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Food news: A new bakery, best veggie bets and the local buzz

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We eat all week, but the publications with food sections go to print on Thursday. This week, they covered a new spot for sweet treats, a rundown of where to find a tasty veggie burger, a big story on the growing number of micro-distilleries that are creating Minnesota-made craft spirits. We also found news about soul food in an unlikely place – Mankato.

The Star Tribune's Taste section checks out the buttery bakery offerings at Honey and Rye Bakehouse (4501 Excelsior Blvd., St. Louis Park). Writer Rick Nelson will be ready to run a marathon after the thorough carb-loading he must have done for this review. He's enthusiastic about the spot's pies, layer cakes, cookies, croissants and breads. Read his review on the brownies and you'll feel like Pavlov's dog.

He also gives a rave to the savory picnic pies. ("With edges crimped by a fork and tops bronzed and glossy via an egg wash, they just might be the ultimate grab-and-go lunch item.") Nelson approves of the classic fare, noting desserts are not overly sweet and the menu offers "no cupcakes, cake pops, pastel-tinted almond macaroons or other once-trendy treats." His biggest complaint is the size of the space, with room for only 10 dine-in seats.

The Star Tribune runs Burger Friday, a weekly feature highlighting a heavenly hamburger (the most recent was the ground-from-steak offering at The Strip Club in St. Paul). This week, the Pioneer Press gave equal time to non-carnivores by reviewing the best meatless or veggie burgers in St. Paul. Food writer Jess Fleming sampled six sammies that would appeal to vegetarians or diners still sticking with resolutions to eat healthier in the new year.

She savored the black bean fritter at Brasa, (777 Grand Ave., St Paul and 600 E. Hennepin, Minneapolis) a restaurant known for its slow-cooked meats, and liked what she called the "least traditional option" at the Happy Gnome (498 Selby Ave., St. Paul), a fried vegetable Juicy Lucy described as "strips of zucchini, summer squash, mushrooms and red pepper wrapped around fresh mozzarella."

Fleming also grooved on the black bean veggie burgers at Groundswell (1340 Thomas Ave., St. Paul) and Ward 6 (858 Payne Ave., St. Paul); the falafel burger at Shish (1668 Grand Ave., St. Paul) and the walnut-enhanced veggie burger (pictured here) at Trotter's Cafe (232 N. Cleveland Ave., St. Paul).

In lieu of a major restaurant review, City Pages used its food ink for a comprehensive cover story on the statewide booze boom in micro-distilleries. The story suggests that a change in state law will lead to a craft spirits craze similar to what microbreweries are experiencing as sippers develop a taste for locally-produced hard stuff. The story had a roundup of a baker's dozen micro-distillers, including some that are in the process of opening. It included a nod to Norseman Vodka, based in northeast Minneapolis and often selling out in liquor stores where its stocked in the Twin Cities. Norseman Gin is coming soon.

A new spot for southern cooking is now open in southern Minnesota. The Mankato Free Press had the news that a soul food restaurant opened in Mankato. Daisy’s Soul Food & Buffet (410 S. Front St., Mankato) includes staples such as fried chicken, country fried steak, collard greens, fried green tomatoes and okra, hot water corn bread, black-eyed peas, and homemade sweet potato pie. A sample plate is pictured.

Owner Darius Knox named the spot after his mother. He thinks the cuisine will appeal to local residents hungry for down home cooking.

“In this town, with the college, there are a lot of people who grew up down South on this food,” he said.

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