Monday, September 29, 2008


So I didn't get back from being out-of-town until later last night and didn't have time to make it to the store to stock up on goodies for my lunches for the week. I almost always make my own lunch, and try and come up with something creative and tasty so I can avoid the allure of doing take-out. So given the circumstances, I figured it wouldn't hurt to go get a nice little something in Northeast since I had to do some banking over there during my lunch break. My Dad had mentioned Kramarczuk's a good spot and despite the draw to neighboring Pizza Nea and Punch Pizza I dashed in to take a shot at something unique. The board in the cafe was filled with Eastern European dishes that I knew very little about, so I stuck to their famous sausages. I ended up on a Hungarian sausage sandwich (really just a link split down the middle, so not really a "sandwich", but whatever) despite the allure of the brat and Italian link. The sausage itself was nice ans smoky and had a good garlicky kick to it. It was much stronger then a polish and had a nice layer of melted cheese (tasted like a smooth swiss) on top of a tasty bun to round everything out. You could tell they know what they're doing there because the casing on the sausage has a nice snap to it, and the consistency is even and not at all granular. I really enjoyed the sandwich, but wish it would have come with a nice stiff mustard - I'm sure I could have asked for it, and just didn't.

The sandwich was accompanied by a bag of Rachel's chips, which I have a secret weakness for, and a nice big pickle spear. I love pickles with my sandwiches, but they kept this pickle in the same package as the hot sandwich and it steamed itself so that it was limp and warm, which was disappointing. I also ordered a cup of soup to round everything out and although it was tasty, they gave me way too much - I was dumbfounded that was their cup size and I left thinking, "how am I going to eat all this"?

I would go back to Kramarczuk's but if I did, I would buy a variety of the nice uncooked sausages they make from the neighboring deli and prepare them myself. The lunch total seemed like a lot (and I ended up with too much) and I think I could take some of their great products and serve it up just the way I like it. It turns out that my nice little lunch out just broadened my portfolio for a unique, home-made lunch. If you haven't checked this place out, I would recommend doing so before grilling season is totally gone!

Happy Eating,


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

112 Feastery

After waiting patiently for several months I finally went to the 112 Eatery. There may not be a place in all of the Metro as hyped as this cool culinary haven, and on my trip, it lived up to all of it. The ambiance of the place was very cool. Simplistic decor, cool tunes (they played Interpol, which is alright by me!) and nice soft lighting.

The meal was nothing short of a feast. I think we were making up for lost time by ordering as much as we did, but one of the cool things about their menus is that you can get half orders of a lot of the items, and many of the plates are portioned (and priced) so that you can enjoy several items - Amen.

We started our meal off with a glass of wine and quickly attacked the salty, spicy and sweet roasted almonds and the delicious olives that were placed on our table when we arrived. Soon after some nice fresh bread arrived and although I did grab a piece, I knew I had ordered more then I could eat, so I tried to only nibble.
After nibbling a bit and sipping some wine our lamb chop starter came out. This was no typical dish. We received 3 perfectly seared lamb chops, accented with a nice little frosting of lemon zest and gently resting in a pool of lush goat's milk yogurt. The yogurt was mixed with a fresh and aromatic pesto and the bold yogurt was much more intense and flavorful then a traditional yogurt sauce. I appreciated the extra excitement it provided, but could see how it may be a bit strong for others. Regardless the lamb was cooked perfectly and the salty, rich meat got a good jolt from the nice accompanying sauce. We picked the bones clean and started to focus on our main course and sides.
Before the lamb arrived we analyzed the menu ravenously as we knew there were so many good things to order! The lamb sugo looked great, I had heard wonderful things about the pork, and who wouldn't be intrigued by something as rich as a pasta dish with foie gras meatballs. Everyone told me the burger was great and I was craving something bold with a bit of heat, so I figured the Bacon, Egg and harissa sandwich would fit the bill too, so we settled on both. We decided to order some fries on the side, and also ordered the gnocchi to round out a nice comforting meal for a rainy and cool evening (112 Eatery seems to excel in comfort foods, so we decided not to fight it).

The food came out and the kitchen staff was nice enough to split the sandwiches since we told the waitress we were sharing. The service was really first rate, and I appreciate the attention from the kitchen. If you are looking for a mean burger, then look no further then the 112 Eatery. It was simply delicious. The burger itself was a mixture of ground beef with egg, onions and a good dose of sweet, lemony thyme. It was masterfly cooked and had a lush layer of melted brie on top of it. The burger rested well on a perfectly grilled english muffin. It was cute, and I devoured it like it was the last morsel of food left on earth. It was completely satisfying and the bursts of thyme really gave it a surprisingly welcome kick.

The bacon egg and harissa sandwich was totally on point. I love eggs on sandwiches and the cilantro accompaniment on top of the egg was really interesting and totally worked. The thick smoky bacon was the perfect companion to the rich, and equally smoky harissa. The 112 Eatery essentially took 2 very basic dishes and crafted a few variations that not only made them outstanding, but imaginative and flavorful.

While I was enjoying my sandwiches I also managed to take down a few of the perfectly crispy and salty fries. They were pretty darn good, (They're just 'taters after all) but the hero of that plate was the rich and decadent tarragon aioli that gave them a leg up on your typical bistro fry. The gnocchi, was artfully cooked with a little bit of crunch from the pan frying, yet was still as soft as my favorite pillow on the inside. The perfectly cooked buds were simply adorned with parmesan reggiano, and in combination with the buttery sauce, was a bit too salty for my tastes. It really didn't matter though, because I simply sat there and admired my other dishes as if it was the first time I had ever tasted a burger or a dressed up BLT. Simply put, the 112 Eatery takes simple dishes and crafts them carefully in an effort to master meals, that are anything but mundane.

I'll be back at 112. It's the perfect date spot, or place to swing into on a cold, blustery night for a bit of comfort food (go late or have a reservation though). Many people claim it's a great place to grab a snack after a night of drinking in the near by bars, but you'll never catch my practicing such sacrilege. The 112 Eatery deserves your tummy's full undivided attention, and it will get nothing less then that from this perpetually hungry individual.

Happy Eating,


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Bad News for Big E

A few weeks ago I posted about Eric Austin's new spot, the Bourbon Street Steakhouse. Turns out it has rapidly declined form the honeymoon stage. Big E has had some precarious business partnerships in the past, and this seems par for the course, unfortunately. I've met Eric and actually interviewed him at a former gig, and he is incredibly nice and super talented. I really hope his House of Soul gets off the ground soon, and that he can finally operate the place he's been trying to create for so long. Stay tuned.

Happy Eating,


Monday, September 15, 2008

Gloomy Weather = Food Weekend

So the weather was horrible this weekend, save My Friday night jaunt to the Muddy Pig's Belgian Beer Festival. Since the weather was a drag I accordingly devoted my weekend to food. I wanted to try a few new places/things and also get some cooking out of the way, so what better then a nice rainy weekend to do both. Here's a few mini-reviews for quick meal options that I discovered this weekend as I sought something to fill my seemingly bottomless stomach.

Friday night I went to Patrick's Bakery in Southdale square. I have had one of their sandwiches before and was pretty impressed so I figured I'd give it another whirl. I immediately gravitated to the Patou Burgers. Take your basic burger, but cut it in half and stuff the beef into a long fresh French baguette. The soft buttery, bread actually ads a lot to the sandwich although it makes it a bit interesting to eat. I opted for the California version - think classy Big Mac. It was really good and the fries were awesome, although they put the fries in a baguette bag along with the burger so I had to dig a lot of them out before I ate, which was less then ideal, but still delicious. They also have quiches, sandwiches and nightly specials that all looked very good. I dare you to get out of their with out a pastry or something sweet.

On Saturday I was going to spend my afternoon building a nice robust  liquid for some pork shoulder that I was eventually going to braise and serve over cilantro lime rice (yep, stole it from Chipotle) and some hearty black beans. The dish ended up being really nice, but if I was going to be cooking all afternoon I needed some energy. I heard Scott at Corner Table was supplying Rustica Bakery on 46th with fresh sandwiches, and since I'm always in search of an inventive sandwich, I had to head on over and check it out. The sandwiches were very creative and as I found out when I tore into my chicken and egg salad sandwich (2 salads - one sandwich!), they are also very good. The nice fresh bread definitely adds a lot to the creations and they had a nice lemony aioli mixed into the salads and some crisp breakfast radishes to supply a bit of zip! I'll  be back again for sure, but should note that Rustica was very busy, but everything they made looked wonderful!

Finally, on Saturday night I was driving though Uptown on my way back from an engagement party and my tummy started to ask whether or not I had forgotten about him. As I was pondering where to eat I realized I was near Caffrey's deli and decided I would hit it quick because some former colleagues used to rave about it. I perused the menu and thought something hot would be nice given the dismal weather and went with the cheesesteak although there were many "winners" on the menu, at least in concept. The lady ordered the sliced meatball sub and we tore into our sandwiches a few moments later. The cheesesteak was a little lighter on the cheese then I'd like and too heavy on the salt. I stole a bite of the meatball sub, and it was very good. The food was fast and pretty good, so I'd go back, but go with a different option next time. 

Sunday Supper left me devouring the fruits of Saturday's labor and the warm, hearty mixture of succulent pork, garlicky beans and jazzed up rice made it a nice little belly-warming end to the weekend.

Ok, I'll end with a promise. I need to get better at taking pictures. Sometimes I just get excited and forget to take 'em or bring the camera! There will be more to come. Promise.

Happy Eating,


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Two Very Different Sides of France

So in case you didn't know, I live in SW Minneapolis and am conveniently located right next to several French restaurants (of varying degrees). Two of my most recent dining experiences featured Cave Vin on Xerxes and Salut in the 50th and France neighborhood (although I need to make it clear that Pierre's just down the street is a favorite too!). Both celebrate strong French roots, but both offer a very different take on French food.

I'll start with Cave Vin. My experience there was hands down one of the best  I've had this year. I'm a calamari freak, and although the calamari there was very good, (salty, perfectly fried with a pleasant twist of acid) it almost paled in comparison to the luscious mussels. These were perfectly steamed in a garlicky butter/wine broth that resonated well with the brininess of the plump mussels.

For my entree, I ordered a roasted pork loin with fingerling potatoes and smoky bacon. It was cooked perfect, well accented with a nice little pistachio crust that offered a nice textural contrast to the sweet, soft flesh. The crispy bacon included in the bed of fingerlings offered a quick jolt of salt and smoke to round everything out. It was one of the best pork dishes I'd ever had, and the bacon might have been the best I've ever enjoyed, and I have enjoyed a lot of bacon. I'm convinced it was either Fischer's or Nueske's, but regardless, it was amazing. I sampled my girlfriends' rack of lamb with English green lentils and it was just darn good. The lentils were perfectly earthy and spicy, and the rich, buttery lamb was  cooked to a medium rare perfection. It was simply one of the best meals I've had all year, and the service was impeccable - the perfect personalities to back a neighborhood cafe.

Last night I hit Salut (after I saw the wait to sit outside at Cafe 28) in the 50th and France area for my usual Tuesday night dining experience. I'm not huge on Salut. They have an amazing Croque Madame, and if you are in the mood for one of those (and your heart is ready to take it on) you need to look no further. Don't get me wrong, they have an awesome concept and are doing very well, but I just think the food is OK. They offer a nice mix of traditional French fare such as Coq Au Vin and Cotes du Boeuf, but I get the feeling most people go there for the smaller plates and sandwiches/salads. Knowing that I've been a bit disappointed with the items I've had there before I stayed with the Cheeseburger Royale and the typical order of calamari - which features a really nice spicy dipping sauce that I do really enjoy. The burger was good, but no different or more inventive then anything I could have had elsewhere. I could have stretched and ordered something a bit more unique, but there is something about ordering French classics from a place that cranks out a ton of food every night that just kind of persuaded me not too. My girlfriend had the Knife and Fork Chicken Club and it was uninspiring to stay the least. It's hard to believe that a place that offers a local heirloom and imported burrata salad can't swing a decent piece of grilled chicken, but that was just the reality of it.

I will say that Salut is a great place to hit f you have a large group, would like to dine outside, or just want to enjoy some simple sandwiches and small plates. It has a fun setting and a fun cocktail/wine list. 

For me comparing Cave Vin to Salut is like comparing frites to french fries. If you are looking for some serious sizzle and some great interpretations on French classics, I would head to Cave vin, especially if their patio is available, or on Monday and Tuesday night when they run their half price wine special. If you are looking for a place where you can kick back and have a wide selection of food and cocktails and take your food snob hat off, then Salut will fit that bill just fine. 

I'm very lucky to live in an area that features many great places to eat just beyond my doorstep and a chain of lakes and a creek to offer a perfect setting for running all those meals off.

Happy Eating,


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