Crème brûlée French toast at Baldamar's Champagner brunch
Brunch is back. After a slow post-COVID rollout, the leisurely weekend morning ode to eggs Benedict is finally being added onto more restaurant schedules. Like it or not.
While Baldamar's extravagant brunch buffets have been a constant, they've now added an exclusive new brunch to top all others. The Roseville steakhouse recently introduced the Champagner, a Saturday-only event in a sunny side room looking out at Rosedale Center. The ticketed brunch ($90, plus tax and a 22% hospitality surcharge) has two seatings in which guests have two hours to order nearly anything on the special menu in whatever quantities suit them. It's a buffet that feels like a sit-down meal, or a bit like the fancy place at an all-inclusive resort.
You're offered a glass of sparkling wine or a mimosa upon entry, and frequent refills by roaming staff. Or, order from a list of cocktails and zero-proof drinks. Pastries come around in a basket; starters are playful, from a Scotch egg to an Italian chopped salad.
For entrées, go sweet, go savory, go both. My companion and I ordered three for the two of us — she the smoked sea bass hash, me the steak and eggs, both delicious. We had every intention of taking only a bite of the crème brûlée French toast. Instead, that was the one we devoured. Practically half a loaf of bread is soaked for hours in cream that's been infused with Chinese five spice, with hints of star anise and clove cozying up the caramelized crackly edges. Chopped walnuts are drizzled with bourbon maple syrup that sneaks in little bits of bacon. And it's all topped with a scoop of not-so-sweet whipped cream that's almost as thick as butter. It's the epitome of brunch itself: expensive, entirely unnecessary and utterly delightful. (Sharyn Jackson)
1642 W. Country Road B2, Roseville, 651-796-0040, baldamar.com
Kruse Markit's Avocado Toast, But Make It a Bowl
The new market and breakfast/lunch spot in Minneapolis' Kingfield neighborhood is a prime example of why the Great Resignation was a good thing. Owner Heidi Stark had been crisscrossing the country for years while working for Wells Fargo. In every metro area she traveled to, she would seek out the cool all-day hangs and gourmet grocery stores. When the road started to wear on her, she decided to get off the fast track of corporate life and look into opening a place like the ones she loved to visit, but here in Minnesota.
Kruse Markit is part coffee shop and part retail shop in which a food fan easily could lose an hour poring over all the goods. "I tried to stock mostly BIPOC and women-owned brands," Stark said when we popped in for a visit. There are cool treats (note the Outkast quote above the cooler doors) and shelf-stable items that run the gamut from THC gummies to potato chips.
There's also a tidy breakfast and lunch menu. The kitchen is run by chef Sarah Lee (who used to work at Wise Acre Eatery). Dishes are light, like the Avocado Toast, But Make It a Bowl ($15). It's the best kind of breakfast salad with an oozy egg and creamy avocado zipped up with everything spice and a slew of smashed breadcrumbs standing in for toast. It's all served over a pile of mixed greens. Paired with a latte, it's all a tasty early-day indulgence. (Joy Summers)
4237 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., 612-259-8516, krusemarkit.com
Savory scone at From Scratch Baking
Not everyone loves to eat sweets first thing in the morning. So on behalf of those people (me), I'd like to thank the bakeries that leave room in the case for savory breakfast treats.
Among them is From Scratch Baking (formerly Paragon Bakery), Shannon Richter's delightful sliver of a bakery in a Chanhassen strip mall. I nabbed the last zucchini-feta scone ($4) and hit the flavor jackpot. The scones were crusty on the outside, but biscuit-like tender on the inside. Green flecks from the zucchini were peppered throughout, and the feta provided a welcome salty kick. Paired with a mug of tea, it was exactly the right way to start the day. (It also makes a nice accompaniment to a lunchtime tossed salad.) From Scratch carries ham and cheese scones, too, but the early birds got those.
To appease my sweets-loving household, I added a cinnamon roll (I was told it's one of their most popular items, and for good reason), a caramel apple scone (equally delicious) and a hand pie. Initially bummed that the strawberry rhubarb hand pies were gone, I thought I was settling for raspberry and Nutella ($5). After one bite, there's only one word to describe it: Wow. We'll be back for more — maybe even for breakfast. (Nicole Hvidsten)
530 W. 79th St., Chanhassen, 952-934-2907, fromscratchbaking.com
BBQ beef brisket at Little Asia Cafe
Some recommendations require immediate attention. At the end of a recent meeting with Marc Heu, St. Paul's French pastry extraordinaire, I asked where to go for a midafternoon bite. "Little Asia," he said without hesitation, everyone around him nodding in agreement. "Get the brisket."
I drove straight to Sunrise Plaza, a University Avenue grocery store with a couple of restaurants in the back. Practically unmarked from the outside, and up a rickety wooden ramp, the larger-than-expected restaurant was busy with families huddled around bowls of noodles. I wanted to join in, but Heu had given me specific instructions.
At the front counter, I asked for the brisket and was directed to a cabinet of meat and handed a pair of tongs. I picked a slab, plopped it into a takeout container and handed it over to be sliced up in the back. What you see here is what you get: outstandingly juicy meat crusted with spices and crisped up on the edges, with a funky and lethally spicy dipping sauce that made me breathe fire as I inhaled half of my order in the car shortly afterward.
Would it have been a nicer dining experience had I sat down, gotten a bowl of rice to go with it (and employed the many condiments), and maybe threw in some egg rolls and noodle soup? Absolutely. Would I go back for another no-frills foam container of this succulent sliced brisket ($17.99 a pound)? In a heartbeat. (S.J.)
995 W. University Av., St. Paul, 651-209-3392, facebook.com/littleasiacafe
Brown butter glazed doughnut at Bogart's Doughnut Co.
Bogart's Doughnut Co., home of the silky brown butter-glazed doughnut that became a Twin Cities icon, opened a new location this month in the Miracle Mile Shopping Center in St. Louis Park. Naturally, I wondered if this expansion came with a menu expansion as well. But when I asked at the counter whether anything was new, I got a succinct reply: "Only the employees."
And that's fine by me. Why mess with greatness, when Bogarts' short-and-sweet selection of doughnuts is done so well? Here you'll find the same brioche-based rings of fluff in various formats ($3 and up): an enormous swirl with cinnamon, just dripping with icing; stuffed full of vanilla cream or Nutella; and, of course, dunked into that so-browned-it's-almost-burnt (in the best way) buttery glaze. Cake doughnuts ($2.25) come in the blackest of cocoa, topped with rainbow sprinkles or studded with lavender.
Besides a coffee list, there's Bogart's killer soft-serve ice cream (yes, get the brown butter flavor). And that's it, besides some nice new employees. Welcome to the neighborhood. (S.J.)
5003 Excelsior Blvd., St. Louis Park, bogartsdoughnutco.com