Independence Day is just around the corner and I'm ready to visit family, relax and yes, enjoy myself. Tasty, fun foods can make all the difference in keeping my relatives sated and happy on July 4th.
One way I use to insure that levity reigns is to bring an array of red, white and blue edibles to the table. It injects fun into a picnic, cook-out or party, even if temperatures get hot and kids feel cranky.
Here are some local treats that will colorfully complement your celebration of our nation's birthday, and where you can pick them up in the area.
Farmers Market Tomatoes - The season's great homegrown tomatoes are showing their early faces at the Fulton and Kingfield Farmers Markets. These babies remind you why you left their tasteless hothouse cousins on the shelf of the big box stores and waited patiently for summer to come. Whether on a burger, in a Caprese salad or plain with salt and pepper, these lovelies will surely perk up your cook-out.
Papabubble's watermelon + salt + chili - These artisanal candies from New York City are sweet, salty, spicy and strangely addicting. Pick them up at Sugar Sugar for $6 and get ready for an adult treat with a long, hot finish. They are quirky conversation starters that are decidedly unique and come in cool, modern packaging.
Slicing Loaf - Don't underestimate the beauty of a high quality white bread. Turtle Bread Company's white slicing loaf ($4.99) makes a killer picnic sandwich as well as a lovely patty melt. And, when a few days past its prime, it will easily elevate a panzanella, or Italian bread salad. We're lucky to have this staple on hand regularly in Linden Hills.
Pumphouse Creamery Vanilla Ice Cream - Whether you stop in the Chicago Avenue store or pick up a quart at Linden Hills Co-op or Kowalski's ($8.99), this is the proverbial cream of the local ice cream crop. Made with dairy products from Crystal Ball Farm and Fair Trade Ugandan vanilla, it's the perfect base for berries, sauces and nuts.
Jasper Hill Farm Bayley Hazen Blue - According to Song Lee, manager at France 44's Cheese Shop, this is the blue to use on your burger. It's a raw cow's milk cheese that has a sliceable consistency and nutty qualities that shine through its not-so-strong traditional blue flavor. Named for a road that General George Washington had built in order to protect the Canadian front, it seems a natural choice for your Independence Day festivities and sells for $12.50 a half pound.
Bluecoat American Dry Gin - Grab a bottle of this Philadelphia-made spirit available at France 44 Wine & Spirits ($23.99) and South Lyndale Liquors to create top notch cocktails this 4th. Named after our soldiers in the Revolutionary War, this is yet another patriotic pick. Made with organic juniper berries and citrus peel plus other botanicals, it is a smooth, earthy drink. Make an impressive Aviation for your guests, which mixes gin with fresh lemon juice and Maraschino (the cherry liqueur, not those chemical-filled fruits).
RED, WHITE & BLUE
Sweets Bakeshop's Macarons ($1.50 each) - The Nicollet Avenue bakery plans to amp up production of the Browned Butter (blue), Vanilla Bean (white) and Chili Pepper (red) in honor of the holiday. They are adorable and delicious, with deep caramel, chocolate and a spicy note in the hot red ones. Check out their Independence Day special here which includes both cupcakes and macarons.
Great Harvest Breads' Red, White and Blueberry Bread ($6.95) - Made from June 29 through July 3, specifically for Independence Day, this white loaf is studded with cherries and blueberries. Serve it as is, with some fresh Hope butter, or prepare a sweet bread pudding that compliments those scrumptious dried fruits.
Honorable Mentions include the glistening RED Ahi tuna at Clancey's, which is a great light alternative to burgers and brats, Cedar Summit Farm's Cream, a lovely WHITE topping for seasonal fruits and homemade cakes and the BLUEberries that are popping up at Untiedt's Vegetable Stands but aren't quite local yet.