Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Farmers Market Preview

Farmers market season is right around the corner and my new commitment to working fresh veg and fruit will likely flourish or falter on the strength of the local markets. Thankfully the growing season is off to a splendid start. I did a little piece on the Spoonriver event for the Mill City Market and the outlook is simply delicious. Brief report here.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Epic Sandwich: France 44

France 44 is not only a great place to grab wine and beer, it's also a killer spot to grab some premo cheese and an awesome sandwich. In fact, I see myself eating several sandwiches there in the very near future. It's a jewel of a place in the heart of my 'hood and is loaded with top-notch sandwich ingredients. Full review of their killer chorizo sandwich here.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Epic Sandwich: Convention Grill

That's right. I'm eating meat again. What a great/rewarding experiment! I'l; have a full recap later, but City pages ran my post early this week. It's on Convention Grill in edina. If you love old-school burgers and throw-back joints then you need to check it out! Full review here.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Epic Sandwich: Be'Wiched Deli

Egg salad is boring, right? Nope, not at Be'Wiched deli. Take something typical and put it in the hands of folks who take the time to make it from scratch and anything can be awesome. Full review here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Epic Sandwich: Chatterbox Pub

I was hoping to find a fun way to wrap up a great Sunday so I decided to head over to Chatterbox Pub for some drinks, food and a little cheap entertainment. I had a great time, but was the food any good? Find out here.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Il Gatto and the killer salad

I didn't have high hopes for Il Gatto, though I admit that it wasn't exactly fair. I had become totally bored with Figlio and was excited that a new concept was coming into the space, but for whatever reason I couldn't get too excited for it. I was however, excited to meet a few friends for dinner a few Fridays ago, though we were in the heart of Lent, and none of us could eat meat. We decided a pasta/seafood joint would offer enough variety to get us through, and figured it would be a good time to try Il Gatto.

The one thing I was willing to admit right off the bat, is that I like the ambiance and layout much better at Il Gatto. Thank God they did something about the bar. We perused the wine list and ordered a few glasses before jumping on the main menu. I decided I'd get a simple margherita pizza since I had heard their pizza was good and wanted to start the meal off with their isalata rucola. The salad, was quite simply, one of the best I'd had all year (The winter caprese at Broders' still take the cake). The greens were spot on, the dressing strong, yet not overpowering and the portion perfectly arranged. The cherry tomatoes and diced peppers provided a sweetness that helped offset the powerful, but pleasant citrus vinaigrette and the peppery arugula proved a bitter foil for the sweetness and tatartness of the lemon. Lastly, the grana padano rounded out this sweet, bitter, tart and salty plate. All of the flavors were loud, yet balanced by the power of their companions -- good company indeed.

I have to say that the fall off from there was fast. The pizza I ordered had a great crust with plenty of crackle, char and pull. The sauce, However, was about as entertaining as a Jennifer Aniston flick. The mozzarella, though homemade, was pretty pedestrian and the basil alone couldn't overcome the other short comings. A margherita pizza can be a thing of beauty built on simplicity, but this execution just fell short. A sample of Jessi's three cheese ravioli proved rich, strong and all-together overwhelming, wearing the senses out as quickly as an overly-hopped IPA.

So the experience was mixed, but I'll give Il Gatto another shot when I can go back and explore the menu a little more, but again, my hopes won't be too high, though I'd love to be proven wrong.

Happy Eating,


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Pizza Time!

I was reading through the SW Journal and almost jumped out of my pants when I read a short describing that one of my beloved corners is going to be adding a pizzeria! Never mind the increase in house value, I'm psyched for another potentially stellar SW eatery. Did I mention that I'm pumped!?

Anyways, a pizzeria called Lola's is going into the old Xerxes Market space and is literally stumbling distance from my place. It's also adjacent to Cave Vin, which is another stellar spot. This could be the next hot food corner! I'm so blessed to be so close to Broders', Cafe Maude and Cave Vin and now there's going to be a brand new spot to frequent. I can't get too excited considering I haven't tried a single slice yet, but if they live up to their "Cafe Maude meets Punch" Punch projections I could have a real winner across the street. Looks like the opening won't be until Aug/Sept --Vegas odds on that getting pushed? I for one can't wait!

I will also say that I hope there is room for this new joint and that Michelangelo's and Lake Harriet Pizza will continue to flourish - there's nor reason we can't support all these great local businesses!

Happy Eating,


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Busy and Well Fed Week

On Monday, the talented and hilarious guys that produce The Well Fed Guide to Life had a temporary lapse in judgment and invited me to be a guest on their show. We met at Cupcake in Minneapolis (home of seriously good sweets) to discuss my blog and other food related topics as well as the Oscars. These guys put on a brutally honest and an extremely entertaining show and I suggest you check them out. They usually record at local establishments and cover a wide variety of topics and give a pretty insightful run-down of their surroundings and the food they serve.

I also hit Falafel King--home of killer falafel for this week's Epic Sandwich feature. Check out the full review here.

Happy Eating,


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Galactic Pizza

Friday nights during Lent are usually reserved for pizza or a good-old fish fry. I made a tasty tuna salad for lunch, so it was time for pizza. We headed over to Galactic Pizza in the Lyn-Lake neighborhood (sandwiched between The Lyndale Tap House and Tiger Sushi) and quickly realized that it's a pretty darn unique place. Just about everyone is familiar with their super hero-styled delivery drivers and the corresponding electric cars, but you may not know that they've created other initiatives such as leveraging wind energy and creating an extensive waste reduction program.

You'd think all these extras would lead to some sort of gong show that limited the end product, but I don't think that's the case at all. Galactic leverages fresh, local and organic ingredients whenever they can and the ingredients are often coupled to make eccentric and unique combinations. Take the "Thailander" featuring green onions, bean sprouts, shredded carrots, crushed peanuts, cilantro, marinated chicken and mozzarella as an example. It's like pad thai woven into a pie. The "Paul Bunyan" features a unique blend of MN ingredients including morel mushrooms, wild rice and bison sausage. Sounds interesting for sure, but you definitely get the vibe that this place is run by some pretty free spirits - as illustrated by the 5 minute break our waitress took. Hmmm, what could one accomplish in only 5 minutes? Needless to say she seemed very relaxed (but still attentive) when she came back.

Jess and I ordered the "Organic Veggie" featuring mozz, button mushrooms, roma tomatoes, green peppers and onions in accordance with my vegetarian experiment. The veggies were fresh, but lacked any true excitement - pretty common for produce this time of year. However, the mozz was fresh, evenly melted and incorporated just the right hint of salt as it mingled with the zesty, but balanced sauce. Thankfully, Galactic didn't go overboard on either the cheese or the sauce -- a critical mistake in several MN pie shops. Thankfully, the crust was relatively thin for the "hand tossed" variety and was prepared at a temperature that creates a nice char and crackly edges amounting to a more flavorful crust. I'll definitely head back to the friendly folks at Galactic, but hope to try one of the more exciting pies on my return trip.

Happy Eating,


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Epic Sandwich: The Good Earth's Planet Burger

The Epic Sandwich feature may be a bit more difficult than usual with my new diet habits, but I'm also viewing it as a bit of an adventure, or an opportunity to try things I normally wouldn't. Take the Planet Burger at the Good Earth for instance. Never would have tried that on my own! Full review here.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Holy Mostaccioli!

I've been running with this vegetarian experiment for over a week now and things appear to be going well. I can't notice any physical changes - I doubt those would happen that fast. I seem to have the same energy levels. I seem to be sleeping the same. No noticeable weight loss or gain has been observed to this point, so things seem to be going well.

The biggest difference has easily been the culinary creativity. I made a vegetarian baked penne the other night, and despite the fact that pasta al forno is a staple in my Italian-American repertoire, I think that this version was the best. Instead of sausage, I substituted roasted red peppers, capers, Sicilian olives and kept in the mushrooms. I think it was a real hit and the part skim-ricotta and sauce mixture seemed to incorporate the salt and spice of the additional veggies well. Although, the five cheese blend and whole milk mozz baked on top certainly added to the success.

I also made an awesome Thai gyoza soup yesterday with edamame, ginger, shitakes and watercress. I added a bit of Sriracha to the vegetable broth and it really paid off. I always use chicken stock when constructing my soups and I was very fearful that I would taste a serious fall off, but it ended up really nice. I'm starting to incorporate a lot of new ingredients and am really enjoying it.

I did have some weak moments, though. My family suffered a huge loss and I was down in Des Moines for the funeral last weekend. Times of mourning are often times of eating in my family and I found myself surround by a wealth of amazing meatballs, spicy capicolla, dangerous stew meat and piles of Italian beef. It was tough, but I made it through with the help of some awesome antipasti, marinated veggies and mostaccioli. Thank the good Lord for the Latin King!

I'll be back with more updates and tales of my experiment.

Happy Eating,


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Epic Sandwich: 112 Eatery's Ultimate Cheeseburger

The cheeseburger at 112 Eatery would currently land somewhere around the seventh course of my final meal. It's amazingly flavorful for its simplicity and the execution is just about perfect. Also, I think it's one of the best values in the city. Full review here.

Also, please note that I'm being a good boy and am not eating meat - this was part of my Fat Tuesday send off! One week without meat so far!

Happy Eating,


Thursday, February 18, 2010

A good start and a SW Tragedy

The largest hurdle for my vegetarian experiment may very well be variety. We all have our favorite dishes that we make in a pinch and know that we'll be satisfied, but I've lost some of those crucial meals given the new restrictions. Despite the concern, I'm looking at this as an opportunity to really expand on my skills and hopefully I'll generate some new favorites. Last night started off strong with veggie tacos. I made fajita-style poblanos and onions and also cooked up some black beans with a bit of jalapeno. Everything got a good dash of cumin, ancho chili powder, Mexican oregano and a squeeze of lime (s & p are a given as well). A little jack cheese, some salsa verde and a few corn tortillas made for a pretty nice meal that didn't compromise on flavor. Tonight's menu includes roasted broccoli, greens eith homemade vinaigrette and spaghetti with pesto, olives, sun-dried tomatoes and mushrooms. Tomorrow night? Tiger Sushi for a good friends birthday. I think I'm doing OK on the variety thing thus far.

Also, the name of this blog wouldn't be very significant if I didn't mention the fire that took out Blackbird Cafe and Heidi's this afternoon along with a few other local businesses. This is a tragedy both for the neighborhood and for the proprietors. I really hope they are able to resurrect their establishments and promise I will be one of the first to walk back through their doors or lend a hand (or tummy) if possible. Thankfully all the employees made it out safely.

I'll leave you with one of my favorite images from Blackbird.

Happy Eating,


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Fatest Tuesday

Incredible. Decadent. Heavenly. All words that could be used to describe our dinner last night (or any other night I can recall) at the 112 Eatery. I try and eat sensibly when I can, but Fat Tuesday and the thought of 40 meatless days motivated me to let loose a little bit.

Anyone fortunate enough to have eaten at 112 knows that their menu is steeped in rich food with an accelerated comfort level. Needless to say, I was willing to oblige.

I started the night off with a nice Domaine DuPage and debated what to order with Jess. After some deliberation, we landed on what seemed like an ideal way to shed my carnivorous habits for a few weeks. For our first course we split the bacon, egg and harrisa sandwich as well as the famous 112 cheeseburger in all its melty-gooey brie based glory. More on both of those delicacies to come. Oh, and we had the fries, of course. They're out of control good.

To be honest, we should have pushed away after the first course but decided to split the tagliatelle with foie gras meatballs. Honestly, I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate a day of indulgence than with this pasta. It's delicate. It's complex. It's simply stunning.

That's it though. Now it's down to business. It all started today and I managed to make it through the fast and a day of abstinence from meat. Tomorrow brings day two and a recap of my first intentionally vegetarian meal at home.

Happy Eating,


Epic Sandwich: Caffrey's

There aren't that many great sub shops around here, but I do think Caffrey's is a cut above the rest. They're my go-to for a grab and dash lunch in the Lyn-Lake area and they seem to care about the product their putting out. Looks like I won't be stopping by until after Lent though! Full review here.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

57,600 Minutes

I'm horrible at math, but I believe 57,600 minutes is how long I will have to go without eating a speck of meat. No, I'm not a vegetarian, and likely never will be, but I have decided to give up meat for Lent. I will allow myself to eat fish (it aligns with the church) and eggs but that's it. I'm not going to go vegan or take it that far, but giving up meat for 40 days is no small deal for a guy as obsessed with food as I am.

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I have always dreaded Fridays during Lent because good Catholics (which I am, obviously ;-) abstain from meat. It used to be a big deal to me, but after expanding my culinary horizons, I was able to find ways that made the experience more enjoyable. Make no mistake about it though, I am doing this because I think it is a good sacrifice and reflects well on the season and what it means to us. I think it also represents a great opportunity to further expand my recipe base and cooking skills. I know I will get very tired of this at some point along the 40 days (Day 2?), but I'm committed to getting through it. I felt the same way when I gave up soda and sweets, and I made it through just fine and actually consume far less of each category for having done this. However, I can promise you there's no way I'm going to abandon my precious proteins forever. There's just no way.

My survival strategy is to make sure I'm eating the right foods, but balancing the diet to offset the difference from my regular diet:

1.) LOTS of fruit and veggies - I'll need the extra fiber and natural sugar to feel full and for energy

2.) Beans and legumes - a good source of protein (needed since I'm a beanpole) and a key component of my usual diet. I think they offer one of the better bastions for variety and take on flavors well.

3.) Whole grains - I need to get back to baking my own bread on a regular basis and eating filling grains lower on the glycemic index such as couscous, brown rice, whole grain pasta and quinoa

4.) Soup - I'm a huge soup buff this time of year and will need to hit the stock pot on Sundays so I have plenty of meals ready to go. That way I don't even need to think about what I'm missing out on

5.) Salads - offer the perfect vehicle for lean protein (tuna, salmon, eggs) as well as fiber rich veggies

6.) Whey Protein - I think I'll need to mix in smoothies with berries and peanut butter to help keep some weight on

The above will help offset cravings for pizza pasta and an entire ball of whole milk mozzarella, while keeping my diet not only diverse, but healthy. I'll be taking pics and writing posts about my experience to keep you informed but could really use some help on the following:

1.) Any vegetarian recipes that you really cherish/celebrate - I'd sure appreciate it

2.) A few good tips for restaurants that offer some good veggie options, but also offer a full menu for my companions

3.) Most importantly, a great spot for me to grab dinner on Fat Tuesday - I might as well go out in a protein-rich blaze of glory. I'm thinking 112 Eatery, Saffron and Sapor Cafe as of right now

More to come and happy Eating,


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Brothers Deli was one of my favorite places to grab a big satisfying sandwich on the quick when I used to work near the skyways. I don't get there nearly as often as I used to, but on a recent trip I learned that not a whole lot has changed. Full review here.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Epic Sandwich: Colossal Cafe

Colossal Cafe is the tinniest cafe serving up the biggest biscuit sandwiches that I've ever seen. They're a scratch-made shop, and I absolutely love that they aren't cutting corners. The portions are huge, the prices are small and the comfort is colossal, just be patient if there aren't any seats open! Full review here.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Epic Sandwich: The Bad Waitress

Brutal name, but good food. The Bad Waitress is a funky Eat Street diner that serves up some killer comfort food. It's a perfect joint to hit to fight off the frustrating MN cold and enjoy a great sandwich or some of their awesome breakfasts. Loved their Rachel. Full review here.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Costa Rican Whole Fried Snapper

My head has been in the clouds ever since I returned from Costa Rica two weeks ago. It's taken a bit of time for me to get back into the swing of things and adjusting to not enjoying a cocktail at 10:30 or enjoying the freshest fish imaginable at just about every meal has been a bit rough. I figured sharing my recipe for whole Costa Rican fried snapper may help. I promise this is some of the best fish you will ever eat.

Here's the ingredient list:

1.) Sunscreen
2.) A mix of cold Imperial and Bravaria Lights (or any other Costa Rican beer).
3.) Two whole fresh snapper

Here's the step-by-step:

1.) Head to Pirate's Cove after a hearty breakfast

2.) Apply sunscreen. Sit.

3.) Get up and go for a walk then lightly body surf.

4.) Toss cooler ice and pull out a few cold ones. Drain thuroughly and quickly.

5.) Take a quick nap. Resting is done when you hear the boats beaching.

6.) Walk towards restaurant to see "what's fresh."

7.) Order fish, and nothing else.

8.) Enjoy a cool glass of white wine.

9.) When fish arrives feel free to have your uncle de-bone. Note: the fish will be hot, flavorful and well seasoned.

10.) Devour and watch for bones!

I'll be back soon with something a bit more insightful.

Happy Eating,


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Epic Sandwich: Cafe Twenty Eight

I'm a sucker for a kick-ass breakfast and some of my favorite morning-time meals have come from the excellent Cafe Twenty Eight in the Linden Hills neighborhood. Their Huevos Rancheros and chilaquiles are amazing, but their fried egg sandwich is right up there too. What could be better than a killer breakfast sandwich? Not much! Full review here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Epic Sandwich: Surdyk's Deli serves up a surprise

Surdyk's Deli is a foodie wonderland where you can snag all the goodies you need to throw a killer cocktail party and grab an awesome sandwich at the same time. Cheese is always the star on their sandwiches, but the variety and quality of ingredients is always stellar as well. Full review here.
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