From waffles to waffle cones, 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.
Ice cream at Bebe Zito
There’s a new ice cream shop in town, and I held out exactly five days before I had to go there and try everything.
Bebe Zito is the new brick-and-mortar spot for the former ice cream pop-up from co-owners and fiancées Ben Spangler and Gabriella Grant. Spangler has made ice cream and other sweets for a number of restaurants and cafes, and had his hand in some of Milkjam Creamery’s unforgettable flavors (like the dairy-free, dark-as-night Black). He also competed — and got rave reviews — on Food Network’s “King of Cones.”
Now, he’s scooping what he calls “composed sundaes” — flavors that pair some of the usual ice cream shop fare, like brownies, with off-the-wall ingredients, such as gochujang and mushrooms. Grant’s Brazilian heritage comes through in flavors like Brigadeiro Chocolate.
But “we don’t have vanilla,” Spangler said.
Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, there is no in-store sampling. So, I crammed all the ice cream I could onto one sugar cone (and a bowl on the side). Behold the Lemon Party, which is a lemon buttermilk poppy seed ice cream with wild blueberries and toasted cinnamon — kind of like a coffee shop lemon loaf. And a scoop of Spangler’s signature Strawberry Tres Leches, with ground up churros and jam. On top, a cherry, of course. This cherry, however, is made of cherry ice cream and enrobed in a red candy coating. Spangler is making other “fruits” out of fruit-flavored ice cream. Next time, I’m getting a big bowl of fruit salad.
The inventive options, with all the fixings mixed in, are proving popular as a takeout item, Spangler said. Pints are flying off the freezer shelf. Good thing he sneaks surprises in those cartons, too, like a brûléed marshmallow top on the S’mores flavor (graham cracker ice cream, peanut butter caramel, toasted marshmallows and chocolate ganache).
It would seem the goal is to keep us on our toes. “If you take something home,” he asked, “can it still be magic?” (Sharyn Jackson)
704 W. 22nd St., Mpls. Open 1 to 9 p.m. daily.
Chicken in a waffle cone at Blue Barn
We might not be getting a State Fair this year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have State Fair food. Over the July 4th weekend, Blue Plate Restaurant Co. brought back a few signature items from its iconic Blue Barn. Normally, you can only get their chicken in a waffle cone 12 days a year, from their stand just inside the fair’s West End gate. But 2020 is a whole new ballgame. While the pop-up that allowed me to have it last weekend is already over, the company will launch a food truck with its fair menu later this summer.
I happened to be in St. Paul over the weekend, so I picked up a curbside order of a few Blue Barn goodies at Groveland Tap. Blueberry basil lemonade — always a favorite. Bacon-stuffed Tater Tots. And this cone, stuffed with savory fried chicken tenders. The sausage gravy was served in a plastic container on the side, which I applied liberally. And at the bottom, a warm and melty malt ball. Dessert. (S.J.)
Food truck launching Aug. 1. Check social media for updates.
Pasta pouch from Due Focacceria
My only non-cone-shaped meal this week was a heaping plate of fresh extruded and dried pasta, coated in the ancestral tomato sauce of Eric Carrara. He’s the co-owner of Due Focacceria (and ie: Italian Eatery in Minneapolis). Long before COVID-19, his casual St. Paul restaurant offered “Pasta Pouches,” which were sets of their housemade noodles, sauce and cheese — everything you need for dinner in one paper bag. They’re a spin on the reusable totes full of goods that Sicilians would fill with provisions from sun-drenched Italian farmers markets. “It is the essence of walking around in southern Italy with a pouch,” Carrara said.
You can choose a quart each of pasta and sauce; I went with bucatini, those long, thick, spaghetti-like noodles with a hole running down the middle, and Carrara’s Nonna’s pomodoro (tomato). The zucchini and the torn basil from my garden were my added touches.
Though the pouches were always part of the Due plan, they happen to be well-suited to a new era in takeout dining. (Now, ie carries them. And, hot tip from Carrara, the bundles may soon be sold in stores.) In addition to sprucing up the building’s walk-up takeout window with awnings and lights, Due has added an “arancini cart” that gets pushed around the neighborhood, selling those fried rice balls and a new menu item, gelato.
“People want to be outside,” Carrara said. It’s true. The cart just launched last weekend. Every day so far it has sold out. (S.J.)
475 Fairview Av. S., St. Paul, 651-493-8858. Takeout window and patio seating open 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.
Blueberry croissant at Solomon’s Bakery
Here’s what I’ve gleaned from countless visits to the Mill City Farmers Market: Burning River Farm is the source for fantastic salad mix; there will be extraordinary cheeses at Cosmic Wheel Creamery, Singing Hills Goat Dairy, Prairie Hollow Farm and Shepherd’s Way Farms; Sunshine Harvest Farm will have gorgeous eggs; and expect to encounter a long line outside Solomon’s Bakery.
Market regulars know to queue up for baker/owner Veronica Anczarski’s wide range of eye-catching baked goods, especially the beautiful fruit- and berry-packed tarts, tantalizing orejas (elephant ears), well-executed breads and her skillfully made croissants.
During my post-college years I consumed more broccoli-Cheddar-ham croissants than I care to admit at the beyond-trendy Croissant Exprès (it occupied a tiny corner of the Uptown Theatre’s lobby; trust me, in 1983, it was the place), which is probably why, after all of that excess, I now prefer my croissants on the less-is-more side.
Still, when I spied the word “blueberry” in the croissants section of Anczarski’s chalkboard menu, I was powerless to resist (of all the characters in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” I have always most closely identified with Violet Beauregarde). The results? Lovely. The dough was flaky and buttery, and a pop of pastry cream paired with the generous streak of sweet-tart blueberries inched the croissant into Danish territory, a highly appealing trait.
On the subject of blueberries, the region’s u-pick farms are open and waiting for customers to get busy and harvest the 2020 crop (find a list of farms here). Weather permitting, I’ll be making my annual pilgrimage to Rush River Produce this weekend, and I can’t wait. For those interested in pursuing a tart cousin of the blueberry, the pick-your-own honeyberry operation at Farm LoLa in Wrenshall, Minn. (about 25 minutes southwest of Duluth), is in the last few days of harvest mode. Can’t make the drive? For a limited time, you’ll also find the farm’s honeyberries in the produce section of many Twin Cities co-ops. (Rick Nelson)
Overnight waffles from “How to Cook Everything”
I’ve experimented with a lot of waffle recipes, and none come close to author Mark Bittman’s yeast-powered formula. They’re pitch-perfect: the texture is surprisingly delicate and crisp, and the yeast adds an additional pop of tangy flavor without going overpoweringly bread-ey.
They’re right at home in the freezer, too. No thawing necessary, just give them a quick spin in the toaster, and you’ll never, ever be satisfied with a supermarket frozen waffle. The do-it-yourself route is also a money saver.
These golden beauties have the power to make a regulation-issue Tuesday morning special, and they never fail to impress brunch guests (remember the days when we had people over for brunch?). Try them, you’ll love them.
Four tips: If you don’t feel like taking the extra step of beating the egg whites to soft peaks, then don’t; these waffles are nearly as good when the whites and yolks are whisked together. Don’t skip the vanilla extract. Use the fattiest milk you have on hand. And if you’re going with maple syrup — and you should — be sure to use the real thing. Eggos and Log Cabin may go hand-in-hand, but these first-rate waffles deserve so much better. (R.N.)
Serves 4 to 6.
From “How to Cook Everything” by Mark Bittman.
• 1/2 tsp. instant yeast
• 2 c. flour
• 1 tbsp. sugar
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 2 c. milk
• 8 tbsp. (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled
• 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract, optional
• 2 eggs, separated
• Butter and maple syrup, for serving
The night before, whisk together yeast, flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Stir in the milk, then the butter, then the vanilla extract; the batter will be loose. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside overnight at room temperature.
When ready to bake, preheat waffle iron. In a small bowl, whisk egg yolks, then stir them into the batter.
In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Gently fold beaten egg whites into the batter.
Cook waffles, one at a time, following directions of the waffle maker manufacturer, baking until waffles are crisp and brown outside and tender inside. Serve immediately with butter and syrup.