Thursday, February 18, 2016

Cookbook Review: The Birchwood Cafe Cookbook

by Andrea Yoder

I have a weakness for cookbooks, especially ones with beautiful pictures of vegetables and recipes written from the heart.  Last week I visited Minneapolis, MN and enjoyed lunch at my favorite restaurant, The Birchwood Café.  I’ve loved this place since the first time I went there.  It’s a comfortable, warm & welcoming spot with food you can trust.  As I was standing in line debating the turkey burger with creamed kale or the black bean quinoa burger, I looked up and saw a cookbook on the counter.  There was a copy labeled “café copy” that diners could take to their table to peruse.  I had no idea The Birchwood had published a cookbook and found myself snatching it up quickly before someone else in line spotted it!  I flipped through the pages as I enjoyed my lunch, then returned the book before I left and traded it in for my own copy to take home!

So here are just a few reasons I like this cookbook and encourage you to consider adding this to your own collection.  First, the book very much represents the same heart and passion you feel when you walk into the café.  Makes sense since the book was written by café owner Tracy Singleton and Executive Chef Marshall Paulsen.  The opening pages of the book include a message from Tracy and are entitled “An Invitation to Cook.”  The Birchwood serves “Good Real Food.”  According to Tracy, this means sourcing, preparing, and serving food with gratitude for the ingredients themselves as well as those who produce them and make it possible to get them to the café.  Good Real Food is food that is fresh, locally sourced, sustainably produced, organic and handled with respect for the land, animals and people.  Throughout the book they highlight a handful of farmers and producers who regularly supply produce, meat, fish and more for the café.  Our friends, Gail and Maurice Smith of DragSmith Farms, are featured in this cookbook.  While we don’t supply the café directly, Gail and Maurice have an extensive delivery route to Twin Cities restaurants and deliver our produce on our behalf.  Check out the picture of Maurice on page 18 and you’ll see a box of our produce on the back of his van!

Another reason I really like this book is that it is based on Midwestern seasons.  While we think there are four seasons, according to the Birchwood there are actually 8 seasons in the year including “Scorch,” which represents the heat of the summer, and “Thaw” which signals the end of winter and the transition into spring.  Chef Marshall’s recipes represent ingredients featured and savored in their peak season of availability.  In his words “We enjoy so much of our produce when it’s in season and available locally.  Anything we can’t preserve, we anxiously await its return next season.”  I can’t wait to make his recipe for an Heirloom Tomato Sweet Corn BLT in the summer.  In the meantime, I’m going to try his recipe in the “Winter” section for Apple & Turnip Quiche.

The final reason I really appreciate this book is the approach Tracy and Marshall take to sharing their passion and recipes.  In the “Using This Cookbook” section at the beginning of the book, they state:  “We attempted to make these recipes as user-friendly as possible, so we were careful to keep them simple, avoiding lengthy steps and hard-to-find ingredients…..We hope this book will inspire you to cook, Birchwood style.  The recipes are guidelines, so taste, adjust, and make them your own!”  And that is what cooking is all about--drawing on inspiration from the ingredients you have and simply using a recipe as a roadmap to guide you as you create simple, tasty meals that are nourishing to not only your body but also your soul.  Tracy & Marshall, thank you for sharing the spirit of The Birchwood with us in this book.  Job well done!

If you’d like a copy of The Birchwood Café Cookbook, stop in at the café for lunch and take one home with you!  If you can’t make it for lunch, you can also purchase it on their website,

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