Cranberries are considered indispensible to a traditional holiday meal; because of this, the poor fruit has been typecast. Cousin of the blueberry and huckleberry, the name “cranberry” was coined by early European settlers who thought that the plant looked like a crane. It’s also called mossberry, fenberry and bearberry, since the bears love ’em. Indigenous folks were already harvesting and eating them when the marauding Europeans arrived; natives also used the berries as medicine for wounds and clothing dye. Despite their importance at the holiday table, there are many ways to enjoy these tart red jewels—both savory and sweet—and we sallied forth to find them. Check out eight great non-festive cranberry concoctions.
FARMER’S WHEAT BREAD WITH CRANBERRIES
This well-loved chain makes all kinds of loaves, both tasty and nourishing, and there are several that use cranberries. We fell for the flaxseed farmer’s wheat with cranberries, which you can find almost every day at the bakery (check the bake schedule on the website to be sure). It’s a solid, hearty wheat bread, full of fiber and rich with the Omega-3-yielding flaxseed, plus rye, oats, corn meal, bran and sunflower seeds. Cranberries punctuate every bite; the berries add a touch of sweet, a chewy texture and make a pretty mosaic on each slice. This bread is just as good for buttered toast as it is for an overstuffed sandwich; we especially like it with savory meats like ham and turkey. Try it toasted with sliced turkey, and fixings (leftovers from the big meal, maybe?)—yum. It’s a curiously charming loaf, a rubbly oval that would gussy up any breadboard or dinner table. 3939 West 50th St; 952.920.2778.
Cranberries and booze are bosom buddies; the berry’s astringent quality mimics that of alcohol, especially vodka. There are several classic cranberry-based cocktails, like the Madras, sea breeze, and the ultra-girly cosmo of Sex in the City fame. Many restaurants are coming up with their own cranberry-based libations; witness the drinks list at Pittsburgh Blue. We went right for the pomegranate martini, a heady concoction of vodka, Pama liqueur (a potent vodka-tequila-pomegranate flavor bomb), and pomegranate and cranberry juices. We could taste cranberry more than pomegranate: this was a good thing. The entire cocktail menu makes for good reading here: have a look at the hilariously named “martinis for Mom,” with sippers like “MIA at the PTA” and “mommy’s sippy cup.” You’ll notice a lot of white cranberry juice; mixologists love it for its colorless sweet-tart punch. The horny Smurf (Stoli blueberry vodka, Red Bull, white cranberry juice, blue curaçao) is another clever example that will surely make you giggle. $11. 3220 Galleria; 952.567.2700.
MAPLE CRANBERRY GRANOLA YOGURT AND FRUIT
Almost everything at this eatery is made from scratch with local materials (Wiseacre even has its own farm nearby). The maple-cranberry granola is a must-munch: It’s lightly sweetened with real maple syrup and generously enlivened with not-too-sugary dried cranberries. It’s great with yogurt and fruit, as it’s served on the breakfast menu; it’s also great when pressed into service for Wiseacre’s splendiferous “back to bed” French toast, which combines the granola, yogurt and maple berry syrup for the most intensely delicious breakfast we’ve had. French toast, $11. Granola, $6. 5401 Nicollet Ave. S.; 612.354.2557.
TURKEY MEATLOAF WITH CRANBERRY CHUTNEY
Cranberries go well with turkey, no doubt about it—such things don’t become classics for nothing! Good Earth slyly tweaks this compatibility with its turkey meatloaf plate. The meatloaf itself is non-traditional, erring on the healthy side. It’s made with all-natural lean ground turkey breast, fresh spinach, pesto and subtly seasoned breadcrumbs. It’s grilled and draped in a roasted red pepper sauce; alongside you’ll get sweet-hot gingered yams, fresh vegetables and the ultimate condiment: cranberry chutney. $14.95. 3460 Galleria; 952.925.1001.
Cranberries have been enlisted by the food police because of their high antioxidant content; they are now a designated “superfruit,” along with pomegranate and açai berries. This salad emphasizes the berry’s health benefits, but we were struck with the taste bud benefits: crisp-fresh organic romaine, toasty big walnuts, lots of dried cranberries and creamy, pungent gorgonzola. This beautiful array is held together with a slightly sweet, nicely tangy balsamic vinaigrette. What an awesome way to get our vitamins. $9. 3545 Galleria; 952.426.1856.
SALMON WITH CRANBERRY BACON CRUST
It’s called a “crust” on the menu, but this salty-smoky-sweet-tart confab is more of a blanket that keeps the poached salmon happily moist. The combination of cranberries and bacon was bound to happen—bacon is everywhere these days. Perhaps the bright and tart elements of the berry neutralize the greasy decadence of the pork (one can only hope, right?). No matter; it’s really, really yummy: succulent, smoky and sweet, a perfect combination of fat and acid, sugar and salt. It comes with emulsified lemon butter sauce, braised rainbow greens and roasted heirloom potatoes, but we were so enchanted with the fish, we hardly noticed. $25.95. 3520 W. 70th St; 952.697.6000.
CRANBERRY ORANGE CHICKEN
Eden Avenue Grill
Yep, here they go again, parading with fowl: cranberries and chicken are another successful fruit and meat combo. In this case, cranberries team up with orange and grace an eight-ounce char-grilled chicken breast. It’s light, sweet and slightly unexpected—perhaps a new classic in the making. $14. 5101 Arcada Ave.; 952.925.5628.