Call them starters, call them appetizers, call them shareables, but whatever you do, don’t pass over them on the menu. Fun, shareable food encourages lively conversation among family and friends. These dishes are easily split into bite-sized tidbits. Tempt your taste buds with focaccia, fries, nachos, wontons, s’mores and more. In Edina, we like to share our food.
Campfire memories rekindle with s’mores. “They bring back the inner child,” says Joshua D. Clark, senior assistant manager. Fire-roasted marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate make a tasty trio. The intensely sweet gooey confection is ideal for sharing. At Pinstripes, innovative touches update s’mores, and the way they’re served is half the fun. Four marshmallow-filled graham cracker sandwiches cascade over each other in domino fashion. A bowl of melted dark chocolate serves as a sweet fondue. A swirl of seared marshmallow adds a whimsical touch. A profusion of sugar lingers on your teeth with a nostalgic smack. While National S’mores Day is celebrated on August 10, these are on the menu year-round. $7.
Few ever see the world’s tallest peaks rising from the Tibetan plateau, but a bite into a momo can make you feel like you’re there. Luckily, this showy dish has made its way to Edina! You can enjoy them at the Centennial Lakes Farmers Market. Edina resident Dhondup Tsering serves his authentic handmade momos with pride and passion. The recipe is dear to him–a keepsake of his native land. Each resembles a coin purse with swirling folds of dough clasping into a seal. A tasty cache hides within the chewy dough. Imagine an exotically spiced hotdish cooked inside a big handmade noodle, like a steamed dumpling – all doused in a spicy chile garlic sauce or soy sauce with sesame soy garlic vinaigrette. The momos are small enough to share yet substantive enough to make a meal. Six momos $5. Centennial Lakes Farmers Market; Thursdays 3-7:00 p.m.
FRIES FIVE GUYS STYLE
The cup runneth over with French fries at Five Guys. Hot, fresh-from-the-fryer fries spill out of Styrofoam cups. The abundance invites sharing. The homey smell of hot peanut oil triggers fry cravings; it’s hard to not to order some. Think of these spuds as fries deluxe. The skins are left intact, reinforcing the crusty seal that encloses a creamy potato center. The hand-cut fries are soaked in water to eliminate starch, pre-cooked, then fried again. “It’s a pretty arduous task to produce our fries, but it is worth it,” says Ryan Dussault, franchisee. The snappy fries hold up to condiments. Pick from British malt vinegar or plain ketchup, or turn up the heat with Cajun seasoning. Large $4.99; regular $3.69; small $2.69. Centennial Lakes.
One good curd deserves another, with a big sop of triple-berry ketchup. They squish, they squeak, they can even make you squeal with delight. Cheese curds represent all that is good about Midwestern food: heart-warming and hearty. “I’ve heard ours are better than the State Fair cheese curds. Ours are light, fluffy and flaky,” says Michael Giacomini, director of finance and marketing. Discover why these beer-battered, deep-fried cheese curds are so renowned. Hot, thinly coated nuggets ooze with stringy, buttery cheese. And did we mention they go well with beer? Happy days are filled with Red Cow cheese curds and an icy brew. $9.75; $6 during happy hour.
CREAM CHEESE WONTONS
East collides with west, and cream cheese wontons emerge. These tasteful culinary nomads can claim no real home. Cream cheese wontons are an almost mandatory starter for a Thai or Chinese meal. Coconut Thai makes a near candy-like version from extra crispy, thin-skinned wontons plumped with velvety-smooth cream cheese. Owner Pallop Ratnasingha uses a recipe handed down from his mother. Six cream cheese wontons resemble origami creations, neatly formed with linear frills fading from dark to golden brown, almost too sculptural to eat. But a side of sweet-and-sour sauce draws you in with tangy scents of ginger and cinnamon. Alternating crisp, creamy and liquid textures tempt the tongue, with no hindrance to table talk. $6.
Calamari ringlets and crispies have all the markings of a sophisticated seafood shareable. Take your pick of fried or sautéed (or grilled when available). Either way, a short cooking time gives the calamari a tender bite. Cavé Vin’s fried calamari teems with cheery Mediterranean tastes. The simple dish upstages its sea squid origins and wins over even non-calamari types. A side of housemade aioli makes a lusciously rich dip. Put your lemon wedge to good use; it’s for more than just show. A squeeze of fresh lemon brings out delicate flavors. Made fresh with the “right balance of salt and lemon,” this calamari is a proven pleaser, says Ken Wills, owner. “We go through a lot of it.” $9.
Rojo Mexican Grill
Nachos offer a spicy kick and a shareable presentation. It’s all in the chips; or rather, it’s all over the chips—mounds of crisp hand rolled chips. Lavishly layered nachos contain no plain chips to spoil the fun. Cheese, jalapeños, pico de gallo, roasted corn, black olives and sour cream layer through and through. Pulled chicken or seasoned ground beef can heighten the experience. With or without the protein add-on, these nachos are a “big heaping plate of food,” says Ben Albaugh, general manager. A Rojo margarita turns your nacho feast into the makings of a party. $9.95; with chicken or beef $12.25; margarita $9.50.
FOCACCIA BREAD BASKET
Breaking bread brings people together, just as it has done over the ages. The bread basket is a traditional start to a meal that is all too often skipped in our harried lives. Luckily, Arezzo stays true to its time-honored Tuscan roots. Fresh-baked focaccia takes the stage here. After ordering a meal, a complimentary basket arrives with a whiff of fresh rosemary, olive oil and yeasty dough. Chewy triangles of focaccia set the tone for an Italian dining experience that showcases not only the quality of food but the quality of life. Slow down and savor. Nibble on bread and converse with your neighbor. The urge to eat more than one piece proves unstoppable. Before you know it, your focaccia’s gone. It’s tempting to have another complimentary basket, but with more delicious food on the way … well, maybe not? Free with purchase.