Suburbs have a reputation for soulless dining, home to nothing but mediocre chain restaurants and fast food outlets. In some cases, that's true—but increasingly, you can find unique local establishments and upscale options in the suburbs. My favorite Twin Cities suburb for dining is Anoka, which is located northwest of Minneapolis.
So much fear and pain and grief and tension had built up in my body over the past year, and I needed to find some way, as best as I could, to let it go. Most people would turn to therapy, or maybe religion. I went to a salt cave.
When I moved to the Twin Cities, a scoop of raspberry chocolate chip ice cream was what convinced me to stick around. Since then, I've become an ice cream connoisseur, scouting out the best frozen treats in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and the suburbs. If I'm going to treat myself, it has to be the good stuff: premium, housemade ice cream with natural ingredients and interesting flavors.
It's impossible to miss—a stately white house on a hill overlooking Highway 169 in Anoka, Minnesota. Built in 1857, the house is now home to The Mad Hatter, a full-service restaurant that offers a brunch menu and tea service. Since Mike and I developed a fondness for afternoon tea during our stay in London, we've treated ourselves tea at the Mad Hatter a few times over the years.
Over the years, Mike and I have made more trips to Stillwater, Minnesota than any other destination. It's the sort of place where you can spend a satisfying few hours or an entire weekend. The hilly terrain, views of the St. Croix River, historic downtown, and Victorian-era homes make it feel a world away from our life in the suburbs—but it's less than a 45 minute drive from our home in the Twin Cities metro.
When I bit into a piece of butter mochi I made for myself at home, it was good in the way that this particular dessert is—sweet, buttery, a hint of coconut, the unique texture that I love. But mostly, my homemade butter mochi was good because it reminded me of warm, humid days, and a giant banyan tree, and piles of technicolor tropical fruit, and ocean views, and the specific sort of joy I only feel when I'm experiencing a someplace new.
For me and Mike, Easter is all about the candy. I love Peeps (the chicks, preferably yellow, never the bunnies). I used to try all of the different novelty Peeps flavors and review them, but in recent...
Last November, I posted a list of my escapist pop culture recommendations—between the election and an upswing in COVID cases I was desperately in need of some lighthearted escapism, and I wanted to share some of my favorite finds. Over the past months, I've discovered some new shows and podcasts, and I think most of us are still in need of some escapism.
The Twin Cities restaurant community has given me so much over the past several years, professionally and personally. At this unprecedentedly difficult time, I want to use my small platform to support this creative, generous, and hardworking group of people as much as I can.
Happy CSA Week! There might still be snow on the ground, but I've already started planning for warmer days ahead by subscribing to a CSA from Untiedt's Vegetable Farm. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture: you purchase a share from a local farmer, and in return you get a portion of the harvest every week for the duration of the growing season.
When Mike and I started planning our winter getaway to Bluefin Bay, I knew that it would have to include a cocktail kit. Since our route from our home in the Twin Cities metro to the North Shore took us through Duluth, we placed a curbside pickup order with Vikre Distillery.
Obviously, far-flung travel was off the table this year. So instead of flying south, we drove north for a mid-week getaway to Bluefin Bay, a resort on Minnesota's North Shore of Lake Superior. Bluefin Bay is in Tofte, a small community that's a 1.5 hour drive north from Duluth and a 3.75 hour drive north from Minneapolis (or in the other direction, a 1.25 hour drive south from the Canadian border).
Several years ago, there was a story on NPR that really resonated with me about how tuna noodle casserole is the ultimate lazy comfort food. I'm not a fan of cream of mushroom soup, so my version skips the casserole part—yes, that means I just call it tuna noodle.
A couple of years ago, I wrote about how one of my favorite things to do when I travel is visiting grocery stores. Obviously, the past ten months haven't involved much travel (thanks, COVID) but I have been able to assuage my grocery store wanderlust with regular trips to United Noodles.
Because I write my annual best foods post as the year unfolds, this one started on a pretty typical note, with an ice cream date, an event at Como Zoo, and a pastry I ate on vacation. Then COVID happened, and along came takeout, contact-free pastry pickups, and patio meals with face masks and hand sanitizer. 2020 was a difficult and uncertain year, and I was incredibly fortunate that it also included some really good food.
After a summer and fall spent sipping cocktails on Twin Cities restaurant patios, the weather has gotten colder, COVID-19 cases are surging, and restaurants and bars are closed to in-person service. As I did last spring, I've been turning to cocktail kits and the grocery store to create some happy hour escapism at home—here are some of my latest finds.
There are certain recipes that I am fairly confident in at first glance: they contain a favorite ingredient (portobello mushrooms, asparagus, chocolate) or riff on a classic flavor combination (olive oil, rosemary, and garlic). But my favorite new recipes are the unexpected wild cards.
Lately, I've turned towards entertainment that transports me to somewhere (anywhere) away from the current stressful reality. During the Depression, people found respite in frothy Technicolor musicals; my escape is Netflix reality shows and Agatha Christie. If you're of a similar escapist mindset (and share my penchant for mysteries and melancholy folk rock) here's a list of what I've been watching, listening to, and reading.