Category: Bakery (page 2 of 3)

A Bakery That Smells Like Butter In Belmond, Iowa

Last weekend, Jake and I postponed our little getaway to the Twin Cities. So, obviously, my second choice of destination was Belmond, Iowa, a small town of about 2,300 located 40 minutes southwest of Mason City.

On one of our first warm and sunny days in North Iowa, Beth asked if anyone was interested in joining her on a mini road trip. Her travel plans had been dashed by bad Tennessee weather, so her second choice was also Belmond, too. Why Belmond? The owners of Sugarpie Bakery & Cafe recently reached out to our North Iowa blogging group inviting us to visit.

I posted this photo on Facebook when we arrived in town.

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One friend who grew up near Belmond asked me, “What in the world are you seeing in Belmond? Are you visiting Cattleman’s?”

Belmond has survived two tornadoes in recent history. In 1966, a tornado destroyed most of the downtown area, injuring 100 people, and killing six. And in June 2013, an F3 tornado hit the town destroying several local businesses including Cattleman’s restaurant which the Abel family purchased over 30 years ago. Cattleman’s actually reopened at the city’s golf club just this past November. We only had time for one meal on this trip, but so many people recommended Cattleman’s, we’ll have to return for dinner.

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We arrived late Saturday morning so we could explore out some of the antique and gift shops our friends suggested. The main street was very quiet and most of the stores were closed. We watched as a fellow shopper tugged at the flower shop door. At first, she appeared surprised to find it closed, but remembered there was a big robotics competition at the school. We had to smile as we imagined the business owners cheering on their sons and daughters at this competition.

The day was so beautiful. We enjoyed strolling the awning-covered sidewalk and found an open thrift shop and pharmacy with a real soda fountain.

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This Jazzercise storefront brought back happy memories. Jessica and I are children of the 90’s who grew-up with moms who religiously attended Jazzercise classes, while Beth was one of those moms. She recalled her Jazzercise outfit complete with leg warmers. We also passed by a Belmond historical museum. The sign said it was open by appointment and even listed four individuals’ phone numbers to call. We saw visitors inside as we left for Mason City.

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Beth found a Teapot Tuesday treasure at the thrift shop and I bought an epic mug that I’ll share in the next Mugshot Monday. “What can I collect?” wondered Jessica. We also found Girl Scout cookies for sale by the register and lots of doll heads. The clown heads were my favorite.

Doll Head Belmont Collage

We met Val and her kids for lunch at Sugarpie. What struck me upon opening the door was that the cafe smelled like butter. I don’t trust bakeries that don’t smell like butter.

PicMonkey Collage

At Sugarpie, customers can order breakfast or lunch. My friends gravitated towards hot pork and beef sandwiches, while the kids and I chose breakfast.I chose a Denver omelet ($7) filled with cheddar, ham, onions and peppers with a cup of coffee. I like how Sugarpie serves their coffee from an eclectic collection of mugs.

The previous week, I dined at Perkins with some blogger friends and still had omelets on my mind. When I was in high school and college, Perkins was the watering hole for flirting over chicken tender melts and ham and cheese omelets. I hadn’t visited a Perkins for years and was surprised to find out that about half of their omelets contained celery!

For whatever reason, this just cracked me up and I have been laughing about it ever since. This is what Jake refers to as a “Jeni Joke.” This Sugarpie omelet did NOT contain celery. In fact, none of them did, because most omelets don’t. My meal was simple and satisfying.

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I got a kick out of this salt and pepper holder.

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I have to admit, I eyed Jessica’s pulled pork sandwich. The pork was cut into thick chunks. When Val’s kids left the table to play with more toys, some of the adults nibbled in the leftover french toast sticks. These were no pre-frozen school cafeteria product, but long strips of real french toast.

I chose a flaky bacon and cheese turnover from the bakery case to share with Jake.

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While we enjoyed our meal and chatted over coffee, the cafe’s tables and lunch counter remained busy with customers. Val’s kids had a lot of fun playing with toys and coloring on a chalkboard with the other kids in the children’s area. Val’s son was very dedicated to his craft of baking dominos into different flavors of crackers in the toy cash register. The dominos with yellow dots were cheese, the chocolate dots were chocolate, the green were pepper, and some of them were simply cracker flavored crackers. We nibbled on dominos as we chatted over lunch.

This cafe has only been open since September 2014 and owners report they’ve been so busy, they forgot about their six-month anniversary until after it had passed. I love big and little cities, alike, but there are some charms that occur in small towns that make them sparkle. Like Jazzercize awnings, stores closed on a Saturday so proprietors can cheer on their children at the school’s robotics competition, and real soda fountains in pharmacies. Every town needs a scratch bakery and coffee cafe that smells like butter.

Trying New Foods In The Twin Cities: UniDeli, Hmong Village & The Buttered Tin

Even though I lived in the Twin Cities for 26 years, I still feel like a tourist in my own hometown.

I have a North Dakota license plate and a Minneapolis area code. I spend two-thirds of my week in Iowa and rest in the Twin Cities. Sometimes we find it difficult to explain where we’re from. Do we say Minnesota or do we say North Dakota? Usually, I explain we’re from North Dakota via the Twin Cities. Being an adopted Korean doesn’t simplify the process.

Before we moved to Fargo two years ago, my husband and I created a culinary bucket list to complete before we moved. We didn’t have enough time to complete the list and it only becomes longer as new places open. When we’re home, we often return to our old favorites but now that we’re home so often, we’ve made it a goal to add some new places to our old reliables.

You can experience the Twin Cities like that badly written Reuters guide or you can deeper than your hotel’s restaurant or a national chain like Potbelly.

Here is my weekend attempt to branch out.

United Noodles UniDeli
I’ve shopped at United Noodles countless times, but I haven’t visited their deli since it was remodeled as the UniDeli a couple of years ago. I used to visit their old restaurant and choose from their variety of homey Chinese dishes and boiled peanuts. The food was inexpensive and reminded me of that which I actually ate in China, more so than any other Chinese restaurant in town.

Things have changed since we moved. The deli’s layout is updated and offers many Japanese foods. I’ve heard many speak highly of their noodle soups so I chose a bowl of spicy miso ramen ($9).

You order at the counter and wait for the staff to call out your number. There’s complimentary hot tea to enjoy while you wait.

This huge bowl was filled with ramen noodles, seaweed, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, tiny bok choy, green onion, a slice of fish cake, half of a tea egg and a tender slice of roasted pork. Since I ordered it spicy, the miso broth was coated in a slick coat of sesame-flavored chili oil.

I went through a pile of napkins as I tried to wipe the red stains from my mouth. This soup gave a new meaning to red smile, which has a whole different meaning in Game of Thrones.

Hmong Village
Years ago, I read Kao Kalia Yang’s beautiful autobiography The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir. I’ve never forgotten Yang’s account of moving from Laos to St. Paul, MN and have since become curious about Hmong food and culture. I’ve visited the Hmongtown Market and the Hmong Village in the past and tried crunchy pork cracklings, papaya salad, fried egg rolls filled with vermicelli noodles.

I’ve always wanted to return.

On Saturday afternoon, I studied Heavy Table’s 25 Tastes of Hmong Village and left with ten dollars in my pocket. I wandered the row of food stalls and stopped at two that seemed the busiest.

Blueberry’s the place to go for bubble tea. The stand was busy and is often favorable mentioned online.

Their list of flavors seem endless. Most of the blended and not blended options cost $3, including one’s choice of pears or two types of jellies. You’ll pay a whole lot more for the same thing at the Tea Garden. I stuck with my favorite, a basic milk tea with boba pearls. When I visited my friend in southern China in 2008, we often visited the milk tea shop and it’s like my comfort food now. I don’t get too fancy with my bubble tea.

I was in the mood for sliced pork belly and that sticky, purple rice as pictured in the blog You Care What We Think, but, since it sold for $8, so I tried the sausage instead.

Long links of sausage are sold at nearly every food stand in Hmong Village. I am not sure if stands typically make their own or source them from a supplier. I stopped at Mai’s Kitchen and ordered some for $5.

The styrofoam container was loaded with the sticky rice along with sliced sausage and a tiny container of dipping sauce. The rice was lovely. Despite it’s color it tasted like white sticky rice except with a hint of salt or mineraliness.

The sausage’s flavor and aroma was pleasant with garlic and lemongrass, however, the texture threw me. On my first bite, I hit a large, firm object. Upon closer examination, it appeared to be a curl of cartilage or bone.

“Oh well, ” I thought. “It’s sausage. Such things happen.”

I picked up a different slice and bit into another hard chunk. The same thing happened on my third bite of a third slice. I’ve only read positive reviews from those who’ve tried sausage at Hmong Village, so I wonder if I received an odd link or if this vendor sources a different style.

I stuck with taking pinches of the sticky rice and dipping them into the sauce. It was spicy and tasted of fish sauce.

I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of Hmong Village. Since it’s located near my in-laws’ home, I’ll return soon.

The Buttered Tin
Finally, Jake and I ventured to the Lowertown area of downtown St. Paul for a brunch at The Buttered Tin that recently opened this summer. My Twitter feed has been ripe with people raving about meals here.

The Buttered Tin reminds us of Sun Street Breads, our favorite brunch place in Minneapolis. Both offer scratch kitchens, homemade breads, and high quality ingredients.

We enjoyed everything we ordered.

The prettiest plate was their aptly-named Damn Good Egg Sandwich. I jealously eyed the runny yolk that dripped down Jake’s hands.

I polished off the chicken club sandwich on homemade, toasted bread along with thick slices of sweet and spicy pickles and really good potato salad.

The tart ginger lemonade served in mason jars was nice, too. We left too full for dessert but noticed many carrying out cupcakes in individual plastic containers and baked goods that looked like Hostess cupcakes and Twinkies.

During a weekday lunch, customers consistently lined-up to the door, but there always seemed to be enough tables for those who wanted to dine-in.

And Finally. . . 
In sad news for Fargo-Moorhead residents, Pizza Nico closed last week. It was our favorite pizza joint in town and we ordered delivery from them more than we’d like to admit. They made most everything from scratch, including sauces and cured meats. We wish the owners and staff the best. Thanks for the quality pies!

A Morning In Des Moines: La Mie Bakery & Spam Musubi

One of my favorite things about living in Mason City, IA is its proximity to family and friends.

While Fargo-Moorhead was a 3.5 drive from the Twin Cities, Maosn City is no more than two. Plus, it’s a mere hour and a half south to Des Moines. Our move to Iowa has provided an opportunity to connect with old college friends and I remind Jake that he’s in “Wartburg Country.” It feels like a homecoming of sorts.

Breakfast At La Mie Bakery
I left bright and early on Wednesday morning to meet friends at La Mie Bakery. The author of Road Tips had suggested I stop there, anyway, for croissants. This past weekend, I had stopped at Rustica, a bakery near Lake Calhoun, and brought home a bag of croissants and kouign amanns. My family promptly devoured them and once we returned to Mason City, I wished for more.

La Mie was very busy, just as my friend had warned. Customers grabbed boxes or plates and hovered over trays of glistening pastries displayed on two large tables. I quickly grabbed a small box and filled it with croissants.

They had a pleasant lacquered crust and true buttery flavor, though their pastry layers were a little thicker than Rustica’s. Warmed in our microwave, they helped ease the monotony of hotel life.

For breakfast, I gingerly ate this salmon tartine in which a piece of toast was loaded with cream cheese, silky smoked salmon, avocado, sprouts, shaved red onion, and a hard boiled egg. An ideal breakfast for a savory-minded person and only $6.95. 

When I ordered a macchiatto ($1.85), the barista warned me their version consisted of espresso topped a little milk foam. This was exactly what I wanted. A friend asked me what my drink was called and expressed surprise when I called it a machiatto. She pointed out how different it looked from those offered at Starbuck’s. No wonder they provided a disclaimer upon ordering. 
Alahona Hawaiian Grille
On the way home, I stopped in Ankeny at the Alohana Hawaiian Grille for SPAM musubi. I was surprised read about this Hawaiin restaurant on the Slaking Fool’s blog before I visited the SPAM Museum in Austin, MN. 
I ordered two to go for $1.75.  They were tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and piping hot. I wondered if they were microwaved. 
Either way, the lightly vinagered sushi rice, oceanic seaweed, salty SPAM, and sweet soy sauce made for a guilty pleasure and there wasn’t much to dislike. I never imagined I’d try my first SPAM musubi in Des Moines, IA and look forward to returning for a Loco Moco plate lunch or short ribs.
We’re returning to Des Moines to spend the weekend with more friends. It’s Jake’s first visit. We’re planning to experience the amazing farmers market downtown (it’s where I tasted my first pupusa five years ago) and have been encouraged to visit Fong’s Pizza & Flying Mango
Where else should we visit? Please don’t say Potbelly. 

A Few Tastes: Los Paisanos Taqueria, Sun Street Breads & A Sysco Food Show

This past weekend, Jake and I headed to the Twin Cities for the wedding reception we never had. We had said our vows in October at a small ceremony and were finally able to extend the celebration to family and friends.

Neither Jake or I enjoy planning party details such as color schemes and table decorations, so our family turned the reception into a beautiful, food-filled surprise at the Embassy Suites near the airport where Jake’s uncle manages the food services. Bites from the evening included Rustica’s bittersweet chocolate cookies, absinthe cocktails, crab salad served in tiny, edible spoons, and rosy roast beef with my favorite creamy horseradish sauce. I’ll share more as we collect photos from friends. We are continually humbled by the kindness and generosity of our family and friends and extend our gratitude to everyone who planned and participated in the reception.

We stayed with both of our families, who spoiled with home cooked foods. We also managed to grab a few meals out. Here are a few tastes from the past week:

Los Paisanos Taqueria, East St. Paul, MN
Tortas are essentially impossible to purchase in Fargo-Moorhead, so I always find one whenever we stay with my husbands folks in East St. Paul. A while back, I wrote about a torta I ordered from By More Taqueria. Afterwards, a reader recommended Los Paisanos Taqueria, noting that it’s his favorite place to grab a torta in East St. Paul. This was my second visit since he left the comment.

The restaurant is located down the road from the Rainbow Foods on Arcade. It’s painted in bright colors and looks a little worn. Those who are concerned about sanitation might notice the current ServSafe Food Handler certification prominently displayed near the register. My typical order of a small horchata and beef milenesa torta costs about $10.

The sandwich is the size of my face. The bottom bun is spread with re-fried beans while the top covers layers of avocado, cheese, shredded lettuce, mayonnaise, and pickled jalapenos. My favorite part is the thin beef cutlet and its crisp breading that’s heated on the griddle. Don’t hesitate to ask for a small cup of the spicy red salsa to dip the sandwich in if it’s not included in your take-out bag. There are tables for customers who want to dine-in, but I find the restaurant smells strongly of fruity air freshener. Service has always been friendly. 
Sun Street Breads, South Minneapolis, MN
My husband’s found a friend in Sun Street Bread’s breakfast biscuit sandwiches. He remembered enjoying one earlier this winter and wanted to return for our first post-reception meal. You know it’s good when Andrew Zimmern continues to mention Sun Street as one of his favorite bakeries. He even specifically mentioned the egg biscuit sandwich on his list of “personal bests.” 
On this visit, Jake ordered the Southern Fried Biscuit ($7.50) to soak up the beverages from the previous evening. 
A tender, toasted biscuit, runny fried egg, bacon, fried chicken and gravy laden with chunks of sausage. I feel my arteries constrict just looking at this photo. My goodness, it was really good. Especially that peppery country gravy.
I’m not sure this side of fruit ($3.50) offset all of the Southern fried, but it was generously portioned and of high quality. I ordered from Sun Street’s lunch menu and tried the Steak & Swiss ($9.75), their version of a cheese steak. Ironically, I wasn’t crazy about the bread because its texture reminded me of Olive Garden breadsticks (thought it was certainly acceptable), but liked the other components. Especially the flavorful beef, spicy pickled banana peppers, and swiss cheese sauce. 
Each lunch sandwich comes with one’s choice of fries, salad, fruit or soup ($1 upcharge). I was pleasantly surprised by the large size of my accompanying salad and its freshness. A scoop of beans was a welcome gift of randomness. They tasted of smoked paprika. 
Sun Street is very busy during weekend brunches, but during the past few times I’ve dined, there I’ve never had trouble finding a table. 
Sysco Food Show

As culinary students, we’re invited to attend Fargo-Moorhead’s food service shows for free. Last semester, we visited US Food’s sprawling show held in the Fargo Dome and this week, we attended Sysco’s show at Scheel’s Arena. I have a mixed feelings about Sysco. Obviously, they make purchasing convenient for restaurants, but also seem to be making efforts in purchasing meats from distributors who raise their animals humanely, supporting sustainable seafood practices, and increasing partnerships with local distributors. On the other hand, I wish more restaurants would more intentionally seek food from local suppliers and farms and make their own foods from scratch instead of relying on pre-made convenience products. But what kind of fool turns down free food? Albeit, most of the food is frozen, canned, jarred, of a mix, or pre-baked, but it’s fun, nevertheless. 
Most of the food vendors at these shows are gracious to the roaming pack of hungry students and provide engaging interactions. Some are a little less thrilled. On this visit, I tried to restrain myself to a walleye finger, lemonade, iced tea, a few nachos with self-serve cheese sauce, and a dinner mint. One can certainly go overboard sampling from the platters of most any fried food imaginable, cheeses, and desserts.

As the token Korean, I took it upon myself to try a Korean empanada, a new product from one of Sysco’s internationally-themed lines. I found that it tasted surprisingly. . . Korean. Nicely done. My classmates seemed content to end their tours with ice cream cones dispensed by the Blue Bunny cart. 

Wanderlust: Hillsboro and Mayville, ND

When I get bored, I drive. When I feel sad, I drive. When I have the time, I drive.

My life is flecked with wanderlust. Or, more like plagued. I’ve read enough travel memoirs to know I’m not alone and that there are more like me out there. This week, I felt great kinship with author Irma Kurtz as I read her memoir The Great American Bus Ride, cover to cover.

I like the safety and security of my home base. My nook on the couch and the flop of my husband’s favorite slippers as they slap the hard floor. I like waking up to the sound of his morning showers and the smell of freshly brewed espresso. But I also like to wander and this wanderlust always leaves me with a certain amount of discontent. One small town or back road is never enough. Once I visit, I want to know more about that town and then I want to move on to another. Ironically, my wanderlust is both propelled by both enthusiasm and fear. There’s nothing I find more invigorating or terrifying than solo travel.

It’s Thursday and nearing the end of my spring break from school. At the break’s start, I became enamoured with Andrew Flier’s website Everydot, in which he photographs every town in North Dakota. I spent hours working my way down the list, from A-Z, lost in big skies and fields of soft, waving grass. Some of the locations were nothing more than an intersection of rusty dirt roads. Others reminded me of the abandoned towns depicted on AMC’s television series the The Walking Dead. I kept an eye on those that seemed to have active cafes and bars and notated them on a map. Flier was kind enough to email me back and mention a couple memorable dining experiences.

I stayed up late drawing majestic itineraries that would take me to the far reaches of North Dakota. Straight north to the Canadian border, passing through Grand Forks, Cavalier, Langdon, Pembina, and ending at the strange, pyramid-shaped safegaurd complex. Another took me through the south-central part of the state in search of German-Russian cuisine, passing through Fredonia, Wishek, Napolean, and Linton. Unfortunately, March in North Dakota might as well be February. The roads have been prone to iciness due to the temperature fluctuations and precipitation so I put my grander plans on hold. It’s hard waiting for the spring.

Not Your Typical Coffee Shop View

Recently, a Twitter friend mentioned a new bakery in Hillsboro, a town of about 1,600, located less than a half hour north of Fargo on I-29. Our Town Bakery opened early last December. According to this Grand Forks Herald article, the cafe was a community effort. The residents helped Amanda Johnson, the bakery’s owner, save the buildings, built in 1890, from destruction.

I parked across from towering farm buildings, stopped in a quirky antique store, and almost walked past the bakery whose window was marked with a paper sign. The interior was beautifully remodeled. Exposed brick walls, interesting wooden tables, and a sleek contemporary feel. The bakery counter offered a small selection of treats such as cookies, bars, and turnovers. Shelves to the left of the counter offered homemade marshmallow creations and hinted at freshly, baked bread, although I did not see any that morning.

A whiteboard described the daily lunch special ($8) and soup of the day. I ordered two beef pies, one for me and one for Jake, and sipped on a bottled soda. The pie crust was buttery and flaky, like it had merged with phyllo. Its golden top was thoughtfully sprinkled with salt and pepper, encasing stew that comforted with carrots and tender beef.

I paused to enjoy my pastry. The tables were few and I watched people who appeared to be in a business meeting extend an invitation to share their table with a pair of elderly women. As I returned back to my car, I heard the tinkling of a carillon. I half-heartedly drove in search of its source before rejoining the freeway towards Mayville.

The city of Mayville is about 20 minutes north east of Hillsboro, home of Mayville State University It’s smaller than it’s counterparts in Fargo or Grand Forks, and its total enrollment hovers around 1,000 students. I figured Mayville would have the type of charm that usually accompanies college towns.

I spent my college years in Waverly, IA, a small, rural town along the Cedar River. The campus was surrounded by neighborhoods. We could walk to our favorite bars, a small grocery mart, and a movie theater that treated students to 99¢ cent movies one midnight a month. On these evenings, we marched to the theater in packs. I loved running on the bike trail along the river and we always felt safe. Back then, I resented the smallness of the community and have now grown to miss it.

Mayville is quite a bit smaller than Waverly. About nine times smaller. The main street was dotted with the usual suspects. A pizza joint, drug store, bank, bakery, cafe, and even a small theater. Paula’s Cafe was packed for lunch and I slowed my car down to examine the day’s specials including a hickory burger, roasted ham, and roasted turkey. Since I was full of beef handpie, I made a mental note to return and moved on to the Soholt Bakery.

A woman greeted me as I gazed at the small shop’s products. I noticed a sign that let me know the bakery did not accept credit cards, so I averted my gaze from loaves of bread and packages of cookies. With two dollars in my pocket, I focused on the smaller treats and settled for a tray of plain donuts.

“How much are they?” I asked.

The woman replied about $2.50 for six or 45¢ each.

“May I have four?” I asked after trying to do some quick mental math.

“Whatever,” she responded in a sing-song voice. “You can have however many you’d like.”

At this time in the afternoon, the donuts were cold. A little dense, a little soggy, with enough crisp left on the outside. They tasted like nutmeg and I found them strangely addicting. I enjoyed them with my next couple morning coffees.

Before I left Mayville, I drove around the campus and admired a stately, red brick building. Maybe it was the winter or the cloudy day, but the town looked tired. I’ll pop back on my grand tour North. Everything looks better in the Spring.

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