Attention Deficit Eating or, The “Shiny Thing Tour” of Stillwater

By Lavender April 10, 2008

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This ADE (attention deficit eating) excursion was planned for months. I invited best friend Dan Kenward, partner Chad, and friend and director of The Chef’s Gallery cooking school Stephanie Jameson. Our goal: Walk Main Street, Stillwater, Minnesota, and discover its gastronomic contributions.Meeting at The Chef’s Gallery, we browsed through the finest selection of kitchen utensils, gadgets, pans, ceramics, and stunning serving items in the Twin Cities area.Our group walked outside, and crossed the street to Luna Rossa Trattoria. Pulling up to the bar, we ordered Italian Peroni beers. Our host suggested trying the Calamari Rings with Chipotle Mayonnaise and Marinara Sauce, and blending the two sauces together. It was a perfect snack to start our tour—truly Italian and authentic.Staying on task, we left cozy Luna Rossa, and crossed Main Street to visit Trade Winds Spice Company. It offers a variety of extracts, flavorings, oils, spreads, sauces, spices, seasonings, sugars, vinegars, and many gifts. The friendly staff loves questions like, “How long will my spices last?” or “How should I store my spices?”Our next stop was Stillwater Farm Store. It was more out of curiosity for the birdhouses, windmills, and decorative yard items displayed in the windows. When we walked in, we were delighted to find two large tubs with baby mallard ducks and a variety of baby chicks—we all “ooh’d” and “ah’d.” I asked Chad to build me a chicken coop in our backyard, so I could raise our own fresh eggs. The store clerk suggested I check city ordinances first before planning a coop within the St. Paul city limits.After baby talk to the newborn chicks, we walked outside, and decided on a coffee shop stop. Steph said we should try Daily Grind Espresso Café, because it is famous for Espresso Milk Shakes. The café provides free WiFi, big old chairs with pillows, and a wonderful view of the St. Croix River. Its motto is: “Life is too short for bad coffee.”Next, our ADE group walked over to The Freight House, which has the largest outdoor patio in Stillwater. We were greeted by Paula, who gave us a tour of the large, cavernous facility. The dining room was huge, and beautiful in its 1883 way. We pulled up benches in the bar area, and Paula poured us tap beers and red wine. She told us that all the tap beer is from Minnesota. “This helps keep the residents employed,” Paula shared. The Freight House serves a menu of standard fare, but the Walleye Fingers are famous. Its most popular dish is “Willy the Kid,” housemade chicken salad atop a pineapple ring, finished with melted Swiss cheese on grilled cinnamon-raisin bread. The most unique item on the menu is Grilled Minnesota Sweet Corn, topped with Cayenne Mayonnaise and Quesso Fresco.Returning to Main Street, we stopped for a look-see at Marx Wine/Bar/Grill. Eric, our newest buddy and server, described the specials, then answered all my questions about a very large jar of shiny red maraschino cherries. Soon, I had a Marx Manhattan (Maraschino cherry infused with Maker’s Mark, mixed with sweet vermouth and a dash of bitters) with my fingers wrapped around it. Eric told our group the establishment specializes in fusion cuisine. Chad asked what that meant, to which Eric replied, “We combine ingredients and techniques from very different cultures and countries.” We ordered Piadina with prosciutto, parmesan, olive oil, and arugula; Pizza with prosciutto, spinach, hot pepper, parmesan, and olive oil; White Pizza with chicken, bacon, roast garlic, and parmesan; and Spaghetti with Italian sausage (in the shape of squares), garlic, onions, basil, black olives, tomato, and mozzarella. All were wonderful. We enjoyed our cocktails and lunch to the max. The atmosphere was multicolored and delightful.Soon, we were off to find the next shiny thing, but found there were just too many places to visit—such as Lily’s Malt Shop; Mad Capper Saloon and Eatery; River Market Community Co-op (stop in and ask for a demonstration of Wally’s Ear Candles); and Northern Vineyards Winery (wine tasting and great wine gifts).Our final stop was the “sweetest place this side of heaven,” Tremblay’s Sweet Shop, which was filled to the ceiling with every variety of candy and confection in every color under the rainbow. This was a remarkable shop and stop. I sampled and purchased a half-pound of the Soft Maple Fudge with walnuts. I also bought a bag of Blue Raspberry gummies.Goal completed, we stopped back at The Chef’s Gallery for glasses of water, hugs, and good-byes. Our ADE satisfied, we returned to our real lives. What an incredibly enjoyable day in Stillwater!

John Michael Lerma is a local chef, author, and Food Network personality. His company Garden County Cooking offers cookbooks, cooking classes, consulting, private events, and culinary vacations to Italy and the Caribbean. Visit www.GardenCounty.info.

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