DAY 2 (6/25): Having started early on day 1, we decided to let our weary heads sleep in a while before hitting the road again. Once awake, we packed up our groceries and chugged along. For a healthy snack, we threw some red grapes in the freezer overnight. If you have never tried frozen grapes before, I highly recommend giving them a whirl. The skin acts as a mold for the refreshing popsicle that forms inside. The mini-popsicles pull double duty by helping to chill the food in the cooler – bonus! That is if they last long enough…
Back on the highway, we found our way out of Illinois, through the state of Wisconsin, and back to Minnesota in time for dinner. Our first stop? Grand Avenue in St. Paul, one of our favorite haunts. There we met our dear friend Dianna. You know you’re home when you can throw your arms around a friend in a great big, welcome-back hug. The three of us settled in at Punch Pizza to catch up over some of our favorite pizza in the Twin Cities. What makes their food so great? Punch serves fresh, Neapolitan style pizza hand-made to order and cooked in an 800-degree wood-burning oven for just 90 seconds. The intense fire produces a chewy, thin crust that is dotted with toasty bits of charred air bubbles that blister open and perfect for sopping up the excess sauce and toppings that slide off the pizza. Just writing about Punch’s pizza makes my mouth water. Sorry I forgot to take a picture – sadly, taking out the camera was an afterthought.
After finishing dinner, we continued talking and walked across the street to what I consider one of the nation’s best ice cream parlors. In fact, I’d go as far to say no meal on Grand Avenue would be complete without dessert from Grand Ole Creamery. I mean, seriously. The quaint little throwback of a scoop shop inspired me to create the Heath Ice Cream that in turn inspired this very blog. On top of all that, I credit Dianna with introducing me to Grand Ole Creamery quite a few years ago. Fitting that we ended our evening together there. The only sad news on this visit– no Heath Ice Cream. Bummer. Instead I ordered a homemade waffle cone, a must when you’re at Grand Ole Creamery, with a single split (two flavors, one slightly-larger-than-a-scoop portion) of Coconut and Cookie Monster, a blue-tinted ice cream filled with Oreos and chocolate chip cookie dough. They might not have been Heath Ice Cream, but they were pretty darn delicious. Ah, Minnesota – good to be home.