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Talking food, from restaurants and recipes, to farmers markets and food issues

Loring Park is getting a new restaurant. Sort of.

Loring Park is getting a new restaurant. Well, sort of.

Starting in early June, the landmark Woman’s Club of Minneapolis will be opening its swank dining room to the general public, serving lunch Tuesday through Saturday, and dinner Wednesday through Saturday.

“The fact of the matter is that we need to find sources of revenue other than members’ dues,” said Belia Jimenez-Lorente, the club’s operations/general manager. “Ten or 12 years ago, we had more than 900 members. Today it’s around 300.”

The lunch and dinner initiative is an outgrowth of the club’s open-to-the-public buffet Sunday brunch (it’s not too late to reserve a spot for the club’s Mother’s Day brunch), and its longtime role as an events venue. The club’s rooftop patio, with its sweeping downtown views, may also be in play.

“We have a beautiful rooftop, and I’m trying to convince the board to open it for lunch,” said Jimenez-Lorente. “It’s a private club, and the members are very protective. But everyone also understands the importance of sustaining the club, and its mission.”

Perched on the south side of Loring Park, the club’s gem-like home (pictured, above, in Star Tribune photo archive photos from the early 1930s) dates to 1927 and was designed by Leon Arnal of the Minneapolis firm of Magney & Tusler, a French architect responsible for the Foshay Tower and the Mineapolis Post Office.

“We think there’s a crowd we can cater to who will enjoy our beautiful building and chef Mike Abelson’s beautiful food,” said Jimenez-Lorente. “Whatever proceeds come out of our dining room will be repurposed back into our mission of empowering women. We just celebrated our 110th anniversary, and we want to be around for another 110 years.”

Modern Mexican bakery jumping from farmers market to new storefront in south Minneapolis

Another farmers market stand is going the brick-and-mortar route.

Dulceria Bakery, maker of contemporary Mexican sweets, is taking over the former Colossal Cafe space at E. 42nd Street and Cedar Avenue South in  Minneapolis. The doors should open in June. 

“I’m excited, and terrified, and excited again,” said owner Dulce Monterrubio. 

In 2017, Monterrubio left her 13-year career in education to follow her passion, baking a wide range of eye-grabbing cookies, bars, pies, cakes and other delicacies that spotlight ingredients from her native Mexico: addictive ancho chile brownies, decadent shortbread bars topped with mango and toasted coconut, guava jam-glazed pound cake, clever conchas-shaped cupcakes filled with all kinds of goodies, lattice-topped Haralson apple pie with cajeta-pecan crumble and delicate, lard-based cookies brimming with a refreshing orange bite.

It's no suprise that shoppers at the Linden Hills Farmers Market jumped. That enthusiasm from the community encouraged Monterrubio, who just returned from a month-long fact-finding trip to Mexico, full of ideas for expanding her menu. 

“I was doing more formal culinary training, and meeting owners of bakeries, she said. “I wanted to see what Mexico is doing now, and how it has evolved over the last 20 years. There’s a movement in Mexico to reclaim our culture, and our ingredients. And there’s this affirmation that you can use traditional experiences and merge them with what’s happening globally. There are so many immigrants in Mexico – from Indian, and China, and Korea, and Colombia – and that’s starting to seep into Mexican pastries. It’s very exciting.”

She also witnessed a tremendous amount of French influence. 

“The big trend is éclairs,” she said. “But instead of being filled with pastry cream, they’re filled with cajita, or a spicy chocolate ganache, and finished with a guava glaze.”

Monterrubio was also happy to encounter a favorite from her childhood, pan de elote

“It’s a fresh corn kernel cake, almost like a flan,” she said. “It used to be something my mother made. But after NAFTA, everyone was interested in American ingredients. Everyone wanted doughnuts, they wanted Krispy Kreme, and pan de elote disappeared. Suddenly, no one wanted to eat it. Now it’s the dessert of the day, with maybe an eggnog liqueur glaze. This younger generation, it’s reclaiming what our parents stopped making. It’s exciting.”

It’s a treat that’s also naturally gluten-free, an emphasis that will continue as Dulceria makes the transition from farmers market stand to bakery. 

“We’ll be looking to incorporate more gluten-free and vegan pastries into the menu,” she said.

Post-journey, another classic that she’s also finally ready to embrace is tres leches cake.

“I didn’t before because there are so many other Mexican bakeries offering excellent tres leches cake, so why add to the competition?,” she said. “Besides, it’s such a stereotype: tres leches and churros, that’s all that people think of when they think of Mexico, and I want to bring something different to the conversation. How about a spicy Mexican chocolate cupcake, or a sangria cupcake, with sangria syrup?”

One trend she feels Minnesota might not quite be ready for is ground crickets. 

“That might come later,” she said with a laugh. “I tried a chocolate ganache with dried and ground crickets, and it was fantastic.” 

The small-scale space (which was most recently home to the short-lived Original on 42 sandwich shop) will include limited seating (“We’re putting in a bar by the window, so people can enjoy the sunlight that we desperately need,” said Monterrubio) and it’ll also feature beverages.  

“Both traditional and trendy Mexican beverages,” she said. “We’re going to try and offer something different from lattes and cappuccinos, drinks you can’t find anywhere else in the Twin Cities.”

The commute won’t be a long one. Monterrubio and her family live 10 blocks from the new bakery. 

“We were adamant about staying in the neighborhood,” she said. “We were lucky to find the space.”

After baking for a year in her home kitchen (by statute, home production is allowed for farmers market sales), Monterrubio is looking forward to moving on to a roomier commercial setup. 

“And the support from other bakers has been amazing,” she said. “I just met with Anne from Honey & Rye, and she was great about walking me through the process of transitioning from a home to a commercial bakery. She and so many others have been so supportive and have shared so much information. This community of women bakers is amazing.”

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