Nordeast to Far East

All that said, I've still found a little room in my heart for Jang Won: It's a cheap, slouchy, pleasant sort of place, and spying on the other tables seemed to reveal that it thrives on the perfect, organic connection between Nordeast's meat-loaf traditionalism and its Far Eastern counterpart.

 

TABLEHOPPING

BLUEBERRY STEAK: I was busy trying to make the cat do the Vida Loca dance, and her little loincloth was indeed flipping seductively, and I was just about to trip the sprinkler system to replicate that part in the Ricky Martin video where it's raining, when suddenly it occurred to me--wouldn't a picnic be lovely? So I called up Terry Cuddy, who with her husband John runs Rush River Produce, a pick-your-own berry farm about 15 miles southeast of Red Wing.

I told Cuddy that the scuttlebutt around town was that blueberries grew outdoors; she didn't disagree, and she should know. In fact, she explained, the Rush River fields (which also contain black, white, and red currants, gooseberries, and raspberries) feature four acres of Northblue highbush blueberries--the very tall, very productive hybrids that are the source of most commercial berries. The Cuddys also plant three acres of half-high varieties, which are crosses between highbush and wild, low blueberries.

"There are quite a lot of varieties of blueberries, literally hundreds," Cuddy explained, "and there are dozens that are winter-hardy and will grow in our area. The variety of berries gives us a nice extended period for picking: Patriot and Bluecrop will get nice large berries in early July, while Nelson and Elliot get their fruit in August." Do people have favorite varieties, the way they do for apples? "Oh yes. The berries have different flavor characteristics--some are super-juicy, or a little firmer, a little sweeter, a little more tart. All blueberries are a little tart at the beginning of their ripening, so you can pick to your taste that way, too.

"I like a smaller berry for baking, for pancakes and such," Cuddy added, "but the highbush berries make a great pie. In fact, the very first berries to ripen are--how can I put this for a city person?--they can really be the size of a quarter. They're like the steak of the blueberry family. I like to make pie out of those: They're a wonder to see in a pie crust with whipped cream."

All right, I'm sold. But wait! There's more! It turns out that the farm is way up on a hill in the St. Croix Valley: "There's a beautiful scenic view from where we are," says Cuddy. "People come out and bring picnics--we have picnic tables, or you can just sit out under a tree. And you can eat as many berries as you want. We also have swing sets and climbing toys for kids, there's lots of flowers to look at if someone's not into picking. Bring your kids, bring your dogs, try some berries." Perfect! Or rather, purrrrrrrfect. Now all I have to do is rig up a little berry-picking outfit for my feline companion.

(The farm, open Thursday through Sunday 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., is less than an hour and a half from the Twin Cities; berries cost $2.25 a pound, and the Cuddys provide containers. For more information, call (715) 594-3648, or send a postcard to Rush River Produce, 4098 200th Ave. W., Maiden Rock, WI, 54750.)

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