Photos by Carol Banks
After masterminding a strategic plan of attack for a wandering food fan with our local publishers, we struck out to explore/devour Minneapolis. First stop: Kowalski’s Market. I’d read about Kowalski’s – they actively support local businesses and products, such as Bramblewood Cottage’s shortbreads and scones, Ames Honey, B.T. McElrath Chocolates and more – how could you not love a family-owned grocery store such as this? This is a spectacular store, and I was sucked in the minute I saw the easy-to-spot “local” signs on the shelves, identifying what seemed like hundreds of local products I’d never heard of, such as Dixie’s on Grand’s slow-cooked jerky and Wee Willy’s Premium Bar-B-Q Sauce, both of which I snapped up to take back to California … We browsed happily, spotting local favorites such as Dehn’s herbs, Bramblewood Cottage’s lemon shortbread, and Kowalski’s own private label products … Kowalski’s even has “Natural Path” signs, identifying natural/organic foods in each aisle. We sampled Curt’s Salsa from Frederic, Wisconsin, and admired the deli, which was a thing of beauty. The piece de resistance was the information kiosk, where we picked up a Produce Availability Guide, a copy of “At Home with Kowalski’s” – their delightful in-house magazine, a Party Planning Guide, numerous flyers featuring recipes, tips and info on just about anything you can think of including artichokes, garlic, garden fresh herbs, and recipe cards for grilling the perfect burger – even cheese and wine pairings! We visited the Parkview store at 5615 Chicago Avenue South in Minneapolis, and there are eight other locations in the area. For more information, visit www.kowalskis.com.
Turtle Bread Company
Turtle Bread Company was next up … Just entering this incredible bakery/café/retail store, and immediately sighting (and smelling) the numerous bins of freshly baked bread practically made me burst into tears – especially when I found out they bake over 30 kinds … Bread is one of my favorite foods, and clearly these folks have their artisanal bread-making techniques nailed … “Too many choices, too little time!” I whined to my partner, as we longingly sniffed the bins of amazing breads, only then to find the breakfast-goodie section containing such delicacies as almond croissants, ginger and hazelnut scones, and almond pretzel Danish … I loved the ambience, and I was surprised to see the array of gourmet goodies on the shelves: imported olive oils, jams and jellies, private label bread & butter pickles, cheeses such as Roth Käse Raclette from Wisconsin, locally-made Hope butter, and a personal staple – Café Fanny’s granola from Berkeley, CA. Turtle Bread’s café offers homemade soups, gourmet sandwiches, and healthy à la carte entrees such as turkey meatloaf, as well as coffee and espresso … While paying for our goodies I looked down and saw the desserts: cakes, pies, tarts, cookies, cupcakes, etc., many of which are individually sized and hard to pass up, folly to even try … Turtle Bread Co. has three locations in Minneapolis; we visited their store at 4762 Chicago Ave. South; tel. (612) 823-7333 or visit www.turtlebread.com.
Resource Center of the Americas
We then visited the Resource Center of the Americas, an independently owned bookstore and café. The vibe here is fantastic, and I paused to admire their mission statement: “The RCA informs, educates, and organizes to promote human rights, democratic participation, economic justice, and cross-cultural understanding in the context of globalization in the Americas.” I checked out their café menu – in addition to fair trade and organic coffees, items such as chili & corn tamal, gazpacho, and their soup and sandwich combos soon had me drooling … We browsed through the bookstore, purchasing White Earth Land Recovery Project’s Native Harvest Fry Bread Mix – hard to decide which of these goodies I should bring back home, as they also stock a Wild Rice Pancake Mix, strawberry and raspberry teas, maple syrup, jams, jellies, etc … You can purchase copies of the Twin Cities Green Guide here, and they schedule community-oriented events such as book groups, story times for kids, movie and culture nights, and “Coffeehours” – a weekly talk and discussion with a featured speaker. Stop by and check it out – well worth the visit … The Resource Center of the Americas is at 3019 Minnehaha Ave. in Minneapolis. Tel. (612) 276-0788. Their website has “take action” links, and you can make bookstore purchases online, thereby “putting your money where your heart is …” Be sure to visit www.americas.org.
Clancey’s Meats & Fish
No self-described foodie’s visit to Minneapolis could be complete without a stop at Clancey’s Meats & Fish in Linden Hills … Proprietors Kristin Tombers and Greg Westergreen have combined their talents together in a magical butcher shop, and I found it torturous that I was in a hotel and unable to purchase some of their cuts of beef, especially flat iron steak … Clancey’s stocks natural duck, chicken, pork, and smoked fish, all of which come from local producers, and there are home-made sausages, house-marinated olives, and even house-made veal demi-glace (for a fraction of the price we’ve been paying at Williams-Sonoma), which we will be shipping to California the minute we run low … Kristin and Greg believe in supporting locally grown, sustainable products, and they work really hard to offer customers the best meats and fish available … Run, don’t walk, to Clancey’s Meats & Fish, 4307 Upton Ave South in Minneapolis; tel. (612) 926-0222.
France 44 was last but not least, and this truly is The Store That Has It All … if you’re into high-end gourmet shops. California sells alcohol 24/7, so it was a surprise to see the wine/spirits/beer separated from the deli/retail area, but once we figured it out we had no trouble locating lots of fabulous goodies … The deli has some great cheeses, including our beloved Red Hawk from Cowgirl Creamery in Pt. Reyes, CA, and we could not get over what great taste their buyer has … We purchased a jar of Suzie’s Sassy Salsa, a Minnesota micro-brewed salsa, as well as some McEvoy Olive Oil – our favorite domestically-produced oil from Petaluma, CA. Some of the deli’s signature sandwich descriptions made me crazy – why can’t I expand in order to eat multiple lunches? On Wednesday nights they make dinners for two, priced at $44 including salads, entrees, bread and a bottle of wine, and on Thursdays it’s Italian night, plus they also do box lunches and beautiful gift baskets … I briefly considered renting their deli for a party, then remembered I don’t know enough people in Minneapolis … yet. This is a beautiful space, and it would be Big Fun to party in it with France 44 doing the catering … I’d love to join Club 44 – a frequent shopper club that offers events, wine and cuisine classes and discounts to loyal customers. There are various wine clubs, offering members a discount of up to 25-40% off regular pricing … The store is family owned and operated since 1959, and I’m hoping they’ll adopt me … Next door in fine wines, beer and spirits there are over 2,500 different wines, 1,000 spirits, and 650 beers to choose from … this should just suffice for the party I’m planning … What a great way to end the day – France 44 is at 4351 France Ave. South in Minneapolis; tel. (612) 925-3252 or visit www.france44.com.
Sapor was our choice for dinner, and the three of us were wildly impressed with the food, the service, and the ambience … Sapor’s spring menu notes that the majority of their produce comes from farms that practice organic farming and fair trade. They feature local ingredients from companies committed to supporting a sustainable environment, such as Fischer’s Purebred Hog Farm and Full Circle Co-operative in Lake City, MN. Clearly this was our kind of restaurant, and we took our time ordering since we not only had the dinner menu to drool over, but also the bar’s “One Bite, Two Bites …” menu is an enthralling read, in my opinion … Thus we settled on sesame-crusted calamari on roasted carrots, onions, ginger and green olives, Chiogga beets with arugula, Schwarz und Weiss Blue Cheese and buttermilk dressing, tandoori chicken with papaya-lime salad, mint raita and pappadams, and hanger steak on fingerling potatoes, artichokes and fennel with parsley sauce. Since moderation is my motto, I opted to try a few items from the bar menu: marinated olives, wasabi potato cake with peanuts, chorizo and potatoes, corn cakes with herb butter and barbecued baked beans with smoked ham hock … Frankly, I have yet to meet a chorizo that I didn’t love, and our starters made me deliriously happy. After one taste of the corn cakes I discreetly inched them over to my right elbow, hoping my dining companions would forget they were there so I could privately inhale every mouth-watering bite … We fought over the barbecued baked beans, marveling that something so simple could be so fabulous, and by the time the steak and chicken arrived we resembled three women engaged in fork-to-knife hand combat over our two entrees … Fortunately, no one was severely wounded, and we were able to grudgingly share a flourless chocolate cake with crème de menthe crème anglaise and chantilly cream for dessert. Our hats are off to Julie Steenerson, co-owner, and Tanya Siebenaler, co-owner/executive chef, of this terrific café and bar. Sapor serves dinner until 10:00 PM Monday through Thursday and until 11:00PM on Friday and Saturday nights – as well as offering lunch and dinner Monday-Friday and a Sunday brunch from 10:00 AM until 2:00 PM. Sapor Café-Bar is at 428 Washington Avenue North in Minneapolis; tel. (612) 375-1971 or visit www.saporcafe.com.