Since Labor Day fell on September 7 this year, it seems like we cheated our way into a few extra days of summer--a little more ice cream, some more scorching days, an extra trip to the State Fair. Summer is what keeps me in Minnesota through the subzero winters with piles of snow, and as the season draws to a close I like to reflect on the experiences that make it my favorite season:
- We made three trips to Bauer Berry Farm for strawberries, seven gallons of which ended up in our freezer and an undisclosed volume of which ended up in my stomach, and we also picked a couple quarts of blueberries on our last trip. However, my proudest fruit-picking moment was foraging a few handfuls of wild black raspberries from a nearby park reserve.
- My container herb garden wasn't quite as impressive this year, but it provide us with enough dill, basil, and chives to last the summer.
- Thursday lunch hours were spent at the downtown Minneapolis "Nicollet Mall Farmer's Market" that was actually held on Hennepin Avenue due to construction. Wednesdays offered spinach-feta croissants from Solomon's Bakery at the Capella Tower Farmer's Market. We spent a lovely Sunday morning at the St. Paul Farmer's Market, complete with a big bucket of sugar snap peas and red pepper & feta and hot giardiniera Deena's Gourmet Hummus. I took a couple early morning weekend trips to the Minneapolis Farmer's Market on Lyndale and enjoyed the extensive selection, the annual chef competition, and an ear of roasted corn.
- One Saturday was devoted into turning a half bushel of canning tomatoes into 148 ounces (over a gallon!) of tomato sauce to freeze. I skipped peeling the tomatoes to save some time and was pleased with the resulting chunky, rustic sauce.
- I still don't really get the appeal of buying pricey food from trucks, but I did treat myself to two Thai Veg pasties from Potter's Pasties.
- We went to our first food crawl, a taco tour of some of the many Mexican restaurants on Minneapolis' Lake Street. Disappointingly, there weren't many vegetarian options, but I did enjoy a black bean taco and elote (Mexican-style corn on the cob) from Taqueria Los Ocampo.
- There were many sweet frozen treats: artisan ice cream from Pumphouse Creamery, classic flavors from Grand Ole Creamery (where I also purchased a bag of broken waffle cone pieces), frozen custard and lemon ice from Culver's, and chocolate soft serve from McDonald's. My favorite ice cream spot remains my first love, the shady patio of Sebastian Joe's Linden Hills location.
- My weekday lunch picnics along the Mississippi River or on the Loring Greenway made work more bearable, and on the weekends we enjoyed picnicking at a nearby park along the Mississippi River. This tomato arugula salad with quinoa became my favorite picnic-friendly recipe.
- We dined out less than usual this summer, but we did enjoy some lovely outdoor dinners at The Liffey, The Good Earth, and La Belle Crepe.
- I spent all winter eagerly awaiting the Bread & Pickle's truffle popcorn, and it didn't disappoint.
- In a summer that featured lots of excellent food, our anniversary dinner at W.A. Frost stood out. We splurged on the six-course tasting menu on the shady patio, and it was one of the best eating experiences of our lives. I opted for the vegetarian menu: roasted red pepper soup; grilled asparagus with miso sauce and a poached duck egg; pea flan with roasted summer vegetables and olive-garlic sauce; pasta with peas and alfredo sauce; a cheese course with local honey and lavash; and a pistachio-chocolate cake with green tea ice cream, cherry sauce, and a pecan crumble. Mike's eyes lit up each time the next dish from the standard tasting menu arrived at his side of the table: a fried oyster with buffalo-seasoned salt; a seared scallop on forbidden rice with an orange reduction; pork belly with wilted greens and pea shoots; steak with roasted summer vegetables and potatoes; and the same cheese and dessert courses I enjoyed. Definitely a pricey meal, but such a worthwhile experience.
Festivals and Celebrations
- In honor of my Finnish heritage, I hosted a belated Nordic-themed Midsummer dinner party with Finnish sour rye bread, potatoes, smoked salmon, Swedish meatballs, lingonberry cocktails, and Icelandic happy marriage cake.
- We celebrated my dad's milestone birthday with a chocolate cake complete with 60 candles.
- Chipotle Cultivate, a music festival/Chipotle infomercial held in Loring Park, was a bit of a wash this year. We jammed to the X Ambassadors, got some nice freebies (coupons for free chips and guacamole, cute little bottles of Tabasco sauce, Burt's Bees face cleanser), and I finally tried a Jonny Pop, a locally-made "smoothie on a stick". On the downside, the crowds were overwhelming, there were burrito coupon and concession shortages, Walk the Moon got rained out, and the traffic was daunting. If we go next year, we'll plan on going first thing in the morning instead of the afternoon.
- For Minnesotans, the State Fair marks the culmination of summer, and Mike and I love it so much that this year we went twice. The first Sunday of the fair was spent ogling prize winning cakes and newborn piglets, watching a Minnesota Cooks demonstration, riding the Giant Slide, and eating copious amounts of deep fried cheese curds and ice cream. On the second Friday of the fair, we took the afternoon off work for aimless wandering, people watching, more fried cheese curds and ice cream, and Garrison Keillor's final Prairie Home Companion grandstand show.
On the Road
- We took a fabulous weekend trip to Grand Marais over the Fourth of July weekend. There was smoked salmon, donuts, freshly caught whitefish, hiking, waterfalls, and fireworks over Lake Superior. The scenic drive up MN 61 is something that we need to do more often.
- Much closer to home was a day trip to Stillwater for a cheese flight at the Wedge & Wheel and a tour of Lift Bridge Brewery. The free tour was led by one of the owners and included generous samples of their four different year-round beers. Farm Girl Saison is still my favorite, but surprisingly the Chestnut Hill Brown Ale was a close second.
- Props to Mike for finding a "Stacy" Diet Coke--it's incredibly difficult to find the "just y" spelling of my name. We enjoyed our personalized Diet Cokes at a Lake Harriet picnic complete with Bread & Pickle truffle popcorn.
- We attended a laugh-out-loud production of You Can't Take it With You at the Jungle Theater, featuring amazing acting and incredible set design.
Over the next few weeks, my love for summer will become more bittersweet as my favorite season fades into shorter days and the scent of pumpkin spice. But there will be few more weeks of patio dinners and a good month of runs in the park. And of course, there will always be ice cream.