To say that this year has been strange is a bit of an understatement, gov'ner. But here we are, suddenly in the final month, counting it down with our whiskey-filled advent calendars. Right? And while we may have a temporary shortage of the white stuff, we have no shortage of jolly times and ways to celebrate the season. Go on and have a burger while buying books, stock up on local crafts while drinking local crafts, and enjoy 12 days of cookies with no partridges or pears in sight. Let's December.
>> Downtown Minny lunchers are psyched! Bep Eatery, everyone's favorite sassy Vietnamese quick service spot over off 5th, has opened their second location, in LaSalle Plaza skyway. Listen, there is no better pho, or fresher spring rolls to be found in the downtown, and they're teasing out bao buns too. I'd consider getting in line now.
>> Rustica Cookies & Creamery opens on Sunday at the MOA, for all your shopping refueling sugar boosting needs. Stop by, get a FREE cookie (famous chocolate chip, ginger molasses, blueberry cornmeal & lemon, Nutella stuffed peanut butter sandwich and more!) and sample some soft serve (roasted vanilla bean, Valrhona dark chocolate, roasted sweet potato pie, and more!) with crazy toppings like giant marshmallows and 24k gold sauce.
>> Young Joni officially opened this week. The space is warm and buzzing (uh, 90 minute wait at 6pm last night!) and the fires will beckon you in for Ann Kim's trusty pizza pies, wood grilled blue prawns, Korean short rib, and roasted Brussels sprouts, zowie! Go early, go often.
>> Barnes & Noble Kitchen opened this week on the lower level of The Galleria. After 25 years, the old store has been modernized and given one of the company's first prototype restaurants in the country. It's a very warm and woodsy space with plenty of plug-ins and comfortable chairs, plus beer, wine and a casual cafe menu with grilled cheese, hummus and veg, kale salad, a brisket burger and more.
>> Whole Sum Kitchen is open at 50th & Bryant! The cute food truck that could has zshooshed up the old pet food store across the street from Patina. Pop in for their grand opening weekend and check out the coffee and juices, quinoa bowls and soups, and get a coupon for a free smoothie.
>> After 22 years, carafe upon carafe of wine, and countless free meals for kids, the original D'Amico & Sons on Hennepin in Uptown will close at the end of the year, on Dec. 30. The company plans to sell the building (read: condos-a-comin') but continue to do delivery in the neighborhood.
>> Sad to report that Mr. Robert's Resort in Pengilly has closed. Despite a fundraising push to keep them afloat earlier this year, chef/owner Sarah Master has closed it down. But, Master tells me she's got something else lined up already, so hopefully we'll see her face down in the metro again sometime soon.
>> There's a new artist-designed indoor mini-golf course coming to St. Paul called Can Can Wonderland, and it's going to ply you with Bittercube crazy drinks, boozy shakes, and chef-driven concessions: hot dogs with spam, grilled cheese with cheese, cotton-candy wrapped bacon on a stick. It's coming to save you from January.
>> Downtown skyway eaters will be glad to know that the vacated Broadway Pizza spot in the US Bank Bldg is being filled with a Broadway Fast and Fresh. It's a new concept for the pizza company, in which customers will build their own pizzas, salads, and pasta bowls. That's all well and good, I just want to make sure I can still get it all cut into squares.
>> Agra Culture Kitchen & Press will be opening its fourth location, the first one in St. Paul, at The Finn mixed-use building being constructed in Highland Park, on Cleveland Ave. Look for a spring opening.
>> RIP Hippy the Pie Guy. My absolute favorite pies in the state come from the big yellow barn that is MN Largest Candy Store and Jim's Apple Farm. Those pies were usually baked by 91-year-old owner Herbert (Hippy) Wagner who passed away suddenly last week. He was beyond a sweet man. In September I was there to buy a pie, and as I was picking up one from the table, he came out with a warmly fresh-baked one and told me I should swap and take it. I asked him what his secret was for great pie, and he laughed, winked, and shuffled/danced away. My heart goes out to that whole family, read his full obit to see what really good humans do in this world.
>> Schnell! The Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies has already begun at Black Forest Inn! Every day they'll be featuring one of their signature cookies (today is Russian Tea Cake, mein lieblings, you'll have to wait for Day 11 for the best Pfeffernüsse) with special pricing on singles and trays. And since we all know that Germans basically invented Christmas fun, they're also hosting a Christmas market next weekend, fire pit Sundays on the patio, Winter Solstice darkest day = darkest beer party, and more. Plus they're offering complete holiday meals to go: Get your goose, Ebenezer!
>> My favorite craft market of the season is hands-down the No Coast Craft-O-Rama that kicks off today (and runs Saturday all day too) at the Midtown Global Market. I have scored SO MANY great gifts here, and then rewarded myself well with Taco Cat nachos, East Lake craft beer, chocolate shortbread cookies from Kitchen in the Market, and a truckload of pick-mix candies and Takis Fuego from Fiesta in America. Win-win.
>> Here's a really cool gift idea: figure out the flavors that your giftee loves most, then hop down to Mrs. Kelly's Annual Holiday Tea Tasting party this Saturday and Sunday, at her warehouse in the historic Grain Belt brewhouse, where you can sample hundreds of teas and come up with a custom blend for said giftee. All you need is a $2 donation or non-perishable food donation to get you in the door with so much tea, master blenders, chocolates and other gifts, and a bit of holiday cheer.
>> Or pop by Jeromeo in the North Loop on Saturday for the Rogue Potters show. You'll be able to peruse one-of-a-kind hand made plates, platters, bowls, vases and more, which is a beautiful gift for someone's kitchen. Also (again with the shopping with perks thing) they'll be serving soups and salads on pieces from the show and there will be beer and wine available.
>> And ALL THE BUBBLES are being tasted tomorrow at Zipps.
>> Let's celebrate power of the people for change a pace: Prohibition Repeal Day is being toasted at Wander North Distillery on Saturday. Put a nail in the coffin of ol' Volstead with vintage cocktails, jazz music, and 1930's costumes which get you a $1 off your drinks.
>> Craft Markets and Craft Beers are the chocolate and peanut butter of the season. On Sunday, Eastsiders can get crafty at the Muddy Pig Holiday Arts & Craft Beer Boutique, and Westsiders can indulge in Crafts & Drafts at Excelsior Brewing's taproom.
>> On Monday, you can take a much needed break from all things holiday as you dive into the history of the margarita, and seven margaritas henceforth, at the A Daisy If You Do: History of the Margarita pop up at Bar Luchador. Arrive early, the first 100 people will get a printed booklet with knowledge and recipes. Might I recommend the sheet tray nachos with your brain expansion?
>> I feel like you should get your spot at this table soonish. Rose Street Patisserie is hosting a Sherry Tasting and Small Bites next Saturday Dec. 10. Siri Nyman and Erin Ungerman, two very smart wine humans, will walk you through the rich and wonderful world of sherry, exploring different styles as they are paired with bites from John Kraus. And it's not just chocolate, we're talking shrimp toast with butternut squash romesco with avocado and such wickedness as a duck eclair with liver mousse, orange and thyme + more, all for $46.
>> And finally, get ready to really revel in winter this year. Yesterday, both MPLS and STP announced a collaborative 10-day winter celebration to be known as The Great Northern which will launch this winter from Jan. 27 - Feb 5. A true celebration of the cold north, it will bring together the STP Winter Carnival, the US Pond Hockey Championships, and the Loppet along with other signature outdoor events to be announced. They haven't released any info about the food and drink events planned, but something tells me that it will be a major part of the fun. You know how we all like to keep sausages in our boots to keep us warm. No? Just me?
photo by shutterstock