a picnic operetta

September 22, 2010

This past weekend I volunteered my time to help with food prep for Tales of Hoffman: A Picnic Operetta, which has been touring twelve community garden spaces during the 2010 harvest season. The show is produced by Mixed Precipitation, a Minneapolis-based performance initiative dedicated to exploring text, space and dramatic form.

Not only is this opera performed in beautiful community gardens all over the Twin Cities, but chef Nick Schneider creates locally sourced food samplings that are prepared fresh and served to translate the events of the story.  How cool is that? Super rad.

For my part, I showed up at Nick’s house at eleven in the morning, drank earl grey tea, chatted with Nick and chopped, scooped and prepped my little heart out.

The menu for the operetta looked like this:

  • Elderberry Kombucha-Brew
  • Beet-Studded Pickled Crab Apples
  • Roasted Garlic-Chevre on Zelnike,
    a traditional Czech sauer kraut cracker
  • Raspberry glazed Baby Beet Jewels
  • Feta Stuffed Roasted Red Pepper, a classic greek meze.
  • Brown Buttered dinosaur kale

The morning flew by as I picked raspberries from Nick’s garden, scooped, glazed, chopped, and rolled. It didn’t hurt that the house, garden, and kitchen had me in a complete and constant state of awe and envy.

It was a great learning experience for me, talking to Nick and hearing how he comes up with ideas for all the different dishes based on the geography of the opera’s setting, as well as the themes within the story. Beyond that, Nick is just a wonderful chef and watching someone so talented in their space, doing their thing, is something quite magical.

Before I knew it, we had everything ready and set to go and all I had to do was turn up at the Bronx Community Garden and enjoy the show. The gardens’ location on a bike trail made the performance even more wondrous as random bikers would look on in surprise at the spectacle they were passing by. The food “pairings” were exciting interludes to the operetta and seemed to delight and intrigue the audience.

The Elderberry Kombucha-brew was pretty out of this world and the brown buttered kale…oh my. If you haven’t ever cooked kale in browned butter before, you have no idea what you are missing out on. Do it now.

There are but two shows left of this season’s run. Twin Cities folk: make it your last summer hoorah and I promise you won’t regret it.

Finally, here is the recipe for zelniki, the Czech sauer kraut crackers that we made and served with roasted garlic chevre. I can’t wait to make a batch myself – they were perfect zingy mouthfuls of crunch. Recipe and notes courtesy of Nick Schneider.


This cracker is of Czech origin. It is essentially a pie crust where the water is substituted out for minced sauer kraut. This makes a very workable dough.


  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups sauer kraut chopped fine
  • 3-4 oz unsalted butter cut on a cheese grater


  1. Combine flour and kraut and grate the cold butter into the mix. The butter can be frozen a little ahead of time to make it easier to grate. Should have a pie crust consistency.
  2. Roll out as thin as possible. You’ll need to dust each side with a
    little flour as you flip and roll out the dough.
  3. Cook for 30 min or until light brown in a 350 oven. Turn or rotate shelves half-way through the baking time.
Email this to someonePin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on FacebookShare on RedditShare on StumbleUpon

Previous post:

Next post: