'Extremely spicy' breakfast noodles at Lake & Bryant Cafe
Heed the name of this dish if you want your brow to sweat. Inspired by Sanjeev Azad's travels in Southeast Asia, as well as Saturday mornings at home when he likes to whip up "something spicy," these chewy udon are coated tip to tip in housemade chili sauce, and cooled down (just barely) with green onions, herbs, a squirt of lime and a perfect soft-boiled egg on top. (It's a steal at $8.50.)
Azad put it on the menu of his new cafe, which opened in May, along with other globally inspired dishes done his way: a chicken tikka sandwich, huevos rancheros, tofu bánh mì, crêpes and cheesy shakshuka.
"I call it a 21st-century diner," Azad said. "We eat these things all the time, and there's no reason to go to five different places to get all of these things. People ask me, 'Is it Indian-based? Mexican-based?' I'm like, no, this food is based on simplicity and integrity and we all love to eat them."
Opening in this location is a homecoming for Azad, who previously worked as director of operations for the local cold-brew cannery Big Watt. Before that, he was a Dunn Brothers franchisee, and in 2006, he bought the building on the corner of Lake and Bryant in Uptown and converted the space from a camera repair shop to a coffee shop. His Dunn Brothers had a 10-year run there before he rented the space out to various tenants — most recently Zoe's Cafe. When that business closed earlier this year (it has since relocated to Eat Street), Azad saw an opportunity to launch something entirely of his own.
"When I went in there to look at the space, it was like, man, this is my baby," he said. "I created it. I know what is possible in that spot." He envisioned a neighborhood gathering place to ease area residents out of pandemic-related isolation. One with good food and, considering his background, great coffee.
His espresso creations bring the flavors of fennel, black peppercorn, cardamom or saffron into specialty lattes. Word to the wise: If you try those spicy breakfast noodles, get your latte on ice. (Sharyn Jackson)
821 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-659-4450, lakeandbryantcafe.com. Open daily 7 a.m.-2 p.m.
Frittata at Northern Fires Pizza
As a part of his weekend farmers market routine, chef/owner Arie Peisert prepares this rustic beauty as a gluten-free option to all of the gorgeous pizzas he bakes in a busy, trailer-mounted wood-burning oven.
This skillfully made breakfast ($9) is a showcase for local ingredients; the only component that's not from the region is a flavor-boosting squeeze of lemon. The potato-packed frittata, with its echoes of garlic and onion, is made with eggs from Sunshine Harvest Farm in Webster, Minn., and all of the produce — and there's lots of it — hails from Waxwing Farm, Clover Bee Farm, Turnip Rock Farm and other regional growers.
The frittata wedge rests on a tumble of tender lettuces and bitter greens, and for a spot-on finishing touch, Peisert fashions a punchy pesto using toasted sunflower seeds, parsley, marjoram, chives and a crumbly Wisconsin-made Parmesan. Truly, a spectacular way to start the day.
"I love the markets; they've always been my favorite part of this business," he said. "The energy, the people, it's a blast. And I'm so used to waking up at 5 a.m. on the weekends, I don't know what else I would do." (Rick Nelson)
Northern Fires Pizza is at the Mill City Farmers Market, 704 S. 2nd St., Mpls., millcityfarmersmarket.org, open Sat. 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Also at the Kingfield Farmers Market, 40th St. and Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., neighborhoodrootsmn.org, open Sun. 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
Strawberry Napoleon at Wisteria Twig Tea Room and Cafe
Cafes don't get much more charming than this little gem in Red Wing.
Located in a nearly vacant strip mall in the city's West End District, it intrigued us not only by the robust selection of loose-leaf tea blends (yum, Snickerdoodle Rooibos tea), but their signature "Hot Twig" open-faced sandwiches ($12.75), which didn't disappoint. Neither did the chicken-blueberry salad ($12.75), which took advantage of local berry season, or the perfectly spiced chai latte.
What sealed the deal was this decadent housemade dessert ($6), the special that day. Fresh, ripe strawberries, cheesecake filling and whipped cream were sandwiched between the flakiest puff pastry I've ever eaten and dusted with powdered sugar. While we debated dessert, our super-friendly server assured us we wouldn't regret ordering the Napoleon. (I did regret sharing it, though.) Apologies for asking if the desserts were made in-house — turns out everything is made in house. So don't worry if the Napoleon isn't on the menu when you visit — I suspect the other desserts are just as delicious.
If you want to make your visit an occasion, there's a four-course high tea Mondays through Saturdays at 2:30 p.m. (call ahead for reservations). I'm already plotting my return. (Nicole Hvidsten)
1920 Old West Main St., Red Wing, 651-276-4616, wisteria-twig-tea-room.square.site Open Mon.-Sat. 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Tomato pancetta pizza at Two Pony Gardens
It might be summer in other parts of the country, but here, it's pizza farm season. While I love a road trip, the allure of a farm visit only 25 minutes from downtown Minneapolis is indisputable. So, last weekend, I made the short drive to Two Pony Gardens in Long Lake, which hosts occasional pizza farm weekends through October (the next one is Aug. 14 and 15).
There was a short menu of three wood-fired pies from which to pre-order when I booked my reservation. I selected two pies, both of which utilize as many farm-grown ingredients as possible. Notably, the tomatoes. The chunky sauce on the tomato pancetta pie ($18) was garden-fresh with celery, carrot and three kinds of tomatoes — mostly the deep orange Jaune Flamme. The sauce is kind of an improvisation by farm manager Katherine Marie Price, who uses whatever the farm makes available to her. That heirloom tomato sauce was so vibrant, I immediately tried to replicate it at home. Which was all I could do, as Price didn't have a spare jar to sell me.
A caveat: It's a steep $40 cover charge to park in the "tailgater's meadow" and set up your own picnic. Price says it's a crowd control measure. Two Pony Gardens used to welcome more visitors and provide all-you-can-eat pizza at a flat rate, but the crowds took a toll on the land. At our designated time slot, we were one of only three cars in the field, which allowed for maximum social distancing — and more face time with the farm's chickens and ponies. (S.J.)
1700 Deer Hill Road, Long Lake, twoponygardens.com. Check website for upcoming pizza farm weekends and reservations.
Corn and Pepper Bundle at Sun Street Breads
Minnesota's sweet corn season is depressingly brief, which is why it's so important to take advantage of every opportunity to enjoy this quintessential taste-of-summer treat.
Chef/co-owner Solveig Tofte's sweet corn source is Shakopee farmer Carmen Marshall and the Peter's Pumpkins & Carmen's Corn stand that she operates with her husband, Peter Marshall, at the Kingfield Farmers Market, which is where Tofte launched her business more than a decade ago.
The results are irresistible. Tofte uses the same laminated dough that goes into her dreamy croissants, filling it with crunchy, wonderfully ripe kernels of sweet corn. Heat-inducing pops of Serrano peppers nicely counter the corn's naturally sugary bite, and then Tofte boosts the richness quotient with Cheddar cheese and a drizzle of crème fraîche.
"I learned this idea from my friend Craig Ponsford in San Rafael, Calif., as a great way to use fresh produce," said Tofte. "We've always had a savory bundle around, and I love using corn during corn season, so it was a natural thing to happen." (R.N.)
4600 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., 612-354-3414, sunstreetbreads.com. Open Tue.-Sun. 6:30 a.m.-2 p.m.