Table Talk
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I’m on vacation, but here’s a rundown of my dining diary for the few days prior to leaving for the shores of Lake Superior. What were your top eats of the past week? Share the details in the comments section.

Peanut butter-filled chocolate cookie at World Street Kitchen

This is one of those ideas that immediately beg the question, “Why didn’t someone think of this before?” (OK, someone somewhere probably has). “It’s, like, ten years in the making,” said chef/co-owner Sameh Wadi. The cookie’s roots reach back to Saffron – Wadi’s much-missed Warehouse District restaurant (2007-2016, R.I.P.) -- where the staff meal often featured a variation on this treat. “Rick Smrstick our baker and I tweaked them for World Street Kitchen,” said Wadi. Any and all tinkering has paid off. The filling follows creamy P.B. tenets -- no “chunky” here -- but it isn’t straight-from-the-jar peanut butter; the formula is clearly modeled on the classic Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup format, only way better. The crinkle-topped cookie is soft and chewy with a just-right chocolate aura, a fitting envelope for that smooth filling. One bite, and I knew that I was going to be spending the winter months in the kitchen, attempting to replicate Smrstick's and Wadi's cookie-baking triumph. $2.75. 2743 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls., 612-424-8855

Yum-Yum Rice Bowl at World Street Kitchen

When chef Sameh Wadi and his brother and business partner Saed Wadi launched their World Street Kitchen food truck in 2010, this beauty was a menu staple. I’m not suggesting that WSK’s rice bowl was the first to materialize on the Twin Cities dining landscape, but its high profile certainly sparked the seemingly never-ending rice bowl boom. It helps that the versions at the WSK brick-and-mortar restaurant remain as tasty as ever. Sameh Wadi ensures that his signature dish covers the quick-service, meal-in-a-bowl checklist: variations on color, texture, flavor and temperature, all enriched by a soft-cooked, runny-yolk egg. The design-your-own factor comes in with the addition of handled-with-care proteins: grilled chicken, caramelized lamb belly, lemongrass-scented meatballs, Korean-style beef short ribs, tofu. Portions are more than generous, and it never hurts to double-up on the meat. $11.50 to $14.75, with double-up prices an additional $3.50 to $5.50. 2743 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls., 612-424-8855

Sourdough flapjacks at Sun Street Breads

There are plenty of styles of pancakes, and this is a variation that I happen to love: thick, slightly doughy, as big as a dinner plate and fueled with sourdough, which produces a tang that just can’t be replicated with baking powder, baking soda or other go-to pancake leavening agents. Leave it to a skilled bread baker to deliver a first-rate pancake, right? It’s like knowing you’ll encounter a fantastic cheeseburger at a steakhouse. But chef/co-owner Solveig Tofte is typically modest. “They’re pure Nancy Silverton,” she said, referring to the influential Los Angeles chef and author (find the recipe in Silverton’s 23-year-old landmark cookbook, “Breads from the La Brea Bakery”). The batter is sweetened with maple syrup rather than sugar – I’ll remember that substitution the next time I haul out the pancake griddle at home -- and the syrup that’s served on the side is the real deal, not the fake, corn syrup-ey, imitation-flavored dreck that mars the flapjacks at so many Twin Cities breakfast haunts. $4.95, $6.95 and $8.95. 4600 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., 612-354-3414

Margherita pizza at Punch Pizza

Do we even realize how fortunate we are? Any day of the week, we can walk into a Punch Pizza outlet – there are 12 locations -- drop a reasonable amount of cash, wait about five to 10 minutes and then indulge in one of the region’s great pleasures: a handmade replication of the pride of Naples, Italy. Over the past 23 years, the company’s expansion hasn’t sacrificed quality; the commitment to consistency is remarkable. The Neapolitan-style pizzas sport crusts that are puffed and charred on the edges, stretchy and limp on the bottom, and they’re topped with a discerning and uncomplicated array of toppings and then baked in showy wood-burning ovens. I tend to veer towards the Margherita with mushrooms and ham (that’s the pizza, pictured, above), dappled with milky mozzarella and tons of fresh basil, but that’s just me. Tip: It’s worth a trip to the original Punch in St. Paul’s Highland Park neighborhood, the only location in the chain with table service, because it’s also the only location to feature calzones, and they’re fantastic. $6.95 to $14.70. Twelve Twin Cities locations, including outlets in Maple Grove, Wayzata, Eden Prairie, Woodbury, Eagan, Vadnais Heights and Roseville

“Heirloom” pizza at Due Focacceria

Looking over this list, it’s awfully bread-ey, isn’t it? I guess my body is telegraphing the message to carb-load for winter. The draw here was the toppings: the heirloom tomatoes, sweet corn, zucchini and basil mirrored my farmers market shopping list. Enjoy them while we can, right? Add mozzarella and the kitchen’s dense, yeasty focaccia, and you’ve got a compelling new way to think about pizza. I’m looking forward to returning to this newcomer – it’s the work of the enterprising couple behind Italian Eatery – and grazing my way through the rest of the counter-service menu. $5. 475 Fairview Av. S., St. Paul, 651-493-8735