Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Prairie Tap House – Eden Prairie, MN

A-Wow and I were catching a movie at the Eden Prairie Mall and thought we needed a little happy hour after work. We were seeing a movie that we needed to pre-game for and I thought we should go someplace where we wouldn’t have to drive afterwards to the theater. I hadn’t been to the Prairie Tap House since they opened last year, so this was the best reason I could think of to check it out.

It happened to be snowing (no surprise there, right?) so traffic held up A-Wow a little bit. By the time he got there, I had already received my “Ready For Summer” beer flight – Wasatch Belgian White Ale, Lucette Shining Dawn, Magic Hat #9, and Lift Bridge Farm Girl. A pretty solid showing and with happy hour prices, was $6 total. A-Wow was pleased with the prospect of multiple choice beer imbibing, so he also did a Ready For Summer beer flight.

We thought we should order some happy hour-cheap-ified appetizers and then maybe split the sandwich. After some deliberation, we got the Maple Glazed Pork Belly, and the Thai Dragon Lobster Egg Rolls. Then, when a place is known for its Baltimore Pit-style beef, you get the pit beef – this time, in sandwich form.

And then, since you’re finished with your beer flight too fast, you get a Johnny Jump-up. Cider beer (in this case, Cider Boys’ First Press) with a generous helping of Jameson whiskey in it.

The food came out quickly, which was fantastic – even though we had plenty of time before the movie started. The appetizers were solid.

The Thai Dragon Lobster Egg Rolls were perfectly crispy and you could taste each of the ingredients. Nothing was over powering. The lobster tasted like lobster should – not fishy, and both the peanut dipping sauce and the dragon sauce were quite good. I didn’t even prefer one over the other – they were just different from each other and delicious.

The Maple Glazed Pork Belly was really good. It’s hard to mess up pork belly, to be honest with you. It was covered in a spicy peach marmalade which was fantastic. Though it was a bit heavy handed, so you had to scrape some of it off to have the correct ratio. But that was ok, since the pork belly slices were on a bed of pulled pork, which you could then continue eating with the spicy peach marmalade. It also came with a couple of toasted baguette slices. We tried to make little sandwiches out of them, but then decided the ratios were better if you just ate the bread on its own. Overall, still very good, however.

The Pit Beef Sandwich was probably better than the online reviews give it. The thin-sliced beef has obviously been sitting in its own juices for hours and is seasoned pretty amazingly. The creamy horseradish sauce was a thin layer, so it enhanced, rather than overpowered the sandwich. Incredibly tender meat and they had cut it into two equal pieces so we could both have our own sets of fries. A-Wow thought the fries may have been a tad over-seasoned/salted, but I’m a salt fiend, so I found them about perfect.

And then, of course, I needed another Johnny Jump-up. Hahaha. I probably could have used a few more for the movie we saw that night…

I really liked the Prairie Tap House. The happy hour deals are pretty considerable, and it’s really close to my work. I’d suggest anything you can get with that pit beef and be adventurous with the sides. The folks here are really nice and there’s usually 4 or 5 specials, so ask about those before you decide, or you’ll be in a world of confusion.

Top 5 things about Prairie Tap House
1. Pit Beef Sandwich
2. Happy hour deals
3. Maple Glazed Pork Belly
4. Thai Dragon Lobster Egg Rolls
5. Decent beer list and beer flights (though, I honestly expected more from a Tap House)

Bottom 5 things
1. Spicy Peach Marmalade was too generous
2. Not a ton of “healthy” options on the menu, but that’s not why you’re here, is it?
3. Portion sizes are pretty large here, just as a warning. If that’s your thing, then this shouldn’t be in the bottom 5
4. It isn’t a cheap date night, but if you hit up happy hour (until 7pm – which is generous), it’s quite affordable
5. The website raised an eyebrow from my cubemate at work – it’s standard issue pin-up style, but some work places are a little more conservative

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Acme Deli – St. Paul, MN

D.Rough had heard good things about this small mom and pop deli in St. Paul. We had a lazy Saturday afternoon, so we thought we would check it out.

When you get inside, you need to grab a yellow piece of paper, which has a sort of checklist menu on it. The menu has a few special sandwiches on it, but you can also build your own (you pick the bread, meat, cheese, veggies, sauce, etc). We found two that we really needed to try, which is not uncommon. But we heard the sandwiches are normal-human-being sized sandwiches and not a foot-long gargantuan sandwich with more calories than you need for a week. So we didn’t feel too bad about splitting two sandwiches.

We got the Acme Special #2 (roast beef, cream cheese, cucumber, and tomato on marble bread) and an Acme Special #3 (roast beef, turkey, swiss cheese, and cole slaw on a hoagie bun). They sent us into the small dining room to wait for our order. The dining room has four small tables and some really fun photos on the walls. Most of them are framed foods they serve there in the deli or of the people working there. Really a fun atmosphere.

The sandwiches came out quickly on paper plates and the plastic plate holders I haven’t seen since I was a kid. Really a vintage-y touch.

The sandwiches were absolutely perfect. Great fresh ingredients and bread. Fantastic combinations without being giant servings. We didn’t lolly gag when we were finished either. We had to make room for other people waiting to eat. The place does pretty good business during lunch and we saw a ton of people picking up food to take away. Probably having a picnic with all of this nice Minnesotan weather we’re having this week!

I’m looking forward to going back here. These people were really nice and the food is delicious. I don’t know what else you could possibly need!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Gorkha Palace – Minneapolis, MN

Gorkha Palace is one of those places I’ve driven by a lot, but never during lunch time since I work nowhere near the place. D.Rough and I decided to meet for lunch this week and despite planning to go to another place in Northeast, when we drove past Gorkha Palace, I knew we needed to eat there and today was the day.

The inside is smaller than I imagined, mainly because the building it occupies also contains multiple other businesses. But there is plenty of seating available. It filled up almost entirely during the lunch hour while we were there, but there’s quick turnover with an Indian food buffet, so that helps.

The buffet itself looks smaller than others I had been to, but don’t be fooled, the portions on the buffet are smaller, which means they can fit more items on the buffet, and they are fresh more often – both good things. They had these lentil crisps that looked like tortilla chips, but tasted completely different and also these Indian fry-bread things that were delicious. We didn’t see any naan on the buffet, but were still satisfied to eat the above mentioned two bread-like items.

The other items were a mix of vegetarian, vegan, and carnivore dishes, even a curried hardboiled egg dish and broccoli pakora. I filled my plate.

Then I filled my plate again.

Then I went and got some Indian-style chicken noodle lentil soup. Decent, but I wanted there to be more seasoning and pop to it. I’d eat it again, though. I also ate it so fast, I forgot to take a photo.

We had a great meal and got out of there pretty quickly so we could both get back to work. While Gorkha Palace isn’t a ground breaking Indian restaurant, it’s really good and you won’t be disappointed at all. The server was really nice and made sure we were happy with our meals, which we were.

I have trouble doing top 5’s for Indian buffets because I can’t ever remember the names of the dishes I’m eating. They’re all good though. Does that help? haha

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

World Street Kitchen – Minneapolis, MN

I had been to the food truck version of this place a few times and been pretty happy with the food I got there. [And now that I’ve looked back at the blog, I realize I’ve never written about them! I’m a jerk, apparently.] I was happy that D.Rough suggested we go there to check out a couple of special dishes.

I love the inside of this place. It’s sort of modern and minimalist, but still clean and classy. The menu doesn’t appear to have many items on it, until you get to looking at it. Then, you’ll realize you have a considerable job figuring out what you really want to eat. Seriously. D.Rough and I had to grab a to-go menu and sit down and really hash out what we wanted to share. It was no easy task, I tell you.

We decided on the Plate O’ Dips (hummus, smoky feta, and spiced olive tapenade with grilled pita), “La Panza” Caramelized Lamb Belly Yum Yum Rice Bowl with pickled cucumbers, daikon, and bean sprouts, and “Kingston 12” Jerk Beef tacos with mint chimichuri and queso fresco.

And, D.Rough was in the mood, so she got a very unique version of a Piña Colada. Unique means amazing in this particular instance. She was quite happy with this whole situation.

The Plate O’ Dips was delicious. Small scoops of various dips are usually pretty tasty, but the smoky feta was fight-worthy. The pitas were ultra fresh and not at all crunchy – just the way I like them. And as a bonus, there were actually enough pita triangles to finish all the dips! This was a great way to start the meal.

The Kingston 12 was pretty fabulous. Two street-style tacos filled with delicious beef, chimichuri, scallions, and cheese. The meat was really tender and the chimichuri was a delicious counter to the meat. Fantastic.

The winner of the day was the Yum Yum Rice Bowl – plus it is incredibly fun to say! The lamb was awesomely tender and the added pop of the peanuts really made this dish complete, in my opinion. The cucumbers and daikon were good, but the peanuts really stole the show. D.Rough got one small piece of fatty meat and the rest of it was perfect. No complaints at all on this bowl of awesome.

Verdict=Fantastic. Looking forward to coming back there and trying the same or new things. Either. We don’t care.

Top 5 things about World Street Kitchen
1. La Panza Yum Yum Rice Bowl (both eating and saying)
2. Kingston 12 Jerk Beef Tacos
3. Piña Colada
4. Plate O’ Dips
5. Very serious menu (and some boozy drinks)

Bottom 5 things
1. If you come there expecting to share with someone, you WILL fight over who gets what
2. You’re going to want dessert afterwards, and there isn’t much on the dessert front, but it’s ok because you won’t have room
3. I can’t decide whether I like the regular menu or the brunch menu better. These guys really nailed it.
4. Parking isn’t the best on Lyndale…
5. I can’t think of anything bad, so I’ll quit making things up now

Monday, March 31, 2014

Groveland Tap (Poutine Crawl) – St. Paul, MN

A bunch of fun people I know do a Poutine Crawl in the Twin Cities. Not all in one night, but this was the next stop on the list. We’ve been to a bunch of places and everyone has different opinions, so there’s no reason to rank any of them. But this one had HIGH acclaim from Rocky. He raved about it and swears it’s the best in the Twin Cities. Of course, it was our goal to shoot Rocky down.

There’s a lot of good food items at the Groveland Tap. They’re part of a restaurant group that also does good food, so it just stands to reason they would also have good food. I forget that sometimes.

D.Rough and I decided to split an order of poutine and an order of Fish Tacos. We were sure that would have been enough.

The poutine comes out in a small cast iron skillet. The server warns you not to touch the metal because it’s hot. Yes, we touched it. Yes, it IS hot. The crinkle fries alarmed some of us at first, but our minds were quickly changed. The crinkles held the gravy. The delicious delicious dark brown beef gravy. Lots of gravy. I can’t explain why it is so good, but it truly is. The curds were also the right temperature for being melty, but not dissolving. You knew when you had a curd, and then you were thrilled with how well it went with the fries and gravy.

Alright, Rocky, if it isn’t the top in the Twin Cities, it’s at least in the top 3. Kudos to you on your poutine-ranking skills, my friend!

The fish tacos were also fantastic. Plenty of crispy battered and fried fish in them and the toppings were fresh. A great flavor complement to the poutine.

Then when late people showed up to join us and also get poutine, it was incredibly difficult for all of us not to order a second round of poutine. It was THAT good.

Go for the cheap drinks, stay for the poutine. This place went straight to the Top 3 list of poutines in the area in MY personal book.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Bad Movie Night (Heavy Metal Theme) – West St. Paul, MN

The Bad Movie Night theme this time was heavy metal. We usually do a potluck-style dinner ahead of time and people bring food items related to the theme. I encouraged people to dress in all black and bring some creative foods for us to eat. People got realllllllly creative with this theme, and I’m really glad.

Just to gloss over the movies, I showed Rock N Roll Nightmare about a Canadian rock band (yeah, hilarious, right?) who goes to record an album and slowly gets picked off, one-by-one. The second movie was Detroit Metal City – a Japanese film about a kid who really wants to sing trendy pop music but secretly sings in a scary death metal band to make ends meet in the meantime.

But the real treat of the night was the food. I’ll point out that we’ve never had anyone bring a cake to Bad Movie Night before and this evening, we had FIVE cakes. Hilarious.

I’ll start with the best one of the night. A Black Metal cake.

D.Rough tried to cut into it to dish it up and the knife clunked. She looked around to see if anyone had seen her cut into this what was going to be a terribly overbaked cake. Everyone saw it. UnicycleJoe had frosted an upside-down cake pan with black frosting. CLASSIC!!!! No actual cake was involved in this thing. Just frosting on a metal pan. Brilliant idea, Joe. You win.

Rum to the Hills cake from JessSayin’ and FireWally. This thing was amazing!!!!

Rocky brought Head-Bangers and Mosh.

I made Hail Seitan for our vegan friends.

B.Sweet brought Bull’s Blood – some wine from Hungary (do they even make wine there?).

D.Rough made a Blood Red Velvet Cake with Celtic Frost-ing (she’s the best lady in the world).

Hüsker Stü made a vegan black cake with a sri racha pentagram and candles in the corner called Cain's Sacrifice – awesome!

ShotgunMillie brought raisins, since they’re high in iron – a heavy metal. SVB made heavy metal cupcakes with metal colored frosting. And, we broke out the candelabra and red table cloth to make it official.

Such a good night. I’m honored to have so many creative friends.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Noah - The 2014 Movie

I saw the new Noah movie last night with M.Giant. We really saw this film to compare it to the last Noah’s Ark movie, which we forced large groups of people to watch for Bad Movie Nights in multiple states. While this film features some pretty A- list actors (Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connolly, Emma Watson, Anthony Hopkins), it isn’t the acting the holds this film back. It’s the story line and special effects that doom this particular version.

Here are some of the things you’ll see, if you decide to watch this movie. Director Darren Aranofsky made some serious leaps in this film in what is probably more “poetic license” than the religious die-hards that make up most of its audience will be comfortable with. It’s as if he never read the story and someone gave him the point A and point B of the film. God floods the earth because it is full of evil people. Then there’s a rainbow at the end. In fact, there’s no mention of “God” in the movie, only “the creator”. There’s no mention of 40 days and nights. No mention of cubits and that Noah was supposed to be 500 years old, while his kids are about 100 years old. There’s a lot left out, but since the director is an atheist, you have to cut him some slack, right?

  • There were multiple “Claritin clear” moments
  • There’s a glowing snakeskin which has magical powers
  • There are glowing rocks that burst into flame when you hit them with a knife or throw them into a boat – they might be called Zohan
  • Welding masks come in handy when trying to build weapons to take over an ark
  • There were rock monsters (just like the ones from Lord of the Rings – or more closely related to the original Clash of the Titans film)
  • In the movie there is a 35-day gestation period for a fetus, though there isn’t any mention of the 40 days of rain and then 150 days of floating - so if you account for that, it’s at least closer
  • 500 year old Noah gets to hang out with his grandfather Methuselah
  • There are two trees in the Garden of Eden, not one, as per the bible. Adam and Eve are only allowed to eat fruit from one of them. In the movie, this becomes tricky because the trees are intertwined! How can you be sure you're eating from the right tree? Maybe this is the director's way of saying it could have been a "whoops" situation and not a shift-woman-trick situation. Also, WHY ARE ADAM AND EVEN IN MY NOAH MOVIE?!?!
  • Women CONTINUE to be blamed for ruining everything in life and stepping between man and God’s plan. Not just in the Garden of Eden. It isn’t even subtle any more
  • I’m not convinced Mickey Rourke isn’t Tubal-Cain – Noah’s enemy in the film (which is even more comical because there IS a wrestler named Cain)
  • Hollywood needs to get better educated on how to make individual CGI birds. Flocks and flocks of birds they do alright, but not individual birds
  • I had to wait until the end of the movie for stock animal footage from National Geographic
  • Noah was drunk in the original man cave
  • I still waited for Anthony Hopkins to tell Noah’s wife he could smell her aunt with a C [Which MommasBoy just reminded me wasn't said by Hopkins. It was his cell neighbor and Hopkins just comments on it.]
  • There were serious rocket launchers in Noah’s time
  • Noah had a flare gun to get God’s attention in a maritime emergency
  • I, like Noah, also scream “HAAAAAMMMM!!!!!” periodically
  • There were armor-plated dogs in Noah’s time. Maybe they didn’t make it onto the ark. Bummer
  • Why did Noah grab the broken arrow from the armor-plated dog when he had a HUGE KNIFE
  • The producers tied evolution VERY nicely into the creationism montage – sneaky (because they know scientists are right)
  • Cain killing Abel turned into a montage of other war killings (Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I & II, etc.)
  • Whenever Noah would look up at the sky for God’s advice, I’d hear Yukon Cornelius’ voice saying, “NNNNNNuthin’!” every time
  • Noah kills SOOOO many people. I don’t remember that in the bible
  • When they panned out to show the entire earth, it was entirely covered in hurricane cloud swirls, ensuring Al Roker’s head would explode
  • There was an island of misfit toys and everyone is whining on it
  • Noah appears to be wearing a double-stitched denim biker vest in much of the movie
  • Rocks are secretly angels
  • In the previews, there was one religious movie and then a whole bunch of ridiculous CGI films like the new Transformers movie. Noah thinks VERY highly of its own CGI renderers
  • It looks like there is an oil pipeline behind the zohan mine
  • The D-bag next to me couldn’t understand British accents and would keep saying, “huh?” loudly (he didn’t have an insidevoice/whisper)…. And then he would loudly make out with his girlfriend
  • Only non-humans are knocked out by the magic sleepy smoke
  • Shem’s wife has twin girls so Shem’s brothers could have someone to have sex with
  • Noah has hundred of iron cauldrons for boiling boat tar. Where did they come from and who made them?
  • An early pregnancy test involved spitting on a leaf – if it glows, you’re pregnant
  • Where did Cain’s army get corrugated steel panels for barricades?!
  • Cain snuck onto Noah’s ark and had a porthole to look out that he plugged up every once in a while. Then, Cain died when the ark landed
  • Where did the really big chains come from?
  • No one ever explains the water creatures. Are they all shifted to salt water for a few weeks?
  • The title should have been Carnivores vs. Vegetarians

It was silent after the movie ended. Dead silent. Then someone said quietly, “…Well, THAT wasn’t right.” She said it in all seriousness and that's what made it so funny.

Based on the 1999 verison of Noah’s Ark, I was really disappointed there were no fingers in any jars, or orgies, or dinosaur bones, or God’s voice, or songs about kitchen sinks, or peddlers, or water battles, or hats, or flaming rats, or 2x4’s.

I found myself laughing through much of this movie, I must admit. I mean, the director even made a comment about it being the least biblically accurate bible movie ever made in an interview. It is really going after the special effects crowd, which I should have known when they ran tons of trailers during The Walking Dead. Sadly, the special effects were pretty average. I apologize for throwing so many spoilers at you all, but most of us know the story from Sunday School. And you too might be better off just sticking with the high points. 
  1. Flood. 
  2. 2 of every creature. 
  3. Rainbow. 
That’s all you need to know.

For my money, I’ll continue to push the 1999 version of Noah’s Ark on people. Where else can you see pirates trying to take over the ark and a koala bear poop on Mary Steenburgen?