Up North

When people hear that we spent three months in Italy and that I love to cook, they assume that I find the food in Minnesota a let down. That’s not true at all! I love finding great regional food and this summer, I had a lot of fun discovering some great dishes on our trips up to my in-laws’ lake cabin near the Canadian border. Here I am highlighting just a few of my favorites up north:

The Boathouse in Ely, MN


The Boathouse is a great place to find some craft beers (something I love in the US, but were hard to find in Italy). It also has a great rustic Minnesota feel with wood finishing and deer on the walls.


If you can’t decide which beer you’d like to try, you can get a flight. I personally love getting a flight because I love variety, but don’t need the volume. So it’s a great way to get four small, different beers. If there is one beer I would say is a must try, it’s their blueberry blonde. I’m not generally fond of fruity beers (or blonde ales, for that matter), but this one is so good. I have it every summer. It is also fun to watch the blueberries float and sink in the beer (they constantly move around).


They also have great food. My favorite starter is the gunboats. They are jalapeno peppers stuffed with a wild rice cream cheese mixture and topped with crumbled sausage. They are like a lighter jalapeno popper and are really delicious. They also have duck wings on the menu, which I unfortunately don’t have a picture of, but are another great and unique option.


Russ Kendall’s Smokehouse in Knife River, MN


Stopping at Russ Kendall’s on our way back from the cabin became a new tradition this summer. I have no doubt we will continue to do this at least once a summer from this point on. They have roughly eight different kinds of smoked fish including several varieties of salmon, whitefish and lake trout.


They also sell tubs of cheese spread (we always get swiss almond which I think goes best with the smoked fish) and crackers. A cracker, some cheese and a piece of smoked fish makes an amazing snack. We bring the fish home and enjoy it for days. There are no doubt more creative things a person could do with this fish, but I like the cracker snacks so much I haven’t even bothered trying anything else.


Rockwood in Ely, MN

A trip up north would not be complete without walleye. Rockwood is great because they take traditional Minnesota ingredients like walleye and duck and work them into dishes from other regions or countries. One example not pictured is walleye rangoon, a play on crab rangoon. On our last trip to Rockwood, we tried their walleye cakes with wild rice and they were delicious!


We also tried the poutine with chopped duck breast. Duck is probably my favorite meat. This and the duck wings at Boathouse are the least formal presentations of duck I’ve ever eaten. But they are fantastic! Obviously this is a heavy dish, but it was was delicious and the duck made it even more decadent.


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