Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Wonton Stepford Wife

I know the forecast for tomorrow says it's supposed to be brightly sunny, but all I can picture is settling into the 55102.
What begins as a drizzle develops into fatter, denser raindrops that muddy my new lawn. From the darkness there's movement. A rustling sound comes from under the neighbor's freshly raked leaves. I sit, tucked in to my couch. Swathed in a blanket. There's movement in the shrubs, crawling on the pavement, the sidewalk, soon I'll hear the almost inaudible chanting. They scrape up the stairs, crawling, caked on mud dripping onto the entryway, "one of us.... one of us..." Paul's white hair has slicked to his forehead in the rain, stark, black eyebrows arched. Peggy's fingers are curled, and pawing, reaching. Joey's eyes are rolled back into his head as he lurches forward. Zara and Ned are stumbling, their baby legs struggling in the muck, wayward teeth peaking through their gums. Pushing themselves forward. "One of us... one of of us...." It's because I stole him away from them. It's because I needlessly mocked their beloved home town. There is a punishment owed to me for never having worn a wool pleated skirt, for not knowing a single nuns name. There's a thud at the back door and a scraping on the window. "One of us... one of us... one of us...."
Will my friends even recognize me, disfigured by my selfishness, shivering in my heathen, secular ways? Whatever is to become of me?!
"One of US... One of US... One of US......"
I could hide, but where would I go? There's no way out! They're here! They're HERE!!!"
"One of US! One of US! ONE OF US!!!!!"

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Can I Eat the Minneapple in St. Paul?

I'm moving. To St. Paul. They have restaurants in St. Paul, right?
I know, I know... I'm over doing it (yes, again - shut up!) Maybe, to generate a little more contentment in my heart as the In-Laws have won and we're going going to their zip code, I should dedicate a post to the other Twin.
Yup... moving across the Miss. The Might Miss. Old Man River. Deeeepppp Riiiiivvver.
Alrighty, friends, let's take a little trip on ova to tha Eastside.
There are, of course, dozens of wonderful restaurants in St. Paul. And certainly many more than the over-rated W.A. Frost (actually, I hate that restaurant, but that's another post.)

Pazzaluna comes to mind. They have a wonderful happy hour, but it only goes until 6:00 p.m. and I can never make it over there before it's over. I remember a brief stint working at the Pioneer Press and meeting my darling downstairs at Pazzaluna. Also, my sister-in-law Patti works there and she's awesome. So, if ever you go and a spunky blond with a cute hair cut named Patti waits on you-- tip big. Their pizzas are wonderful. My favorite is the bolognese with peppers and sausage. Delicious and half price during happy hour-- thank you very much!!! Their gnocchi should be awarded prizes They are creamy and comforting and not in the least gooey or heavy. The risotto is ridiculous, it's so good! I hear they have pasta, too, but I haven't gotten too far on the menu. It's really a little pricey after all the gas I had to buy to get all the way over there.

There's also Moscow on the Hill, which I always forget about for some reason. Which is sad because, really it is one of the best winter date night spots around. Last time I was there with my Mom-in-law (see a pattern, here) and so I couldn't order my usual shot of voddy before the meal. Were it my mother we might be under the table before the food came, but Carol doesn't drink. If you're not dining with my mother-in-law you should definitely start out your meal with a shot of Stoli black and a gherkin-- makes everything taste better. The soup special that I had last time was wonderful, even if the flavors sound odd. It was a rich, meaty broth with veggies and olives and pickles topped with sour cream and dill. I know! Weird! But good. Highly rec commended is the lamb, too. Wonderful.

There's also one of my absolutely favorite restaurants of all time, The Muddy Pig. Their website is down right now, but I could easily quote you the entire menu. First appetizers, the bruchetta is good, skip the rest. There's the sandwiches, my favorites are the spicy chipotle chicken and the gargantuan Cubano. It's easily the best Cubano that I've found in the city and as big as your head. Entrees, all the pastas are good, but my favorite is the Pastalaya. Wait... this is all sounding very familiar to me. (See my Lost on You post below)

St. Paul also has Red's Savoy Inn, for my money, one of the best pizzas in town. My favorite pie, though, because I'm biased and because one of the bartenders is super foxy, is Skinner's Pub on the corner of Milton and Randolph right off of 35E. They have the most perfect pepperoni and sausage pizza for my taste. Thin crust, herby sauce, real Italian spiced sausage. Pete (Skinner) makes the best Reuben I've tasted anywhere in town and at only $6.00, it's nearly criminal. It's huge, built on a foundation of thick, dark rye, freshly cut, wonderfully spiced pastrami, dripping in tangy sauerkraut and and Thousand Island dressing. Pete loves the sandwich so much that, at the request of one of the regulars, he made it into a pizza! I know it sounds weird, but go with me on this because it's really, really good. All the food at Skinner's is outstanding and astonishingly cheap. So's the booze. $2.75?! For a cocktail!? And it's not even happy hour! Sign me up. Even Kathie Jenkins, writer for the Eat section of the PiPress has raved about this neighborhood restaurant/bar. She ran an article that they have the some of best nachos in the city. It's because they fry their own tortillas for the chips and pile them sky high on a pizza tin. Best of all for me is that Skinner's delivers. And blissfully, blissfully soon, I will live a mere six blocks away!

Chang Mai Thai - You've Changed

It started when they changed in the menu in the first time in what seemed like forever. Since this has always been one of my favorite restaurants, I'd always wanted options. I'd like to explore the Thai cuisine, if you will. But they didn't, so far as I could tell, add anything. Instead, they took away one of my favorite items, the clear tofu soup! It sounds terrible, right? No, my friends, this was one heavenly, flu-ass-kickin' soup. There was little bits of fried garlic, an amazing depth of flavor to the broth. It was one of those very rare, perfect foods that is tasty and probably really good for you, too. I yearn for the floating ribbons of spinach and the merry little shrimps that I'd request be added. But no. They took it away because probably not enough people ordered it because it had such a useless name! It's like that Himalayan place on Hennepin next to Urban Outfitters. I'm never going to go there because the menu gives me indication of what the food is going to taste like. And, never having been to the Himalayans, I've got no food memory to go on. Everything is a variation on chicken and rice. Well, what the eff does that mean? There about seven hundred million different ways that combo can be prepared!

But I digress. Back to the Chiang. Okay, so they took away my soup and this behooved me. Then, they changed the serving portions to much more manageable and less family sized. But they didn't change the prices. Also, one of my other favorite things, the Pad Kee Mao is now made with smaller, roundy noodles that appear to be made with glue because that's how it tastes every time I've ordered it since. What I had come to love as Pad Kee Mao was basically Pad Thai dressed up for an evening on the town. There was the velvety Thai basil and the flashy, fiery spices were kicked up. Now, it's more the dowdy roommate that never gets invited along. The one that sulks in her room while everyone else is having a good time. God, I hated living with her. And I certainly do not want her coming along and making me pay!

I could go on to the curry fiasco, but I'll spare you the gory details. What has remained the same, and what not enough people know about, is their fantastic happy hour. Half price wine and pints and discounts on well drinks. Best of all is the cheapie, cheapie appetizers. My absolute favorite has to be the Bird's Nest. They dice up chicken and shrimp, wrap the mixture in rice noodles and then fry them. The Nesties are served with Shri Racha hot sauce and Sweet and Sour sauce. Four for $3.50 is a bargain! Last night my sweetie and I went for the Minnesota Dining Hour, 5:00 and had a whole meal out of their appetizers. We had plenty to drink and still went home with money in our pockets! We also had their Burning Wings of Fire, (I went down with a burnin' wing of fire.... I just got that) which really, the wings do not burn. They are just chicken wings, seasoned up a bit with good ol' S&P then fried. The burning, spicy flavor comes entirely from this wondrous green sauce served with them. My friend Mark, a chef currently running the kitchen at the Wayzata Country Club has been working on a way to duplicate this sauce. It's some combination of jalapenos, cilantro with a little citrus. But it's so much more! AND I CAN'T FIGURE IT OUT!!! Drives me nuts every time because this stuff would be so good on so many different things.

I also had the fresh spring rolls with curried beef. I forgot that the beef makes them look more like fresh pooh rolls, so I'd skip it if you're one of those "visual" eaters.

There are many other good options, the happy shrimp indeed make me very happy. There are the fried spring rolls and even cream cheese wontons for the kiddies.

I miss so much the ability to have dinner there at a reasonable hour. But, if you're looking for a romantically lit cheap date, this is an excellent place. The decor can't be beat and the service we had last night was wonderful. You've changed, and we may be growing apart, but Chiang, you know I love ya!