It’s autumn, which means it’s time to hunker down, get cozy and eat comfort food. We find that advice depressing, especially when so much about the fall is energizing instead of sedating. Take the color orange: it’s a classic fall shade, associated with seasonal foliage, pumpkins and Halloween. Orange is also the color of spirituality (Tibetan Buddhist monks’ robes), of joy (beach sunset) and rebellion (Ukraine’s Orange Revolution)—all things that we sorely need this time of year!
We vow not to retreat come October, but greet the season with effervescence and enthusiasm. It’s time we celebrate the zingy side of autumn—from football to school to Halloween—with a bevy of exuberant orange eats. Don’t get cozy, get busy; rather than succumbing to hibernation, this colorful fare will wake you up and get you in the mood for the season’s festivities.
VIVIAN'S MISO SHRIMP
Every dish on this menu vibrates with the colors and flavors of the owner's childhood in Vietnam. Vivian must have been someone special, because her miso shrimp was surely divinely inspired. The appetizers consists of a generous allotment of plump grilled shrimp brushed with a sweet and salty honey-miso glaze- a glowing playte of irresistible burnshished orange. A bed of cool English cucumber (seedless) makes a crisp and pretty backdrop. The interplay of heat and sweet is unforgettable, and the palette is almost like an Impressionalist painting. Wherever Vivian is, we want her at our dinner table. $8 3948 W. 50th St.; 952.288.2888.
Uni, or sea urching roe, has been called "the foie gras of the sea," although some refer to it with less than poetic words. We're crazy about this pale orange delicacy, which enjoys royal treatment at Raku. It is spooned into a shooter layered with precious kumamoto oysters, a big slug of premium sake and a dash of hot radish sauce. Uni is meant to be slurped down in onw go; we surreptitiously chew on our so we can savor the contrast of crunchy, smooth and cool, with just the right amount of slime; "slime" is a compliment in this case. $6.00. 3939 W 50th St; 952.358.2588.
HOUSE-CURED FENNEL GRAVLAX
Pig & Fiddle
Salmon is one of our favorite orange foods, and when it’s cured and made into gravlax it gets even more intensely orange. Gravlax is a Scandinavian dish, which sits comfortably on the pub’s menu right next to Belgian frites, Polish-style pierogi and Bavarian pretzels. A gorgeous slab of Scottish salmon gets cured in a mixture of salt, sugar and dill, and is served with a fresh fennel-citrus salad, which accentuates the sweet and herbal aspects of the fish. Dashfire bourbon orange bitters—another recently trendy ingredient—adds that ever-important je ne sais quoi. This friendly joint is known for its large beer selection; a pint of citrusy Hoegaarden (garnished with orange slice) or a bright Bell’s Oberon pair nicely with the briny-sweet fish. $12. 3812 W. 50th St.; 952.955.8385.
SWEET POTATO FRIES
Sweet potatoes are a perennial favorite across all generations; in French-fry form they represent the most exciting take on the solid orange tuber. “It’s what we’re known for,” says our server, and we have to agree that the Edina Grill’s sweet potato fries are worth ordering with every visit (better get two orders; everyone will want some). Little shards of skin cling to each fry, if only as a reminder of authenticity; the fries themselves sit happily within the fat and meaty realm of French fry-hood. They come with a smoky-spicy chipotle pesto aioli, which is bold and tasty but almost irrelevant; we enjoy these fries for the pure and unadulterated sweet potato flavor alone. I’m hooked, you’re hooked, we’re all hooked on sweet potato fries! $8.25. 5028 France Ave. S.; 952.927.7933.
Sweet Retreat Cupcake Boutique
It’s our mayor’s favorite kind of cake (see our June 2013 issue), and he is not alone in his enthusiasm for this chunky delight. The generous blanket of vanilla bean-infused cream cheese frosting attracts most of the praise—and rightfully so—but we are charmed by the orange flecks of real carrot and the tender crumb of the cake itself, redolent of cinnamon and nutmeg. There are no raisins to distract your admiration here; small bits of pineapple add more moistness than flavor. Cake time means party time, and a good slab of carrot cake turns any occasion into something celebratory. Special orders (minimum of two dozen) welcome. Pair it with a rich dark-roast coffee and you’ll find true heaven. $3 each; one dozen, $33. 5013 France Ave. S.; 612.353.6230.
Big Bowl is eager to update some of its favorite flavor combinations. A favorite, orange chicken, doesn’t reveal much as a menu description, although most of us have a beloved version lurking in our mind’s eye. Big Bowl doesn’t mess with the traditional expectation; deep-fried golden nuggets of dark meat are doused in a sticky-sweet orange-based sauce threaded with julienned red bell peppers and hunks of kelly-green scallions. Big Bowl always uses the freshest of ingredients, with a healthy emphasis on vegetables, so you can count on this dish to be both uplifting and energizing. $12.95; 3669 Galleria; 952.928.7888.
PUMPKIN PIE ICE CREAM
Pumpkins are rich in fiber and stuffed with coveted vitamins A, B, C and E; they’re also great sources of iron, phosphorus, magnesium and other trace minerals. This nutritional powerhouse is often served in the form of a holiday pie; Edina Creamery churns out a pumpkin pie ice cream, which is somehow more pumpkin-y but less heavily filling as pie. The old-fashioned ice cream parlor isn’t afraid to dip its toe into updated versions of traditional recipes; here, the beloved pumpkin pie gets a makeover with cream and milk that will not disappoint the most stalwart fans. Prices vary. 5055 France Ave. S.; 612.920.2169.