Thursday, August 23, 2012

Food truck trend hits Duluth beach neighborhood

Chow Haul food truck serves the Park Point neighborhood
 Now we know we've made it. Our sleepy little neighborhood on the Lake Superior beach now has a food truck. Every Wednesday night this summer Chow Haul has parked across the street from us, serving a clientele of locals and tourists alike. They picked this location for Wednesday nights because that's race night for the Duluth Keel Club and around 9:00 there is a regular slug of hungry sailors coming up from the two marinas nearby. 
The Aerial Lift Bridge down Lake Avenue.

Sally was out of town last night, our schedule at home was funky, so for dinner we crossed the street. I had a tasty noodle bowl, and the boys had wontons and a chipotle chicken taco.

I can't help but try a little joke here: 

Q: Why is eating on Park Point so great? 
A: Because of all the sand which is there.

Chow Haul makes regular stops around Duluth, including up by the Natural Resources Research Institute, West Duluth K-Mart, and Carmody's Pub. Best place to track them is on their Facebook page.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Three things you have to do before summer is over.

Fall is on its way. North of us in Ontario the aspen trees are already turning.

Here are three things you could do on the North Shore, but if you can’t get down to Lake Superior, do these things anyway. They’re like in the frozen lake after a experience you need in order to set your clock to the season.

S'Mores stand at the State Fair

One: Go to a festival. 
You just have to get somewhere where you can get shoved around in the crowd and buy some greasy food. Most of the big North Shore events are over. But there’s still the Lake County Fair this weekend (and the Silver Creek Ukelele Carnival nearby!). In the Twin Ports, check out the Dragon Boat Festival over on Barkers Island. If none of those meet your schedule, you’ll have to make the drive to the Minnesota State Fair.
"Homegrown" tomatoes in our backyard this evening

Two: Eat a homegrown tomato.
Even more than the perfect ear of sweet corn, the perfect fresh tomato sings in a perfect pitch of summer. Like the old song goes, “Only two things that money can’t buy, that’s true love and homegrown tomatoes.” There are farmers’ markets in Duluth and Two Harbors. Yes, you’re buying them. So maybe the song is wrong. 

On a rock off the Duluth shoreline

Three: Swim in a lake. 
Cold nights are already starting to cool off the smaller lakes, but Lake Superior is still as warm as it gets. Here’s where you really need the North Shore and Lake Superior. Smaller inland lakes can get rather green and dank this time of year. Down on Park Point or at Brighton Beach, the water has cleared up since the big June flood and it’s crystalline now.

Friday, August 10, 2012

North Shore funky blues

Organic blueberries ready to be picked, Shari's Berries, August 7, 2012
We went to Shari's Berries this week to pick blueberries. While it was raining heavily in Duluth and all the way up the expressway toward Two Harbors, as soon as we turned up Homestead Road and away from Lake Superior, we drove out of the rain. Typical Lake Superior "funk" (and I don't mean the musical style, just the cool, gray moist lake-effect so-called weather)

The gray funky feeling stayed with us for berry picking. Shari herself met us at the gate and immediately started apologizing for the picking conditions. Maybe you want to come back Saturday, she suggested. Maybe the berries will have ripened up some more. Maybe it won't be raining then. "Production's down about 40%," she had warned on her phone message before we even got there. Finally, "Are you okay with the horses?"

But we persisted through the funk, just like we'd driven through the rain; after all, we'd already committed half a workday to this, and we NEED a few gallons of blueberries in the freezer to get us through a winter of muffins and pancakes. So we headed out with our gallon ice-cream pails (thanks to our teenage sons for emptying those out for us).

Compared to scavenging for wild blueberries, the picking was fantastic. No poison ivy, handsome horses snorting, and the berries were 2-3 feet off the straw-covered ground.

Compared to a normal season at Shari's or other pick-yer-own farms, it was, well, about 40 percent down. Very few places you could plop your rear on a bucket and pick a few quarts just within arm's reach. It's nearly impossible to fill a gallon bucket picking just one berry at a time, so we were almost strolling through the bushes to find clumps of berries together. 

An hour and a half later, we'd each filled our buckets. These lovely organic berries were only $2.50 per pound and will fill out a lot of Sunday breakfasts and school lunch muffins. 

We left with our treasure, feeling pretty good about ourselves, drove back down Homestead Road, and sure enough it was still raining by the Lake. Funky.

Go on, pick your own berries
There is still picking coming up at Duluth-area berry farms. Call Shari about possible picking this weekend, (218) 834-5221. Blackbirds and Blueberries, near Cloquet, will have some weekday picking dates coming early next week. 

Music to pick by
How about the track "Funky Blues" from Charly Parker?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Watch out Betty! A new North Shore bakery.

If there is one baked good most associated with the North Shore, it's pie. That might be changing with this year's newest emporium of edibles, the Honey Bee bakery in Beaver Bay. Watch out, Betty's Pies! Here comes the massive yumminess of caramel rolls, cookies and scones.

The Honey Bee is located on the west side of Beaver Bay, in the same building as Lemon Wolf Cafe. You can find them on Facebook. Inside you'll find a little bit of everything, including pies. There's also a few small tables you can claim to enjoy your fresh baked goods with some coffee.

A word to the wise: this is a small bakery and the prices are a dime or two higher than you might expect. The quality is worth it. If you're feeling tight, check out the day-old rack for some bargains.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Swim the North Shore

Folks are swimming in the lake off the North Shore like never before. The water is crystal clear and freakishly warm. The map above is from this weekend, showing water temperatures across Lake Superior. The reds are about 70 degrees, and the purple around Duluth and the Apostle Islands shows water in the mid-70s. 

This warm water will go away any day now. All it will take will be a good northwest breeze like the one blowing today. That breeze will blow the warm water away from the North Shore. Up from the depths of the 800-foot deep North Shore trench will come bone-numbing 50-degree water. 

If you can swim
While the warm water lasts, get yourself to one of the North Shore's primo swimming beaches for a refreshing dip. Bring your snorkel gear and explore underwater worlds. 

My favorite North Shore beach for swimming is the Little Two Harbors beach at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. You need a park permit for this one. From the park entrance off Highway 61 21 miles northeast of Two Harbors,  follow the park signs for a quick right turn on to the park road. Turn left into the parking area for the Trail Center. From the  Trail Center, find your way past some scenic picnic areas down to the beach.

It's a lovely cobblestone beach protected by a rocky island. The cobblestones drop off quickly. If you swim out a ways from the beach you can see Split Rock Lighthouse looming above the lake a quarter-mile away. 

If you can't 
If you can't get to the North Shore for a swim, check out this wacky series of videos from Duluth's resident undersea exporer, Jim Richardson: