Q: What are you looking forward to eating at the Minnesota State Fair?
A: What I’ve been daydreaming about lately is the tangy, rose-tinted goodness at the Lingonberry Ice Cream stand, crafted especially for the fair; find it near the corner of Underwood St. and Carnes Av., just south of the Food Building. A holdover from last year that will definitely make my 2019 list are the glorious grilled peaches at the Produce Exchange, which is also located at Carnes and Underwood, just west of the Food Building. And the Great Minnesota Get-Together is the one time when I allow myself to consume a corn dog.
Q: How can I get a reservation at Demi?
A: Like everyone else, I’m afraid, by logging into the restaurant’s website (demimpls.com) and acting fast. Gavin Kaysen’s new 20-seat, tasting menu-only restaurant releases reservations for an entire month on the first day of the previous month, at noon. For example, October reservations will be available on Sept. 1. I recommend logging in at 11:55 a.m., and refreshing your screen until the calendar posts and you can grab (and prepay, so have that credit card ready) the date you have in mind. “The month usually sells out in total in about one day, but the Fridays and Saturdays sell out in minutes,” said Kaysen. “The best thing is to be patient and be ready for your date and time.”
Q: Where are the best mocktails in the Twin Cities?
A: For this frequent designated driver, the ever-increasing availability of zero-proof cocktails is a welcome trend, especially since there’s also a parallel rise in terms of quality and creativity. I’m impressed by the selection (nine options) and ingenuity at W.A. Frost & Co. (374 Selby Av., St. Paul, 651-224-5715, wafrost.com), best enjoyed on the restaurant’s nobody-does-it-better patio. I like what the bar at Eastside (305 Washington Av. S., Mpls., 612-208-1638, eastsidempls.com) does on the nonalcoholic front, including a refreshing housemade root beer. But there are two standard-setters. Marco Zappia conjures up nonalcoholic brilliance at Colita (5400 Penn Av. S., Mpls., 612-886-1606, colitampls.com) and Martina (4312 Upton Av. S., Mpls., 612-922-9913, martinarestaurant.com). Robb Jones does the same at Spoon and Stable (211 N. 1st St., Mpls., 612-224-9850, spoonandstable.com) and Bellecour (739 E. Lake St., Wayzata, 952-444-5200, bellecourrestaurant.com), as well as with his groundbreaking “Temperance Pairing” at Demi, a remarkable spirit-free parade of inventive libations, scrupulously tailored to each course.
Q: What about a favorite summertime cocktail?
A: Warm weather and the Negroni go hand in hand, and I’m loving the classic formula that’s on tap at Giulia (215 S. 4th St., Mpls., 612-215-5450, dinegiulia.com). The bar also uses the standard recipe as jumping-off point to create several Negroni flights of fancy: mezcal and aperol, Cappelletti and sparkling rosé.
Q: Are there any upcoming restaurant openings that on are your radar?
A: I’m always interested in whatever Isaac Becker and Nancy St. Pierre are up to. They’re the couple behind three of the Twin Cities’ top restaurants: 112 Eatery (112 N. 3rd St., Mpls., 612-343-7696, 112eatery.com), Bar La Grassa (800 Washington Av. N., Mpls., 612-333-3837, barlagrassa.com) and Burch (1933 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., 612-843-1500, burchrestaurant.com). They’re opening Snack Bar in the North Loop — in a space adjacent to Bar La Grassa — and are planning a lounge with an emphasis on pizza.
Then there’s Black Walnut Bakery (3145 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., blackwalnutbakery.com), the brick-and-mortar iteration of baker Sarah Botcher’s longtime wholesale operation. Look for it to materialize in about a month.
Q: Where should I take out-of-town visitors?
A: I could rattle off a zillion restaurant ideas, but how about this instead: Take them to a market, for shopping and eating. There’s nothing like the lively, fascinating Hmongtown Marketplace (217 Como Av., St. Paul, 651-487-3700, hmongtownmarketplace.com), with its enormous, mazelike collection of shops and food stalls, all illuminating Southeast Asian culture; it’s open daily. If your guests are here on a Saturday, head to the Mill City Farmers Market (704 S. 2nd St., Mpls., 612-341-7580, millcityfarmersmarket.org), where a collection of vendors make it easy to have a memorably delicious outdoor breakfast, including dumplings at Gorkha Palace, pizza and frittatas at Northern Fires Pizza, well-stuffed omelets and hash at Black Cat Natural Foods, sushi at Gohan, oatmeal at 3 Bear Oats, a broad range of a.m. fare (breakfast tacos, French toast, organic mini doughnuts) at Chef Shack, along with a broad selection of baked goods and coffee drinks. Or grab a prime people-watching sidewalk table at the adjacent Spoonriver (750 S. 2nd St., Mpls., 612-436-2236, spoonriver.com), where owner (and Mill City Farmers Market co-founder) Brenda Langton and her crew put on a lovely brunch. The market is open 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. While you’re there, head next door to the Guthrie Theater and show off the view from the building’s Endless Bridge, and then give them a tour of the Mill City Museum.
Q: Our idea of the ultimate date night is a tasting menu. Do you have any suggestions?
A: At tiny, charming Tenant (4300 Bryant Av. S., Mpls., 612-827-8111, tenantmpls.com), a small crew of cooks prepares and serves six seasonally minded courses for $50. Tongue in Cheek (989 Payne Av., St. Paul, 651-888-6148, tongueincheek.biz) chef/co-owner Leonard Anderson prepares a five-course tasting menu at two prices — herbivore $65, carnivore $70 — and offers drink pairings for an additional $35. Four courses of chef José Alarcon’s contemporary Mexican cooking at the remarkable Popol Vuh (1414 NE. Quincy St., Mpls., 612-345-5527, popolvuhmpls.com) can be had for $65. Meritage (410 Saint Peter St., St. Paul, 651-222-5670, meritage-stp.com) offers three options, with five courses ($84), seven courses ($118) and nine courses ($134), with chef/co-owner Russell Klein taking diners on a voyage through his seasonal menu.
Q: Where can I get my sweet corn fix?
A: Consider dropping in on Sweet Chow (116 1st Av. N., Mpls., 612-767-4605, sweetchowmpls.com), where the kitchen places a tasty Thai twist on elote, Mexico’s dolled-up sweet corn. Expect a brush of coconut crema garnished with fried peanut crumbles, Thai pepper powder and crunchy shredded coconut. A single cob is $5, two cobs are $8.
If you can wait until later in the month — around the time the State Fair opens — Sonny’s Ice Cream (3403 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls., 612-824-3868, sonnysicecream.com) co-owner Ron Siron should be featuring his annual foray into sweet corn ice cream in the shop’s scoop case. He purchases locally raised sweet corn from vendors at the Kingfield Farmers Market and Mill City Farmers Market, then follows the recipe he’s been using for at least 20 years, cooking the juiced-up kernels in butter and a little salt, “and then blasting it into the cream and spinning it,” he said. “It’s almost like you’re eating corn on the cob.” Can’t wait.