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Hi-Lo Diner in Minneapolis mixing Girl Scout cookies into pies, malts

That annual wrecker of diets otherwise known as Girl Scout cookie season is once again upon us. Doesn’t it seem as if this winter fun-fest is brilliantly timed – practically to the day – to cruelly materialize when dieters’ New Year’s resolutions have cracked and crumbled? After all, what better way to Just Say No To Kale, than by inhaling a couple dozen Samoas in a single sitting?

Better yet, a slice of Peanut Butter Patties pie.

For a limited time, the tons-o-fun Hi-Lo Diner is making that dream a reality. For those who have been looking for an excuse to visit the showy 1957 diner, lovingly restored to within an inch of its life by the skilled folks behind neighboring Forage Modern Workshop, then Girl Scout Cookie Mania just might be the event that does it.

Mary Vorndran, the Hi-Lo's pie-making whiz, is turning to Peanut Butter Patties for inspiration, and her handiwork (pictured, above) pretty much defines "doozy." Picture this: a crushed Oreo crust gets filled with a decadent chocolate/peanut butter custard that’s peppered with crushed Peanut Butter Patties.

(By the way, remember when these crazily addictive cookies were called Tagalongs? Who snuffed out that poetry?)

The Hi-Top crew also embraces Samoas, aka Caramel deLites. Chef Heidi Marsh is giving the Samoas treatment to her signature Hi-Tops. Picture glazed doughnut-like sweet fried dough, filled with cookie crunch-infused whipped cream, then lavished with key Samoas ingredients: caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, toasted coconut and, for good measure, an actual Samoa cookie as a garnish.

Naturally, there are Thin Mints; what would February and March be without Thin Mints? Hi-Lo-ers are working the Girl Scout's top-selling cookie into malts and shakes, and the only improvement -- at least for those who don't favor Thin Mints -- would be a S'mores shake. Or a Samoas malt. Or a Peanut Butter Patties shake. You get the picture.

Bartender Simeon Priest is also getting into the act, embracing the wonder that is Peanut Butter Patties, pulling together an ice cream cocktail that marries bourbon, Crème de Mure (a blackberry liqueur) and Crème de Cassis.

That ice cream cocktail is $11. Hi-Tops, malts and shakes (served with the can, of course) are all $10. A slice of pie goes for $5.

By the way, Marsh & Co. didn’t turn to their nearby Cub Foods store for their Girl Scout cookie supply (although you can). They kept it local, buying 100-plus boxes from a troop in their Longfellow neighborhood. Sweet, right?

The promotion runs through March 7. But consider going this weekend, because this freaky February heat wave means that the diner’s picnic table-covered patio will be open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. Dogs are welcome.

Fabled Vincent Burger lives! On Monday, anyway, at the Local downtown



The burger: The Vincent Burger, that fanciest of stuffed burgers, left this mortal coil when chef Vincent Francoual closed his eponymous downtown Minneapolis restaurant on Dec. 31, 2015.

Well, sort of. Francoual took a job as culinary director of Cara Irish Pubs, the company behind the Local, the Liffey, Cooper and Kieran’s Irish Pub.

One of his first acts? He revived the Vincent Burger – a thick beef patty stuffed with smoked Gouda and slow-braised, pulled short ribs – and began selling it at Cooper in St. Louis Park.

A few weeks ago, the Vincent Burger made its triumphant return to downtown Minneapolis. Not at 11th and Nicollet – the former Vincent is now occupied by a Caribou/Einstein Bros. Bagels – but a block up the mall, at the Local. There’s just one caveat: the burger, which is just as over-the-top as it ever was, is available only on Monday.

This is strictly burger-as-marketing-tool, a lure to get more people to walk through the doors on a low-traffic weekday. If it succeeds, Francoual said that the Vincent Burger could expand onto the Local’s menu as a daily feature.

“We’re taking it one step at a time,” he said. “The idea was to give it a try, and see what happens.”

(By the way, I’d forgotten what a pleasure it is to hear French-born Francoual pronounce the word “hamburger,” as ahm-bear-gare).

Don’t expect a carbon copy of the old days. For starters, it’s not being served in the urbane Vincent dining room.

“Food is attached to memory,” said Francoual. “And Vincent A Restaurant was a different ambience. It’s almost like when you have a creme brulee made by your mother. It doesn’t matter who else makes it, it’s never going to be the same.”

And yes, expect slight tweaks to the burger's engineering.

“We’ve improved the meat,” he said, noting that it’s now coming from an Olivia, Minn., farm.

Other tweaks are less-than stellar. The use of dull, flavorless Roma tomatoes, for example, although Francoual said that was an aberration.

“They’re supposed to use hydroponic tomatoes,” he said. “Maybe they ran out that day.”

Oh, and the fabulous Vincent fries? They’re history. (See below). Cue tears.

Still, the rich, golden, eggy bun? Same. Flavorful sauce? Same. Pudgy patty criss-crossed with charred grill marks? Same. It remains a whopper of a Jucy Lucy. Francoual is pragmatic about any slight alterations.

“Change is OK,” he said. “Food changes. It’s a natural product, there’s always movement with it.”

Price: $14.99. True, that’s a far cry from the halcyon days when the Vincent happy hour price was eight bucks (still one of the greatest values, ever), but think about it this way: the hefty Vincent burger easily qualifies as a shareable item. Split it — and the tab —with a pal, and it’s suddenly a far more approachable investment.

Fries: Included. And no, they’re not the glorious Vincent fries. “An Irish pub should serve chips,” said Francoual. Agreed, albeit grudgingly. You know what? The results are pretty terrific: lightly crisped on the outside, wonderfully starchy on the inside.

Looking ahead: Francoual is busy developing a new dual menu at Cooper, with the hope of rolling it out in about a month. One side will focus on traditional pub fare, and the other will take a contemporary point of view. “We’re experimenting with flavors and going against the core idea of what a pub is,” he said. Other changes include a beefed-up wine selection and the addition of an espresso machine. “Cooper is our pilot project,” he said. “If it goes well, we’ll definitely be moving the changes out to the other pubs.”

Address book: The Local, 931 Nicollet Mall, Mpls., 612-904-1000. Open 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. weekdays, 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. weekends. Cooper, 1607 Park Place Blvd., St. Louis Park, 952-698-2000. Open 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday. The Vincent burger is available Monday only at the Local, and daily at Cooper.

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