When winter occupies a significant chunk of our calendar, shouldn't we embrace it? That's exactly what Holidazzle does, and does very well. It certainly showcases some impressive food-and-drink vendors. Here's the skinny on five must-try dishes.
Pulled pork sandwich at Heavenly Feast Bar-B-Que
Owner Christopher Rudd is a Holidazzle newcomer, and a welcome addition. Along with ribs, stuffed baked potatoes and a well-appointed cornbread waffle bowl, Rudd offers a spectacular pulled pork sandwich. It's a generous pile of succulent, smoke-teased pork — the texture and flavor are both spot-on — that's doused in a tangy, not-too-sweet sauce. Yes, the "spicy" version was more Minnesota Spicy than real-world spicy ("I've got to make it for my customers," said Rudd with a laugh), and the bun was leaning toward the generic. But that pork! Its appeal erases any and all quibbles. Another lure is the $8 price tag, a terrific bargain.
Chicken pot pie at Fresco's Foods
Midtown Global Market regulars will recall owner Danielle Booth and her lively pasta bar. Now she's focusing her talents and interests in the special events arena, and her cooking is tailor-made for Holidazzle. This new-in-2019 stand is all about savory and sweet pies, including a comfort-food home run in the form of a chicken pot pie. Booth's semi-deconstructed version is impressive. The base is basically a well-stocked chicken stew, packed with potatoes, carrots, peas and sweet corn, while the crust is a sheet of flaky puff pastry that gets a quick reheat in a portable pizza oven. The topper is a thick, hearty cream sauce. Think of it as dinner for two for $10, the kind of better-than-Mom's goodness that warms from the inside out.
Mac N Cheese Veggrolls at Root to Rise Kitchen
Owner Heather Klein possesses both a well-tuned street food sense and a sense of humor, because these deep-fried delicacies are both delicious and amusing. And vegan. Pasta shells are doused in a cashew- and coconut cream-based cheese sauce, wrapped in a vegan eggroll wrapper and fried to golden crispiness. Each pair of piping hot rolls ($10) is finished with a feisty sauce made using cashews, garlic and plenty of horseradish. They would totally fit in at the deep-fried culinary mayhem that is the Minnesota State Fair.
Chicken Mo Mo at Gorkha Palace
Returning Holidazzle vendors Rashmi Bhattachan and Sarala Kattel deliver a taste of their native Nepal to Minneapolis with handmade dumplings that make for ideal winter street food. The dough is delicate yet manages to hold up to the weight of the filling, a highly appealing blend of chicken, cabbage, garlic and ginger. The finishing touch is a splash of a spirited (but not too provocative) tomato chutney. Price? $9 for a half-dozen, a steal. There's a vegetarian version, packed with carrots and green onions.
Grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup at the Littlest Pancake
Owners Steve and Karin VanZyl skillfully tap into nostalgic memories (well, mine, anyway) of a favorite post-ice skating meal of my childhood. The soup, served in a cup and delightfully chunky, is built on the strength of roasted Roma tomatoes and seasoned with plenty of dill, while the sandwich layers Cheddar and pepper Jack inside a pair of butter-brushed slices of sturdy sourdough. Dunking is highly encouraged.
Holidazzle runs 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday, 5 to 10 p.m. Friday, Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., through Dec. 22. Find more information at holidazzle.com.