Honeyberry and raspberry crisp ice cream at Pumphouse Creamery
When the recent spate of sunshine and welcome warmth sparked a reflexive hunger for the taste of summer, I knew that owner Barb Zapzalka would have a temptation to satisfy that craving.
Although she's not currently scooping ice cream — hopefully, that activity will resume in late May or early June — Zapzalka is selling pints ($7.50), and some of them are total summer callbacks. Specifically, the summer of 2020, when she corralled members of her family to a U-pick farm near Avon, Minn., then channeled their collective harvest into a luscious, deeply fragrant ice cream.
Zapzalka also fruitfully tapped a southwestern Minnesota farmer's crop of honeyberries, those blueberry-like newcomers that began to resonate with local consumers a few years ago.
"I was forever trying to incorporate chokecherries into ice cream, but they're too astringent, which has a curdling effect on the dairy," she said. "Honeyberries intrigue me because they're a new local fruit. They kind of remind me of chokecherries, but they're not as tart, and I can work with that."
She juices the honeyberries, mixes in puréed black raspberries, then folds in a buttery, granola-like oatmeal crumble that's sweetened with muscovado sugar. The tangy, colorful combination is, in a word, divine. No wonder it quickly ascended to the top spot on the shop's sales chart.
Zapzalka is a one-woman ice cream production dynamo, and while she's always researching new flavors (black tea-fig-blue cheese, anyone?), one certainty is rhubarb, a signature flavor that will materialize in early April. It's a seasonal ritual she's followed every spring since she launched Pumphouse in 2003.
"I can't tell you how rewarding it is to make ice cream," she said. "I'm so fortunate to be doing something that I love, and I'm so lucky that I've been able to do it for 18 years." (Rick Nelson)
4754 S. Chicago Av., Mpls., 612-825-2021, pumphouse-creamery.com. Open noon-5 p.m. daily.
Spreads at DervishMazza
Remember parties? Someday, I'm going to contact owner Mohamed Kotb and ply my guests with his dazzling smörgåsbord of mazza, the Middle Eastern tradition of snacks that, taken in concert, can also constitute a meal.
The feast of five spreads ($32) that I ordered certainly worked well as dinner. Each was more delicious than the last, and choosing a favorite is a challenge.
It might be the lima beans (which Kotb accurately describes as "humbly delicious," a sure sign of comfort food goodness), a time-intensive labor of love that yields tender, meaty beans, which are tossed with olive oil, lemon juice and smoked paprika. So dang good.
Then again, my allegiance could land on the hearty Syrian combination of roasted red peppers, pomegranate, tahini and walnuts. Or perhaps the spectacular blend of sun-dried tomatoes, anchovies, capers, chile peppers and tons of basil.
Kotb — an Egyptian native and a Tilia and Bachelor Farmer veteran — also supplies the can't-eat-just-one pita chips, dressed with his own lively za'atar blend.
The menu at this delivery-only enterprise also includes a three-course meal option (serves two, $87) and it's as imaginative and skillfully composed as the long list of spreads. When the weather cooperates, Kotb will return to staging private dinners on the patio of his Minneapolis home. He's currently working on getting his mazza into retail stores, part of the continual evolution of his year-old business.
"I really wanted to go out on my own, and go on a different journey," he said, explaining why he left restaurants to become his own boss. "Choosing your passion keeps us happy. I'm equally excited and anxious. It's a great combination." (R.N.)
Dervishmazza.com. Text 612-770-3441 to order (Venmo and cash payments only) for delivery Thursday through Sunday, or curbside pick up Sunday through Wednesday in northeast Minneapolis.
Taco family feast from El Camino Taco Deli
The fast-casual restaurant bills itself as "the path to great tacos," and they aren't wrong.
With locations in Edina and Burnsville, the relative newcomer has fashioned itself into a slick takeout-only operation during the pandemic. There's an impressive selection of tacos, bowls, sides and salsas available a la carte, but we opted for the family feast, which packages a pound of protein, rice and beans, a dozen tortillas and chips and salsa (from $32.95) into a meal kit that easily feeds four.
El Camino's menu is not for the indecisive: choose from 11 proteins, American vs. Mexican style, corn or flour tortillas, two types of rice, three types of beans and five housemade salsas. Whew. We had the smoky (and very juicy) chicken tinga and it was a big, messy hit. The Mexican-style fixings (red onion, cilantro and cotija cheese) were plentiful, and the rice and beans were flavorful and had the right amount of heat for our tastes. We were able to order half corn and half flour tortillas, a bonus for our divided household.
The housemade salsas (we tried the El Camino and tomatillo) were lively and fresh. We ordered extra — you can never have too much — and loved that it came in a refillable jar, and $1 off our next salsa purchase. And there will be a next time. I have eyes on the blackened fish and al pastor tacos ($2.95-$3.25), just two of the 20 taco combinations offered. There are plenty of non-meat options, too.
And the name? Yup, it's named after the car as a tribute to co-owner Paul Pershica's dad. (Nicole Hvidsten)
1000 County Road 42 E., Burnsville, 952-217-4613; 7565 France Av. S., Edina, 952-405-6167. Open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday. Elcaminotacodeli.com.
The Angelino sandwich from The Clover
The restaurant group behind Pajarito opened The Clover in Rosemount this week, with house-smoked roast beef and Irish hospitality in the starring roles.
My eyes landed straight on the Angelino, which tops the roast beef with caramelized onion, Brie, roasted garlic aioli balsamic and arugula. Served with your choice of sides — I had the creamy Brussels sprouts slaw, yum — it was a tasty end to a busy day, and had me eyeing the other inventive combos. (Next time I'll get the kimchi Reuben or the RB, which adds housemade Cheez Whiz to the equation.) A big perk: sandwiches come in two sizes, the smaller 5-ounce classic ($12.50) or the larger 7-ounce Clover ($15.50).
As good as my sandwich was, I had serious menu envy when the plate of nachos ($12 half, $15 whole) recommended by our server landed in front of my husband. Served tostada-style and topped with shredded and very flavorful roast beef, chipotle salsa, lime pico de gallo, cilantro and cotija cheese, it was easy to eat (and share), and the tostadas were robust enough to hold the mountain of toppings. If you're not a big meat eater, not to worry. The robust menu has plenty of options, from fried sunfish to cauliflower in tomato curry sauce, and I could leave happy dining on the appetizer menu alone — hello, crab fritters and pork belly lettuce wraps. (N.H.)
14845 S. Robert Trail, Rosemount, 651-448-2220. Open daily 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Theclovermn.com
Kolacky and peanut cakes from Franke's Bakery
Small-town bakeries have a soft spot in my heart. As kids, my sister and I would wake up to a little white bag from Franke's Bakery every Saturday — a peanut long john for me, a jelly doughnut for her (thanks, Dad). Now when I go back to that bakery, it's like time stood still. Same family, same bakery case and same great doughnuts.
Montgomery, Minn., is known as the Kolacky Capital of the World, so it's no surprise that kolackies are a specialty at Franke's, a Main Street fixture since 1914. While I'm a traditionalist and chose poppy seed — growing up, filling options were limited to poppy seed, prune, apricot and apple — Franke's has pushed the kolacky-filling boundaries over the years and their offerings now range from raspberry and lemon to jalapeño cream cheese ($5 for a half dozen). All have an ideal bread-to-filling ratio, and a perfectly pillowy texture. Not all flavors are available all the time, so be sure to call ahead or follow their Facebook page if you want something specific.
As good as the kolackies are, I never leave without grabbing a half-dozen peanut cakes ($1.10 each), a local favorite. A delicately light white cake is frosted and blanketed with chopped peanuts, and the combination is nostalgic nirvana, not to mention delicious. Sure, you can make them at home (find the Star Tribune recipe here), but they'll never be as good. Trust me. (N.H.)
200 1st St. S., Montgomery, 507-364-5025, open 6:30 a.m. 1 p.m. Wed., 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. Cash and check only.