A Taste of the Twin Cities
My intrepid foodie companion L. and I enjoyed a whirlwind food tour of Minneapolis/St. Paul over the weekend. We also squeezed in some culture (in the form of the Museum of Russian Art) and some shopping (at Magers & Quinn Booksellers and the Mall of America), but the trip was really all about the food. Here’s what we ate:
We stopped for lunch at Midtown Global Market, where I was seduced by Mariscos Mexican Seafood’s “seafood mole verde.” I know “mole” and “verde” don’t make any sense juxtaposed like that, and I wish now I had asked for clarification. The dish was a hearty seafood stew, with a spicy, greenish sauce. Potatoes, carrots, corn and barely-wilted, shredded cabbage kept company with tender chunks of mahi mahi, baby shrimp, and calamari. The stew was served over yellow rice with black refried beans on the side, and I washed down the meal with my favorite Mexican soda, Jarrito’s Tamarindo.
L. enjoyed a plate from West Indian Soul Food: spiced red snapper with rice, fried plantains, and cornbread. This flavorful lunch was an auspicious start to our weekend in the Twin Cities.
On the recommendation of a coworker, we stopped by Lucia’s Restaurant & Bakery for a mid-afternoon snack of chocolate sea salt cookies. Slightly crunchy at the edges, soft in the center, these cookies offered up a clean, chocolate bite without any of the cloying sweetness that chocolate cookies can be prone to. Hints of sea salt seemed to deepen the chocolate flavor. The next time I’m in Minneapolis, stopping for another of these delectable treats will be high on my “Must Do” list.
Craving Ethiopian food, we decided to go to the much-recommended Blue Nile for dinner. I quaffed a delicious local Minnesota brew, Surly Cynic Ale, which offered up refreshing citrus tones without being sweet. The beer was the perfect complement to the combination platter we ordered, a huge bowl laden with Maraka Lukku, Maraka Sangaa, Maraka Sangaa Hurdii, Maraka Hoolaa, Kurumbaa, Dokaa, Foule, Missiraa Gurracha, Missiraa Diimaa, and Kikkii.
My favorite dishes were (I think) the Dokaa, a bright, spicy chickpea puree, and Maraka Lukku, a saucy chicken dish (pictured at the center of the bowl). L. favored a dish made with split yellow peas and another made with red lentils and smoky paprika. And of course, the unique, fermented Ethiopian bread known as injera tasted great on its own, and laden with saucy goodness.
It’s hard to believe we had any room for dessert after our huge meal, but after a brisk evening walk in the cool autumn twilight along Summit Ave, we made our way to Cafe Latte, where rich, decadent slices of cheesecake awaited us. I enjoyed the classic vanilla cheesecake, topped with a layer of ethereal vanilla cream and garnished with a glazed strawberry. Actually, I enjoyed half of it, and saved the rest for a pre-breakfast snack the following morning. A day that starts with cheesecake must end well, and mine certainly did.
Our real breakfast — really, more of a brunch by the time we got going — consisted of proper diner fare at Mickey’s Dining Car. L. ordered blueberry pancakes with scrambled eggs, and I dug in to the America’s Favorite Breakfast with two eggs over-easy, bacon, rye toast, and Potatoes O’Brien.
The eggs were cooked perfectly, with soft yolks but not even the tiniest bit of runny white. The bacon was crisp and salty, and the potatoes were flavorful, moist (with crunchy bits), and loaded with sauteed onions, green peppers, and tiny cubes of ham. This breakfast kept me going as we navigated the insane crowds at Mall of America.
Finally, on our way back to Iowa, we stopped at Byerly’s market, where we assembled a simple lunch and picked up L.’s favorite comfort food, lefse — a thin, tortilla-like potato pancake. L. recommends zapping lefse in the microwave and slathering it with butter and cinnamon-sugar — mmm! For lunch, I enjoyed an assortment of olives and peppadews from the olive bar, some crusty, whole-grain artisanal bread, and small wedges of Drunken Goat and Mahon cheeses. I’m a sucker for ginger beer, so I tried a bottle of Fentiman’s fermented ginger beer from the UK. It was brewed with juniper and yarrow, and had a smooth, crisp flavor. Perfect.
This little nibble of the Twin Cities was wonderful, and I can’t wait to go back for a second helping!