Sep 012012

Cuisine: Bakery, Breakfast, Scandinavian
Restaurant Features: Counter Service, Free Wi-Fi
Location: St Paul; (Saint Anthony Park neighborhood)
Address: 2264 Como Ave.  St Paul, MN 55108  651-645-9181
Hours: Monday-Saturday 6:30am-6:30pm  * Sunday 6:30am-4pm
Links: Finnish Bistro Website * Finnish Bistro on Facebook * Google Map

Atmosphere: Finnish Bistro is located in the Saint Anthony Park neighborhood of St Paul, on Como Ave at Carter Ave, (across the street from Muffuletta Cafe).  Inside, Finnish Bistro makes its home in a space shared by Dunn Bros Coffee.  The counters at Finnish Bistro are easily distinguishable, with a variety of delicious, freshly baked items on display.  There are a dozen or so small tables scattered across the room as well as a patio outside.

The patio area is a cute area around the side of the building, with a handful of umbrella-bearing tables and flower boxes full of flowers and other plants.

Menu: Breakfast items are served All DAY with items such as Yogurt Parfait, Finnish “Perinteiset”(traditional) Breakfast, Chilled Finnish Delight, House Aamiainen (Breakfast), Klassikko (Classic) Breakfast, Bacon & Muna (Egg) Sandwich, Pulla French Toast, Ham & Cheese or Veggie Quiche, Lefse Scramble, and Fresh Hedelmät (Fruit) Crepe. Omelets include Greek, Farmer, or Veggie.

Breakfast sides include Grilled Potatoes, Crisp Smoked Bacon, Grilled Kielbasa, Grilled Salmon, Smoked Salmon Lox, Grilled Lamb (Gyro), Fresh Fruit Plate, Side of Toast,  Sour Cream, and Guacamole.

Specialties offered at Finnish Bistro are the Finnish Beef Pasty, Daily Fish Special, Salmon Lefse and Spinach Pie.

Sandwiches offered include Caprese, Classic BLT, Classic Grilled Cheese, Lamb Gyro, Pulled Pork, Bistro Wrap, Bistro Club, and Spicy Quesadilla.

Flatbread Pizzas come with soup or salad with varieties such as The Baltic Special, The Favorite (Grilled chicken breast, crumbled Applewood bacon, onions, and mushrooms with cheddar and mozzarella cheeses on a creamy ranch based sauce,  Baked Potato Pizza ( mashed potatoes and topped with fresh onions, cheddar cheese, smoked Applewood bacon, sour cream), The Mediterranean Pizza – ( Fresh spinach, fresh tomatoes, feta cheese, kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, onions, Greek oregano and garlic with mozzarella cheese on pesto sauce. Add Gyro Meat for an extra charge), Finnish Vegetable ( fresh diced tomatoes, mushrooms, red peppers, onions, black olives, and mozzarella cheese on pesto or red sauce), and Chilled Finnish Delight (Lightly toasted pita bread topped with a fresh thick layer of cream cheese, topped with chilled smoked salmon, capers, onions and dill).
Price guide: Breakfast $4-11  Pizza $9-10 Specialties $10-12
What we ordered: The Mediterranean Pizza ($8.95) sounded really good, so I ordered that for my meal.  It came with choice of soup or salad, I went with the Tomato Basil soup, which was delicious.  Good thing it was delicious, as I never got my Mediterranean Pizza.  Read service section below for the full, disappointing story.

One of my companions had the Veggie Quiche ($8.50).  It looked delicious with flaky crust and a thick filling of egg, carrot, onion, spinach, and roasted red pepper.

Another companion had the Finnish Beef Pasty ($9.95).  This was a football-shaped pocket of flaky pastry filled with ground beef, carrots, onions, and rutabaga.  This was served with a side of cucumber sauce and colorful side salad.  The pasty itself was good but kind of boring in the flavor department.  It definitely needed the sour cream or some kind of sauce to add some flavor.

Another companion had the Caprese Sandwich ($8.95); toasted French bread stacked with sliced tomato, fresh mozzarella, onions & basil pesto.  It also had sweet balsamic drizzled on it; looked delicious!

We shared a Chocolate Chip cookie.  It was big and tasted very similar to the cookies at Panera.  Soft but not too chewy.

We also sampled a Chocolate Pastry that looked like a brownie but wasn’t.  It was actually somewhat light and crispy, not at all chewy.

Service: This was my first time visiting Finnish Bistro, which was a recommendation from the companions I dined with that day.  We ordered our meals and then took a seat at a table on the patio.  We were told our meals would be brought out to us.  About 15 minutes after we ordered, my soup came out, as did the meals of my companions. The menu says it takes about 15 minutes for a pizza, so I knew ahead of time that there would be a wait.  After 30 minutes of waiting and no pizza in sight, I went inside to check on it.  I was told it would be done in two minutes and they would bring it right out.  I was offered a free cookie for the inconvenience.  Ten minutes later…still no pizza! At this point I was pressed for time as we had another obligation to attend to right away.  I went back inside and requested my pizza to-go.  About five minutes later a server sheepishly appeared to tell me that they had mistakenly given my pizza to someone else and that there was no pizza for me!!  At this point I had waited 40 minutes and would have been starving had it not been for the small bowl of tomato basil soup, but I did not have any more time to wait for another pizza.  I requested my money back and left Finnish Bistro shortly thereafter, hungry and disappointed.  I hope this was just an honest mistake but I feel like they could have offered me something more than just a cookie and my money back.
Overall Impression: I will try it again because the food seemed good but I am hoping for a better experience next time that doesn’t involve me leaving hungry.
Finnish Bistro on Urbanspoon

Jun 182012

In case you missed the finale of Cupcake Champions last week on Food Network, Kevin VanDeraa of Cupcake bakery in Minneapolis was declared Cupcake Champion and took home the $50,000 grand prize.

VanDeraa won by baking the Alton Brown, s’more, carrot, and Boston cream; several of which are available daily at Cupcake. Photos are courtesy of Kevin VanDeraa.

3338 University Ave. SE.
Minneapolis, MN 55414
(612) 378-4818

Feb 082012

Cuisine: Donuts
Restaurant Features: Counter Service
Location: St Paul
Address: 1169 7th Street West  Saint Paul, MN 55102    651.224.0142
Hours: Tues-Fri 5:30am-3pm * Sat-Sun 6:30am-3pm * Closed Mondays
Links: Mojo Monkey Donuts Website * Mojo Monkey on Facebook * Google Map

Atmosphere: Snuggled between a couple of other small businesses with just a small sign on the window, if you blink you might just miss Mojo Monkey Donuts.  The inside is a somewhat cozy little place with a big counter displaying donuts behind glass cases and a couple of small tables for those who want to enjoy their coffee & donuts on the premises.  The back of the space is where all the donuts are made.

Menu:Cake donut varieties include Plain, Cinnamon-Sugar, Chocolate Ganache, Chocolate Ganache with , Assorted Toppings, Vanilla Icing, Mango Glaze with Organic Coconut, Apple Dumpling, German Chocolate, Red Velvet, Double Chocolate with Organic Coconut.

Raised donut varieties include Classic, Cinnamon-Sugar, Chocolate Ganache, Chocolate Ganache with , Assorted Toppings, Vanilla Icing, Sprinkles, Crumbles, Mango Glaze with Organic Coconut.  Old Fashioned come either Glazed or Chocolate Ganache. Cruller varieties include Classic, Cinnamon-Sugar and Chocolate Ganache.

Fritters include Apple and Banana Pecan.  The only Long John variety is the Maple Bar with Thick-Cut Bacon.

Bismark Flavors include Cherry Almond, Peanut Butter and Jelly, Lemon, Blueberry-Lemon, Keylime, Crème Brûlée, Strawberry, Mocha Mouse, Vanilla Crème, Vanilla Cream with Banana.

Mojo Monkey also has Cinnamon and Nutmeg Bun with Maple Glaze.

Danish Varieties include, Cinnamon, Cinnamon Raisin Almond, Cinnamon Raisin Marcona Almond, Pistachio, Cranberry Orange Pecan and Vanilla Cream.

Not in the mood for a big donut? Try the Donut Holes: Pumpkin, Pumpkin Eggnog, Chai.

Beignets are available on the weekends.

Price guide: $1-2/donut $16.99 /  Dozen

What we ordered: I love fritters and when I saw that Mojo Monkey had a Banana Fritter, I knew I had possibly hit the fritter jackpot.  I did, indeed! This fritter was thick, soft and doughy with the flavor of real banana and pieces of banana infused as well.   It was perfectly crispy on the outside and to make it extra special and amazing, it is coated with a brown sugar glaze and has pieces of candied pecans as well. I can’t stop thinking about it, to be quite honest.  It might not look appealing but if you like bananas, you will want to go to Mojo Monkey donuts tomorrow for breakfast just to get this!

My companion had the Cinnamon Bun, which was very big!

I also tried a bite of the Maple Bar with Bacon and this was also very thick; so much so I almost couldn’t get it in my mouth! It had a sweet, sticky and substantial amount of a maple-based glaze and a slice of thick and extra crispy bacon. The salty, smokiness of the bacon really goes great with maple.  Always has, always will.  Needless to say, I enjoyed the bite I had ;)

The Mango Glazed Raised Donut with Coconut is another I have tried.  The mango glaze is made from real mangos and was topped with shaved coconut.  A tropical treat!

Service: There were only a couple of customers ahead of us but it still took a good five minutes before we were able to order.  The attendant was nice and explained that they were currently out of the Maple Bar but were in the process of making more.  We opted to wait a good ten minutes more before our order was complete.
Overall Impression: Mojo Monkey has some unique varieties of donuts that are worth a trek to St Paul
Mojo Monkey Donuts on Urbanspoon

Feb 042012

Cuisine: Bakery
Location: White Bear Lake, MN
Addresses: 2184B 4th St White Bear Lake, MN 55110 (651) 762-2900

Commercial Bakery- 1765 Buerkle Rd  White Bear Lake, MN 55110 651-779-0707
Hours: Mon-Fri 7am – 6pm * Sat 7am – 6pm * Sun. 7am – 2 pm
Links: Grandma’s Bakery Website * Grandma’s Bakery on Facebook * Google Map

Atmosphere: Grandma’s Bakery is located on 4th Street, in Downtown White Bear Lake.  This location sells freshly baked goods that are produced at the Grandma’s commercial bakery at 1765 Buerkle Rd.  It is warm and inviting and smells great from the freshly brewed coffees.

Menu: Donuts include Cake Donuts (plain, powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar, chocolate iced, vanilla iced, sprinkled, peanut, buttercrunch), Glazed Old Fashioned, Chocolate Donuts (glazed, double chocolate, sprinkle, coconut, german chocolate, peanut), Raised Donuts (glazed, chocolate iced, sugar, maple iced, buttercrunch, vanilla iced sprinkled, raspberry glazed), Bismarks (powdered lemon, lemon iced, powdered jelly, raspberry iced, boston creme, and flavor of month), French Donuts, Chocolate Iced or Maple Long John, Peanut Long John, and Apple Fritter.

“Fancies” include Cinnamon Twist, Chocolate Hockey Puck, Cream Cheese Crowns, Apple Fritter, Glazed Cinnamon Roll, Maple Iced Cinnamon Roll, Caramel Roll, Cherry Flip, Apple Flip, Cinnamon Crispies and Bear Claw.

Danish include Apple, Brown Sugar Pecan, Cheese, Lemon, Raspberry, Strawberry Cream Cheese.

Muffins include Blueberry, Cranberry, Lemon Poppyseed, Banana Nut and Double Chocolate

Cookies include Chocolate Chip, M&M, Sugar, English Toffee, Peanut Butter, Oatmeal raisin, Snickerdoodle, Monster, Double Chocolate, Iced Sugar Cookies, Smile Cookies, White Bear Cookies, Jumbo Macaroon, 10″ Chocolate Chip.

Bars are sold by the pan, 8×8 or 9×13 and include Brownies, Brownies with Nuts, Snicker Brownies, M&M Brownies, Butterfinger Brownies, Apple Brown Betty, Lemon Crumb, Lemon Cream, Peanut Butter and Raspberry.

There are also Apple, Cherry, or Blueberry Turnovers and Raspberry White Chocolate Scone, Twin Berry Scone, or Cranberry Orange Nut.  Coffee Cake varieties include Bee Hive, Cinnamon Crumb, Philly Cream Cheese, Apple Fritter, Strawberry Cream Cheese.  Filled Croissant Varieties include Almond, Butter, Chocolate, and Strawberry Cream Cheese.

Fruitbread options include Banana Nut, Butter Pound Cake, Cranberry, Blueberry, Sourcream Crunch, Lemon Poppyseed.

Grandma’s also bakes fresh bread.  Varieties include White, Honey Oatmeal, Buttercrust, Cinnamon Raisin, Chunky Cinnamon, Whole Wheat, Light Rye, Dark Rye, Vienna, French, Garlic, English Muffins, Bread Bowls, Dinner Rolls, Hot Dog Buns, Hamburger Buns, Onion Buns, Wheat Buns, Steak Buns.

Bagel flavors offered are Plain, Sesame, Poppyseed, Blueberry, Crunchy Cinnamon, Cinnamon Raisin, Jalapeno Cheddar, Whole Wheat and Everything Bagel.

Grandma’s also makes Cupcakes, Sheet Cakes and Decorated Cakes.  Cake Fillings include Bavarian Cream, Raspberry, Chocolate Fudge, Strawberry, Lemon, Key Lime, and Tropical Sensation.  Mousses include French Mocha, Hazelnut, Raspberry, Strawberry, Chocolate, Caramel, Irish Cream, Peanut Butter, Mint, Strawberry Almond, Lemon and Amaretto.

What I’ve ordered:
Of all donuts, I think I love fritters the most.  The Apple Fritter at Grandma’s is over an inch thick, with a decent amount of apples and cinnamon.  The inside is soft yet dense and the outside has a slight crust and just the perfect amount of glaze.

They have a handful of  Kruller varieties at Grandma’s, I have tried the glazed.  Great, eggy texture while still being somewhat firm.

The Maple Long John with Bacon made my Food Spotlight a few months ago. This raised donut was light and airy, soft on the inside with a slightly crunchy golden crust.  The maple icing was sweet and when paired with the crispy, salty bacon crumbles, it tasted like classic breakfast with every bite ;)

I rarely eat jelly or custard-filled donuts but was intrigued when I saw the bright neon green frosting and then sold when I was told they were Key Lime.  The filling was tangy and delicious.

Another Donut Grandma’s offers is a Chocolate Cake Donut with Coconut (natural or toasted).  Very good

Service: The ladies who work at the bakery are incredibly sweet and patient, your order is prepared with care.
Overall Impression: Great place to pick up any bakery item that you could want or need.  I recommend stopping for breakfast and getting something sweet with a coffee.
Grandma's Bakery on Urbanspoon

Jan 212012

Cuisine: Bakery
Location: White Bear Lake, MN
Address: 1640 County Rd E E   St Paul, MN 55110
Links: Donuts Deluxe on FacebookGoogle Map

Atmosphere: Donuts Deluxe is located in a strip mall on County Rd E (just east of Hwy 61) in White Bear Lake.  The front of the space looks like someone had once tried to spruce it up a little and offer a cute little eating area and a coffee station adjacent to the bakery case. Despite this effort,  there isn’t a wall dividing the front from the back so you can see stainless steel bakery equipment and everything else that is going on in the back of the shop.  That seemed a little strange to me but I do know that Donuts Deluxe produces a ton of donuts every day that they supply many convenience stores with so maybe the front was just an after thought??

Menu:  There was a big menu board displayed above the coffee station that advertised donuts and muffins, but there weren’t any muffins available on the day of my visit.

The Donut selection included Old Fashioned, Bismarks, Apple Fritter, Cinnamon Pinwheels, Long Johns, Glazed Raised Donuts, etc.

What we ordered: My companions and I picked up a box of Assorted Donuts to try including the Fried Cinnamon, Long John, Bismarks filled with cherry and lemon jelly, Old Fashioned, and Bear Claw.

I had the Apple Fritter, which has always been one of my faves.  This one was wonderful! It was actually somewhat crispy on the outside but the inside was soft and filled with many big pieces of apple.  I loved the contrast in textures.  The dough of this fritter was spread out so it was less fluffy than most apple fritters but it was very big and very filling.  It was glazed with the perfect amount of sweetness. Donuts go great with coffee, don’t they? I snapped this pic with my iPhone ;)

Bear Claw

Overall Impression: Donuts Deluxe has a handful of common donut varieties and they are all very good and made fresh daily.  The selection wasn’t impressive but I was perfectly content with my apple fritter.
Donuts Deluxe on Urbanspoon

Nov 272011

I do not eat donuts very often, but I enjoy them when I do.

I recently tried this Maple-Glazed Long John with Crispy Bacon from Grandma’s Bakery.  It was delicious! It was a raised donut that was light and airy, soft on the inside with a slightly crunchy golden crust.  The maple icing was sweet and when paired with the crispy, salty bacon crumbles, it tasted like classic breakfast with every bite ;)

This was very good and I would definitely eat it again.

Have you tried a donut with bacon on it yet??


Nov 032011

Cuisine: American, Bakery, Breakfast,
Restaurant Features: Bakery, Counter Service
Locations: Bloomington, Little Canada and North Oaks
Addresses & Maps:
Bloomington- 401 West 98th Street  Bloomington, MN 55420 (952) 358-7490
Little Canada- 2900 Rice Street  Little Canada, MN 55113 (651) 482-8876
North Oaks- 845 Village Center Drive  North Oaks, MN 55127 (651) 482-8285
Hours: Mon-Sat 7am-8pm (LC until 7pm)  * Sun 7am-4pm
Links: Taste of Scandinavia Website * Taste of Scandinavia on Facebook

Atmosphere: Located at the end of a strip mall, the Little Canada location of Taste of Scandinavia offers counter service, so you will immediately see the bakery case and front counter upon entering.

The Little Canada location has a dining area tucked back in a windowless space with several wooden tables.

Menu: Cookies and Bars include Raspberry Lemonade, Scoop Cookies, Butter Pecan Sandwich, Ginger Heart Cookies, Lemon Zest Cookie, Norwegian Almond Kringler, Raspberry Sandwich Cookie, and Rugelach.

Pastries include Danish, Finnish Munkki, Pulla Roll, Cinnamon Pulla Roll, Ring Coffee Cake, and Blueberry Muffin.

Cheesecakes include Fresh Fruit, Lingonberry, Raspberry and Turtle.

Pies and Tarts include Caramel Apple Tart,  Apple Pie, Cherry Pie, and Pumpkin Pie.

Cakes and Tortes include Black Forest Torte, Carrot Cake, Celebrate Cake, Chocolate Heart Cake, Chocolate Raspberry Torte, Chocolate Symphony Torte, Creme de Menthe Torte, English Lemon Torte, Finlandia Torte, Italian Chocolate Almond, Kransekake, Mocha Toffee Torte, Princess Torte, Pumpkin Torte, Romanian Mocha Torte, Scandinavian Chocolate Torte, Soile’s Sinful Chocolate Cake, Tiramisu, Tri-Chocolate Torte, Turtle Torte, Austrian Walnut Torte, and Bailey’s Irish Cream Torte.

Rolls include Croissant, Norwegian Milk Dinner Rolls, and Spinach Parmesan Dinner Rolls.

Specialty breads include Apple Walnut, Asiago, Baguette, Cottage, Cranberry Nut Sour Dough, Finnish Sour Dough Rye, German Rye, Health Wheat, Honey Wheat, Multi-Grain, Onion Dill, Pumpernickel Rye, Sour Dough, Spinach Parmesan, Sun Dried Tomato Basil, Swedish Limpa, Swedish Rye, Vienna.

Breakfast items include a Norwegian Lefse with Ham & Eggs, Classic Breakfast, Breakfast Croissant, Finnish Breakfast Pasty, Three Egg Omelette, Swedish Farmer’s Omelette, Pulla French Toast, Sweet Scandinavian Lefse, Swedish Pancakes, Fresh Fruit Crepe, Swedish Pyttipanna, and Yogurt Parfait.

Salads offered include House Salad, Garden, Caesar, Chef and Greek Salad.

Sandwich options include Grilled Cheese and Deluxe Deli Sandwich (Choice of ham, turkey, roast beef or veggie).

Hot Meals include Finnish Pasties, Italian Pie, Taco Pie, Pot Roast, Grandma’s Meatloaf, Smothered Pot Roast or Meatloaf, Shepherd’s Pie, Reuben, Danish Salmon Sandwich, Hot Beef BBQ Sandwich, Open Face Swedish Roasted Pepper Chicken Sandwich, Lasagna, Crab Cakes, Swedish Meatballs, Spinach Pie, and Gyros.
Price guide: Breakfast $4-8  Salads $7-9  Sandwiches $5-7   Hot Entrees $7-9

What we ordered: I ordered the Open Face Swedish Roast Pepper Chicken Sandwich.  That is a mouthful to say and certainly more than a mouthful to eat.  As the name implies, this was a sandwich that was served open-faced atop two slices of tomato basil bread.  Diced grilled chicken, red onions,  spinach, lightly sauteed mushrooms, and shredded asiago cheese.  I thought this sandwich was pretty good; all of the flavors blended nicely but the asiago cheese with the roasted peppers are what really stand out.  The stronger flavor of the cheese makes up for the milder tastes of the chicken, spinach and mushrooms.  The peppers were very good, but the onions could have been more caramelized.

One of my companions ordered the Shepherd’s Pie, which is similar to a pot pie but has a mound of mashed potatoes on top instead of a crust and is then covered with gravy.  The pie crust was light and flaky and the beef, pea and carrot filling in savory beef gravy was very tasty.  I wasn’t as big of a fan of the mashed potato; it had a strange consistency that was sort of potato dumpling-like.   Quite possibly because it had been pre-made several hours before we ordered it? Either way, I enjoyed more than a couple bites.

Another companion ordered the Chef Salad, which was a large bed of mixed greens topped with hard boiled egg, red onion, tomato, cucumber, and rolled up slices of deli turkey and ham, ordered sans cheese.

I also bought a couple of cookies to take home. The chocolate chunk cookie was delicious; it was quite large yet it was still somewhat soft and had a generous amount of chocolate chunks.

I also tried the Hawaiian Cookie, with coconut and macademia nuts as well as a few white chocolate chips.  I loved it! The coconut was very finely shredded and there was a lot of it, giving the cookie a chewy texture, which I loved.  The macademia nuts were chopped into fine pieces but still gave it a nice crunch.

Service:  We perused the giant menu hanging on the wall behind the counter while we waited in line.  We efficiently placed our order and found a table.  The food was delivered about ten minutes after we ordered it.
Overall Impression:  Taste of Scandinavia has a wonderful selection of baked items but is also a good place to have lunch or an early dinner.

This is an original review of Taste of Scandinavia on Twin Cities Restaurant Blog
Taste of Scandinavia Bakery and Cafe on Urbanspoon

Oct 192010

Do you shop often at Kowalski’s Market? It may be more expensive than CUB or Festival or the other local big grocery stores, but they have many items that can only be found at Kowalski’s.

Plus they have a really great deli and a really great bakery.  Many of the bakery items are made by a third party but are baked fresh every morning at each Kowalski’s store.

A few items I have sampled over the past couple of years:

Have you had any items from Kowalski’s bakery?? What are your favorites?