Minnesota: They Got 10,000 Lakes, But We Didn’t Get In One

After great visits with friends and family in Wisconsin and Iowa, we continued our slow westward journey to Alaska with a trip through Minnesota.

Again, our visit was short, but it gave us a chance to spend a few days and nights with Scott’s friends Eric & Katheryn (two Kentucky transplants to the cold upper Midwest!). We had a fabulous time filled with food, laughs and a pretty hike. Luckily, Knox bonded pretty quickly with Eric & Kat and was fairly well-behaved with their cats, too.

Food – the Unintentional Focus

As we started making notes to write this blog post, we realized that almost everything we wrote down involved food. A great restaurant we visited, a trip to a farmer’s market, ice cream, Cookie Butter. That definitely wasn’t the intent of our visit – we promise we really went to see friends and explore a new state – but we sure enjoyed our culinary adventures in Minnesota!

Our food fun started our first evening in the Land of 10,000 Lakes when our hosts suggested we go to dinner at ZZest. Rather than try to improve on the restaurant’s own words, we’ll just let you read how it describes itself:

At ZZest we feature products that are small batch, artisan created, and handmade following traditional family methods. We try to source local farm raised ingredients as often as possible, fly in fresh seafood from the coasts, and fully utilize the ingredients that are at their seasonal best.

We started our meal by sharing a rich pinot noir and cheese board, then dined on steak, pork belly and wood fired pizzas. Incredible! Since ZZest is both restaurant and market, after our yummy meal we headed over to the market side and picked up some ice creams for dessert. Eric & Kat got a dark chocolate, and we opted for the blackstrap & bacon (sounds odd, but has an amazing sweet & salty flavor!).

The next morning, Kat fixed a tasty breakfast of pancakes, eggs & bacon, then we headed off to the local farmer’s market to pick up the makings for dinner. In addition to giving us our first taste of lefse, the market also gave Edie & Kat a chance to pick out surprise ingredients for Scott to use at dinner. (Luckily, he figured out what to do with the amaranth!) One trip to Trader Joe’s for Cookie Butter and a visit to a local bread bakery later, we had all we needed to feast until our departure the next day.

Dinnertime gave Scott the chance to record a cooking video for his website and thoroughly impress everyone with the magic he worked on pork chops, greens, and asparagus. We concluded our evening with wine, ice cream & Cookie Butter (seriously amazing combination!), and a movie, Friends with Benefits (who doesn’t like Justin Timberlake? Guys think he’s cool; girls think he’s hot. A movie with him is just a win for everyone!).

Non-Culinary Explorations

Our trip wasn’t all bacon and bacon ice cream. We did a little more than eat amazing food in Minnesota!

After breakfast and shopping on Saturday, we headed out to Whitewater State Park for a hike up to Inspiration Point. The weather was warm & fairly sunny, and the hike provided us with some great views (and much-needed exercise!). Knox LOVED the opportunity to run around, sniff the scenery and pee all over a new state.

After our hike, we took a scenic drive along the mighty Mississippi up to Lake Pepin, the widest naturally occurring part of the Mississippi River. Sailboats filled the water on that gorgeous Saturday. We took another short hike to get a few more pretty views of the water before heading home.

As the 160K crew departed Minnesota on Sunday, we took one more quick trip – to see the Minnesota State Capitol Building in St. Paul. Unfortunately the sky was overcast and the building was under renovation, but we still got a lovely view of the skyline.

It Wouldn’t Be Complete Without…

Pictures!! Even with our big focus on food, we managed to get a good selection of pictures of stuff that isn’t edible.