Midwest Nest Magazine

Midwest Nest Magazine

Culture, Entertaining, and Home Design

Category: Cuisine

Dakota Vines Vineyard & Winery

Words by Tracy Nicholson / Photography by M.Schleif Photography With life-long careers devoted to education, Deb and Bob Grosz have been planting the seed to pursue a passion outside of…

Words by Tracy Nicholson / Photography by M.Schleif Photography

With life-long careers devoted to education, Deb and Bob Grosz have been planting the seed to pursue a passion outside of the classroom. After 14 years of studying the art of winemaking, their dream would finally become reality in a soybean field near Colfax, North Dakota. On June 15, the Groszes gathered their 5,780 bottles of wine and opened the doors to Dakota Vines Vineyard and Winery. With Crooked Lane Farm neighboring their vineyard from across the river, they may have just created Fargo-Moorhead’s newest day-trip destination.

In their nearly 33 years of marriage, Bob and Deb Grosz had spent much of their lives consumed with the activities of three children and busy careers. Now, empty-nesters, they’ve refocused their spare time and energy into a longtime passion for winemaking. “We are thrilled that our kids and family have been so supportive,” said Deb Grosz. “Our son in L.A. and youngest son from Minneapolis came down for the opening while our oldest daughter who lives in Fargo has been out here helping us. A big reason why we’re doing this is that they were so active and we were so busy when they were younger – it all just comes to a halt when the kids are moved out, it’s a huge change.”

“Some people buy a sports car and we just took a hobby and turned it into a business,” laughed Bob Grosz.

Turn at the Wine Barrel
Just off of I-29 near rural Colfax, you can’t miss Dakota Vine’s cedar wine barrel sign. Built by Bob Grosz and his friend, Todd Johnson, the two created an inviting backdrop for the custom metal logo by Red River Metal Art.

On the Grow
Starting with an at-home winemaking kit, Bob Grosz became enthralled with all aspects of the science and process behind the wine. “We had some grapes that were frozen, some from Washington and some from California and we continued to work with that,” said Bob Grosz. “Then, we met Rodney Hogen at Red Trail Vineyard in Buffalo and I started working with him. The only thing I asked was that I get to take some of the grapes with me after I’d help him prune or harvest. About three years ago, we decided this was something we wanted to pursue, so I’ve been working on earning a degree in Enology, or winemaking. It’s a two-year associates degree through the VESTA program (vesta-usa.org) with classes offered through various universities and all of them require some type of a practicum. I’ve been in wineries across Minnesota and Wisconsin, along with lab work in Cleveland. We decided that if this is what we wanted to do, we had better be good at it before we take that next step.”

True North Dakota Wines
Since their vines are newly planted and won’t produce for three years, the couple has been sourcing their grapes from other vineyards and the University of Minnesota. “We will only offer wines from grapes that can be grown right here in North Dakota,” said Deb Grosz. “You won’t find a Cabernet, Merlot or Chardonnay here because those grapes don’t grow in this climate. So, even though we could have used any grape we wanted this time, we still wanted our wines to reflect what can actually be produced in North Dakota.”

“For our licensing, by year five we have to be using 50% North Dakota product, but our goal is to get there much faster. Our hope is that more local vineyards will open and start growing so that we can buy more local product,” said Bob Grosz.

Tasting Room
To kick off their opening summer, Dakota Vines is offering two spectacular reds, two whites and three fruit wines in apple, pear and plum varietals. For those who prefer their hops over grapes, the tasting room will also feature locally-made craft beers from Fargo Brewing Company and other local breweries.

In the tasting room, the Groszes offer guests small glimpses of their personal life, infusing the space with rustic and schoolhouse elements in cozy, country surroundings. “With both of us being educators, we thought school chairs were appropriate,” said Deb Grosz. “We found the barn door and school chairs at Habitat Restore. We just wanted to pull it all together and make it reflect our life.”

Bob Grosz designed and drew-up the entire winery, working closely with Wahpeton, N.D., contractor, Matt Kinneberg. Kinneberg was able to repurpose the Grosz’s old fence boards to create the focal point above the fireplace and the beams in the ceiling.

“It’s so much fun to be at this point now – we had this in our imagination and now to see it is amazing,” said Deb Grosz. “My step-dad, Duane Radeck, actually built the bar and wine storage for us. We wanted the traditional wine x’s. He and my mom, Carolyn, have been very helpful and they didn’t miss a single work session for bottling.”

ND Wine Time!
Wine tasting options consist of five samples for $5.00, by the glass or by the bottle. Prices range from $17.99 to $18.99 per bottle. With names reflective of their North Dakota heritage, guests will find wines like Roughrider, Prairie Sky, Mighty Bison, Lake Agassiz, County Road and Peace Garden.

Labeled on the barn door are descriptions of each wine and the grape variety or fruit, such as Marquette, Frontenac, La Crescent and Brianna. These grapes have been harvested from the University of Minnesota’s program as well as independent breeders.

Tasty Pairings
This summer, Dakota Vines will be offering small plates with crackers and cheeses for anyone touring or tasting. “We do have a very small commercial kitchen in the back, so as we expand and go into year two, we have a few ideas to create special dinner nights, possibly once a week on Saturday nights,” said Deb Grosz.

The Wine Wall
Near the fireplace, the Groszes have created their own “Wine Wall”, featuring and showing support for other local wineries and cider houses who have offered valuable advice throughout their winemaking journey. “It was amazing to me when we let the other wineries know that we wanted to do this, they were all in,” said Deb Grosz. “They were so excited and said, please do it. It hasn’t been a competitive scenario, really just a collaboration. I know there are people in this community who still don’t know there are any wineries in North Dakota. Hopefully, they see this wall and want to take a road trip.”

“We visited quite a few local wineries as well as an array of wineries in Napa, but locally, our friends at 4e and Red Trail Vineyards have been so supportive and helpful,” said Deb Grosz. “They’ve also given their time. We’ve had so many people out here helping us bottle; crews of seven to eight people for six days in a row. All we had to do was ask, and keep feeding them, and they just kept coming to help.”

“It’s like our friends at 4e Winery in Mapleton said, ‘When you have a winery, you don’t need a gym membership,'” laughed Bob Grosz.

“Someone actually said to us, ‘Not only do we want you to do this, but we want you to do it well,'” said Deb Grosz. “That really spoke to me. He explained that if our wine is the only North Dakota wine that someone has tried, it has to be good. We don’t want anyone thinking that North Dakota can’t produce good wine – so, it’s really important that all of our local wineries do well.”

The Gallery
Just beyond the tasting room, the space overlooking the river is penned “The Gallery”. The rentable room is designed to accommodate up to 40 people for nearly any type of gathering.

The Gallery’s crisp, white walls feature an array of patchwork quilt art by local artists and watercolor art by Barbara Benda Nagle and Bev Benda. “Years ago, Barbara was our daughter’s fifth-grade teacher, so we asked her if she would like to be our first art show,” said Deb Grosz. Throughout the summer, the couple plan to rotate in new artists’ work so guests will have a unique experience with each visit.

Outside of the gallery, the Groszes have designed a small patio where guests can enjoy a dose of country life, river views and wildflowers. In future plans, the Groszes are working to design a small gazebo or pavilion-like structure closer to the river, where guests can enjoy live music or relax with a glass of wine.

Across the River and Through the Woods…
Just across the river, Mary Jo Schmid and Brent Larson, owners of Crooked Lane Farm, have a beautiful event and wedding venue with a 1940s barn. “Mary Jo and I were in grad school together at UND and our kids were in theatre activities together, so we’ve known them for a long time and asked them if they’d ever want to part with some land. They have been super helpful and really saw this as a good companion business for their own,” said Deb Grosz. “We feel the same way about them; we can work with brides and grooms for their wine and we’ll be setting up a table to sell wine at their concerts that they host every other Thursday, all summer. This year, our time and effort will be focused on the tasting room and the concerts at Crooked Lane Farm.”

Open for Tastings & Tours!
Dakota Vines is now open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through Labor Day weekend. Guests can tour the tasting room, gallery and production room with Letina tanks.

Once the snow flies, make sure to check their Facebook page and website for updates on special dates for holiday shopping events and exclusive dining nights. “For the holidays, we have discussed partnering with Crooked Lane Farm to do a sleigh ride which would bring guests back to our tasting room for a mulled wine and provide a place to warm up and enjoy the season,” said Deb Grosz. “With river right outside our door, it’s really beautiful here in the winter.” Next summer, you can expect Dakota Vines to open their tasting room as early as Memorial weekend.

Get to Know: Bob Grosz – Vineyard and Winery Manager, Winemaker
Bob Grosz has over 25 years of experience in public school education as a teacher, principal and associate superintendent. He has been the Associate Superintendent for the Fargo Public Schools for the past 10 years and has been an adjunct professor at North Dakota State University for the past five years, teaching classes to master’s level students. Bob Grosz has a doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of North Dakota and is currently working on a degree in Enology (winemaking).

Get to Know: Deb Grosz – Sales and Tasting Room Manager
Deb Grosz began her career in 1989 as a 4th-grade teacher and has a doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of North Dakota. She spent ten years in various elementary and middle school classrooms prior to her current role at Concordia College as the Director of Field Experiences where she teaches children’s literature and various seminars to pre-service teachers.

Hit the road for a North Dakota Tasting Tour!

4e Winery
3766 156th Avenue S.E., Mapleton, N.D.
Red Trail Vineyard
3510 142nd Avenue S.E., Buffalo, N.D.
redtrailvineyards.comMaple River Winery (Open year-round)
628 Front Street, Casselton, N.D.
mapleriverwinery.comRookery Rock Winery (New!)
3660 147th Avenue S.E., Wheatland, N.D.

Point of View Winery
8413 19th Avenue N.W., Burlington, N.D.

Wild Grape Winery and Kesselring Vineyards (Vineyard tours by appointment)
5720 160th Avenue S.E., Kindred, N.D.
kesselringvineyard.wordpress.comPrairie Rose Meadery
3101 39th Street S., Fargo, N.D.
prairierosemeadery.comDakota Sun Gardens Winery
955 73rd Avenue N.E., Carrington, N.D.

Bear Creek Winery
8800 South 25th Street, Fargo, N.D.

Prairiewood Winery
12443 68th Street S.E., Lisbon, N.D.

Cottonwood Cider House
14481 25th Street S.E., Ayr, N.D.

Wild Terra Cider & Brewing
6 – 12th Street North, Fargo, N.D.


For more information, contact:
Dakota Vines Vineyard and Winery
17355 County Road 4, Colfax, N.D. (I-29 toward Abercrombie – exit 37)
(Open for tastings and tours through mid-September)
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Happy Camper Overhaul [Somethings Borrowed]

Words by Tracy Nicholson / Photography by Dan Francis Photography Overlooking Hoot Lake in Fergus Falls’ Godel Park, mom and daughter-duo, Kim Olson and MacKenzie Anderson, set the perfect summertime…

Words by Tracy Nicholson / Photography by Dan Francis Photography

Overlooking Hoot Lake in Fergus Falls’ Godel Park, mom and daughter-duo, Kim Olson and MacKenzie Anderson, set the perfect summertime stage. With their wedding and event rental company, Somethings Borrowed, the two spotted this old camper online and knew it would be the perfect addition to their business. Spending six weeks on renovations, with their family’s help, their old pull-behind is now a charming conversation piece. Mix in a dash of fun chalk art, a sprinkle of vintage decor along with their family’s favorite Key lime pie, and these two have stirred up a recipe for success.

Borrowing Bliss
When the Olson family had three daughters get married in a two-year span, they found themselves sitting on a gold-mine of wedding decor. In the aftermath of wedding bliss, an idea for renting out their inventory was sparked and their new business Somethings Borrowed was born. “We rent out a lot of decor and centerpieces for events and we also decorate for weddings,” said Olson. “With three weddings over two years, we had all of this stuff so we thought we could either get rid of it or do something with it. So, we have it all on display at Olson’s Furniture in downtown Fergus Falls, making it convenient for brides to go in and choose what they like.”

Vintage Camper Overhaul
Coming across a fixer-upper camper on a buy, sell and swap site, the two decided that a vintage camper-overhaul might be the perfect addition to their rental business. With the help of their husbands, Keith Olson, Kris Anderson, and Anderson’s brother, Brandon Olson their camper flip was completed in a mere six weeks. Now, they have a working sink and proper wiring for lighting.

“When we finished work on the camper last July, we named her Martha Barnaby and decided we wanted to be able to rent it out for mostly private events like weddings. It can be used as a bar, candy or ice cream stand and photo booth,” said Olson. “MacKenzie and Kris, at their wedding, had an ice cream truck. It was a novelty and something different, so we just wanted to be able to offer something unique and fun to our clients. Since then, we’ve done birthday parties, weddings, a dental office summer party and we’re looking forward to being the ticket booth at Junk Market in West Fargo this September. We’ll also be at Shop, Move and Groove in downtown Fergus Falls, which we did last year as well. Currently, we don’t have a food or liquor license, so private events are much better for us.”

Summer Vibes
“When we decided on making Key lime pie, we correlated our lake setting with limes and lemons to add that summer vibe,” said Anderson. “We also wanted to include some greenery and some flowers for summer – fresh flowers and greens add such a great pop to any staged event. We also have a beautiful collection of assorted china dishes that we’ve accumulated for wedding rentals. We used old wine barrels for the pie display and created a coffee table out of wooden boxes for something a little more interesting and whimsical.”

Chalkboard Art
“A really good friend of ours and artist, Vera Carlson, does the special chalkboard writing for us. If any of our clients request something written on a chalkboard, we usually contact her – she does a phenomenal job,” said Olson. “Since she’s located in Alexandria, Minn., we take the chalkboard to her and get it picked up so the bride doesn’t have to. We have three of these large chalkboards available for rent.”

Sharing a Vision
When it comes to decor and events, Anderson and Olson rarely disagree. “My mom and I work really well together, we can pretty much finish each other’s sentences,” said Anderson. “She can be thinking something, and without speaking, I can step in and finish it – we just get the same vision. There’s not much that we disagree on as far as how we think something should be set up.”

“When we work together to decorate a wedding, we’ll work for hours, straight through and kind of feed off of one another and finish each other’s projects,” said Olson. “It works out well because MacKenzie has a full-time job and I just retired from my career, so I can more easily take time to go meet with a bride or run out and pull things together for the event.”

Need to Know!
Although their camper can be seen at events all around the area, most people don’t know that the two also specialize in wedding decor and have a vast inventory to rent. “In most venues, you cannot get in until the morning of because a lot of places have been double-booking,” said Anderson. “Friday weddings have become a big thing, so we come in the morning or day of the event and get it decorated while the family is getting ready for pictures. Also, a lot of people don’t realize that they can rent the camper and we’ll bring it to them and pick it up after the event, so they don’t have to deal with it at all. We really want people to see that vision of what it can be. It can be a really fun central space for people to gather at during social hour for any type of event. We see it as a great conversation piece, photo booth, a serving bar, a candy bar – really anything you can imagine.”

Just completing their work on Martha Barnaby last spring, you’d think a vacation would be in order, but these two have already started their second overhaul. “We have another camper that we’ve already gutted, so we’re getting ready to take on a new camper remodel,” said Olson. “I’m going to turn this one into Cousin Camp for the grandkids. It’s in pretty bad shape right now though, so we have a lot of work ahead of us.”


Summertime Key Lime Pie
“This is a recipe that I’ve probably had for 20 years. It’s really simple but delicious – we make it all summer long and the whole family loves it,” said Olson.

1 – Shortbread crust
1 – can sweetened, condensed milk
1/2 – Cup lime juice
8 – Ounce extra creamy Cool Whip
2 – Teaspoon lime zest

Mix together and fill crust.
Garnish with lime zest or slices, then refrigerate.


For more information, contact:
Somethings Borrowed
Kim Olson, MacKenzie Anderson

Martha Barnaby
Somethings Borrowed
Chalkboard Art
Vera Carlson
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A Sweetly Simple Life: Three Square Meals with Shayla Knutson

Words by Shayla Knutson, Tracy Nicholson / Photography by M.Schleif Photography When Midwest Nest asked me to contribute to their spring issue, I decided to plan out a full day…

Words by Shayla Knutson, Tracy Nicholson / Photography by M.Schleif Photography

When Midwest Nest asked me to contribute to their spring issue, I decided to plan out a full day of meals using fresh, healthy ingredients and a few tips from my Sweetly Simple Life food blog. These dishes had to be simple, spring-inspired and full of flavor. To provide an elegant backdrop, Radiant Homes offered me a stunning kitchen in their new model home in the coveted Edgewood Estates neighborhood of North Fargo.BODY:pic 2

Zucchini & Carrot Cake Oats
This is one of my favorite oatmeals for breakfast. It’s pretty healthy and it only uses two tablespoons of pure maple syrup. There are no other sugars added, but it tastes like cake – it’s so good. You can also keep it in a crockpot, warming for 6-8 hours overnight and then it’s ready for you in the morning. It’s just really easy, throw all of the ingredients in there and let it cook.pic 7 & 16

Poppy Seed Chicken-Salad Sandwiches
I love that this is a healthier version of chicken salad, but doesn’t skimp on the taste. I’ve tried to look for a good, pre-made chicken salad at the stores, but when I read the ingredient list with a ton of additives and heavy mayo, I quickly changed my mind. A typical chicken salad would call for around two cups of mayo – as a compromise, I used only a 1/4  a cup of mayo, then substituted the rest with greek yogurt. This is a really versatile recipe in terms of diet and preferences. My husband, Cam, doesn’t eat gluten, so he prefers to make wraps using butter lettuce, instead of bread or croissants. I, however, love a good whole wheat bread from my go-to source, Breadsmith.

Enchilada Zucchini Boats
This is one of my husband’s favorite dinner dishes and I love Mexican food. We probably make this recipe once a week. It’s pretty spicy, so if you’re not someone who enjoys spicy food, you can easily tone it down by avoiding the chipotle peppers. If you skip the chipotle, this is also a really kid-friendly and fun recipe. Lure them in with the process of carving boats out of zucchinis and they might just be tempted enough to eat their veggies.


A Sweetly Simple Life:
Growing up in the small town of Hazen, N.D., we didn’t have a lot of options for dining out, so naturally, I learned to cook every meal with my family. Today, I live in Downtown Fargo with my husband, Cam Knutson. I work for Ami Baxter Interior Design and I’ve had my cooking blog, Sweetly Simple Life for a couple of years now. This is how we cook several times a week – pretty healthy, gluten-free, or at least with a gluten-free option, and always delicious. Cam loves to take the leftovers to work, so even though it’s just the two us, we always make a little extra. Living with a husband who’s gluten-free means we lead a pretty healthy lifestyle, but I still make time for my guilty pleasure – baking. I love baking!

Where do I get my inspiration? I do a lot of searching on Pinterest, but I don’t follow the actual recipe at all. I gather several different recipes and create my own; which is always a struggle when people ask me to share recipes with them. However, there is one place you can find more of my recipes – find me @sweetlysimplelife on Instagram or on Facebook.



Zucchini & Carrot Cake Oats
  • ½ C. steel cut oats
  • 1 ½ C. almond milk
  • ½ C. finely shredded carrots
  • ½ C. finely shredded zucchini
  • ½ Tsp. cinnamon
  • ⅛ Tsp. ground nutmeg
  • ⅛ Tsp. ground cloves
  • 2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
  • 1 Tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • ⅛ Tsp. salt
  • ½ C. toasted pecans
In the crockpot:
The night before – spray your crockpot with oil. Combine all of the ingredients except the pecans in the slow cooker. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Top with pecans and enjoy!
On the stove:

Combine all ingredients except the pecans. Cook covered for 15 minutes. Top with pecans and enjoy!


Poppy Seed Chicken-Salad Sandwiches

Chicken Salad 
  • 4 C. rotisserie chicken cubed
  • 1 ½ C. finely chopped celery
  • 1 ½ C. quartered grapes (red or green seedless)
  • 1 C. toasted walnuts
  • ¼ C. avocado oil mayo
  • 1 C. greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 4 Tsp. poppy seeds
  • 1 ½ Tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 Tsp. salt
  • ½ Tsp. pepper
Combine all the dressing ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and whisk to combine.
Add chicken salad ingredients and toss until the dressing is thoroughly incorporated.
Serve on croissants, butter lettuce, wraps, or your favorite type of bread. Refrigerate for one hour before serving.
Enchilada Zucchini Boats
  • 4 small zucchini
  • 1 ½ Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 med. yellow onion
  • 1 Tsp. chipotle pepper sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
  • ½ Tsp. pepper
  • 2 Tsp. salt
  • 3 Tsp. cumin powder
  • 1 Tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 – 15 oz. can tomato sauce
  • ½ C. corn (fresh, frozen or canned)
  • 1 C. water
  • 1 lb. ground turkey or beef
  • 1 – 7 oz. can diced green chilies
  • 1 ½ C. shredded cheese (Cheddar or Mexican blend)
  • ½ C. greek yogurt
  • 1 to 2 Tsp. powdered ranch
  • Cilantro
  • Sliced scallions

Preheat oven to 400℉. Brown ground meat and add all other ingredients besides zucchini. Let this cook and simmer on medium-low for 15-20 minutes. For the zucchini, use a spoon or melon baller. Scoop centers from halved zucchini while leaving a ¼ “ rim to create boats. Drizzle with ½ Tbs. olive oil and bake until zucchini is almost tender (approx. 8-10 min). Spoon the mixture into the zucchini boats and top them with cheese. Bake until cheese is melted and golden brown. Top with yogurt mixture, scallions and cilantro.


To see more of Shayla Knutson’s Sweetly Simple recipes, follow her on Facebook or Instagram @sweetlysimplelife

About the Model Home:
Contractor – David Reid, Radiant Homes
Architect – Meland Architects
Interior Design – Brandi Youngmark Interior Design
Cabinetry – Designer, Kristi Foell, Braaten Cabinets
Appliances – Rigel’s
Flooring – Carpet World & Design Direction
Plumbing & lighting fixtures – Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery

Radiant Creative Homes

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The Starving Rooster [Minot & Bismarck]

Words by Tracy Nicholson Photography by Scott Amundson Photography Most people know Chris Hawley as an award-winning architect of homes, but in Western North Dakota, he’s a jack-of-all-trades. Back in…

Words by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by Scott Amundson Photography

Most people know Chris Hawley as an award-winning architect of homes, but in Western North Dakota, he’s a jack-of-all-trades. Back in their hometown of Minot, Chris and his wife, Sarah Hawley, had ventured into developing and restoring old buildings when they struck a partnership to create a new restaurant concept, The Starving Rooster. See inside the Minot location inspired by the 1917 Aultman & Taylor Machinery Co. and the Bismarck location that just opened its doors last year. While their infamous, starved rooster logo was once known as a symbol of farm equipment efficiency, starving the rooster to better feed the farmer – it now symbolizes a fantastic, brick-oven dining experience with a respectful nod to their hometown heritage.

Restoration vs. Restaurant
Six years ago, Chris Hawley, his brother-in-law, Chad Thompson, and Thompson’s cousin, Joel Welstad, decided to buy the 1917 Minot building that was originally the home of the parts and distribution warehouse for Aultman & Taylor. Located in an industrial part of Minot, the team began their project by designing 21 units of funky, loft-style apartments on the top half of the building. “At the time, during the oil boom, Minot was in a housing shortage. As we got closer to the end and started discussing the street level, we realized that we had a lot of interest from others, so eventually, we decided to do our own restaurant concept,” said Hawley.

The Concept
The Aultman & Taylor Machinery Co. dates back to 1859 in Ohio, but the Minot building was completed in 1917. Employing a clever marketing tool, their starving rooster logo appealed to nearly every farmer in the Midwest. “The company built threshing machines, so their whole story was that they made a threshing machine that was so effective in sifting the grain that it didn’t leave even a spec of grain behind for the roosters to eat – so the roosters starved,” explained Hawley. This logo would soon become the inspiration behind The Starving Rooster restaurants which Hawley and his partners designed using a 1917 Aultman & Taylor catalog they found archived in Ohio.

Back then, catalogs were hand-drawn, black and white etchings or illustrations, so Hawley and his partners wanted to properly display them as the art they truly are. The original illustrations of farm equipment now grace the walls of the restaurant and tell the story of the building and tractor company. Taking it one step further, the partners opted to use reclaimed materials from the original Aultman & Taylor building as well as salvaged material and farm equipment parts from Welstad’s family farm.

In the midst of their restoration, Hawley and his partners brought in Jeremy Mahaney, another Minot native who was, at the time, operating restaurants in Minneapolis. Today, he runs both their Minot and Bismarck locations of The Starving Rooster. Their first location in Minot would open four years ago with a second, Bismarck location following just last year.

The Starving Rooster: Minot
Specializing in brick-oven pizzas and sandwiches, the Minot restaurant has a casual vibe fused with a rich history rooted in farming. Hawley and his partners kept as much of the original Aultman & Taylor building that they could. “We left the loading dock open, putting in garage doors that can open in the summer months. In 1917, people used to pull up in their Model-Ts, back their car in here, load up their parts and head back to the farm,” said Hawley. Nowadays, the garage doors open up to Main Street, providing front row access to local street fairs and street dances.

The partners kept much of the original paint and walls from 1917, salvaging every bit of the original building and repurposing whatever materials they found. To build the tap line running across the bar, the team recruited Larry Larson of P2 Industries to fabricate a large industrial pipe to hold the beer lines. Four of the bar stools are designed using old tractor seats and the dining chairs were custom-built for the restaurant.

“We actually used the old garage doors as the ceiling and up-lit them so they glow in the dining room area,” said Hawley. “We loved the raw floors, so what you see is the actual red paint from the old shop.”

Salvaging the hardwood floors from the upper level, the partners repurposed them into custom dining booths. “Joel built all of the wood booths and benches in place,” said Hawley. “He was the general contractor on this and Jeremy put in a lot of sweat equity as well doing the barn doors and all of those projects. I pulled the permit, Joel did the construction and Jeremy provided a ton of labor.”

Using the original drawing from Aultman & Taylor’s catalog, the partners had it printed on acrylic and mounted over the brick wall in the dining area. Look up and you’ll find a custom-designed, lathe and acoustic ceiling within the lighting. As the project’s general contractor, Welstad used salvaged finds from his family’s farm and recruited their welder and handyman to fabricated the railings in place. “They made all of the furniture and anything steel – so all of the chairs, railings and steel-top tables. The table bases are all cultivator disks,” said Hawley.

Head towards the heat and you’ll find the brick-oven pizza area, complete with a canopy based on one of Aultman & Taylor’s designs. This is a replication of an original tractor canopy that would have covered the cab.

Their ode to the building’s history doesn’t stop with the interior’s design – all of their brick oven pizzas are named after one of the Aultman & Taylor tractors – “Old Trusty”, “Yellow Fellow”, “The Triple Gear” and many more. “The Thai flatbread pizza is one of the most popular. We also do a pulled pork sandwich that everyone loves and a Sunday brunch with an amazing spread,” said Hawley.

The Starving Rooster: Bismarck
After finding success at the Minot location, the team focused their efforts on opening a Bismarck location, also on Main Street. Instead of a farm equipment company, this space was once an automotive shop and car dealership. “It’s an old building, but it was so goofy that in the 80s and 90s they kind of put it back together. In the process, they took away all of the cool, old features,” said Hawley. “They had to cover up the brick and everything else to get the insulation to work. So, at the end of the day, it’s got an old front on it, but it’s really more of a new building. It was basically a vanilla shell, sheetrock box and we kind of had to make it cool again.” To complete the transformation, the partners brought in all of the brick and panels while the other materials were repurposed from the Welstad farm.

At the entrance, guests are greeted with the same ode to Aultman & Taylor displayed on red panels from the side of a combine that Welstad had sitting in a field. These panels feature a prominent image and text from the cover of Aultman & Taylor’s 1917 catalog, relayed on acrylic.

“This was made from a grain auger taken out of the trees at the Welstad farm. So, we are essentially augering beer out of the silo across this area and directing it to the taps,” said Hawley. “On one side of the silo, we have a door that leads to the liquor storage and on the other side, we have four taps. We also have wine and iced coffee on tap.”

“This wall is kind of fun – everyone asks, ‘What’s up with the cross?’”laughed Hawley.
“It’s actually an ‘x’. It’s like the ‘You are here.’ marking your spot on the map. So this is our map leading to the bathroom. At the other end, there’s an arrow pointing to the bathroom.”

In this area, the team used sifting panels from a grain dryer at the Welstad farm, then backlit them for more dimension. If the pendant lights look familiar, that’s because the shades are actually the teeth of a corn header.

Cultivator disks were once again repurposed into bases for the tables and the team reused the remaining windows left over from the Minot building. “Some of the elements from the Minot space show up again, but the Bismarck location is a totally different and reimagined space,” said Hawley.

If you’re ready to flock to one of their two locations, here’s where you can find them:
The Starving Rooster – Minot, N.D.
30 First Street Northeast

The Starving Rooster – Bismarck, N.D.
512 East Main Avenue

See their full menu and hours of operation at:

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From Italy to Fargo… Recreating an Agriturismo Dining Experience [Laneil Skaff & Julie Stoe]

Words by Tracy Nicholson Photography by Dan Francis Photography On Laneil Skaff’s last day in Italy, she was tasked with finding the perfect restaurant to round out their adventure. A…

Words by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by Dan Francis Photography

On Laneil Skaff’s last day in Italy, she was tasked with finding the perfect restaurant to round out their adventure. A quick online search had their crew navigating an intense path of twisting roads into the hills of an old vineyard named Borgo La Casetta. According to the reviews, the bed and breakfast promised an unforgettable, Tuscan dining experience. Greeting them at the door amidst a picturesque, hill-top setting were chefs Renzo and Laura Morosi, delightfully friendly hosts that were thrilled to introduce them to authentic Tuscan cuisine. With no menu, no prices and countless courses, the vineyard turned Agriturismo café and inn, spent hours wining and dining the group with their fresh and seasonal fare, grown in their own backyard. Returning home with a glowing review of her own, Skaff’s daughter Julie Stoe was right behind her, planning her own trip to meet the now-infamous chefs. After a total of three trips to visit the inn between the two, Skaff and Stoe decided it was time to recreate their Tuscan experience, this time in Skaff Apartment’s beautiful Stone West kitchen and community room.

Agriturismo Inn-spiration
Nestled amidst the rolling hills, olive trees and vineyards of San Baronto, Italy, Borgo La Casetta would inspire Skaff and Stoe to gather as many of the Morosi’s recipes as they could, planning to translate them into their own style of cooking, then recreate them back home. With the inn located on a working farm, the chefs relied on seasonal ingredients, the finest meats and cheeses, as well as their own pressed olive oil for the base of their dishes.

Dining-In: Borgo La Casetta
Inside the property’s bed and breakfast, which was once a winery owned by Renzo Morosi’s family, the café offers guests a charming and intimate dining experience with just 10 small tables. “The chefs prefer reservations but seem happy to cook for anyone who arrives,” said Skaff. “It’s usually packed full of locals coming in for special occasions. Their son Marcello also works there and serves, while Renzo’s mom comes in to wash dishes some nights.

Worth Every Euro…
“On my first visit to Tuscany, I found the inn on Yelp – it was rated number one,” said Skaff. “We walked in and asked for an English menu and he said, ‘Oh, you’re here. Now I cook for you!’ The whole time we sat there, we wondered how much this was going to cost since we didn’t know what he would be serving us. After a few courses, we didn’t care because it was worth every penny for the experience. It was Chianti wine and Lemoncello made by Renzo, port wine, grappa and espresso. Grappa is just a liquor that is known to help break down food for better digestion. We had all of these drinks and about seven courses to go with them, bringing them out one at a time. It ended perfectly with the apple cake that you’ll find in this month’s recipes. The entire experience ended up costing 25 Euros each, which equates to about $30 a person.”

While Skaff visited Tuscany in 2013 and again last May, Stoe embarked on her own Italian adventure, last October. “We visited Renzo’s home because we really wanted that Tuscan experience that my mom had told me about,” said Stoe. “We looked him up and found out that we could stay at the inn, so we ended up in a cute little apartment and ate at the café every night. When we went deeper into the Chianti Classico region of Tuscany, we actually drove an hour and a half back just to eat there on our last night because it was so good. Renzo and Laura made something different every night – it was an amazing trip.”

“In Tuscan culture, they really value their family and their food; taking pride in the way they cook and serve each meal, savoring and appreciating the food they’ve grown.”
Julie Stoe

Americans versus Italians
If you’re planning a dinner in Italy, Stoe suggests carving out two to three hours devoted entirely to food. “In Italy, they always do multiple courses, starting with a charcuterie or antipasto selection, then a bruschetta, soup, pasta, meat, potato and different vegetables, a salad, then finish with a dessert,” said Stoe. “It’s just so different from how Americans dine. There are typically about five or more courses and the pasta is brought out separately from the meat with everything served family-style with smaller tasting plates.”

“They are also really proud of their meats and their process for making salami and sausage,” said Stoe. “When Renzo cooked for us, he’d always come out and tell us where the meats were from. He also gave us a new appreciation for good quality, fresh olive oil. Renzo taught us to cook with the cheap oil and save the best for the table. In Tuscan culture, they really value their family and their food; taking pride in the way they cook and serve each meal, savoring and appreciating the food they’ve grown.”


Bruschetta Basics
“Bruschetta in Italy is a little different than what we’d see in the U.S. They serve it with just straight olive oil and rub a whole garlic on the bread, that’s their classic bruschetta,” said Stoe. “They also serve it with egg and truffle oil, liver paté and the more recognizable tomato and basil – they really utilize their lands. Renzo makes his own olive oil, sometimes pressing it that day, so we were able to bring that back with us.”

“For their bruschetta, they tend to use what’s in season and find ways to cook with every part of it,” said Skaff. “Their bread is really a vehicle for anything they want to serve. They also use unsalted bread, which was really different than what we’re used to. In the middle ages, salt was heavily taxed. The bakers in Florence decided it was just too expensive and chose to live without it.”

Casio E Pepe
“We had this dish in Rome. Each area of Tuscany seemed to have a specialty pasta and this is the one Rome is famous for,” said Skaff.  “It uses that very thick spaghetti called bucatini. This is a very simplistic dish, but the key is high-quality ingredients. When we tried to bring this recipe back to the U.S., we found their pasta technique to be a little too difficult for the average cook. They use hot water and mash it all onto the sides of the bowl and keep mixing until it comes onto the spaghetti. This process is so foreign to us, so we were able to modify the recipe by adding a bit of butter to the cheeses, yet still using some of their easier techniques to get that same flavor.”

Renzo’s Chicken
“We love Renzo’s chicken and it’s become a family favorite for us,” said Stoe. “We couldn’t believe that he shared the recipe with us.”

Before you head to the store to stock-up, we asked Skaff to give us a few quick tips and tricks for the prep work:
– When the recipe calls for white wine, although most recipes call for a dry wine like Chardonnay, I prefer a little sweeter wine like a Pino Grigio.

–  When buying the cheeses, use the highest quality cheese your budget allows and ALWAYS buy a block and grate it yourself.

– When using herbs, take the time to heat or saute them with garlic to extract more flavor.
– If you often cook with tomato paste, try swapping out your cans for a tube of tomato paste. Most recipes only call for a tablespoon, so you’ll have a lot less waste.

Italian” as Apple Pie?
When Stoe and Skaff visited Italy, they both found out quickly that Italian apple pie is not actually pie at all. “To Americans, this would be considered more of an apple cake or tart,” said Stoe. “This was one of Laura’s favorite family recipes. I use very thin slices of apples and arrange them like Laura did, but once it’s in the oven, the dough will actually cook over them. It’s absolutely delicious.” Setting the perfect backdrop for the perfect finish, Skaff included the hand-dyed, yellow table runner she found on her last trip to Italy.

[Course 1]


Cheese(from left)
Pecorino Pepato, Italian – sheep’s milk
Boschetto Al Tartufo, Italian – semi-soft with white truffle shavings, cow and sheep’s milk

Teleggio- Lombardi, Italian – wash-rind cow’s milk
*These cheeses can be found at Luna in Fargo

Genoa Salami, Capicola ham, Pancetta, Prosciutto, Hard SalamiNote: “The balsamic and olive oil is from a small winery in Italy that we visited in Tuscany,” said Stoe. “Both of the wines are from The Casa Emma vineyard in the Chianti region.”

[Course 2]

Bruschettas and Garlic Toast

Garlic toast

Rustic Italian bread

Good, Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Garlic cloves – cut the short way

Slice bread thin, drizzle with EVOO and grill or toast

When toasted – rub with cut side of garlic

Scrambled Eggs w/Truffle Oil Bruschetta

2 – eggs

2 – Tbsp. cream or Half and Half

– Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

– A couple of drops truffle oil or grated parmesan

Whisk eggs and cream together. Melt 1 Tbsp. butter in small skillet over medium heat. Pour in eggs using a rubber spatula – continue to scrape pan until eggs are almost scrambled. Drizzle in truffle drops or grated parmesan. Place on top of garlic toast and sprinkle pepper on top.

Tomato Bruschetta

6-7 plum tomatoes (I use many different kinds – whatever looks ripe and flavorful)

2 – garlic cloves – minced small

1 – Tbsp. EVOO

1 – tsp. balsamic vinegar

6-8 fresh basil leaves – chopped fine

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Slice tomatoes in half and remove the seeds and stem. Dice small. Stir in garlic, EVOO, balsamic and basil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Place on top of garlic toast.


[Course 3]

Casio E Pepe

Makes 2 servings


6 – Oz. Pasta (bucatini-thick spaghetti or spaghetti)

3 – Tbsp. butter, cubed, divided

1 – Tsp. freshly cracked black pepper

¾ – C. Finely grated Grana Padano or Parmesan

1/3 – C. finely grated Pecorino Romano

Kosher salt


Bring water to boil. Season with salt. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving one cup of the pasta water. While pasta is cooking, melt 2 Tbsp. of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add pepper and stir until toasted, one minute. Add ½ cup of the reserved pasta water to the skillet and bring to a simmer. Add pasta and remaining butter.

Reduce heat to low and add Grana Padano (or parmesan), stirring and tossing with tongs until melted.

Remove pan from heat. Add Pecorino Romano, again stirring and tossing until cheese melts, sauce coats the pasta, and pasta is cooked to your desired tenderness. Add more pasta water if the sauce seems dry.

Serve immediately.


[Course 4]

Renzo’s Chicken

15 – chicken legs- skinned and the top half of the bone cut off

2-3 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 – Tbsp. Fresh rosemary – chopped
1 1/2 – Tsp. – Fresh sage – chopped
3 – Cloves garlic – minced
1 1/2 – Tsp. kosher salt
1 – Tsp. Pepper
1 – glass white wine
3 – Tbsp. tomato paste
1 –  C. hot water
A handful of small black olives (optional)

Skin and cut the bone off of the drumstick; in cutting the bone – if you lay the drumstick so the bone is NOT flat on the cutting board, then come down with a good-sized knife, it should break quite easily.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium to med-high heat. Brown drumsticks – turning until all sides are brown – about 15 minutes total. Remove from pan and saute garlic and spices two to three minutes. Add wine and deglaze the pan. When the wine has cooked down most of the way, add tomato paste and water. Stir until combined and add chicken back in. Cover and turn down to simmer (low, slow boil) and simmer until the oil comes to the top of the sauce (approx. 30-45 minutes). Optional olives can be added at this time.
Serve and enjoy!


[Course 5]

Italian Apple Pie


7 – Tbsp. butter – room temperature

1 ¼  – C. sugar

3 – eggs

½ – C. milk

1 – C. white flour

2 – Tsp. baking powder

2 – Tsp. vanilla

Zest of one lemon

3-4 apples – very thinly sliced


Cream butter and sugar

Add eggs  – one at a time until incorporated

Pour in milk, flour, baking powder and lemon zest

Mix just until combined

Pour into at least a 9” pie plate

Scatter apples on top

Bake at 375 degrees for 40-45 minutes until center is done.


Renzo’s Recommendation:
“Before we left, Renzo highly-recommended we get our hands on this cookbook; Tuscan Cookery by Elisabetta Piazzesi, to help us create true Tuscan cuisine,” said Stoe. “There is everything from garlic toast to bruschetta variations and really all of the different courses. We often use this cookbook at home and have found some amazing recipes in there.”

Find the Food:
Cheese selection – Luna, Fargo
Wine selection – Casa Emma Winery, Florence, Italy
Via della Casetta – Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Borgo La Casetta InnPlan your trip!
Agriturismo Borgo La Casetta
Renzo and Laura Morosi
San Baronto, Italyinfo@borgolacasetta.it
borgolacasetta.itFor more information, contact:

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Old World Vs. New World Wines

Words by Laura Botten Photography by M. Schleif Photography We don’t judge our friends based on birthplace, but where our grapes are nurtured does matter. Recently, we gathered a group…

Words by Laura Botten
Photography by M. Schleif Photography

We don’t judge our friends based on birthplace, but where our grapes are nurtured does matter. Recently, we gathered a group at an event we regularly host called Brix & Banter. Our goal was to showcase the differences between Old World and New World wines and why these differences manifest themselves in the glass.

Defining our Wine
Simply put, Old World wines hail from eastern and central Europe, the birthplace of the “modern” wine industry. Vitis vinifera vines and grape varieties that produce the wines that we, as consumers know and love, are believed to have made their first appearance in the Caucasus Mountains in western Asia thousands of years ago, spreading from there into eastern Europe and the Middle East.

New World wines are the result of European colonization of the Americas, Oceania and South Africa over the centuries as vine cuttings made the voyage with emigrants destined for new beginnings. Over the years, these vines flourished in their new homes, living up to, and at times eclipsing, their old world counterparts.

The terms “Old World” and “New World” have moved beyond simply defining a wine by its geography and are now used to reference style and typicity. Since “style” is an extension of geography, politics, regulations, tradition and history, the two uses have an undeniable connection. If all of this seems like an overwhelming pop quiz, just hang in there. We promise it’s worth the read and far more fun than the classroom.

The table below outlines some of the differences between the two. Please keep in mind that these are generalizations, and as with all things wine, there will certainly be exceptions. However, the tasting component criteria outlined, are what a professional taster evaluates during the deductive tasting method to help determine a wine’s origin.

Side by Side Comparisons

At our spring Brix & Banter tasting, we decided to put the OW versus NW to the test, tasting similar wines side by side. It was an interesting exercise; the wines presented beautifully and were direct reflections of the style and typicity outlined above. To be certain we were comparing “apples to apples”, the price points and blends, where applicable, were similar.

Pairing #1: 

Chateau Val Beylie “Demoiselle” Bordeaux Blanc, France:
The Chateau Beylie, a traditional Bordeaux blend of Sauvignon Blanc (80%) and Semillon (20%) from a tiny vineyard (only 500 cases produced) was tasting exceptional. With intense fruit character and greater weight from extended maceration with the skins, this is a unique Bordeaux Blanc. It is redolent with white flower, gingerbread, herbs & honey notes. Unoaked & fresh, with moderate acidity (mediated by the Semillon), this is a crowd pleaser with layers of complexity.

Cade Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, California:
Napa Valley is a warmer climate than Bordeaux, so the expectation is riper fruit character – pushing to more tropical fruit versus citrus fruit – which this wine delivered. This wine saw a modicum of oak influence, which included a tiny bit of Acacia wood that the winemaker feels brings a bit of an “almond” or nutty quality to the wine. A bit richer on the palate, more tropical fruit, less acidity, and a bit higher alcohol than its French counterpart, this is a personal favorite for “New World” Sauvignon Blanc.

*Both wines lack the very herbaceous and green notes associated with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

Pairing #2: 

Macon-Lugny Les Charmes Chardonnay, Burgundy, France (100% Chardonnay):
Our new favorite Chardonnay, especially for summer drinking, meant it had to be shared!  This is a 100% Estate Chardonnay from the “Les Charmes” vineyard in Lugny, a village of the Maconnais. It sees no oak influence and is intended to be all about the fruit and unique terroir of the region – chalky, limestone soils – that many feel evoke minerality in a wine. It is luxurious on the palate, with ripe fruit, floral notes and a balancing acidity.

Napa Cellars Chardonnay, Napa Valley, California (100% Chardonnay):
This wine again showcased more intense fruit character and weight on the palate than its cooler climate counterpart. Baked apple, ripe pear, caramel and toasted pastry with buttery, creamy overtones and vanilla and spice from oak aging, leaves this wine begging for a nice lobster tail, creamy seafood pasta, chicken piccata or buttered popcorn!

*Both of these wines see 100% Malolactic Fermentation and Sur Lie Aging, with only the Napa Cellars meeting oak, and are great Chards to evaluate side by side!

Pairing #3: 

Jean-Claude Boisset Les Ursuline Bourgogne Pinot Noir, Burgundy, France (100% Pinot Noir):
With fruit coming from the Cotes-de-Nuits, the spiritual home of Pinot Noir, this quintessential Burgundy over-delivers at a reasonable price. Red fruit character – think cranberry, strawberry, ripe red cherry – along with subtle spice notes and a lovely “earthy” component, come together to reveal a refined, finessed and elegant drinking wine. Grab this for simply prepared salmon, duck or a mushroom-heavy dish. The higher acid, lower alcohol and more refined fruit character would also complement a cheese plate or creamy pasta.

Napa Cellars Pinot Noir, Napa Valley, California (100 % Pinot Noir):
In keeping with the previous wines, the warmer Napa Valley climate produces riper fruit, with black cherry, earth, cola, spice notes and caramel; showcasing a more brooding, “masculine” expression of Pinot Noir. This wine sees more oak influence than the Bourgogne, which bodes well considering its bigger constitution. If you lean towards a more structured and “robust” Pinot Noir, this should find a home in your wine rack.

*These two Pinot Noirs deftly showcase the range of Pinot Noir.

Pairing #4:

Clos d’ L’Oratoire des Papes Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone Valley, France:
Consistently rated 90+ points, this is a hidden gem that allows you to drink Chateauneuf-du-Pape without breaking the bank. Drinking beautifully, it was the crowd favorite. Frank & spicy, with licorice, black pepper and surprising, subtle florals evolve into more traditional notes of strawberry, cherry and fresh blackcurrant with subtle menthol. This is a blend of 80% Grenache, 10% Syrah & 5% each Cinsaut & Mourvedre. Chateauneuf-du-Pape allows 13 (or 18, depending on how they are counted) grape varieties, but Grenache must hold the majority of the blend.

Abstract Red Blend by Orin Swift, California:
Abstract is a blend of Grenache (70-80%, varies by vintage), Syrah (2nd by volume) and Petite Sirah by iconic winemaker, Dave Phinney. Big, with dark briar fruit, ripe black plums, mocha, coffee and caramel on the nose and palate, ample tannins and oak influence, this wine is quintessentially Orin Swift: high alcohol balanced by robust fruit. Much like the label, it is a well-appointed collage that is greater than the sum of its parts. Enjoy with a big, juicy steak or barbecued ribs.

And the Winner is…

After every pairing, we took a vote. And, much to our surprise, our group of (mostly)  American palates favored the Old World wines every round. Not by a landslide, but certainly a majority. The greater takeaway was that indeed, these wines presented in the manner outlined above; Old World contenders were more subtle and acidic, lower alcohol and more terroir-driven with earthy and mineral notes. The New World wines were more concentrated and robust, with lower acid, higher alcohol and significantly more intense fruit character.

About Brix & Banter

Brix & Banter is the collaboration of restaurateur Dan Hurder and Laura Botten; both wine enthusiasts whose goal is to make wine fun and approachable while educating, dispelling myths and opening new doors (or bottles) for the novice or experienced wine drinker. Tastings are the second Wednesday of every month and you can follow them here:


Brix and Banter on Facebook: facebook.com/BrixAndBanter/


Subscribe to Brix and Banter monthly newsletter or contact:

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A White Wine Winter

Words by Dan Hurder and Laura Botten Photography by M. Schleif Photography Some wine enthusiasts suggest that winter requires red wine. While we adore a glass of red with a…

Words by Dan Hurder and Laura Botten
Photography by M. Schleif Photography

Some wine enthusiasts suggest that winter requires red wine. While we adore a glass of red with a hearty bowl of beef stew or savory roast, we just aren’t willing to put our whites away while the snow flies. So, with our permission, dust off those white wine glasses and check out a few of our favorites. Laura Botten and I are braving below zero temps and taking you on an exploration of whites, starting with the classics.

Winter White Flights
By consumption, the most popular white wines are Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc. Moscato is leaving a mark with its surge in popularity, and Sweet Justice deserves its place at the table. Our selections were intentional to showcase the range of styles produced.

We’ll lead with Chardonnay, the “queen” of whites. We collectively cringe when we hear “I hate Chardonnay.” Challenge on! Most likely, the “right” Chardonnay has not graced your palate yet. The diversity within the category is vastly based on region and production methods. Winemakers can choose to make a very fresh, unoaked style that is all about the fruit or they can add complexity through a variety of techniques:

What Makes White Wines “Complex”?
• Sur Lie Aging – This means it had an extended contact with spent yeast cells. It adds texture and enhanced mouthfeel as well as flavors reminiscent of freshly baked bread.

• Malolactic Fermentation (ML) – This converts malic acid (think tart granny smith apple) to the rounder and creamier lactic acid. And, a byproduct of ML is diacetyl, which is used in margarine to make it taste more like (light bulb moment) butter.

• Oak Influence – This can be achieved through barrel aging or other sources and can add tannic structure, apple pie spice notes, vanilla, dill and a host of other tertiary flavors.

Seaglass Chardonnay is an unoaked expression of this versatile grape that is simply about the fruit. A Santa Barbara County appellation (rare for the price point), yields peach, pineapple and melon flavors and aromas. This easy drinking Chardonnay would appeal to a Pinot Grigio drinker with its fresh, fruit-driven style.

California Chardonnay came into its own in the mid-80s, and Rombauer was right there in the fold helping to define the quintessential expression of oaky, buttery, full-bodied Chardonnay. In fact, Rombauer-esque is often used to describe other wines of this style. Carneros fruit, sur lie aging, ML fermentation and nine months in French and American oak barrels yield a rich mouthfeel, tropical fruit, buttery notes and beautiful apple pie spice. Cold weather comfort foods like chicken pot pie or a more elegant meal of lobster tail pair beautifully with Rombauer.


Pinot Grigio
It’s hard to think about Italy without thinking of Pinot Grigio. Enough said.

A to Z
Oregon is producing amazing Pinot Gris (the French term for Pinot Grigio) and A to Z is a market leader. While the grape variety is the same, Pinot Gris on a label suggests more intense fruit character and added complexity. Fabulous to simply sip, it pairs nicely with salads or dishes you would squeeze a lemon over. Pan fry some walleye and enjoy!

Candoni is a classic Italian expression. Bartlett pear shines through on the nose and palate with a crisp, lingering finish. It’s easy and approachable nature makes it a crowd pleaser.

[Sauvignon Blanc]
One of the more polarizing grapes, Sauvignon Blanc tends to evoke a “love it or hate it” response. Characteristics range from bell pepper and vegetal qualities to intense grapefruit, white peach and melon.

Loveblock from Marlborough, New Zealand, is produced and owned by Sauvignon Blanc icon, winemaker Kim Crawford. We find this a more refined and elegant expression, lacking the aggressive acid and over the top grapefruit typical of the region.

Cade Sauvignon Blanc is from Napa Valley, a warmer growing region. This yields riper melon fruit, a softer mouthfeel and more weight on the palate. The nominal blending of other aromatic grape varietals lends complexity.

Riesling, a personal favorite, is often underappreciated and oversimplified. One of the most esteemed white grapes, it runs the gamut from bone-crushingly dry to sweet, dessert wine. For those that dismiss Riesling because they don’t like sweet wine, the secret is to check the alcohol content on the bottle. Alcohol and sugar have an inverse relationship – the higher the alcohol, the lower the sugar. Seek out 9-10% alcohol content or higher if you prefer a drier style.

Kings Ridge
At 12%, Kings Ridge Riesling from Willamette Valley, Oregon, is technically dry and showcases that Riesling is NOT the simple quaff many think it to be. Peach, green apple, and rose predominate, and the distinct petrol (think brand new yoga mat) aromas are a hallmark of the grape.

Bollig-Lehnert Piesporter Goldtropfchen
Approaching the other end of the spectrum is Bollig-Lehnert Piesporter Goldtropfchen Riesling Spätlese. Try polishing off a bottle and saying that five times fast. This gorgeously complex bottling is from the Goldtropfchen vineyard, one of the most esteemed in the Mosel region of Germany. Spätlese means late harvest, suggesting more developed fruit character. At 8% ABV, expect more sweetness – perfectly balanced by crisp acidity.

This Riesling is a perfect partner with spicy side dishes like the jalapeno poppers from Boiler Room but also pairs perfectly with spicy Thai or Indian cuisine. Only 700 cases produced and with a 91 point rating from the Wine Spectator, this is a gem to seek out.

Sweet Justice
Sweet Justice Moscato, produced by boutique Australian winery, Shinas Estate, has won over many Moscato naysayers. Only 500 cases are produced each vintage and astonishingly, over 300 are consumed right here in North Dakota. With a bit of a cult following, this is not your dorm room variety Moscato. It is ethereal in nature, with stone fruit and tropical flavors, and a touch of effervescence. You be the judge, but we bet Sweet Justice will win you over.

Dan Hurder is Managing Partner of Twist, Boiler Room and Chef’s Table Catering. Laura Botten is Fine Wines Manager of Johnson Brothers ND. For more information or if you want to chat about wine with Dan or Laura, email info@brixandbanter.com

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In the Kitchen with Laneil Skaff

Words by Tracy Nicholson Photography by Dan Francis Photography If you’ve ever lived in Fargo-Moorhead, you’re probably familiar with the last name. Skaff Apartments was founded in 1957 and even…

Words by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by Dan Francis Photography

If you’ve ever lived in Fargo-Moorhead, you’re probably familiar with the last name. Skaff Apartments was founded in 1957 and even today remains family-owned and run. Laneil and Sam Skaff have devoted much of their lives to creating comfortable spaces to live. Now working alongside their children, their daughters Julie Stoe and Jenna Stowers assured us that their mom was not only a wonderful interior decorator for their properties, but also a talented at-home chef. Not wanting to miss a great opportunity to learn a few new culinary tips, we decided to visit their Moorhead home of 25 years to see what’s cooking. Whether your Valentine’s day centers around romance or family, Laneil Skaff created one meal that everyone is sure to fall in love with.

“When my daughter, Julie, asked me to do this, I thought of this entree recipe right away. It’s a recipe I make for Sam on a weeknight, but it’s also dressy enough to make for a special occasion,” said Laneil Skaff. “I wanted to do something that always tastes good, that’s easy and even the guys could make for Valentine’s Day. I don’t usually like to go out for Valentine’s Day because every restaurant is so busy, but this meal is simple and only takes about an hour.”

Valentine’s Day Menu:

Pear, Pomegranate and Pistachio Salad
For a fresh start, Laneil Skaff chose this salad because it’s one of her family’s favorites. It’s a pear, pomegranate and pistachio salad with a creamy poppy seed dressing. To make prep easy, this can be made ahead of time, then simply add the dressing before serving.

Coq au Riesling
“For the entree, I chose a chicken in a white wine sauce called Coq au Riesling. This recipe called for bone-in, skin-on chicken because it just delivers so much more flavor and moisture than boneless breasts,” said Laneil Skaff. “For this dish, you can serve it over rice or noodles, but I prefer a crusty bread to soak up the delicious sauce. This recipe can easily be made into other dishes. Roast some vegetables, use the chicken and sauce and recreate it as a rice bowl the next day.”

Poached Pears with Caramel Sauce
For dessert, Laneil Skaff did a simple, poached pear in chardonnay, with a caramel sauce, then garnished it with fresh raspberries and cracked pepper.

Tips of the Trade:
When it comes to cooking, Laneil Skaff generally uses a cheaper wine. Since her poached pears require an entire bottle, this is a good thing. She suggests sticking to the less expensive selection, but choosing one that you would like enough to drink.

International Inspiration
“I like to roam the internet, page through magazines and sometimes I find recipes through T.V. shows. I love cooking and I love being able to glean recipes that are easy and yet delicious. I’m pretty sure I should have been born Italian,” laughed Laneil Skaff. “When I was in Italy, my favorite thing was the pasta and the different dishes. We went to a small agriturismo which is like a bed and breakfast where they grow all of their own produce. It’s a working farm with grape vines and olive trees. He would just show up and he’d cook for you and I got him to tell me a recipe of his. Wherever we go, I like to find a recipe that I can bring home and try to recreate.”

“We have a couple of pasta favorites, one that’s a white wine, lemon-chicken pasta and also a Fascilli Fresco. We eat this a lot in the summer using fresh tomatoes and basil that we grow, along with garlic in an olive oil. We just let that sauce marinate all day long, then cook the noodles and combine it at the end with fresh cheese. It’s just easy and you can add chicken breast if you want or serve it alongside. Those are two very versatile dishes,” said Laneil Skaff.

Even though Italian is a favorite in their home, Laneil Skaff loves to branch out and try virtually any nationality of cuisine. “I love to go to cooking classes. There’s something to be learned from anybody and everyone. I usually go to Sur La Table when I’m down in Phoenix and bring some girlfriends with me. It’s a cooking store that hosts cooking classes as well. One of my favorites was the croissant class. Sometimes you learn a lot of new things and then there are others like my risotto class where I realized that I was actually doing it right all along,” said Laneil Skaff.

“I love to cook and I’m at the age now, where I kind of wish I had pursued it earlier. But, back then I had four kids,” laughed Laneil Skaff. “There are days I’d love to open a little, funky restaurant, but an idea from other cities that intrigues me the most is having people come and eat and pay what they can.”

Family Recipe Night
“The kids’favorite thing to do is recipe night, where we try out new recipes and then all watch a T.V. show. It was usually centered around the show “24”. We all get together quite a bit. On birthdays I let them either pick a place to eat or write a menu, so sometimes it’s breakfast, hot dogs or sloppy joes. Last night it was a new recipe for me, Pad Sai Mu??, a Thai dish. So, I took a little trip to the Asian grocery store and got the Chinese broccoli and the noodles that I needed. A trip there is kind of an event in itself, it’s fun,” said Laneil Skaff. “You have to have a strong stomach for smells, but it is delightful and a great place to get what you can’t find at other stores. And it’s more reasonable because sometimes you can find it in the regular grocery stores, but it’s so expensive.”

The Skaffs are blessed with six grandkids ranging from 15 years-old to three months. “The younger ones love my mac and cheese, but my oldest has two things he calls “The Famous”. One of them is my hot fudge sauce and the other is my raspberry jelly,” laughed Laneil Skaff.

Skaff’s Grocery Staples
In the Skaff’s fridge, you can always find a few basic ingredients; garlic, onions, celery, diced tomatoes and carrots. “With these, I can make just about any kind of soup. I always keep a few different proteins in my freezer and then I use the garnishes like cilantro, parsley and croutons. I think it’s a well-rounded mix of things,” said Laneil Skaff. “It’s amazing what you can make with those very basic ingredients.”

Many of Laneil Skaff’s cutting boards and the elevated wood boards hail from a local store, Eco Chic Boutique which happens to be located on the street level of one of the Skaff’s properties, Stone West Village in Fargo.

Cooking for a Cause:
Beyond her family gatherings, Laneil Skaff stays busy cooking for the masses to benefit local non-profits and her church. One of the non-profits does vital work in South Africa and another in the Philippines, so she learned how to make South African food and Filipino dishes. Her largest gatherings were a Norwegian supper and a Thai banquet which served from 100 to 300 people at a time. Another she’s currently working on is the Frozen Meal Ministry through their church, Bethel Lutheran.

“We all love to cook with her,” said her daughter, Julie Stoe. “She cooks for a lot of different things from the Frozen Meal Ministry to thank you dinners for the ministry and we usually help.” It’s not unusual to see the entire Skaff family either helping prep, cook or serve at any of these functions right alongside others in the church who love to cook and learn new recipes. “It’s a great way to see the ladies. Instead of coffee, we get together to cook,” said Laneil Skaff.
Get the Recipes:
Coq au Riesling

¼ Cup butter-divided
Splash of olive oil
2 Medium onions, finely chopped
¼ Pound pancetta sliced into thin strips (can also use bacon)
4 Garlic cloves, thinly sliced
8 Chicken pieces on the bone (I used 4 thighs and 4 drumsticks –can also use breasts – best on the bone and with skin)
8 oz. Portabella mushrooms, sliced
2 Cups Riesling
1 Cup whipping cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Handful chopped parsley

In a large skillet over med-high heat, fry bacon until crispy and bacon has rendered its fat. Remove from pan (leaving fat behind).

Melt two tablespoons of butter and oil. Salt and pepper chicken and brown the pieces all over and remove from pan. Add rest of butter and onions and allow to fry until translucent. Add the garlic and allow to sauté for another 30 seconds before removing mixture from the pan (leaving the fat behind). Add the mushrooms and allow to fry for five minutes (can add a little more oil if pan is too dry.)

Add the onion, bacon, and chicken back to skillet. Pour in the wine and allow to come up to a boil. Turn down heat to a simmer and cover. Allow to cook for 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Uncover, add cream and continue to cook another 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste – garnish with parsley.
Serve with white or brown rice, hot buttered noodles or crusty bread.


Pear, Pomegranate, and Pistachio Salad
With a Creamy Poppyseed Dressing

2 Cups romaine, chopped
2 Cups spring mix
4 Salad onions, thinly sliced
4 Mini cucumbers, peeled every other strip and thinly sliced
2 Pears, thinly sliced
1 Pomegranate, seeded
½ Cup shelled pistachios
½ Cup crumbled feta cheese

Creamy Poppyseed dressing
½ Cup mayonnaise
¼ Cup two percent milk
3 Tablespoons sugar
4 Teaspoons cider vinegar
2 Teaspoons poppy seeds

Whisk together in mayonnaise, milk, sugar, cider vinegar, and poppy seeds. Set aside.
In a large bowl add tossed romaine, onions, cucumbers, pomegranate seeds, pears, feta cheese and pistachios. Add the dressing and toss gently. Serve immediately.


Poached Pears with Caramel Sauce

4 Anjou pears, with stems
1 Cup granulated sugar
1 750 ml bottle of Chardonnay
1 Tablespoon peppercorns
Zest of one lemon

Caramel sauce
1 Cup sugar
3 Tablespoons water
5 Tablespoons butter
½ Cup whipping cream

Place sugar, wine, peppercorns and lemon zest in a small, deep pan and slowly bring to a boil over medium heat. While mixture is heating, peel pears, leaving the stem and a little peel at the top. Cut a small slice off the bottom of the pear so they stand. Once the liquid is boiling, place pears in pan, standing up. Turn heat down to med-low and place cover on pan. Simmer 30 to 40 minutes or until tender.

Make caramel sauce: Have all ingredients ready to go – this will go fast.
Heat sugar and water on med-high in a heavy, three-quart saucepan. As the sugar melts, stir with whisk or spoon. As soon as it comes to a boil, stop stirring. The syrup will become dark amber. Immediately add the butter and whisk until melted. As soon as the butter is melted, pull from heat, allow to cool 30 seconds. Add cream slowly to mixture and continue to stir. Mixture will foam. Continue to stir until smooth. Cool. (Can be made ahead and stored in the fridge.)

Plating dessert: Place pear standing on a plate or small bowl. Drizzle caramel over top – sprinkle with pepper. Garnish with raspberries or pomegranates. Serve warm and enjoy!

At Home with Laneil Skaff:
Laneil Skaff is in the midst of planning a remodel on her kitchen, but in the meantime, they embrace the space that brings their family together. Beyond the spacious kitchen, overlooking the river in their South Moorhead home, the Skaff’s style is stylish and inviting. “My style is comfortable, I love the Fixer Upper style using reclaimed wood,” said Laneil Skaff. “In this room, we have a lot of windows, so I love to bring the outside in with the birch branches. Just keeping things natural, mixing woods and metals. I switched to grey, but I try to keep it as warm as possible because I live in a 25-year-old home. So, I try to mix in the flavor of the oak with brand new colors and accessories.”

When Laneil Skaff wants to update her home, she turns to a few of her favorite stores like Scheels Home & Hardware, Eco Chic Boutique, Grain Designs, Pottery Barn, West Elm and Crate & Barrel. “I like to shop a variety of places, including local art shows and art fairs. I like it to look hand-crafted and I don’t want it to look like I bought it all at once,” said Laneil Skaff. I want it to look like a collection of living and always be someplace that can gather people in and make them feel comfortable.”

Future Issues:
This spring, Laneil Skaff will be showing our readers her favorite Tuscan recipes and sharing a few memories from her trip to Italy. Also, don’t miss our July issue when we head to the lakes area to feature their newly renovated, farmhouse chic lake home.

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Cocktails + Cookies

Words by Jesse Masterson Photos by Dan Francis Photography After I debuted my love of cheese and charcuterie trays in the October issue, I’m happy to be back for the…

Words by Jesse Masterson

Photos by Dan Francis Photography

After I debuted my love of cheese and charcuterie trays in the October issue, I’m happy to be back for the holidays to talk about two of my other favorite things; cocktails and cookies. Whether you’re entertaining for the holidays or just trying to make your weekend a little jollier, you’ll find these recipes to be simple, fun and absolutely delicious.


Pinterest Perfected
These Cranberry-Pistachio Holiday cookies are simple and festive and have become an ongoing tradition in my house. I love pistachios and Christmas, so combining the two is perfect. One year, I actually made 60 dozen. Needless to say, this cookie is a popular request among friends and family. I originally found the recipe on Pinterest, but have since made my own modifications to portions and ingredients. I then modified the recipe even further to make a biscotti version of the cookie recipe. If you’re aghast at seeing that I used a sugar cookie mix, don’t worry. I usually prefer the homemade versions of everything too, but with these particular cookies, I’ve found the Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix to be the best. In the pursuit of Pinterest perfection, I tried multiple, homemade recipes for the sugar cookie portion but it just never turned out as well. Plus, this simplifying step will save you some time.

A Holiday Spin on a Classic Cocktail
I’m no mixologist, but I do enjoy concocting a fun cocktail now and then. After working in the restaurant industry for many years, I’ve gotten to observe some great tricks of the trade and it certainly helped expand my horizons in food and drink. I chose the cold drink for its holiday spin on one of my favorite classics, the gin and soda. It’s a clean and simple combination that can easily be spruced up for the seasons. To give this drink a holiday vibe, I made a thyme simple syrup, added a lime wedge and garnished with cranberries and fresh thyme. I find the salty-sweetness of the Cranberry-pistachio cookie pairs perfectly with this drink.

It’s a Hot One!
My other choice is a hot one, literally. It’s inspired by a drink I love from HoDo Lounge named “On a Plane to Mexico”. Their version is a little different, but still has a similar espresso base and a hint of orange. I also serve it in a champagne flute just like HoDo does. To create this, I used mandarin-flavored vodka, simple syrup, skim milk and espresso, then garnished it with a sugar rim and orange zest. Since coffee drinks are made to couple with biscotti, I altered the cookie recipe to create my own version of this coffee shop favorite.

Entertaining + Organizing
Since not every home is set up for easy entertaining, sometimes you need to bring in a little reinforcement. I found this bronzed-gold bar cart with marble top at McNeal & Friends in Downtown Fargo. I love the clean look of it and the fact that it has three tiers to help organize the necessities and display the goodies. I recommend keeping this cart in close-proximity to the dining table so guests have easy access to cocktails and other things that might be in high-demand. You can also include fun little recipe cards for your featured drinks so guests can try their hand at crafting their own.


Get the Recipes:

Cranberry-Pistachio Holiday Cookies

1 pouch (1.5 oz.) Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix
1 box pistachio pudding
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 eggs
1/2 dry roasted pistachio nuts, Whole
1 cup dried cranberries, whole

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. In a large bowl, stir flour, cookie mix, and pudding. Stir in melted butter and eggs.
3. Add pistachios and cranberries, mix well.
4. Drop tablespoons onto parchment lined cookie sheet.
5. Bake 8-10 minutes. Cool on wire rack.


Cranberry-Pistachio Holiday Biscotti

1 pouch (1.5 oz.) Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix
1 box pistachio pudding
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 eggs
1/2 dry roasted pistachio nuts, whole
1 cup dried cranberries, whole
2 tablespoons powdered sugar (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. In a large bowl, stir flour, cookie mix, and pudding. Stir in melted butter and eggs.
3. Add pistachios and cranberries, mix well.
4. Divide dough in half. On each of two ungreased cookie sheets, shape half of dough into 15’x2′ log.
5. Bake 18-20 minutes. Cool on cookie sheets for 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 250. Place logs on cutting board. Cut crosswise into 3/4 inch slices. Place slices cut side down onto ungreased cookie sheet.
6. Bake 38-40 minutes, turning once half-way through. Immediately remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks. Cool 10 minutes. With a fine mesh strainer, sprinkle powdered sugar over tops of cookies.


Gin Thyme
2 oz. gin
Soda water
1 splash thyme simple syrup (Find the recipe below)
Serve over ice

Lime wedge
Thyme sprig
Fresh cranberries


Spiked Orange Espresso
1 oz. Absolute Mandrin
2 shots espresso
1/2 oz steamed milk or cream
Splash simple syrup (Find the recipe below)
Sugar rim
Serve hot in champagne flute

Edible Garnish:
Cranberry-Pistachio Holiday biscotti or orange zest


Simple Syrup Made Simple
You can buy a variety of Simple Syrups at the store, but if you make it at home, you can save money and create your own customized concoction. Simple Syrup is very easy to make and can be infused with just about any type of flavor. Once made, you can add it to your coffee, cocktails and even lemonade. If stored in a cool spot in a tightly sealed bottle or mason jar, your syrup can last up to six months.

Make your own Simple Syrup
1. Combine equal parts of sugar and water.
2. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly.
3. After the sugar is completely dissolved, stir in your sprig of thyme. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
4. Allow to cool completely, then transfer to a bottle for storing.


Holiday Tools, Appliances & Accessories:
Nut bowl – Michael Aram, McNeal & Friends
Wine glasses and champagne flutes – Waterford Crystal, HomeGoods
Bar cart and holiday sprigs- McNeal & Friends
Shotglasses – Target
Aero latte frother – Creative Kitchen
Verismo expresso maker – Starbucks
Zyliss fruit zester – Creative Kitchen

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Family & Food – 6 Must-Have Holiday Recipes from the Kitchen of David Baxter

Words by Tracy Nicholson Photos by Dan Francis Photography If your holiday menu is still at-large, this is one story you need to read. Meet David Baxter, he’s the key…

Words by Tracy Nicholson

Photos by Dan Francis Photography

If your holiday menu is still at-large, this is one story you need to read. Meet David Baxter, he’s the key to your best holiday meal yet. During the week, he’s a State Manager with PMA/Washington National and travels between four states focusing on supplemental insurance. Arriving back in town on Thursday nights, Baxter shifts focus to his two other loves, family and food. Married to interior designer Ami Baxter, these two are a well-oiled machine in the kitchen and know the secret recipe for entertaining with ease.


Prime Rib Perfection
The perfect prime rib can be tricky, so before we share David Baxter’s recipes, we asked him to share a few of his grill master secrets. “The biggest thing I always make sure to do when grilling, is to bring the meat to room temperature before I put it on the grill. If it’s frozen or even somewhat cold, the meat won’t get as juicy,” said Baxter. “Also, this makes a big difference with the seasoning. When you put salt on the meat and put it right on the grill it does something different. But, when you season it and leave it, the salt will actually penetrate and can help break up the fat a bit. When you’re going to put something on the Green Egg, it pays to take your time. I always tell people to over-season since you will naturally lose a lot in the process of cooking.”

Big Green Egg Vs. Gas Grill
“The first thing we ever made on a Big Green Egg was chicken, and when we were done, I tried an apple pie on it,” said Baxter. “After that, I was hooked and we never went back to a gas grill. Our friends from Alabama, Anna and Dustin Harris, who used to live in Fargo, had three of these Big Green Eggs. At that time, I didn’t know anything about them. He showed me how he cooked brisket, an amazing breakfast entree and Boston butt which is like pork shoulder. So, he’s the one that actually showed me how much better it was than gas grilling.”

For Baxter, patience is a virtue that is required in the kitchen and especially while grilling up his masterpieces. “I think that if you master the low and slow concept on the Big Green Egg, and learn to be patient, that’s the best way to cook,” said Baxter. “A lot of people like to turn the grill on for five minutes and be able to throw their steaks on it. At the end of the day, if you want something that tastes amazing, it takes time. You can still cook fast things on it, but it probably takes about 15-20 minutes to be ready to grill. I like the Big Green Egg because it can keep everything at a constant temperature, very low, with consistency. After a while, it’s kind of like a Dutch oven with the added flavors built-in.”

Garnishing Greatness
Every good chef knows that creating over-the-top dishes requires proper seasoning and the perfect, complimentary garnish. To take his grilled carrots to the next level, Baxter relies on candied bacon for a little crunch and sweetness.

When it comes to prime rib, he is all for garnishes with a punch of flavor and varying textures. “Some people like mushrooms on steak, but I prefer them on prime rib with a bit of fried onion and coarse horseradish,” said Baxter. “To make the mushroom garnish, I just used a little bit of butter, oil and balsamic vinegar with about a 1/4 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce. Then I get the mushrooms hot and keep flipping them until they’re soft and just a tinge crispy.”

Southern Inspiration
“Ami and I went to this place out in Nashville a month ago and they did a whipped feta honey and served it with warm, pita bread. We loved it and it has such a smooth consistency, so I thought it might be the perfect addition to mash potatoes. The pomegranate as a garnish and in the gravy gives you just a little bit of sweetness to compliment the savory.”

“For the gravy, I used Four Roses Bourbon, but the trick is to put the bourbon in after the onions start to carmelize, letting the alcohol burn off. You want the aged, oak barrel taste that bourbon has, not the alcohol taste,” said Baxter. “Then I start to dilute it down. When I did my carrots, I basically did a crudite putting it in boiling water for five minutes. So I kept that carrot water and used some of it to dilute the gravy. Also, when your prime rib is done, make sure to put a cast iron skillet under it to gather the drippings to include in your gravy. Another tip is to use cornstarch as a thickener, not flour. Cornstarch won’t leave a floury aftertaste and your gravy will stay clearer and more flavorful.”

Labor of Love
In their household, David Baxter does most of the heavy cooking, while his wife, Ami Baxter manages the sidelines, cleaning up after each course and often prepping and chopping ingredients. Even though she can hold her own in the kitchen, she prefers to take a backseat to allow David to run the show. “It’s a good trade-off, she doesn’t like to cook and I don’t like to clean,” laughed Baxter.

Reinventing Recipes
Ask Baxter his thoughts on altering recipes, and he’ll tell you that being precise is over-rated. “A lot of people look at a recipe and they have to follow it step-by-step. If I don’t have the exact ingredient, it challenges me to figure out another way. Baking is a science, but cooking is an art. When you’re cooking, the amounts don’t need to be perfect,” said Baxter. “I think really good cooks, over time, continue to change their recipes. I grew up watching both of my parents cook and my Aunt Kathy, who wrote a couple of cookbooks, would always spend time teaching me in the summertime. From this, I learned that I have to be patient and not afraid to fail. I’ve had plenty of things not turn out the first time. It just takes time to improve and learn what works and what doesn’t.”

Entertaining with Ease
Through trial and error, Baxter has learned to have a plan of attack when entertaining. “Figure out your menu in advance and make sure all of your ingredients are prepped and ready to use the night before,” explained Baxter. “You’ll notice some of the ingredients are repeated throughout each of the dishes, so you can multi-task the prep of those. The biggest reason why people get frustrated in the kitchen is that they waste too much time focusing on prepping and chopping for each dish, one at a time. The same goes for seasonings. I usually have mine measured out and ready to go before I start cooking.”

Plating Perfection
If you want to make sure everything is hot when you plate it, Baxter suggests knowing how long everything takes to cook and scheduling a time to work on them in order of cook time. “It also really helps to have someone help and hold you accountable for each dish. Ami and I make a good team that way, she makes sure I have the right ingredients and helps keep track of every step so each dish is hot and ready for plating at the same time.”

Get the Recipes:

Rosemary and Garlic-Crusted Prime Rib
1. 5lb bone-in prime rib – bring to room temp over 4-5 hours.
2. Heavy coating with a seasoning of your choice when prime rib is at room temp.
3. Fire-up Big Green Egg to 550 degrees with lump.
4. Add 4 blocks of wet hickory and let burn until heavy white smoke stops and grill hits 500 degrees again.
5. Put prime rib on indirect heat for 30 mins. Put a cast iron skillet below prime rib with 1/2” water to catch drippings.
6. Shut down all vents completely.
7. Let prime rib stay in the Big Green Egg until internal temp hits 135 degrees.
8. Pull off prime rib and let rest until internal temp hits 140 degrees (medium rare).
9. Garnish with horseradish, sautéed mushrooms, fried onions and Au Jus.

Pomegranate Au Jus
1. Sauté 1/4 cup of yellow onion and 1 clove of garlic with 1 tablespoon butter.
2. Add 1/4 cup of pomegranate juice, 1/4 cup of pomegranate seeds and 1 ounce of favorite bourbon. Reduce to simmer for 30 minutes.
3. Add in prime rib drippings (approximately 2 cups) with 1 cup of water and continue to simmer for 15 minutes.
4. Strain Au Jus through a filter.
5. Bring Au Jus back to a simmer and thicken with cornstarch. Add cornstarch until you feel the Au Jus getting ever-so-slightly heavier. It will continue to thicken on its own.
6. Remove from heat after 5-7 minutes of thickening. Set aside covered.


Whipped Feta and Honey Mash
1. Boil 9 large, peeled potatoes until cooked through.
2. In a separate bowl combine 1/4 cup of honey, 1 1/2 cup of feta, 2 tablespoons of butter, and 1/2 cup of cream cheese. Whip ingredients until the consistency is smooth.
3. Add in potatoes and blend until smooth.
4. Garnish with tarragon and rosemary.


Candied Bacon, Grilled Carrots
1. Peel 8 large carrots and trim tops.
2. Lay out 8 strips of applewood bacon on a cooking sheet with tinfoil. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and drizzle 1/2 tablespoon of sriracha over bacon – about 3 drops for each piece.
4. Bake at 325 until edges begin to crisp.
5. Quickly remove bacon from cooking sheet and transfer to a non-stick parchment paper until cooled. Then chop bacon into garnish size pieces.
6. Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil and submerge carrots for 4-5 minutes until softened. Dry carrots thoroughly and toss in olive oil and salt.
7. Add carrots to high heat on Big Green Egg for 1-2 minutes on each side until grill marks form. Remove from heat and let rest for 5 minutes.
8. Cut carrots diagonally and garnish with candied bacon.


Grilled Zucchini & Summer Squash
1. Cut 2 medium zucchini and summer squash in half, lengthwise.
2. Toss in olive oil, salt, and pepper.
3. Add to high heat for 3-4 minutes each side until cooked through and grill marks form.
4. Remove from heat and diagonal cut. Garnish with Irish Cheddar Cheese.

Savoring the Leftovers
Baxter is known for honing his culinary skills while entertaining guests, but only his family knows how creative he can be with the leftovers. After you’ve made his prime rib perfection, you’re going to need a plan to make something spectacular, so not one single morsel goes to waste. We asked Baxter to offer up some culinary advice and one of his family’s favorite recipes for making good use of great prime rib.

Remnants of the Holidays
Baxter suggests saving the ends of vegetables that get chopped up, so they can be frozen and later made into vegetable broth. “When you’re ready to use them, throw them in a pot with some water, let them rest for four hours on simmer, then strain out the vegetable remnants,” said Baxter. “You can pretty much do the same for any chicken remnants and bones to make chicken broth.”

Fast Food at Home
The Baxter’s live an extremely busy life with their three children under the age of eight, Fuschia, Scarlett and Harrison. Ami Baxter owns her own Interior Design firm, while David Baxter is on the road for work, traveling Monday through Thursday between four states.

“When the kids get home, they don’t want to wait an hour or more to eat, so I like making a meal plan for the week,” said Baxter. “In our house, we love leftovers. When I get back into town for the weekend, I’ll plan out my meals, sometimes making a big pot of soup for them, chicken or lasagna. Then Ami and the kids will use those leftovers through Thursday night when I get home, then we do it all over again. If you cook prime rib on Sunday, you know that you can probably have two or three meals from the leftovers. We would then do stroganoff, beef stew and probably thin-sliced prime rib sandwiches.”

Leftover Prime Rib Stew
1. Trim 1 1/2 pounds of the leftover prime rib. Remove all the visible fat and cut into 1/2” chunks.
2. Heat a large skillet. Add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and the prime rib. Season lightly with salt and pepper and brown on all sides, about 3-5 minutes total. Transfer the meat to a plate.
3. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in the skillet. Add 2 large diced carrots, 2 diced celery, 2 cloves of garlic, 2 large, diced potatoes, 1 medium, diced onion and cook until lightly colored, about 3-4 minutes.
4. Stir in the 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour. Add 1 cup of merlot red wine and simmer, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add 2 cups of beef stock, 4 fresh thyme sprigs and 1 bay leaf. Bring the ingredients to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat until the carrots and potato are fork tender, about 7-10 minutes.
5. Finally, add fresh peas and the prime rib along with any accumulated juices, cover and simmer until the meat is heated through, about 3 minutes. Discard the bay leaf and thyme sprigs.

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