Libertine debuts in Calhoun Square
That was fast: After an eight-week renovation, the former Uptown Cafeteria is now Libertine (3001 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., www.libertinempls.com).
The restaurant and bar remains under the same ownership — Parasole Restaurant Holdings — but has been revamped by La Belle Vie chef Tim McKee, in his capacity as a Parasole partner and the company’s vice president of culinary direction.
“It’s 100 percent my idea, as if I’m opening a restaurant, but with someone else’s money,” McKee told me in May.
The dinner-only restaurant (for now, anyway; brunch is on the way) specializes in yesteryear cuts of beef, pork and lamb, all at prices below the average steakhouse tab (the top price, $24, is for a pair of side-by-side lamb porterhouses, with the belly in between).
There are also oysters — raw, charbroiled and fried — along with a handful of small plates (fried baby artichokes with ham and lemon, steak tartare topped with a quail egg) and a half-dozen salads (potato-smoked trout, Moroccan-style tomato-burrata). More good news: the kitchen cooks to midnight daily.
On the Tour
Another Parasole property, Salut Bar Americain (5034 France Av., Edina, and 917 Grand Av., St. Paul, www.salutbaramericain.com) is paying homage to the Tour de France by offering a well-garnished cheese platter ($15) featuring four selections, all culled from regions along the race’s route. The promotion runs through July 27.
Meanwhile, the Tour de France-fest continues at Vincent (1100 Nicollet Mall, Mpls., www.vincenta restaurant.com), where chef/owner Vincent Francoual is offering limited-edition burgers tied to the region where the race is taking place, including one topped with Gruyère, crispy scalloped potatoes and black olive ratatouille (through July 19) and another decked out with a duck-mushroom ragoût, cantal cheese and tomato crisps (from July 24 to 26).
And Birchwood Cafe (3311 E. 25th St., Mpls., www. birchwoodcafe.com) is all over the Tour with a special turkey burger topped with a blue cheese-walnut spread, garlic scape aïoli and cured ham from Red Table Meat Co. The chocolate éclairs are also pretty special.
The twofer lunch experience at the Stillwater branch of Cooks of Crocus Hill — an hourlong meal disguised as a mini-cooking class — is coming to the company’s Edina location (3925 W. 50th St.). Walk away with a tasty noon-hour meal, a few new recipes (they change weekly) and a long list of kitchen tips.
Dates are July 24 and 31 and Aug. 1, 8, 22 and 29. Cost is $18 and reservations (www.cooksofcrocushill.com) are recommended but not required.
(Cup)cake and ice cream
The sign on the door says A Cupcake Social (3800 28th Av. S., Mpls., www.acup cakesocial.com), but co-owners Suzette Herr and Jessica Stone take time away from their ovens to keep eight varieties of ice cream in their scoop case.
The shop, a brick-and-mortar extension of their three-year-old food truck, features eight flavors: vanilla, salted caramel and some variation on chocolate are always available, and the other berths change frequently, with new options coming in once or twice a week until they sell out.
For example, this week’s roster includes lemon-strawberry swirl, espresso chip, Key lime pie and a cream base blended with dark cherries infused with Minnesota-made ale.
The duo started making ice cream when they decided to create a sundae using crumbled cupcakes.
“We had a hard time finding an ice cream that we liked enough to pair with our cupcakes,” said Herr. “So we started to make our own.”
They’re still making those fantastic sundaes, combining cupcakes (chocolate, vanilla or red velvet), a sauce (salted caramel, chocolate ganache) and ice cream, and their ice cream sandwiches — using jumbo house-baked peanut butter or chocolate-chip cookies — are pretty special, and a steal at $3.99.
Speaking of bargains, the shop’s “cupcake happy hour” — from 5 to 6 p.m., Monday through Thursday — is the time when all remaining cupcakes are priced to move at $2, down from $2.79 and $2.99.
Keeping it cool
In the spirit of the venerable ice cream truck, Zack Rethlake and Jessi Knudson have launched Fro-Yo Soul (www.fro-yo-soul.com), the Twin Cities’ first self-service frozen yogurt food truck.
“Like everyone else, we make some mean tacos,” said Rethlake with a laugh. “But we looked at the evolution of the food truck world, and we didn’t see a lot of cold desserts. And the vegan/gluten-free niche is something that we wanted to go after. You put organic on top of that and it really takes off. It’s nice to bring healthy treats to the street.”
Here’s why you should follow the truck’s whereabouts on Twitter (@FroYoSoul): the product is fantastic. They’re serving an organic, all-natural fro-yo blend called Cloud Top. It was introduced to Twin Cities fro-yo fans earlier this summer at another truck, Green + the Grain.
But where G+TG offers a single, wonderfully pristine flavor, Rethlake and Knudson are selling six daily varieties. Two are always “good-old Minnesota chocolate and vanilla,” said Rethlake with a laugh.
The other four flavors — including a pair of all-vegan options made with coconut milk — change daily. The standard do-it-yourself toppings are a part of the mix, including berries, granola, chocolate chips and sunflower seeds. Price? Fifty-eight cents an ounce.
As Rethlake and Knudson gain more experience, they hope to develop their own flavor mixes, incorporating local ingredients whenever possible. “Tarragon-mandarin sounds pretty great, doesn’t it?” said Rethlake.
The 25-foot vehicle is certainly distinctive. It’s a converted prison bus, purchased from the state of Virginia on an online auction.
Look for it at the weekday noon-hour food truck circus on Marquette Avenue in downtown Minneapolis, and then later in the afternoon near Target’s downtown Minneapolis headquarters on 10th Street and Nicollet Mall, or near Peavey Plaza.
“A lot of trucks go home by 2 o’clock,” said Rethlake. “But that’s when we get busy, when there’s a crowd looking for an afternoon break. They want to stretch their legs, get some vitamin D and some great-tasting fro-yo.”
Get a taste of what chef Stewart Woodman has in mind for the Workshop at Union, his opening-this-fall remake of the first floor of Union (731 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls.), during a five-course preview dinner on July 24, 25 and 26. Cost is $100 (for two, including libations), reservations at www.workshopmpls.com.
Calling it quits
After a nine-month-run, Eat Street Buddha Kitchen & Lounge — located in Azia’s former 26th-and-Nicollet home — has closed.