Chocolate duel between Rustica and Patisserie 46

When I was at Rustica, I recalled a brief City Pages Hot Dish article from a few weeks ago that had piqued my interest to taste test eclairs from Rustica and Patisserie 46 side by side. 

I had never tried Rustica’s bittersweet chocolate cookies either, though I’d seen them for sale at the Golden Fig in St. Paul.  On the spot, I decided to also compare the chocolate cookies from both places.  Who was going to win this chocolate duel? 

Would it be Rustica?

Or Patisserie 46?

The Eclairs

The Patisserie 46 eclair was skinny, with a minimalist, structural asthetic set off by the thin, angular strip of dark chocolate on the top. The choux pastry was a bit firmer than Rustica’s, and the chocolate creme patissiere was light, silky and decadent.

Rustica’s eclair was more like the traditional eclair with which most people are familiar – an exterior enrobed with a thick chocolate coating, and rich, velvety vanilla custard on the inside.

The Cookies

The Rustica bittersweet chocolate cookie (pictured on the left) had a deep dark chocolate flavor with a dense, chewy, fudge-y texture.  A bit on the salty side, it was not as sweet as the Patisserie 46 cookie.

Lighter in color, Patisserie 46’s chocolate truffle cookie had a chewy exterior and fluffy, cake-like interior with a sweeter cocoa-y flavor and bits of chocolate scattered throughout.

The Chocolate Croissants

Oops, forgot to tell you.  On another last minute whim, I decided to also throw each place’s chocolate croissants into the ring.  (Of course, I was doing it all for you, dear readers, taking one for the team…”conducting research”. Yep.)

Other than one being larger than the other, these looked and tasted very similar to each other, right down to the strips of chocolate on the inside.

(Don’t ask me which place had the larger croissant, at this point in the tasting, my carb-addled brain was confused and lost track of which was which after I determined they tasted the same.)

The Conclusions

How to pick a winner?  It’s like trying to pick your favorite child. 

I tried these treats with a couple of other people, and we didn’t reach consensus on which was definitively best.  Personally I preferred Patisserie 46’s eclair because it was a different take on the typical eclair, and the Rustica eclair seemed un-notable in comparison, even though it was good on its own.  My mom preferred the Rustica cookie over the one from Patisserie 46, while I appreciated the fluffiness and lightness of the Patisserie 46 cookie.   The croissants seemed interchangeable to me and are probably something I wouldn’t pick again since there are so many other good choices in each bakery’s display case. 

In the end, the duel ended up in a draw.  I really liked all of these selections, they were just slightly different from one another.  You really can’t go wrong.

Perfection is in the mouth of the taster, so maybe you should try these out and decide for yourself.

Have you been to Rustica or Patisserie 46?  What are your favorites at each spot?

Visiting the Rustica mothership

If vegetables are the yin, then sweet treats are the yang, for me at least. Despite trying to eat healthy most of the time, bakeries are a major weakness of mine.  I’m a sucker for crusty, chewy bread, flaky pastry and buttery deliciousness.

One of my favorite bread bakeries is Rustica, a bakery in south Minneapolis.  At the local co-op, I can never walk by the bins with the Rustica products without grabbing a baguette or loaf of one of their signature breads. 

A while back, I had a little mystery involving Rustica breads. I was driving home from work with a Rustica baguette in the grocery bag on the passenger seat next to me when I glanced over in its direction and noticed that the top section was missing.

As my mind raced through and discarded potential explanations for how this could have occurred, I finally came to the conclusion that someone walking by my car had spied the bread while I was inside a business running an errand and had ripped off a hunk for a snack. 

(A completely ridiculous theory, I see now. The mystery was solved the next day when I discovered the broken-off top section lying on the sidewalk outside my office.)

Still, at the time, it was totally believable to me that someone would commit a crime to have a piece of this. Rustica’s baguettes are THAT good.

Despite having eaten Rustica’s breads countless times, I had never tried their pastries or cookies or been to their storefront.  It was finally time to visit the Rustica mothership itself, so off I went one Saturday morning to check it out.

Unsurprisingly, the place was hopping with people.  We were lucky enough to snap up one of the few remaining tables and sit back to enjoy the ambiance.

Up at the pastry counter, it was difficult to resist buying one of everything in the case.  We picked out several pastries to share.

My favorite one was the chocolate pistachio danish pictured at the top of this post, a perfect combination of ultra-flaky pastry, chocolate and nuts.   In general, I leaned toward Rustica’s danishes which sported a superior texture that sets them apart from most other bakeries.

But no, I couldn’t stop here and quit while I was ahead.  In a fit of carb-induced exuberance, I decided that today would be the day that I would stage a chocolate duel between the bakery goods of Rustica and those of Patisserie 46. Because, you know, I was in the neighborhood anyway…

So that is exactly what I did.

To be continued later this week

[In the meantime, peruse the City Pages 3-part interview with Rustica owner & baker Steve Horton (part 1, part 2, and part 3) and Daniel Klein’s Perennial Plate video if you’d like to see behind-the-scenes footage of Rustica’s baguette-making process.]

Taming the dinosaur (kale)

Was it because of our family’s recent trip to the Minnesota Science Museum to see the dinosaur exhibit?  Or the fact that I needed to challenge myself to eat some more seasonal vegetables?

Whatever the reason, as I perused the aisles at Mississippi Market recently, the lacinato kale (a.k.a “dinosaur kale”) jumped into my vision and declared a need to be cooked. 

Back home in my kitchen, I gazed at this curious specimen. 

The texture of this kale variety did look like the hide of a dinosaur or at least what I imagined it to be like.  It also looked like something a diplodocus would eat, being a herbivore after all.  My brain wandered off into Land of the Lost and thoughts of dinosaurs hiding among thickets of wild kale, esconced in its leafy protective camoflage and …

Hearing my kids pummel each other in the next room snapped my attention back to the present.  Dinnertime was almost upon us and I had to figure out what to do with this FAST!  So I hit the Internet.

Mentally, I had kale catalogued as one of those greens like collards that required lengthy cooking or multiple preparation steps. Especially since the main way I’ve cooked kale is that lentil pasta dish, which required blanching the greens, then sauteing them. 

But I came across a quick saute-and-steam method which didn’t involve boiling the kale.

It goes something like this:

1. De-stem 1 bunch of lacinato kale and coarsely chop the leaves. 
2. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat, and saute slivered garlic for a couple of minutes until it’s golden.
3. Add the chopped kale, pour a couple of dashes of white wine or water & sprinkle with salt and pepper, stir briefly then cover the pan with a lid and turn the heat to medium low. 
4. Steam the kale for about 10 minutes or until tender, then squeeze lemon juice over the greens and serve.

You can find more flavor variations for this basic recipe here.

There, that wasn’t so hard.  Half a bunch of kale reduced down to this pile of cooked greens; finally, a quick cooking alternative to sauteed spinach. 

And no, my kids did not eat it.  But I have a dream… Maybe next time I make this, I will convince them that little dinosaurs used to eat this green, so they should too. 

MN Food Bloggers at 128 Cafe – Part 2, the people

What happens when you gather a bunch of food lovers together?  Lots of eating, drinking and general merriment, of course!  
Passion about food permeated the Minnesota Food Bloggers event held at the 128 Cafe in St.Paul on Monday night, which was attended by local food writers, food purveyors, PR folks and general foodies.  So many fascinating people to meet and so much excellent food to eat! It was very energizing.

Trying to eat, drink, talk and take photographs all at the same time proved to be a bit of a challenge,  and I regret I didn’t get to a chance to chat with everyone.

I did meet many new people such as Jill from Teach Kids to Cook, Brett from Renewing the Countryside, and Joy Estelle of Eating the Minneapple plus several of the people pictured below.  I also had the opportunity to meet some people for the first time whose work I admire, like Crystal of Cafe Cyan, Kate from Fork, Knife and Spoon, and Daniel from Perennial Plate.

Some photos from the event (if you attended yourself, let me know who some of the people are that I didn’t label and I can add links to their sites). 

Dania of Twin Cities Foodie , Annie of Yelp MSP , and event organizer Steph of Fresh Tart
Crystal of Cafe Cyan and Dave of Twin Cities Food Finds
Shaina of Food for My Family, Kate of Kate in the Kitchen and Angela of Angela’s Kitchen
Daniel of Perennial Plate and Debbie of Sapsucker Farms

Brenda of A Farmgirl Dabbles and Kelli of I Had a Delicious Time
Mario, Martha of Martha and Tom and Kate of Fork, Knife and Spoon

 David of I Had a Delicious Time and Virginia of Roots and Zest

Joel of  Joel’s Views and Sociability and Jen of She Said.She Said.
Tom of Martha and Tom , Lynne and Keith of Eat.Drink.Life.Love.
The food blogging community in the Twin Cities totally rocks!  Hopefully, this will be the first of many such events.

For more views on the night’s festivities, check out the following posts:

Fresh Tart
Joel Carlson
Eating the Minneapple