Playing The Market

Lunds Marketplace

1450 West Lake St., Mpls.; 825-6618

          IN MORE WAYS than one, there is a big void where McDonald's used to be on the corner of Lagoon and Hennepin. Although a new Mickey D's is already under construction in the same location, you can bet its design won't include that outdoor mini-plaza where kids were inclined to hang out. One might speculate that Uptown is consciously becoming less hospitable toward folks who won't or can't fork over ridiculous wads of cash for gourmet ice cream, coffee, candles, and disco outfits. Is the newly renovated Lunds Marketplace part of some city scheme to make sure that the people roaming through Uptown are people who dress in straw hats and eat endive soaked in raspberry vinaigrette instead of people who tromp around in worn boots and smoke Camel Lights? Probably. But it must be admitted that the new Lunds is truly an extraordinary place; the selection and scope of goods here might be high falutin', but the people working here are friendly and down to earth.

          Big and fancy are the words that come to mind when walking up to the august market, the parking lot thriving with neatly uniformed men and women trotting out bags of groceries and loading them into the cars of customers who either can't or won't do it for themselves. The glass doors slide open and there you are, faced with brilliant fresh flowers and plants, a vast array of gleaming produce, both local and imported (red and white endive from Belgium, arugula from Holland, and feijoa and carambola from the Caribbean just to name a few), plus gourmet chocolates and a dizzying array of spices for popcorn. It's overwhelming, and the casual shopper might initially be numbed by the experience.

          For example, I found myself staring at a stack of "Apple Machines," devices that, for $21.99, will peel, core, and slice your apples for you. The directions for assembling the Apple Machine were complex (beginning with "attach frame at 'H' to suction base with 2 wing nuts at 'Hn.'), and I began to feel ill at ease among the silk scarves and cashmere sweaters that seemed to be everywhere. These people could probably assemble an Apple Machine with no problem.

          I beat a hasty retreat to the cafe upstairs, which is quiet, spacious, and furnished with six different clocks that mark the time in places like Paris and Tokyo. There are plenty of corners, counters, booths, tables, and toddler-sized tables and chairs to make your noshing cozy. You'll find a coffee bar (stocked with a variety of daily newspapers for in-house reading), an ice cream counter, and a small inventory of baked goods, sandwiches, and soups, all made fresh daily.

          My friend and I enjoyed a nice lunch, splitting the chicken panini ($4.95). It's grilled chicken marinated in an herbed vinaigrette, topped with mozzarella cheese and razor-thin slices of tomato, dressed with fresh pesto. We also tried the vegetable panini, which is stuffed with crisp slices of roasted eggplant, mozzarella, fresh spinach leaves, sliced tomatoes, and chopped olives. I was duly impressed, and hope that the woman who helped us wasn't offended when I couldn't stop laughing at the sandwich press, a device that rings like a telephone when your sandwich has been pressed the correct amount of time. We finished off with a nice cup of wild rice soup ($1.59), thick as porridge and rich with the flavor of smoked ham. Someday when I'm in need for a treat, I'll come back for the sundae bar; the kid I saw at the counter was enraptured by his caramel apple sundae ($3.10), a gooey mass of vanilla ice cream topped with apple strudel, hot caramel, and whipped cream.

          Thus refreshed, we climbed downstairs for a quick survey of the rest of the store. The deli counters are loaded with freshly made salads, roasted peppers, all sorts of olives, imported cheeses, and cold cuts, though the best features in my opinion are the signs reminding us to "Feel free to ask for a taste." For those Uptown denizens on an enforced budget, I recommend visiting on a Friday or Saturday, those being the best times for hitting the free sample tables that are wheeled around the store by workers with smiling faces. Who could pass up a free sample of Mushroom Champignon cheese ($5.89/lb.), imported from France and setting on a Carr's biscuit? Along with a sample of Howlin' Coyote Chili, and a sample of Sunrich sweet bean side dish, it made for quite a mid-morning meal.

          If you are looking for prepared food, you'll be very happy here. Lunds has an abundance of carry-out items, including a lush chicken pot pie served with corn bread muffin ($4.29), whole rotisserie chickens ($6.49), sides of mashed potatoes and gravy ($1.25), and selections from their Mexican Cafe. We made a picnic one day of various prepared salads, trying the ramen sesame salad chicken, thick with toasted almonds and carrot shreds ($4.29/lb.); the wild rice and artichoke salad ($4.09/lb.), vinegary tasting with cherry tomatoes, peas, artichokes; and the symphony salad ($5.49/lb.), a sticky mass of fresh broccoli dressed with lots of bacon, cheddar cheese, and red onion.

          We sailed right through the bakery section--passing the fresh loaves of foccacia, sour dough baguettes, French batards, and other breads--and made a beeline for the dessert case. I do hope the nice woman at the counter didn't have to wipe it down after we left; many must leave it misty with drool and heavy breathing. Decorated with fresh roses, the glass treasury is filled with gorgeous confections, amongst them thick petit fours delicately iced with sugared roses ($1.89), sticky slices of rum cake ($1.69), chiffon cakes glossed with orange- and lemon-scented icing, chubby Boston creme pies ($5.99), spiced sour cream apple cakes ($2.49), and creme puffs pregnant with whipped creme and sprinkled with confectionery sugar ($1.69). We ended up bringing home an amazing slice of rhubarb-custard cake ($2.49). The crust tasted rich with butter, cinnamon, and sugar, and the custard filling was light and tangy with the rhubarb.

          Waiting in line to pay for our purchases, I was happy to see the magazine-racks stocked with the latest tabloids in addition to the glossier, stuffier publications. Apparently, no matter what your income, County Home just can't satisfy the lusty mind like The Enquirer can.

          TABLE HOPPING

          NOODLE WRITING FOR KIDS: How would you like to receive a $1,000 U.S. Savings Bond and a trip for you and three family members to New York City for dinner at the Olive Garden in Times Square? From October 3 through November 30, the Olive Garden is sponsoring Pasta Tales, a national writing contest for children ages 7 to 16. In 250 words or less, children must answer: "I would like to have dinner at the Olive Garden with... and discuss..." Even if you aren't deemed to be the best, you still have a shot at winning the first place spot for your age group, which will get you a $250 U.S. Savings Bond and dinner for four at the nearest Olive Garden. Pasta Tales entries will be judged on creativity, organization, grammar, punctuation, and spelling by an independent writing professor. Don't forget to include your name, address, zip code, area code, phone number, age, and social security number. Completed entries must be received by November 30 at: Pasta Tales, Olive Garden, 5900 Lake Ellenor Drive, Orlando, Florida, 32809. For more information, visit
a local Olive Garden restaurant or call (954) 776-1999 between 10 a.m. and
6 p.m.

          NOODLING FOR ALL: Starving artists and coffee drinkers, shine your pens, spit on your water colors, and get back to the drawing board. All your toil will go toward submitting a piece of original art for competition in Starbucks Tumbler Contest. Winning artwork will be featured on a 1997 Starbucks beverage tumbler. If seeing your creation on a coffee cup is cold comfort for your labors, consider this: Starbucks will be awarding $2,000, plus two pounds of coffee every month for a year, to seven fortuitous winners, one from each Starbucks region. Submissions will be judged on originality, taste, visual appeal, and "ability to capture Starbucks style." Artwork and entry forms should be submitted on or before November 15. Official entry forms are available at any one of the fifteen Twin Cities Starbucks locations and include the complete contest rules and other pertinent information.

          AT YOUR OWN RISK: The makers of Milk Duds and Whoppers candies, recognizing the commercial value of being considered low fat, are now toting themselves as such. Here is a recipe they have whipped up to commemorate their campaign.

          Cappuccino Mousse

* 1 package (5 ounces) Milk Duds

* 1/4 cup evaporated skim milk

* 1/2 teaspoon instant coffee granules

* 1 carton (8 oz.) lite whipped topping, thawed

* Unsweetened baking cocoa

          In a double boiler or heavy sauce pan, combine Milk Duds, milk and coffee. Heat over low flame, stirring frequently until mixture is smooth. Pour into a mixing bowl and let cool 10 minutes. Gently fold in whipped topping until mixture is completely combined. Spoon into individual dessert cups or ramekins. Chill 30 minutes. Just before serving, sprinkle each dessert with cocoa. Serves 5.

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