What do jellied eels and a frozen Milky Way have in common? They both made Mimi Sheraton's tome of a culinary bucket list, the recently published 1,000 Things to Eat Before You Die. From Swedish pancakes to Afghani cuisine, several Twin Cities establishments were recognized as top-notch purveyors. Before hopping a plane to London to try jellied eels, check these off your list.
See also: 11 Essential Twin Cities Restaurants
The Foods: Lingonberries and Rullepølse Where: Ingebretsen's Ingebretsen's got a nod for two Scandinavian specialties, lingonberries and rullepølse. Cousins of the cranberry, lingonberries have a tart, rich flavor that makes them the classic accompaniment to Swedish meatballs. You can buy whole berries if you want to try your hand at Scandinavian cooking, or you can get prepared lingonberry preserves, syrup, or sparkling juice. The shop's other bucket list food is rullepølse, a sausage made by stuffing a flattened lamb flank with veal, pork, and more lamb, seasoned with onions and allspice. Shaved paper-thin, it's best enjoyed on a slice of rye bread as an open-faced sandwich. If you want to try the rullepølse (or lutefisk, lefse, or smoked ham), bring cash or a checkbook -- the old-school meat counter doesn't accept credit cards.
The Food: Maine Lobster Where: Smack Shack If you want to splurge on seafood, go for the good stuff -- fresh lobster flown in daily from Maine. At Smack Shack, you can have lobster for every course, starting with lobster guacamole, moving on to a lobster bisque, and culminating with a spread of boiled lobster, potatoes, corn on the cob, slaw, and Polish sausage. If you don't want to break the bank, order the famed lobster roll: chunks of lobster tossed with mayo, cucumber, celery, and tarragon and wedged into a buttery hunk of bread.
The Food: Afghanistan Dinner Where: Khyber Pass Café Including an entire country's cuisine as one list item is a bit of stretch. But if it gets more people through the doors at Khyber Pass Café, we won't nitpick. Emel and Masooda Sherzad have been serving up Afghani food for over 30 years, with quality ingredients like organic lamb and freshly ground spices. Standout menu items include the spiced beef meatballs with cilantro chutney, and the build-your-own vegetarian combo plate with curried potatoes and spinach. The hot, hot heat comes in the form of house-made chutneys, so definitely add the delicious ginger-jalapeno blend to your meal if you like a capsaicin rush.
The Foods: Egg Cream and Ice Cream Soda Where: Lynden's Soda Fountain Since the book's publication in January, Lynden's Soda Fountain has been replaced with Cold Front. Luckily, it's still your go-to destination for egg creams, a deceptively named concoction of chocolate syrup, milk, and carbonated water. If old-fashioned egg creams don't strike your fancy, you can sample a flight of sodas, with flavor choices ranging from standard cola to the more esoteric blood orange and beetroot. Ice cream sodas, the other bucket list food, are available at Cold Front as well. You can also find them on the menu at Snuffy's Malt Shop -- try the chocolate ice cream soda, a classic combination of carbonated water with chocolate syrup and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
The Food: Kielbasa Where: Kramarczuk's When you've got a good thing going, you don't mess with it. The kielbasa at Kramarczuk's has been made with the same recipe for over 60 years, and the peppery mostly pork sausage (there's some beef thrown in for extra flavor) is the still the store's bestseller. Try the individually sized smoked version, accompanied by house-made sauerkraut and some imported German mustard from the grocery section. Vegetarians, don't despair -- although the meat counter may be off limits, Kramarczuk's bakery case offers up a tantalizing assortment of European pastries from chocolate mousse stuffed-cream puffs to lemon-filled kolachi.
The Food: Moules Frites Where: Vincent A Restaurant Considered by some to be the national dish, moules frites (steamed mussels with a side of fries) is the Belgian analog of the American burger-and-fries combo. Granted, pretty much everything tastes better with fries, but the pairing of briny mussels with crisp fried potatoes is particularly delicious. Vincent was deservedly recognized for their classic mussels marinières with white wine, shallots, and parsley. For another take, try the Happy Gnome's mussels with chorizo and crème fraiche, and wash them down with some Belgian ale.
The Food: Plätter Where: Taste of Scandinavia A diminutive Swedish version of the crepe, plätter are egg-rich pancakes typically topped with lingonberries. Taste of Scandinavia's version ups the ante by adding raspberry jam, strawberries, whipped cream, chocolate shavings, and in a decidedly nontraditional flourish, a sliced banana. The thin pancakes hold their own against all the accoutrements, with a deeper flavor and chewier texture than the standard American flapjack. Breakfast is served all day, but if pancakes for dinner aren't your thing, try a Danish salmon sandwich or Norwegian chicken lefse melt and split an order of pancakes for dessert. If you don't want to trek out to the suburbs, the Blackbird Café serves up cranberry-blueberry compote and ricotta-topped Swedish pancakes every day until 2 pm.
The Food: Smörgåsbord Where: American Swedish Institute The American Swedish Institute only offers their elaborate Swedish brunch buffets a few Sundays a year (the next one is Mother's Day, May 10, if you want to make your Swedish-American grandma's day). In the meantime, you can enjoy smörgåsbord favorites at the Institute's café, Fika. The juniper-spiced meatballs with potatoes and lingonberry sauce and the house-cured salmon will disabuse you of any notions that Nordic cuisine is bland. For a budget-friendly smörgåsbord, hit up the Ikea Swedish food market on the store's first floor for herring, meatballs, rye crisp bread, and almond cake to create your own feast.
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