Crema de la Creme
For six days, so the scripture tells us, the Almighty labored to create a perfect world. Then, deciding all was well, He rested.
Wait, wait! There’s no ice cream store! So Sonny stepped in—this was back in 1945 A.D.—to remedy that celestial oversight. Ever since that seminal day in Minneapolis history, Sonny’s ice cream, the cornerstone of Crema Café, has given folks a taste of The Hereafter here on earth, via two dozen flavors churned out daily, five to ten tasty gallons at a time. Sourced from naturally nurtured local cows, it’s also a grand excuse to join the farm-to-fork (or, in this case, to-tongue) movement. And for those of you who are weight-watching, not to worry. Crema stays open for that late-night craving, and you know the rules: Nothing goes on your calorie blotter, as they say in food court, if you consume it after 9 p.m. or eat it standing up. So, skip the guilt and lick right up.
On any given day, flavors gallop all over the map. Fording a line so long you’d think they were selling rock concert tickets, I begged for a taste of that near-empty container labeled “olive oil”: Smooth as velvet, less sweet than plain vanilla—no wonder it was disappearing fast. Other options ran the gamut from Guinness (nice undertones, could be stronger) to sweet corn (mild and, yes, sweet); from Vietnamese coffee (tastes like Nescafe, and I love it) to Valrhona for the chocolate epicure. And on a lighter note, sorbets hail cherry cabernet and basil strawberry among the many temptations. But you probably already know this and I’m just preaching to the choir.
If so, brothers and sisters, heed my words as I share another revelation: Crema follows the gospel on good eating on its lesser-known dinner menu, too. Everything’s carefully, lovingly sourced, making it as good for you as it is flat-out delicious.
We split a mountainous salad ($9) of peppy micro greens strewn lavishly with super-slender, sweet and juicy apples, a blizzard of toasted hazelnuts and savory crumbles of blue cheese, all showered with hazelnut vinaigrette and a sprinkle of fleur de sel (those trendy, sort of unsalty, super-size grains of table salt). Or for a mushroom fix, choose the cremini-spinach-almond version.
Burgers and panini follow—or take my advice (and that of a gaggle of menu guides seated around me, posing as sated customers) and opt for the pastas of the day (three varieties, $15 each for mountainous portions).
We bypassed—for now—the spaghetti Bolognese (“It’s wo-o-onderful,” swooned someone at my elbow) in favor of supple linguine tossed with olive oil, nutty Parmesan, nuttier pine nuts, cherry tomatoes aburst with flavor, and kernels of sweet corn, all boosted with basil and garlic. And a well-conceived, carefully executed dish it was. The sturdier dish, garganelli twists tossed with organic peas, and more, in a satiny Parmesan cream, also spun over the top. I felt like lining up for seconds. (But here’s a slight quibble: What’s the deal with the dry toast points decorating each plate? Eighty-six ’em.)
Making this a perfect date night place for mom and dad, after bribing the kids with a cone, Crema offers an intriguing list of craft beers, wines and espresso drinks, too—ideal for lingering over your candlelit table, or all the more enjoyable in the adjoining courtyard, seemingly straight from a village in Tuscany. Talk about romantic!
Summer is short, and so is Crema’s season, so hike over there lickety (excuse me) split.