I just returned from a swank two week vacation in Minneapolis, MN, which is a super cool city, and my boyfriend lives there, so that ups the appeal significantly. I was supposed to be doing research for one of my professors while I was there, but that kind of fell through last minute. So I decided to take advantage of the boyfriend-at-work time and the nearby grocery store with the most amazing bulk section (I can't believe I didn't take pictures of it). The rest of the store is average, but that bulk section, man...I think there was one week day that I didn't go to the grocery store...I cooked A LOT.
Besides my favorite bulk section in a regular grocery store, Minneapolis has some neat food, not to mention BEER, options. Though I cooked a ton, we did go out a couple of times. My favorite outings were to ice cream shops. I loved both Izzy's and The Pumphouse Creamery. Izzy's gives you an 'izzy' scoop to let you try a new flavor (they also give samples, but this allows you a more complete taste experience, which is good because some of their flavors are so intense that getting an izzy lets you know that a whole scoop might send you into hyperglycemic shock).
Izzy's. I adore the izzy scoop on top!
(praline pecan with a norwegian chai izzy and cherries jubilee with a licorice izzy)
We also went on the (free) Surly Brewery Tour. It's super fun and you get 5 free samples (probably about 1/3 a pint each). You have to make reservations a good bit ahead of time, but if you have the forethought to do it, it's pretty great. Make sure to eat before hand or designate a driver...I recommend eating before! Surly makes some delicious beer that you can only get in the midwest (Minnesota, Wisconsin and apparently Chicago). Jealous. I particularly love the Coffee Bender.
That brings me to another beloved location in the cities. I found this while I was walking around the neighborhood. Actually, I had changed neighborhoods; I found myself in St. Anthony Village staring at a store that had 'gourmet' in the name. I wanted to go in. And I did. And I'm glad. Annona Gourmet is a cute, bright little store that packs a punch. It's filled with kegs (tanks?) of olive oils and vinegars. Jeanie (I think that's how you spell her name) is super friendly and really knows her stuff. You can sample anything you want (with bread) and she will help you mix oils and vinegars (black cherry and picholine? pomegranate and garlic? [better than it sounds]). They are kind of expensive, but they are delicious, and you can buy smaller sizes in the store than you can get online. They make a great gift for the culinarily minded in your life. They also carry flavored pastas, flavored salts and flavored sugars (try the green chile sugar - whoa!).
Annona Gourmet. Row upon row of fancy oils and vinegars.
The Twin Cities offer plenty of opportunities for good eating and drinking. These are just a drop in the bucket. There are so many bars, so many great great bars that I haven't even talked about.
Anyway, if you have the opportunity to go, you should check it out for yourself. The summer is especially nice. Minnesotans are so excited that it's not frigid out; everyone is outside enjoying the weather and the lakes.