One Year In Fargo & Kahlua S’mores Brownies

It’s hard to believe that we’ve lived in Fargo for a year.

On October 6, 2012, Jake and I moved from Bloomington, MN to Fargo, ND, with most of our earthly belongings trailing behind us in a moving truck. We left our tiny one-bedroom apartment in the glass towers next to the airport for our new home three and a half hours west. Besides my college school years spent in Iowa, this was both of our first time living outside of the Twin Cities.

Pre-move, Jake had been offered a promotion within the company while I was finishing my first full-time year of graduate school. I had recently signed-up for the next semester’s classes and been offered my first entry-level job in the field. The offer caught me off guard and his employer needed a quick decision.

Two weeks letter we said yes to the move, and a month and a half later, we were in North Dakota. We spent our first night in Fargo in a hotel while we waited for our moving van to arrive. For dinner, we ate a dinner of take-away chicken wings and boxed wine on the bedspread.

Jake acclimated to his new job responsibilities. I proceeded with the intention of applying to a graduate program in counseling psychology. My applications were complete but I never submitted them because  it didn’t feel 100% authentic. Instead, I decided to continue to write and blog about food and secured my first corporate job in Human Resources.

I spent part of my first year hating Fargo and homesick. Eventually, the loathing turned into annoyance, and then some of what annoyed me became more endearing. The winds still blow strong and cold, and I can’t always find what I want. The traffic moves a little slower and I still do a double take when I see someone else that looks like me. . .

But now I enjoy the more laid-back pace of life. We don’t have the same variety of restaurants to choose from, but we rely on our favorites of which we are genuinely fond. When I first moved to Fargo, the employees at the Somali Business Center soothed my homesick sadness with Somali tea, homemade sambusas, and sweet biscuits. I’ve found home in wine and the perfect cheese plate at the Green Market. After hard days at work in the fleeting summer, Jake and I basked in the sun on the Hodo rooftop patio. We go on dates at Mango’s Mexican Grill on Main Avenue and connect over frosty mugs of beer, fresh salsa, and molcajetes amidst the dusty urban sprawl.

When we don’t want to leave the house, we rely on delivery from Pizza Nico. When we don’t want to go very far, we order take-out from the ever friendly Fortune House. It reminds me of my family’s favorite Chinese take-out in Rosemount, MN. Imperfect, yet perfect in all of the right ways. Nichole’s Fine Pastry stacks up against my favorite Twin Cities bakeries, while Passage To India has become our new Surabhi. It may even be better. I’ll never forget how Jake proposed in the street next to JL Beers and that we celebrated our engagement over seared tuna and gnocchi at Toscana. In celebration of my first birthday in Fargo, we dined with friends at Mezzaluna where I tried to sneak bites of Jake’s M Burger, the best burger I have eaten to date.

I’m having the time of my life exploring the communities surrounding Fargo-Moorhead and between North Dakota and the Twin Cities. And I explore them the best way I know how. By sitting in bars and diners, enjoying the local food. Jake and I used to go on mall dates at the Mall of America dates. Now, we wander the West Acres mall, often with pretzels and coffee in hand, and we always stop at STABO Scandinavian Imports where we look and rarely buy. Recently, I bought a painted lefse flipping stick (amongst their Scandinavian cooking and baking supplies) and a little, red rosemaled mug from which I sip coffee every morning.

Last summer, we spent a weekend relaxing on the shore of Lake Detroit. Later that summer, we drove a little past Lake Detroit, through Paul Bunyan’s country of coniferous forests for the first time. I attended my first outdoor baseball game and watched the RedHawks play on a Halloween theme night where a giant Hershey kiss poured me wine with my chili dog. We wandered the Downtown Street Fair and ate spicy, wood fired pizza from Fireflour’s food truck. I enjoyed my first taste of knoephla soup at the Home Plate Cafe in Fredonia, spent the night at the Rough Riders Hotel tucked amongst Theodore Roosevelt Park, stood on the top of the the Enchanted Highway’s windy hilltops, and explored Little Missouri National Grasslands at sunrise.

We have met friendly and inspiring people who have made our first move much easier, and we continue to meet more each day. We always miss our family and friends from the Twin Cities and we miss our favorite favorite haunts like Lake Nokomis, The Nook, and Bangkok Thai Deli. This has served to make us realize what we had taken for granted and so we are even more grateful than before.

Starting culinary school really solidified my optimistic Fargo state of mind. I found courage in Fargo to resign from my full-time job role and enroll as a full-time culinary student. Against all odds, I was admitted instead of wait listed and am proud to say I just made my first, flaky pie crust. I realized that I never hated Fargo. I just needed to do something I truly loved.

This is not all to say that everything about Fargo is perfect, but I’m having so much fun that I can’t help but to believe we landed in the right place at the right time which I find exciting and lovely.

Except for the trains. I still hate those trains.

Kahlua S’more’s Brownies
Inspired by the s’mores brownies I made in culinary class at Minnesota State Community & Technical College from the school’s cookbook. Kahlua brownie base adapted from the San Luis Obisbo Tribune.

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, somewhat packed
2 large eggs
1/2 cup Kahlua

S’mores Topping:
Semi-sweet chocolate chips
Miniature marshmallows
Graham crackers, broken into small squares


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line a 9X9 baking pan with parchment paper. Then grease the pan.
  3. In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder and whisk in the salt.
  4. Gently heat the butter and chocolate chips over a double boiler until melted. Set aside to cool. 
  5. In a large bowl, combine the brown sugar, eggs, and Kahlua.  
  6. Once the chocolate mixture cools closer to room temperature, combine with the brown sugar, eggs, and Kahlua.
  7. Gently fold in the dry ingredients, half a a time, until just incorporated.  
  8. Pour into the baking dish, evenly.
  9. Bake for about 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick can be cleanly removed from the center of the brownies. 
  10. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and marshmallows. Return to the oven for a few minutes or until the chocolate is melted and the marshmallows are puffy and starting to turn golden brown.
  11. Top with graham cracker squares and bake for another couple of minutes
  12. The brownies are easier to cut if they are cooled completely. Try popping them in the freezer or on a cold doorstep.  For cleaner cuts, run a knife under hot water and wipe off the debris between cuts. These brownies are incredibly rich so cut into small pieces. 


  1. Road Tips

    Fargo remains one of my favorite towns to visit during my travels. My friends also moved from the Twin Cities to Fargo about a dozen years ago and they love the place. But they were both from rural N.D. and Fargo was the “Big City” for them growing up. I’m still amazed at some of the places I’ve eaten at in Fargo, restaurants that would easily work in much larger markets. I just wish Fargo was closer than a 9 hour drive for me, one-way.

  2. Liz

    My husband wants to one day move to Fargo to be closer to his parents’ land. I’m a city girl all the way, so thinking I’ll be dragging my heals. We enjoy the downtown area when we visit his folks (Hodo, Plains Art Museum–awesome, downtown theater), but it seems so very far away from everything I enjoy in Mpls/St. Paul. So, I enjoyed reading your take on things. You make it sound quite lovely:-)

  3. Jen

    Road Tips-I enjoyed reading your FM area reviews-plus those for outstate MN and around Iowa where I used to go to school.

    Liz-I am a city girl too and really struggled with the transition. I’m probably still more of a city girl, but am finally feeling content.

  4. Rhubarb and Venison

    What a great post! Love the photo compilations. Funny, living in Bismarck, I think Fargo’s restaurant selection is quite extensive! It’s all perspective, I guess.

  5. Jen

    Thank you:) And I feel like it’s a lot fo the fun happens by you all in Bismarck!

  6. KirkK

    Hi Jen – I’ve enjoyed reading about your explorations. It seems that you’ve found your “rotation”. Keep up with the wonderful posts.

  7. josh

    What a lovely post, you’ve managed to make me slightly home sick! 🙂

    • Jeni

      People who have never been to Fargo don’t get how fun the city is!

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