From crepe cake to chicken soup, 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.
Crepe cake at Bellecour
Sure, roses are lovely. But pastry chef Diane Moua, one of Minnesota’s most creative forces, has introduced what will hopefully become another annual Valentine’s Day ritual. Recently, Moua has been noodling with her bakery’s signature, swoon-inspiring dessert (during the December holidays, the focus was on gingersnap with orange-caramel glaze), and right now she’s thinking pink for Valentine’s Day, inserting the dreamy flavor of ultra-fragrant raspberries into every gloriously spongy layer. Hurry: this raspberry version ($8) will be in the bakery’s by-the-slice rotation through Feb. 16. 739 E. Lake St., Wayzata, 952-444-5200
Chicken soup with matzo balls at Crossroads Delicatessen
Such ideal February fare. I didn’t grow up in a matzo ball household, although I wish that I had. What I admire about this homey version is that they (the matzo balls) look and taste as if they’d been prepared by someone’s mother (not mine, obviously). They’re worlds apart from another favorite, Russell Klein’s extraordinary version at Meritage, and it’s these kinds of differences that make life worth living, right? At Crossroads, the steaming soup definitely has a hits-the-spot quality: tons of the requisite carrot-celery-onion trinity, a hefty amount of juicy chicken (and lots of dark meat, hurrah), and plenty of those essential chicken fat globules floating on the golden broth’s surface. Another reason to love: the value. For $9.99 (or what the menu rightly labels “The Big One”), a serving bowl-sized portion arrives, bearing two massive, herb-flecked matzo balls. Bonus points for the bread basket-pickles treatment.
2795 Hedberg Dr., Minnetonka, 651-546-6595
Vegan burger at Reverie Cafe + Bar
The goodness starts with the patty, a thick and robust combination of mushrooms, tempeh and barley, “and months of experimentation to land the perfect combination,” said co-owner Kirstin Wiegmann. The appealing formula is the work of chef/co-owner Jeffrey Therkelsen and kitchen manager John Stockman. “Jeff has been trying to make a good vegan burger for years,” said Wiegmann. “He couldn’t get the texture quite right, until John came along, and that collaboration is what ultimately worked.” Another successful component: the grilled bun, baked by Ghenet’s (a fellow CityFoodStudio tenant, back in the days when Reverie was a food truck and was using the shared commercial kitchen facilities) and a play on hambasha, a soft, slow-rise Eritrean favorite. Toppings include tons of peppery arugula, sweetly caramelized onions that have been teased with smoke, and a jam ingeniously fashioned from tomatoes slow-cooked in rooibos tea and balsamic vinegar. This behemoth could easily feed two ($13), and it’s a welcome foil to the Impossible Burger-Beyond Burger onslaught. Not that there’s anything wrong with those commercial plant-based juggernauts. That’s just not Reverie’s brand,” said Wiegmann. We strive to make everything ourselves, whenever possible. We're interested in whole foods, because that gives us so much more control. Besides, Jeff loves to be a scientist in the kitchen.”
1517 E. 35th St., Mpls., 612-987-7080
Mango oranges at Seward Co-op
Thank goodness citrus season coincides with Minnesota winters. Seeing supermarket produce sections overflowing with vividly colored oranges, grapefruits and lemons brightens up the dreariest of overcast February days, and citrus’ plentiful Vitamin C is a natural winter energy booster. Browsing my way through Seward Co-op, I encountered an astonishing range of oranges: Blood oranges and Cara Cara navels, Minneola tangelos and Kishu Mandarins, Valencias and Marmalades, a dozen different varieties. It’s been ages since I’ve peeled open a Mango orange ($3.99 per pound), so I purchased a few and was happily reunited with an old favorite. So much to love: The pretty pale pink hue that haunts the inside of the peel. The juicy, low-acid bite. The red-orange flesh. And the mildly sweet, gently floral flavor. “Tastes almost like a Creamsicle,” decreed the “Staff Pick” sign posted at the store, referring to the classic orange-flavored Popsicle with a vanilla ice cream center. What a coincidence: that was my first thought, too.
2823 E. Franklin Av., Mpls., 612-338-2465 and 317 E. 38th St., Mpls., 612-330-5595
Chicago Mix at Candyland
Yeah, it’s been one of those weeks, which explains why I found myself reaching for one of my favorite snacks. This blend of caramel-coated popcorn, Cheddar cheese popcorn and plain-old popcorn has been a go-to of mine – particularly in the dead of winter, when I’m craving sweet and salty snacks in equal measure – since the late 1980s. I’ll admit that I’ll stray and occasionally drop a bag of “The Mix” from Chicago-popped Cretors in my shopping cart (the caramel corn is extra-buttery), but nothing beats Candyland for freshness (if this were Twitter, the hashtag would be #supportlocalbusiness). Besides, just walking into this ultra-fragrant store (my location of choice is next to the Radisson in downtown Minneapolis, in part because it feels as if it’s been there for forever) always puts a smile on my face, and the folks behind the counter are the nicest people.
27 S. 7th St., Mpls., 612-332-7752; 811 LaSalle Av., Mpls., 612-612-332-3220; 435 N. Wabasha St., St. Paul, 651-292-1191; and 212 Main St. N., Stillwater, 651-430-8004