Every year, I do a summer round up post with the edible and non-edible highlights of my favorite season (2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016). But here's the thing: while summer in Minnesota is a glorious thing, the majority of the year is taken up by winter. Cold temperatures and snow typically descend by the end of October or early November, and the frigid conditions don't reliably let up until the end of April (classic post on hauling cupcakes through an April snowstorm). I tend to spend winters huddled in hooded sweatshirts and wool socks, making batch after batch of soup while fantasizing about becoming a digital nomad and wintering in Bali. However, this year I attempted to adopt a more positive attitude by compiling my first-ever winter highlights round up.
And yes, I realize that writing this at the end of March is bad karma and will likely cause a blizzard. But the snow has melted, temperatures are in the 50s, and road construction season has begun.
- The favorite new recipes I've posted on the blog this winter are both soups: chickpea tomato soup with fresh rosemary and curried cauliflower chowder.
- I also revisited a few favorite recipes from the archives: Indian pudding to celebrate the season's first snowfall and French onion soup for a cozy Sunday dinner.
- We celebrated New Year's Day with carbs: a DIY toast bar for breakfast and our traditional batch of homemade pretzels for dinner.
- I reviewed a couple new-to-me restaurants on the blog, Marla's Caribbean Cuisine and Ghebre's Restaurant (so good we've already made a return visit).
- Other memorable meals included the crab cake Benedict and colossal brownie at The Buttered Tin, a lox bagel from Common Roots Café, and new Nordic small plates at FIKA (here's my 2013 FIKA review from the archives).
- My favorite night out was an epic evening that started with a few rounds of craft cocktails at Tattersall Distilling, progressed to appetizers at Gardens of Salonica (2015 review from the archives), and ended with a slab of chocolate torte at Kramarczuk's.
'Tis the season
- I did a lot of holiday baking this year: vegan chocolate oatmeal no-bake cookies, slow cooker sea salt chocolate almond clusters, cinnamon orange and cardamom almond spritz cookies, chocolate decadence cookies, and David Lebovitz's spicy pretzel and nut mix. Some of the goodies were gifted to relatives and co-workers; some were a contribution to the annual German Christmas potluck; and a couple tins traveled to the annual cookie exchange I do with my childhood friends.
- Also on the subject of holiday baking, Mike and I got to sample the 2016 Star Tribune Holiday Cookie Contest finalists (one of the perks of working near the Star Tribune's headquarters). Our favorites were the almond ricotta bars.
- And we ate more cookies on the Alexander Ramsey House Christmas tour, baked in the wood-fired oven by costumed interpreters.
- The final sweet activity of the Christmas season was the Norway House Gingerbread Wonderland, a display of Minneapolis and St. Paul landmarks portrayed in gingerbread.
On the road
- We spent Christmas in Colorado with Mike's extended family and ate our way through pizza at Beau Jo's, the chocolate croissant of my dreams at Piece Love & Chocolate, and soup, sandwiches, and ice cream at Lindsay's Boulder Deli. We also got some delicious gifts: a tin of Aunt Jan's homemade shortbread and a box of Vern's Toffee.
- In February, we took a short trip to Disney World. I know it's a cliché, but it really was magical (and the warm weather felt amazing).
Since spring officially started last week, I'm calling this winter a wrap. Am I eagerly looking forward to the warmer days ahead? You bet. But I did learn that curried cauliflower chowder, cocktails, and a mid-winter getaway to a warmer climate make a Minnesota winter much more bearable.