From ravioli to blondies, 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.
Sweet corn ravioli at Italian Eatery
Determined to extract every possible golden kernel out of the 2020 local sweet corn season, I was pleased when a friend alerted me to this fantastic pasta ($19), which inserts sweet corn into the ricotta filling along with making it a garnish (is sweet corn the garden’s most perfect garnish? I’m thinking, “Yes”). Bits of thyme add color and a harmonious herbal salutation, and the butter sauce contributes richness without going overboard. Besides, what’s better with roasted corn than melted butter? Another bonus: turns out, ravioli travels well, a trait worth noting in this Time of Takeout. (Rick Nelson)
4724 Cedar Av. S., Mpls., 612-223-8504. Open for dine-in and takeout 4-8:30 p.m. Sun.-Thu., 4-9:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat.
Pea tortellini at Borough
Last weekend, I hired a babysitter and went out to eat. In pre-pandemic times, that’d be completely unremarkable, but it was actually the first time in six months that my partner and I had a toddler-free fancy dinner together without having to do the dishes afterward. We’ve had some family meals at fast-casual, counter-service setups since dining reopened in June, but not anything that could ever be construed as a “date night.” This time, I was determined to order off a menu (even if it was pulled up on our phones), have a drink that was mixed for me, and take my time over a few courses. Courses! What a luxurious thing that had gotten lost somewhere between March and forever.
It was a last-minute idea, and there happened to be an opening on the old loading dock outside Borough. It was the perfect spot, a kind of industrial-chic romance coming from the twinkle lights bouncing off the metal railings. I loved that the quiet balcony was set back along the side of the restaurant. (Borough’s sister Parlour has its tables down below on the Washington Ave. sidewalk.)
The food, though. It could have been gruel and I’d have been delighted. (It was definitely not gruel.) The plating. The composition. The balance. It’s nothing I could recreate in my kitchen, nor anything that would translate from a plastic takeout container to even my least smudged Fiestaware.
Borough is doing takeout, by the way, but it’s more of a Parlour/Borough hybrid that really is all about the burger. You know, THE burger. But you need to sit down on that loading dock, or inside, to get the exquisite vegetable courses we started with, labeled simply “Tortellini” and “Heirloom Tomato.” The tortellini, shown here, swam in a buttery pool with fava beans, a delicate disk of Parmesan resting on top. The tomato was smeared with caramelized whey and sprinkled with invisible crumbs of black garlic sourdough. After those first bites, I felt like an adult human again. (Sharyn Jackson)
730 Washington Av. N., Mpls., 612-354-3135. Open for dine-in and takeout 4-10 p.m. Mon.-Sat.
Margherita pizza and sausage-mushroom pizza at MoonFlower Pizza
“There can never be too many pizza places,” is how my friend responded when I told him about this newcomer, which debuted on Thursday night.
Especially when they’re this charming.
The mother-and-daughter duo behind the French Hen Cafe have launched a nighttime pivot to their breakfast-lunch cafe, and it’s worth seeking out. The setup is a cabana-like outdoor counter, accessible from the alley, with a handful of outdoor tables. The chalkboard menu featured five options (including a vegan variation and a build-your-own version), and the nine-inch pies fall in the $10 to $14 range.
The dough (the work of pizza maestro Kory Nuesse) has a highly appealing style: a pliable, nicely chewy crust that gets puffed-up and blackened on the edges. The Margherita was everything it should be, with a brightly acidic tomato sauce, lots of milky mozzarella and fragrant, garden-fresh basil. Even better was the thoughtful combination of smoky andouille sausage, tangy pickled okra (an inspired pizza topping), earthy oyster mushrooms and a garlic-fueled red sauce, topped with a flurry of peppery arugula. There’s a short but discerning (and populist-priced) wine and beer list, and a pair of $5 salads. Yeah, I can’t wait to return. (R.N.)
518 Selby Av., St. Paul, 651-222-6201. Open 5-9 p.m. Thu.-Sun.
State Fair To Go kit
Since time doesn’t matter anymore, I’m just going to keep pretending it’s the Minnesota State Fair, even after this week’s autumn spell. Easy enough, since I got a box delivered to me the day after Labor Day, filled with fair-themed make-at-home goodies. Fries, roasted corn, cheese curds, mini doughnuts corn dogs, and a bag of frozen Sweet Martha’s cookie dough for good measure.
The box is the brainchild of Josh Zamansky, the founder and CEO of Dining Delivered. It’s an office catering service that hasn’t had many offices to cater to, lately. So Zamansky came up with a new use for his commercial kitchen, and created a delivery-friendly fair food tour.
It wasn’t just Minnesotans who were interested. Zamansky got orders from all over the country. The Minnesota box I ordered is now sold out, though there is a waitlist — with thousands of people on it.
The good news — depending on where your loyalties lie — is Zamansky is now putting together a Texas edition of the State Fair To Go box. And Texans apparently eat even more fried food than we do. Fried Oreos, curly fries, fried okra, funnel cakes, corn dogs and a turkey leg are all on the menu in a kit that feeds five. Zamansky tells me the preorders have already been coming in from lots of Minnesotans, go figure. (They’ll ship in October.) And keep on the lookout for more fair food well into the fall; he’s currently curating an “All Stars” box with foods from fairs everywhere. (S.J.)
Order online at statefairtogo.com.
A work-related gathering in Minnehaha Park reinforced the notion that while Zoom has been a godsend during this pandemic, it’ll never replace the delight of seeing familiar faces on an in-person basis. From a six-foot distance, of course.
Following pandemic-era picnic protocol, all of the food and drink was served in individual portions. Which is why I immediately thought of contributing these bars. To eliminate the need for a serving spatula, I cut them in advance and placed each one in a paper cupcake liner, a trick I surely picked up via osmosis while thumbing through some long-ago issue of Martha Stewart Living. Or was it Real Simple?
Anyway, the beauty of these blondies is that they come together in a snap (no electric mixer required), and the format is flexible.
I’m not a fan of white chocolate, so I either double the amount of semisweet chips, or I substitute bittersweet chocolate chips, or coconut flakes. I’ve also played around with the brown sugar, sometimes using a half-and-half blend of light and dark brown sugar. I almost always double the amount of vanilla extract, and I occasionally toss in a teaspoon of instant espresso powder. And yes, you really need to toast the pecans; it’s a simple step that has a big impact. (R.N.)
Makes 24 to 36 bars.
Note: To toast the pecans, place the nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat, and cook, stirring (or shaking the pan frequently) until they just begin to release their fragrance, about 3 to 4 minutes (alternately, preheat oven to 325 degrees, spread the nuts on an ungreased baking sheet and bake, stirring often, for 4 to 6 minutes). From “The New Best Recipe” from the editors of Cook’s Illustrated (America’s Test Kitchen, 2004).
• 1 1/2 c. flour
• 1 tsp. baking powder
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 12 tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus extra for pan
• 1 1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
• 2 eggs
• 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
• 1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips
• 1/2 c. white chocolate chips
• 1 c. pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease the bottom and sides of a 9- by 13-inch baking pan.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt, and reserve.
In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter and brown sugar until combined and smooth. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and mix well. Using a rubber spatula, fold the flour mixture into the butter-egg mixture until just combined, do not overmix. Fold in the semisweet chocolate chips, white chocolate chips and pecans and turn the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a rubber spatula.
Bake until the top is shiny and cracked and feels firm to the touch, about 22 to 25 minutes. Remove pan from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into bars and serve.
“5 Best Things” is going on vacation and will return on Oct. 2.