Up this week: FDC dines at Heirloom in St. Paul and newcomer Andrew (“The J”) writes his first web log (“blog” in fancy parlance) entry about eating. Well, I’ve got over 27 years of eating experience so this should be a piece of cake (ba dum tss).
Heirloom’s vibe is “modern farm” and right off the bat we agreed we wouldn’t mind living on this kind of farm. It’s welcoming and lit by energy-efficient light bulbs covered by mason jars. It also serves delicious food with modern twists and ingredients so fresh you half-expect they’re growing right out the back door.
It’s not a future farm.
It’s not a moisture farm.
It’s a modern farm, like this.
Tonight, the Fancy Dinner Club was one big, happy Modern Farmily.
As punishment for being the last to arrive, I had to sit in the tiny chair, much to the delight of the rest of the group. It was just about impossible to rest comfortably against the back of this chair. It felt like a throwback (hurtback, amirite?) to the “old-fashioned farm” era where you ate nails for breakfast and walked to school uphill both ways.
So you could say I was on the edge of my seat the whole night (ba dum tss). Of course, turns out Heirloom’s outstanding food will do that to anybody, tiny chair or not. Each dish consistently surprises and delights. It’s farm food made fun, fresh, and fancy – you won’t want to miss a bite. Let’s get to the menu.
A few initial reactions from first glance at the menu. #1: we’re definitely going to need to see what makes those vegetables so “interesting”. #2: meat pie, sold. We chuckled that the only “pie” on a “modern farm” menu was of the meat variety, not dessert variety. Well, don’t worry – the meat pie lived up to the hype and Heirloom had plenty of other mouth-watering desserts.
Side note: thumbs up on the solid beer list. I opted for a dragon’s milk stout (a Drew favorite as well) which apparently comes with complimentary gentle ribbing from the entire group (“11% ABV, think you can handle that!?”, etc.).
So, up first from menu Section 1, we ordered ocean trout pastrami, ricotta gnocchi, and bread (x2).
The trout pastrami was very tender. There’s no de-bait – it was reel good, troutstanding even. Now I love smoked salmon (Russ Kendall’s Smoke House up on the north shore comes to mind, so good) but trout pastrami was a first for me. It was brined, smoked to perfection, and served with pickled onions and big dollops of whipped horseradish. Protip: use the horseradish sparingly to savor this trout unlike a Filet-O-Fish which can be slathered in tartar sauce until you can’t pick it (or yourself) up. It was a great starter, though, and we managed to share the dish without incident. It didn’t turn into a Subway commerical with 2v2 tug-of-war across the table and somebody screaming “trout pastram-ME!”
The ricotta gnocchi was fantastic. These little nuggets remind me of cheese curds at the State Fair except they’re saucy, not deep-fried, taste better, and you get to enjoy them without sweating profusely into your Sweet Martha’s bucket. So… very different, I guess. We had a tiny moment of doubt about doubling up on bread (a sourdough wedge and dinner roll) but it vanished once we realized how well it absorbed the gnocchi sauce. In the event your gnocchi plate is already licked clean, the bread comes with kefir butter. Kefir is a bitter-tasting yogurt milk drink that is trending toward #superfoodstatus. So aw yea, load up on kefir butter, it’s healthy! Oh wait, that’s kefir, not kefir butter which tasted rich and creamy but not dramatically different than normal butter. Ultimately, it didn’t matter – spreading kefir butter lost out to the convenience of one-handed bread dunks in the gnocchi sauce.
Up next from menu Section 2 – black pudding, interesting vegetables, and meat pie.
Let’s cut straight to the “interesting” vegetables first. Our server explained the vegetables were “interesting” because which vegetables and how they’re prepared are chosen by random by the kitchen. Cool! If Family Guy taught us anything, it’s that you always go with the mystery box (which could even be a boat!) so we had zero reservations playing vegetable roulette. What did we win? A colorful mix of brussel sprouts (always a big FDC fave), onions, zucchini, and more all grilled up to perfection and coated with butter… foam. Yea, maybe somebody misheard “modern foamhouse” from the back of the kitchen but it worked really well. If anything could be tweaked with this dish it might be the adjective. As FDC rookie, I got a quick lecture explaining how FDC traditionally associates “interesting” with a negative connotation and “intriguing” with a positive connotation. After a few bites, however, everybody agreed these veggies were an exception to the rule. Interesting, intriguing, intrigestceptionalextraordinastic – they’re just mighty good. Also, it’s pretty great we’re at a point in our lives where randomly prepared veggies is exciting and not considered the food equivalent of socks on your birthday.
The black pudding was really, really great. The thinly sliced pickled apple slices provided a pleasant tartness that didn’t overpower each delicious, crumbly, oaty, meaty bite. Our server was happy to walk us through the differences between black pudding and blood sausage, too. He explained how the black pudding starts by grinding up pork, oats, and a little blood then cooking it like a meatloaf. It’s then removed from the pan, seared on both sides, sliced up, and promptly devoured by the lucky diners who order it. Blood sausage, on the other hand, is less meatloaf-y and more sausage-y (ok, makes sense) with more blood. Yea, blood as a primary ingredient might be a little off-pudding but this is absolutely worth trying.
And how about that meat pie we were so excited about? Excellent! First, the presentation was adorable. Second, cutting four equal portions of this crispy vertical vessel of meat was challenging, particulary the interlaced lid even after it was removed. It’s worth the extra effort, though. Watching the slow-roasted pork tumble into a big delicious pool of mustard is very satisfying. This dish is one of Heirloom’s most popular and for good reason. The mix of pork (smoky/savory), green tomatos (juicy), raisins (sweet), and mustard (spicy) was fantastic. Chris, however, got an unusually concentrated dose of extra spicy mustard but powered through. Chris vs. Mustard, Andrew vs. Tiny Chair – a lot of good matchups tonight, I should’ve recorded it for UFC FDC inaugural fight night ($59.99 pay-per-view).
And up last from menu Section 3 – roast chicken, seed and grain porridge, brisket, and pork jowl.
The roast chicken tasted like the kind of hearty dish you’d crave after a long hard day on the farm. Now this is a “modern farm” so a long hard day might mean you just hyperextended your arm in pursuit of the perfect #swineselfie with Wilbur. That said, the chicken was juicy and moist with thick, crispy skin. It also sat on a big helping of potato puree (I guess you don’t “mash” on the modern farm, you “puree”) with veggies. This was tasty, filling, classic meat-and-potatoes done very, very right.
The seed and grain porridge was the only dish of the night that didn’t blow us away after being spoiled by so many other great dishes. We certainly liked the seedy, crunchy texture and porridge lovers (looking at you, Goldilocks) might love it. We simply would’ve welcomed a few stronger and contrasting flavors. If anything, the biggest disappointment was filming the poached egg on top get cut and baaaaarely ooze out in 240 FPS slo-mo video. I mean, come on. Did we still eat every bit of it, though? Oh yea. This was a B+/A- dish in a meal of solid As and we were still glad we tried it.
The brisket was solid. It slowly broke apart with the slightest pressure of the knife which is always a good sign. Not quite as juicy as the roast chicken but lean and flavorful. Nobody had a beef with this dish and we happily put the brisket in the [om nom nom] basket (aka mouth).
The pork jowl absolutely hit the spot. No cheeky comments here – just that it could’ve held up on its own but the sweet potato puree and cranberries turned this into a sweet, saucy, sensational dish.
At this point, we were feeling great. Maybe urban/suburban living is overrated and modern farm living is where it’s at. Not convinced? Try the dessert menu. We made a really tough choice and ordered one of everything – duck egg custard, chocolate cake, and carrot cake.
Here’s the #dessertdeetz – the duck egg custard combined cranberry preserves, oatmeal cake, and merengue. I expected the other desserts to wow the most but this one turned out to be the group’s favorite. Creamy, sweet, smooth, fruity, a little crunchy – it will satisfy any sweet tooth without making you feel too guilty for indulging a bit.
The chocolate cake was incredibly dense and served with pecans and sweet potato ganache. If this is the kind of cake you get on your birthday on a “modern farm”, sign me up. It also came with maple semifreddo which did not disappoint like certain Corleone family members.
Lastly, the carrot cake was extra tangy, just as dense as the chocolate cake, and topped by rich cream cheese frosting. Overall, it’s a really spectacular, well-rounded dessert menu. Go for the custard or chocolate cake if you’re limiting yourself to one but understand there’s no shame in letting loose to try all three. Personally, my ideal “modern farm” would prioritize all the ingredients needed to sustain this dessert menu – it was really that good.
So, to wrap up, Heirloom was absolutely fantastic. Food off this “modern farm” sure is delicious. The guy who dropped off our desserts proudly exclaimed “gorgeous, gorgeous, boom” and that’s a pretty dang good summary of our entire visit. Or maybe that was me after we ordered desserts muttering to myself “engorge us, engorge us, [until my stomach goes] boom”? Either way, I’d bet the farm you’ll get a great meal at Heirloom.
Hello again dear readers, and welcome to yet another wonderful edition of Fancy Bathroom Chris.
I’ve talked a lot how the best fancy bathrooms need to fit the general oeuvre of the restaurant as a whole.
Heirloom bills itself as “modern farmhouse” cuisine, something we were all curious about. What is modern farmhouse cuisine? Isn’t that just normal cuisine, as modern farmhouses have modern things like the internet and ovens and running water and cowbots?
What they should have said was: “It’s modern farmhouse cuisine – go take a look at our bathrooms and you’ll understand.”
Heirloom’s bathroom(s) exude the modern farmhouse aesthetic that their food strives for (and accomplishes, if I may say so myself!). Nice rustic touches like wooden accents mesh seamlessly with modern stainless steel offerings to provide a current-but-traditional vibe.
Art on the walls, always a favorite, makes you feel like you’re looking at ads from the sides of 1960s fruit trucks, but the understated reed diffuser on the table next to the sink is anything but vintage.
I don’t have any photos of Heirloom’s second bathroom, but it was equally pleasing. It was decorated differently, even so far as different color schemes, but it also managed to get the modern farmhouse feel across.
I’m not sure if I’ve given any 5/5 flush reviews yet, but if not then let this one be the first. Heirloom’s bathrooms perfectly encapsulate the feeling the whole restaurant was trying to go for. The bathroom actually adds to the dining experience, honestly. Go to Heirloom. Go to the bathroom. Do it.