Category: Farmers Market (Page 2 of 2)

A Weekend In Des Moines: Bosnian Cabbage Rolls & 24-Hour Beef Brisket

Staying with our parents on the weekends is nice, but sometimes it’s fun to give them a break and visit friends.

This past weekend, some friends invited us to their home in Des Moines and provided a quiet place to land. They were lovely hosts and showed us some of their favorite places to eat and drink. Plus, they shared their dog Winston. I was delighted when he wiggled his way into our room one morning and curled up on our bed.

Teddy bear face and wagging tail. 

He’s a well-mannered fellow with a gentle temperament. Puppy cuddles go a long way to soothe the hearts of weary travelers.

We began our weekend with beer and nachos at Saints Pub on Friday evening and headed to the sprawling downtown farmers market the next morning.

Like the State Fair, except better.

70 degrees and partly sunny felt refreshing. Less like summer and more like a fall.

Five years ago, old college friends took me to the market where I felt awestruck by the variety of food and beverages from around the world. It was here my friends introduced me to my first pupusa, an experience that’s become pivotal in my culinary growth. Taking my first bite of a pupusa reminds me of how Anthony Bourdain describes tasting his first oyster. I’ve eaten many other pupusas since, but this one’s still the best.

We ate no pupusas on this trip. However, we did visit a Bosnian food vendor selling savory meat pastries and cabbage rolls from this bubbling cauldron.

I ordered a roll for only $3. The silky cabbage leaf was filled with ground beef and rice.

The vendor placed a small square of bread into the dish and it soaked up the tangy sauce. Nothing flashy, but comfort food at its best. We hydrated ourselves with homemade ginger beer and people-watched over Bloody Marys at Mickey’s Irish Pub.

Jake enjoyed a peanut butter and chocolate ice cream sandwich from Thelma’s and we shared sweets from a vendor offering Moroccan pastries made with semolina flour. We bought one of the last two sticky lemon cakes that remained at 11:30 a.m.

 

Afterwards, we wandered the East Village. Jake and I bought clever t-shirts from RAYGUN, sampled tea at Gong Fu Tea, and paused at El Bait Shop where we sampled from their massive beer selection (120 on tap, 150 bottled).

After a three hour nap, we were ready to meet more friends for dinner at Flying Mango.

I chose a large piece of seared yellow-fin tuna served over creamy black beans and rice and topped with mango salsa. I snuck a bite of Jake’s 24-hour Beef Brisket. The slices were fork tender and had a visible smoke ring, but the serving was scant for $18, even with his choice of two sides.

I was surprised to find that my favorite bite all evening was my friend’s grilled portobello mushroom sandwich with creamy goat cheese and red onion. In this mecca of smoked meats, the humble mushroom reigned supreme.

Our Des Moines friends also shared tastes of their favorite side dishes; cornbread with honey butter and cinnamon-intense, fire roasted apples. Leave it to the locals to know best. The margaritas cost $8, but they were well-sized and strong. I especially appreciated how my mango margarita was minimally sweetened.

After dinner we wandered through the Italian American Heritage Festival and returned home, too full to join our friends for slices of pizza at Fong’s.

We’re so grateful for the hospitality of friends who have shared their homes, kitchens, and pets with us.

Jeni Finally Gets Her Sloppy Torta: Quick Trip Home & By More Taqueria

Two months away from home without a food adventure left me in a crazed state.

The other weekend, I wanted to eat a torta, a food that isn’t exactly commonplace around here.

The Fargo torta buck stopped at my Internet search.  I was only willing to go as far as Googling the sh#$ out of Fargo + Moorhead + torta.  I’d love for you to prove me wrong.

My torta craving grew to the point where I considered driving to Minneapolis for a sandwich.  Nothing more.  Just a sandwich.

Last weekend, we returned to the Twin Cities for a quick visit to surprise Jake’s mom for her birthday.  We left for the cities earlier than normal and greeted her when she returned home from work.  Both surprisers and surprisee seemed equally happy about the reunion.

We also visited the family for which I babysat and apprenticed last year.  I know it’s a tale as old as time, but the experience of watching a baby transform into a child that talks in complete sentences and zips around the sidewalks of Minneapolis on a Strider is fantastic and humbling.  We barely have the skeleton of a wedding in place, but we now have a ring bearer.

Speaking of wedding plans, we’re finally getting started.  Or at least, we’re thinking about it.  I’m more concerned about the food.  Can you recommend a vendor who could make a non-traditional wedding dessert?  Neither one of us is a big fan of cake, but we’re very fond of pie.

On Saturday morning, I woke up early to go to the St. Paul Farmers Market.  I managed to get funneled into the world’s most treacherous detour, finally landing in a back parking lot, unscathed.  This summer, our CSA has supplied us with all of our vegetables.  The quality has been high, but the selection mundane.  Walking through the farmers market nearly brought tears to my eyes as I admired stands of melons, okra, eggplants, habanero peppers, and foraged mushrooms (I just learned about Probstfield Farm’s Old Trail Market in Moorhead, MN and plan to stop by this weekend).

I bought some treats to supplement our weekly CSA box and stopped at A Toast To Bread for the empanadas I used to enjoy each weekend.

Fortunately, I got there early enough to purchase one of each variety to share with the boys.

They were as delicious as I remember.  The first was filled with ground beef and veggies, the second with ground beef, olives and raisins, and the third with tuna.

For lunch, we took home spicy BBQ, baked beans, and collard greens from Ted Cook’s, per Jake’s request.

My rib tips were more dried out than normal and I had to toss about half.  Otherwise, everything else tasted the same.

Dinner was cloudy with a chance of these. . .

I like to occasionally indulge with meals accompanied by these.  For those who may take issue, my reply is the same as the one I gave to the man in the elevator this afternoon.  He sternly informed me that the cream cheese on my bagel was unhealthy, to which I replied, “I don’t care.

He may have been a client.  Oops.

On our final morning, I snuck out for a morning torta.  I knew that stacking a torta onto the weekend’s meals could result in trouble, but pressed on towards my goal.  After all, my life has led me down a path of uncertainly regarding when I will run into my next torta.  If I see a torta, I will indulge.  Plus, one can always transport food on ice.  We took home quite the haul.

Jake’s an East Saint Paul boy, through and through.  His parents live in the Payne-Phalen area and it took me until now to discover the restaurants that line Payne Ave. and Arcade St.  On Sunday, I stopped at By More Taqueria, located near the intersection of Payne Ave. and Phalen Blvd.  Someone on Chowhound had mentioned torta.

My one track mind zeroed in to the torta options that could be filled with one’s choice of meat.  I did not notice breaded beef milanesa, my usual favorite, but had plenty of other options to pick from.  Some, I could not translate, though I remember seeing fish, lengua, and possibly cabeza.  I don’t remember much of the illustrated menu posted by the counter, but recall seeing seafood soup and a daily meal special that included nopal (cactus), which I adore.

I asked the man at the register for suggestions, and he earnestly steered me towards chorizo.   So, chorizo it was.

As I waited for torta, I sipped a glass of horchata.  Both cost about $9.  The two employees were very friendly and made everything fresh as families trickled in for their Sunday lunches.

My massive torta was filled with a griddled layer of crusty chorizo and toasty cheese.  It’s toppings included a healthy slick of mayo, smushed avocado, refried beans, shredded lettuce, chopped onion, and tomato.  Also, the bun was nicely toasted.

My torta tasted exactly how I had hoped and I dug into my sloppy sandwich.  I paused to share half with Jake.

He agreed that it was delicious, though we both bit into small bits of something hard.  My experience wasn’t unpleasant enough to ruin the sandwich, though Jake’s bite left him a little jolted.  I wonder if it came from the chorizo.

In summary, I felt the flavors were really beautiful.
As I drove along Payne Ave, I made mental notes of places I’d like to try during future visits home.  The area’s restaurants rarely seem to be mentioned and I look forward to exploring its food possibilities.

Asparagus For My Mother

I visited my mom’s grave for the first time.

For the first time in four years and for the first time, ever.

On Saturday, it just felt right to sit with her for a while.

Finding myself without flowers, I left a stalk of spring asparagus at her grave.  It was either that or the rhubarb.

I planted the stalk inside a tiny pot of yellow calendula my father must have left.  I’m sure he was rather puzzled when he visited on Sunday.

When I left Lakewood, I sought consolation in Potter’s Pasties.

The crust was rich and flaky.  Jake and I split a traditional pasty and one filled with pork and apple.

They made me feel a little better.

Chasing around lunch: A bucket list fail, zucchini bread win & a story.

I shared lunch with some of my favorite ladies.

Our original plan was to check out Azima, a Kenyan restaurant Dara Mozkowitz enthusiastically reviewed in mid-June.

Jill was the first to arrive at Azima.  She sent word that the restaurant appeared to be closed and the front door was adorned with what looked like an eviction notice from the city.

Since the inception of my “Farewell Twin Cities” bucket list, I had looked forward to securing a concrete reason for methodically dining at restaurants from my wish list.  Azima had rested near the top.  I am always looking for an excuse to eat African food, none of which has ever been bad, ever, and was sold on Dara’s descriptions of a feast featuring roasted goat, greens, hot sauce, beans, and rice.  A huge bummer and reminder for self to always call ahead.

My next choice was Hamdi, a Somali restaurant adjacent to Midtown Global Market.  Despite some wariness, my friends were up for a new adventure and we caravaned towards Lake Street.  Unfortunately, the parking situation seemed to be limited to meters and none of us had wads of quarters, so we moved the party to Midtown Global Market.

The group consensus rested at Los Ocampos where we happily placed our orders.

Since I was still riding the Andale Taqueria Torta high, ordered another torta filled with breaded steak and horchata, one of my favorite beverages in the entire world.

As with Andale, I received a freshly griddled, face-sized sandwich stuffed with crispy breaded steak, beans, tomato, iceburg lettuce, jalapenos, onion, cheese, avocado, and mayonnaise.  I requested a cup of their hottest salsa and received some spicy green sauce.

I expected to eat the entire sandwich and was thoroughly full by the end of the first half.

The bread was chewable, yet structured enough to support all of the sandwich components without crumbling or becoming soggy.

Los Ocampos included multiple thinly breaded steaks, which tasted crisp and salty.  The vegetables were fresh, and though the jalapenos were pickled, their uneven shapes and lack of that identifiable canned smell suggested in-house pickling.  I enjoyed the thickly-cut rings of white onion and Paula Dean-sanctioned mayonnaise smear.

Similar to the torta at Andale, the cheese was thickly cut and non-melted leading me to guess this treatment of cheese is typical for tortas.  In contrast to Andale’s, this version was more thickly stuffed and heavy with rich toppings.  I could have potentially eaten Andale’s entire torta, while I felt like I ingested a gut bomb at Los Ocampos (a tasty gut-bomb, none-the-less).

West Broadway Farmers Market
Earlier this morning, I had a few minutes to stop by the West Broadway Farmers Market, a few blocks west of Broadway and Penn.  My friend’s housemate is working to organize a farmers market in this area generally devoid of affordable, healthy resources and both have encouraged me to check out the market (this is the extent of my affiliation with this market and the following vendor).  North Minneapolis’s lack of accessibility is a reality, having both lived and worked in North Minneapolis where I once facilitated cooking classes with youth.  Unfortunately I arrived too early, when only a couple vendors were available.  I curiously noticed a chef prepping food at a station equipped with a hot plate.

I stopped by the Knoxberry Foods, which appeared to be a family-run stand, and bought a small loaf of zucchini bread for $3.

Because of the empty farmers market and my general wariness of sweet products, I had average expectations regarding this bread.

However, I was pleasantly surprised.  The top ridges of the bread were crispy and the interior was moist.  Although this is a sweetbread, it tasted ethereally light, and for lack of better words . . . not too sweet.  The market runs through October, so I may attempt stop by closer to noon.

An adventure at Cub West Broadway
As a side note, my oddest grocery shopping experience occurred at Cub West Broadway last year.

One summer afternoon, I was shopping for my favorite version of spicy peanut chicken stew which calls for a lot of fresh ginger.  At the end of my shopping trip, the cashier rang up my groceries as I packed.  All of a sudden, I hear a woman hollering at me.  I turn around and realize the woman behind me is frantically asking if I had bought ginger. 
My ginger advocate speaks
I cautiously reply “yes,” and she describes that she just saw the cashier covertly throw my chunk of ginger in the trash can while my back was turned.
The cashier vehemently denies this alleged act of ginger waste, while the woman claims that she saw her throw away the ginger.  Finally, the cashier admits to disposing of the ginger and nonchalantly explains that she didn’t know what it was, as if it was the most logical explanation in the world.
The woman behind me continues to ask questions:
“But what if she really needs the ginger?”
“What is wrong with you?”

Why would you do that?”

The cashier shrugs and informs me that if I want more ginger, I should walk across the store and pick out more.

To avoid making a scene, I mention it’s fine.  Though, I am annoyed because the other woman is right.  I really do need that ginger. 

My ginger advocate will not let this go.  Although I find the whole situation absurd, I would rather escape quietly and buy my ginger elsewhere than stall the increasing line and get someone into trouble.

I turn down the cashier’s offer for me to run across the store and re-pick out my own ginger a second time so I pay and hightail it out of Cub.  Away from the hollering woman, past the perpetually parked police car seemingly devoid of an actual police officer, towards home. 

Home, where I unpack my groceries and ponder if I want to make the 10-minute drive to Crystal today or tomorrow. 
Lesson Learned:  Don’t buy ginger from Cub Foods on W. Broadway. And you, too, can be an advocate for ginger.   
P.S. Not all of my Cub West Broadway trips were this eventful.  In fact, none of them were.

Goodies from the Downtown Saint Paul Farmers Market and Heartland Farm Direct Market

Downtown Saint Paul’s Sunday Farmers Market
290 E. 50th Street
http://www.stpaulfarmersmarket.com/members/locations/st-paul-farmers-market-downtown
Sundays, 8 a.m. – 1 p.m.

This morning I noticed the Downtown Saint Paul Farmers market was open, and was immediately filled with a longing for empanadas.

At 9:30 am., I hightailed my way to Lowertown and made a beeline for the A Toast to Bread stand.  Today, these three varieties of empanadas were available: Filipino, Argentinian, and tuna.

Inside a Filipino empanada from A Toast to Bread

I restricted my gluttonous urges by limiting my daily empanada intake to one.  This Filipino variety is stuffed with a generous portion of a sweet, ground beef mixture laced with raisins, peas, potatoes, and seasonings.  The Argentinian empanada is filled with a less-sweet, ground beef filling and slices of green olives, spiced with cumin.  The flaky and delicate crusts are somehow sturdy enough to retain crispness in spite of their moist fillings.  I felt a bit sheepish when I found out that I waited all winter in vain, sans empanadas, since they are available at the winter market.

This vendor only brings a few baskets of empanadas to the market and often runs out, although they can be ordered in advance.  Each costs approximately $3.50.

Fresh spring asparagus, $5

Many plants including herbs and flowers were for sale.  Besides asparagus, I saw mostly parsnips, green onions, dried chili peppers, and spinach.

Olive tapenade, $5


I bought this olive tapenade from a vendor located along the same row as A Toast to Bread.  I can’t remember the vendor’s name, but know they also sell bread such as foccacia, baguettes, smoked salmon, and garlic aoli.  The garlicky and salty flavor has less umami-ish complexity than Broders’ Olivata Nero, but is tasty and less expensive.  Last year, I tried a couple varieties of bread from this vendor and found them to be on the softer side.  I prefer crusty bread.

I admired the plants, wishing I had a yard in which to garden, and headed to the Heartland Farm Direct Market on the way back to my car.

Heartland Farm Direct Market
289 E. 5th Street
http://www.heartlandrestaurant.com/index2.php#/info1/2/

Ficelle, $2

Three varieties of bread were available.  I chose two Ficelle, which are like thin baguettes with a hard crust.  Although the Ficelle crust was strong, it didn’t destroy my mouth and the inside was tender and moist.

A quarter pound of a mysterious cheese, $16/lb

I admired the cheese case, pointed at a variety that cost under $20/lb, and ordered a quarter pound.  I can’t recall the name of this cheese, which is firm like cheddar, mildly crumbly, and made from more than one type of milk.  The flavor is pleasantly tangy and pungent.

Duck liver pâté, $9/lb

I thought about ordering a Bahn Mi sandwich.  After some internal debate, I deducted that I was really craving the liver pâté, instead of the sandwich itself.  Pictured about is a half pound of duck liver pâté.  A half pound of pâté is a generous portion, considering its richness.  I am enamored with the clean flavor and butteriness of this pâté.

I never tasted, let alone saw liver until I was 24 and only in pâté form.  I liked Spoonriver’s pâté at first taste and swooned over the liver smear amusent at Meritage.  This pâté is on par with the previous versions and I am the proud, first-time owner of a half-pound stash.

I look forward to making my rounds at the markets this summer.

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