“Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” ― Mary Oliver
We stopped at Mill Valley Kitchen for lunch on our Tuesday off because I’d heard great things from a friend about the healthful, fresh, Northern California-esque cuisine. And after a morning of errands and way too many baked goods of late, thought we might benefit from an infusion of fresh veggies in our repertoire. The restaurant is in the main level of luxury apartment building Ellipse (on Excelsior Blvd. at France Ave. in St. Louis Park), and even though there is ample parking in the attached ramp, they offer free valet. I already felt like a Californian and hadn’t even stepped through the doors. The vibe of the place is welcoming but refined in an understated way; contemporary but not “modern” – very light and airy.
I actually hesitated at first bringing my five- and three-year-olds into the restaurant, but the staff was so friendly and unfazed about the kids that I felt it was OK to try. I’m glad I stayed, because the kids’ menu was great, a welcome change from the typical fried and greasy options that usually dominate kids’ menus. They ordered chicken strips (baked, not fried) and pasta bolognese, which was flavorful and surprisingly light. We also started with an order of house made hummus and pita – the former was so smooth and silky and the later was grilled with a nice crisp outer surrounding the chewy, moist interior. Bread, why are you so tasty??
They offer a lot of yummy drinks too, fruit blends, smoothies, and yes, wine, cocktails, and beer as well (which I’d have sampled had it not been a day with the kiddos!) I sampled the Ellipse Elixir, made with acai, pomegranate, black tea, cranberry and soda and it was the perfect refreshment on a summer day, light and just sweet and tart enough.
The interesting thing about MVK is they actually publish the calories, fat, carbs, and protein nutrition facts right on the menu alongside the dishes. Good thing most of the numbers stack up OK because really, I think the jury’s out as to whether or not most of us actually want to know this as we sit down to dine. Not arguing the good intentions, since it must’ve worked on me as I ended up ordering the Pacific Rim Ahi Tuna salad, which was good, not great. It seemed like it would’ve benefited from a bit more texture, maybe toasted hazelnuts or something crunchy like that to offset the softness of the avocado and rare tuna.
Having had our fill of greens, later in the week we ventured to 50th & France in Edina to visit Pandolfi, the newest gelateria in the Twin Cities.
Tucked into an alley next to Mozza Mia restaurant and Bluebird Boutique (the cutest shop!) is this little sweet shack, filled with dozens of gelatos and sorbettos as well as chocolates and french macarons from Patisserie 46, Hammond’s classic old-time lollipops, salt water taffy, and fresh-spun cotton candy. The gelato, artisan-made from scratch in small batches by Palazzolo’s in Michigan was outstanding. I had the Tahitian vanilla, rich with light floral notes, not the “plain vanilla” you commonly expect at ice cream shops. My oldest had the mint with chocolate chips the little one had the cotton candy, but traded so that she could get some gelato. Excited to welcome these unique and tasty treats to the neighborhood, just glad they aren’t following the Mill Valley Kitchen model of posting nutritional info on the menu – I prefer to indulge in blissful ignorance!