We just returned from six days in Duluth, and I'm working on a report about where and what we ate, but I can't wait to rave about our favorite find(s): Takk for Maten and Kippis, two restaurants that share the same space at Superior & Lake in the center of downtown.
By day, this modern, stylish little place is Takk for Maten, a Norwegian/Scandinavian counter-service cafe with sandwiches, wraps, salads, and pastries. They do breakfasts and lunches, plus have great desserts and beverages for early afternoon snacks.
At night, it changes to Kippis, a Finish "tapas" bar, with great small plates and wonderful cocktails. Think smoked salmon on dark bread, duck with cranberries, ham with lingonberries, roast potatoes with leeks, and a handful of more fusion-y dishes.
We tried both places and loved them both. In fact, we went to Kippis twice, and we wanted to return to Takk for Maten, but our danged convention schedule didn't give us enough free time.
On our first trip to Kippis, we sampled almost half the menu.
We started with an orange, olive, and fennel salad in which the Finnish fusion touch was provided with diced picked onions. It was crisp and refreshing and delicious. I loved the contrast between the sweet of the oranges, the anise flavor of the fennel, and the salty olives. The plate came with generous triangles of the most amazing dark bread, which is made for Kippis at the Positively Third Street bakery.
Then we shared a large cup of cream of chanterelle soup. It was delicious. I'm glad we shared, as it was very, very rich - mostly cream, infused with mushrooms and garlic, plus bits of tangy hard cheese for an accent. Lovely stuff!
Next, grilled asparagus with minced hard-boiled egg with a light vinaigrette. (There was a generous portion of egg - more than one usually sees with the French version of this dish.) Very nice.
Then we had a small dollop of the Mississippi Catfish Pate with capers - delicious on its own, but even better when spread on the slightly sweet lefse. I will dream of this pate. It was perhaps my favorite of the dishes we tried. The serving was tiny, though; don't try to share with more than one other person.
Finally, we shared a plate of duck with cranberry sauce - two perfectly cooked nuggets of duck breast (with skin, yum) with a tangy sauce and more lefse. It was a lovely, lovely combination.
For beverages, I started with a "Spring" cocktail of Finlandia vodka, Soho liqueur, cucumbers, and elderflower juice. It was light and delicate and completely delightful. What a great combination of flavors!
With the food, I switched to Gruet rose' sparkling wine - it went nicely with all the food, and was particularly wonderful with the duck.
Happily, we still had room for dessert (most plates were, as advertised, rather small - though the soup wasn't). Mr. Tastebud had a slice of blueberry pie - wonderful flavor, great flaky crust; as good a pie as I've had anywhere. Me, I had the Leipäjuusto: baked Finnish-style cheese, served warm, with cardamom cream and cloudberry jam. Wow. The cheese was firm, salty, a bit sweet, and slightly chewy (think cheese curds). It was wonderful with the cream and jam. Luckily, Mr. Tastebud doesn't like cardamom, so I got to eat it all. And I'm looking forward to duplicating this dish at home (Leipäjuusto is available at Seward and Byerly's.
Just to keep this post from sounding like too much of a rave, I should repeat that portions are small, and add that the prices are a bit high, especially for Duluth. Each plate runs $5-$6, and you'd need several (like three or four) to fill up. However, they have dinner combos for less $$$. And most plates come with a generous serving of bread or lefse, both of which are good enough for a meal on their own.
The booze is kinda pricey, too - cocktails run $7-$9, and wine by the glass is expensive (though the Gruet is cheaper than many of the still wines, so I was happy). The prices would be fine for a Twin Cities neighborhood bistro, but someone expecting old-fashioned Duluth prices and serving sizes would be taken aback. Me, I prefer smaller portions, and I loved the high quality of the food (much of which seems local), so I was happy as a clam. And it wasn't really that expensive for such a good meal - our feast was $60 (plus tip), and included a $9 cocktail and two glasses of Gruet at $7 each. (Without the booze, it would have been cheap by my standards.)
Oh, and I forgot to mention that when you sit down, they greet you with a plate of house-baked crackers and a mini glass of sparkling wine. For free. What a lovely, welcoming touch!
TAKK FOR MATEN
The next day, we went to Takk for Maten for brunch. I had a salmon lefse wrap - smoked salmon, hard-boiled egg, and cream cheese in a grilled lefse "package." It was very rich, but I loved every creamy, smoky, eggy, fishy bite. Mr. Tastebud had a grilled panini with ham, hard-boiled egg, and jarlsberg cheese. Very tasty, but I liked my lefse wrap better. For dessert, we shared some chocolate bread pudding, which was quite nice but just a wee bit dry, and it could have been more chocolate-y (there was only one nugget of dark chocolate in our otherwise generous serving). There were no leftovers, though. :-)
We noticed that the desserts in the case were the same ones that Kippis described the night before, so the two places share one dessert baker. What a great idea!
Takk for Maten's menu is shorter, and the prices seem very reasonable for the quality. We noticed that the place was completely full at lunch time. Go early or late if you want to be sure of a seat - the place is small.
Oh, and we bought some locally-made truffles for later - they were fantastic. (I'll post more later about these treats from 185chocolat.com.)
The following day, we returned to Kippis for dessert and drinks after a meal elsewhere. The waitress remembered us and welcomed us warmly.
I had a Kelkka cocktail (currant vodka, X-Rated Fusion liqueur, and pineapple juice). Again, a lovely and unusual combination of flavors. Quite sweet (by my tastes, at least), so it worked well for dessert. Mr. Tastebud, who doesn't drink alcohol, ordered a Virgin Breeze (cranberry, grapefruit, lemon, and grenadine). I liked it so much that I almost ordered one for myself, alkie that I am.
Then we ordered a slice of blueberry oatmeal pie to share, but it was loaded with unadvertised coconut, which Mr. Tastebud hates. And the despised cardamom. So I got that piece all to myself, hooray! (He ordered a repeat of the blueberry pie, which was just as good as the time before; this time, I had time to notice the beautiful fluted crust - there's an artist in the kitchen!) Me, I thought that blueberry-oatmeal-coconut pie was one of the best desserts I'd ever had; I love coconut, and the cardamom pushed the pie over the edge into the dessert hall of fame. I seriously considered getting another slice to go, but gluttony - even mine - has its limits.
So, if you're in the area, I highly recommend a visit to either or both of these places. Kippis, in particular, is well worth a stop. (In fact, I begged the owners to open a branch near my house.)
Here are the details for Kippis and Takk for Maten:
Kippis (Tues-Sat for dinner from 5pm-on)
Takk for Maten (Mon-Sat for breakfast & lunch until 2pm or 3pm)
11 East Superior Street, Duluth, MN