Jihye Chang

“Minneapolis”

Brunch @ Cosmos, Graves 601, MSP

I and my husband stayed in Minneapolis for 10 days in October, in an apartment on 9th Street above Hell’s Kitchen. On my last day (Sunday) I needed to grab some brunch before our performance at The Cowles Center. It was around 11:30am, and the wait at Hell’s Kitchen was 90 minutes. Key’s Cafe down the street was no better – 30 minute wait. Both places were totally packed and so loud. When it seemed almost impossible to grab a seat or any food, my friend who invited us to the brunch had a brilliant idea to go to a hotel near The Cowles Center – Graves 601. We headed to the 4th floor and voila, there was no wait and their brunch was one of the best I have had in a long time. (Later I found out that this is a very well rated and highly favored hotel/ restaurant.)

My husband ordered Eggs Benedict with breakfast potatoes; I ordered Eggs Benedict and a half order of Belgian waffles.  We also had coffee. Our dishes came with a complimentary shot of fruit smoothie.

Food: Eggs Benedict often comes with overcooked or runny eggs, rancid or sour tasting Hollandaise sauce, and almost burned muffin. But not here! Our Eggs Benedict had very delicate Hollandaise sauce. Eggs were beautifully poached, and the English muffin was soft and warm. Canadian bacon was delicious and juicy. Belgian Waffle was also very satisfactory – not too big or soggy, crispy outside and buttery inside. I think the blueberry compote and mango creme fraiche were almost unnecessary, but the waffles were still delicious with some maple syrup and butter. The coffee was also very good – much, much better than what you can get at any regular brunch joints. And the waiter kept refreshing the pot, which was nice.

Price: Eggs Benedict for $12/ Belgian Waffle for $12. (Our friend paid for it, so I don’t know how much the half order waffle was.) Everything on the menu seemed reasonable. It’s a restaurant in a high-end hotel, and the menu was much better (and better priced) than other hotels in downtown Minneapolis.

Service: A bit stiff, but still very good and professional.

Atmosphere: Sleek and modern. Nice dishes, silverware, and furniture. Not too pretentious.. maybe a bit “cold”

Overall: A great place for a quiet brunch – what a nice surprise and a find! I just hope I am not spilling the beans or anything.  Great food at a reasonable price with good atmosphere and service. I checked out their dinner menu, and it looks great. A lot of restaurants in downtown MSP are over-priced (Vietnamese spring rolls for $11?!) and sub-par, but this restaurant seems different. I would definitely go back for their dinner.

Phone: 612-312-1168/ Website: http://www.cosmosrestaurant.com

MSP Greats #4, Quang’s Deli

Minneapolis – St. Paul (Twin Cities라고 흔히 부르죠)에는 주로 스웨덴, 노르웨이 출신의 이민자가 많지만 의외로 베트남 출신 이민자들 숫자도 꽤 많습니다. 제가 좋아하는 Little Szechuan (http://blog.naver.com/jhjascha/110035232189) 이 위치한 University Avenue에는 중국 식당보다는 베트남 식당 및 식품점이 즐비하고, Hmong Cultural Center라는 곳도 University Avenue에 위치해 있지요. 오늘은 그 수많은 베트남 식당 중에서도 남편의 사촌형이 강력히 추천해준 Quang’s 라는 곳을 추천해볼까 합니다.

Quang’s는 New York Times에도 소개된 적이 있고, Minneapolis의 각종 잡지에서도 최고의 베트남 레스토랑으로 뽑힌 적이 많은 레스토랑입니다. Pho 가격은 6.95 – 8.95불 사이이고, 짜죠는 두개에 2.95불, 스프링 롤은 두개에 3.25불이니까, 이것저것 실컷 시켜 먹어도 한사람당 15불 이상 넘어가기가 힘든 가격이죠. 어딜 가나 미국의 베트남 음식점들은 이 정도의 가격대를 유지합니다.

일단 Quang에서 맛있는 음식으로는 번팃짜죠 (Bun thit cha gio)를 꼽을 수 있습니다.

베트남식 스프링롤인 짜죠와 숯불구이 쇠고기 (불고기 맛 비슷한 달달한 쇠고기 구이), Pickled carrots and radishes, 쫑쫑 썬 파, 땅콩을 쌀국수 위에 얹고 베트남식 피시소스-라임쥬스 드레싱을 뿌려 먹는 국수 샐러드인데, 여름에 먹으면 참 산뜻하고, 포만감도 있지요. 단순한 것 같아도 국수 양이 너무 많다던가, 피클 종류가 맛이 없다던가, 쇠고기 구이가 맛이 없다던가 등등 조금만 밸런스가 어긋나도 그 감흥이 덜한 요리인데, 쾅에서는 갈 때마다 맛있게 먹었습니다.

Bun Bo Hue라고 불리는 Spicy beef noodle and pork hock soup도 정말 맛있습니다. 돼지 족발이 들어간 매콤한 국수인데, 이 국수는 Hue라는 지방 특유의 음식이고 취급하지 않는 식당도 꽤 됩니다. 혹 메뉴에서 발견하면 꼭 드셔 보시길요! (식당에 따라, 매운맛이 좀더 강한 곳도 있고 새콤한 레몬그라스 맛이 더 강한 곳도 있어요~)

Quang’s 의 번보후에는 면발이 보통 포와는 달리 굵직합니다. 6.95불이라는 가격인데, 건더기도 엄청 충실하죠? (옆에 보이는 건 미리 포장된 베트남신 아이스커피. 음.. 베트남식 아이스 커피는 천천히 내려서 연유랑 섞어서 먹어야 맛있는 건데.. 좀 아쉽더군요.)

국 수의 질에 비해 쾅의 Fresh spring roll은 그다지 특별하진 않습니다. 말린 모양새도 그냥 그렇구요. (단단하게 말려 있으면서 길다란 부추가 밖으로 살짝 빠져나와 있는 것이 맛있고 보기에도 좋은데 말입니다.) 그래도 한국에서 먹는 단무지, 맛살 들어간 스프링 롤보다는 훨씬 더 맛있습니다.

아 래 사진은 엄청 진한 국물의 Pho dak biet입니다. 양지, 사태, 미트볼 등이 골고루 들어가 있는 모듬 국수라고 보시면 되지요. 푸짐한 양과 건더기에 역시 푸짐한 basil, mint, cilantro, 숙주, 풋고추, 라임..! 국물맛이 너무 진해서 다 먹기가 조금 힘들 정도예요. 얄팍하고 달기만 한 육수보다는 물론 몇배 더 맛있고, 약간의 달콤함과 시나몬 향과 양파의 맛이 아주 조화로운 육수입니다.

MSP greats #2, Patisserie 46

Early morning with a just-baked baguette or a warm and flaky croissant and a cup of double espresso macchiato – these are some of my favorite things in the world. I get happy just thinking of them. Recently I found a very happy place that makes wonderful baguettes, croissants, and French tarts and pastries along with decent espresso drinks, called “Patisserie 46.” (I found it while reading a magazine about Minneapolis.)

Patisserie 46 is located in a nice neighborhood. A tasteful sign that blends well with the red bricks welcomes you.

46

My first visit to Patisserie 46 was during a sunny, cold weekend in late February 2011. There were a lot of people enjoying themselves and it was quite noisy and loud. I asked if I could take photos, and the manager said “yes, of course – fire away!” There were so many people that I shied away from some details, but I think one can get glimpses of this wonderful place via a few of my photos.

I got a piece of quiche Lorraine with organic salad – crunchy, buttery crust filled with nicely balanced egg, cream and bacon bits. The organic salad had a mustard-y dressing and delicious yellow cherry tomatoes! And this was only $7.  My husband got a corned beef and steamed cabbage on baguette for about $6.5. I loved the jute-string presentation, but this sandwich fell a little short compared to the quiche (nothing special or extraordinary, but still good). I also had a chocolate croissant ($2), Canele de Bordeaux ($2.5), and 3 macarons (Pistacchio, Earl Grey, and Mango with white chocolate, $1.75 each)

 

Their double espresso macchiato ($2.75) was good enough – nothing to compare to famous espresso bars, but good for a bakery. No complaints! And the condiment bar has organic cane sugar packs. They source their coffee from Wisconsin’s Great Rivers Roastery, and they use an Astoria machine.

I got their macarons purely out of curiosity. Macarons have become the next best thing after cupcake fad in Korea, and people are crazy about them. I understand that these little meringue cookies are super tricky to make, and the flavor selection can be very interesting. I liked the mango macaroon the best – earl grey was too strong, and pistachio was a bit boring. I think these make a very good dessert option when you’re so full but still wanting something sweet to finish off a meal.

Patisserie 46’s chocolate croissant is awesome – lots of butter flavor, really moist inside, and crusty outside without being too messy.  Canele was good, too. I took home a plain croissant, almond financier, and l’Opera cake as well as a baguette. Their plain croissant was one of the best croissants I have ever had, even compared to the ones in France. The almond financier was also very good. The opera cake was a little bit disappointing as the sheet was too thin and there was too much syrup. I think I will give it another try next time I visit. I am just happy that they carry this fancy little cake! The baguette was also very very good..crusty outside, yeasty and fragrant inside that is moist. I like the baguette at Rustica a little bit more, but both are very good baguettes. Lucky MSP people..!

On my second visit, I bought more macarons, one apricot mousse bomb, and a blood orange tart. The apricot mousse bomb was fantastic! It looked so precious, and it had an amazing construction of custard cream and apricot mousse inside the caramel coating. The taste was so refreshing and complex. I highly recommend this! The blood orange tart, by comparison, was just OK. I also tried three more flavors of macarons – mango and white chocolate, strawberry rhubarb, caramel and orange. These are very well made and just fancy enough (but not too fancy like a foie-gras macaron), but I think I would rather spend my money on more substantial desserts from now on. Macarons are just not my cup of tea. (BTW – someone on an online review site commented that the macarons at Patrick’s are better than Patisserie 46’s. I went to check it out and concluded that really people have different tastes and opinions..)

Other good things: The orange colored walls and dark brown furniture create a warm and playful atmosphere. Nice clerks. They also serve many kinds of chocolates and gelato along with many selections of desserts in the showcase.

Something to keep in mind: Coffee drinks can take a while.  It’s always packed and it’s a very clanking, noisy place. It might overwhelm a first-timer as you need to line up as soon as you enter the store and one of the clerks will ask “Do you know what you want?” before you take a look at the showcase and the tiny little menu items. Oh, and you might experience that many things are sold out as early as 11am.

John Kraus is the owner and the baker of Patisserie 46. Quite famous guy..! I talked to him a little bit on my second visit, and he was so pleasant. (He was the winner of USA Pastry Championship in 2002. You can check out his interview with “Heavy Table” here:  http://heavytable.com/john-kraus-of-patisserie-46/

Also you can check out his short bio here:  http://www.usmenuguide.com/frenchpastryschool.htm

I made a few more visits after my initial 2 visits, and every time I am pleased. I hope this charming neighborhood gem will make many more people happy for many more years!

MSP favorites #1 – Rustica, Minneapolis

I lived in Fargo-Moorhead area for 4 years and visited Minneapolis as much as I could. One of my husband’s cousins lives in MSP, and he gave me a few recommendations including Rustica, Quang’s Vietnamese restaurant, Little Szechuan, Tampopo, and La Belle Vie. I have visited most of them, and finally decided to write about some of them as well as other favorite spots that I discovered on my own. I am starting with the Rustica Bakery.

This bakery is now quite well known to MSP residents. Sometimes the line is too long and the service gets slow, but it’s a pleasant place to visit and enjoy great breads, very good desserts, and simple and good sandwiches. It also serves good coffee- not my favorite, but good enough. The Dogwood coffee used to run a bar here as a part of “Bull Run Coffee”. They used to serve Hario drip and Syphon. Now Dogwood Coffee has their own coffee bar, and Rustica serves only espresso drinks or brewed coffee with a Clover machine. I used to be curious about Clover when it was getting a lot of hype, but I think any coffee brewed with Clover has a bit of muddy texture and unclean flavor.  I think single-serve coffee using Hario or Bonmac has far superior flavor, aroma and texture. Their baristas are well trained and skilled, but the Dogwood espresso blend is not my favorite. (too sour and, strangely enough, soy-bean like flavor..! I think it’s a personal thing.)

If I had to choose, I would pick croissants from the Patisserie 46 (will write about this soon), but Rustica’s croissants are still very flaky and subtly sweet. Any of their breads would make anybody’s day happier. I like their baguette and multi-grain loaves. Try their bread with butter option – you get to choose what you want to eat, except the baguette.

I also like some of their sandwich selections and dessert selections. (Eclairs are good, but a bit too big/ pies good, cookies good.) All in all, this is a great place and I would make sure to visit if I am driving into or leaving MSP. Oh, and don’t forget the fresh squeezed orange juice!

Rustica Bakery: 3224 West Lake Street, Minneapolis/ Tel: 612-822-1119

Monday – Friday: 6:30 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Saturday – Sunday: 7:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Website: www.rusticabakery.com