Tag Archives: biscotti

Pastries, Gangsters & Steel Toes


Have you been to Cossetta’s lately?

For those of you not from the Twin Cities Metro area, let’s just say that this place is sort of an institution in St. Paul. Cossetta’s is an Italian Pizzeria & Market where food is served cafeteria-style and has been in business for decades. However, the place was recently closed for some time for a multimillion dollar renovation and expansion. I really didn’t have any expectations on how it would be changed, but the new space is incredible!

The reason we went?

My parents were in town. My mom hadn’t visited in at least three years and we never got to take her to Pardon My French to indulge in pastries. I went in search of a new place and one that work in conjunction with our plans for the weekend. Part of Cossetta’s renovation-expansion included the addition of Louis Ristorante & Bar {now on my must try list of restaurants!} and a Pasticceria. And let me tell you, this place is absolutely gorgeous. Not only did I blow my parents away with how big and grand this entire place was, but I was blown away myself.

The pastry case feels like it is a mile long!

The pastry case feels like it is a mile long!

Luckily, when we arrived, there were no other patrons {although that quickly changed}, so we were able to walk the length of the case and check out everything before making our selections. The plan was to settle in to have pastries and coffees before our Gangster Tour of St. Paul. {Highly recommended!} We may have gone a little overboard…

The ladies chose…

These two pastries are sort of Italian cousins. The one of the left is a Sfogliatelle which is a flaky pastry filled with a sweet ricotta filling. The one on the right is a Lobster Tail. The filling is more similar to that of French cream or custard.

The guys selected…

chocolate covered cannoli

Chocolate-Covered Cannoli

Run, don’t walk to get one of these right now! I didn’t know that cannoli could taste this good! {Then you will need to run back to burn the thing off. It’s huge!}

Then we had to get a couple of other items just to try:

PB & J & Nutella stuffed cream puff

Nutella Stuffed Cream Puff and PB & J Tarte {not sure if those are the official names, but just go with it}

I would say that they enjoyed it…

I Woudl say they enjoyed it.

Also in the display case were other Italian favorites, such as Biscotti & Gelato:


When every last crumb was eaten and our coffees were empty, we had some extra time. So we spent it wandering around the new market. This place is huge! There is such incredible selection – much, much more than before. The first thing we caught a whiff of was the freshly baked bread. But the cases of meats, cheeses, olives and rows and rows of Italian products would keep any foodie occupied and happy.


I promised my mom that we’d go back after the Gangster Tour to pick up some of the fresh foccacia that we didn’t think would keep well in the car. But after this fun and incredible historical tour…

Did you know that the Volstead Act (Prohibition) was signed in St. Paul, MN?

…We completely forgot all about going back to the Italian Market. Instead, we made a trek all the way across the cities to try some special samples of Steel Toe Brewery‘s Scotch and Barrel Aged sudsy beverages. On tap were the Wee Heavy Scotch Ale, the Lunker Barleywine, the Steel Toe Size 11 DIPA and the Dissent Imperial Stout. Steel Toe Brewery became one of our favorites in the Twin Cities after we were introduced to them on a Beer Trolley Tour. We wanted to make sure my dad had a chance to try their brews, too.


As usual, the beer tasted, oh, so good! But because these particular batches were just limited editions, we couldn’t get a growler to go. Some people ask why you’d visit a brewery if you can get the beer on tap around town. This is exactly why – for the specialty stuff! {I may have won out on a Steel Toe sweatshirt, too, from Rob for carting everyone around town.} While we were there, there was some sort of Amazing (Bike) Race going on because serious bikers were stopping by, running in, getting a slip of paper signed and scurrying back out. They didn’t even stop for a beer! So sad.

While, I probably normally wouldn’t do all of these things in one day, we managed to fit it all in and take my parents out to dinner to Sul Lago. Everything just seemed to fall into place. And I think Cossetta’s Pasticceria just might become our new PMF.

What activities do you plan for out-of-town guests?

Let me know what’s fun in your neighborhood!


Which Food Box to Keep?


Subscription Box Saturday – Food Box Edition

I know I subscribe to a lot of monthly boxes. But I really try to follow this rule: Only subscribe to one box of any kind. However, I’ve broken this rule with food/snack boxes. I belong to two. It’s tough deciding which one to keep! Generally speaking, I think I like my Love with Food box a little bit better. Why? They introduce me to new products that not only taste good, but are often healthy or just better in terms of the quality of ingredients and processes used. I also love the themes. However, I do get some tasty items in my Goodies box as well. And that one’s only $7! It’s hard to quit that! Here’s a comparison of the May contents.

Subscription Box: Love with Food

Premise: Sample the best gourmet food products delivered to your door!”

Cost: $10/month + $2 shipping. (Special deals if you purchase more than one month at a time)

Extra Benefits: Review products, share recipes and refer friends for points toward free products.

What’s Special: For each box shipped and each order placed, a meal is donated to a hungry child.

To Join: Click here.

May’s Theme: Mother’s Day Breakfast in Bed

From Left, Clockwise:

Bonne Maman Strawberry Preserves: I’ve received Bonne Maman in a few different boxes now. I’ve always loved this product since I first had it in France nearly 20 years ago. So it’s a welcome treat! I also love the mini sample jars they come in, which I reuse like in this post.

Slap Ya Mama Cajun Seasoning Blend: We haven’t used this yet, but I’ve read that a little can go a long way! I intend to add it to pasta sauce or to season veggies this summer! Maybe I’ll even switch up my usual popcorn routine with a sprinkle, too. Did you know that of everywhere I’ve been, I think New Orleans has some of the best food in the world?!

Mrs. May’s Naturals Strawberry Pineapple Crunch: While these little nuggets tasted good because the ingredients went well together, I thought that the clusters were a little big. It seemed like a lot of calories for just a few little bites! This was the box’s “mystery item” which must be something they recently started. Instead of the insert stating what the product is, you have to go online to find our more info.

LWF insert

Caffe Borsa Hand Drip Single Origin Coffee: I’m stashing this away for a trip when coffee might not be available.

Snapz Crisps – Tomato Crunch: I love tomatoes. They are one of my favorite things on this planet. I was so excited to try these at only 40 calories a bag. The flavor, though, was very concentrated and a lot sweeter than I expected. I could only eat half the bag until it got to be a little too much. I was surprised how satisfied I was on just 20 calories. I think these would be great in a salad to have that added crunch without the carbs or fat of croutons or nuts. Have you tried these before?

Bali’s Best Latte Candy: These were the first to come out of the box! I enjoyed one while Rob had the other. Love these! There is not much  more to say. Coffee-flavored candies? I’m in!

Biscotti Bari Authentic Almond Biscotti: I love biscotti and the almond, almost amaretto flavor of this hit the spot. Yesiree – tastes authentic to me!

“Great Full” Vegan Sweet Potato Cookie by the Cookie Department: The phrase “Vegan Sweet Potato Wellness Cookie” just made the cookie sound disgusting to me. I am not a sweet potato fan. In addition, it sounded like a lame attempt to come up with a cookie for a vegan.

NOT SO! This cookie was delightful! I was completely surprised. I loved, particularly, the molasses flavor. This was the big surprise of the box for me. My only gripe: It uses the words Vegan and Wellness to make it sound like a healthy cookie. But when I look at the fiber and protein content, it’s not all that impressive, especially since one cookie is 2 servings!


Subscription Box: Goodies

Premise: “Receive a monthly Taster’s Box filled with exciting snacks for you to enjoy. The monthly Taster’s Box includes 5-8 trial-sized snacks and treats enabling you to discover your favorite new goodies.”

Cost: $7/month, includes shipping

Extra Benefits: Review and rate products, upload photos and complete a profile to earn points and unlock rewards.

What’s Special: I guess I’d have to say the price. Although Goodies is a company owned by Wal-mart.

To Join: Click here.

May’s Theme: I think Goodies stopped doing themes about two months ago. You now receive a note in the box instructing to go online to learn more about the products, rather than receiving an insert describing them. When I logged in online, this month’s header read:

May 2013 – Taster’s Box

Sweet and sour. Smoky and spicy. Fresh and refreshing. We’ve got all the bases covered when it comes to flavor this month.

Goodies May Contents

Blurry May Goodies Box Contents

From Left, Clockwise:

Bronco Bob’s Mango Chipotle Sauce: I haven’t tried this yet, but I intend to make the recipe on the back on a night when Rob is out golfing. {You know, that whole fins and feathers thing… oh and mango.}

Zico Coconut Water: I have just started to learn about coconut water by following Paleo bloggers. I’ve found some that I like and some that I don’t. My list of Goodies online wants me to rate a chocolate-flavored coconut water. WHAT?! I certainly did not receive a chocolate one! This big bottle was 4 servings. I poured two into a water bottle to sip on two separate days. It was good, but not the best I’ve had. Still loving the ones with pulp thanks to Kristen at Change of Pace!

Super Seedz Sea Salt Pumpkin Seeds: Tasty change from the normal popcorn or almonds I eat as a savory snack!


Wholly Guacomole: I love when subscription boxes know that they can’t send you something, but really want you to try it. So they send you a coupon for a free package! While it’s just as easy to buy an avocado and mash to make your own guacamole, sometimes it’s just nice to have a quick little package to take to work. I like the 100 calorie packs that are just the right serving size without worrying about when you are going to use up the rest of the avocado before it browns too much.That is what I’m going to buy with this coupon!

Chipotle BBQ Beanitos: You know how I feel about BBQ flavors. So I saved these for Rob. I did steal a chip or two and we were both really surprised how the bean element gave these chips so much flavor! Oh boy, I’d love to try another variety.


Blue Raspberry and Pink Lemonade Gummy Straws: These do not interest me. They are going straight home with grandma to my nephew. He’ll love ’em! It’s my job as the aunt to sugar him up, right?!

California Olive Ranch Olive Oil: I so want to do a post about olive oil… the labeling, the flavors etc. I used one of the two sample packages when sauteing some veggies this past week. However, I tasted a little on its own and realized that this was too good for sauteing; it should have been a finishing oil! Also, it’s cold pressed – a bonus. More to come on that in a future post.


Numi Moroccan Mint Tea: I am on a tea kick and this one was refreshing and did not disappoint! Plus a coupon to order more.

Numi Mint Tea

These two boxes were excellent this month, so I’m still having a hard time choosing just one. Enjoy the rest of your memorial day weekend!

When it comes to flavor, which spices or sauces knock your socks off?


Dessert Wines


I find that you can usually put wine drinkers in two camps – those who like sweet wines and those who don’t. There are the few though, who might not drink sweet wines on a regular basis that can appreciate them for what they are:


In fact, as much as I try to move sweet wine drinkers across the spectrum to teach them how to appreciate red wines, I also aim to show dry wine lovers how to love the sweets.

Just to be clear, most wines are dry. If they aren’t, they are usually dessert wines. However, there are wines that people call sweet that are actually dry, but just fruity. This takes some time and tasting to discover. {Perhaps with some company?}

However, the real key to enjoying a sweet wine is to drink it with dessert. To do this, there is one very important rule of the thumb:

The wine must be sweeter than the dessert itself.

If there is anything you take away from this post, take that. Why is it so? Give it some thought. If you eat a sweet dessert and then take a sip of a wine that is not, the wine is going to taste bitter and not be enjoyable at all!

Here are three of my favorite examples of sweeter wines and the desserts that pair well with them:


Contrary to popular belief, Champagne is not a sweet wine. Most sparkling wines aren’t either. However, varieties like Moscato d’Asti {which has been a very popular Traveling Vineyard favorite in the past} and a similar reddish-pink wine such as Fissata are good candidates.


These wines are lightly sweetly with a bit of effervescence that cleanses the palate after each sip. Therefore,  \you don’t want to pair it with a dessert that is too sweet. Remember: Sweeter than the dessert itself

Favorite Dessert Pairings: Cheesecake or Biscotti {I’m told the Italians actually dip it in the wine!}

Looking for an easy, bite-sized dessert for a party? Here’s one my friend Amy served at her Wine Tasting.


  • 1 pkg of Pillsbury Crescent Rolls
  • 2  pkgs 8oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2 egg yolks (save whites)
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x13 pan with cooking spray. Spread 1 package of crescent rolls on the bottom bottom. Thoroughly blend together cream cheese, egg yolks, sugar and vanilla. Spread over crescent rolls. Cover with a second package rolls pinching perforations together. Paint top with egg whites, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar if desired.

Bake 15 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool thoroughly. Refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours. Cut and serve.


Sweet Rosé

Just like most bubblies, rosé wines do not tend to be sweet. It’s actually pretty rare for true rosés to be such. Those that are vary greatly in sweetness. Traveling Vineyard‘s Sweet American Rosé is one of the sweet ones! It’s nearly as syrupy sweet as the dessert wines you’ll find in a half-sized bottle. Due to it’s sweetness, we’ve found a perfect pairing to cut through that!


Favorite Dessert Pairing: Key Lime Pie

Here’s another recipe for an easy, bite-sized party dessert. It was found and adapted by one of my favorite repeat hosts, Wendee!

Key Lime Bars

Courtesy of Betty Crocker

Makes:  36 small bars

  • 1-1/2 cups coconut cookie crumbs (says ~17 cookies – more like~14-15 Voortman’s).
  • 3 Tbsp unsulted butter, melted
  • 1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese, softened (1/3 less fat works great)
  • 1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk (fat free works fine!)
  • ¼ cup Key lime juice or regular lime juice (suggestion: Nellie & Joe’s Key Lime juice)
  • 1 Tbsp grated lime peel
  • Lime peel or strawberries for garnish, if desired

Heat oven to 350⁰ F.  Grease or spray a 9 x9 x 2 inch square pan. Or line the pan with parchment paper for easier lifting out & cutting.

Mix cookie crumbs and butter thoroughly with fork.  Press evenly in bottom of pan. Refrigerate while preparing cream cheese mixture.

Beat cream cheese in small bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in milk until smooth. Beat in lime juice and grated lime peel. Spread over layer in pan.

Bake about 35 minutes or until center is set. Cool 30 minutes. Cover loosely and refrigerate at least 3 hours until chilled (or overnight). For 36 bars, cut into 6 rows by 6 rows.  Garnish with lime peel.  Store covered in refrigerator.



Never had a Torrontés? Well, it’s the signature white varietal of Argentina. It can be hard to find, but when you do, you’ll fall in love.


I’ve had red wine, white wine and sweet wine drinkers go crazy over this wine. It’s probably because it’s so versatile. Although it’s not technically a dessert wine, it’s got floral aromas with a fruitiness that can be perceived as sweet. It pairs well with spices, Asian foods, guacamole and smoked meats. What’s more is that I’ve discovered that it sometimes can work well with a lemon cookie or meringue pie!

Favorite Dessert Pairing: Lemon Cookie or Lemon Meringue Pie

This discovery came about when a guest came to a tasting with a lemon trifle. Immediately, I remembered another consultant telling me that she had a crowd of sweet wine drinkers and successfully served a Torrontés as a dessert wine with a lemon dessert. On a whim that night, I switched the Torrontés to serve it last with the trifle.

It was a hit! As I was bringing the dessert around for everyone to try with the wine, one woman asked me if the Torrontés was a dessert wine because she generally didn’t like them, but was loving this. There were a few repeat guests who had already tried the wine at a past tasting, but were amazed at how different the wine tasted when served last and with dessert!

I asked the guest for her trifle recipe:

Lemon Trifle

  • Angel Food Cake
  • 2 cans of lemon pie filling
  • 8 oz cool Whip
  • 16 oz of lemon yogurt (She says she uses the Yoplait Lemon Burst – 3 of them)
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries or raspberries

Mix the lemon pie filling, coolwhip, and lemon yogurt together. Break up the Angel Food Cake into pieces.  Make 3 layers of each:

Angel Food Cake

Blueberries and strawberries (or raspberries)

Lemon Mixture

The Lemon Mixture should be the top layer, but if desired, you can finish with a thin layer of whipped cream or cool whip and sliced strawberries on top to make it look nice.


Of course, these are just ideas and not all desserts will work for all wines. It’s time for you to experiment! Just remember the rule: The wine must be sweeter than the dessert itself!

Consider savoring dessert with a dessert wine this Valentine’s Day. Or stay tuned next week when we discuss the debate of red wine and chocolate!

What is your favorite dessert wine pairing?