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When you head north to the stunning rocky shores of Lake Superior, food may not be the first thing on your mind. But the region has a lovely gastronomic style all its own. From smoked fish to fresh berries to cured meat to some of the region's tastiest breakfasts, the foods found here can transform a pleasant trip into a great vacation.
What makes a perfect pie? Much is made of crust (butter versus lard, shortening versus everything else), and its flakiness, or lightness, or general durability. But the real heart of a pie is the filling—so much filling veers toward the goopy, and/or the oversweet, that it's a delight to find a pie with a sense of balance and restraint to it, something that challenges you not just to finish a piece, but to avoid finishing the whole pie.
The link between food and love may be ancient, but it continues to thrive in modern times right here in the Upper Midwest. Wherever you travel in Minnesota, there's likely to be a romantic culinary getaway awaiting you.
Just because visitors don't typically come to Minneapolis-St. Paul to eat Japanese food doesn't mean that they shouldn't. The metro area boasts more than just respectable sushi — from warm, soothing bowls of noodles to fried pub delicacies to skewers of marinated meats to sustainable seafood with a modern story to tell, there's something in Minnesota — by way of Japan— for every diner's taste.
When you think of Minnesota food, you might think of a few classic staples: nutty wild rice, flaky walleye, and stick-to-your-guts hot dish. Change, of course, has arrived with a vengeance as a food revolution has swept the state, and tradition is increasingly seen as a platform for invention. Chefs around the state revel in adapting and sometimes completely transforming hidebound dishes, creating menus that riff playfully on familiar flavors and foods.
For years, domestic beer was viewed as wine's lowbrow cousin, suitable for drinking during sporting events or cookouts, and little else. The craft brew revolution has turned that thinking on its head, and the past five to 10 years have seen an explosion in artisan beer production in Minnesota.
Most people can appreciate the flavor and texture of a ripe apple, but few are capable of improving upon it. The University of Minnesota managed to achieve such a feat in 1991 when it released the Honeycrisp apple cultivar. A true, ripe Honeycrisp tastes like an apple with the volume turned up: Both honey-sweet and bracingly tart, it conveys its full flavor in extra-juicy bites. Its larger-than-typical cells allow for the delivery of more moisture than most apple varieties.
Minnesota has a proud history as the nation's breadbasket, from its fields of wheat, to its pork and dairy farms, to the grain mills of Minneapolis. It's no coincidence, then, that the swath cut by Minnesota's food personalities is a wide one indeed. You can see them on national television, hear them on the radio, and taste their creations by way of books and the Internet. And their influence cuts from the biggest of the mass-market heavyweights to the highest-flying of the gourmet, as illustrated by this (brief and greatly abridged) collection of biographical sketches.
Classic doughnuts, both cake and raised, are available throughout Minnesota, made with old-fashioned love and a lot of sugar, powdered or otherwise. But the last five years have also seen a nouveau doughnut renaissance in the Twin Cities, with newer shops offering exotic twists (maple long john with a strip of bacon on top, anyone?) and cupcake-shop-level marketing.
Airport dining has evolved, and we're all better for it. While there are still plenty of spots to grab quickly prepared, mass-market fast food, restaurants that emphasize creative use of high-quality (and often local) ingredients are starting to take over the concourses at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. A recent overhaul of Concourse G in Terminal 1 has brought in a whirlwind of internationally inspired dining, but other spots of note are scattered throughout the airport, as well, including the formerly sparse Terminal 2. If you're swinging through MSP, bring an appetite—you've got options, and they're delicious.
The fertile countryside of southern Minnesota is dotted with farms and creameries, and some of the best cheese in the region is emerging from small independent makers working amid the area's gentle hills and broad plains. Food lovers have a number of options for places to visit—and creations to taste—throughout the region.
You can learn a lot about a place by the way people eat. A plate of food doesn't appear from nowhere; it's informed by the land, cultural traditions, and the destination a place is traveling toward. Increasingly, the same is true about the way people drink: More and more, what's in your glass can tell you a story about where you are.
Food trucks are about as polarizing as things get in the world of good eating: They're seen by some as hipster-driven trend machines, and by others as the vanguard of modern food. When you start to eat your way through their ranks, however, you’ll soon find that food trucks come in as many colors and flavors as jelly beans. Regardless of your budget or brow elevation, there's a truck slinging something you'll truly enjoy.
Brunch is big in Minnesota. In fact, Yelp ran the numbers nationwide and found that Minneapolis-St. Paul was the second-biggest metro area for brunch after our Midwestern cousins in Chicago. From Bloody Marys in the city to buffets at lakeside resorts, there's a great deal to choose from for the hungry weekend traveler.
The feel of fall food and drink isn't just one note: It's smoky, it's spicy, it's apple sweet, it's soothing and it's warm. All across Minnesota, restaurants, breweries, markets and coffee shops embrace the turning of the seasons with a barrage of harvest eats. Here's a small sampling of some tasty options from around the state.
After hitting the slopes, riding the trails or attending an outdoor festival in Minnesota this winter, sipping something warm will taste twice as delicious. Minnesotans are no strangers to creative hot beverages, and there are generally some tempting options at hand no matter what part of the state you happen to be in.
What's the definition of a "cozy restaurant"? It varies from diner to diner, but it usually includes warm hospitality, comforting food, a lack of pretense, and quiet surroundings. The restaurants that follow illustrate the idea that while Minnesota may not lack glossy, contemporary fine dining, it also has some charmingly low-key spots to grab a bite to eat and reconnect with those important people in your life.
Minnesota's "Land of 10,000 Lakes" slogan isn't mere hype - from unnamed country ponds to the sea-like majesty of Lake Superior, the state has aquatic splendor to spare. It's no surprise, therefore, that there's plenty of good food to be had by the shores of the state's rivers, lakes and waterfalls. From old-fashioned supper clubs to up-to-date casual seafood eateries, where there's open water there's often a great meal (and usually a good local brew or cocktail as well).
There are many ways to go sweet when it comes to food, and many fine ways to do it locally in Minnesota--everything from cupcakes to ice cream to doughnuts to top-flight confections made by accomplished bakers. Dessert is universal, and great stuff can be found everywhere from the heart of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area to the state's rural corners, where pie and old-school doughnuts really come into their own.
The Upper Midwest's reputation as a meat-or-perish stronghold is diminishing every year that passes - more and more diners (vegetarian, vegan, and omnivore alike) are coming to realize that much of the area's best eating comes in the form of market-fresh produce, pickled goods, and ethnic food that relies on spice and heat to convey gastronomic excitement - not animal products. To say that there are plenty of options for the vegetarian or vegetarian-friendly diner is an understatement - the following survey just scratches the surface.
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