Story by Kathy Couturié
Photographs by Michelle Hueser
I’m continuing to consume the local food scene while writing for EDIBLE TWIN CITIES. We are seeking out unique, local foods in the two short days we have left…a dream come true assignment! Following is a food fanatic’s journal of yet another delicious day in St. Paul and Minneapolis…
Heading to our publisher’s home, I enjoyed a Legacy Chocolates 85% cocoa espresso truffle – a great way to start the day. My partners-in-eating spotted the Riverview Café, and we screeched to a halt for cappuccinos… This is a hip neighborhood café, featuring live music every Friday and Saturday night, and a story hour for kids every Tuesday. There’s even a Wine Bar next door. The coffee is superb… Riverview Café is at 3753 42nd Ave. South, Minneapolis; tel. (612) 722-7234 or visit www.theriverview.net.
We headed west to the Mississippi Market, another fabulous co-op in the Twin Cities area… They feature terrific signage in their produce department, introducing shoppers to local growers such as Riverbend Farm in Delano, Minnesota and Avalanche Organics in Wisconsin… There are easy-to-spot “locally grown” signs, and we browsed the aisles admiring the huge bulk food section, including shoyu and even Reims vinegar. They have hot food to go, a spiffy cheese section, and we purchased a Mississippi Market tote bag and some organic tie-dye socks to take back to California… Mississippi Market has two locations in St. Paul; we visited the store at 622 Selby Ave.; tel. (651) 310-9499 or visit www.msmarket.coop.
Next stop was Cooks of Crocus Hill – amazing. Cooks is a gourmet retail store/cooking school all rolled into one slice of heaven… This store regularly attracts nationally recognized chefs and cookbook writers, and they’ve developed a program supporting Minnesota’s regional, sustainable agriculture. (Visit the “Crop Shares” section of their website for more info on vegetable CSA shares, salad shares, herb shares, pig shares and even pesto shares…) At the Grand store, the cooking school is upstairs, and the retail area is downstairs… I peeked into a cooking class and was awestruck by what a great space they have, only to learn that you can host a private event in one of their state-of-the-art kitchens. Cooks will provide the staff, the food and the drink, as well as the setup and cleanup…what are you waiting for? We browsed for quite a while, agog at the amount of gourmet food products, kitchen gadgets, gizmos, equipment, etc., not to mention a spectacular collection of cookbooks, including books on kitchen equipment and cooking techniques… I was amused to see my son’s favorite food item – panko bread crumbs (a necessity for maximum chicken enjoyment) and jumped for joy when I spotted my favorite chocolate bars from Oregon – Dagoba. They stock our beloved stemless Riedel wine glasses, and I strongly considered purchasing a croque monsieur pan and a panini grill until I remembered neither would fit in my suitcase… I literally had to be yanked out of the store before I signed up for a series of dinner-oriented classes for people who like to eat instead of people who like to cook… Even though I live far away, it would be worth the commute… The cooking class schedule is impressive – we just missed Deborah Madison, who had been in for a discussion of her new book, Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen. This is the kind of store that makes you want to relocate to their neighborhood – tomorrow. We visited Cooks at 877 Grand Ave. in St. Paul; tel. (651) 228-1333 or visit www.cooksofcrocushill.com.
Next up: Lund’s Market in St. Paul. I’m green with envy at the sheer number of gourmet markets Twin Cities residents have available. Lund’s bakery section is gorgeous, and I freaked when I spotted the sushi bar, offering not only sushi, but spring rolls – all natural, made fresh daily. The deli features extremely enticing goodies, such as coconut chicken fingers, wild rice with squab, pasta salads, and maple fennel pork loin. I drooled over the amazing array of cheeses, and purchased some Shepherd’s Way queso fresco. Then onto the olive bar, complete with antipasti, and then to the produce section where we spotted Dehn’s potted herbs from Andover, MN. Cedar Summit’s dairy products are plentiful, along with Hope Creamery’s butter. They have Minneapolis’s own Sonny’s Ice Creams, complete with batch numbers… I couldn’t decide on their organic pure vanilla bean or the organic coffee latte, so we bought them both… While admiring the honeys I found Minnestalgia’s whipped blackberry honey spread from Minnesota’s north woods. Fortunately, we met the store manager, Ken Atzmiller, who quickly divined I was from out of town after hearing me oooing and aahing my way through the aisles… Mr. Atzmiller helped us locate numerous local products, and then presented me with a box of Wood’s Victoria Brittle – an exclusive Wood’s recipe for over 50 years… I was stunned by Mr. Atzmiller’s generosity-even more so after I polished off the divine brittle in no time flat… We visited Lund’s Highland Park location at 2128 Ford Parkway in St. Paul; tel. (651) 698-5845, but there are eight others to choose from, or visit www.lundsmarket.com.
We headed to the Wedge Co-op, the first certified organic store in Minnesota. This is a huge market, featuring bright yellow “Certified Organic” signs that enable one to easily locate organic produce, as well as many other products. We admired signs featuring the Gardens of Eagan and Riverbend Farm in the produce section, then moved on to the bulk section that has snacks such as popcorn, trail mixes, etc… I lurked in the bread section, marveling at the array of French Meadow breads including Healthy Hemp, Men’s and Women’s breads, along with the bakery’s delicacies… The Wedge features the first certified organic meat department in the USA, and I admired delicacies such as Beeler’s pork chorizo, bison, garlic and shallot sausages, and marinated free roam chicken breasts… The Seafood section is a thing of beauty, offering a variety of wild-caught fish including Dover sole, cod, squid and yellowfin tuna… I desperately wanted to sample some of the smoked fish from Everett Fisheries in Northern Wisconsin, and I had a hard time restraining myself in the deli section… The Wedge Co-op is at 2105 Lyndale Avenue South in Minneapolis; tel. (612) 871-3993 or visit www.wedge.coop.
We stopped at the Kramarczuk Sausage Co. to admire the amazing displays of sausages and other gourmet goodies first thing, as I am a Sausage Lover. The shop was already packed with fans, and I drooled over sausages such as smoked Italian, andouille, French apple, Krakowska Polish and more. They also stock a range of breads, Inglehoffer mustards, Consorzio’s delicious marinades, Clarendon Hills butter, and more, so this is a quick and easy one-stop shop… The guys behind the counter are terrific – very kind about offering tastes of whatever it is you’d like…which, in my case, was plenty. Loved their home-made mini-sausages, which I purchased in bulk to sustain me through the plane trip back to California. By all means do not miss the delicacies at Kramarczuk Sausage Co. at 215 East Hennepin in Minneapolis; tel. (612) 379-3018.
A block away, we enjoyed a visit to Let’s Cook – a retail gourmet shop with a roomy cooking class area in the rear. Their calendar of cooking classes made me want to relocate; I could easily picture myself at Travel Tuesdays-Tuscany, or an Ale Enthusiast’s Spring Fling. Most classes are scheduled for evenings, although there are brunch classes and classes geared for kids on Saturday mornings and afternoons. They even offered a “wine tasting with Riedel” course, enabling one to learn about the difference a wine glass can make… certainly I could benefit from this class, as I have never met a glass I wasn’t willing to pour wine into… Let’s Cook has a full array of necessities for the kitchen and home, plus lots of gourmet food products including local honey from Johnston Honey. They will host a party for you, and also rent out the site for meetings, seminars, wine tastings, etc. Let’s Cook is at 330 East Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis; tel. (612) 623-9700 or visit www.letscook.cc.
Never one to miss a cheese shop, we crossed the street and perused Surdyk’s impressive deli/retail area. On that particular day, there were over 340 cheeses in the cases, including locally made Shepard’s Way queso fresco and Pastureland’s herb gouda… We browsed through the deli section, offering patés, salamis, jambon Français, prosciutto di Parma and Serrano ham, and found one of our favorite chocolates, Scharffen Berger, in the chocolate section along with locally loved BT McElrath’s products. The olive display is exquisite, and we briefly considered a thyme-roasted chicken, some haricots verts and a little moo shu tofu before we came to our senses and remembered we had dinner plans… Surdyk’s kitchen staff can provide you with hors d’oeuvres, main courses, salads, etc. for parties or just for you – including crispy fried free-range chicken from local Minnesota farmers. The wine and liquor department is equally enhancing, and I was able to locate plenty of California favorites including Schramsberg’s Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine, Justin Winery’s exceptional Isosceles, Chateau Montelena’s 2001 Cabernet, and a Dynamite (no pun intended) 2002 Cabernet. I was smitten with the light fixtures hanging above the wine area-riddling racks, covered with old wine bottles. Nice touch. Surdyk’s is at 303 E. Hennepin Ave. in Minneapolis; tel. (612) 379-9757 or visit www.surdyks.com.
Our day ended at Restaurant Alma, where I enjoyed one of the best meals of my life. You’ve got to love a restaurant that states they are committed to supporting organic, sustainable agriculture, local farms, and conservation efforts. They also give credit to their suppliers, including Wild Acres, Six Point Family Farms, Pastureland Dairy, Co-op Partners, etc… All seven of us opted for the three-course tasting menu, served with a flight of three wines for $60. This offered us four choices from a starters section, middle courses, and a meat/fish list… Thank goodness we had a large group, enabling me to taste almost everything on the menu-whether my fellow diners cared to share, or not… To start, we devoured two baskets of heavenly house-baked cumin-pumpkin seed bread, served with Hope Creamery butter – a clear warning to our waitress the types of eaters she’d have to deal with over the next few hours… I started with the sweet garlic & wild nettle flan, served with fiddleheads, asparagus, basil oil and Parmigiano-Reggiano paired with Cava Brut Exclusive Riserva, Marques de Gelida 2000 – a Spanish Proseco… stunning. (Where have fiddleheads been all my life?) The middle course of freshly milled masa corn cakes with ale braised lamb, goat cheese and pasilla chili sauce was outstanding – this was paired with a yummy Goats du Roam white from South Africa… My meat/fish choice was Kobe Beef Pot Roast, served with roasted Vidalia onion, glazed carrots and celery confit, paired with a divine Trinitas 2002 Zinfandel. This dish was one of the most incredible concoctions I have ever had the pleasure of inhaling, and we were delighted to learn that the Kobe Beef was domestically and humanely grown in California… My dining partners enjoyed other delicacies, each better than the next, including miso glazed black cod with roasted mushrooms, marinated cucumber and radish, a saffron linguini with tomato, crab snap peas and tarragon beurre blanc that was to die for, exquisite asparagus ravioli with chard alla parmigiana, ricotta and basil marinara, a crispy pan roasted Maine skate in “Moqueca broth”, sweet peppers, lime and coriander, and a mixed grill of rabbit, quail and chorizo, served with glazed asparagus, pimentón aioli and mustard fruit… Our server, the lovely, good-humored and incredibly talented Jennifer, has been with the restaurant since they opened and by the end of the meal we felt we’d made a new friend… To be honest, we tried to lure her back to California… Desserts were outrageous – I enjoyed every luscious bite of a warm Callebaut chocolate soufflé, and the lemon soufflé cake with fresh grapefruit, Meyer lemon sauce and a cat’s tongue cookie was outstanding. We shared a taste of Pedro Ximenez Sherry, Don PX, 2001 from Spain with our desserts, and marveled at our good fortune in finding this amazing restaurant. I will not rest until I can return, to bravely eat again, at Restaurant Alma, 528 University Ave. Southeast in Minneapolis; tel. (612) 379-4909 or visit www.restaurantalma.com.