Cooking Club: Blackbird Cafe
With a last minute cancellation to cooking club this past week due to the host couple’s sick child, the rest of the group decided to still get together but to go out to dinner for a change. We chose Blackbird Cafe in South Minneapolis for the occasion.
I had previously visited Blackbird to photograph a beautiful bowl of noodles for this Heavy Table article, by fellow writer Susan Pagani. The day I went to photograph I had just eaten lunch, so when the noodles were offered to me I regretfully declined, but vowed to myself that I would be back.
A cross between a European cafe and a hunter’s lodge (only because of the mounted antlers on the wall..a bit of a mystery to me), Blackbird presents itself as an eclectic little spot that appeals to all. The menu is diverse with Asian, Latin and American flavors featured in the dishes. With all the tempting options, it makes it nearly impossible to decide on just one thing to order.
We decided to order some appetizers to start. My favorites were the BBQ ribs, coated in a rich and tangy sauce, and the empanada, a buttery pastry filled with green olives and pulled pork and served with smokey chipotle sauce.
Entrees were a wide array of choices, reflecting the diverse menu. Of course, I went for the Spicy Peanut Noodles with Tofu (featured in the Heavy Table article). This flavorful and well-balanced dish is similar to Thai pad thai, but with a saucier presentation (literally, it is presented with the sauce coating the noodles, rather than being sauteed together). If you do try this, don’t be fooled by the heat. The first few bites were Minnesota spice, but as the eating continued, the heat continued to build. And, of course, I love that Blackbird adds a fried egg on top – the yolk is a creamy, rich addition to the spicy sauce.
Also ordered was the salmon with creme fraiche and dill (a dish we replicated at home the next night), seafood tacos and the special of the day – halibut and blue crab ceviche served on masa cakes.
Our dining experience ended with fortune cookies. Everyone opened theirs and read their lovely fortunes. And then I opened mine. It was a bit like being a Chino Latino, where they give you nasty fortunes. Mine was a backhanded complemented that read, “You deserve respect and will eventually get it.” Ouch!
After Blackbird, we went back to Jill and Brian’s house for dessert. They had already made their assigned cooking club dessert and we certainly didn’t want it to go to waste. So we all enjoyed bowls of vanilla ice cream topped with homemade caramel and toasted coconut. Absolutely delicious.
Toasted-Coconut Caramel Ice Cream Sundaes
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sweetened cream of coconut
1 1/4 cups sweetened flaked coconut
1 1/2 pints purchased French vanilla ice cream
Place sugar and 1/4 cup water in heavy deep medium saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high. Boil until mixture turns dark amber, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with wet pastry brush, about 9 minutes. Remove from heat. Immediately add cream and sweetened cream of coconut (mixture will bubble vigorously). Whisk over low heat until caramel sauce is blended and smooth and any caramel bits dissolve. do ahead Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, cover, and chill. Rewarm slightly over medium heat, stirring often, before using.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread coconut evenly on small baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, stirring every 3 to 4 minutes, about 12 minutes. Cool. DO AHEAD: Toasted coconut can be made 4 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.
Scoop ice cream into bowls. Spoon some of warm caramel sauce over. Sprinkle toasted coconut over and serve immediately.