In 48 hours I managed to travel by car to India, Vietnam, Spain, Greece and The Middle East; well at least my tastebuds did. In an expedition to once again travel around the world through food found in my own city, a few of my friends and I were able to experience the cuisine of five different areas of our magnificent world within two days. Even though we were still in -10 degree Minnesota, these meals were a fun way to escape the never ending dropping temperature.
Our first stop on our journey was at an Indian restaurant called Copper Pot located in Minneapolis. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t realize how little I knew about Indian cuisine before going. Copper Pot puts out a medium sized lunch buffet (in stunning copper pots, get it?) and as I walked down the table and looked at the names of the food, I didn’t recognize anything. It was really nice having Manu there because she is Indian and was able to explain everything to this unknowing white girl. I tried a little of bit of everything and even though some of the spices were a little stronger than what I am use to, I found some dishes that I would eat again in a heartbeat like paneer tikka masala (cheese cubes in a gravy type sauce), gulab jamun (round fried dough in a sugar syrup) and tandoori chicken. After visiting Copper Pot I have made it a goal of mine to learn more about Indian cuisine in the future.
Our next stop was at Bambu Desserts & Drinks. This small cafe offers Vietnamese drinks, desserts and sandwiches. I saw a case filled with Mochi and immediately had one in my hand. I am no stranger to the ice cream covered in rice cake, but the lychee flavor I picked (thought it was vanilla) was something new to me. Manu and I also split a drink called Che. The drink has a sweet milk type liquid in it and is filled with gummies, jellies and fruits. I was kind of taken back by my first sip because there are about a million different textures going on at once. The sweet milk, crisp fruit and slimy jelly is a lot for your mouth to process. Even though I was weary at first, by my last sip I was ready for another.
I am honestly so sad that I didn’t discover Rincon 38 years ago. I have told all my friends and family that this restaurant should be at the top of their list for places to try in 2018. The cozy restaurant offers amazing Spanish tapas that were better than the ones I tried IN BARCELONA. Manu and I managed to agree each time they brought a dish that that one was our favorite. We started off with a lovely spread of olives, Serrano ham, chorizo and manchego cheese. We then moved onto delicious patatas bravas (potatoes with asparagus, chorizo, artichoke, pimenton and saffron aioli) and what was my favorite dish of the meal, piquillos (roasted pepper stuffed with honey black truffle goat cheese). For our main we had delectable paella with seafood and finished with tres leches. The tres leches was a bit different than what I’ve had before but nevertheless it was still great! The atmosphere, the food and the very kind staff made Rincon 38 the place I will go when I want to escape to Spain.
The Naughty Greek
When you open the door of The Naughty Greek, you leave St.Paul and are transported into Greece. If you ignore the falling snow outside; the music, decor, smell and taste of their incredibly mouthwatering food may trick you into actually think you’re sitting enjoying a meal at cafe in Athens. The owner and Greek native Angelo Giovanis’s passion to bring an authentic Greek experience to the people of Minnesota is truly outstanding. Unlike many restaurants that serve this cuisine, it is not Greek inspired but the real deal. The restaurant prides itself for using genuine Greek feta, yogurt and staying away from a “meatloaf” type mixture for serving their popular gyros. Instead, they debone and season each layer of chicken or pork that is individually layered onto the spit. While this process may take longer, Giovanis’s main concern is quality over quantity. We began our meal with a mezze of tzatziki, an eggplant spread, sassy cheese spread (a mixture of Greek cheeses and roasted pepper), flash-fried eggplant and pita bread. After that, we devoured an incredible pork gyro served with a side of a Greek salad and lamb chops served with fries and feta. We debated if we could eat anymore which ended in a solid yes. Manu and I split the best spanakopita (spinach and feta inside filo dough) I have ever had. We finished with Yia-Yias Orange Filo Cake, a recipe handed down to Angelo from his Grandmother. This kind of take on baklava is hands down the best dessert I have ever had in The Twin Cities and reason to visit The Naughty Greek alone.
I loved the vibe of Holy Land from the moment I walked in. The grocery store and restaurant was filled with a hustle and bustle of people shopping and going to eat after Friday Salah (prayer). You place your order at the counter and the incredibly kind staff that work there will bring it to your table. The lovely Lianne (her grandparents started Holy Land) set up a tasting for us and it reaffirmed my love for Middle Eastern food. We began with a plate filled will hummus, pita and stuffed grape leaves. We then tried a platter of chicken and beef shawarma, kafta, lamb and chicken kabobs, basmati rice and a salad. We finished off with scrumptious honey cakes and Wardah Tea. What I loved most about Holy Land (besides the food) was the community it seems to bring together. Whether it’s people from Middle Eastern descent or others from around the Twin Cities area, everybody is there to enjoy each others company through great food and a fun atmosphere. Even though I have yet to travel to the Middle East (trip coming soon), Holy Land made me feel as if I could understand the culture a bit more through the food I tried.
Just like my last post on this, I again would like to emphasize that experiencing new cultures doesn’t always require jumping on a plane. Next time you want to go out to dinner, skip the chain restaurant and try something from another country. Ask your waiter what their favorite dish is and order that. You will most likely eat a delicious meal, learn something new and be able to develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for another culture .
Please let me know in the comments what kind of food you want to try in your area!
Disclaimer: Some of the meals mentioned about were provided free of charge but all opinions are my own. I want to thank the restaurants greatly for choosing to participate in this.