It took a global pandemic to mail out Christmas cards.
We’ve never sent them in my life – I have friends who send Christmas cards and I have what I call Christmas card friends – friends who I’ve barely spoken with in years but send a Christmas card every year.
This year, I too, am a Christmas card friend.
Only during a pandemic have I found organizing and writing Christmas cards after work fun . . . a relief, even.
First things first, LOOK AT THIS MUG.
For some reason, you haven’t seen Schitt’s Creek, watch it now.
All six seasons are streaming on Netflix. If you are like me, you may not love the first episode – but this is the only time I will tell you to keep going. I’ve never loved a show more.
This is the only show that made me sob because I didn’t want it to end.
My friend sent me this mug for Christmas. Using it during the work day reminds me to channel Moira when I want to scream, which is a lot, right now.
(Insert Moira shriek)
An Instagram influencer pushed North Star Donuts into my feed – I lusted after the photo of apple cider donuts and apple cider slushies – I never made it to the University of Minnesota Arboretum in Victoria this fall. Their food truck travels around the Twin Cities now.
Last weekend, I drove to Maple Grove to pick up a Christmas gift I ordered from The Woods, a store that sells a lot of fun, local products. I never can keep Maple Grove, Woodbury and Maplewood straight – It wasn’t until I plugged the location into my phone that I realized where Maple Grove actually was. “Dang it,” I sighed.
At this stage of pregnancy, I don’t drive farther than I can pee roundtrip.
The drive felt sweeter when I saw North Star parked in their lot selling apple cider mini donuts and hot chocolate. After picking-up my gift, I ordered a bag of dozen apple cider doughnuts.
The Woods also offers curbside pick-up.
North Star’s Apple Cider doughnuts are pillowy and soft, subtly apple essence flavored, maybe a note of buttermilk. A joy to eat, even the next day.
Tono’s second location opened last weekend in the old St. Clair Broiler space across from Macalester College in St. Paul.
Apparently Mac-Groveland has a Philly Cheesesteak-sized hole in our collective heart. Tono’s was slammed opening weekend.
The family also owns Andrea Pizza, Frank from Philly and Frank & Andrea – more in this Pioneer Press article.
I have never had a real Philly cheesesteak from Philly. I know this to be a very good sandwich, though. It was so good that Jake wanted to go back the next day.
There really aren’t many places to get a cheesesteak around here – many of us grew up eating them in mall food courts and nowhere else. I’m surprised others haven’t tapped into this hunger earlier.
Tono’s serves freshly-baked Amoroso rolls from Philly – customers can then choose from a variety of cheesesteaks and further customize the proteins, cheese, and toppings. Vegetarians could order a sandwich made with extra mushrooms and sautéed veggies, or choose the plant-based meat.
I like the sweet and salty combination of the cheesesteak with whiz (of course), grilled onions, jalapeños, habanero jam and peppadew peppers. When I get home, I add spicy giardianera.
Jake prefers the cheesesteak varieties with provolone, sautéed vegetables and meats like prosciutto and bacon.
Each sandwich costs between $12-13 (more if you add toppings). They’re huge – and sit on top of your choice of plain or truffle fries. A compact feast in a cardboard box. The truffle fries are very subtly truffle-flavored and come with a garlic aoli. We’ll include Tono’s in our take-out rotation, especially since it’s so close.
A Note On Ordering/Pick-Up: The DoorDash option doesn’t appear to be operating yet, I saw a note this is in progress. When you order for pick-up, your email lists a pick-up time, but may not mention that you will also get a text confirmation. I would recommend waiting until you get the text confirmation to drive to the restaurant (if you live nearby like us) or go inside to check on your order. This will help you avoid waiting inside with other people.
That Pickle Guy Chunky Hot Giardiniera
Jake bought this at Whole Foods. This shit’s delicious. I loaded my cheesesteak sandwiches with it and spoon it onto pizza. Jake adds it to the Italian cold cut sandwiches he makes for lunch.
I love giardienera – in Chicago I remember pizzerias offering it as a common topping. I tried buying a jar here, once, and found it so foul I never tried again.
The veggies have a nice crunch, the heat is nice, and oil tastes spicy and clean with no weird aftertaste. I’ll work up a good sweat adding some to each bite of pizza and sopping up the oil with the crust. The logo is a little alarming – no pants and all, but I’d highly recommend it.
At Whole Foods it costs around $7. If you live in Missouri you can also find it at Schnuck’s.