Pasties from Lands End Pasty Co.
This seven-year-old Dinkytown setup, a partnership between Jon Earl and his nephew Peter Jacobson, fits neatly into my never-ending quest for convenient heat-and-serve dinners.
Such admirable handiwork! These savory pies ($7.17) are lovely to look at and taste even better, and they're engineered to handle the freezer-to-oven transition.
Fillings change frequently. Expect to encounter three or four varieties (the menu is posted daily on the shop's Facebook page), one of which is the hearty, always-appealing mix of beef steak, potato, onion and rutabaga.
Consider it your lucky day when the jerk chicken, chicken curry or sun-dried tomato-basil-feta variations make an appearance. The elk version ($8.17) is the one that Team Lands End presented at last year's World Pasty Championships in Cornwall, England, competing in a field of 180 entries.
"We got an almost perfect score, but we didn't make it to the podium," said Jacobson. "We must have just been edged out. Hopefully we'll be able to throw our hat into the ring again."
The dough — tender, flaky, radiantly golden and skillfully crimped along the edges — shares many pie crust attributes.
"But it's overworked, so it has more structure," said Jacobson. "It doesn't have a pie tin to keep it together."
For pasties with meat fillings, lard is the key ingredient to the dough's richness; the vegetarian pasties are made with butter. Either way, they're delicious.
"Pasties are great cold weather food," said Jacobson. "They're very comfort food-ey. They're almost like home cooking, to keep you going." (Rick Nelson)
1316 SE. 4th St., Mpls., 612-315-4175, landsendpasty.com. Open for takeout 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Sat.
Kimchi fries from Mi-Sant Banh Mi Co.
This Brooklyn Park Vietnamese restaurant and bakery couldn't have been better positioned for the pandemic; opened in 2018 in a former KFC, their drive-through window proved to be a social-distancing dream. Roll up for French pastries such as baguette and croissant, noodle and salad bowls, the house specialty of bánh mì (made on those excellent baguettes), milk tea and more. For me, "and more" was a last-minute catch of kimchi fries on the menu. I promptly added them ($5.50) to my order.
They're your standard thin, crisp, fast-food kind of fries — that is to say, the best kind. Then topped with a layer of kimchi, Sriracha mayo, bulgogi beef, sesame seeds and cilantro. It was 10:30 in the morning when I ate them, and I have zero regrets.
"Loaded fries are so popular, you can find those everywhere, so we wanted to do something a little Asian inspired," said Linh Nguyen, who owns Mi-Sant with her siblings. Korean flavors are some of her favorites, and that savory-sweet bulgogi also makes an appearance as a bánh mì filling for those so inclined.
Good news: Mi-Sant is expanding to Roseville sometime this spring. I hope the kimchi fries make the move, too. (Sharyn Jackson)
8540 Edinburgh Centre Dr., Brooklyn Park, 763-355-5947. Open for takeout 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Mon.-Sat.
Paczki from Dorothy Ann Bakery & Cafe
This brazenly decadent Polish doughnut traditionally makes its annual appearance on Fat Tuesday, which means that on Feb. 16, co-owner Steve Conway will step up to the fryer at 2 a.m. and remain there until at least noon ("I'm the only one crazy enough to do it," he said), cranking out somewhere around 4,000 paczki.
Can't make it on Fat Tuesday? Not to worry. At this impressive family-owned bakery, paczki are sold every Friday ("Who am I to say that you can't eat paczki throughout the year?" said Conway), and they're a wildly popular weekend special during the two Saturdays and Sundays leading up to the Lenten season.
Even better: The bakery is usually closed on Monday, but in a nod to demand, it will be open on Feb. 15 for the pre-Fat Tuesday paczki onslaught.
One way that Conway and his spouse and business partner Joan Conway have made paczki a house specialty is by expanding the bakery's repertoire of tempting fillings. There are now more than a dozen, including blueberry, fresh strawberry, chocolate custard, prune and caramel-apple.
Two favorites, plum and rose hip, are made using preserves from Sikora's Polish Market & Deli (1625 NE. Washington St., Mpls., 612-789-0907, sikoraspolishmarket.com), which Dorothy Ann supplies with paczki every Friday. For Fat Tuesday, Conway said the Dorothy Ann crew will deliver 1,000 paczki to Sikora's customers.
Fist-sized paczki (Conway pronounces it as punch-key) are portable parties because the dough is richer — more egg, more sugar — than a standard raised doughnut. When it comes to fillings, the word "overstuffed" applies.
"It's about twice the amount of filling that you'd find in a Bismarck," said Conway. "It's the whole feasting-before-you-fast aspect of Lent." (R.N.)
710 Commerce Dr., Suite 100, Woodbury, 651-731-3323, dorothyannbakery.com. Open 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Tue.-Sat., 7:30 a.m.-noon Sun.
Cardamom bread pudding from Fika
Cardamom is never far away at Fika, the cafe inside the American Swedish Institute. The delicate warming spice punctuates many pastries, including this comforting bread pudding developed and perfected by baker Brenna Morrison. The cafe's beloved cardamom buns soak with cream, eggs, butter, raisins and sugar, plus more cardamom (see?), then bake in batches and slice up for individual servings.
Get a slice in the cafe with brandy caramel and vanilla cream ($8) or take a big batch home. One of Fika's pandemic adaptations was to add a Marketplace with bulk offerings of some of the cafe's favorites. The bread pudding comes with six slices for $40.
Also on the menu: semlor buns, the seasonal specialty for Fat Tuesday. The cardamom buns, filled with almond paste and whipped cream, often sell out this time of year, but $25 will get you six of them in the market. You probably shouldn't eat them all at once, though: An 18th-century Swedish king is rumored to have died after a large meal, during which he devoured 14 semlor.
(By the way, if you're still looking for a Valentine's Day meal, Fika's got a takeout smorgasbord for two, a $45 feast with smoked trout spread, beet-cured gravlax, cheese and more.) (S.J.)
2600 Park Ave., Mpls., 612-524-5108. Open for dine-in and pickup 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Thu.-Sun. Pre-order from the Marketplace 48 hours ahead by e-mailing email@example.com.
Cotton candy from Spinning Wylde
How sweet is this: Spinning Wylde, the gourmet cotton candy business, has leapt from a stand in Keg & Case Market to its own brick-and-mortar across the street. But the build-out isn't finished, so instead of allowing customers inside to shop, they've placed a vending machine in front of the door.
They call it the Gift-O-Matic, and it has loads more than cotton candy — although that's definitely why you'll want to pay a visit. When I went, I found candy, magnets, 3-D glasses, and fun fabric masks ($10) made by co-owner Tevy Phann-Smith's mother.
Spinning Wylde spins sugar in 65 flavors, and the machine features about a dozen of them, stuffed into shimmery hologram envelopes ($4-$6). I got two: butterbeer and grapefruit champagne. Because owners and married couple Tevy and Ben Smith don't use dyes, most selections come as white as the fluffy insides of a throw pillow, but don't let the color fool you — these little clouds contain storms of flavor. (S.J.)
915 W. 7th St., St. Paul. Pickup and delivery noon-6 p.m. Sat.-Sun. Gift-O-Matic open 24/7.