From pan pizzas to palmiers, here's a rundown of my dining diary's greatest hits from the past seven days. What were your top eats of the week? Share the details in the comments section.
"Shredder" pizza at Wrecktangle Pizza
I finally made it to the North Loop Galley and dropped in on a few of its vendors; I'll return in the next week or two to hit up the rest. One visit in and I'm already vying for the position of Wrecktangle Pizza's No. 1 customer. By introducing the Twin Cities to Detroit-style pizza, I have just one question for chef/owner Jeff Rogers: Where has this pizza been all of my life? (Dumb question: Detroit, duh). It's the country's trendiest pizza, and with good reason: It's off-the-charts delicious, and Detroit's greatest export since the Supremes topped the Motown charts. What makes Detroit pizza Detroit pizza is the shape (it's baked in a rectangular pan, and cut into squares; at Wrecktangle, it's an 8x10-inch vessel), the dough (it's a wet, bread-ey dough, which bakes into a thick but airy crust), the cheese (lots of it, and liberally spread all the way to the pan's edges) and the glorious alchemy that happens when the cheese and the heat of the pan's edges converge, creating a crisped-up, Cheez-It-like edge (the technical name of that phenomenon is "frico.") that will change cheese lovers' perception of pizza, forever. I ordered a pair of pizzas, and both enchanted, for different reasons. The "Shredder" ($12) feels like the stand's signature pie. It's a red sauce-pepperoni combo that's jazzed with pickled chiles and a pops of a brilliant sweet-hot combination: honey and locally made (and super-feisty) Cry Baby Craig's habanero-fueled hot sauce. It might be my favorite new go-to pizza, it's that good. The menu's talker is the "Sotalicious" ($15) an amusing nod to the unofficial Minnesota state dish, Tater Tot hot dish, right down to the (fabulous) cream cheese-pickle roll-up garnish. I loved it, but it should come with a cautionary label: "Consume more than a half-slice at your own cholesterol-level risk." Best to order with a group of pals, nibble judiciously and then talk it up, everywhere. Yes, there's a wait (this pizza takes time to bake; my order clocked in around 20 to 25 minutes), and yes, you can order ahead online. And yes, there are gluten-free and dairy-free options. Three cheers to Rogers and his team for their selfless contribution to the Twin Cities pizza scene. I can't wait to go back. 729 Washington Av. N., Mpls.
Kimchi collard greens at Soul Fu
There are plenty of fascinating dishes on chef/owner Timothy Truong's menu, but one that sticks in my memory is this shareable starter ($8.95) that could also serve as a lunch or dinner rice bowl for one. It's exactly what the name implies: a winning blend of sour pickled cabbage and bitter greens, spooned over rice. It hits three of the basic dining-out food groups: Simple, fast, delicious. As for the food hall, it's loaded with a bunch of diner-friendly bells-and-whistles. There's honest-to-goodness tableware and flatware, not throwaway plastic and paper. Tables come equipped with bottles filled with water, and runners deliver food to diners, rather than having customers take up that chore; no self-bussing at meal's end, either. The space is tidy, airy and well-appointed. (Is this the format where all dining will be going in the next decade? Perhaps). And yes, there's a parking ramp in the complex, a valuable asset in the parking-challenged North Loop. 729 Washington Av. N., Mpls.
Bialy with dill and green onion cream cheese at Asa's Bakery
I finally made it to another newcomer, and, hurrah. Midtown Farmers Market shoppers already know that Asa Diebolt is a skilled bagel and bialy maker; now I suspect that many others will discover that fact when they hit up his modest new storefront (it's not easy, given the limited hours: Friday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.), a setup that offers a glimpse into the kitchen and Diebolt's fascinating work process. Diebolt's naturally leavened bialys bear all the proper attributes: although they're hardly jawbreakers, they're sturdy and chewy, and a smear of roasted onions gives them that just-right sweet-savory flavor. The bagels are similarly impressive, and Diebolt takes them to a deep caramel color in the oven; they're gorgeous. He packs a tangy cream cheese with plenty of dill and green onions ($5), and then lays it on, nice and thick. Next time, I'm splurging ($8) and sampling the smoked whitefish salad. 3507 23rd Av. S., Mpls., 612-615-9132
Dinner salad at Broders' Pasta Bar
I know, it's odd, becoming fixated with something as rote as a dinner salad. At many (sadly, way too many) restaurants, this staple is a tossed-off afterthought. But executive chef Thomas Broder and chef de cuisine Chris Myerly use their dinner salad like the opportunity that it is to introduce diners into the kitchen's thought process. Here's a reason why I like Instagram: I was absent-mindedly flipping through my feed the other day when I ran across a sumptuous-looking winter salad, one that took full advantage of January's citrus season and the beets that continue to contribute much-needed color to our root cellars. One look and I knew that I had to wrangle a seat at this 26-year-old, no-reservations institution, which has managed to maintain its standing-room-only popularity. As for the salad, its components are landing on my weekend grocery list: orange and grapefruit segments provided the cool acidic punch, pistachios added crunch, roasted beets (so pretty against the bright colors of the citrus) were nicely sweet, and radicchio, endive and watercress inserted just-right bitter notes. What bounty! And what a beauty! And, at $9, what a deal! (As for the pasta, this drearily overcast weather had my appetite crying out for straight-up comfort, which took me to the classic carbonara. I was not disappointed). Other restaurants, take note: you can greet your customers with a handful of bagged mixed greens an indifferent vinaigrette, or you can follow the example set by the Broder family and make your edible salutation a memorable one. 5000 Penn Av. S., Mpls., 612-925-9202
Palmiers at the Bachelor Farmer Cafe
I've always had a thing for these cookies. Maybe it's because, when I was a kid and my dad worked for Red Owl, the store's bakery made a larger, cinnamon-dusted pastry version that Donny called "Elephant Ears" (I can't recall their official Dirty Bird name) and he would buy them, all the time, and I was hooked. Seriously, is there a better use of puff pastry? I can't visit Surdyk's without picking up one (or five) of them at the store's cheese shop, and I was delighted when an enterprising reader entered an easy-to-prepare palmier recipe in the Star Tribune's annual Holiday Cookie Contest. In the 17 years of that competition, we've collected nearly 100 recipes, and the one submitted by Kay Lieberherr of St. Paul is one that I return to, again and again. Another obsession is the version that pastry chef Emily Marks turns out for the daytime edition of this North Loop destination (read my four-star review of the restaurant here). I'm nuts about every detail: their Jim Dine-ish heart shape (just in time for Valentine's Day!); their glistening, sugar-coated appearance; their delicate and crispy, you're-going-to-make-a-ton-of-crumbs texture; and their not-too-sweet bite. They're proof positive that butter remains one of the most miraculous of ingredients. 50 2nd Av. N., Mpls., 612-206-3920