveled to Puebla with a few friends.  We were spoiled by our proximity to restaurants specializing in Tacos Al Pastor.  This was the real deal.  For Pueblans, making Tacos Al Pastor does not equal throwing raw, marinated meat bits on a grill.  Instead, they roast towering cones of local pork.  These meat cones are then shaved into tacos ready to be topped with pineapple, doused in lime, sprinkled with salt, and drizzled with spicy salsas.  If I am lucky, my life will include opportunities to taste these treasures again, but more realistically, I’ll have to endure the haunting. 

Beth, Rhubarb and Venison
For over a decade now, I have unsuccessfully been trying to replicate the tortilla española that I’d have as a snack in the university cafe during a semester abroad in Spain back in my college years.  Simply known as “tortilla” there, those slices of egg-and-potato omelets carried me through many a long Spanish grammar class.  Since then, I’ve whisked eggs until my arm is stiff; I’ve tried using baked potatoes, boiled potatoes; I’ve fried, broiled and baked; but try as I might, I still have not been able to replicate the lightness and overall deliciousness of those amazing (and amazingly affordable) morsels.  I think another trip to Spain is in order…
Beth Schatz Kaylor is a freelance writer whose work has been published in various regional and national media outlets including Midwest Living magazine.  She writes about rhubarb, venison, and other North Dakota kitchen adventures at

Brianna, Don’t Eat Crap
My husband and I took a trip to Philadelphia for our one year dating anniversary. We had many popular food places on our agenda but little did I know my favorite food would be served at the Philadelphia  Eagles game. Chickie’s & Pete’s world famous Crabfries are amazing. I am a french fry addict so it wasn’t hard to fall in love with these unique fries. The hot and steamy french fries that are crisp on the outside and flaky on the inside makes me weak at the knees. When we were approaching the stadium we overheard a conversation between two gentleman where one man was telling the other he would have to try these fries. He continued with, “They were the best food in the stadium.” I knew instantly I had to have them.

Now Chickie’s & Pete’s Crabfries are unlike anything I’ve ever had. They are served in a round paper bucket with special seasoning. I’d describe it as almost seafood seasoning with a side of gooey white American cheese sauce to dip your fries in. If you are ever in Philadelphia you must try these fries. I secretly want to go back just to taste them again.
Check out Brianna’s blog and follow her on Twitter @donteatcrap.
MeLissa, Fargo-Moorhead Writer, Artist, and Studio Art Instructor 
My haunt is a bit more physical. I seem to have misplaced the most romantic breakfast I’ve ever eaten.When the Cajun Daddies start brewing Sunday’s dinner on Friday, you realize in Louisiana, food is sex. Food is social. Food is life.
A decade ago, I was a food virgin. You know, I ate in equivalence to procreation (versus multiple orgasms).  Then, in 2003, I drank 30 or so pots of piss in a local pub in Australia, spun a globe, and moved to Louisiana. In the heart of Cajun country, slow moss drips down slower trees and the breeze never comes. And the men, they dance, they sing, they tell stories, and most importantly, they do the cookin.’There’s a reason that Eve Ensler herself refers to New Orleans as “North America’s Vagina.” The wide mouth of the surly Mississippi and sweltering swamp summers require industrial strength coffee to combat the lethargy. Though some do give in, sitting on porches, sipping mint and watching the gardens grow. My favorite way to enjoy this heat is the perfect patio brunch.
My first voyage to New Orleans was nothing but magic; it was like perfect Parisian rain, I was staying in a boutique hotel in the French Quarter, it was pre-Katrina, and everything was a feast for my young eyes. After a long night, we asked the gentleman tending the door where to get ‘breakfast.’ His directions were a smiling, “three blocks up this here road, and one blockovah” sort of something. I ordered my first flambéed tableside Bananas Foster. I fell in love with New Orleans. In no time, I was part of the greatest jazz legends, the most tender folks, and the most charismatic food. And countless nights I wandered the Quarter alongside southern belles and drawls; yet ne’er did I find that pink shutter door again.
You can find MeLissa’s art installation at the Moorhead Center Mall and writing in the High Plains Reader where she covers the local food scene, food system, and travel. 

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