For 30 years, Sweet Chocolat has been a wonderland of handmade chocolates and caramels made onsite each day. Chocolatier Meg has been known to fill the kitchen with song as she lovingly crafts her confections, which infuses each piece with extra sweetness and the uncanny ability to harmonize. In addition to traditional caramels and unorthodox bites such as chocolate-covered potato chips, Sweet Chocolat dispenses boxes of traditional and themed truffles and chocolates and more than 6,000 custom chocolate molds.
Today's culinary triumphs are the product of thousands of years of experimentation. The staff at Annona Gourmet doesn’t see any reason why that march of innovation should end, so they fill the shop’s shelves with exotic twists on staples such as pasta, sea salt, and vinegar. 20 varieties of olive oil pour from large stainless-steel tanks called fusti, their straw-hued droplets hinting at everything from Sicilian sunshine to Persian limes. After tasting balsamic vinegar infused with cinnamon and pears or figs, patrons peruse the inventory of pastas beneath coastal murals that give one the feeling of being at a beach free of sailors with boring albatross stories. Jars of sauces and dressings hint at a spectrum of flavors with earth-tone hues, and sea salts take on the flavor of black truffles or ghost peppers in an escape from seasoning conventions.
Helmed by married couple Tomas and Maria Silva, the vibrantly embellished restaurant (formerly an 800-square-foot storefront) offers an energetic dinner menu dominated by straight-outta-Tenochtitlan tamales, tacos, nachos, and gorditas. An order of stone-ground corn chips and salsa ($2.50) kicks off Cinco de Mayo's 24-hour fiesta with a little edible confetti. You can also indulge your inner wizard with an order of queso fundido molcajete ($7.69), a bubbling stone cauldron filled with asadero cheese to drizzle atop your tacos (add chunks of chorizo, chipotle, habanero, or ham to the mix for $0.35 each). And if the burrito original (filled with your guisado choice or carne asada, beans, rice, lettuce, and cheese, $7.50) isn't big enough, the burro gigante ($13.99)—a two-foot behemoth stuffed with beans, rice, lettuce, tomato, two meat choices, and (it's rumored) a burro—will give you the mind-bending thrill of eating something larger than your own head. Vegetarians can abide by their uneasy peace treaty with chickens by dining on roasted chile poblanos stuffed with cilantro rice and white cheese ($8.79) or vegetable fajitas ($9.25) filled with cactus, onions, bell peppers, and zucchini. By this point, your piñata might be dangerously close to popping, in which case a spoonful of flan ($3.99) or refreshing gelatina ($2.99) make for safe dessert options. But if you don't want to disappoint the blindfolded birthday boys gathering around your bulging stomach with bats, go with the heavenly tres leches cake ($4.25).
From autumnal cupcakes topped with Halloween embellishments to colorful stacks of french macarons awarded Best of the Twin Cities by Minnesota Monthly, the meticulously designed treats at Cupcake Caramel by Sweets Bakeshop come from all-natural ingredients. Bakers carefully top pumpkin spice cake with sweet cream buttercream frosting to create this month's seasonal cupcakes, or drizzle caramel atop year-round favorites. Caramel cream and chocolate ganache pour into cupcakes and macarons alike, the latter of which spring from the oven in six different flavors daily. The confectionary team tailors orders of specific events, tinting colors to fit a particular party theme or presidential concession speech.