To eat and drink your way around the Twin Cities is to visit nearly every corner of the globe. On the cheap.

Minneapolis highlights featured below: Sebastian Joe’s [for ice cream this time – Pavarotti, raspberry chocolate chunk and banana], Isles Bun & Coffee [get thee to the Bunnery!! go now!!], Tin Fish [fish tacos like you expect at the ocean shore], Turtle Bread Co. [bread, soup, sandwiches; what’s not to like?], Gigi’s Cafe [one of Dad’s favorites], Hell’s Kitchen [fiendishly good; get the toasted sausage bread as a side], French Meadow Bakery [can’t go wrong with anything], Holy Land at Midtown Global Market [gyros*], The Local [trendy, upscale Irish pub downtown], Dunn Bros. on Bryant and Lake, Figlio [rock crab gazpacho], and Be’wiched [pastrami on rye with local beer on tap].

In St. Paul I visited the International Marketplace and Dragon Star Oriental Foods Market. Exceptional pho, Hmong sausage**, curry soup and set-your-mouth-ablaze papaya salad at the former; fresh, frozen and imported Asian delicacies galore – with durian fruit stinking up the produce section – at the latter. We also popped over to Cossetta’s Italian Market for a loaf of bread. The pizza here gets rave reviews. [I obviously didn’t make it over to Minneapolis’ more elegant older sister city too frequently…]

But then again, some of the best meals weren’t at a restaurant. They were meals made in my studio. Al fresco dining at the Lake Harriet Bandshell during a concert. Lemon yogurt cake or monkey bread made in the tiny oven with my mom and sister. Antipasti with my parents or boyfriend [soon-to-be at the time] on New Year’s Eve.

Several of other favorites to follow — all with the highest of recommendations:

– France 44 [My ultimate in Minneapolis. Extremely knowledgeable, helpful and overall wonderful staff presides over the extensive wine selection with free tastings every Friday and Saturday afternoon. Take a gander downstairs at the intense array of expensive liquors. But the best part of France 44… the cheese shop! Amazing selection of high-quality cheeses, as well as other artisan deli items, made-to-order sandwiches***, french press coffee, and did I mention the cheese?!! Oh that cheese… oftentimes from small dairies around the country that only sell to a few stores… the cheese can be sampled on the spot, whatever you want – just ask Benjamin or one of the other staff. In fact, click over to Benjamin’s blog for up-to-the-minute news (and laughs) from the shop’s cheesemonger himself.]

– Surdyk’s Liquor & Cheese Shop [huge wine selection, great cheese shop with breads, meat, desserts, etc.]

– Bill’s Imported Foods [Greek and Mediterranean imports market, plus homemade bakery – low prices and a wide variety of fresh and pre-packed goods]

– Zumbro Cafe [features locally-grown and organic dishes in Linden Hills]

– Rice Paper [Asian fusion – try the Lunar Clay Pot]

– Rustica Bakery [European breads and pastries – Miche bread is very authentic Parisian]

– Common Roots Cafe [another locally-grown, organic place – I had the daily special: Thousand Hills grass-fed beef steak sandwich with provolone cheese, jalapenos, mixed greens and garlic aioli on toasted sourdough bread… drippy and delicious]

– Eat Street [a 13-block stretch of Nicollet Avenue, only made it to Quang – recommend the pho]

*It’s no Parthenon, but it’s darn tasty.

**What’s in Hmong sausage? No one knows. We think there was some basil… ?? But don’t let that steer you away – it is awesome.

***Dad, Sandy, mom and I stopped in for sustenance before cleaning/packing commencement. Around the table we had four sandwiches: 1) sopressata, aged provolone with pepper-onion relish [excellent]]; 2) chicken salad; 3) duck confit [yum! AND I snagged the gratis duck fat – who’s excited?!!]; and 4) pulled pork with whole grain mustard [the mustard made the sandwich]. Properly topping off the wonderful meal and priming us for hours of hard work was a wine tasting to follow. France 44, you will be dearly missed.