I owe so much of my love for beautiful, fun, high-quality food to the great city where I grew up; Minneapolis, MN. It’s consistently ranked one of the best places to live if you like to eat. We have a booming restaurant industry, tons of famous chefs working here, gorgeous farmers markets, food trucks like whoaaaa! I get so much inspiration for this blog from all of the cool restaurants I get to go to.
This is definitely the best time of the year to be eating dinner out, and it seems like I have been doing so much of it lately! Man oh man. Not only do you get to enjoy your food on a patio in the sun, but restaurant menus are featuring the best locally-grown produce right now and they’re bringing it with the flavor. Here are the five best meals that I’ve had recently and a little bit about what inspired me from each one, in no particular order:
The French Meadow Bakery & Cafe is an absolute staple in my neighborhood and even around the city of Minneapolis as a whole. They’re known for having quality quality quality food that tastes great every single time and a relaxed yet upbeat atmosphere. I’ll tell you the truth – I get the same thing pretty much every time I go there because it is so good. It’s called the Spa Salad and yes, it is so refreshing that it is like a trip to the day spa in your mouth. The salad is bursting with different colors, textures and tastes… the tofu they put on top is a bit spicy, but all of the other vegetables even it out with a nice, cool crunch. This time around, I really paid attention to the flavor that the fresh parsley and crunchy beet sticks added to the experience, as those are two ingredients that are unique to this salad. I tried to get a nice close up – isn’t it gorgeous?
Another fun place that I went in the last week was Rosa Mexicano. My best friends and I went for a Friday afternoon happy hour and sat outside overlooking the busy downtown streets and herds of people heading to the Twins game. This was my first time there for happy hour and I was completely impressed. $15 margarita pitchers? Yes, we’ll have a few for the table please. Another thing that was super impressive about their hh menu was $1 tacos. Yes, a DOLLAR for these cute little things. As you can see below, I got three different kinds and all of them tasted great. My favorite one was definitely the veggie one. It wasn’t too complicated but the tastiest part was the fresh basil leaf on the top. Mmm mmm, made the world of difference. I’m definitely putting that on my list of kitchen tricks!
A couple of weekends ago, my family and I spent the afternoon at a lake-side art fair. We went to dinner at the Birchwood Cafe, which originated as a small family establishment and grew into a place that people drive miles and miles to come to. There is such a relaxing environment there and it isn’t pretentious or stuffy at all. They focus mainly on two things; good, real food and supporting local farmers… and they do it quite well. I ordered this raw veggie salad and it opened my eyes to a couple of new concepts. First of all, red onions are not the only onion that you can enjoy raw on top of a salad! Also, I have been obsessed with adding hazelnuts to my salads ever since this one introduced me to the concept.
Last night we went out for dinner at Mill Valley Kitchen to celebrate my lovely Aunt B being in town from Pennsylvania. Mill Valley is SUCH an impressive restaurant; everything from the decor, atmosphere, service, wine selection and Northern-California inspired cuisine is spot on. It is one of the newer restaurants in the area and I am so happy when I see how busy it is all of the time. One thing that makes MVK so unique is that they publish all nutritional information about a dish right underneath it on the menu! Anyway, I got this thing called the “veggie burger wrap” and had I known what I was getting myself into, I would have ordered 3. This was a burger patty made from beets, red lentils and cashew powder and it was wrapped with fresh greens, juicy tomatoes and a garlic. The FLAVOR was absolutely unreal. It was reminiscent of falafel in a way, with it’s own unique nuttiness because of the lentils and cashews. We couldn’t wait until the end of dinner to start researching beet burger recipes online. To make things even better, it was served with a side of fresh pickles and these garlicky-salty mixed greens. This concept is on the TOP of my list of things to start experimenting with this weekend.
Annnnnnnd my favorite course of all time? DESSERT!!! This little bite-sized delight was also at Mill Valley Kitchen. It is a Maple Panna Cotta with roasted sea salt on top. If you aren’t familiar with panna cotta, it’s essentially the Italian version of pudding, made by simmering together cream, milk sugar and adding in a bit of gelatin so it firms up. The roasted sea salt on top was not only interesting to look at, but you know how good sweet and salty taste together. Can you imagine how good it tasted with a little bit of maple in there? Freaking exquisite.
Only complaint: I am NOT a fan of bite-sized desserts. I could have easily been happy with 5 or 6 times the amount of this stuff, hehe.
So there you have it! A few of my favorite flavor experiences from the past couple of weeks here in Minneapolis. I hope this either (a) made your mouth water, (b) gave you some ideas of things you might want to try cooking or (c) better yet, made you want to come visit me in Minneapolis!