Friday, March 30, 2007

Run Down on My Week

How did this happen? I've been out nearly every night this week and still I haven't had a single thing to write up! Why? Because I haven't been anywhere GOOD! And I haven't been anywhere horrendously bad, either! Well, last night was pretty wretched food-wise, but the company couldn't have been much better.

First, there was Monday at Sweeny's. The chicken wings were really well fried, but the seasoning was lackluster. The Buffalo wings had an odd sweetness to them. The Gyro salad was surprisingly good, though. Of course it's just that kind of gyro meat that you can get at the grocery store on top of a bag of salad. If it had been served to me at any other restaurant, I would probably hate it. But the super strong vodka lemonades and the sunshine really had a rosy affect on me.

Wednesday I went with my coworkers to a little happy hour at McCoys. I did get the parking spot right at the front door. SCORE!! The specials were cheap pizzas and discounts on beer and well drinks. You'd think that I was gonna get a decent glass of wine since they're related to and next door to Brix wine bar/bistro blah spot. But no. Black Opal Shiraz is not good. So, I slung back rum & cokes and we ordered some pizzas. We got pepperoni, Margarita and a smoked chicken and bacon. They were okay. I didn't get to try the Margarita, but that was fine. Tomatoes are so awful right now. The pepperoni was fine, the chicken was overly smokey, but there was bacon and about fifteen types of cheese, so that was edible. Not great, though. I wished I had to two minute drive home that I would have had were I still living in Minneapolis, but no. Two hours later I arrived home.

Yesterday I met up with some friends at Fabulous Ferns. It is so not Fab. We had the Kalbi wings. We don't know what that means. It begins with a K so it must be forgien? Yeah, I dunno. They are really just tasty Teriyaki wings. Then I thought I wasn't that hungry, so I ordered a side salad. I am such an IDIOT! Sarah got the chicken wild rice salad that didn't have a ton of wild rice and what there was wasn't fully cooked. Also, the dressing was a little sweet for me. Tony ordered the club croissant, which I'm sure was wonderful. He was sitting too far away from me to steal a bit. Matt didn't eat anything because he went and got GOOD food at Cossetta's. He's a smart one. Laura got crab cakes that smelled fishy, but tasted fine as long as you avoid the tartar sauce. Oh my dear GOD was that a bowl of awful.

Then there's my salad. My sad $5 teeny little salad. The tomatoes were GREEN on the inside. The lettuce was all iceburg and there were NO croutons. WTF like a little stale bread on my plate would kill their overhead?! How about a little charity cheese, but NO! I spent $5 on a head of watery lettuce. Which doesn't seem like a lot, but really, I could have shoved that five bucks in my mouth with a dollop of Ranch dressing and been a lot happier with the results.

Now for tonight. I'm not going anywhere. There will be wine, there will be delivery and I will FINALLY get to eat something good.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Blood is thicker than… warm vino?

Since the last place I went to eat was Sweeny's, I'm not even going to bother with a write up. (It sucked, but the patio's nice. You already knew that.) Laura's much more glamorous than I am, dining out with mysterious men in far flung corners of the metro area:

I feel bad ripping even the smallest detail of my cousin Shay’s restaurant because a) she’s family and b) we’re not that close. The back story: I suspect she has resented me from age 9 when I got a bloody nose while she babysat five of us little hellions thus ruining her theretofore sweet gig. Yes, we were rough-housing in the basement to Michael Jackson’s Thriller album (on cassette!), yes, we were jumping off the stairs into the pile of cushions we were specifically told not to put on the floor and yes, we knew someone would get hurt. Who knew it would sweet li’l ol’ tattletale me?

With her babysitting career ruined, my cousin Shay worked in Twin Cities restaurants in some capacity for nearly 20 years including managing the likes of The Local and JD Hoyt’s. Then she and her good friend Mandy decided they had enough of working for other people and in May of 2006 bought the old Nordeast hippie-dippy artist hangout Mill City coffeehouse. They made a few tweaks, got a liquor license and a chef and in October 2006 had a spectacular grand opening. The several times I’ve dropped in on the weekends they’ve had a brisk cocktail and brunch business. The Strib’s
Rick Nelson even stopped by with nary a complaint except for the too-loud and lame live music. (It’s hard to hippie-hippie shake those guitar-strummin’ wailers.)

Well, dear friends, the gild is off the lily. My grandpa (not our shared grandfather) and I decided to have dinner there on a weeknight. I roll up and see her business partner Mandy taking a long drag on what looked like her last savior of a cigarette. She probably looked worse than she should have because it was gloomy and drizzling and she was wearing a thin t-shirt, track pants and pink flip-flops. This is the proprietor, the owner, the Chief Operating Officer if you will. Flip-flops may have their place in society but not on the owner of any establishment, let alone during muddy March and certainly not at a place where food is to be prepared and consumed. I say hi not receiving any sort of enthusiasm in return. I continue on to find Shay behind the bar, looking tired as well. We start talking above the Latin music CD and remarking about the one other table of diners in her 20-table establishment. There’s a maximum of seven people in the whole place and we’re practically shouting over the music. Why, Shay? Why? She finally turns it down as Grampy arrives and we sit in the back so he can hear me when I shout into his good ear.

Grampy and I have a lot in common, not the least of which is our enjoyment of a glass of red wine. Shay serves it Italian-style in some chic and blessedly oversized table glasses. But Shay is not a wine drinker. I know this from observations at family gatherings and from the fact that the wine was served room temp the day after a freak heat wave. Ick. Even Grampy was all, “WTF?” (Not really but wouldn’t that be funny?) Seriously, for $10, a glass of Valpolicella should not drink like tepid bath-water. The flavors were blunted and the weight became oppressively heavy. This is so simple to get right: a small wine cooler costs $100 at Home Depot; get one and set it at 61 degrees. Done.

Our meal of crab cakes and a green salad was most delightful – dare I say flawlessly executed? The cakes were moist and tender with perfect markings and flavor from the grill. They actually tasted like crab – a rarity even at better restaurants – and were flecked with the tiniest bits of red pepper that had been briefly sautéed before being combined with the rest of the mixture. Brilliant! A just-spicy-enough red-pepper sauce was artfully drizzled across the plate as were swirls of (Joy, help me here) some green non-spicy/non-truffle oil. (JOY: I have no idea. Garnish oil?) Our salads were served on giant plates heaped with mounds of baby lettuces lightly dressed in a balanced balsamic vinaigrette. Hiding among the tender leaves were spiced nuts and plump, not-SunMaid-brand raisins. Shaved atop were even slices of Parmesan and a grind of black pepper. I tend to be vehemently against salads but this one was different: tasty, nuanced. I can only complain about our bread basket: four tiny, sad pieces of sourdough-like baguette disparately arranged – if you can call it that – served with a cup of what I can only describe as scrapings (shards?, fragments?) of cold butter.

Grampy lives for desserts: a trait that he has passed indelibly to his granddaughter. Our turtle torte dessert was delectable and elegantly plated with swirls of amaretto-caramel sauce, chopped nuts, and a dollop of whipped cream (from the can – boo!). Grampy got his decaf and I rationed my water. (Oh, just leave the carafe at the table – we’re family! I can pour it myself!)

Mill City, the food is incredible! They chose wisely when they hired their chef (who is nameless for whatever reason). However, Shay and Mandy are their own worst enemies. Throughout our meal, I could see Mandy (in those $@#! flip-flops) dragging cardboard boxes and the trash can back and forth to the alley. The music, vino and butter are missteps these two veterans should be getting right. Our candle was not lit. Shay and Mandy are doggedly trying to attract the neighborhood crowd but Nordeasters don’t eat like this; condo dwellers do. I’d love to see them do some advertising or promotions with The Onion or Minneapolis-St. Paul magazine. It’s a shame that this adorable owner-operated place that’s easy to find and serves good food isn’t attracting more devotees, especially with all the condos that have sprung up on the NE side of the river. The prices are fair and with the details attended to would almost be a steal. Please go and enjoy the food at my cousin’s restaurant – ‘cause she can’t go back to babysitting.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Spicy Spicy Chicken

Okay, the kitchen continues to torment me, but I will not go quietly into that good night! Oh, no. Despite the fact that it's practically cooking by candlelight over an electric fire waiting to happen, I decided to make dinner last night. I went with another good standby: Szechwan style chicken (of course, now that I've had authentic, I feel the need to change the recipe name.) First, I marinated a pound and a half of cubed chicken in soy sauce, worchestire, rice wine vinager and a little bit of corn starch. Then I put into a pot 1/2 cup of brown rice, 1 cup of chicken broth and four smashed cloves of garlic. This is the best rice dish EVER. Really, try it. Bring the rice to a boil and turn the heat way down and keep it covered. I had to keep adjusting the temp on my stove, but usually, it's just low. Now, we were ready to get going. Matt chopped up some onion, yellow bell pepper and a serrano chili that he did NOT take out the seeds from. I would highly suggest removing the seeds. I add the whole shebang to a hot skillet and proceeded to saute.

Now, you might notice that despite a high-velocity flash on the camera, this still looks a little dark.

Here's why:

Two of the the three space aged looking lights in this ridiculous fixture are burned out! First it took us a week to pry the little buggers out and now we can't find anywhere in the metro that sells these things! I do not know what their intended purpose in this world was, but lighting up a kitchen doesn't seem to be it.
So, I toiled on in near darkness, setting up my workstation next to the sink with the hardest working bulb in shine business:

And yeah, there's booze in there. It's a proven fact that Mt. Gay rum goes hand in hand with spicy food.

So, after I'd sufficiently burned the tar out of the peppers and onion mixture I dumped them back into their bowl and wiped out the pan.
I added the chicken and stir fried until cooked through.

I pulled that out and wiped out the pan again.
Now for the sauce. I mixed together soy sauce, a little bit of sugar, grated ginger, minced garlic, rice wine vinegar, chili paste with garlic, Worcheshire and just a touch of balsamic vinegar. Oh, and a good amount of corn starch. I added this to the screaming hot pan and brought to a boil and reduced. Now, I added the chicken and peppers back to the pan and stirred together.

I served it up over the brown rice, garnish with green onion.

And, despite the fact that it was cooked up in near darkness, the dish was met with rave reviews.
So, I guess the lesson learned is that me and the kitchen, we're just going to have to find a way to work together, because I'm not picking up again and moving any time soon. I just hope that this spring brings me a Weber or a grill that gets me out of that kitchen, but let's me keep on cookin'.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Bochfest 2007!

I'm back from another successful Bochfest! (That's me over there and over here we've got Matt & Mom in their weird headgear. Mom's still nursing her broken appendage, so that's what's with the overly large coat. She's really quite slender and plans to burn the coat in efigy as soon as possible.) While most of the world was celebrating some guy who had a snake phobia and guzzling green beer, I headed North. What doesn't say "fun" about an afternoon in the glorious out of doors in sunny Duluth on a March day? We were blessed with gorgeous weather reaching all the way up to the 30's! I know I was sweatin'!

Every year I make it up to drink some of the Brewhouse's amazing Bock beer and watch a bunch of idiots jump into the lake. You should really join us next year! Fitger's Brewery is a fun place to be no matter what the time of year, though.

I have no idea what prompted this tradition, but I keep going back. There are the delectible bratwursts *(MUST be ordered with kraut, no matter how odd you think that it. You will cry in your beer if you do not and regret it for a lifetime! Really. Ask Matt.) You also must get poked. And who doesn't want to get a little somethin' somethin' on St. Paddy's day? But, lieterally, what you do, is take the beer, and sip out a good inch then bring it to the nice guy by the campfire. He'll take this long metal poker and gently slide it into you cup. Now, here's where things get steamy. A foamy head rises to the top of your glass. Slurp the smokey stuff away and you'll find your beer has been altered. And it's not that it's boiling hot. Surprisingly, it's still cold, but the surgars from the beer have carmelized into a heady, rich flavor. It's not overly sweet, either, it just tastes like a really good brown beer with depth. Amazing.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Andy Gets a Dog & I Get Indigestion

I'd like to tell you a little tale that I like to call, Andy & Grendel. This little tale is proof that you can find true love on the Internet. The only difference from your usual Internet love story is that Andy, is a sweet girl and Grendel is the name she's chosen for the Glen of Imaail terrier nee Rodney that she found on (This is a great site if you're considering that you might need a new friend. This is also how I found my lovable little furball Eli, but that's another tale, for another time.)
Andy & Grendel have met in person, but he's yet to go home with her because she wanted to puppy-ize her place. To do this meant a trip to Target and because she lives in Minnetonka, it meant I had to venture into the suburbs. Of course when we made this plan it was all of 2:00 in the afternoon and I was starving already. Where were we going to eat?? Despite her odd and disturbing desire to hit the Macaroni Grill (no. never. no.) I knew there had to be something better. I'd heard that Jimmy's Food and Cocktails wasn't too bad. Every other choice was either a sports bar or an overpriced restaurant that I can't go to because of the mediocre food and high tabs. They make me angry. So, I jumped on Open Table and made a quick online reservation. I'm almost up to enough points on Open Table to get a gift certificate! Woo hoo!
Did you know that Target in Minnetonka has a parking lot located in a wind tunnel? I almost blew away! Once safely inside, we were happy to find all the poochy stuff right up front. Andy respected her dogs dignity enough not to purchase any of the cute clothing items that I shoved in her face. But, seriously, if I had a medium sized dog he would so be wearing this. Loaded for bare with a bed, 5 tons of Iams and a leash we were set for the real show, dinner.
The parking lot was packed and weird. It's all one way and small and weird. If you can't find parking, you have to go across the street to a Caribou. We circled until finally someone left. We were a little early, so our table wasn't ready yet. Shortly after we walked in, two gentlemen came in who did NOT have a reservation, yet somehow they were seated before us. Oh, well, no matter. I consoled myself that our table must be really, really good. Hmmm... not so much. Not that it was bad either. The entire restaurant is tastefully decorated with Mission style everything, but the art was gaudy and awful. This atmosphere was to be indicative of the rest of our night. Wonderful until something was so way off, it was jarring. The room was loud and mostly full of tables of people that I would venture to guess work together. There were a couple of families.
Because it says cocktails right in the name of the joint, we decided to get down to business. Martinis! I had their Spicy & Dirty which is a dirty martini served with a dash of Choloula hot sauce and blue cheese stuffed olives. Oh, my God, was this thing good. If it was a blistering hot day, I'd still want one of these. It would be the perfect foil to a nasty hangover and a crisp, cozy comfort on a cold winter night. The blue cheese was really good and creamy balancing out the kick at the back of the throat from the hot sauce.
We ordered the lightly battered onion rings as an appetizer and the bread basket came. I couldn't believe how much I loved the stupid breadbasket, of all things. There was a delicious honey wheat bread, piping hot and some "everything bagel" flavored crackers that were wonderful. And they served the butter at proper spreading temperature. I hate it when you get a chunk of cold butter.
Then came the onion rings. They were piled up, lovingly garnished with a little parsley, basil and Parmesan cheese. And then I bit in. Holy soggy O Batman! YUCK! I actually sent them back. I. Sent back. Onion Rings. I refused to eat something fried. Yeah, they were that bad. The waitress kindly, swiftly, removed the offending rings and handled the whole thing very well.
For entrees Andy went with the baby back ribs and I decided that I just had to try the Booya. Until I met Matt, I'd never even heard of a Booya. Every year, this group of guys gathers and spends three days straight stirring a tub of soup (drinking a lot) that is, from what I can tell, whatever the hell the think to throw in there. Oxtails, chicken, canned green beans, corn, what have you. Somehow, the entire concoction ends up tasting really good and crowds of neighborhood folks clamor for more. It's really a weird phenomenon, but a great community thing. Apparently, it's a St. Paul thing, so of course, I require a map and explicit directions to figure it out.
Just before our entrees arrived, we ordered a bottle of wine. I selected a McManis Cabernet, based entirely on the price, $28. It was an okay wine list. Nothing on there looked to be a great discovery. All the usual mediocre wines were there. Meh.
Our food arrived and sure enough, the booya tasted surprising like what I expected it to. It looked like it was made with corned beef, corn, onions, carrots and white beans. It was really satisfying. So satisfying that after a couple of bites, I was pretty much over it. Yeah, it tasted the same, but real booya is only $1! A bowl of this stuff was $7.
Andy's ribs were wonderful. The house made sauce has Coke in it and that gave them a really Carmelly flavor. They were incredibly lean, but moist. The meat feel off the bone, they were wonderful.
On the side was a little dish of coleslaw and some vinegar fries, that were just those little skinny fries tossed somewhere in the process with vinegar, but really didn't pick up any special flavor. Good, though. At least they were cooked.
But, oh, dreaded coleslaw, how you vex me. This is the single most EVIL side dish ever created by man. It looked really yummy, a little bowl of shredded cabbage and carrots. It looked really fresh and lightly dressed, no swimming in mayo or sour cream. So, I take a bite. Yum, sweet, crisp cabbage and... GAH! WHAT THE HELL IS THAT!? Sweet God in heaven above what is that horrendous taste in my mouth?? Andy said she thought that it tasted like liquid smoke. It was something chemically and just not right. It was so not right. We even tried to doctor it up a bit with the aoili, but no, it was horrible! HORRIBLE! Sweet crunchy vegetables Shanghaied by some obtuse cook in the kitchen. I still don't know how they did it and my stomach is a little ill at ease even today. It was like I was poisoned by trying to eat a veggie. BlaecachAHKJAFHDK!! Awful! Evil! That's one mean spirited salad. Do NOT under fear of life and limb order or ingest this stuff. Seriously.
We finished off her ribs and fries, quite pleased, but maybe still a little hungry. Oh, well, I certainly wasn't going to order anything else and play that kind of Culinary Russian Roulette. Not when every entree is about $14, either.
When our bill came, I looked it over and found that the wine rang up at $32. On the wine list, still luckily on the table, it was listed at $28. This time, when I pointed out the error to our up until then sweet waitress with an oddly pitched voice changed demeanors. I could see in her eyes that she'd tired of me and my pickiness. But, geez! That's a problem! How about thank you for pointing out the problem with our system? I mean, that was clearly not her or the chef's fault. But no apology, no nothing. She just took the bill and made the change and that was the end of that.

Friday, March 16, 2007

There's Nothing Little About the Spice

Oh, my sweet Jebezus! I have found the Motherland! Little Szechuan of St. Paul is without question the absolute BEST Chinese food in town. Why the hyperbole you may ask? Do you have to spaz out about everything, dear Joyful? Well... nuh hunh. There's plenty of hum drum reactions that I have... Can't think of anything at the moment, though. There was the screamy-memmy fit I threw of the spot of dog poo defiling my garage door(hate neighbor children)... the Stove... had an explosive reaction over the heating temperature again yesterday. Ahhhh ummmm... idiots at work taunting new chick 'cause she's cute.... Probably could have handled that better. Okay! You got me. I'm a spaz by nature and that's why you love me. What the hell fun is somebody who buys all this layin' around shit! Did the Americans lay around when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor!? NO! Nothing's over until WE decide it is! Now, who's with me!? YEAAAAAAHHH!!!!!

Okay, so where was I? Ah, sooooo Little Szechuan. It's damn good and damn spicy if you like it that way and I do. Like Ike & Tina we never do anything nice, we like it rough. We like it searing spicy hot so that my eyes are watering and my nose is running. Boy ever, did we get it. Uh hunh. I wanted to write up this place after the first time that I went there, but I wanted to try in again, in case it was some fluke. Oh, ho, it was not. No, siree, let me tell you about the wonders I've encountered thanks to their thoughtfully prepared dishes.
The first time Matt & I went, I had my doubts. It's located in the old space where Mai Village used to be. I think I was leery because there were all these odd chain smoking people standing outside of a vacant looking storefront next door. Also, I have a pretty irrational concern that I'm going to go somewhere and not be able to order anything because no one speaks any English. Or something. I don't know. It's normal to fear things out of your usual realm, right? Well, it's also good to shove yourself out of the realm occasionally, too. Thank God I did.
We went on a Saturday during the lunch rush and the place was bustling. I was suspicious when we were seated behind the only other non-Asians in the joint and our waiter was a white guy. If they expect Sweet n' Sour chicken offa this table, they were guessing wrong. We ordered the Spicy pork in broth and the short ribs. Our waiter looked at us with a dubious mixture of doubt and curiosity. "You like really spicy, right?" Oooh, yeah, buddy, bring it on.
Set on the table for us was a wonderful pot of tea. This was about a month ago when we were in that death grip cold snap and it had been Fa-fa-FREEZING outside. The tea was welcome and really good. I didn't need any honey or sugar or anything. Good thing, since they didn't have any on the table. Oh, I should mention that we ordered off of the green menu with all of the Chinese writing in it. This is the real deal, but they also offer a tamer black menu for those expecting more American Chinese dishes like Chow Mein and the like. I'm sure they're all delicious, too. But having read that this is one of only a handful of authentic Szechuan style restaurant in America. The chef was actually from Szechuan, so I knew I was good.
I had been dreaming of the opportunity to eat authentic Szechuan style cooking for years. It seemed that news of the delicious spiciness was haunting me. Lynne Rossetto Kasper on the Splendid Table talking about how it was illegal to ship Szechuan peppers to the states until only recently. Tony Bourdain sweating his skinny ass off on the Travel Network. It was everywhere, but no where I could get it!! Then these lovely people come along and answer my prayers.
Finally, our food arrived. We'd been entertained the entire time we waited by all of the activity around us. This place was packed and there was not a lot of English being spoken. Chinese and occasionally Spanish conversations floated around us. The pork was a huge steaming bowl. Little bits of pork and cabbage had to be fished out with our chopsticks (they don't provide silverware and I wasn't going to be the weenie that asked for it.) The "broth" appeared more to be "hot oil," but in a good way. This was so blazing hot. HOT. Hot like Johnny Depp in a waiting for you in a dark corner. Or hot like Selma Hyek in a bathing suit, depending on how you like to roll. Holy Mama! That was good. My eyes were watering and my nose was running, eventually I started to sweat, but all in a really good way. It wasn't just searing pain hot, it was flavor city in a drop back Cadillac. Hmmm!!! Seriously good stuff. Something about the "broth" kept the pork really hot as we slowly made our way through the meal. That food never got cold no matter how long it sat there. It was one of those dishes where you know you're full, but you can't stop eating, because DEAR GOD what if I never eat anything this good ever again for the rest of my life!?
And our waiter hadn't steered us wrong by suggesting the short ribs, one of their house specialties that happened to be offered that day. Again, these brown and ruby dusted jewels were tasty. Layers of beefy, spicy flavored packed into these tiny little bites. My friend Nami makes some amazing short ribs, but these were even better. (And different, to be fair, she's Korean and I guarantee you that there is nothing to be found in any restuarant in town that compares to her Chop Chae.) We gleefully sucked on the bones as the (cough) losers (cough) behind us tried to order them as well. HA Ha! We beat you! We got the last order. Hee hee hee. Excuse a cruel chuckle.
Also, the tea was so welcome on the pallet with all of this heat. A sip of ice water was almost a shock to the system. When we finally laid our swords down, the tabletop was gruesome. Red oil splattered everywhere, little bits of chilies and shards of beef fat languished next to their dishes. Matt had spilled his water glass, so that was all over the place, too. Napkins shredded, tears dried and bellies full, I was delighted. It was the meal equivalent of curling up in your favorite fuzzy sweater. I just felt so good.
And the waiter was nice, and slow, letting us enjoy our own pace and ourselves. It was such a perfect dining experience that I doubted it could ever be duplicated. It could never be that good again! Or could it?
Last night I was starving and did NOT want to do battle with that goddamn piece of shit stove in the horrible kitchen of Culinary disaster. I HATE THAT KITCHEN!!! I can't cook in there, how am I supposed to create!? Even the goddamn microwave is dying on me from over use! BASTARDS!
So, smartly and fearing for his safety, Matt suggested we go to Little Szechuan. I didn't want to have to go home, change and schlep anywhere. We had Netflix and the most comfortable couch in the world. Why would we ever want to leave? But, there's nearly no food delivery in St. Siberia. We'd had Skinner's food twice already that week and our only other option is this place that's called "Hot City." Yeah. It looks like it used to be the front of an old video store and now they were mayo-layden hoagies. I wanted something that would actually be, ya know, GOOD. Darling husband that he is hopped in his minivan and headed up to University & Dale. We'd see how this food held up to take out.
This time we ordered only one dish, because really, we were going WAY overboard on that last one. That was too much pork for just... Well, I'll let Matt tell you about that some time. He placed our order for the Chung King Spicy chicken. I went home, picked the place up a bit and made cocktails. (Arn I a good wife?) We greedily dug in to find that yes, Virgina, there is a Santa Claus and in the off season he dresses up in a big, puffy red jacket from Land's End, dons hipster eye wear and gallivant around town answering to the name Matt Summers. This was EXACTLY what I had wanted! I suspect the chicken was dredged in flour and then sauteed in the super spicy sauce with red and green bell pepper and onions. It wasn't as hot as the pork dish we'd have previously, but equally flavorful. Garlicky, spiciness wonderment abounds! God damn that's some chicken! If you go to their website, it's the third dish pictured at the top of the homepage. So good.
Really, if you've been craving a culinary adventure for your taste buds, bust your ass our of your regular routine and try something new.

Monday, March 12, 2007


Dear 101 Blu/Aura,
Would you please just close already? Seriously! How are you still hanging in there? You food is disgusting, your waitstaff incompetent and your location is outstanding! How are you even running anymore? The only time that people are in there is on the weekend because everywhere else in Uptown is full! That's the only thing you have going for you! I know that I can walk in there and get a seat because it's NEVER FULL. Never! Doesn't that bother you? Don't you want to get a seat at the cool kids table at least once? I mean, you've got everything going for you really. The location is prime for a classy little joint. It'd be perfect for something just a little more upscale than the Figlio/Independent offerings elsewhere in Calhoun Square. What you need is a serious intervention, so here comes the tough love, little guy.
I can no longer stand by and watch you destroy yourself. When you opened we all had such high hopes for you. You were a shining jewel, lighting up the nightlife around you. But, when you continue to serve wretched food and woeful drinks, it hurts everyone around you. The time that I ordered the fruit pizza (hic) with (sniff) Oh, this is just so hard. (Sigh.) Okay, that time that I ordered the fruit pizza and all of the fruit was still frozen and the crust was soggy and (sob) soggy and... It was just... can't, Aura! I just can't tolerate that. And then last Saturday, when I was there with Laura, your bartender wouldn't even look at us and we were sitting RIGHT THERE! Right in the middle of the bar!
Oh, and the people you've been hanging out with are just horrible. What was with that girl who could not have been out of her 20's, but she'd tanned and nipped and tucked herself into the face of an 80 year old? Is Michael Jackson's plastic surgeon darkening corners there? Who are these people? This not a healthy relationship. That chick would sell you out for a chemical peel.
And then there was the chef, dear Aura, the one with the BO so bad that I could smell him from across the room? What were you thinking? How would you put someone like that near people with olfactory senses? And that's who you expect me to order food from? I cannot tolerate this type of environment and will no longer expose me or my friends to you and the destruction you've brought upon yourself.
So, today, I ask you, will you please accept this gift and get yourself the help that you need?

Friday, March 09, 2007

Be still my Heart

Mwa ha! Since last time I went I could barely recollect what I had eaten, this time I stole the menu from Heartland's wine bar! And I took notes, but I needn't have because this time I drank a wee bit less and was really paying attention. Oh, my God, do I love this restaurant. It's wonderful! It's like what Barbette always wanted to be, but with actually really good food to back up the attitude. (Don't get me wrong, I love Barbette, but it's a complicated affair.)
I met my darling Matt there after promising him that I would finally let him in on one of these fancy dinners with friends that I always seem to go to without him. He's still mad about a visit to Corner table that was years ago.
When I arrived he was already seated at the full to capacity bar. I had an amuse of trumpet mushroom mousse with a little cherry, walnut chutney, teeny green petals of something lovely and a crostini. It was heaven. The mousse was silky and earthy sweet with the chuntey on the salty garlicky crostini. I ate it in three small bites, trying to perserve the experience all the while defending my dish with a jutted out elbow to keep Matt's greasy mitts off my my food when he'd already wolfed his down.
Next arrived the Widmer 6-year aged Wisconsin cheddar. Divine. It was served in a little blissful pool of clover honey. It came with some baked crackers that I didn't care for, but the house made bread we got was wonderful. Heathens that we are, we ignored the silverware and pinched bits off with our fingers. I was, of course, sipping my wine of choice, not quite ready to try anything different. I loved it so much that I'm already afraid to try anything else, which is silly because the only two wines that I've had so far have been amazing.
The poor bartender was so busy. She was the only one working and, as I said, the tiny room was packed. She stayed pretty cool and collected and the rest of the guests seemed relaxed and unhurried. Matt ordered a stout of some sort (didn't steal the beer list, but it was as interesting as the wine list... Which I also don't have. Hey, listen, you wanna hear the rest of the story or what? Okay then. Fine.) So, he orders this beer and starts pouring it into his glass and suddenly the head on built up quickly until there was an unintended Mt.Vesuvius like eruption causing beer to flood all over the bar. Without missing a beat, she was there with a towel, "Look at all that beer. Why, sir, are you from Wisconsin?" My flustered bartender husband tried to explain, but that only made it more comical and probably embarassing on his part. As soon as things settled, she returned with a new beer to replace the half spilled one, free of charge. I was so impressed. He would have been fine with his half a beer and left to suck the rest out of the bar rag.
We ordered the Wisconsin brat, because I really had to have it again. It's deliciously spiced and cured buffalo meat, so I didn't even need to feel any guilt while I was chewing on the tasty lardons that came with the braised cabbage. This time it was just a teeny weeny bit overcooked, which is the problem with bison meat because it's so lean. But a quick dip in the house made grainy mustard and a topped with a little cabbage and it was fine.
We also had the smoked catfish croquettes with turnip-watermelon radish slaw and sour cream aioli. Wow, that was a mouthfull. But I guess people would be disinclined to brag if the title of the food item was too short. Oh, swoon! Oh, love! Gorgeous wonderful food!!! I've never had such a strong taste, sense memory from something that was so unrelated to the actual memory before. One bite and I was standing on the beach at our cabin in the evening, toasting marshmallows in the campfire, my bare feet buried in the sand, still warm from the summer sun. That's what these tasted like. Weird right? But what a welcome vacation in the middle of March! The crispy shells were dusted with just the tiniest bit of fluer de sel. The crunchy exterior gives way to a puffy soft cloud or smokey, mild fish. The sensation was that of biting in to a perfectly toasted marshmellow, all mellow and golden brown. The tangy aioli perfectly complimented the silky, crispy flavors. Whoever would have thought that smoked catfish would be any good, much less divine?
After we were finished eating we lingered, wishing out stomachs were empty so we could do it all over again. So, we will. This is, without question, the absolute best restaurant that St. Paul has to offer. We ambled home cozy, full and satisfied.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Open Letter

To Whomever was so kind to share their cookies with the office:

While I am happy to see the spirit of sharing brought into the office and I am a big fan of Girl Scout cookies in general, I cannot fathom what brought you to the conclusion to order sugar free brownie cookies.

Perhaps you thought that they were healthier for you. But don't you deserve more? Don't you deserve the gluttonous glory of scarfing down an entire tube of Thin Mints in one sitting?

Well, if that was your thinking, then the diet cookies have done their job. You're not eating them. Instead, you inflict the false hope on your unsuspecting coworkers. Hmmm... brownie cookies... yu.. Oh, wait! What is this? SUGAR FREE!? Oh the humanity.

So next time, should you be so kind, please, really, bring on the Tag A Longs

Thank you,

A Concerned Citizen

Tastiest Poo Resembling Food Ever

Oh, my God, what an ordeal my mother has been through in the past few days. Last Thursday, while jet setting in Spain, she fell and broke her wrist! It was so terrible to hear that and not be able to actually get to her or help in anyway. Luckily, being the sturdy little Scot that she is, she soldiered on. (Amazing she could break a bone from a fall when we're already so conveniently located near the ground.) There was no way she was going to let a 40 lb plaster cast impede her trip. Oh, no.
There are pictures of her lugging this thing around in Guadi architectural setting and slurping up fresh oysters. I am so envious of the food that she encountered there. Swordfish right off the boat that they took back to the little kitchenette in the hotel and cooked up. Teeny succulent crabs, seafood cocktail dressed ever so lightly with aoili and exotic spices. Paella in the actual city that is credited with inventing Paella! It was prepared with chorizo, rabbit and chicken. I'm SO JEALOUS! Well, a little bit, but without the whole hospital visit and everything.
She brought back for me a big tin of saffron, hot Spanish paprika, fresh Bay leaves and these glorious little gems. She has so got Mom of the year in the bag.