Thursday, October 30, 2008


I live. The last few times I've tried to post stupid blogger wouldn't let me. Admittedly, I haven't tried all that hard, or all that often. Like pretty much everyone else in the world the disposable income is running a little short over here. Also, it's not seasonal mood problems, but I've got something going on that results in my watching hours of TV marathons (so far, I've watched the entirety of The Stand, Top Chef, Biggest Loser and a string of Steven King movies from Christine to Pet Cemetery. That little boy in that movie is no freaking joke. Scared the CRAP out of me. Geeeawwwhhhd.)
So, more on me and my laziness some other time. I'm not sure about elaborating on my medical reason for malaise on the Internet. For one - who cares, right? Suck up and get to eating, chicky! Secondly, I wonder if occasionally I should dabble in that thing called privacy. While I'll publish my underwear color on Facebook, Matt refuses to even start an account with them for fear of the alien monkeys stealing his thoughts, or something like that. Honestly, I stopped paying attention because the commercial break was over. M-o-o-n! That spells shut the L up.

On the food front, I have been out. I went to Barrio twice with the intention of writing it up. The problem is that both experiences were totally - meh. The food was good, but what I had wasn't great and I tried damn near everything. The prices seem relatively cheap, unless you go hungry. Eric and I were quite hungry on our first trip there and ended up laying down $70 and only a drink for each of us. Nothing made me come close to swooning. The queso fundido made me a little angry. $7.50 for a thin layer of warm cheese and a dixie cup full of chips is not my idea of value.

The service was fine, the room is pretty cool, but it just wasn't anything that excited me. (Do I blame the malaise?) Judging by the crowd, they do not need my endorsement. They have some prime downtown real estate and both nights I went the place was packed. The room is super cool and the lighting is flattering for both food and first dates. This is the view from the balcony.

I think out of all of the food, beer, wine and mixed cocktails the best two items were the homemade guacamole and the blackberry mojito. That drink was divine.

I guess I figure, if you're into Solera or looking really good while shelling out a couple of extra bucks, then this is a great spot for you. If you're feeling poor and hungry, these aren't the tacos you seek.

What I'm looking for is food inspiration to remove my ass from the couch, but so far not much has struck my fancy. I've been meaning to get to the new Pop, but it's downtown St. Paul, who goes there, right? Oy, this complacency must end before the snow falls and I really ramp up my excuses not to leave the house.

I'll do my best and keep you posted. Until then, I've ordered my Thanksgiving turkey from the St. Paul Farmer's Market, carefully packed my own eggs at Mississippi Market and wring my hands in evil glee as the new Trader Joe's rises from the dust between Lexington and Randolph near my house. Until I get a few more pennies in my pocket I'm left to my own home cooking devices and since my oven is a prop on loan from Evil Dead 4, I'm pretty much screwed.

Friday, October 10, 2008

3 Squares in Maple Grove

In a rare attempt to be fair I figured that I should try another restaurant run by the Blue Plate people - the ones that own the Highland and Edina Grills. My friend Penny was coming in to town and we'd agreed to meet at the Arbor Lakes shopping complex. I suggested lunch at 3 Squares.

I was running a little bit late, misjudging distance from St. Paul to the western suburbs. I had the directions written down, but was soon overwhelmed by the remarkable scale and sameness of the entire complex. "This place has got everything," I remarked while the strains of "Can't Turn You Loose," played from the radio.
There is every kind of chain everything out there! I was reminded of when I was last in the suburbs of Palm Springs, or that time I drove from Denver to Boulder and stopped for a little shopping - or that time - WAIT. Where the HELL am I? A left turn on the deceptively named "Main Street" and I could have been anywhere. I was overwhelmed, confused and cursing the suburban developers in general. My blood pressure was near nuclear by the time I finally found the place. I stepped out of my car and gaped.

"Joy!" Penny had just arrived, feeling similar to me. "This place is crazy - how do we get in there?" (We are but simple, small town girls.)

The entrance was much easier to find. We were immediately greeted by a few smiling faces. A nice girl walked us through the large and well lit dining room to a spacious booth in the fall sunshine. We cracked our menus and surveyed the scene. There was a bar on the other side of the room - it looked entertaining. I could see the glistening, jewel colored bottles through the wall.

Our waitress had to check on us four times before we were finally ready to order, but she was very smiley and upbeat. I ordered the chicken and dumpling soup special and Penny got the Italian sub sandwich - another monthly special.

I surveyed the room of happy families. There were children everywhere, but the acoustics were such that it wasn't at all noisy. I liked that while the room had a couple of nods to the kitchy diner feel that the other restaurants have, the towel wrapped silverware, the room was more suburban - and I mean that in a good way. Clean, mellow colors and all brand spanking new.

I sipped on tangy lemonade from a glass that was never less than half full. Penny, smart girl, had ordered a refreshing glass of their fruity, dry Pinot Grigio. It was perfectly suited to the Indian summer type weather we were having.

Our food arrived promptly. I was a little surprised that my soup was cream based.

It was kind of a dumb thing to order on a nice day. It was really thick and super creamy... kind of a giant bowl of heavy cream with a couple of hunks of dough thrown in. The dumplings were a little grainy and undercooked in the middle and there were only a few. I didn't hate it, but it wasn't coming home to meet mama, either.

Penny's sub on the other hand was exactly what we'd expected. The layers of salami, mortadella and prosciutto wrapped around a gooey blanket of mozzarella cheese that oozed onto the plate after every bite. The bun was lightly toasted, but still soft and gooshy in the middle, perfect for sopping up and holding all of the delectable juices swimming around all the cured meats.

The side salad was orzo, roasted peppers, caramelized onions and olives. The onion flavor over whelmed all of the other ingredients. It was good, but compared to that sandwich anybody else is left playing second fiddle.

Needless to say, I ate more of her sandwich than I did my soup. Which was just too heavy and bland for me. Still, I left happy and full.

The service was outstanding, the food was good, a little high on the price side (while my bowl of soup was $4.50, Penny's sandwich was $12.95.) I have to say, I'd go back. You know, if ever I had to spend an afternoon ensconced by retail and strollers, a hearty lunch or late breakfast at 3 Squares would be just the fuel I needed to survive in a happy state - and believe me, I did.

*As an epilogue: we spent hours out wandering around all of these stores. My favorite bits were shopping for clothes for Penny's impossibly cute daughter and scarfing free samples at the Williams Sonoma. I am telling you: buy their Pumpkin Pecan butter , make these and you're welcome at my house any time.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Bye jP's

I just read in the paper that jp's closed. I'm not surprised - that construction was a pain to deal with. Still, it's sad. They had a great room, wonderful service and fantastic food. It's a shame to see a place like that go.