The Twin Cities' 5 best comfort foods for winter

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Frozen fingers and runny noses require tender care as we ease our creaking bodies into the blustery cold that is the ridiculous weather we Minnesotans endure each year. It's our Midwestern badge of courage to compare temperatures and snow coverage with the rest of the world. But that's out there. In here we require some special food to warm our souls and thaw those extremities. Regardless of what the weather is like outside, inside we are ready for those sweet homey meals just like Mom used to make. Tuck in to our Top 5 picks for the meatiest, cheesiest, slathered in warm milk gravy, coziest comfort foods.


5. Biscuits & Gravy
Proof that good things come from the most humble of ingredients. Flour, butter, milk, sausage, and the rest is up to improvisation. What these few ingredients create can be as glorious and soothing as a  fluffy down comforter. Bad B&G, however, can be disappointing, flat, and usually salty. The perfectly made biscuit is an art that not many northerners can claim to have mastered. Thankfully, we have the talented folks at Grand Cafe, who make a rich redeye gravy-coated version. Topped with two eggs your way, it's a gratifying way to start a day.

4. Tater Tot Hotdish
It's regional, it's weird enough to creep out some who may not have grown up with it, but it is a decadent little scoop of Midwestern home. Crispy, crumbly tots bely a creamy, sometimes meaty interior. With all due respect to the Haute Dish artistry of Landon Schoenfeld's version, the best version in the Cities is at the Hotdish tent at the St. Paul Winter Carnival. A dish best served after coming in from the cold.

3. Chicken Potpie

A buttery, feathery crust that shatters into a creamy, thick gravy studded with vegetables and hunks of roasted chicken. A perfectly cooked potpie is a thing of elusive beauty. It's often best cooked at home, where you can add and omit the veggies you chose (cursed peas!). Or enjoy a puff pastry crowned version while settled in by the fire at the historic Oak Grill atop the 12th floor of the downtown Minneapolis Macy's store. The gravy is peppery, not too salty, gently coating beautifully cooked veggies.

2. Pot Roast
A tough and cheap cut of meat browned, splashed with liquid and slowly simmered at a gentle temperature until that humble chunk of nothing is transformed into lusciously thick, falling apart beauty, best served with mashed potatoes to soak up all that gravy. If you still haven't had it, if naming it number 26 on our list of favorite 100 local dishes wasn't enough, believe us now--head to the Modern Cafe and order their version.

1. Mac & Cheese
Breadcrumb crusted, gooey, crispy, cheesy and chewy, there is nothing better. Tuck into the sweet cheddary crook of that pasta elbow and inhale the pungent, salty scent, knowing that everything is going to be okay.  From memories of that blue and white box to the lobster studded tiny pots, mac and cheese is never wrong. The version at Cafe Maude is a fontina flecked cloud of baked penne where, the heady cheeses are cut with just a splash of white wine acidity. It's balanced and cheesy, homey and pleasing.