From ice cream sandwiches to chicken potpies, here’s a rundown of our food writers’ dining diaries over the past seven days. What were your top eats of the week? Share the details in the comments section.
Gingerbread Men ice cream sandwich from Kemps
Who says social media is toxic? Just look at the power of the vox populi when given a platform like Facebook: a 1,400-member group called “Bring back the Kemps Gingerbread Man Ice Cream Sandwiches” has gone and done just that.
For the first time in at least 25 years, the dairy company is restocking its beloved winter ice cream treat, the Gingerbread Men Ice Cream Sandwiches. Two soft, gingery cookies surround fluffy vanilla ice cream, all shaped like a bow-tied guy with short arms.
Just consider the passion:
“Omg! Please, please! Please bring back these nostalgic, tasty, uniquely delicious and one of a kind treats! If I spotted these at the supermarket, I would about fall over,” wrote one fan.
Kemps heard loud and clear. The only problem: the mold for the gingerbread people had been missing for decades. Until someone spotted it in a backroom somewhere, and helped bring the sandwiches back to life.
Look familiar? The box is exactly the same as it was the first time around in the 1980s.
“It’s probably not the most modern-looking package,” said Rachel Kyllo, a Kemps spokeswoman. “But it’s what their packaging was when consumers first fell in love.”
Nostalgia and comfort are powerful market forces, and Kemps recognized that. Dairy products are spiking in sales, especially ice cream and heavy cream used a lot in baking. It only made sense to make room on the shelf for the gingerbread sandwiches.
“In our humble opinion, it’s kind of the thing people need right now,” Kyllo said. “It’s delicious, it brings them joy, and it’s steeped in long-held family memories.” (Sharyn Jackson)
Available in most Minnesota supermarkets.
Diwali meal kit from Hot Indian
The Indian holiday Diwali, the festival of lights, falls on Nov. 14, and here’s Hot Indian chef Janene Holig’s advice on how to celebrate: heat up a meal kit from her Midtown Global Market stand, ignite some tea lights and watch a Bollywood movie. “It’s music, and sweets and light, and that’s the way I would celebrate at home,” Holig said. (Need a film recommendation? Holig likes “Bajirao Mastani” and “Don”.)
Hot Indian has been putting together take-and-bake meals throughout the pandemic, but the “Diwali special” has a little something extra: mango and date ladoos, which are soft, sweet, little truffle-like confections, with fruit, nuts and coconut. You can find all varieties of ladoos wrapped in color foils at Indian grocers.
In Hot Indian’s meal kit for two, though, you also get your choice of rice bowl ($32.99) or kati roll ($29.99) with a number of filling options (I had the yummy chicken tikka masala rice bowl), a bag of crispy papadums with six bright, sweet or spicy chutneys, and another popular Indian snack, a buttery dessert biscuit called Parle-G.
Hot Indian has another location at Mall of America, but it’s slow going, Holig said. The Minneapolis skyway location remains closed.
“In-person business, we’re struggling a lot on that,” Holig said. The meal kits, which have been a popular seller over the last few months, have been one bright spot. So, it seems, is the holiday.
The Diwali kits are available through Saturday, and the market is celebrating the festival with virtual big-screen performances by Ragamala Dance Company and a free glow-light for kids. At 1 p.m., everyone will count down to light them up together.
“The Festival of Lights brings on the new and exciting,” Holig said. “It puts 2020 in the rearview mirror.” (S.J.)
920 E. Lake St., Mpls., 612-236-4423. Open 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Sat.
Pizza at Punch Pizza
In the count-your-blessings department, Twin Citians need to occasionally remind ourselves of just how fortunate we are to have this quality-obsessed pizzeria in our midst.
Punch has been meticulously turning out Neapolitan-style pizza for nearly a quarter century (the official 25th anniversary is coming up on Feb. 6, 2021), and it’s a challenge to come up with another homegrown restaurant chain that has so carefully maintained its standards as it proliferated across the metro area.
This Punch true believer would never take the menu’s top-notch toppings selection for granted (yes, the mozzarella di Bufala is worth the upcharge), but this pizza is really all about the crust, which is blistered and blackened along the edges, limp and stretchy on the bottom.
Sadly, as time passes, the winning textures of that all-important crust lose some of its, well, punch, which is not exactly an ideal scenario for what is now an all-takeout operation. My advice is to plan accordingly, and keep travel times to a minimum. (I’ll be honest: I hustled my $11 ham-mushroom combo to the parking lot and greedily consumed it in the car). Still, even less-than-peak-performance product from Punch remains an improvement over many other pizzas.
The company wasn’t operating during the first months of the pandemic, but in mid-May it gradually began reopening, one location at a time; nine of its 12 locations are now open for takeout service (a setup that works really well, by the way). Hours vary slightly, but all serve lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday. (Rick Nelson)
3345 Central Park Village Dr., Eagan; 8353 Crystal View Rd., Eden Prairie; 12107 Elm Creek Blvd., Maple Grove; 3226 W. Lake St., Mpls.; 1767 County Rd. B2 W., Roseville; 769 Grand Av., St. Paul; 1018 E. County Hwy. 96, Vadnais Heights; 1313 E. Wayzata Blvd., Wayzata; and 8300 City Centre Dr., Woodbury.
Chicken pot pie at Lakewinds Food Co-op
Winter’s inevitable return has rekindled my appetite for chicken pot pie.
I encountered a new favorite while browsing the frozen food aisle of this well-stocked co-op. True, it’s the cheater version of chicken pot pie, in that a sheet of puff pastry replaces the traditional two-crust pie shell. But it’s really delicious puff pastry, a golden, flaky, super-buttery extravagance.
And the co-op firmly embraces the “chicken” aspect of this comfort food classic, loading it up with chunks of tender, juicy meat and then laying on the prototypical pot-pie array of (organic) veggies: potatoes, carrots, peas, sweet corn and celery. Perfect.
It’s priced by the pound ($8.99), and each serving easily feeds two. (For vegetarians, Lakewinds produces a spinach-mushroom version, enriched with feta and ricotta and crowned with phyllo dough, $9.99 per pound). Yeah, facing winter is going to be easier knowing that I have a stash of these convenient heat-and-serve dinners in my freezer. (R.N.)
435 Pond Promenade, Chanhassen, 952-697-3366; 17501 Minnetonka Blvd., Minnetonka, 952-473-0292; and 6420 Lyndale Av. S., Richfield, 612-814-8000. Open 8 a.m.-8 p.m. daily.
Ruby Punch at Jinx Tea
When co-owner Jennifer Wills shared the back story on this refreshing beverage, my nostalgia-loving self realized why I was so immediately smitten.
“I wanted to make a sophisticated Hawaiian Punch-like drink, with tea,” she said.
Bingo. My contemporary Ruby Punch cravings were just introduced to my preteen years as a devout Hawaiian Punch consumer.
But this is no sugary kid’s drink. It’s barely sweet, it’s caffeine-free, and it doubles as an excellent cocktail mixer. Even better, right?
Wills partnered with Prohibition Kombucha founder Nate Uri to develop this slightly effervescent drink, a blend of hibiscus tea that’s cold-brewed with pineapple and ginger, with echoes of mango, cinnamon and lavender.
Beyond the flavor — which somehow thankfully avoids being overtly floral, despite its hibiscus base — what I most appreciate about this appropriately named drink is its vibrant cranberry color. It’s such an up-tempo characteristic, and a balm for the many gray winter days we have ahead of us.
“It’s an unexpected delight,” said Wills. “You think you know what it is when you see it, but you really don’t know what it is until you taste it.”
She took the words right out of my mouth. Find it at the cheery Jinx Tea shop ($4.75 and $5.25), and it’s also on tap at Mill Valley Market (1221 Theodore Wirth Pkwy., Mpls., 763-316-4948), Rustica (200 Southdale Center, Edina, 952-417-6199) and a few other local locations. (R.N.)
4503 France Av. S., Mpls., 612-367-4797. Open 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Tue.-Sat., noon-6 p.m. Sun.