In Minnesota it’s just kind of summer until it’s fall.
We spend six months complaining about the winter and four months complaining about the heat and humidity. Then, there’s fall.
Once the tips of the trees start to change colors, there’s no turning back. We’re given this sweet, fleeting stretch of magic before everything’s cold and brown and bare.
For two weeks the cross street is lined with a canopy trees with little orange leaves that gently sprinkle down like a snow globe, forming shallow waves on the streets.
The pandemic transitioned from faraway news to full-blown this spring. Now, we’re moving towards winter and it’s still here.
A spring onset let us quickly pivot to eating outside, talking outside, moving outside. . . being outside a lot more than we used to.
Winter is coming and I’m worried.
Can restaurants make it without patios? Will ice bars become a thing? What will holidays look like? I wonder if people will get restless and do the inside things they avoided during the summer. Will the people that don’t, go full blown Shining?
This week the phrase “Comfort me with apples” came to mind. It’s also the name of one of my favorite Ruth Reichl books.
As soon as the weather dipped towards the 50’s, I ordered some hoodies and headed to the apple orchard.
Some of our family members were raving about the caramel apples at Pine Tree Apple Orchard in White Bear Lake. They also mentioned their apple turnovers, which they described as nothing special to look at, but extremely delicious.
Caramel apples got stuck in my head and I thought about them all night.
For eight years I was watching Chopped when I could have been watching Guy’s Grocery Games.
Back when we thought it wasn’t cool to like Guy Fieri, I crinkled my nose at GGG. Since then, I’ve grown tired of food snobbery and comfortable just liking what I like. Ironically, hipster culture made the uncool foods, cool. At some point I realized that having seen every episode of Diners, Drive Ins & Dives twice meant that I might actually be a pretty big fan fan.
My obsession with Guy’s Grocery Games began during this pandemic when I randomly flipped on an episode. To my surprise I could not stop watching. Between the contestants I recognized from Diners, Drive Ins & Dives, wacky challenges, and friendly banter, I needed to watch more. And so I did.
A lot more.
This tangent that will bring us back to the Honey Baked Ham Cafe.
Last week I had a huge craving for Boston Market.
My mind swirled with nostalgic cravings for a rotisserie chicken or meatloaf platter with the orange macaroni and cheese that always tastes more disappointing than it looks (yet you order it every time anyway).
I was surprised to to find that all of the Boston Markets in Minnesota have closed. Minnesota, Iowa, and North Dakota have zero Boston Markets. Wisconsin has two. Florida has 50. One for each state.
How dare you leave Minnesota when I haven’t wanted to eat you for a decade?
Somehow this brought me to a second, fast casual meat-centric chain, The Honey Baked Ham Cafe.