Okay, now we start to move out of the Cities themselves, and our first stop is in lovely Farmington:
This is my oldest nephew's favorite place to go, possibly in the world. If you gave him the choice of Disney World, Disneyland, wherever Spider-Man lives, and the Farmington Bakery, he's taking the bakery hands down. It's a good thing they're only open until 2 every day, that's all I'm saying. We made about three trips to this little place during our visit, only two of which were photographed. It's really hard to decide here. Do I get an adorable bear claw, an apple fritter, or a cinnamon roll?
Over on the other side, there are cupcakes, a really awesome soccer ball cake, Napoleons, brownies, cream horns . .
I don't know what this is but it's making me nervous and my palms sweaty just looking at it:
We tried to listen to the folks coming in--a steady stream all three times--but each day the prized object du jour was different. One day it was the peanut donut--the lady who seemed in charge suggested that they get there earlier. One day it was the apple fritter. So we mixed it up. Our first box:
contained, from the left, a cinnamon sugar cake donut, a sugar cake, a powdered sugar cake all nestling the apple turnover, and to the right the item that became my favorite, the orange blossom. The orange blossom is apparently the not-made-in-hell version of those Pillsbury things in the whack-it can in the refrigerator section of the grocery store. This one is crispy, and the icing interlaced in it is surprisingly tangy. Delicious. Our second trip gave us this:
(Cliff, that's your ripoff picture--I admired one much like it a couple months back.) Here you see another sugar cake, a cake with chocolate frosting, and an 'old fashioned' (their crispy sour cream-batter donut), all holding up the ponderous weight of a blueberry flake turnover. The old fashioned was the standout in this bag for me, although the blueberry was still good two days later.
Oh wait, we added to this bag. Julie had to run back in when she realized they had these:
This was a really nice, moist cheese danish. She did not like the relative moistness of their cake donuts, but I thought of it more as a strength than a weakness. All in all their stuff is very good, and in some specific cases--the orange blossom, their chocolate frosting, the apple turnover--results in donut bliss. You've seen donut bliss before, haven't you? It looks a little bit like this:
Oh, and their prices are awesome too. On the last trip, the unphotographed one, I came away with I think fifteen pieces in the large box, two cupcakes and a large coffee, and I think my charge was $11.
We took a couple of short hikes in Nerstrand Big Woods State Park, nestled amongst farms in the area around Northfield. Northfield is a college town--home to Carleton and St. Olaf Colleges--and has an adorable small riverfront downtown bustling with shops and restaurants. One of the shop owners suggested a place I wouldn't have looked at twice for ice cream, the Hogan Bros. Acoustic Cafe. It's a large space serving sandwiches and soups, with a stage in the back, and they have a small ice cream freezer to the left of the register. The person who recommended it said something about good flavors, and we're glad we took their recommendation. These are the Toasted Almond and Raspberry Dream cones:
The Toasted Almond was a nice muddy chocolate full of nuts and the Raspberry Dream (there's another word in front of it and for the life of me I can't remember) was delicious. The nephew got Brownie Batter, a sticky, chewy chocolate that tastes exactly like its name. We split a cookie between us as well. Let's get the nephew's opinion:
Let's see, where else did I go. I had a meal at the Thunder Bar in Good Thunder (about 100 miles out of the Cities), and unfortunately I can't recommend it to you. The burgers were overcooked to the point of being chewy, I'm not sure how long ago the walleye was caught. It might have been an off night. We did, however, enjoy an appetizer called a trash basket:
That's onion rings, fried cauliflower florets, fried mushrooms, tater tots and fried cheese curds all in one bowl of Crestor goodness. The cauliflower was terrific, as were the onion rings and cheese curds. And it's served with a bowl of hot processed cheese dip. Quite delicious.
Now, this next entry is straight-up cheating, because I actually ate here last August, but we're in the geographical area so I'm going to hop-on to my own trip report. I want to tell you guys about the Dam Store in Rapidan, MN:
It's exactly what it sounds like. It's a little luncheonette/general store/bait shop situated right in front of a concrete dam, with a small playground out front. When we were there, there was some kind of hullaballoo going on about closing a campground, and I'm not sure how that turned out. But we were there for burgers and pie. It's a pretty small place with a dining room in back that feels tacked on. Here's their menu board:
But you can pretty much leave it to their burgers, shakes and pie. A cheeseburger (love that slab of grilled onion) and a vanilla shake:
and their sour cream raisin pie (sorry about the bit of fuzzy):
Their fries are just OK--you know, food service fries--and sodas (wait, I mean pop) are served in cans. But their burgers are yummy, fresh off the grill and delicious, and their shakes and pies are homemade and you can tell. Next time I visit I want to talk them into making me a pie-shake.
Hope you enjoyed reading about this stuff as much as I enjoyed eating it!