From ice cream to empanadas, 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.
Brown butter soft serve ice cream at Bogart’s Doughnut Co.
Owner Anne Rucker introduced soft serve ice cream to her menu last week, although she’s owned a soft serve ice cream machine — two, actually — for several years.
“I’ve always loved soft serve, and I decided that if I could make brown butter soft serve, we’d sell it,” she said. “Brown butter has always been our thing.”
Indeed. For those who have never indulged in a Bogart’s brioche doughnut crowned with a thick brown butter glaze, that happy task belongs at the top of the to-do list, pronto.
Back to soft serve. When the coronavirus pandemic intervened, Rucker decided it was now or never. The result? Add another gotta-try to the Bogart’s list.
The flavor is complex, unexpected and slightly nutty, and is as over-the-top as “butter-flavored ice cream” sounds. Talk about talkers: Rucker’s foray into soft serve would be a huge hit at that epicenter of the novelty universe, the Minnesota State Fair. Maybe in 2021.
Production is a fairly clear-cut process. Rucker browns butter (“Actually, it’s ‘burned’ butter, because that gives it more flavor,” she said) and then steeps it in whole milk for at least 24 hours.
“After removing the butter solids that float to the top, I add sugar, stabilizer and a little salt, and that’s it,” said Rucker. “It’s an easier endeavor than doughnuts.”
Those dark flecks? That’s the brown butter, not vanilla bean.
“I tried vanilla, but I felt that it took away from the flavor of the butter,” said Rucker.
There’s also a supple dark chocolate version, and the machine has a “twist” capability, surely one of the food service industry’s greatest inventions. Buy it in a cup ($5), or as the filling in a brioche doughnut “sandwich” ($6) at her south Minneapolis shop.
Sadly, Rucker has not renewed the leases on her outposts in the IDS Crystal Court in downtown Minneapolis and at Keg and Case Market in St. Paul. Both have permanently closed.
But let’s end on a high note, shall we? After taking a hiatus earlier this summer, Rucker has returned to two farmers markets, setting up a stand every Saturday at the Fulton Farmers Market, and every other Sunday at the Kingfield Farmers Market. There’s one caveat: it’s strictly doughnuts, no soft serve.
“The machine is very big and clunky,” she said with a laugh. “We can’t move it. It’s the heaviest machine, ever.” (Rick Nelson)
904 W. 36th St., Mpls., 612-886-1670. Open 7 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Mon., 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Tue.-Thu., 7 a.m.-8 p.m. Fri., 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Sat.-Sun.
Empanadas from Quebracho
It’s National Farmers Market Week, and these empanadas were one of my favorite recent farmers market finds.
When the pandemic began, Belen Rodriguez thought about what was in her freezer. As the proprietor of an empanada company, she was stocked with her empanadas, which made easy re-heatable meals during the week. As catering gigs and events for the year were being canceled one by one, it wasn’t long before frozen empanadas became her business’s next chapter.
The pivot proved to be popular. In the last few months, Quebracho has grown from a team of two to a team of six. It offers online sales and home delivery and has a presence at five Twin Cities farmers markets.
“It’s a protein-packed, quick meal you can have in just 30 minutes,” said Rodriguez, who hails from Argentina. “For us, it worked very well for those busy weekday meals.”
I had been to one of Rodriguez’s early Quebracho pop-ups, so I was delighted to run into her booth at the East Isles market, where you’ll often find her staffing the table in the evening, after starting her day at 4:30 a.m. in the kitchen.
“It feels fatiguing but it’s very rewarding in many other ways,” she said about the long days. “You do it with such passion.”
I enjoyed the savory mushroom-broccoli-fontina special, but the dough handiwork is what amazes me the most. A nice touch: the Quebracho name is stamped into the crust by a custom, Argentine-made press that seals each and every empanada.
The parbaked, frozen empanadas come in packs of three ($14-$15), in three flagship flavors — beef, chicken, spinach-ricotta — plus one seasonal variety. Starting next week, the flavor of the season is tomato-mozzarella caprese. With any luck, business will keep growing. Rodriguez is working on her certifications to wholesale variety packs of empanadas in grocery stores within the next few months. “We’re very hopeful,” she said. (Sharyn Jackson)
Order online for Saturday delivery or pre-order for farmers markets, or shop at Midtown Farmers Market (Saturdays), Northeast Farmers Market (Saturdays), East Isles Farmers Market (Thursdays), Market in the Valley (Sundays) and Linden Hills Farmers Market (Sundays).
Blueberry Dutch Baby from Grand Cafe
I’ve had my eye on Grand Cafe’s “luxury meal kits” since early in the pandemic. The pantry boxes come with about a week’s worth of breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, some prepared and some with pre-portioned ingredients to be cooked at home. But as someone who actually likes meal planning, I wasn’t willing to relinquish my dinner duties for a whole week. So I was thrilled when Jamie Malone’s French restaurant began offering a “build a box” option, which, for me, was a better fit.
Grand Cafe began the shutdown offering traditional takeout, but pivoted to the boxes by necessity. “It started to become clear to me that if we increased our business in that way, we would have to increase the people in our space,” Malone said in a recent Star Tribune panel on the future of restaurants. “That would have meant cramming too many of our staff members together, when so much was unknown ...” But the meal kits only needed a few core employees to assemble during staggered shifts. And they also gave Malone and her team a chance to focus on “elements that we’re passionate about.” Those could include fresh flowers, watercolor art kits, candles and more.
At $360, a full box isn’t for everyone. Enter a la carte ordering.
For breakfast, I got a make-at-home blueberry Dutch baby pancake (above, $15), which was an opulent meal to kick off a random Tuesday morning. For lunch, two gooey croque monsieur sandwiches with pickles (I’m stealing that for all future grilled cheeses) that came assembled and ready to be griddled ($22), and a quart of bacon and corn chowder ($10). I also got a bread basket with sourdough, focaccia, shokupan and cognac caramel monkey bread, plus butter, sea salt and preserves to spread on it all ($35). And, out of total curiosity, two hazelnut foie gras ice cream bars ($30).
Everything came packaged up in a big white box, wrapped in pink tissue paper and sealed with gold foil stickers. It felt like I was buying myself a present, and indeed, the first bites of each meal were true gifts. (S.J.)
Pre-order on Tock to pick up Saturdays at Eastside, 305 S. Washington Av., Mpls.
Maid Rite sandwich at Dakota Junction
There are several reasons why I adore this sandwich.
First, simplicity: Lean ground beef, steamed in beef broth until it crumbles, is spooned, sloppy Joe-like, into a buttered and toasted bun that’s garnished with American cheese, tangy yellow mustard, a few crunchy pickles and a pop of grilled onions.
“It’s the sloppy Joe without the slop,” is how owner Stephanie Bolles once described it to me, a spot-on summation.
Flavor-wise, it boasts tons of burger attributes, but with a lighter bite. That makes the Maid Rite ideal summer fare, especially for those biking and walking on the adjacent Dakota Rail Regional Trail.
When she opened her restaurant nearly seven years ago, Bolles included the sandwich on her menu as a favor to her mother, who grew up with the Iowa-based Maid-Rite chain, the most famous purveyor of the Hawkeye State’s beloved loose-meat sandwich. Bolles’ version of this American classic has been a top-seller ever since.
It helps that the price is right: $8.25 with fries, and Bolles will add a second sandwich (perfect for an early-bird date night, because the heaping helping of fries is totally shareable) for an additional $5. (R.N.)
2281 Commerce Blvd., Mound, 952-479-1519. Open 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sun.
Cucumber cantaloupe gazpacho at Tilia
A few weeks ago, chef/owner Steven Brown — who might earn my vote as the Twin Cities’ most skilled soup maker — was crafting a gazpacho with tomatoes and watermelon, but his supply lines weren’t steady.
“That got me thinking, ‘What if we used cantaloupe instead of watermelon?’” he said.
Cucumber continued the summer-breeze vibe, but before the soup threatened to tiptoe into dessert territory, Brown slipped in a bit of chile-fueled heat; that cool-hot contrast is the (brilliant) edible equivalent of stepping out of a frigid air conditioned car onto a sweltering parking lot.
And because Brown’s soups are never textural one-notes, crunch comes by way of roasted pistachios.
“Almonds are traditional in gazpacho,” he said. “But I wanted something with a different texture and flavor, and I’ve always liked pistachios.”
Brown, who is up for the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef Midwest award (the winner will be announced on Sept. 25), usually finds himself turning to gazpacho as the weather warms.
“I’m Midwestern,” he said. “I like something warm but not too much work — a piece of fish on the grill, maybe — and then something cold. That always works well.”
A memorable example was a cherry soup that he prepared during his long-ago tenure at the former Lucia’s Restaurant in Uptown Minneapolis.
“I remember that it was amazing, but I also remember pitting cherries, for days,” he said with a laugh. “Cantaloupes are much easier.” (R.N.)
2726 W. 43rd St., Mpls., 612-354-2806. Open 4:30-9 p.m. Thu.-Mon. for takeout and curbside pickup, 4:30-8 p.m. Thu.-Mon. for indoor and patio dining.