A few weeks back I was getting kind of tired of eating grilled chicken and salads on the reg and thought about how much I miss the cuisine abroad. One can get use to doing things like trying fish and chips in London one weekend and pierogis in Krakow another (believe it or not). I had an epiphany that I didn’t have to buy a plane ticket in order to eat foreign cuisine, I could do it right in my own city, Minneapolis/ St.Paul. While this duh moment made me feel a little stupid, I was also super stoked to go out and see what the Twin Cities had to offer. I didn’t wanna do this alone so I asked my friends Chole and Berit to join me on my quest to “travel” within Minnesota. Though these ladies were amazing company, I did forget beforehand HOW DANG PICKY THEY ARE (still love you both). We were very successful with the restaurants we chose and managed to stamp our culinary passports.
Our first stop was at one of my all time favorite bakeries, Patisserie 46. This phenomenal establishment is owned by acclaimed pastry chef John Kraus. Kraus’s resume includes awards such as Top Ten Pastry Chefs in The U.S., Top Ten Chocolatiers in North America, 2002 Paris Gourmet Pastry Chef of the Year as well as a bronze medal at the Olympics of baking, the Coupe du Monde. Though his accomplishments (which just keep going) are insanely impressive, you just have to take one glance at the sweets inside his cafe to never want to leave. The beautiful small cakes that line the cases are so pretty, I feel like I am destroying art when I eat them. Their selection also includes freshly baked breads that line the walls, macaroons, meringues, croissants and so much more.
Berit wound up getting strawberry sorbet and I wound up with a sugar cookie, a madeline and we shared an amazing baguette. I typically get a small cake but decided to try something new and it did not disappoint. After my first bite, I looked out the window and thought I saw The Arc De Triomphe for a sec. Though I may not get to go to Paris right now, I can drive 25 minutes from my house and at least pretend.
Our next stop was Cafe Ena, located right across the street from Patisserie 46. I first went to Cafe Ena a few years back to try their ceviche. This place became one of my favorite restaurants when I realized that their ceviche tasted just like the one I had back in Lima, Peru. Though Cafe Ena does not focus on the dishes of one country, Chef/Owner Hector Ruiz (who studied at the Michelin Three Star Restaurant Lucas Carton in Paris) creates a fusion of many different Latin American cuisines. I ordered the Negril sandwich which includes Jerk chicken (native to Jamaica) and Berit tried the Bistec Encebellado (a dish found in Puerto Rico). Needless to say, I will be returning.
P.S. Get the guac. Just do it.
Even though I felt like I couldn’t eat anythings else that day, I accepted an invite to join my Mom and her friends at Nico’s Taco and Tequila Bar. I pass this funky restaurant every time i’m in Uptown and it always seems that the people seated on their outside patio are having the times of their lives eating tacos drinking margaritas. Nico’s prides themselves on offering 100% agave tequila and delicious and authentic Mexican street food. We started with Sangria Blanco and their tasty guac. Actually getting my chip into the molcajete to scoop the guac was a real struggle because everybody at the table was competing for it. I then ordered an amazing carne asada and preceded to plan a cleanse for the week to come.
Needless to say, the cleanse did not start the next day. I met up with Chloe to try a progressive dinner. We wound up going to only two places, Oragami being one of them. Origami is owned by master chef Kiminobu Ichikawa. The interior of the restaurant itself is worth a visit. With a super sleek and hip look/vibe it is a great place to start your night out. The beams of the restaurant resemble chopsticks and you can’t help but look at all the beautiful art that lines the walls. If it is a warm summer night (please remember we are in Minnesota), you can sit on the patio outside. Chloe and I were seated at a smaller table and ordered off the extensive happy hour menu (yay for saving money!). We had seaweed salad, gyoza, and a crab and avocado roll. I wanted to order more but we had to move on to our next stop.
Our next and unknowingly last stop (we got too full) was at Amazing Thai. I have been coming here with friends since I was 16. This place has a very chic interior with a tuk tuk hanging over the entrance, lanterns and sparking lights hanging over the patio, a happening bar and various Thai decorations in beautiful colors of red and gold. We sat outside next to a couple speaking French and spent most of the night trying to decipher what they were saying (okay so this was mostly Chloe considering the only French I know is croissant and the words to Lady Marmalade). We ordered off the happy hour menu (yay for saving money part deux). We shared spring rolls, cracked chicken and an order of mango sticky rice. Though we didn’t order it on our night out, I highly recommend their pad thai or massaman curry. I would have ordered it but I was still thinking about that damn cleanse.
Well this post is rather long so I should probably wrap it up. Basically what I am trying to get at is that you don’t have to pay thousands of dollars to get some aspects of experiencing new cultures. Our own communities are filled with all sorts of nationalities and we have the privilege of being able to get in our car and temporarily leaving where we are through food. I challenge you to make the effort to try something different that Buffalo Wild Wings or Noodles and Company next time you go out.
To those reading this, where do you go to find foreign cuisines in your area?