Amy Thielen

Simple, Good, and Tasty Local Gift Guide 2013

It's getting to be that time of year when we're encouraged to buy, buy, buy. But when you're thinking about gifts this year, why not shop local? We've got a round-up of local Twin Cities and Minnesota gift suggestions from our writers. There's something for everyone on your list, from hand-crafted goods like pottery and knitwear to experiences like a tour of local inns to a gift that keeps on giving like a flower CSA share. You can also check out gift guides from 2012 and 2011 for some perennial local gift suggestions.


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"Yards to Gardens" Matches Gardeners to Land Owners

Yards to Gardens (or Y2G) might just the most benevolent site in the web universe. Essentially, it functions as a matchmaker between people who want to garden but don’t have the space, and those who have the space, but not the time. (It also puts people who want chicken manure in contact with those who have it, and gives room to shout to those who are trying to give away extra seeds and clay pots, but more on that later.)

I say it’s benevolent because the founders of Y2G know that it’s just not right to let someone suffer with an unfulfilled primal urge to dig in the dirt. (They just want to grow things!) The purity of their sentiment is matched by the other side of the coin: people who have yards and gardening space and just want to see it put to good use.

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Heartland's Lenny Russo and His Love Affair with the Mangalitsa

Lenny Russo knows meat, but he seems to have earned an honorary degree in fat. His description of the fat from the Mangalitsa (a rare-breed, lard-type hog) he has been serving at his restaurant lately is a script of subtle differences. Comparing it to conventionally raised pork fat, the Mangalitsa (from Provenance Farms in Taylor’s Falls) is at once more stable, yet softer; healthier, but more abundant;  high in unsaturated fat and oleic acid, yet richer-tasting; clean, but also decadent.

I’ll also add: this stuff is addictive. If a good pork chop beats strong and clean like a pop song, a Mangalitsa chop seems positively orchestral. 

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The Seedy Side of Gardening: The Best Seed Catalogs for This Summer's Garden

The unofficial rule dictates that you don’t start browsing through seed catalogs until well after the New Year. They’ve been on my bedside table since before Christmas, but that’s only because the first ones started arriving in November. They’re playing dirty with my resolve; in Minnesota, that’s a full six months before planting.

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