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Best of the Cities 2010

Yes, that ballpark rocks. And, getting there on the Northstar line is pretty cool. That kestrel is awful funny. And did you try the Vincent burger at the park? Those are just four reasons to celebrate the new stadium and the Twin Cities. Read on to discover 100 more reasons to love the place you live.

Best of the Cities 2010
Photo by Thomas Strand

(page 3 of 7)


FOOD & DRINK

Chef

Tim McKee

If you could close your eyes and dream and float off to a magical restaurant with one table and one chef, what chef would that be? We’d go with Tim McKee, and are tickled to report that you can have this experience right now most nights at Solera, sitting at the eight-seat tapas bar, where McKee, our James Beard Award winner and guiding light at Sea Change, La Belle Vie, and Solera, has been cooking, personally, for anyone smart enough to request one of those eight precious seats. Sometimes dreams do come true! • Solera, 900 Hennepin  Ave., Mpls., 612-338-0062, solerarestaurant.com
 

Visionary

Lenny Russo

It took a chef from Hoboken to convince Minnesotans that we come from one of the most important food regions in the world. Lenny Russo showed us what tiny crabapples, wild plums, freshly milled wheat, South Dakota goose, Wisconsin rabbit, and Minnesota pork were capable of, and we had the good sense to respond with wonder and respect. Now Russo has relocated to a larger facility in St. Paul’s Lowertown, and we can’t wait to find out what the next phase of his vision will hold for us. • Heartland, 289 E. Fifth St., St. Paul, 651-699-3536, heartlandrestaurant.com
 

Rising Star

Derik Moran

The story on Nick and Eddie this year runs like something a Preston Sturges movie. See, the restaurant was teetering on the edge of failure for months, with families and livelihoods hanging in the balance. Then, in came a hard-working young chef willing to start every day at the farmers’ market shopping for ingredients, followed by all-day-and-all-night cooking, and—hooray!—the kid saves the day! Nice work, Derik Moran. • Nick and Eddie, 1612 Harmon Pl., Mpls., 612-486-5800, nickandeddie.com
 

Home Cooking

Alex Roberts

As American foodie culture matures, an agreed-upon definition seems to have emerged on the difference between chef-cooking (chefs use fancy cooking to create fireworks, delight, and inspiration) and home cooking (if you don’t eat, how can you get anything done, from growing to laundry?) But what happens when a fine-dining chef tackles home cooking? Brasa is what happens: plain but delicious slow-roasted local pork, chicken, and beef, and a stunningly delicious array of sides. James Beard Awardwinning chef Alex Roberts, who runs Restaurant Alma, confesses he came up with the idea for his menu while talking to his wife about what to bring home for dinner for their three hungry kids. That’s everyday cooking we can believe in. • Brasa Premium Rotisserie, 600 E. Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-379- 3030; 777 Grand Ave. S., St. Paul, 651-224-1302; brasa.us
 

Macaron

Sweets Bakeshop

Macarons are fluffy French cookies made of meringue and filling; they have nothing to do with the American coconut cookies called macaroons. And that point used to be a fairly arcane bit of epicurean knowledge, until 2010, when we went from having almost no macaron vendors to having loads. Still the best are easily the delicate darlings produced by Sweets Bakeshop. Try the chocolate-mint-basil or the fresh banana macaron. • 2042 Marshall Ave., St. Paul, 651-340-7138, sweetsbakeshop.com

Pastry Chef

Khanh Tran

How much do you like dessert? Do you like it, or do you choose the restaurant based on it? If you’re among the latter types, the restaurants for you are Bradstreet Craftshouse and Cosmos—both staffed by pastry superstar Khanh Tranh. Upstairs at Cosmos, either in the dining room or the bar, you’ll find elaborate masterpieces. Say, a buttermilk panna cotta with herb meringue and fresh raspberries with lime foam and a bit of colorful passion fruit sorbet. Downstairs at Bradstreet Craftshouse you’ll find simple brilliant bites like a moscato gelée float, in which the sweet, musky wine is turned into a gelatin and floated over fresh lime soda, making a single dessert both eventful and effervescent. • Cosmos and Bradstreet Craftshouse, 601 First Ave. N., Mpls., 612-312-1168 and 612-312-1821, cosmosrestaurant.com, bradstreetcrafthouse.com
 


Gourmet To-Go

Where to go when you want Gourmet Grub to at home

West: Minnetonka’s Pairings has vast take-out offerings (the local Wild Acres turkey meatloaf is divine), an attached wine shop where clerks will pair wines with your take-out, a little store with delectable chocolates and all the parking you could hope for. All of which makes Pairings the number-one stop for husbands picking up very special take-out for a romantic night in. • pairingsfoodandwine.com

Central: What would it be like to have a James Beard nominated chef make dinner for you to eat in your pajamas on your couch? Stop by Lucia’s To-Go and find out: silky Bolognese sauce with already-cooked noodles, shrimp skewers with tarragon aioli, never-frozen Lori Callister rotisserie chickens with romesco sauce, a Lucia Watson-caliber green salad, and mashed potatoes. That’s as good as it gets folks. Jay-Z and Warren Buffet aren’t dining any better. • lucias.com

East: Don’t you wish you lived in a world where homemade chicken potpies and home-made yellow butter cake with fudge icing made regular appearances? If you live close enough to Jerabek’s you do. That chicken potpie has a crust that’s buttery and just right. The filling is hearty and captures everything that’s right with living in the Midwest. • jerabeks.com

South: Get a pan of frozen lasagna and maybe an antipasti (like roast asparagus) from Buon Giorno, Minnesota’s premiere Italian specialty market, then add a bottle of good Chianti from the attached wine shop. Go home, stick the lasagna in the oven, take a relaxing shower. Emerge to find your house full of delicious scents, dinner ready to go, and yourself relaxed and holding a glass of good Chianti. Buon Giorno indeed! • bgimarket.com



Rising Star Pastry Chef

Niki Francioli

After you’ve gorged on the best seafood in Minnesota at Sea Change, you’ll be tempted to skip dessert: Don’t. Pastry chef Niki Francioli is one to watch—and by “watch” we mean “devour the work of” with great joy. Her yuzu tartlet, for instance, is a marvelously intense creation. Yuzu custard fills a tartlet shell, fancifully hidden beneath minarets of toasted meringue. To one side is a little goat-cheese Bavarian, given wings with a pale rectangle of lime candy, and beside that are macerated sour cherries attached by a little path of powdered lime to a small hill of graham crackers. The dessert is like nothing you’ve ever had: It’s sour and creamy and—but wait! It’s a Key lime pie—the fanciest in town. How surprising. How charming. Now, aren’t you glad you saved room for dessert? • Sea Change, 818 S. Second St., Mpls., 612-225-6499, seachangempls.com
 

New Restaurant

Piccolo

The restaurant of the year is chef Doug Flicker’s Piccolo, a place that has dared to reimagine portion size (smaller), price-point (smaller), and ambition (much, much bigger). Consider a dish like Flicker’s house-smoked veal-tongue pavé, for instance. It looks like a fancy French pastry and consists of thin, alternating layers of horseradish-buttered potatoes and pastrami-cured, hickory-smoke-powdered veal tongue, served with a salad of paper-thin slices of cornichon and sweet onion pickles, all of it gilded with a fluff of caraway foam. It tastes like something that fluttered out of a three star Michelin restaurant in Austria and alit somehow, mysteriously, in a quiet corner of Minneapolis. • 4300 Bryant Ave. S., Mpls., 612-827-8111, piccolompls.com
 

New Specialty Restaurant

Anchor Fish and Chips

Why do so many restaurants serve food they can’t cook? That’s the downfall of most restaurants: Typically, they have a couple things they do well, but then they go down the rabbit hole of serving things they think they should serve—like chicken wraps. Not Anchor Fish and Chips in northeast Minneapolis, which offers mostly giant portions of sustainably harvested, wildcaught Alaskan cod, fried crisp and plated with big hearty chips. Add a beer, and it’s not one iota short of perfect. • 302 13th Ave. NE, Mpls., 612-676-1300, theanchorfishandchips.com
 

Risotto

Risotto

Risotto is a matter of rigor, restraint, and technique, and is rarely done well in Minnesota. Most of our local risottos are sloppily soft and overcooked. Surprised? Drop in to Italian native Gabriele Lo Pinto’s restaurant Risotto for the best local example. Each grain of rice is al dente and incomparably textured, yet all the grains together are creamy and full tasting. The version made with Sicilian sausage and saffron is especially good: dusky, spicy, and vibrant with rigor, restraint, and grace. • 610 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-823-4338, risottomn.com
 

New Cheese Shop

St. Paul Cheese Shop

What’s so fantastic about the teeny-tiny, little, vest-pocket cheese shop that just opened near the Macalester College campus? The ambition, mainly. Led by Benjamin Roberts, a fan of cheese and charcuterie, this little shop does so much more than anyone has a right to ever expect. More, as in: sourcing and smoking its own local veal tongues, being the go-to source in St. Paul for hard-to-find ingredients like delicate pink fleur-de-sel and Italian hazelnuts, and offering a whopping three different sorts of Neal’s Yard Dairy blue cheese. Oh, and it sells hard-to-find Rogue Chocolatier bars. • 1573 Grand Ave., St. Paul, 651-698-3391, stpaulcheeseshop.com
 

Middle Eastern Pastry

Crescent Moon

Middle Eastern pastry is an entity unto itself and deserves to be judged by its own standards. And if you don’t believe this, report immediately to the pastry case at the Central Avenue Crescent Moon for baklava as light as air, yet weighty with nuts and honey, and spinach pies made with a crust that’s chewy, buoyant, and springy. • 2339 Central Ave. NE, Mpls., 612-782-0169, crescentmoonfoods.net Wine Bargains Hennepin-Lake Liquors There are two sorts of wine shop customers, those who need assistance picking out wine, and those who already have a cellar that’s the life work of 30 years of collecting. Hennepin-Lake is the wine shop for the latter: The aisles are cramped and chock full of hard-to-find prestige bottlings, usually priced a good 20 percent below what they commonly are. Sure, they don’t take credit cards, and you’re unlikely to find a lot of help if you don’t know wine already, but if you know what you want, this is where you want to want it. • 1200 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-825-4411
 

Wine Bargains

Hennepin-Lake Liquors

There are two sorts of wine shop customers, those who need assistance picking out wine, and those who already have a cellar that’s the life work of 30 years of collecting. Hennepin-Lake is the wine shop for the latter: The aisles are cramped and chock full of hard-to-find prestige bottlings, usually priced a good 20 percent below what they commonly are. Sure, they don’t take credit cards, and you’re unlikely to find a lot of help if you don’t know wine already, but if you know what you want, this is where you want to want it. • 1200 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-825-4411


Fish & Seafood

Who says Minnesota lacks a sea coast? Not at these restaurants it doesn’t.

Overall: Sea Change has utterly altered the fish situation in the Twin Cities since it opened. Now the freshest fish in town is often not sushi, but the more inventive crudo-like preparations here, like the truly exquisite raw langoustines with olive oil and herb flowers. They taste like a sunbeam glinting off a wave at sunset. • seachangempls.com

Single-item specialty: The lobster roll at Meritage last summer gave the Twin Cities the one thing it desperately needed—that definitive taste of Cape Cod, Maine, and Nova Scotia, without the trouble of the plane ticket. • meritage-stpaul.com

Sushi: It’s remarkable that no rival has made a real run at wresting away Origami’s sushi crown: Is that because there really are so few locals who truly appreciate gizzard shad in pristine condition? It’s meaty and sea-deep rich. No, really! Oh well, more for us • origamirestaurant.com

Local: We were recently in deep rural Wisconsin, and took to repeatedly ordering fried smelt, that lake-country treasure. And durn it all if every rural authentic version was merely half as good as the crisp and fresh little fish on offer at northeast Minneapolis’ Red Stag, the artsy hipster supper-club that dares to make rural local specialties better than the rural locals do. • redstagsupperclub.com

 


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