The 5 best things our food writers ate in the Twin Cities area this week
Raspberry Pie at Murray’s
The teal and chrome exterior, buzzing neon sign and promise of a “silver butter knife steak” are the backdrop for downtown Minneapolis. Murray’s is a local icon for steaks and amazing service. But why didn’t I know about the pie?
We weren’t planning on ordering dessert. I recycled my standard line of “We’ll just look at the menu” and our expert server gently guided us to the raspberry pie. A baking feat – a glory of berries and crust – it’s pure summer in every bite.
Making this dish is a labor of love. Pastry Chef Chris Gambino hand selects and places each berry in a wonderfully crumbly crust. Each $10 slice contains a pint of raspberries, which have been coated with a light sheen and whisper of gelatin to hold it all together, but not enough to interfere with the wonderful juicy texture. Between the crust and the berries is a thin stream of raspberry jam, acting as a gentle barrier to protect the texture of both. Then the whole affair is topped with a generous dollop of barely sweetened whipped cream.
I also found out that you can order a whole pie ($50). With at least 24 hours notice, this could be the crown jewel of our next potluck or dinner party. (Joy Summers)
26 S. 6th St., MPs, 612-339-0909, murraysrestaurant.com.
Fusilli Negra in Josefina
One of my all-time pasta grails, a fusilli with octopus braised in red wine and bone marrow, comes from Marea, an Italian seafood restaurant in New York, created by a chef who is not not from Italy, but from Beloit, Wis.
Daniel del Prado isn’t Italian – he’s originally from Argentina – and he too has created a pasta dish that I’m sure is one of the best in the Twin Cities. Coincidentally, it’s fusilli again, but of the squid ink variety, with generous and attractive cuts of lobster, slathered in just enough cherry tomato sauce to brighten up ($32). On top are chives and some singsong mint furls. It’s faultless.
There are certainly hints of a pared-back Marea at Josefina, one of del Prado’s new restaurants, which opened last spring in the old Bellecour. Yes, it’s less power-dining, more reminiscent of a charming southern Italian town, but its menu still won me over. Maybe that’s why. (Jon Cheng)
739 E. Lake St., Wayzata, josefinawayzata.com.
Bebe Zito’s Cookie Dough
Mixes reign supreme at Bebe Zito, the inventive scoop shop that loads up its unique flavors with gochujang brownies, puppy food and Brigadeiro truffles. The cookies star in a number of popular flavors, like Dat Malt Dough, which is stuffed with salty, malty chocolate chip cookie dough; and Slam Dunkie, which mixes crumbled birthday cake cookies. So it was a delicious surprise to find packets of raw cookie dough in the freezer of Bebe Zito’s flagship store, Uptown.
Owners Ben Spangler and Gabriella Grant-Spangler launched take-out cookies ahead of winter vacation, giving customers the chance to make a next-level cookie plate. The options have multiplied since then, with Spangler drawing on his experience as a pastry chef to add new flavors.
You’ll find the chocolate chip cookie that makes Malt Dat Dough so popular, as well as the Birthday Cake Cookies, which were my first impulse buy when I saw the sunny yellow speckled dough balls. When cooked, they taste like glaze.
There’s also Chocolate-Chocolate, Caramel Scotch, Blueberry Cornmeal, and Ginger Molasses. They come in dozens, at $18. You can only get cookie dough to go at the Uptown location, though you can find plenty of it in the scoops of ice cream at Bebe Zito’s Malcolm Yards location. (Sharyn Jackson)
704 W. 22nd St., Mpls., bebezitomn.com.
Afro Deli Chapati Wrap
It’s so fun to walk into the Afro Deli in downtown St. Paul and see it buzzing with activity, a fabulous sample of the community with workers in suits, students and people clearly on their way to another place. I usually stop in for Somalia tea, an overflowing cup of fragrant, hot goodness that soothes the rough edges around a day, but it was also lunchtime, and the chapati wrap ($10.95) doesn’t couldn’t be resisted.
Thin and savory chapati hugged saffron-colored Somali rice, and ours was filled with lamb gyro with some room for fresh vegetables and dollops of creamy tzatziki. From the first bite, I was ready to campaign for chapati to replace all other wraparound substitutes. It has an enticing texture – tender but substantial enough to hold everything inside – and the pleasingly crispy batter flavor took the dish to another level. Make it even better with a shot of homemade basbaas, a zesty, tangy sauce of jalapeños, cilantro, and lime juice.
Abdirahman Kahin, an immigrant from Djibouti, came up with the idea of blending African cuisine with Mediterranean and American flavors in a fast-paced, casual environment and opened the first Afro Deli in 2010 in the West Bank in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis. Enter Chef Moussa Doualeh, who blends all of these cultures and cuisines into one entirely satisfying and comforting plate. In addition to great food, Afro Deli is a fabulous global neighbor, serving over 1.2 million meals to hungry neighbors since opening. (JS)
5 W. 7th Place, St. Paul; 720 Washington Ave. SE., Mpls., 705 Marquette Ave. S., Skyway Level, Mpls. ; afrodeli.com.
Bruschetta from Bar La Grassa
The staff at Bar La Grassa were very sorry that we were still waiting to be seated around 20 minutes after our reservation time. “Nobody wants to leave,” one lamented, which speaks to the appeal of Isaac Becker’s busy (and always bustling) Italian restaurant North Loop.
It was our first visit and we were armed with many suggestions on what to order. At the top of the list: the bruschetta. While the belle of the ball might be the fluffy egg-lobster version, going back to basics can be just as delicious. The Marinated Tomato Ricotta ($13) is a masterclass in bruschetta. Dreamy, creamy ricotta is topped with an oiled, perfectly seasoned bun that I still think about. Many. That alone would suffice, but a blend of marinated tomatoes, garlic, and onion adds a tangy, juicy layer that gets better with every bite. It might be the perfect starter, but I wouldn’t mind doubling up and making it a light meal either.
Of course, having a bruschetta-only meal means you’d miss the signature pasta, which would be wasteful. Order the classic Pappardelle with veal stew ($24) or the exceptional Torchio with charred pork and pea shoots ($22). In fact, it’s better to get both and share. (Nicole Hvidsten)
800 Washington Ave N., Mpls., barlagrassa.com.