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A Food Fan Handbook for the Great Northern and Winter Carnival

Two winter festivals, one tasty guide

Skating outside the Landmark Center
Saint Paul Winter Carnival

The Twin Cities are whipped up into a righteous winter froth right now with a collective excitement of a jittery snow globe dweller. Vikings! Super Bowl! Temperatures above zero! The Winter Carnival and the Great Northern come sliding in to St. Paul and Minneapolis to amp up the giddiness with two weeks of outdoor adventures, activities and even an actual ice castle.

The story goes that a snooty New York Times reporter once scoffed at our frosty wonderland and dared suggest that visiting Minnesota in the winter was akin to needing another hole in the head. (Read the real story here.) Never ones to take a slight laying down, we donned our Fairbault woolen suits, trudged out onto the streets, tugging sleds and letting the weather knit our nostrils together. Take that, Elsa! The cold never bothered us anyway, first.

Events are getting rolling today, and will continue through the February 11, with the barstool ski race finals at the Minnesota Fairgrounds. Here are a few of the tastiest events to enjoy while freezing your keister off. Find the full schedule of events here.

Sugar Cube Ice Palace Fundraiser

When: Tuesday January 16, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Where: Landmark Center

Cost: $10

While the real ice palace is still being built in nearby Rice Park, check out a few different versions built entirely out of sugar cubes. The cost of entry includes food and drink, plus the chance to vote on the winner. Just to keep things wacky, there will also be a dance-off between Chad Kulas of the Midway Chamber and B. Kyle of the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce.

Meritage French fries aren’t officially part of the parade, but are pretty luminous, nearby
Andy Lien

Moon Glow Pedestrian Parade

When: Thursday January 25, 5:15 to 8 p.m.

Where: Meet up at the Securian Building, 401 Robert Street and walk up to Rice Park

Cost: Free

Zip up those snow pants and kick off the official start of the Carnival by traipsing through downtown St. Paul. It’s uphill, but ends with a bar that will be serving ice wine and Summit. Plus, there will be hot cocoa. Bring your own illumination, that includes candles, flashlights and glow sticks. At 6 p.m. the ice palace will be lit and you can follow with a little after-glow stop at nearby Meritage for cocktails and French fries with Bernaise.

Surly Brewing Beer Garden and Food Truck Loppet

When: Saturday, January 27 – 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.; Saturday, February 3 – 6:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.; Sunday, February 4 – 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Where: Loppet in Uptown

Cost: Free entry + cost of beer and food

Before, after or instead of skiing the Loppet through Minneapolis, you could stop by a pop up beer garden courtesy of the area’s largest indy brewery plus snacks from area food trucks.

Lake Nokomis
U.S. Pond Hockey

U.S. Pond Hockey Championships: Tournament Play

When: Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sunday, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Where: Lake Nokomis, Minneapolis

Tickets: Free; food and beverage available for purchase

Real hockey is outdoor hockey. Bang a stick and clap louder with your choppers on, pond hockey is about as real Minnesotan as it gets. The competition has been taking place since 2006 and this year reunites players for a three day weekend. Check out the Labatt Blue bar for so-cold-its-almost-frozen beer and a few bites of food.

Doggie Depot

When: Saturday January 25

Where: St. Paul’s Union Depot 214 4th St E

Cost: Free

Fido’s probably just as sick of those sub-arctic temperatures as the rest of us. Four legged friends are gathering at St. Paul’s Union Depot for a little sniff and wag happy hour. Sidewalk Dog will be on hand and will be sharing the best area restaurants that are also pooch-friendly.

The lobby at the St. Paul Hotel
Photo courtesy of the Saint Paul Hotel

Saint Paul Hotel Hot Chocolate

When: Saturday, Jan 27 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: Saint Paul Hotel

Cost: Couple of dollars per cup with plenty of free toppings

The best part about freezing your butt off outside, is coming inside for hot cocoa. The Saint Paul Hotel, right across the street from Rice Park is moving all the lobby furniture out of the way and putting out a hot cocoa spread. The St. Paul Grill is also on site with fantastic wild rice soup and one of the best whiskey selections in town.

Revival’s chef de cuisine Dan Zerouth at last year’s event
Photography by BLK WLF Photography

Saint Paul Chef’s Experience

When: Monday January 29, 6 to 9 p.m.

Where: St. Paul Farmer’s Market

Cost: $45 general admission and $125 VIP; Buy tickets here

A bunch of chefs get together to throw some food on an open fire and invite friends over. Those esteemed chefs are Adam Eaton of Saint Dinette, Thomas Boemer of Corner Table, Revival and the forthcoming In Bloom, plus Tim McKee and Shane Oporto of OCTO fishbar. There will also be beers offered in partnership with The Growler and music from The Current DJ Jade. Here are some images from last year’s event.

Surly Outside
Outside Surly’s brewery

Surly’s Ultimate Winter Feast

When: Wednesday January 31, 5 to 8 p.m.

Where: Surly Brewing Co., Minneapolis

Cost: $35 (Tickets are only required for the food and beverage portion of the evening. Guests may attend the event without buying a ticket.) Buy tickets here.

The mega brewery has partnered with Mucci’s, the 612 Sauna Society and Minneapolis Kubb League for a party under the moonlight and next to a roaring fire in the courtyard. Plan for tons of food grilled out, Surly beer and vinyl tunes will be spun by DJ Brian Engel. Plus, yes, a sauna. A mobile, winter-ready sauna is a thing thanks to Minnesotan ingenuity and a dash of cold-weather crazy.

Tater tot hotdish

Fancy Hotdish Competition

When: Wednesday, Feb 7 4:30 pm to 7:30 pm

Where: The Lexington, 1096 Grand Avenue

Cost: $50, purchase tickets here

The old world charm of The Lexington will play host to the campy delights of a hot dish bake off. Restaurant chefs will be competing for the coveted title of Best Fancy Hotdish. Participants include Pajarito, Saint Dinette, the St. Paul Grill, Joan’s in the Park, and Revival. Guests get to help pick a crowd favorite.

Cinco de Mayo Night

When: Thursday February 8, 4:30 to 9 p.m.

Where: Rice Park 109 4th Street West

Cost: Free entry, food extra

Channel warm Cinco de Mayo vibes on Siete de Febrero in Rice Park. St. Paul’s West Side is bringing all the spice from the annual Mexican celebration into the heart of the city. There will be food, entertainment and a jalapeño eating contest.

Vulcan Victory Dance

When: Saturday February 10, 7:30 to 11:30 p.m.

Where: Intercontinet Hotel 11 Kellogg Blvd.

Cost: $20 in advance, purchase them here

The great culmination of the carnival is the overthrowing of King Boreas (winter) by the Vulcans (fire) and then everyone breaks out the Solo cups and grooves to sweet hair band cover jams.