From pear-Gorgonzola pizza to pumpkin bars, 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.
Pear, Gorgonzola and pine nut pizza at Boludo
Yes, empanadas are the signature item coming out of chef/owner Facundo DeFraia’s kitchen. But his pizzas! They’re unlike any other in the Twin Cities, and I’m more than slightly obsessed with them.
DeFraia takes a singular approach to creating a crust that’s recognizably pizza-like yet has a light, tender delicacy that’s worlds away from the Dominos and Papa John’s universe. I love how the golden, puffed-up edges get a pair of finishing flourishes after they come out of the oven: a brush of olive oil and a sprinkle of crunchy Maldon sea salt.
I’m fairly certain I could consume this particular pizza ($17) on a daily basis and never tire of it. The quiet sweetness of pears against the salty funkiness of Gorgonzola is an ageless combination, and those habit-forming flavors are beautifully enhanced by the buttery accent of pine nuts and a handful of fragrant, freshly chopped dill.
Even better? This tiny restaurant has the online ordering-curbside pickup routine down to an art form. (Rick Nelson)
3749 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., 612-965-2858. Open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tue.-Sun.
Cocktail mixers at Norseman Distillery
I’ve recently become re-hooked on one of my favorite bad-for-me drinks, Diet Coke, after shaking the habit years ago. I suppose my get-through-the-pandemic indulgence could be worse. But, desperate to snap out of it, I’ve been on the lookout for fun beverages. Enter cocktail mixers.
We’re in a cocktail kit renaissance, a pandemic-necessitated ingenuity from bars, restaurants and distilleries. Norseman was one of the first to come out with a rotating lineup of mixers you could buy from the distillery one day a week, along with a bottle of booze to spike them. About a month ago, they started selling all the new mixers at once, available pretty much on demand. They’ll even deliver them (be advised, though, spirits can’t be delivered).
It’s going OK, said owner Scott Ervin. “We don’t sell as many as we did in the early days of the pandemic,” he said. “Seems like every bar is trying to sell some kind of cocktail kit these days.” But there is a core constituency of regulars who keep coming back for more. “We’ve built an old school milkman relationship of sorts.”
I randomly selected three cans of fizzy nonalcoholic juices and had them delivered in time for lunch. The first one I cracked open was the Askov Sour, with lingonberry, black currant, blackberry, elderflower, grapefruit, cane sugar and cedarwood. I planned to dilute it with sparkling water, but found it to be a delightful refresher straight up. Later, I spiked half a can with 1 1/2 ounces of bourbon and enjoyed a mini happy hour.
More mixers are coming out all the time; next week, look for two Thanksgiving specials: Pilgrim Punch, with cranberry, cinnamon, apple cider, lemon, white oak and raw cane sugar; and Wishbone, which melds the flavors of turkey bone marrow (you read that right) with garlic, onion, celery, carrot, lemon, herbs and more. That’s about as far from Diet Coke as one can get, and I’m here for it. (Sharyn Jackson)
451 Taft St. NE., Mpls., 612-568-6299. Order online at norsemandistillery.square.site for delivery or pickup 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Roasted cauliflower at Red Rabbit
Red Rabbit’s having quite the year. On top of the pandemic and statewide dining shutdowns, a kitchen fire closed the North Loop restaurant for three months. It finally reopened on Tuesday, only to find out Wednesday that it would have to cease onsite dining for four more weeks, per the governor’s orders.
“Nothing fazes me anymore,” said owner Luke Shimp. “I’m like Silly Putty; just bend us around, it’s all good.”
That’s not just talk. Showing he can roll with the punches, Shimp has taken a whimsical approach toward Red Rabbit’s post-fire menu (which is still available for takeout here and at the St. Paul location) with dishes that emphasize smoke and char. Fire-roasted salmon, wood-grilled wings, a smoky Old Fashioned cocktail kit and no-frills toasted marshmallow s’mores are some of the playful choices.
I got the roasted whole cauliflower, a stunner of a vegetarian main with its lightly caramelized edges and yellow-tinted interior (from turmeric). Served over pistachio mousse, it’s sprinkled with chopped nuts, fresh rosemary and bright lemon peel, with some black olive oil on the side. It’s the kind of hearty vegetable you can dig a steak knife into, great on its own or as a shareable side to some of the restaurant’s red sauce wonders. (Bucatini with burrata, yum.)
As a bonus, ask for a matchbox, branded specially for the occasion: “We’re fired up to reopen!” After four more weeks of dining closures, I expect many restaurants will feel the same way. (S.J.)
201 N. Washington Av., Mpls., 612-767-8855; 788 Grand Av., St. Paul, 651-444-5995. Open for dining today until 10 p.m.; takeout 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.
Pumpkin bar at Quiet Cat Bakery
Are pastry chefs just the best, or what? Seven of them generously shared their secrets for this week’s Taste story on how to make the perfect pie. But there are so many amazing pie-makers in town I wish I could have included. Like Zainab Youngmark, who bakes from her home in north Minneapolis and markets her monthly menu on social media under the name Quiet Cat Bakery. (Yup, it’s named after her cat, Honey.)
This month, she has apple pie with both butter and vegan shortening crusts, pecan pie, three flavors of cookies, and not-too-sweet and delicately spiced pumpkin pie bars. They’re like little personal-sized pies for this downsized Thanksgiving we are heading into.
The bars are her favorite pastry for their ingenuity and portability. “It’s like a brick you can just carry around and eat,” she said. “It’s another vessel.”
She starts with a tart crust, a kind of shortbread cookie bottom that’s layered with a soft pillow of pumpkin pie filling.
The 24-year-old began her baking business almost two years ago, while also working with Chowgirls Killer Catering. She lost her job when the pandemic hit, and stopped baking pies at home, too. “Who’s going to want stuff out of anyone’s house?” she thought at the time. But with encouragement from her family, she jumped back in and sales have been steady since. Especially with the support of fellow Minneapolis pie-makers who graciously send business her way.
“There are so many local bakers,” she said. “It’s a nice community.” (S.J.)
Follow @quietcatbakery on Instagram and Facebook for monthly menus. Pickup on Thursdays and Sundays; Thanksgiving week on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Cocoa bombs at St. Croix Chocolate Co.
“I wanted to do something fun that will delight people,” said chocolatier/co-owner Robyn Dochterman.
Is there a more amusing (and decadent) way to make a cup of hot chocolate? Place one of these handmade beauties inside a roomy mug, douse it with a stream of steaming milk and then watch the magic unfold.
As the milk’s heat melts that thin chocolate shell, the hollow orb breaks open, unleashing more hot chocolate-boosting flavor (usually in the form of premium cocoa powder and chocolate shavings) and revealing a festive surprise: a handful of mini marshmallows, which float to the top.
Be sure to have your phone at the ready to capture all of the interactive fun on video.
“It’s a very TikTok-driven phenomenon,” Dochterman said with a laugh.
And because she’s one of the region’s great confectionary creative forces, Dochterman can’t help but get creative, sneaking in sublime temptations like buttery salted caramel, caramelized white chocolate or smile-inducing peppermint candy canes.
Naturally, the bombs are as strikingly pretty as anything else in the shop’s museum-quality candy case, and it feels a little wrong to desecrate them with milk. The raspberry version is marbled like a gleaming agate, and the white chocolate iteration, which twinkles with edible glitter, glistens like a freshly formed snowball.
Use hot milk, or a nondairy substitute such as oat milk, almond milk or soy milk. Or coffee.
“It makes the most amazing mocha,” said Deidre Pope, the shop’s co-owner and Dochterman’s spouse.
They’re sold by the half-dozen on the St. Croix website, or individually ($5.99) from the shop’s case. (R.N.)
261 Parker St., Marine on St. Croix, 651-433-1400. Open 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Thu.-Sat., noon-5 p.m. Sun.