The North Dakota Department of Commerce hosted the seventh annual bloggers and writers workshop on Wednesday, June 3 in Bismarck and Thursday, June 4 at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park just outside of Mandan. I registered to attend both events. I feel like agreeing to these events was definitely outside of my comfort zone. I don’t fancy myself a writer or a “real” blogger. I also experience a little social anxiety around new people. As usual, I am so glad I attended. I am going to recap the event in a few stages. I don’t want to miss any of the details I really loved.
Thank you to Alyse for snapping the above photo!
First up – Wednesday’s Walk Around. We were invited to meet on Wednesday, June 3 at 5:30 p.m. in the lobby of the Radisson in downtown Bismarck. You could also get a room for the evening here if you were travelling. I arrived at the Radisson (perfect hotel to explore downtown by foot) right at 5:30 and was greeted by Kim Schmidt with the Department of Commerce. I have followed her social media accounts online (as with many others I met through the conference) and it was nice to meet in person. I also met Dakota Pam (Pam Thompson, in real life) who I have followed as well. Slowly, some of the other conference goers and the conference’s main speakers arrived. At 6 we set off just a few blocks over to try some eats and drinks at Humpback Sally’s.
Humpback Sally’s (HS) is located at 510 East Main in Bismarck, right by One World Imports, in the heart of things happening in downtown Bismarck. Close to Peacock Alley, Laughing Sun Brewery and Fireflour Pizza. Humpback Sally’s is home to Kate Gerwin, the 2014 Bols Around the World Bartending Champion. Oh, and also the first FEMALE and first AMERICAN to win that title. Yeah. Legit. The World’s Best Bartender is right here in Bismarck, ND. Gerwin welcomed us to HS while sharing about the venue itself.
Gerwin in her element.
Above left is the Salt & Pepper Watermelon Giblet and on the right are some housemade bitters. You will notice their unique labeling. A few facts on HS:
- The building houses three bars: Humpback Sally’s, 510.2 (five ten point two), and Luft
- Humpback Sally’s is a small plates tavern
- 510.2 is retro/steampunk/Victorian speak easy establishment with a hidden entrance (go with someone in the know and dress sharp) and features craft cocktails
- Luft is Bismarck-Mandan’s only retractable rooftop German beer garden featuring craft beer and brats
- In addition to the bars, they have a store called Potent Potables & Pop, a retail store on the 2nd floor where you can purchase housemade tonic syrup, bitters, spices, sodas or vinegars
- HS specializes in “cocktail culture” featuring signature creations using fresh ingredients
- HS doesn’t look to offer strong drinks, but a crafted cocktail creation for you to sip and enjoy leisurely
- Small plate offerings are to be shared in your group family style
- HS menu and cocktails change seasonally to feature fresh ingredients
- HS is open 4p-1am Tuesday through Saturday
- Gerwin’s winning cocktail is on the menu called Brown Chicken, Brown Cacao and is appropriately served in a small milk jug glass with straw. It is made with spiced almond milk, inspired by a Smith and Curran cocktail
We were immediately seated and brought a bottle of Salt & Pepper Watermelon Gimlet. I was not excited to be honest. A gimlet is a cocktail made with lime juice and gin. I am NOT a gin fan. At all. I poured myself a bit on the rocks and passed it down the line. Well, I am happy I was one of the first ones to try this and the bottle made its way back to my end of the table. This was an outstanding drink. I do wish it was a little bit more boozy but it was just sweet enough with a hint of salt and pepper; a perfect summer drink. Others at the table ordered the Brown Chicken, Brown Cacao ($7) and the Cucumbrero ($8). Both received high remarks. The Cucumbrero is margarita with jalapenos and cucumber with a cilantro-salt rim.
S&P Watermelon Gimlet – highly recommend!
Onto the food! As I mentioned, the plates are served small and should be shared. The prices are fairly reasonable from $3-$12 (I think). They have small plates, a little bit larger plates and dessert plates. Here is what we sampled:
- Potato Croquettes ($4): Panko fried mashed potatoes, scallions and sweet pepper relish. The red pepper “relish” (more like a sauce) was my favorite and I wish there was more!
- Stuffed Poblano Pepper ($8): A roasted whole poblano with chorizo sausage, veggies, apples, rice, cheddar cheese and topped with a cilantro horseradish crema. This was probably my favorite dish of the evening. The pepper was slightly spicy and the crema was perfect to cool it off. There was a nice mix and balance of veggies, rice, cheese and meat.
- Pork Belly Confit ($9): Miso-butterscotch glaze, house pickled cherries and green onion. The pork was fork tender and served beautifully. I loved the pickled cherries the most. I couldn’t personally detect miso or butterscotch in the glaze but it was a solid dish.
- Cowboy Mac & Cheese ($6): Three cheeses, jalapeno, bacon and spices. Gerwin told us this menu item is a regular, customers love it. Now don’t hate, but I am over the bacon trend and I have never really liked pasta. I did take a bite for the experience and the flavor was good. The béchamel sauce seemed slightly grainy but any pasta or mac and cheese lover would go gaga over this dish I imagine.
As for a few things I might try when I return:
Cocktails (and I am usually a beer person, Luft is much more my style than HS, but I will return): CV Manhattan ($10) and the 510 Mary ($8).
Food: Truffle fries ($4), cheeseburger eggroll ($4), carne asada street tacos ($7) and all of those on The Lighter Side portion of the menu, below. And maybe the Manhattan Bread Pudding ($5) for dessert.
Below is the interior of HS. I really want to try 510.2 to experience the vibe.
Thank you so much to Humpback Sally’s for hosting our group and giving us a wonderful experience. I can’t wait to return to try more. I encourage you to try out HS or the other places at the venue. There is no place like this in ND!
I’ll be back with what we did after Humpback Sally’s and what we did at the conference. Below is a list (to the best of my memory) of those attending part or all the Wednesday walk around and their Twitter handle. Each person is so unique and offers something special to our group of writers/bloggers
Please forgive me if I forgot anyone! I truly enjoyed visiting with you all.
- Marlo Anderson, Guru of Geek
- Suzy Beehler, jewelry maker
- Erica Hager, Bison Booties
- Beth Schatz Kaylor, Rhubarb and Venison
- Carolyn Moore, also with Bison Booties
- Alyse Erbele, doula
- Joe Baur, writer, traveler and filmmaker
- Sara Otte Coleman, Dept. of Commerce
- Pam Thompson, Dakota Pam
- Kim Schmidt, ND Tourism
- Sandy McMerty, Experience ND
- Alicia Nelson, Prairie Style File
- Jenna Cederberg, Montana Magazine