Kitchen Renovation

April 27th, 2017 by

Renovation is a popular idea these days whether the day dreaming version while watching HGTV or living the dream and updating your own home or business. If you haven’t done it, be warned, it brings out the best and the worst in people.

After a little backstory, I’ll let you in on a few things that we were never told about renovation but have since learned.

We purchased a 1955 house three years ago. This came after a 12-year process of renovating a 1912 home. We were young, childless when we bought it and did the work ourselves (with help from friends). It was a learning process from the beginning.  We wanted to hold on to the character of the house, like the dark woodwork, stained glass and claw foot tub. The largest part of that remodel was the kitchen…of course, we’re both chefs. We had just completed it when we admitted to ourselves that having two adults, two babies, two cats and two big dogs in the home was becoming too difficult. We sold it and bought our 1954 home.

The new house had the space, the Mid-Century vibe and was architect built, which showed in every nuance, design choice and layout. We found out through some digging that the house was designed by John Polivka. As you may well know, that is a huge name in architecture so when we decided to renovate the kitchen (chefs, remember?) we hired a firm to help us to ensure that the design met Polivka’s standards and cuddled right into the existing floor plan. In this we had no choice. The exterior of the home is stone and floor to ceiling windows in most rooms.

We lived in the house, as I said, for three years deciding on what could be done. We consulted with three firms on the renovation before we selected one and we began the process last August. We began demo at the beginning of February. In mid-March we were here.

As we near the end of April we now can see our design choices...

Things we know at this point:

  1. Have a design or elements of your design prepared for your meeting with your chosen designer. We used Houzz.  It’s a perfect way to create a folder for all the macro and micro details that tickle your fancy.  Philip had his folder and I had mine for a few weeks then we compared them to see what overlapped to enable compromise.  This info can all be shared with your designers.
  2. Choose your firm carefully, do your homework on their design galleries, pricing, reviews and don’t feel that you must stick with this company if they don’t feel right for you. Consider it an interview.
  3. Be clear with your expectations and especially your dislikes. Once you get to a place where they start drawing up real plans you will have to give them a deposit for their time and it is better when they understand your needs and wants.
  4. Be clear with your budget. Just like in the television shows, problems will pop up and if you are already at the top of your budget where will that money come from? We opted to save some money by doing the demo and painting ourselves. Tell them this AFTER you get the bid.
  5. Ready yourself for making decisions/choices daily. Make sure you and your spouse/partner are on the same page.  Our firm has us each sign off on change order separately to ensure we both know what is on the table.
  6. This will not be a 6 or 7 week process, most likely (unlike TV). Your stuff has to go somewhere. If you are going to store it, ensure that is part of your budget. This is also a great time to purge the unnecessary items you have accumulated. Where are you going to make dinner? What equipment will you use? Where will you do your dishes/laundry/sleep until the renovation is complete? We set up a make shift kitchen in our basement where there is an existing bar. We have a butane burner and a toaster oven to do all our cooking. Luckily, we own a restaurant where we can do all our dishes.
  7. Prepare your family for chaos. We prepared our children, but how do you prepare your animals?  That was one thing we overlooked.  Our two dogs have suffered more than we expected. Even though they are both adults, their potty training has regressed.  We kennel them in our room so workers can come in and out freely. This has eased their stress but our room smells of dog and is always fluffy with fur.
  8. If you are an organizer, be prepared to be….uncomfortable. You will not be able to find everything, know where items are all the time, put things away as you like. Everything will take a longer, but you will adapt.
  9. The changes may take place slowly, but revel in the progress as it happens. This should be exciting and FUN!
  10. Watch when you can to learn. Ask questions if something doesn’t seem right. Bring up issues as they arise and document them with photos and correspondence. A good company wants to make you happy.

Our schedule says that we will have a kitchen in May. I will update the blog with photos as the checklist grows smaller.  One day at a time, one day at a time…

Legacy Cocktail Competition

November 30th, 2016 by
Last month, Chris Massey, Create's Bar Manager, won a well-earned space at the USBG Legacy Cocktail Competition that was sponsored by Bacardi. He flew to Chicago mid-November to try for the title of champ.

His concoction was called Isla Blanca: an elegant dance of Bacardi Superior, lime juice, spiced pistachio syrup, coconut milk and allspice dram.

Although travel was difficult with a significant delay at the airport he was able to reach his destination in plenty of time to fetch ingredients and spend some time enjoying the scenery with a fellow competitor from Minneapolis.

The competition was held at The California Clipper Lounge located in the Humboldt Park area. Chris and 9 others drew numbers for their order, had and hour and a half to prep which led to a seven minute presentation of their wares. In that seven minutes the candidate had to make 4 cocktails while conversing about their inspiration. Once the stress lifted, all 10 finalists and judges met at Avec for dinner and, what else, cocktails!

The winner of the competition wasn't Chris, but he's still number one in our book! Good job and congratulations!


Food Trip: New Orleans

October 27th, 2016 by

New Orleans

"First thing we're going to do is eat a dozen oysters."

Well, I said that, but the first thing we actually did was check into the hotel, grabbed a martini and a sazerac, walked into a city new to us...the motley city of New Orleans. We immediately felt like we belonged, but had lost our map. The neighborhoods are not structured N-S-E-W. They were arranged to curve with the Mississippi.  So it took awhile to realize what "up river" and "down river" meant along with "in" and "out." Walking the streets was the only way to immerse ourselves; enabling us to peek in shops, snap a photo of porches dressed for  Halloween and stop in for a cocktail or snack.

As chefs we had two objectives: eat what we HAD to eat and drink what we HAD to drink. The originals, the can't-get-anywhere-else's and have-to-haves.  We didn't plan anything but our reservations for dinners and a few lunches. The days were spent meandering and happening upon the locations that bewitched us.

We came across the Napoleon House. This building has stood for nearly two hundred years and it bared it in its walls, floors, paintings and traditions. We had to try a Pimm's Cup. It was perfect for the warm, humid weather... a refreshing, adult Arnie Palmer. We also tried the English Pimm's; a bit more intense, richer and deeper in flavor.

So by now we were ready for those oysters.  Nearly every storefront was a restaurant, nearly every restaurant offered seafood.  It was a toss up where to stop.  So, of course, we stopped many places.  The best oysters we ate were a surprise to us because they were from Alabama, Dauphin Island.  They. Were. Perfect.  Daunting at first, due to their size, we tip-toed on the first slurp.  The we dove.  They were juicy, briny, salty and turgid.  No other offers were taken, we simply ate these the entire time we were there.  Along with the complex delight of eating these oysters was the difference in the presentation and shucking method of the individuals presenting them. By far our favorite was Bourbon House. (Yes, we enjoyed the he## out of the bourbon as well).

and the cracklins... well I'll tell you, I'll start driving right now to get another fresh, hot basket from their kitchen! Two baskets (and a board) later we were rolled into our cab and walked it off into the late night to see some music and the immediate change in atmosphere once the sun went down. New Orleans does not disappoint. Our favorite dinner was a bit out of our walking range-midtown, but worth every minute in the cab! It was Toups' Meatery. The staff was young and fun, the restaurant was just the right size, the meat board was perfection...

Another item making our list was an authentic shrimp po'boy. We grabbed this for breakfast one day (who wants to waste bites on eggs??) do you choose the location? Ask a bartender, one that you've spent some time with. That's exactly what we did and he directed us to a small eatery ew would have bypassed, but we were so glad we didn't! The simplicity of this sandwich leads some to believe it is easily replicated. However, in the depths of NOLA when the humidity is high, the temperature is rising and when there's a lazy Susan of hot sauces at your disposal, I think the chances are slim to none. You just have to be there...

New Orleans was a city we saw in 4 days, which means we saw so little but it changed us so much. Not only did we meet some great people; we learned, we immersed, we were enveloped. The architecture was intriguing, the art was vibrant, the music surrounded us, the streets beat our feet and we couldn't have asked for more... except more time.



Sunday Supper

May 11th, 2016 by
11 May, 2016

So Spring has finally arrived here in Minnesota!  Yes, it's rainy.  Yes, it has been cool, but there is so much to look forward to in the next few weeks here at Create Catering & The Dining Studio!

This Sunday is our Spring Sunday Supper!  We have an all-out Spring theme and menu:

Family Style Dinner


  • Spring Greens – marinated heirloom tomatoes/ cucumber vinaigrette/ shaved sweet onion/ red oak/watercress/ watermelon radish/ goats milk feta (GF/ V)
  • Grilled & Chilled – asparagus & fiddle heads/ fresh lemon/ crispy parsnips/ fresh dill
  • Marinated Vegetables – baby green top carrot/ cauliflower/ white beans/ red wine vinegar/ olive oil


  • Baby Kale Gnudi – sweet peas/ orange zest/ beet emulsion/ Prairie Rose (cheese)/ crispy speck
  • Couscous -- grilled ramps/ lime vinaigrette/ grilled fennel/ apricot/ arugula-pumpkin seed pesto
  • Local & Wild Mushroom Lasagna – caramelized morels/ local oyster mushroom/ house-pulled mozzarella/ fresh pasta/ thyme


  • Roasted & Braised Local Lamb – Buffalo Creek Farms
  • Basil Potato Puree – sweet cream butter
  • Fermented Pepper Jelly/ warm rosemary hummus/ lamb gravy/ Curry Raita
  • Savory Beignets – parmesan/ truffle


  • The Perfect Short Cake – almond cake/ fresh strawberry/ chocolate dipped short bread wand/ whip/ red wine caramel/ salted vanilla sugar cookie

This is going to another spectacular event at Create and it is so fun to be open to the public!


May 1st, 2016 by

The Waterbury building is hosting Friday evening, all day Saturday and some events on Sunday.

There will be bands

Friday Evening 6-10 pm

  • The Splendid End
  • Stellar Dendrites
  • Slam Academy

Saturday 12 - 8 pm

  • Slam Academy
  • Parlor Bandits
  • Top Rookie
  • Flavor Crystals
  • Silverteen
  • Hoaxer
  • Chastity Brown
  • Twilight Hours

Beer is sponsored by our friends at Insight Brewing and hosted by yours truly, Create Catering on Saturday. The food truck on sight Saturday is Sasquatch Sandwiches this year, so be ready to eat, drink and be merry!

The Waterbury Building will be open to the public and businesses will be showing local art as well as their wares for your enjoyment!

Come visit us and celebrate a (hopefully) beautiful Spring weekend!

Insight logo

The Norseman

April 26th, 2016 by

Bryan, Sharon, Don, Thelma and Ron Wilner celebrating the opening of The Norseman in 1971

"The Norseman" building in Hawley, MN is slated for destruction tomorrow.

You can never go home again.

When I was 6 months old my parents bought a building in Hawley, MN and called it “The Norseman." My grandparents, Thelma and Don Wilner, helped them to get it up and running. They themselves owned a diner in North Dakota, so the restaurant business was already in my father’s blood.

I ate my first solid food (thank you Perry Burnside), took my first steps, learned to dance with help from the juke box and numerous live bands, fell asleep on the black vinyl booth seats, had multiple birthday parties and met and ate my first snapping turtle (again, thank you Perry Burnside) there. There were so many hiding places that hide-and-go-seek was always an adventure. The huge sand dunes in the back lot were the source of many hours of dangerous afternoon play as were the gargantuan icicles that clung to the side of the building at the back entrance.

When I was 13 we were forced to close because the police made it impossible to continue our business. I was actually grateful, I was finally able to see my parents in a less stressed, more-present state. In high school we had prom dinner in the “back 40” and also a reunion dinner in the basement many years later. Both events initially gave me excitement and ended with disappointment. After 1984 it was never “The Norseman” again. It was the same structure, different furniture and decoration, different food and wrong. It was like revisiting your childhood home after 20 years with a different owner. Things had changed.

I loved the many years of experiences there, the memories that cling in the back of my mind and truly appreciate what I learned from The Norseman. I now own my own restaurant to continue the Wilner tradition. Thankfully, I also own the two carved wooden doors that once proudly stood at the formal entrance of that once-grand castle. Every time I touch the wooden crests that adorn them I’m 5 again and THEN I smile, I am home again.

Photo courtesy Richie Burnside

The Norseman

Iron Chef

March 23rd, 2016 by

Philip won!

The reigning #ironmettlechef for the next year!

Corey fought hard with his first course of a chicken-fried scrapple biscuit sandwich, but Philip's dishes won by 25 votes. Now, we will look to next year for the next competition!


Valentine’s Day Sunday Supper

February 15th, 2016 by

Second Sunday Suppers is a HIT! What a night!

Valentine's Day was so fantastic here at The Dining Studio!  We had a full house (we keep it small to keep the service standards high), the food was flawless, the desserts were pure creativity, the flowers were gorgeous and all by bubble candlelight. It was just plain fun!

We enjoyed seeing so many of our friends, family and clients who we haven't seen for awhile. The comments that we received are helping us make the next Pop-Up even better.  Second Sunday Supper in March will be the 13th and we are channeling Iron Chef with Philip Dorwart facing off against Corey Meier. This is going to be game-show-festive with surprise ingredients chosen by the registered guests.   How fun is that?? When you register for tickets a question will pop-up at the end to ask you to choose, from a selection, what ingredients you want them to cook. These will be kept a secret from our staff until the moment Philip and Corey have to use them to CREATE an entree to wow the room. Guests will be able to watch the whole process and try both entrees to vote for the winner.

Tickets will go on sale Thursday, February 25th on Eventbrite. Be prepared to reserve your seat, these will go quickly! I'll post the menu under the Pop-Up Sunday Suppers category on the website next Tuesday.

Sunday Pop-Up Dinners

January 26th, 2016 by

Valentine’s Day 2016  | The Dining Studio

 The first of our Sunday Pop-Up Dinners is coming!

Valentine's Day is it!  It is going to be fantastic, intimate, communal and the best way to celebrate in town!

Imagine it:  Easy parking (no valet worries, no meters, no ramps), champagne welcome, passed appetizers, communal seating, no waiting for your table, no rush to give your table to someone else, flowers, candlelight, tour de force 5 course menu with a free drink and cash bar........ahhhhhhh....finally a Valentine's Day celebration with a heart!  We are offering 46 seats in our Dining Studio (private restaurant) to our favorite people (you!).  Philip and I will be here as well as the rest of our talented crew to create the most effortless holiday of the season.  There will a cash bar replete with fantastic, hand-picked wine, beer and cocktails.

The tickets are on sale right now on Eventbrite for $70.00 per person.  The Chef's Table is already sold out.

Drum Roll............................................MENU!!!!!!!


  • East Coast Oysters – warm foie gras mignonette
  • Shrimp “Cocktail” – guajillo conserve/ lemon
  • Gruyere Gougeres – Mississippi mushrooms/ melted leeks


  • Red Greens – quince vinaigrette/ hazelnut/ torched fennel/ Pleasant Ridge Reserve
  • Mussels – kao soi broth/ smoked Heritage pork belly/ fried shallot “gremolata”
  • Gnudi – house-made ricotta/ caramelized cauliflower/ truffle/ Reggiano/ orange
  • New York of Prime Beef -- poutine gratin/ citrus fired kale/ red wine glace/ parsnip crisp
  • Chocolate & Strawberry Cube Cake – dried strawberries/ chocolate crunch/ caramel

***Vegetarian diets and dietary restrictions are easily accommodated****

We are very excited about the Sunday Supper Pop-up dinners and plan to do them monthly.  Stay tuned for  upcoming dates and information!

And now, on to the final planning!


January 20th, 2016 by

How great is it to work at Create Catering and see all these fantastic dishes go out to our clients for their wedding tastings? I have to say it is FANTASTIC! These beauties have come from our talented chefs to bring a taste of Summer to our bleak winter palates (I love squash as much as the next person, but....). It is difficult to showcase some items that are bountiful in the Summer while looking at our schedule for January tastings. We freeze and preserve produce from our farm at the peak of their harvest and hold on to them for just these occasions. The flavors are still so fresh and it makes it much easier to imagine your reception and the dining experience you will have.