When the Taste section's Iconic Eats series debuted with a list of 40 must-have foods from the Twin Cities, we expected some pushback about our necessarily narrow list. Yes, there were some "how could you forgets" and "this list is meaningless withouts." But for the most part, we were met with appreciation from many food lovers, delighted to see their favorite dishes championed. And we even found out we had a fan or two.
One of them is Carol Parry. She took our list and ran with it, dedicating herself to tasting all 40 dishes in 40 days and chronicling it on Instagram (you can follow her at @carolaparry).
Parry, of Golden Valley, is a self-described "foodie since the get-go," baking up a storm since she was in the single digits (she's 68 now). She's dabbled in the restaurant business, and is an avid home cook. If she falls in love with a restaurant dish, she will attempt to remake it at home. And she is known among friends for hosting dinner parties, which usually end with one of her signature "intricate" chocolate desserts.
But her focus has switched a bit.
"As I've gotten older, I tend to cook a bit less and support restaurants more," she said. Throughout the pandemic, she bought her share of takeout, not just for herself but as surprises for friends and neighbors. And she's always on the hunt for the next hot limited-quantity and hard-to-get foods from local makers.
As Parry approaches the finish line, we checked in with her about why she decided to follow in our Iconic Eats footsteps, what she thinks we missed and what she's learned from this grand experiment. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What are you doing?
First of all, my favorite day of the week is always Thursday because it's the food section and I have been reading it since sixth grade, essentially. I'm now 68, so it's a while. I read that article of 40 iconic eats and was thinking about it over the weekend after it came out and all of a sudden it just popped into my head: "40 days." There's an Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros song, "40 Day Dream." I just thought, 'Whoa, that would be fun.' It gave some direction, because there's all kinds of great food out there; how do you narrow it? This helped me.
What do you think of the list? Is there anything you think should have been included?
Anchor Fish & Chips comes to mind. Black Walnut [Bakery] hasn't been around that long, but it's amazing. There have been some things that I thought of, but 40? Forty is not a huge number.
How are you fitting this into your day?
The first thing I figured out early on was I needed to make a plan, because some restaurants, like Rainbow Chinese, were only open Wednesday through Sunday. Then I started to realize I have to get to two or three places in a day. I live in Golden Valley, so I started with the things that were closest to me and that I already knew. And then, I lived in St. Paul for a long time, so I get over there. I'm semi-retired, I do some volunteer gigs, so I get around for other parts of my work. I try to think about how, if I'm going to be in St. Paul next Wednesday, I can knock a few off. Or like Owamni, getting in there is a whole deal unto itself. It's a challenge.
When I saw your post of Owamni's bison tartare, I was like, 'Wow, she got in!'
I looked on Saturday night and thought, I should probably start thinking about this, and there was one reservation for 2 o'clock on Sunday, and after that it wasn't until like late May. So I grabbed it.
Well, I admire your tenacity.
The other thing I was thinking about is that the pandemic has changed so much about restaurants, and the timing that they're open, and I feel like that's really positive in a way. Hopefully people in the restaurant business are going to be able to take better care of themselves.
I agree. What else have you been eating lately?
It's been so much to eat all this stuff, and it's just my husband and me. I just made a big pot of bone broth because [it was] still cold. But in terms of going out, this has been my sole focus.
That's some dedication. Now let's talk about the ones you've tried so far. Is there anything that stood out and surprised you, or anything you didn't like?
Somali tea was a revelation. I loved it and I keep thinking about when I can get back there and get more of it. The roast beef sandwich from Clancey's was a surprise, too. It was so, so good. The potato churros. I've had the potato churros but not in a long time, so it was lovely to meet them again. When I went to Pie & Mighty, I got all three pies. They're all so good. I mean, I ate the tartare at Owamni. I don't usually eat that, and it was good, but I don't think I would ever eat it again.
What else have you learned about food in the Twin Cities?
It's way spicier than it ever used to be. Which is great. There are so many more choices. And so many young, dedicated people, too. Like A Bird In Hand and Bagel Taim. They're pouring their hearts into it. Back to the whole thing that there's so much good food.
This can get kind of expensive too.
It's my hobby right now. My passion is food. I'm semiretired, my husband will be retired. I am lucky we have enough resources that I can do this. Also at some places I get a whole meal, and other places I just focus on getting the item that I want to learn more about. But on the price points, I know some people complain about it, but that meal from Pimento Jamaican Kitchen, 17 bucks for that? That was two meals for me. I feel like the servings are very generous.
What's coming down the pike that you're excited about?
I'm excited for the Lexington. I have not been there since my child was a baby in 1989. Chicken potpies are my all-time favorite comfort foods.
What are you going to do after you hit all 40?
This has been so much fun, it's helped me realize I need to have some ongoing food projects. So, I don't know, but I definitely am thinking about that and talking about that with my friends right now.