Misfit Coffee

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http://www.misfitcoffee.com/
https://twitter.com/misfitcoffee
Main Location: All Over Minneapolis

A couple years back, a certain person attempted a modern coffee cart in Downtown Minneapolis; seems quite a few people are rather aware of this fact. Alas, they didn’t make it, yet another casualty in the mobile service world; I partially feel bad for never making it, though also partially relieved I didn’t forsake my then-even-narrower wallet on a review that would never be able to happen. If you’re wondering where this is going… no, the owner is not back, I have no clue what the heck they’re doing now (if you’re reading this, best wishes! Please don’t hate me…).

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It is today that the next generation makes their attempt as Minneapolis gets its second in the line of coffee vending businesses, only this time it’s a full-on Trailer with… well, you’ll see. Misfit Coffee comes to us from across the border, the three co-owners of Marcus, Mitch, and Alex hail from Milwaukee. All three of these guys have been working since age 13/14, Marcus in particular having gone into all levels and aspects of the coffee world, the leading thought man behind the business idea after they all decided to get into the mobile food world. Putting their heads and money together, these three friends (well, two are brothers; hinty, names share the same starting consonant!) set out to fully develop their immersive, quality-focused coffee experience in the Twin Cities.

Having only opened a couple weeks ago, the trailer is still finding promising locations to keep regular residence, hopping around various spots in Minneapolis to give access to as many people as possible. Of note, they’ve served so far in front of the Guthrie, Downtown, the U of M, and in Uptown in front of the Apple Store. After catching up to them at the Mill City Museum, I got the chance to interview the three owners and dragged out quite a bit of information (so prepare yourself for a much longer review than usual)!

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Apparently they chose Minnesota (note they only had the ONE showing in their home city to make sure everything ran smoothly; sorry Wisconsin, they’re all ours now!) due to our personal love and acceptance of food trucks, particularly our openness to ‘specialty’ and unique trucks vs the older classics. Not to mention the tie-in fact that it’s easier to get the licenses here. As Alex puts it, “Some places are rather iffy, not sure if they wanna let you in, here they’re TRYING to let you in.”

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The trailer itself was made to focus on a ‘curbside exposure,’ a fully open-air design that not only allows one to truly witness the zen experience of these brews being crafted, but also to allow for connection and conversation between the guys and yourself. They even have magazine for perusal! Oh, and some led lights inside, in hopes of late-night ventures where they can turn off all other lights and get that cool color-changing glow and atmosphere.

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As for the coffee, beans are sourced from Valentine Coffee Roasters in Wisconsin, a producer which Misfit obsesses over from the quality of the roast to the sourcing of the beans; particularly in the expression of body and ‘terroir.’ They currently offer 5 kinds from different countries for their pour-overs: Bali, Brazil, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Guatemala, and also a Decaf variety. Now note, they didn’t make their sourcing decision lightly; much time was spent trying coffee and roasters all over the country, from Nashville and Atlanta to Chicago and us, apparently close to 100 cups worth of ‘samples,’ before their decision to stick with the Wisconsin homeboys.

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These can then be ordered in the typical wide variety of options that we’re so familiar with having access to, but with a twist. Whereas they do indeed have the classic mixes, such as Cappuccino, Mocha, Americano, Latte, etc, one will also find a few more intriguing and different mixes not commonly seen… and a few modern techniques to boot. This culminates in the whipped dairy offerings of Con Panna and Cortado, but lower we explore some, let’s call them ‘espresso cocktails,’ called Chata’Lata (mixed with homemade Horchata) and Spro-da Pop(espresso and Mexican Cola). THEN there’s the different pour-overs, like the Chemex and Siphon (and no, I do not know anything nor did I ask about those… I had a lot of information as it is, cut me some slack! So demanding…)… but all that pales in comparison to the Nitro Cold Press. Cold pressed coffee, made in batch and then stuck in a pressurized tank, to which they inject with Nitrogen and let sit, waiting to be poured from a ‘tap’ and over ice when ordered. Basically it’s like the method for making Nitro beer, but with coffee; I’ll describe the results later.

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By this point you might be wondering about the equipment; I mean, I wasn’t, but you’re all most likely better people than I am. As you can see though, and will through various pics, as much attention that went into sourcing the beans and coffee went into the machines that handle them. The big white behemoth of the espresso machine itself is a Synesso model, made in 2008 but I think based off a model from the 1900’s, and cost $10,000 on its own. And lying on top of it… actual coffee cups? Yep, for those who don’t absolutely have to go and travel with their caffeine needs, they will pour your coffee or espresso into one of their various special mugs, like these copper dealies with glass extenders to fit it all and also see any layering effects, to enjoy on the side of the trailer while you relax. This allows one to fully experience these different brews and mixes, for the container one smells and sips from can make all the difference (just ask a wine snob, like me!).

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But that’s the kind of effort they go to for everything, which we can see just by looking at something like their Horchata recipe. After trying the best cup of this Mexican rice milk from a certain vendor at home, the group obsessed with trying to reproduce it, or find something better, but couldn’t; and after resorting to weeks of begging after begging, finally squeezed this heavenly mixture of creamy rice and cinnamon drink. I had the chance to try a tiny taste of it on its own, and believe me when I say the effort was worth it. Following that, all their ‘flavorings’ are made only with the best ingredients, using real vanilla beans, hand-made caramel, and chocolate from Indulgence vs the normal cheap syrups we so often see.

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Of course they also offer some quality Teas and other coffee-free options for people to choose from, like those Mexican Colas.

A final fun note, if one looks at the back of the trailer, they’ll see the very well-known Apple quote, a company which Misfit follows quite intently in their respect of the how and why they do things. “’Here’s to the Crazy ones, the Misfits, the Rebels, the Troublemakers, Round Pegs and Square Holes.’ They inspired, kind of, the name a little bit… -and we understand how they are, to not go by the status quo, we’re trying to DO something different and be ourselves and, you know, take a risk and take a chance. So it was really cool to be in front of Apple and to get the support too that we got from them was awesome cuz, you know, they understood us, we’re misfits.” – Marcus

Food: 10

                In terms of the coffee world, Misfit truly occupies itself in the top tier for our community; with amazing quality and distinctly regional beans with personality; both traditional and fun style offerings; much effort spent in ingredients/recipes and development;  all of which comes through clearly with their fantastic execution. As someone who’s not really a ‘coffee drinker’ in any sense, but wants to get into the world of it to be able to experience and recognize the fine craft, I myself have felt disappointment trying cups of jo at good places like Spyhouse yet still found struggles in trying to find the particular ‘palette’ of the bean that was written up; those notes of berries and chocolate sadly eluded me. I figured it was like cigars and red wine; you REALLY just need the time to develop the palate, get it used to the flavors, before seeing this, something I’m sure most people who drink coffee on an almost, if not, daily basis automatically have. Thus has my appreciation for certain establishments like this grown when I come to discover clear differences or personality traits in what I try that day; that in fact there IS a world and approach to coffee that anyone can began at while learning about distinct flavors and changes from the beans, roasting, and handling.
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For example, the Cortado I had, a double-shot espresso layer with steamed milk if I remember the style right, was made with the Brazilian coffee beans (all items under the ‘Espresso Bar’ category are made with a single bean variety that they choose and grind on the day of), a variety they said displays peanutty, dark chocolate, and those earthy notes, and I could clearly taste peanut butter and other such things through the creamy soft concoction. It was fun seeing the distinct layered effect through the copper and glass cup reserved for these styles, not to mention being able to enjoy the full texture and flavor one can only get through this glass, as opposed to the paper to-go cups. It certainly pays to be able to sit and enjoy these with the fellas when you’re not on-the-run!

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Now, follow this up with the Peruvian bean, a cleaner, lighter kind of coffee, with some citrusy notes and more of a milk-chocolate body. It was perfect in the Nitro on a hot day, served on ice; as for the actual unique nitro style… everything I love about nitro beers, mainly that thick but super smooth texture that just aches to be drawn down one’s throat. Then there’s the added creaminess. The guys make sure to advocate that customers try it plain first before adding creamer, because guess what? You don’t need it, the effects of the foamed carbonation really do mimick that bit of steamed milk or other dairy that’s added in, making it seem richer when it’s just a straight cold press. Absolutely delightful.

And finally, a return visit on the same day (I was lucky) had me trying the Con Panna; basically much like the cortado or a cappuccino, only using pure whipped cream as the source of dairy. Thus one would get a result that’s super thick, super rich, on its own practically a total caffeine ‘cheat;’ like starting off a day with hot chocolate. Only I then decided to use the opportunity to try one of their ‘additions,’ the Dark Chocolate Sea Salt sauce, which just made it sinful, pure dessert in coffee. Oh god I just had a terrible thought… what if they had ice cream and used this for an affogato? Run!

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But I want to be able to express that the sauce, while not just made from top quality chocolate and salt, came through very distinctly without fully overpowering anything. I love it when you can TASTE the sea salt, too, without it being ‘salty;’ it can be tricky to accomplish, but such a good balance. Overall this was like salted chocolate-coffee mousse in liquid form… only get when you’re feeling naughty and just don’t care.

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I would like to finish with this note that, as was mentioned by co-owner Marcus, Misfit in general tries to focus on an older ‘original’ style of ‘roast profile’ from their beans. Whereas many modern coffee businesses in the US usually focus on turning the beans into a coffee that ends up ‘fruitier, cleaner,’ simple bursts of flavor, they themselves keep to those natural earthy, spicy, ‘terrestrial’ flavors emblematic of the area they’ve grown in and the people who’ve handled them (very clear in that deep nutty, but not roasty, notes of the Brasil). In a sense, seeing the ‘terroir’ of coffee. As a fanatic of the wine and alcohol world, this particular idea actually tickles me to no end, as it seems to perfectly mirror the different styles of ‘old world’ (France, Italy, Spain, etc) and ‘new world’(US, Australia, Chile, etc) wines; the latter of which are very FRUIT forward, made for solo drinking while the old world all distinctly have some sort of EARTHY aspect to the palate, and excel alongside food.

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Look at that foam line, ever reminiscent of the ‘Angel’s Lace’ phenomenon in properly poured beer

So if you’re still wondering why I’m talking SO MUCH about these guys, my deep and pure love towards the world of food and spirits, how things connect and how completely different ‘products’ can have such similarities throughout their life and how people enjoy and experience them… things like that are what stoke the red-hot coals of my excitement centers. And the great thing is that we all have this interest for food and drink in one form or another, no matter how mild; we’ve all developed special memories that things like these has been a part of, it really is an integral part of what connects people nowadays, and I am one of those who just loves to delve deep into that topic in conversation and express it to others whenever I can. So, to cut this short, now you have an even better understanding to WHY I won’t just shut up sometimes (believe me I wish I could), and I do apologize and thank you for reading through my additional ramblings!

Holdability: 10

               Whether it’s in a to-go cup or the nicer for-here, it’s still coffee in a cup.

Price: 9.5

                Most 12 and 16oz cups range between $3-$6, while 8oz only ever get up to $4 at the most. The more fun coffee-free specialty items themselves also go $3-$5 dependent on item and size. $0.75 extra to get one of the sinful flavor additions, or a dairy alternative. And of final note, the Nitro coffee charges for $4.50. Overall a nice wide but lower range for a coffee joint.
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Not only are these prices, on an overall scale, equal to or better than one’s typical Starbucks/Caribou, they’re better than they SHOULD be. With the clear amount of effort and quality that went into the developing of these recipes, ingredients used, etc, all of these drinks should clearly be at least a couple bucks more; and if they were in a café they would be. It’s likely only because they started in a trailer, an overall better (but still expensive as heck) startup vs most brick-and-mortar businesses, that they can list these at awesome competitive prices for top-quality coffee.

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Speed: 9

There are quite a few options, simple and fun, that are basically ready-to-go, a couple that may only take a minute, but make no doubt about it, for the rest you WILL have to wait (again, beans are ground and dripped to order)… I mean, like 3 minutes or so. Which for any boutique coffee place a-la Spyhouse is typical for the specialty drinks, and still faster than ordering food at most trucks. Plus one can spend the time easily chatting up at the window, so that time can fly.

The TOE: 10

                You know, with everything that I’ve written so far, and my obvious zeal towards wanting to talk these guys up, I don’t think there’s any additional explanation I need for this score I’ve chosen today. And as you can see, I got in as many pictures today as I could! (the following section sort of replaces this too anyways)
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Service: +2.5

                Simply with the act of taking a picture of the truck from behind, which they spotted through their secret tiny window (Damn them!), did an immediate conversation start up from nothing, leading to an unexpected amazing hour-long start to my day. I cannot stress too much how willing these guys are to get into their product, their process, the street food scene, or just any sort of chatty, friendly conversation. I myself rarely seek out anything like this when I do my visits, but they just ended up pulling me in, and apparently I’m not the only one; heck, near the end there was a female customer who ended up getting a picture taken holding their copper water pot. From this one can only imagine what their daily customer service is like in making a great experience to go along with their product. Either way, of all my truck visits, the optional ‘service’ section has stood out the most here, so I only think it fair the score matches, whether it’s truly differential to other truck businesses or not.

Tally: 51/50

Final Thoughts

Do you like coffee, or want to learn about it, or are just sort of curious about why some people actually drink it? Perhaps maybe you like Horchata (anything with this, by the way, awesome) or Tea? Do you live, work, or otherwise ever get down to the Minneapolis area? If any of these apply, then go to Misfit, at least once; see for yourself what they’re like, get a chance to talk to Mitch, Marcus, and/or Alex if possible. For the in-depth coffee hipsters and aficionados, you can experience some of your favorite coffee styles, an even a couple I’m sure are new even to you, in heavenly form and at a damn reasonable price. For those just starting out, you can spend only a few bucks to try something new, different, and I promise delicious.

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As for suggestions… it’s all good. Whatever kind of drink you’re craving, they’ll have something to fit it. From the super-rich, devilishly dessert-like creations of Con Panna, Hot Chocolate, or anything with their Caramel and Chocolate additions. Or if you’re looking from a finely crafted espresso+steamed milk/other dairy creation, the kind with the pretty designs on top, like Cortado, Macciato, or the oh-so-classic Cappuccino. Then again, simple Pour-Overs, of various kinds, can hit the notes of anyone looking for simple purity. If there WAS one thing that is a must-have, especially considering the idea that it might be a hot day, it’s the Nitro Cold Brew.

And the best part? Whether you need to grab-and-go fast or can sit down and relax for a while, absolutely any needs can be found and expressed here to acclaim. I obviously had the time of my life here, and I don’t even drink coffee. Go on and be a misfit along with these guys, chances are the rush will be from more than just caffeine.

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Big Mall, Little Sweets

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                Recent exploits led me down to the Mall of America yesterday, my first visit since before Christmas I believe, where I ran across one of Cupcake’s small, vibrantly orange and blue cafes/stores. So I thought it’d be fun to explore and take a few pics!

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                There’s quite the large display case of 35 different (I’m guessing standard) cupcakes to purchase, MUCH more than what we can get from the little car, and another 4 on the side. I’m assuming their seasonal, as opposed to a highlight of their winning group of cakes during one of their many Cupcake Wars spotlights, which they showcase on a flatscreen (at all times I guess) in the back.

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                Everything looked just as smooth and delicious as always, if not better; I certainly wish I was able to enjoy one of the many styles I haven’t had yet, but my money was already set on a different traditional street-based sweet treat.

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                That’s right, Gelato!! I discovered Paciugo on my last trip out here; situated in the South-Western corner (I’m pretty sure) on the 3rd floor, actually very close to Cupcake, I have to say this is easily one of the Mall’s newest and best-kept secrets. I absolutely LOVE this place! Their selection of Gelato is huge, and filled with all highly different flavors than the norm (and I’m including many a modern ice cream place in here). From vanilla and mint chocolate to traditional Italian stracciatella, hazelnut, and tiramisu; uniquely pure Italian flavors like rose(or other flowers) and black sesame to tasty sorbet mixes (cantaloupe pear, mango peach); awesome combos like chocolate-jalapeno to the completely wacky, unthinkable flavors like goldfish or durian. Everything about Paciugo’s fully embodies the feeling and elements of a TRUE Italian Gelateria, while bringing in a Modern American palette and sense of playfulness.

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                Then you get to actually ordering; for those completely stuck on the many flavors they want, they give the perfect options! Just ordering a small, one can get 3 different flavors; larger sizes can bring in 4 or 5. I decided to grab a small consisting of Hazelnut-Chocolate, Chocolate-Jalapeno, and Caramel Apple. Though what’s a really fun option, and a great tie-in to the Italian espresso tradition, is the “Cappucino con Gelato”… which is just as it sounds. A scoop of any delicious frozen goods top with a bit of hot espresso; I had it on my first trip and it was DELICIOUS!! I think I got it with the Pana Cotta, which is one I would certainly suggest, along with any sort of hazelnut, chocolate, cream-based, spiced, or other gelato (you know what would be really good? Their “Malt” flavored gelato).

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                End of the day, either of these places are a Must-go for anyone, local or tourist, visiting our well-known Mall, especially those street-food lovers among us. For those visiting the MOA sometime soon, particularly in the upcoming cold holidays, then I hope you get the chance to enjoy this fully. Good Luck and Good Eating in your travels my friends!

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SFC: Baby Blue Sweet Cake

               Back again after a small hiatus, my class Finals are finished and now I can spend a bit more mental time on writing up various posts again. Like my little adventure in confections I had a week ago.

                So a friend of mine challenged me to reproduce the Birthday Cake Pops they sell at Starbucks; being somewhat competitive, confident, and curious about my reproduction capabilities, not to mention it’s the perfect street food version of a loved confection. Had to try it first, though, so I popped down to the nearest nationally-chained coffeehouse.

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                … bright pink white chocolate and sprinkles covering a very interesting center. Not my normal choice of baked item, but there were some intriguing components. For those who haven’t had it yet, the center isn’t just a simple cut white cake (like I thought it’d be). It’s noticeably “moist,” it possesses this very unique texture, sorta crumbly but sticking together at the same time, and there’s a flavor reminiscent of the childhood box-made birthday cake and cheap frosting. Which is all coming from the cake, as the outside is just a cheap white chocolate (seriously). So now the work comes in trying to reproduce it.

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                There are a couple different recipes and methods of productions I’ve found online to attempt to reproduce them, and though I like elements and methods of each I think they all need touching, so I combined a bit of two main ideas that I liked. 

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                We start with the cake of course. If you want to try completely duplicating the flavor notes of Starbuck’s, I think you could safely use a Box Cake Mix at home; in fact, I might actually SUGGEST doing that, or at the very least finding a REALLY good White Vanilla Cake Recipe to make from scratch (especially one using Oil). I went off the cake recipe from one of the main Recipes for these Cake Pops, which my Friend actually tried themselves before challenging me. Apparently they thought the cake was pretty close to original, but other parts of the recipe screwed things up… I’ll explain later.

Basic Vanilla Cake Recipe (from site)

1 cup Butter, softened

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 Tb vanilla

4 eggs

3 cups flour

1 TB baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup  milk

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                Basic cake-making procedure here. We start by creaming the Butter, Sugar, and Vanilla (electric hand mixer always works well).

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                Add Eggs in one at a time. Once that’s done, get all those Dry ingredients mixed together and start carefully adding about 30% of it in.

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                Add a similar percentage of the Milk in and switch the additions back and forth 1-2 times until both milk and flour-mixture are fully incorporated. Mix well so there be no lumps; and an fyi, no real need to be careful and try and “preserve a light cake” by sifting flour or anything else. We’re gonna be mashing this all up at the end of the day, any delicate texture will get destroyed anyways. Which makes Poundcake a really good and tasty cake substitute if you wanted to try something different.

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                350F oven in a 9x13in Cake Pan, HIGHLY buttered, for about 30-35 minutes is what the recipe states; mine took longer than that for the same pan actually (look how much I got in there…), and ultimately one can use whatever pan they like, just keep close watch.

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                And there we have a simple, boring, and sorta bland white vanilla cake. Almost perfect for adding in loads of frosting and forming into balls of sugar joy.

                Speaking of Frosting, we can get to making that while the cake is cooling (over a rack preferably). Now, the original recipe called for a very simple icing mixture of ½ cup each of butter and milk along with 3 ½ cups of powdered sugar… yeah, that’s right, 3 ½ cups. No wonder my friend’s attempt was reminiscent of gingivitis.

                This being one of, or actually THE key element into what gives these Pops their identity, I really couldn’t stand the idea of using SO MUCH of this in just one cake, not to mention all that sugar; you just know all sense of the butter would be completely lost. So, what I ultimately ended up with was a recipe/ratio that looked like this:

¼ cup (2 oz, ½ stick) Butter

¼ cup Milk

1 Tb Vanilla extract

1 Cup Powdered Sugar

                Now, I only used about ½-2/3rds of the actual cake for this entire batch of frosting, so if one wanted to make more just increase proportionately with the same ratios (you’ll notice that if I had ½ cup butter like the original recipe the Powdered Sugar used would only equal 2 cups, noticeably less than before).

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                Steps are the same for any simple icing; cream the butter with vanilla, add some of the powdered sugar and carefully mix in the rest with the milk back and forth, similar to the cake batter. The ACTUALLY recipe calls to cream the butter with the milk, no sugar, in the beginning: do not do this, for the love of god DO NOT DO THIS!! I have no idea what sorta crack this guy was smoking when he wrote it, but these two things just do not want to get along…you’ll end up with a puddle of milk and butter that still won’t fully come together no matter how much powdered sugar one adds… like me. Luckily, though, even if one’s frosting DOES break, it doesn’t really matter too much for our application, as we’re only using the mixture for added moistness, sweetness, and flavor.

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                Now, take all the cake that we’re going to use and break it all up into a bowl quite thoroughly, like so.

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                Add the icing in ¼ths; if you know exactly how much you need/want for the amount of cake being used, then go ahead and dump it all in. Otherwise I would suggest being careful and adding only a bit at a time, mixing carefully with a spoon or, even better, one’s hands, until it gets the exact flavor and stickiness/consistency that YOU want it. Taste and test the consistency as we go.

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                Damn that’s a big ball…

                When I did it, I actually got to the point where you didn’t even need to SQUEEZE it to create a ball that sticks together. You should ideally be able to just take some now-sticky frosting-cake and gently roll it in a palm, with only a little bit of pressure, to make your balls. This is a really nice alternative to the second recipe/method I found in my research, which called for none of this frosting steps and just squished un-affected cake into balls. Though the flavor is still good, it’s noticeably different than the original Pops; plus, by not having to press it down, one is able to use less cake for the same sized ball.

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               I did learn one fun trick from the “press” method that I applied here; before rolling, smear a little bit of butter into your palms. Besides helping to grease them so fingers don’t get all “cakey,” I like to think it adds just a bit more of that special richness to the orbs.

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              Once you’ve rolled the desired amount, stick ‘em with whatever handle one decides to use. Ideally, one should use some nice long, somewhat thick sticks like they use for caramel apples or others. However I didn’t want to pay all that money for those so I thought I’d try something else: straws! Brightly colored straws!

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              Yeah that wasn’t the best idea… they hold the pop very well once everything is done, but they’re a pain during the dipping process. I would suggest one either cut them much longer than me or just find something a lot sturdier; get a pack of those thick wooden picks and just re-use them afterwards.

              After sticking the “sticks” in, making sure to give a good press to the cake around it so that it sticks (that’s 3 sticks in a sentence… well, 4 now), move them into the fridge to cool and set up. Many recipes just say 10-15 minutes for this, I say I’m more comfortable with at least 1-2 hours to make sure they’re solid. Plus, this way one can make the balls earlier in the day and then dip whenever they want to later on.

             While this is cooling, we can start dealing with our coating. Now, that “pressed cake” method recipe also suggested using something on the lines of “colored candy discs” made for people to just melt down and dip whatever they want in. Supposedly they’re the same thing as what Starbucks uses (I wouldn’t be surprised if they were similar) and one can find them at Walmart or something. They basically look like this:

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              And they’re basically just really cheap, pre-colored white chocolate, or the closest one could make to it; not to mention they cost a bit more considering the “production cost” for making a packet of these little discs. I personally don’t care how close I’m trying to reproduce the flavor of these, I will NOT stoop so low as to buy crappy chocolate. At the very least I’m getting a decent quality White Chocolate and melting it myself.

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             This is a block of white chocolate, taken off from an even BIGGER (think about the size of a small countertop) block of white chocolate. I got it at a Cake and Candy Supply shop that I happen to live relatively close to; places like that often sell various kinds of good quality, block-cut chocolates for one to peruse. If one doesn’t have  a shop like that near them, I’ve also seen some good quality chocolates (sometimes in block form, sometimes in Chip) at the larger shops of Kitchen Window, some Co-ops, etc. I always try to go to a place like that for my quality chocolate needs; stay away from the National Grocery Store Baking Aisle.

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              I also picked up a little container (which will last me years I’m sure) of mini-pearl white sprinkles! I didn’t want to, but the friend said it wouldn’t count if I didn’t have them… for those wanting to duplicate entirely and unable to find a thing of just white sprinkles, I hear there are some black n white mixes that use the style, just gotta pick them out…

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              Alright, let’s get back to things. Cut off as much of the white chocolate as you need; you’ll want a lot, say 2 cups-ish. Also, just a little note to remember, though it’s easy to slice off pieces of white chocolate, the Milk and Dark ones can be a bit of a Bitch. For those playing with them, a good method for quick, easy, and less messy separation, take any solid knife (a duller one that you use for whatever is perfect; no need to use the finest blade in the kitchen), stab it an inch or so back (or however far back for the size pieces one needs) and just lever off chunks. With the firmer dark chocolates, will probably need to hit the handle with your hand or a wood/plastic mallet to get it down enough to crack.

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              We now have our white chocolate in a bowl, which we gently melt over a pan of warm/simmering water (double boiler). Stick to the same chocolate-melting suggestions used in my Cheesecake Bar experience, minus the oil thing.

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              Swirl in your food coloring (yes, apparently I forgot that I didn’t have any red, so I made baby blue colored ones instead) to the preferred shade and begin your dipping!

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              So, here’s what you want to do: Get some Styrofoam. Seriously. The idea is that, after you’ve dipped the cake pops, you press the end of the stick into the foam so the whole thing stands upright while it cools/dries. This leaves a nice, smooth orb with no marks or flat parts or whatever, maybe some drips on the stick (or swirls around it if there was trouble with dipping). For whatever reason, I actually couldn’t find any styarofoam in the house, so I tried making my own little platform out of a cardboard box with holes in it:

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             Yeah, this didn’t work too well… I had one stick that staid up, but the other ones either sank all the way down to the base of the pop or just wouldn’t go in the hole. So I just ended up having to carefully dip them, take them out without the straw popping out (which it did), and tenderly pull them OFF the straw with a fork and transfer to wax paper in a way that at least the top was smooth. It still looked nice, but once cool I had to break off a lot of thick, built up chocolate “bases” at the bottom.

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            Add the sprinkles right after you’ve dipped, otherwise it’ll cool quickly and you won’t be able to get any on; I might suggest having a friend help if you’re having a messy time like me. Especially towards the end, when the chocolate is getting low and you’re trying to spoon it on all sides and such… not easy.

            But, when you’re done, you should still have a little pile of your own Birthday Cake Pops like they make at Starbucks, if not better! Look how smooth and pretty it is!

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            And the friend’s judgment? : “Pretty damn close actually.”

           That’s a win in my book! As for next time (the friend is making demands now), I think I’ll try a box cake mix, get myself some damn Styrofoam and wooden sticks (and red food coloring yes), and I think I’ll try something different with the chocolate. The shell, though tasty, was a bit thick to my liking, and again I was having some issue with dipping, and it ran low pretty quickly. I think next time I might find a recipe for a White Chocolate Glaze, like with cream or something; that way I can increase the volume of the actual dipping without spending so much on pure chocolate, while creating a slightly thinner coating that A: stays smooth easily and B: uses less glaze. Just need to find one that actually sets up firm…

             Well, that’s it for my Return-Post. Wait a little bit and I’ll post a fun recipe one can do to use up any of that leftover Cake you have! Until then, Good Luck and Good Eating.

She Royal Deli (Quasi-Review)

https://twitter.com/sheroyalcoco

http://www.sheroyalcoffee.com/

                Being in Downtown for a Food Truck that wasn’t there, I couldn’t help but notice She Royal’s new paintjob, and couldn’t think of a better moment to finally re-visit for their (partial) review. No doubt due in part to their sister truck’s, Brava, recent street movements; well that and the heavy need for them to get some actual customers. It’s certainly a visual improvement over the simple, stark white “catering/deli truck” feel. Maybe what one could expect from a Food Truck idea based off of a coffee company… though they don’t sell their coffee from it (weird right?).

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                Another effect of the recent change, which I’m not sure if it’s permanent, testing, or just temporary, is the Menu reduction of 6-8 items, none of which really had much to do with eachother (well maybe a couple), down to 3. I’m personally hoping they stick to this, only going up to one or two other items; it makes more business sense (especially if customer base is low) and focuses the style a bit more (not much, but a bit).

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                As of now, items are a Chicken Curry, which I highly expect to be very similar to if not the same as Brava’s; the Gyro; and their Veggie Sampler, which I am VERY happy they kept (it was the one item that actually intrigued me out of their original list of 8. Well, that and the Samosa for a quick snack option). Previous items, if they ever do bring them back, have been samosas, a burger, satay, I think a taco or quesadilla, falafel maybe… they aren’t dishes I’ve wanted to think about too much.

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                Of these 3, the only one I would suggest is the one I tried and have been waiting a couple years to get back to: the Veggie Sampler. Brava’s and their curried chicken doesn’t impress me too much, and if one wants a quality Gyro (that they know is better than others) it comes from a place that specializes.

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                That  said, I really enjoyed the Sampler; two different kinds of curried/Middle-eastern stewed lentils and some cooked carrots n beans with (saffron?) rice and pita (which I think was griddled slightly at one point, had a nice crunch). I love lunches like this, after piling as much of the delicious veggies on the pita, the best thing in the world is just mixing all these different spiced stews together with the rice to make a rich, filling meal. And it is filling, so in that sense it’s quite worth the $8 cost.

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                On that note, though, I sadly wouldn’t even suggest eating this. If you want a Lunch dish like this in Downtown Minneapolis, go to the Gavidae Common Food Court a couple blocks down to Kabob. You can get a “lunch platter” piled with almost any of their own Indian veggie stews, a couple different rices (mixed with all the good stuff), maybe hot sauces, and if you’re lucky a little cold dessert, all for $5 plus change. This is where I first had this style of lunch and why I love eating like it. It may not be the best quality restaurant Indian food, but for a Food Court it’s damn good, and amazing for the price, the best deal in the Skyway I swear.

                Well, all that said, here’s my “Quick Score” system for Royal.

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                Food: 6.5ish – Veggie was tasty, but dragged down from what I expect an average or lower quality in other dishes.

                Holdability: 6.5 – depends on the item usually, but as it is now 2 of the 3 items really need sitting down to enjoy.

                Price: 6 – all $8 right now (the bigger menu was a bit more various), and I really wonder if all of them is worth it

                Speed: 8.5 – Pretty fast, I think all of the 3 are ready to go (maybe not the Curry), the bigger menu varies, but even so they didn’t shovel it out too quickly

                Toe: 4 – well there was a reason it took me so long to actually visit… the color scheme increases visual aspect and the smaller menu helps focus it, but still… I don’t see why they kept a gyro of all things.

                That’s about it I guess. I’ll try and keep my eye on them, see how the menu decisions come along. Until then though, Good Luck and Good Eating to you all.

Paulette Bakery

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http://www.paulettebakery.com/#

https://twitter.com/PauletteBakery

Main Location: Minneapolis (Mornings)

            There are so many fun little facets and parts to a successful Food Truck scene, and though our Cities’ growth in this has been tremendous we still have much a ways to go to catch up to the rest of the Nation. One of these aspects, as I’ve talked about with Racer at short-length, is a notable absence in the Breakfast scene. Sure we have a few trucks that have Breakfast OPTIONS, but none truly Specialize, and the number of them which actually show up early enough for the Morning Crowd is a notable minority.

            Hoping to lead the way in this mysterious territory, Paulette Bakery jumps onto the scene. Parking its small little self at various spots in our Downtown Minneapolis area, Paulette’s makes a note of ONLY serving in the early Morning times between 7 and 10am (not counting special situations and possible events). Whether the owner (whose name ISN’T actually Paulette –gasp!!– how dare she!) has considered extending these into lunch, considering how fast and often her goods sell out before 10, I’d say she’s probably fit to stay in that same-old timeslot.

            There are currently Two things one can get when they stop here: good quality, Fair-Trade Coffee (okay, they also have Tea), and Hand-made Croissants. The latter comes in 4 simple options: Plain, Chocolate, Almond, or a seasonal Savory Croissant (when I visited, it was Goat Cheese-Asparagus, yum!). Waiting in a simply stacked rack, these little joys make a quick bite for the Breakfast-seeker walking along the street.  

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Food: 9.5

             (Let me start by saying I am SOOOOOOO sorry… I forgot to actually take pictures of the Croissants themselves! I was so focused on eating them and getting back home it completely skipped my mind… guess that’s what they get for being so good. So here’s some better-looking ones I found online)

             3 words: Scratch, Made, Croissants. Unless she’s defining it differently, that means the owner is making the dough herself, from the base, and then rolling it into these amazing little pastries. Many people might not actually be aware of this, but this is HUGE. There are NOT a lot of places that actually make their own Croissant dough (or even Croissants for that matter); it is highly finicky, labor intensive, and ultimately a real bitch for any business unless one can actually do it right. That’s why most places rely on Factories for their dough; it’s all done exactly the same way, and one doesn’t have to worry about (your) Labor Cost. It’s basically the same as Puff Pastry, only not AS completely insane in difficulty.

             As for the results… BUTTERY. Rich, flaky, tender-soft Croissant deliciousness, which is then filled with even more deliciousness depending on what you get. Going for a complete review, I of course had to get 2 of these, so I settled for the Chocolate and (as mentioned) the Goat-Cheese Asparagus seasonal. Chocolate was of course that nice, traditional rich line of darkness, while the Asparagus… oohhhhhhh the asparagus. Now THAT’S how you use this ingredient; nice and soft in here (we don’t want the texture this time, too delicate of a wrapping), with that notable green, slightly pungent flavor, mixing with that tart, rich, creamy chevre. And the Croissant is an almost PERFECT pastry for it; much like the typical hollandaise used to garnish, its buttery nature complements the veggie nicely. I’m still doing a bit of a happy dance.

             These Croissants clearly blow all the well-known, average pastries out of the water, and even remind my Mom of a few of the ones she’s had in France. Now, going for any critical notes here, apparently they aren’t quite AS crispy as the “perfect” France ones (where they apparently learn how to make it when they’re kids, ugh). I also find myself somewhat wishing there was more to differentiate the simple chocolates from its competitors (besides the quality of the pastry); same simple design, but then again there’s a reason for that… it’s GOOD.

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Holdability: 10

            In the same line as Potter’s, grabbing a pastry in one of those small bags is about as simple as can be, there’s not much more to say about it. I was debating lowering it since the antiquital experience here is with BOTH Pastry and Coffee, but as one only needs one hand each with no issue.  

Price: 9

              Definitely a cheaper breakfast than getting an omelette or egg sandwich somewhere, with the croissants ranging between $2.25 and $3.50, with coffee for a bit under $2. As a Bakery, though, it is a touch disappointing they don’t offer one or two REALLY cheap options, like tiny Danishes or those little Frangipane-Puff Pastry “cookie swirls;” I’ve always found looking at and grabbing an extra little something to be a fun, naughty part of any bakery experience.

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Speed: 10

              Instantaneous like any bakery.

The TOE: 9

              Maybe not the first Truck to serve Breakfast, but definitely the first in our lineup to specialize in it, Paulette looks to lead the charge towards a whole new movement in our Morning Rush. With talks of Café Racer and others in tow, a new dawn of Breakfast Trucks may certainly be closer than originally thought. It seems only fitting that such a small, simple Truck like this be the one to create such large ripples in the lake. For if we’ve learned anything in our explorations of Truck Culture, the biggest impacts often come from the most unexpected places.

                      Tally: 47.5/50

                       

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Final Thoughts

            A great start to our Breakfast-based Lineup, fantastic for those who need a quick munchy and/or coffee on-the-go. Quick, Cheap, Easy to Hold, and Delicious, it fills all of the street-eater’s basic requirements.

            With the limited options, I’d just say get whatever particular style of Croissant suits your desire. However, if you haven’t had one before, DEFINITELY get the Almond one; filled with that sweet, rich Marzi/Frangipane, it’s always just so good. Not to mention the nut-based flavors go awesome with Coffee. For something a bit different, don’t be afraid to go for whichever Savory Croissant they have that day either.

            Oh, and don’t forget to stop by Starbucks on your walk and laugh at them as you point to your Cheaper yet Better Quality Coffee.

 

A Moment of Silence for the Departed

           No collective group of similar businesses goes through their years, early and long, without casualties. The world of Food Trucks is no different; I myself can use all the fingers on one hand to recall some of the establishments to have disappeared from our many ranks. Some cut down too early before their time, some simply fizzing out in the shadow of other blazing fires, and one which simply moved.

          Whatever the reason, I would like to take a moment of silence to honor and respect those little businesses which have come and gone from our Streets. We may not be able to samply you, but those who know shall always remember these names:

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The Brothers Deli

           A small, ubiquitous little metal cart found parked on Nicollet, Brothers served up the best Deli-style sandwiches. I loved their pastrami, not to mention the various dressings used to garnish the sourdough and rye. A side of hand-fried chips or knish, adjusted slight, would have certainly highlighted as a fantastic Toe Ring in our cities’ selection.

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Cook n Wheels

          Though technically not departed or out of business, Cook and Wheels has taken quite the departure from the street due to repair issues. I certainly wish them a speedy recovery.

Magic Bus

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          If still here, Magic Bus would have certainly vied alongside Natedogs as the top Hot Dog in the city. Big and purple, it stood out wherever it went, mostly sticking towards special fairs and events. I remember the one day I had the chane to sample them; their nice, snappy dogs loaded with hand-made, unique toppings. I wanted to try two different ones, but only one dog, so they did a half-n-half thing for me; both the beet slaw and the papaya relish. So good.

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          But alas, they have taken themselves to the Road, moving to Colorado for a different shop to set up. I truly hope and pray for the season in which they can come back to their home grounds.

Origins Coffee and Tea

          Released a couple years back, Origins sadly didn’t even make it through year’s end. Focusing purely on drinks, slinging craft coffees to the early morning and lunch crowds. Though noticing them on the street, I never got the chance to sample, food-focused as I am.

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Yummi

          Having read an article noting their recent selling of the truck, I can honestly say I am not too surprised at their passing. As this is a moment of “honoring,” I shall not go into details on my opinions. I did see so much potential though… it’s a shame they never got the chance to reach it.

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          And there may be even more that I am currently unaware of. For now, we pay homage to those who have gone, and those future trucks not destined to last. Let us hope that those owners are back on their feet, and wish them Good Luck in their future.

 

Do you have any good memories of a departed Food Truck? Any other Minnesotan businesses you would like to honor?