Hey! Look at us gettin’ all inspired.


I am probably the luckiest girl in the world. I don’t mean to be, I just am. I’m friends with several of the best chefs in Minnesota.  Not only are they great cooks, but they have created philosophies and ways of doing thing which makes each them completely unique and wonderful.  To top that off they even love to teach, which means that I get to call them up and say, “Hey, what’s on your mind?  Anything you want to share with some of my favorite cooks?”

When I asked my friend Scott Graden, owner/chef of the award winning New Scenic Cafe in Duluth that question and he answered, “Inspiration is everywhere and it’s so much more important than recipes and ingredients.  I’d like to talk about that.”  In my head I shouted, “woo hoo!”  Then we chatted and brainstormed on how to go about doing a workshop on inspiration, came up with a plan and that he promptly forgot.

I, however, did not.  It turns out that the things that inspire him most are the people and the land around him. Hence, on our weekend in Duluth we got to meet with Stephen Dahl his herring fisherman and David Rogotzke his maple syrup maker and salmon fisherman.

It really was the best adult field trip for cooks ever.


We started off the day at the New Scenic Cafe where Scott was kind enough to talk to us about his experiences as a restaurant owner and chef. He went over where everything came from, how it happened and why he made the decisions he did.  He gave us an amazing insight into the tenacity and drive he had to bring the Cafe to what it is today.  (This included living in the garage for 5 years.)


The cooks drank some wine, asked Scott questions and tried not to shiver too much.



Daily self portrait reflected in the kitchen of the Scenic Cafe.


Superior… uh, dingy?  This is the boat that Steve fishes from.


Steve Dahl, Superior fisherman tells us about the practice and politics of fishing on Lake Superior.  It turns out that most of the state’s policies on fishing rights are crafted for sport fisherman who don’t account for nearly as much revenue on the lakes or care for them as the commercial fisherman.  Even though Steve has to fight all the time, he still considers himself lucky to be able to go out onto Lake Superior and fish everyday.


The folks getting to try Dave Rogotzke‘s maple butter and salmon.



Dave takes us for a tour of his sugar maple farm.  He tells us all about the practices he employs for the long life and care of his trees.  He considers himself to be a steward of the land that he’s lucky enough to get to work with and he wants to protect it as much as he can.


I think Kyndell wants her own syrup house.


Welcome Troop #9!


David explains the rest of the syrup making process, from reduction to bottling.


Then we went picked up a couple of mystery containers of food from the Scenic and went back to the condo for some cooking.  This was our view.  Yea!


Team chicken roll-up hanging with their ingredients.


The offering from Mark and I.  Grapes stuffed with blue cheese and served with Canadian bacon.  All you need to do is cut a conical shape out of the top of a grape with a paring knife, stuff it with some blue cheese and then present it with some warm, cooked Canadian bacon (or regular bacon for that matter) on a stick of some kind.  We served ours on a fork with the instruction to keep the fork safe, as it’s the only one folks were getting for the evening.


Pork tenderloin from Team Zen – The base of the sauce was red peppers and onions sauteed in olive oil and then simmered in chicken broth with mashed garlic, brown sugar, ginger, soy sauce, sirracha, cilantro, salt and pepper.  Once the ingredients were softened they were pulverized in a blender to make the sauce for the pork, which was pan roasted in some olive oil.


Someone is stabbing at the fabulous goat cheese chicken rolls.   Jeff took a couple of chicken breasts pounded them flat(ish) with a small frying pan.  (It was totally awesome.)  He then spread a mixture of goat cheese mixed with, freshly grated parmesan cheese, chopped basil, garlic, salt and pepper.  Then he rolled them up, secured them with twine and roasted for about 30 minutes under a 375 degree oven.


Yoon Hee decided to make some crostini sandwiches.  slice up some bread, slicing through every other slice, and rubbed garlic on them and spread salted butter in between.  Then she baked them in a 375 degree oven for 10 – 15 minutes flipping them once to brown them up.


Team reduction hard at work.


Team Reduction gave us this dish of roasted pork tenderloin and yukon gold potato with a reduction sauce made from home made broth, red wine, mushrooms, currents and other stuff Kyndell’s going to have to tell you about because I don’t remember.  They also served up some collard greens cooked in the same broth with some butter.


The happiest addition of all: crusty bread spread with goat cheese and sliced strawberries let to sit in sugar.  It was a nouveau strawberry shortcake.  I loved it.

And that was our weekend.  If you would like to join us for future events: join usOr you can play along at home by visiting our blog.

Love always,



6 thoughts on “Hey! Look at us gettin’ all inspired.

  1. Since I ran into you, at Mark’s Xmas party a couple of years ago, I’ve been keeping up with your cooking exploits here and now through Twitter and CookingMN. I signed up ages ago for the group and have yet to get to an event. I really wish I’d made time for this one – it looks like it was incredible! I’ll be at the Walker Tour de Farm event, so I’ll look for you there…

  2. This looks fantastic, really interesting and inspiring, with loads of great pictures. Next time you plan one, can you take me along? 🙂

  3. Yes! I’m super impressed with/excited by all the work you’ve been doing – looking forward to catching up with you sometime.

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