Eating and Drinking with Heavy Table's James Norton: A Boundary Waters adventure meal

Chef JD Fratzke treks through the Boundary Waters
Chef JD Fratzke treks through the Boundary Waters. (Becca Dilley Photography)
Eating and Drinking: James Norton - Boundary Waters
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Heavy Table food editor James Norton joins the Current's Morning Show to talk about the local food scene.

This week on Eating and Drinking, James tells Jill about a Northern Minnesota adventure he shared with photographer Becca Dilley (who also happens to be James's wife) and a chef J.D. Fratzke from the Strip Club Meat and Fish in St. Paul.

"It was the very early part of March," James says, "so let me assure you it was nice and crisp and chilly up there as we trekked into the wilderness."

The trip was sponsored by Save the Boundary Waters, an organization that works to protect the watershed from sulfide or copper mining through what it calls "adventure activism" — doing interesting activities to highlight the value of Northern Minnesota's natural resources.

With assistance from Steve Piragis from Piragis Northwoods Outfitters in Ely, Minn., the three hiked to a campsite on Fall Lake, where they bivouacked in a woodstove tent. "Outside, it's 10 or 15 degrees — where coffee freezes," James says, "but the tent is 70 degrees inside. It's really very civilized in there."

Once at their campsite, Fratzke prepared a meal that reflected the area and embraced local ingredients:

Bloody Mary with grassfed-beef stick
Appetizer: quail wings done buffalo style
Main course: Tenderloins of venison, prepared in red-wine reduction
Butterbean and duck confit
Salad with bacon and crayfish
Trencher with polenta, wild rice and buffalo-cranberry pemmican

Enjoying a meal in the midst of the natural environment became about more than eating for James. "You can hear yourself think again," he says. "All the emails, the tweets, the music — no offense to music — but it's all gone. You can just hear the wind blowing through the trees, and that's all you've got going on. We had some of those moments on this trip and it was really fantastic."

The experience got to the heart of James's mission at the Heavy Table; essentially, to attempt to answer the questions, what does it mean to eat and drink in the Upper Midwest? What is really our food? "[We have] as good of ingredients as anywhere in the world," he says. "We need to know what those ingredients are and how to use them, because they're awesome."

Read James Norton's complete account, with photos by Becca Dilley, "Feasting on Frozen Waters" at the Heavy Table website.

James Norton edits the Upper Midwestern food journal, Heavy Table. He's also the co-author of a book on Wisconsin's master cheesemakers and editor of The Secret Atlas of North Coast Food.

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