I had never been on a food walking tour, so on a lovely summer Saturday morning I decided to see what they are all about. I chose the Heart of St. Paul tour by Taste Twin Cities Food Tours, which starts off at Mears Park in downtown St. Paul.Our first stop was Legacy Chocolates. I liked this tour already — straight to the chocolate! Located in the Pioneer Endicott Building, all of this chocolatier’s confections are made from scratch and their truffles are hand-dipped. Our first sample was sipping chocolate which can be used for hot chocolate or with liqueur added as an apéritif. Our second was a rich, thick chocolate fudge sauce called Potion #9. For our third sample we had a choice of any of their truffles, so I picked the Himalayan Caramel, a decadent treat made with a hint of Himalayan salt. Legacy Chocolates also has fun flavors like margarita and rum. The sign on their door bears their motto: “Legacy Chocolates is in pursuit of your happiness.”
Stop number two was at Sakura Restaurant & Bar, which specializes in sushi. All three of our samples were presented neatly on one plate, and we ate them with chopsticks. I enjoyed two Japanese dumplings, two cucumber rolls, a chicken skewer, a small dab of wasabi (whoa is that hot!), and a soupçon of ginger to cleanse my palate.
We meandered through the streets and parks of St. Paul at a leisurely pace during the three hour tour while our guide told us the history of the city as well as some fun facts along the way. I learned that the Mississippi River winds throughout St. Paul and Minneapolis so twistingly that there are actually 76 miles of it in the Twin Cities alone. Also, the Mississippi River has a perfect pH balance, making it ideal for the breweries in town. Who knew?
Our third stop was at Afro Deli & Grill on 7th Place, which primarily serves Somali food but mixes it up a bit with Greek and American fare as well. Here we started off with a sambusa, a deep-fried tortilla with beef and spices. Next, our server came out with their Chicken Fantastic, Somali rice and vegetables in a cream sauce with parmesan on top. This was followed up by a Greek salad and baklava for dessert.
As we walked through Rice Park to our next destination, our guide shared a bit more about St. Paul. Rice Park, built in 1849, is older than Central Park in New York City. Better yet, when former President George H. W. Bush stayed at the Saint Paul Hotel overlooking Rice Park, he once ordered a peanut butter and bacon sandwich for a late-night snack. He and Elvis would have gotten along!
The fourth stop was Candyland. It was originally called Flavo Corn when it opened in 1932, and back then it was a money laundering front for the mob. They sell a large variety of candy in addition to their signature Chicago Mix, a delicious blend of seasoned, caramel, and cheddar popcorn. A sign prominently displayed in the store says “Diet is a four letter word. Please refrain from using it on these premises.” With so many varieties of candy, popcorn, and fudge they’ve made from the same recipe since the 50’s, Candyland is definitely not the place to go when you’re watching your figure. I left with the Chicago Mix and a chocolate and nut turtle.
Back on 7th Place, our last stop was at Great Waters Brewing Company in the historic Hamm Building. I sampled Canadian walleye fingers and an open-faced chicken salad sandwich made with curry, cranberry, and almonds. We also tried their craft beers St. Andrews Cross Scotch Ale and seasonal New England inspired IPA “Havahd Yahd.” If you are not a beer drinker, they also brew their own root beer for you to enjoy.
I finished the tour a little richer in knowledge of St. Paul, and certainly a lot richer in calories. I was quite full, and grateful I had walked for my food. If you would like to go on a food tour, Taste Twin Cities offers nine for you to choose from including their newest offering, a pizza tour called Slice of Minneapolis. Visit tastetwincities.com for more information!
By Dianne Swanson