As Minnesota is relatively a hop skip and jump from Chicago I planned a three day stay with Woody to finish tweaking the manuscript and to visit some of my many friends in the Twin Cities. Due to weather in New York, the stay was extended for two extra days. No one was complaining.It's been many years since I've seen Tim Bennett, father of this blog and now father of two adorable children. Tim suggested we meet at his favorite bakery, Rustica. The breads and pastries all looked very inviting and promising. While waiting for the Bennett family to arrive, out of the corner of my eye I spied the very familiar cover of The Cake Bible and three people sitting at the counter with a big pile of my books smiling big smiles. The two women were pastry chefs at Rustica and had heard I'd be coming. I was delighted to sign each book. It was so wonderful meeting Tim's wife Ina, his son Simon, and daughter Ani. Ina is from Russia and both kids speak Russian. Both kids bake and I learned that Ani slept with The Pastry Bible when she was so young she could barely lift it. She wants to be a chef. As we were too late for a savory dinner at the bakery, we opted to have dessert for dinner instead. Simon is going to a french immersion school so we had fun having a conversation in french. No surprise, he is a super bright, confident, and most engaging child and I was thrilled when Tim said he would send him to NJ to spend a week with me (I hope he was serious!). A visit to the Twin Cities is never complete without one or two pizzas at Punch's. They've been rated number 1 for authentic new-style thin crust pizza for years and justifiably so. The crust is crisp and tender with a puffy rim, resulting from the intense heat of the wood-fired grills. I hadn't seen my dear friend Michelle Gayer for five years. I am so proud of her. When first we met she was pastry chef at the famed Charlie Trotter restaurant in Chicago. She now has the very successful bakery The Salty Tart, in the International Market Place and has just been nominated for a Beard Award for best midwestern chef!
When I looked at this photo I found myself wondering just what I was doing with my hands and then remembered that I was showing her beautiful daughters how much shorter they were 5 years ago when last I saw them. Michelle gave us an assortment of her sweet and savory pastries. I suspected from the fine layering and butter blistering on outside of the croissant that the inside would be a perfect web of cell structure. Indeed, it was not only so, it was also wondrously tender and perfumed with butter. You wouldn't find better at the best establishments in Paris. We also loved her savory sun dried tomato and cheese pastry. We all went for dinner to The Craftsman, the Gayer family's favorite neighborhood restaurant. Michelle had her usual pickled gimlet, I had a beet Cosmopolitan, Woody had a beer, and the girls had their favorite non-alcholic tall drinks with cherries. We had a double order of their favorite french fries--terrifically crisp and accompanied by barbecue sauce, ketchup, and béarnaise sauce. The carbonara with guanciale was an excellent choice Check out next week's posting, Part 3, visiting Marie and Jim Wolf, NordicWare, and two terrific restaurants.