From doughnuts to citrus cordials, here’s a rundown of our dining diaries’ greatest hits over the past seven days. What were your top eats of the week? Share the details in the comments section.
Raised glazed doughnut at Sun Street Breads
After coming to the cruel realization that I’d not consumed a doughnut in more than two months, I knew exactly the means by which I was going to break that misguided fast. These beauties ($2.50, and so worth it) resonate because they reframe what’s usually a vacuous, cotton candy-like experience.
Due to the considerable know-how of baker/co-owner Solveig Tofte, these tender, airy doughnuts somehow manage to have actual heft — and a teasing yeasty bite — without being the slightest bit ponderous. Another plus: Unlike its sugar rush-inducing brethren, Tofte’s version is barely sweet. They’re a Wednesday-only treat, and hump day has never been so appealing. (Rick Nelson)
4600 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., 612-354-3414
Grilled Butterfly Chicken recipe from Union Hmong Kitchen
Last week, I wrote about Union Hmong Kitchen chef Yia Vang appearing in the latest issue of Bon Appétit magazine. Six of his recipes are online, and I made two of them: grilled butterflied chicken, and sweet and spicy cucumber salad. I’d never grilled a whole chicken before, nor had I butterflied one, so I splurged for the occasion.
Lowry Hill Meats is offering home delivery of its Wild Acres chickens and the rest of its stock of fresh meat, locally made groceries, wine and sandwiches. I ordered a chicken to arrive already spatchcocked, a task, it turns out, that was completed by my neighbor Ingrid, who works there. Ingrid arrived at her house that evening while the robustly seasoned chicken was mid-grilling, sending its perfume across our backyards. As we chatted over the fence, I never felt more like I lived in a village, talking to my butcher while making something from her handiwork. And the cumin-and-coriander-rubbed chicken? Heavenly.
Lowry Hill Meats owner Erik Sather says Wild Acres chickens from Pequot Lakes, Minn., which show up on a number of local restaurant menus, are “easily the best chickens. They are a heartier bird. The skin is thicker. They’ve got a nice fat to them.” And they’re coming direct from a small farm, meaning the shop isn’t vulnerable to large-scale meat processors shrinking the supply. “As scary as this is, it’s comforting to know our little business model works,” Sather said. “This is how people need to be shopping in general.”
1500 NE. Fillmore St., Mpls., 612-431-5285
Orange-lime cocktail from Earl Giles
Another delivery came to me this week from Earl Giles, the cocktail mixer company from Jesse Held and Erik Erkkila. They supply bars with syrups, ginger beer, and other cocktail ingredients, and since the COVID-19 outbreak, they’ve lost 95 % of their business. They’re also building a distillery in northeast Minneapolis that should have opened fall 2020; construction is now delayed.
So, they shifted gears. The first week after bars were ordered closed, they came up with a lightning-fast new business plan to bottle and sell their mixers to liquor stores and directly to consumers from a pickup window in Uptown Minneapolis. Though they had to furlough much of their staff, the sales started pouring in.
“It has been a circus, that’s for sure,” Held said. “We’re not flourishing by any means, but we’re not starving, either.” The project is still ramping up. I bought four bottles of nonalcoholic mixers; they arrived in Mason jars, their contents handwritten on a sticker with a Sharpie. “We had the stuff, and we weren’t going to wait for our bottles to show up,” Held said with a laugh. The bottles have since come in, and some new concoctions are rolling out every day. “It’s been great to have a test lab, guinea pigs to try out some new flavors,” Held said.
I ordered the variety pack of lemon cordial, lime cordial, and orange/lime elixir, and an additional jar of Paloma mix (grapefruit/lime). The Paloma was the first to disappear, though I made it more of a Salty Dog, mixed with gin. The orange/lime might have been intended for a margarita, but I liked it with rum for a daiquiri, with a Pure & Clear Minnesota Ice cylinder to keep it chill on these recent backyard days. Pickup and delivery available. (S.J.)
Spaghetti Fra Diavolo from Martina
In the week and a half since Martina entered the takeout game, chef/owner Daniel Del Prado has already radically changed the menu (offering cook-at-home batches of fresh pasta and make-yourself meals) and added wines for sale (now that that’s legal). The new additions weren’t available yet when I got takeout from the Linden Hills restaurant, but even if they were, I probably would have stuck with a Martina classic, the Spaghetti Fra Diavolo. I cook a lot of pasta, but this is one of those dazzling dishes I can honestly say I would never, could never make myself. Once plated, it felt like a fancy meal out — only, in.
I also got the corn elote, one of the most popular dishes from Martina’s sister restaurant Colita, which remains closed. Good news for Armatage neighborhood residents, Del Prado says he’s going to reopen Colita in the next week or two, serving larger-format family meals. He’s unsure if he’ll keep the elote on Martina’s menu, so if you want to pair the deconstructed street corn with lobster spaghetti like I did (a seriously winning combination), better order soon.
Takeout numbers have been impressive, del Prado said. Still, he’s speaking for many fellow restaurateurs when he says, “I would like this to be over.” Del Prado was in the process of opening a new, casual eatery around the corner from Martina when the coronavirus anvil fell on the restaurant industry. That’s still in the works, with a hopeful June opening. “I’m surprised to not be freaking out as much as I thought,” he said. “This is the busiest I’ve personally been in a long time.” (S.J.)
4312 S. Upton Av., Mpls., 612-922-9913
Coq au vin and Armenian rice pilaf
I had a craving for this longtime favorite dinner combination, and fortunately we had chicken thighs and pearl onions in the freezer. I’ve been making this coq au vin recipe — from Cook’s Illustrated — for forever, and anyone who has been a dinner guest at our house over the past dozen or so years has probably encountered it. I love it because it’s got a deep, resonant richness; is it the mushrooms, the bacon, the reduced pinot noir, or all of the above?
Using chicken thighs is also a smart move — they boast so much more flavor than chicken breasts — and that it all comes together in 90 minutes is semi-miraculous, at least to this lazy cook. Another plus: the leftovers are fantastic; this is one of those dishes that improves after an overnight or two in the refrigerator.
My husband is responsible for the rice pilaf (“I’ve been making it since I was seven years old,” he said, although I suspect he’s exaggerating a bit), and it always makes a favorable impression. Two notes: tracking down the fine egg noodles can be a challenge, but they’re essential. Rather than relying upon chicken bouillon cubes and water — it’s how my husband has always made it, because it’s how his mother always made it, probably because that’s what was available in her rural Wisconsin grocery store — you can use the same amount of prepared chicken stock. In 2013, I wrote a story about these recipes, and you can find them here. I hope they become as big a hit in your household. (R.N.)