Longfellow residents have had a lot to cheer about in recent years, from the opening of Peace Coffee to the renovation of Fire Roast Cafe to the accessible, haute cuisine-inflected arrivals of Sonora Grill and Parka. Now the neighborhood has a new, independently-owned grocery store called the Longfellow Market, which studiously conjures up an earlier (much earlier; think 1920s) era of neighborhood stores. Everything from the shelving to the employee uniforms point the casual visitor toward the conclusion that Longfellow Market is a counterpoint to the depersonalized big box trend in shopping.
Economically speaking, the store occupies the middle of the local grocery ecosystem. It sits between the Highland Park Lunds (where liveried footmen will unleash a chorus of trumpets before toting your $80-a-bag groceries out to your car) and the Lake Street Rainbow (the only grocery store in which I’ve been panhandled on more than one occasion).
One aspect of Longfellow Market’s old-timey but welcoming image is the store’s deli section, which sports a variety of whipped cream- or mayonnaise-based salads more evocative of the 1960s and ’70s than the Internet era. The sweeter side of this section is packed with blasts from the past that will seem exotic to anyone born after 1980, and comfortingly and nostalgically declasse to anyone born before. To almost any conscious food consumer of the present era, however, the whipped cream-based fluffs of Longfellow Market will seem provocative: un-self-consciously silly side dishes that exist for no reason other than to interrupt your meal with a creamy blast of sugar. The only way they could be more subversive would be to serve them sprinkled with gluten.
We tried four of these dishes, which we now present in ascending order of desirability.
The Cheesecake Supreme (above, center, $6.49/lb.*) was most assuredly not. In every way, this vaguely cream-cheesy whipped cream plus terrible candied cherries plus essentially powdered graham cracker crust confection was inferior to the real deal. It lacked the firm-yet-creamy texture of a decent cheesecake, and more importantly it lacked the almost sour bite that cuts back against the dish’s overwhelming hit of sugar. This deficiency left it a gelatinous, oversweet mess.
Cookies & Creme (top, $5.49/lb.) tastes a bit like a room temperature, economy-class version of the ice cream of the same name. It’s not terrible. You’ll question why you’re eating it as you eat it, but the sugar will make you like it, a little bit, at least.
It’s not entirely clear what the specific surprising thing is about Strawberry Surprise (above right, $5.49/lb.), but this profoundly pink foam was already ahead of Cheesecake Supreme for the sole reason that there’s really nothing to which it can be adequately compared. Little bits of real strawberry pepper this sweet-but-pleasantly citric fluff, which seems to finish with a hit of orange juice. In short: a bit weird, but rather good for what it is, whatever that may be.
The Pistachio Nut fluff (above left, $5.49/lb.) was the best of the bunch. A strong note of pineapple complemented the sweetness of the cream and the nutty kick of the pistachio, and as a whole it was neither under nor over sugary. In some other setting, divorced of any reference to Mad Men-era Americana, this could be seen as sophisticated — a dish that cuts a unique profile, but ultimately works.
*A note on sizing: One-third of a pound of fluff should be sufficient to satisfy the fluff needs of a typical family of four, presuming those needs are a hearty dollop of fluff on the side of each plate.
Longfellow Market, 3815 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55406; 612.353.5078