It had been an idea planned for weeks… Girls Day Out in the Twin Cities- an excuse to go to the St. Paul Farmer’s Market, and to visit some other food related haunts, and to do city stuff we can’t do every day in our more rural existence. J, L, and I had planned this trip about a week after Easter (L and J are friends from the UUF in La Crosse, WI). J’s son R and DIL live in the Twin Cities, so to meet up with R for lunch was also on the agenda.
In sum, we had lots of fun, but we didn’t get to all of the items on our agenda. Most of the reason is driving and traffic related. Allow me to set the scene for you.
We are currently in Minnesota’s less publicized season (road construction) that has not yet featured largely in a Coen Brothers movie. Cone zones and detours are a major feature of this season, which can do heck on the timing on road trips. None of the three amigas on this trip actually LIVE in the Twin Cities, nor have we lived there in the last 25 years. Each of the three of us have our own foibles, which don’t make road trips DANGEROUS, but just slightly more challenging. For example…. ability to see (or not see) signs at distances, inability to hear what others are saying in a right ear, inability to operate our own cell phones, inability to determine from terse directions whether that was 7th Avenue in St. Paul (near St. Paul Farmer’s Market, evidently), or 7th Avenue N in Minneapolis (home of the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market) – trust me, they aren’t the same road – and you can understand why we spent a lot of the day driving. I can, however, tell you that the same University Avenue which goes North-South in Minneapolis does become the same University Avenue that goes East-West into St. Paul. How we got to the N-S part from the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market on 7th Ave N to University Avenue is our secret.
Yes, we did end up circumnavigating the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market, which is held at an underpass site near one of the major highway interchanges. Why didn’t we stop and look? First, because there was no place to park (this farmer’s market attracts a MUCH bigger crowd than the one I go to at home), and secondly, according to J, the one in St. Paul is better. We were willing to believe that, so we got back on the highway, you guessed it, going West instead of East. Here’s where sign reading and terse directions got us lost. After a phone call or two with R, we set a time to meet for lunch, and found ourselves on University Avenue, going south, back into Minneapolis, where we drove by the North Minneapolis Farmer’s Market between stoplights.
At least on this street, we came to a landmark that I knew- Surdyk’s liquor and food market.
In order to prevent a blood sugar meltdown, we did what any sane person would do… go in and taste cheese! J got some of her favorite Swiss and a good smelly blue from Wisconsin, and I purchased a couple I hadn’t had before – A Goodhue cheddar made in Minnesota, and a lovely goat cheddar from Carr Valley in Wisconsin. Lest you think we are holier than thou locavores, I also took this opportunity to buy some Speck, a case of Dolcetto (which will be the house red for a while) and a few lovely bottles of Umbrian rosato for these steamy summer evenings. So my goal of stocking up on wine was reached, even if we still didn’t make it to the St. Paul farmers market yet.
Soon, as it was about 12:15, and we had a 1:30 lunch appointment, we got back in the van, to forge forward towards St. Paul, in hopes to at least SEE where the Farmer’s Market was. We got back on University, now heading east, toward the capitol. With a few more cone zones and one way detours, we drove by the new football stadium at the University of Minnesota, which is a lovely new facility, but not our destination. We were finally diverted back to University, where we drove out of Minneapolis and into an Asian section of St. Paul, where we drove by an Asian farmer’s market. We gave ourselves a time limit of 1PM, and we got as far as….. the Capitol.
We had to turn around, since we knew we’d likely have one-way issues getting back to our designated lunch location, and one of our planned stops: The Holy Land.
In case you think we’d completely lost our minds and were rushing toward the airport for a trip to Israel, I’m referring to a local establishment that is growing by leaps and bounds… Here’s a link to the Holy Land conglomeration of stores and enterprises. It was started by a Muslim family in 1987, and has grown from a small grocery store and Halal meat market to st0res, commercial bakery, catering, and restaurants. Their products (particularly pita, baba ganoush, hummus, and falafel) are available regionally- even in our little burg at home!) Several former employees at the Holy Land have also branched out to start other local businesses on Central Ave. in North Minneapolis. R has lived in the area for a long time, and this is a favorite lunch spot for him.
The Holy Land is a great place to go for middle eastern classic ingredients. They bake all kinds of flatbreads. I’ve seen Ethiopian breads along with Greek breads, Syrian breads, etc. They have a counter with at least 8 types of Feta cheese, and as many varieties of olives and other condiments. The Holy Land is the first store where I’ve seen fresh almonds, in their furry green pods. The butchery case has chicken and typical beef cuts, but also several things you don’t see in shrink wrapped trays every day:
Actually, the label on the left says “BEEF STOMACH”. No sugar coating it here.
I didn’t buy any meat, but I did stock up on breads, olive oil, and Jordan Almonds. (This is where we got them for our wedding favors two summers ago.)
For lunch, J and I had gyros (J the sandwich, me the plate with rice), and L had the stuffed grape leaves plate with hummus. The food was delicious, and I had plenty left over to bring home to share with DH.
After lunch, R took us to two establishments in St. Anthony, MN, which were both fun for the foodie set… we went first to Annona Gourmet, where you can taste olive oils, vinegars, and salts. They had some lovely infused oils, and several oils from different parts of the world. I purchased olive oil infused with Persian Lime, which the proprietor assured me is excellent with fish. I see some salmon in its future. L got some of the Blood Orange infused oil, which we were assured makes great viniagrettes with some of the flavored vinegars.
After some interesting tastings, we then went to Tea Source, which has a store in the same shopping center. These folks are very knowledgeable about teas and tisanes, and have been in St Paul for 20 years. I tastes a mango green tea, and a lovely black tea with a subtle taste, but a surprising almond flavored finish. They do mail order, as does Annona.
Our final stop of the day was at IKEA, on our way home, where we had lots of fun looking through the rooms, trying out office chairs, and playing “spot the real one” in the plant section, among other things. Then for the drive home, which was as chatty and informative (and opinionated) as the ride up. J and L dropped me off at home about 12 hours after we left. We’re already planning for another one of these… September maybe? Hopefully some of the construction will be completed by then. And I’ll be sure to make some maps of the St. Paul Farmer’s Market, so we’ll get there.