Wednesday, February 25, 2015

First Trip to "Cold Front" Soda Fountain / Ice Cream Shop

Last week, my boys and I checked out "Cold Front," which was the business that took over the space that had "Lynden's Soda Fountain" in it near Hamline and Randolph.

Cold Front Soda Fountain Ice Cream
Lots of ice cream in the front.

Cold Front Soda Fountain Ice Cream Cones
Different cone sizes: the tiny cones on the left are from the "snowball FLIGHT" of mini cones.

Waffle cones and waffle cone maker.

Cold Front Soda Fountain

I did what any Dad would do at 10 in the morning on a cold winter's day: I got my son some ice cream. Here's Henry enjoying some of their strawberry ice cream (I didn't even get to try it because he wolfed it down) as Steve from Cold Front made my "flight" of sodas in the background:

Cold Front Soda Fountain
They still have the old soda fountain from Lynden's!
(Click that link if you want to see Henry at Lynden's over 2 years ago - cute toddler!)

Cold Front Ice Cream

Cold Front Flight of Sodas
My flight of homemade sodas: Chai Vanilla, Grape, and Cola.

They had 6 "classic" sodas like grape, orange, and cherry, and then they had 5 "signature" sodas like strawberry balsamic, lemongrass sass, and chai vanilla. Next time, I want to try the lemongrass sass and maybe the blood orange and beetroot.

Cold Front Flight of Sodas
Flight in progress.

Henry had about half of my grape soda.

A photo I Instagrammed: "Morning sugar rush: strawberry ice cream and a homemade grape soda at @coldfrontmsp."

Cold Front Soda Flight
This flight is over.

So here's a mini-review of my Minni-Soda Flight:

Cola: Steve told me that this was John Lyden's recipe that came from something that was published in the 1970s. It was Coca-Cola's original recipe (minus the cocaine, unfortunately). This was sharp and crisp (as most "fresh" sodas are). There was a great bite of lime, but not too much. Deep, rich flavor unlike what you get from a can of Coke or Pepsi.  Score: 8 out of 10. 

Grape: Steve asked me about this one after I had a sip to 2. He said he's still working to perfect it. It was very "grape JUICEy" as you can maybe tell from the froth on top in the first photo of the flight. Steve said he's using a mix of a grape juice syrup along with freshly pressed concord grape juice, but he's working to get it all right. It was good, but tasted a bit closer to "juice" than it did "soda." Actually, I'm excited to try this one again and again to see how it changes, even though it was my least favorite of the day.  Score: 6.5 out of 10.

Chai Vanilla: This was smooth and subtle. The vanilla was a nice touch. It tasted a bit like a subtly-flavored vanilla root beer, so you KNOW I liked it. It was better than I thought it would be. It's a unique flavor, and hard to fully describe. Just go in and try it.  Score: 8 out of 10.

I'll be back to try more of their sodas in their "Minni-Soda Flight" for sure. I still need to try their root beer.  Check out Cold Front on Facebook or Twitter.

p.s.  I love the idea of a flight of sodas. I don't need a lot of each flavor, and this way I get to try more. Steve told me that it was one of the last things they decided to add to the menu before they opened on Valentine's Day, and it was by far the biggest hit of the opening night. Great idea! Can't wait for more.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Sprecher Cream Soda

I grabbed this out of the cooler at Menards when I stopped there recently with my boys:

Sprecher Cream Soda

Brand: Sprecher Cream Soda.

Origin: Glendale, WI.

Purchase Place: Menards, St. Paul, MN.

Sweetener: Glucose Syrup, Maltodextrin, and Raw WI Honey.

Review: In typical Sprecher style, there's a strong flavor of honey in this soda. That's been good in some of their sodas and bad in others, and it's pretty good in this one. There's also a strong vanilla flavor too. It tastes more like a honey/vanilla soda and not as much like a "typical" cream soda, but it's pretty good. At times, I think it tastes a little strange, but I thought most sips were quite tasty. It has a little bite, which is also unexpected in a cream soda. I don't know how to describe the flavor more than "a honey/vanilla soda with a slight bite," so I guess you'll just have to try that if it intrigues you.

Score: 7 out of 10.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Lynden's Soda Fountain is CLOSED, but...

My wife and I headed to The Nook a few weeks ago, and noticed that Lynden's Soda Fountain was CLOSED! My heart sank a little.

But there was a sign in the window saying "Cold Front" was opening soon. I found a story on the City Pages website talking about the sale and new owners. I also checked out Lynden's Facebook Page, which announced a lot of what was going to be happening with Cold Front. It appears they're keeping the historic Soda Fountain, but they seem to be doing a bit more with (Dogwood) coffee and ice cream:

A "flight" of mini ice cream cones they call the "Snowball Flight."

And THIS is a great idea: they have a flight of sodas called the "Minni-Soda Flight." I will be trying this for SURE.

Cold Front opened 2 days ago on Valentine's Day, and hopefully my boys and I can make it over there in the next few days to check it out (Hamline and Randolf in St. Paul). I'll take some photos and post an update when I've tried their Minni-Soda Flight.

Check them out on Facebook, and scope out their coffee, ice cream, and sodas on their website.  (All photos from their Facebook page.)

Columbia Soda Works Sarsaparilla Soda

Something to wet my whistle as I was cleaning the house:

Columbia Soda Works Sarsaparilla Soda

Brand: Columbia Soda Works Sarsaparilla Soda.

Origin: Colombia, California.

Purchase Place: "Minnesota's Largest Candy Store," Jordan, MN.

Sweetener: High Fructose Corn Syrup.

Review: The first thing I thought was "cinnamon?!?" There's a strong taste of sweet cinnamon to this sarsaparilla. It's not "hot" cinnamon, but more like cinnamon and sugar. It was different, but it was pretty good. It was smooth overall, and a vert unique soda. Give it a try.

Score: 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Stewart's Key Lime Soda

We headed to a brunch over this past weekend, and I brought along a Key Lime soda:

Stewart's Key Lime Soda
In my friend's kitchen before we had our brunch.

Brand: Stewart's Key Lime Soda.

Origin: (shoot, I didn't get this before I left the party.)

Purchase Place: Kowalski's Market, St. Paul, MN.

Sweetener: High Fructose Corn Syrup.

Review: This was really smooth - it tastes like you'd expect it to when you see how "foggy" it is. It's VERY sweet, almost to a fault. But the key lime taste is right on. It was pretty good - great for sipping at a meal.

Score: 6.5 out of 10.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Mr. Root Beer - Homemade Root Beer from a Kit

For Christmas, my wife got me a "Mr. Root Beer" kit so my son and I could make our own root beer.  There are enough ingredients to make two 1-gallon batches, so we made our first batch about 2 weeks ago, and we still have 1.5 (out of 4) bottles still in the fridge.  Here's the process shown through a bunch of photos:

Mr. Root Beer Kit
The full kit (the size of a large shoebox).  It says "naturally carbonated" because there's no carbonated water or weird
chemicals to add the carbonation/head.  The carbonation is added naturally through the yeast.

The 5 instructions.  There were "official" instructions on a pamphlet inside, but it was basically this easy.
Step 3 is the most work.

The opened kit.

The contents: four 32 oz bottles, labels, instructions, a funnel, and a bag with ingredients and caps.

The caps with the "pressure valves" installed.

Using the "no-rinse cleaner" to clean out our milk jug.  (Sorry, my son doesn't wear pants too often…)

Cleaning our utensils.  The instructions warned that any contamination will add a funky taste to our root beer.

Adding ingredients (this was the maltodextrin).  After this, we added a LOT of sugar.

It was dark and oily.  It took a lot of stirring to dissolve all the sugar and brown sugar.

The wine yeast measured out and sprinkled on top.

1 gallon of mixed root beer (totally flat - now the yeast needs to do its work).

My son and the root beer.

Helping me bottle the root beer.

Ready to sit in the back corner of our dining room for 1-3 days as it ferments and becomes carbonated.  The timing of
this is the most critical: too short and you have tasty flat root beer, and too long and you have carbonated crap.

My son licking up any reside in the bowl.  It's SUPER sweet because (my understand of this is that) a lot
of the sugar will be consumed by the yeast to make the carbonation.

The directions said to find a dark place with a consistent temp between 68-75. Our house is
cooler than that in the winter, but this location was consistently 67-68 degrees.

By the next morning (12 hours after bottling), the caps were showing signs of pressure. The "pressure valves"
are simply small dense foam disks with a little slit cut in the middle where too much pressure can escape.

The directions said to refrigerate after the bottles become hard from the carbonation, and that it could take 1-3 days. The bottles were definitely "firmer" after 12 hours, and one of the bottles seemed quite hard after 26 hours. So I put that bottle in the fridge. (I was worried about the part in the instructions that talked about having either flat but tasty root beer if you refrigerate too soon, or carbonated crappy root beer if you wait too long and refrigerate too late.) Here's video of my son and I cracking into that first bottle the next afternoon after it spent 18 hours in the fridge:

So yeah, as you could see, it was hardly carbonated. I had already put another bottle in the fridge, but I still had 2 out, and I decided I'd leave those out for the full 3 days. When we tried the first bottle, it tasted a bit like sweet, liquid root beer barrels (remember those candies?). It was too sweet, but I think the yeast just needed to do it's job longer. It seemed to change a bit as it spent more time in the fridge - it developed a "deeper" flavor even after it was opened as I kept drinking it on the 2nd and 3rd days. I think it was still fermenting a bit. It actually got better.

When I opened the 2nd bottle, it had more carbonation (still not a lot).  I was actually able to get a photo of a FEW tiny bubbles still on top of this glass after I poured:

A LITTLE more carbonation in this one!

It got MORE carbonated as it sat in the fridge. The yeast was still doing some work. Again, this got better as it spent a few days once it was opened in the fridge. The 3rd bottle has been the best so far, with a deep flavor and adequate carbonation. I think I just needed to let them all sit a bit longer (in the dining room AND in the fridge).

Well, I guess it's time for a review. This is tricky, because each bottle has tasted a little different (but that's part of the fun). Here's what I think:

Brand: Mr. Root Beer Kit.

Origin: Boxed in Tucson, AZ, and brewed in my kitchen/dining room in St. Paul, MN.

Purchase Place:

Sweetener: Sugar, Brown Sugar, and Maltodextrin.

Review: Because this is carbonated through a yeast process, the result is slightly alcoholic (around 1%). That gives this "brewed" root beer a very unique flavor that root beer "sodas" don't have. The flavor is rich and deep. Even the later bottles that I let carbonate/ferment for longer still had a little of the "root beer barrel candy" sweetness that I mentioned above, but it wasn't TOO sweet. And it was cut by a deep, vanilla root beer flavor at the end. The first bottle I had I'd probably give a 4 or a 5 because it was just too sugary. But the rest that I let sit longer were better. Still, not even close to the best root beer I've ever had, but still totally worth it because it's a fun DIY project.

Score: 6.5 out of 10.

p.s. I'd like to experiment with my final batch of root beer by adding different flavors to each bottle. I'll make sure to give an update if/when I try that.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Jarritos Tamarind Soda

Tonight during the Super Bowl (what an ending!) I tried this soda without knowing what the flavor was:

Jarritos Tamarind Soda

Brand: Jarritos Tamarind Soda.

Origin: Mexico.

Purchase Place: Lunds Grocery Store, St. Paul, MN.

Sweetener: Sugar.

Review: I don't fully know how to describe this flavor. It's a little like a fermented apple juice, but with more of a bite. I looked up "tamarind" on Wikipedia, and found out that it's a pod-like fruit that is used in (of all random things) Worcestershire sauce. The soda was good, but odd. It wasn't super sweet, and it's not something that you can just gulp down. It's worth a try. Check it out.

Score: 5.5 out of 10.