Just a few more things before I close this out.
On the way back down what I guess is the scenic old route 61 from Grand Marais, we were scouting someplace for candy and happened upon the Great Lakes Candy Kitchen:
The couple running the place were super helpful--the husband kept pressing freebies on Julie--but we managed to get out of there without going too far overboard. We got salt caramels for me and toasted coconut haystacks for Julie:
My only quibble was that I wished more of the salt had stayed stuck to the caramel, but otherwise it was very smooth and creamy, and the haystacks were good too. We also took some fudge back to Julie's sister and brother in law, and some adorable chocolates in a shell that looked like tiny lake pebbles for their boys. We were rewarded with my brother in law's ribs and the best sweet corn you will ever eat:
To me, that corn this time of year is the only thing you should never leave Minnesota without having. It's just like manna from heaven.
Locales south of the Twin Cities (up to now we've been really far north): I don't have pictures from this place, but we had dinner one night at Pub 500 in Mankato, a very nicely appointed brewpub/sports bar type joint in a newly renovated space downtown. I was nursing the end of an upset stomach at the time so I went really easy, but what I had was memorable. Their menu touts a pulled turkey, available in a sandwich and I think topping a salad, and I was dubious at first but it was scrumptious. Very moist and tender and with just a slight smokiness. Other highlights were very good onion rings and homemade potato chips, and a really great selection of beers.
Another dinner happened at a place called Kokomo's Bar and Char Grill in the hopping borough of Cleveland, MN. The thing you have to get over first is the incongruity of a Florida-style-decor place in what is literally a crossroads town in the middle of what seems like interminable farmland as far as the eye can see. Most of the dishes on the menu have tropically derived names as well, even though the food is straight-up Minnesota. For instance, let's peruse my salad plate:
I do not shy from pointing out that there are five different mayonnaise preparations on that plate, and three of them are pasta salads. They like mayonnaise in Minnesota. Hell, throw in a congealed salad and a ham biscuit and you have Sunday Lutheran church lunch. The salad bar and a couple of soups were provided with any entree, and this was a pretty good salad bar. At Kokomo's I had my walleye broiled:
And this was actually really good. My father-in-law had a beautiful piece of prime rib but I let the man eat in peace. Julie and her mother both had a special, I think a small steak with shrimp and their complaint was that the mashed potatoes were out of a box. For shame, Kokomo's!
One day for lunch I requested that we go back to the Dam Store in Rapidan; I've posted a bit of their stuff before, particularly their sour cream raisin pie. The best things at the Rapidan Dam Store are the milkshakes and the pies, and I had become consumed with the idea of getting them to put one of each together for me. Since we were visiting on a Saturday afternoon, they were slammed. I waited patiently until the lady came to our table and I asked her if they made pie shakes. She said no, and I asked her if they'd be willing to charge me for both a piece of pie and a shake and put them together. She went over to the guy manning the counter to confer. She was confused but thought they'd give it a try--she was very concerned about the presence of the crust. I told her I was okay with that and thought it might be really good; she even took me over to the case to show me which were the one-crust pies. I perused the pie board:
She suggested a cream pie thinking that would go better, but I told her I wanted to try the river berry pie (their name for the usual four-berry) in a vanilla milkshake. We also ordered a couple of burgers and tried one of the specials, a pulled pork sandwich. The gentleman behind the counter got to work:
And after a few minutes he brought it over himself:
I think he thought I was maybe a tiny bit out of my tree but was very eager to see what I thought. This is what the shake looked like:
The flavor was exactly what I'd hoped for, very fruity and sweet. I think they had either removed some of the crust from the pie or had thoroughly pulverized it. I got just a couple of tiny bits through the straw. At any rate I don't think I've had as lovingly prepared a milkshake as this in my near memory. Thank you ma'am and sir! Thanks for taking a chance on a crazy kid with a dream! The guy ran after me after I left to give me a postcard showing the dam right after its construction. He's clearly very proud of his place, and should be.
The food at the Dam Store is good but doesn't hold up to a place like the Trail Center for instance. The burgers:
benefit mainly from that healthy slab of grilled onion. The meat seems fresh but prepackaged and it's just a store-bought bun. Julie thought the pulled pork was pretty bland--you can tell it's basically unseasoned:
You know when she and I first met and I told her what was good around here (barbecue, sweet tea, etc.) she made a face, and now I know why--I think this is what she was used to for barbecue. It's not bad, it just hasn't discovered its potential yet.
The following weekend we attended the Dakota County Fair, mostly for the purpose of watching our nephews engage in something called "mutton busting." Mutton busting, for the uninitiated, is an entertainment that basically consists of adults throwing unsuspecting small children on the backs of equally clueless sheep, to gutbustingly hilarious results. The poor children in question's father had done us the service of visiting the fair a few days earlier "to check out the cheese curds for Nancy." Which I appreciated no end. He steered us right:
And for the education of those unfamiliar with these, I caught a picture of some in their pre-fried condition at the grocery store:
I can't imagine they taste anywhere as good before frying.
That's all I've got. Thanks for coming along, and especially thanks for all the encouraging words. I'm gonna close the way the cool kids do nowadays. Please visit the establishments that have caught your eye: Amazing Grace Bakery & Cafe
394 South Lake Avenue
Duluth, MN 55802-2325
(218) 723-0075 Hell Burgers
310 South Lake Avenue
Duluth, MN 55802-2372
(218) 727-1620 At Sara's Table Chester Creek Cafe
1902 E. 8th St.
Duluth MN 55812 218-724-6811 New Scenic Cafe
5461 North Shore Drive
Duluth, MN 55804-2918
(218) 525-6274 Bridgeman's Ice Cream
200 W 1st Street Duluth
, 55802 Fitgers Brewhouse Brewery & Grille
600 East Superior Street
Duluth, MN 55802
(218) 279-2739 Takk for Maten
11 E Superior St
Duluth, Minnesota 55802
(218) 464-1260 Chez Jude
411 Minnesota 61
Grand Marais, MN 55604
(218) 387-9113 Dockside Fish Market
418 Minnesota 61
Grand Marais, MN 55604-2334
(218) 387-2906 World's Best Donuts
10 E Wisconsin St
P.O. Box 1272
Grand Marais, MN-55604
(218)387-1345 The Pie Place
2017 W Highway 61
Grand Marais, MN 55604
(218) 387-1513 Great! Lakes Candy Kitchen
223 SCENIC DR.
P O BOX 27
KNIFE RIVER, MN.55609 Pub 500
500 South Front Street
Mankato, MN 56001-3717
(507) 625-6500 Kokomo's Bar & Char Grille
114 10th St S
Cleveland, MN 56017
507-931-6410 The Dam Store