Raspberry Pie at Murray’s
The teal and chrome exterior, humming neon sign and promise of a “silver butter knife steak” is a backdrop of downtown Minneapolis. Murray’s is a local icon for steaks and extraordinary service. But why didn’t I know about the pie?
We hadn’t intended to order dessert. I recycled my standard line of, “We’ll just look at the menu,” and our expert server gently guided us to the raspberry pie. An achievement in pastry — a glory of berry and crust — it’s a pure summer in every bite.
To make this dish is a labor of love. Pastry chef Chris Gambino hand-selects and places each berry inside a wonderfully crumbly crust. Each $10 slice contains a pint of raspberries, which have been covered with a light sheen and a whisper of gelatin to hold it all together, but not enough to get in the way of the wonderful, juicy texture. Between the crust and berries is a thin swipe of raspberry preserves, working as a sweet barrier to protect the texture of both. Then the whole business is topped with a plenteous hit of barely sweetened whipped cream.
I also found out that you can order an entire pie ($50). With at least 24 hours’ notice, this could be the crown jewel of our next potluck or dinner party. (Joy Summers)
26 S. 6th St., Mpls., 612-339-0909, murraysrestaurant.com.
Fusilli Negra at Josefina
One of my all-time grail pastas, a fusilli with red wine-braised octopus and bone marrow, hails from Marea, a seafood-Italian restaurant in New York, created by a chef who isn’t from Italy, but from Beloit, Wis.
Daniel del Prado isn’t from Italy — he’s a native of Argentina — and he, too, has created a pasta dish that I am certain is one of the finest in the Twin Cities. By coincidence, it’s fusilli again, but of squid ink variety, with generous, appealingly springy cuts of lobster, cloaked in just enough of the cherry tomato sauce to brighten ($32). On top are some chives and a few lilting furls of mint. It’s faultless.
There certainly are notes of a pared-down Marea at Josefina, one of del Prado’s newer restaurants, which opened last spring in the former Bellecour. Yes, it’s less power-dining, more evocative of a charming town in the south of Italy, but his menu lured me just the same. Maybe that’s why. (Jon Cheng)
739 E. Lake St., Wayzata, josefinawayzata.com.
Cookie dough from Bebe Zito
Mix-ins reign supreme at Bebe Zito, the inventive scoop shop that loads its unique flavors with gochujang brownies, puppy chow and Brigadeiro truffles. Cookies are the star in a number of popular flavors, like Dat Malt Dough, which comes stuffed with salted, malted chocolate chip cookie dough; and Slam Dunkie, which mixes in crumbled birthday cake cookies. So, it was a delightful surprise to find packs of raw cookie dough in the freezer at Bebe Zito’s flagship Uptown location.
Owners Ben Spangler and Gabriella Grant-Spangler launched take-and-bake cookies ahead of the winter holidays, giving customers the ability to make a next-level cookie plate. The options have grown since then, with Spangler drawing from his experience as a pastry chef to add new flavors.
You’ll find the chocolate chip cookie that makes Dat Malt Dough so popular, as well as the birthday cake cookies, which were my first impulse buy when I saw the sunshine-yellow and sprinkle-flecked balls of dough. When baked, they taste like frosting.
There are also chocolate-chocolate, butterscotch scotchies, blueberry cornmeal and ginger molasses. They come by the dozen, at $18. You can only get take-and-bake cookie dough at the Uptown location, though you’ll find plenty of it studded throughout the ice cream scoops at Bebe Zito’s Malcolm Yards location, too. (Sharyn Jackson)
704 W. 22nd St., Mpls., bebezitomn.com.
Chapati Wrap from Afro Deli
It’s so fun to step into the Afro Deli in downtown St. Paul and see it humming with activity, a fabulous cross-section of the community with workers in suits, college students and people clearly on their way to somewhere else. I usually stop in for the Somali tea, a brimming cup of fragrant, hot goodness that soothes the rough edges around a day, but it was also lunchtime, and the chapati wrap ($10.95) couldn’t be resisted.
Thin and savory chapati cuddles saffron-colored Somali rice, and ours was chock-full of lamb gyro with a little room left for fresh veggies and dollops of creamy tzatziki. From the first bite I was ready to campaign for the chapati to replace all other wrap stand-ins. It has an alluring pull of texture — tender but substantive enough to hold everything inside — and the pleasantly crisp dough flavor took the dish to another level. Make it even better with a dose of housemade basbaas, a tangy, hot sauce of jalapeños, cilantro and lime juice.
Abdirahman Kahin, an immigrant from Djibouti, had the idea to blend African food with Mediterranean and American flavors in a fast-casual environment and opened the first Afro Deli in 2010 on the West Bank in Minneapolis’ Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. Enter chef Moussa Doualeh, who blends all these cultures and cuisines together on a plate that’s wholly satisfying and comforting. In addition to great food, Afro Deli is a fabulous global neighbor, serving more than 1.2 million meals to hungry neighbors since opening. (J.S.)
5 W. 7th Place, St. Paul; 720 Washington Av. SE., Mpls., 705 Marquette Av. S., skyway level, Mpls.; afrodeli.com.
Bruschetta from Bar La Grassa
The staff at Bar La Grassa was very apologetic that we were still waiting to be seated some 20 minutes past our reservation time. “Nobody wants to leave,” one lamented, which speaks to the appeal of Isaac Becker’s busy (and still buzzy) North Loop Italian restaurant.
It was our first visit, and we were armed with plenty of suggestions on what to order. At the top of everyone’s list: the bruschetta. While the belle of the ball might be the soft egg-lobster version, getting back to the basics can be just as delicious. The ricotta with pickled tomatoes ($13) is a master class in bruschetta. Dreamy, creamy ricotta is slathered on top of oiled, perfectly seasoned bread that I still think about. A lot. That alone would be enough, but a heaping medley of pickled tomatoes, garlic and onion adds a tart, juicy layer that gets better with every bite. It may be the ideal starter, but I wouldn’t be opposed to doubling up and making it a light meal, either.
Of course having a bruschetta-only meal means you’d miss out on the signature pastas, which would be a waste. So order up the classic Pappardelle With Veal Ragu ($24) or the outstanding Torchio With Charred Pork and Pea Shoots ($22). Actually, it’s best to get both and share. (Nicole Hvidsten)
800 Washington Av. N., Mpls., barlagrassa.com.