A knack for klub at More Cafe in Milan
Serving potato klub in Milan, Minn., is no different than cooking for the chefs at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, France.
Everyone is an expert on what makes the perfect klub.
Fortunately, so is the person cooking the klub in Milan -- Yong Soon Schroeder.
Her mastery of this traditional Norwegian dish has made the More Café that she and her husband, Mike, own and operate the destination for klub lovers every Tuesday evening.
"Every chance we get,'' said Ruby Lokken of Appleton when asked how often she and her friend Linda Hanson of rural Danvers make it to Milan for klub.
"It's getting to the point where we're part of the furniture around here,'' said Lokken, laughing, before turning quite serious: "She knows how to make it.''
The More Café has been featuring its Tuesday night klub for several years. It's become an event all its own: Vern Lund, star of a one-man band, almost never fails to perform while customers come to enjoy the specialty.
While the majority of the booths are filled by people from Milan and nearby communities, it's also not a bit unusual for people from places like Rochester, Minneapolis or even Warroad to show up.
Some had seen the More Café's klub featured on television when Jason Davis did a segment for his show, "On the Road.''
Many others are steered to Milan by word of mouth, according to Mary Engebretson of Milan, who has been helping serve the klub since September. There is a kind of grapevine out there when it comes to klub, she explained.
Engebretson was witness to the ultimate test: A visitor from Norway was escorted to the café to try the klub.
"Tastes like klub,'' he pronounced with satisfaction. It assured everyone within earshot that people in Norway still know their klub.
People in Milan have always known their klub, but the same cannot be said for the Korean-born chef.
She readily admits that a lot of potatoes were sacrificed as she learned the secrets.
For help, she turned to her friend, Judi Bohm.
Bohm didn't have any secret recipes to offer, but she had grown up eating klub. She assured Yong Soon that she would recognize the real thing when it came from the kitchen.
Even Yong Soon knew that the softball-sized clumps of potatoes and flour that she first started fishing from her pot of boiling broth weren't the real thing.
Or, as Engebretson politely put it: "Her first couple of batches were not really good.''
Yong Soon was down to the last 10 potatoes from a 100-pound batch when she finally cracked the code and produced perfect, snowball-sized klub.
Contrary to the public image of klub as a rather bland dish, Yong Soon said it really is all about flavor. While she is not about to give away any secrets, the chef said it is a matter of using the very best of ingredients, and of course, mixing them in the right proportions.
The perfect klub must bring out the delicate flavor of the potatoes, she said.
"It's something you maybe won't like if it is the first time," said Nancy Schneck of Milan about klub. "You have to practice eating it.''
She and friend Cathy Olson are the "German girls'' who grew up eating much different fare, but have been assimilated into the local culture and have become "klub regulars'' at the café.
Yong Soon said the people of Milan are very fussy when it comes to klub, but by the same token, they have been good teachers.
She too is among the converts to klub. Although her palate was shaped by the far spicier foods of Korea, Yong Soon said she enjoys klub right along with her customers. "I have to test it,'' she said with a smile.
Yong Soon said it was her husband, Mike, who enjoyed cooking and led them to start their own café nearly 15 years ago. Today, it's the self-taught Yong Soon whose specialties in the kitchen often win the rave reviews. Customers praise the café for her homemade soups, daily lunch specials, and special buffets that feature both Oriental and American cuisine.
But one thing matters most of all, and explains why Vern Lund celebrates every Tuesday by playing his music. ""It's the best klub I've ever eaten,'' said Lund.
Everyone knows where the credit belongs. "They keep saying that she's part Norwegian now,'' said Engebretson of Yong Soon.
She serves her klub at the café from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. every Tuesday from mid-September to the Syttende Mai celebration in mid-May.