Monday, January 18, 2016

2015 Year in Review

Each year, I like to look back and see what I've accomplished (or NOT accomplished). 2015 had some surprises, but I'm glad I made it through. Here are some of the highlights, if you're interested.
  • Hosted the 3rd Annual Scotch Pong World Championships - yes, beer pong, but with scotch!
  • Went to a ton of old guy metal shows, including King Diamond, Exodus, Crowbar, D.R.I., and others
  • Ran my first Half Marathon (actual 13.1 mile race)
  • Went to fun cities to watch D.Rough play roller derby and to scream at the top of my lungs - Baltimore, Omaha, Madison, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, and even St. Paul!
  • Actually made the annual canoe trip on the Mequoketa River!
  • Went to two amazing weddings and one vow renewal ceremony on the beach
  • Ate at some fabulous restaurants. Of note: Chimborazo, The Brewer's Table, Eat Street Social, Taco Libre, and Jimmy's Hideaway
  • Spent a day in the Upper Peninsula in Michigan - we'll be back!
  • Threw a super fun Raclette (melty cheese) birthday party for D.Rough
  • Moved to a new work building up to the 11th floor (and I have a window)
  • Got to take a work trip to our London office and catch up with old friends while there
  • Hosted a number of Bad Movie Night themes - Black History Month, video game, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Christmas Wrestling, and others
  • Put multiple Chao-related ads in the Minnesota RollerGirls programs - I'm a sponsor!
  • Drank a lot of wine at monthly New Vintage wine tastings all over the Twin Cities, and an occasional friend-hosted wine tastings
  • Played in my Wednesday night Uptown Kickball League
  • Went to the Minnesota RollerGirl Surly Punch Pass Party and got schooled at bags/cornhole by "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Cornhole"
  • Did serious damage (mainly to my intestines) at the Minnesota State Fair
  • Went to F1rst Wrestling's Wrestlepalooza 5 semi-pro wrestling event at First Avenue - so much fun
  • went to Boston and Provincetown, Massachusetts
  • Went to a number of Minneapolis Scotch Society Scotch Tastings to drink Scotch I can't afford
  • Got to see Chikara Pro wrestling - famous acrobatic wrestling league - and I'm all over the DVD they published from it
  • Saw multiple movies - Metalhead, Whiplash, Acquatic Life of Steve Zissou, Coffy, Foxy Brown, The Bridge, Bottle Shock, Santa's Slay, AAAH! Zombies!!!, Pro-Wrestlers vs. Zombies, The Remaining, Total Retribution, Mantera, Nights and Weekends, Ondine, Saint Nick, Doomsday, Horns, The Taking of Deborah Logan, Metalstorm, LOL, Black Sampson, Three The Hard Way, Her, Margot at the Wedding, The Campaign, Japanese Story, Snow Angels, Charlotte Sometimes, Small Beautifully, Bomber, The Interview, Edge of Tomorrow, Oculus, Singham, Singham Returns, Cannibal: a Love Story, Monsters vs. Aliens, Vile, Black Gestapo, Jinx, Black Six, Intermission, Eagle vs Shark, The Chumscrubber, Death at a Funeral, Welcome to the Dollhouse, Frownland, The Sasquatch Gang, Crime Spree, Bounty Killer, Wolfcop, The Babadook, Love Me, Egypt, Monica & David, Death Camp Treblinka, Zombeavers, Creep Van, Elevator, The Edge of Hell, away We Go, Brothers Bloom, The Walking Deceased, My Mistress,Bound By Flesh, Get On Up, Lavalantula, Attack the Gas Station, St. Vincent, Theory of Everything, Paradise Now, Packed in a Trunk, Hector and the Search for Happiness, John Wick, The Pact, The Pact II, Nightcrawler, Before I go to Sleep, Appleseed, Franklyn, Golden Compass, Driver 23, The Atlas Moth, Solaris, El Samourai, Late Phases, Gozu, Half Moon, Santa With Muscles, Karate Robo Zaborgar, Crimson Peak, Wetlands, How to Be, I Am Santa Claus, Inside Ron Jeremy, Blue is the Warmest Colour, Aura, After Tiller, Joyeux Noel, Rudo Y Cursi, Session 9, Krampus, Moving McAllister, Camile, and a bunch more I forgot to write down
  • Went to the Winter Carnival Beer Dabbler beer festival and drank around 30 small beers
  • Got to hang out more with my cousin Houston from Denver, since he started working from time to time in the St. Paul office of his company!!!
  • Attended a wedding with at least 50 people carrying sidearms openly
  • Went to another wedding where people had to stop firing guns long enough to hold the ceremony
  • Ran the 6th Annual .10K Triathlon
  • Was in a rap music video. Dancing. Which I am unable to do. So it's horrible.
  • Went to Pirate Fest at Mill City Nights - a night of heavy metal pirate bands: Alestorm, Swashbuckle, and The Dread Crew of Oddwood
  • Grew some pretty abnormal facial hair styles
  • Went to the best Superbowl Party in the Twin Cities with my kickball people
  • Saw the biggest cock in Omaha
  • Celebrated christmas in Florida with the in-laws and had a blast! 
  • Went skeet shooting with my wife, which was hilarious

Some not-so-awesome things happened in 2015, as well. I like to list these as a reminder of what to look out for in 2015...
  • Missed the annual July Birthdays Tubing Trip on the Cannon River 
  • Went to VERY few meat raffles
  • Did NOT eat enough poutine with this Twin Cities Poutine Crawl Club I'm in
  • More friends of mine split up, which never makes me happy
    Each year, I have a theme for the entire year. 2015 was the Year of Old Guy Metal shows. I still haven't really picked a theme for 2016, but I'm sure it will unfold itself in due time, as these things generally do.

    I'm coming for you, 2016! Better be ready...

    Friday, January 15, 2016

    Best Steak House – Maplewood, MN



    I’ve heard about this little steakhouse with a few locations in St. Paul. I heard it’s pretty bare bones, but cheap steak is better than no steak. In fact, someone said, why would spend $50 on a steak when you can spend $15. I had to check this place out. D.Rough’s family invited us out to dinner and when I heard we were finally going to go here, I was pretty excited.

    The place IS pretty bare bones with a very unique Greek wagon train feel, based on the interior design. Pictures of Santorini line the walls, illuminated by wagon wheel candelabras. And the guy that runs the place isn’t even Greek, as we found out. Unusual? Yes.

    The menu is on the wall right before you get in the cafeteria-style line to place your order. The guy doesn’t write anything down – he just locks in your meat order, along with how you want it cooked, and what sides you want. You slide your tray down past the grill, where you get to watch your steak being prepared (or watch your lobster tail being toaster oven-ed), and load up on the salad bar. “Load up” might be an exaggeration, since the bowls are about 4” in diameter and really shallow. But hey, we’re there for steak, right? I got the T-bone special with 3 jumbo shrimp and a baked potato.


    This plate of food looks pretty impressive. 16oz T-Bone? All day!  I started with my tiny salad. I made it myself, so there really isn’t much to complain about. Sure, they only have iceberg lettuce sitting in a hotel pan full of water, but they DID have chick peas, which I love, so it all balances out, right? Besides, the salad is merely a speed bump on the way to the steak. You know, pretend I’m eating healthy!

    The shrimp were pretty ho-hum. Coated in breading, but pretty sure they came out of a freezer. It was more breading than shrimp, but since I like fried anything, I liked these just fine. Just not something I need a plateful of, obviously. 

    The baked potato came with an ice cream scoop of butter in it. Not even margarine. Serious butter. I wasn’t thinking about topping my baked potato at the salad bar, but I should have. My fault on this one, but I still love baked potatoes with two cups of butter in them, so I devoured this thing.

    It was STEAK TIME. 16 oz T-Bone time! I dug into my first corner of this thing and was surprised how chewy it was. I order my steaks medium or medium-rare to avoid the chewiness of a well-done steak. My first bite wasn’t great and had a generous layer of fat to contend with. I like a layer of fat and usually clean my plate entirely, including the delicious juicy fat. But this was too much fat. (Yeah, I didn’t know there was such a thing, either. Weird.) The next couple of bites didn’t get any better, and in fact changed color of meat as I moved towards the center. Most of the time, the center of a steak is a little more pink than the edges – that’s just science. This one changed color a few times throughout the steak, as if part of the steak wasn’t even on the grill while the rest of it was over coals borrowed from the surface of the sun. I looked around and saw other people at our table fighting with their steaks. I watched others chewing the same piece of meat for about 5 minutes, trying to break it down enough to swallow. It wasn’t good. It continued to be not good through to the end of the steak. I poured a generous helping of A1 Steak Sauce on what was left of my steak and D.Rough said, “I’ve never seen you use A1 in the whole time we’ve been together!” I assured her that if she saw me use A1, I was NOT happy with my steak and it was a last ditch effort to make it more edible.

    When I was finished with my steak, D.Rough still had a lot of her steak left, which should have been a sign. Her fillet was considerably softer than the T-Bone I just had, but still just as chewy (she also got her steak medium). Her steak was only slightly better than mine. That being said, I finished her steak, as well. The remaining steak pieces (and there WERE remaining pieces) got boxed up for the family dog. 

    I have to say, I can see the logic behind paying $15 for a steak, rather than $50, but it has to taste like a steak. When Taco Bell or Perkin’s steak sounds like magic, you know you can skip this place in the future. I’m sure they have other things they do well here – gyros, burgers, possibly ribs and lobster – so maybe go with one of those if you find yourself here. And, for the record, they do make the fries from actual potatoes and fry them fresh. And the super buttery garlic bread that comes with it is delicious and salty. Those were pretty good.

    I don’t like to give bad reviews of restaurants, because I know this is people’s livelihood, but in this case, it doesn’t deserve a better review. This place doesn’t have a lot of redeeming qualities – at least on my first visit. I’m just not sure it will get a second chance. If it does, you readers will be the first to know.

    Best Steak House
    1676 White Bear Ave.
    St. Paul, MN 55106

    Monday, January 11, 2016

    John’s Pizza Café – St. Paul, MN


    My friend Swedish Meatbrawl recommended this pizza place a few months back and I finally made it there to check it out. It’s got a pretty modern looking feel for a St. Paul establishment and you either order by the slice from the counter or off the menu. I’ll warn you in advance, this menu is seriously big. Appetizers, separate mac-and-cheese section, pastas, strombolis, calzones, hoagies, wings, burgers, malts, tons of desserts, and of course, pizza.

    You can either build your own pizza or order one of their set specialty pizzas. I went with the specialty – the Caribbean Pizza. It’s got oven-baked chicken with a Caribbean jerk sauce, pineapple, mozzarella, peppers, and a touch of all-spice.


    It came out pretty quickly, even though there was a decent lunch crowd here. As I waited, I kept looking at the large menu and tried to figure out what I would get the next time I was here – I hadn’t even eaten a bite yet and I was ready to come back and try more things. The jerk sauce was probably closer to spicy buffalo sauce than anything, but it still went really well with the chicken flavor. The all-spice wasn’t overpowering, so it went well with everything. I really liked the pepper flavor on this pizza, as well. I couldn’t eat the entire things, so I ended up bringing some home to D.Rough, who gave it a thumbs up!

    Can’t wait to go back here and get many additional items. Some not even related to pizza, if you can believe it. Good folks here, serving up great food. I’m guessing you’re going to like going here, even if I don’t put a top 5 list here.

    Thursday, January 7, 2016

    Homemade Pasties and Zodiac Party Store – St. Ignace, MI (Upper Penninsula)

    I needed to pick up some of the beer I had the previous evening at Timmy Lee’s, and the only place the folks at Timmy Lee’s knew of that carried it was the Zodiac Party Store. Luckily, this place also had a pasty shop attached to it. Bonus!!!!


    We grabbed a beef pasty and a chicken pasty and hit the road. These things are pretty simple – some various ground meats and vegetables wrapped in a flaky dough. We liked the beef one better than the chicken one, but we loved both of them. And the beef gravy that yo get to dip these things in is GREAT! There are pasty shops all over the UP. It’s what they’re known for. I’d love to hit as many of these places as I can. But KNOW this Homemade Pasties and Zodiac Party Store can deliver 100%.

    Big fan.

    Zodiac Party Store
    914 US-2
    St. Ignace, MI 49781

    Sunday, January 3, 2016

    Timmy Lee’s Pub – St. Ignace, MI (Upper Penninsula)

    D.Rough and I happened to be passing through the Upper Penninsula (UP) and we stopped at Timmy Lee’s Pub. It had some good ratings, so we had a good feeling about it.

    The menu isn’t a standard bar menu, despite having most of the same things. It’s got some nicer versions of all the things you’ll recognize – burgers, salads, pizzas, etc.

    I went back and forth about ten times, and finally settled on the Friday Fish Fry (with mashed potatoes). D.Rough got the mushroom and swiss burger. And since we were THIS close to Canada, we got some poutine to split.

    The poutine was in a nice little ceramic crock and was wonderful. I know some people complain when it’s melty cheese and not cheese curds, but it doesn’t bother me one bit. This was fantastic. Molten lava-covered french fries and gravy doesn’t really have a bad version.





    The mushroom and swiss burger was above average and generous with both the cheese and mushrooms. The meat itself was also hand pressed and not frozen. It was really good.

    The fried fish dinner came with a little salad - nothing special, but it was tasty and fresh. The fish itself was top notch. Skin-on and fried with a great deal of batter. The crunch on it was really fantastic and not soggy at all. The mashed potatoes were surprisingly good, but you can tell from the photo how much butter this thing was packin’.

    SUUUUPER happy with this pit stop in the UP. Worth a visit the next time we’re in town, without question.

    (Not enough for a Top 5 list)


    Thursday, December 31, 2015

    D.Rough’s Birthday Raclette Party – West St. Paul, MN

    D.Rough and I don’t like to do normal things for birthdays, so we decided to have a cheese party for her birthday. D.Rough and I saw a piece about raclette cheese on a television show and knew we needed to have some. We just happened to have a friend who is a fancy certified cheese monger and she volunteered to help us host a ridiculous cheese party for D.Rough’s birthday. We invited a couple friends over (it was a pretty small list, due to the limitation of the number of people a wheel of raclette cheese would feed, so we apologize to anyone who didn’t get an invite).

    Raclette is a type of fancy Swiss cheese that’s heated up until bubbly and them the molten cheese is scraped off onto a plate and served with boiled potatoes, cornichons, and other vegetables.  It’s sort of a cooking cheese by the ski lodge fire sort of thing. We rented a special raclette grill and had our friend PepperJackie order a bunch of additional cheese for us. We were going to knock this out of the park!



    The raclette experience is pretty awesome. The swiss already have the fondue market cornered, but this kicks the whole thing up a notch. We added like 4 pounds of nice deli meat, 17 pounds of potatoes, a bunch of vegetables, some chutney, and pepper jelly. Oh, and a billion bottles of wine – hahahahaha.

    Needless to say, it was apretty amazing birthday. Huge thanks to PepperJackie for bringing all the awesome cheese, explaining what everything was, and (wo)man-ing the raclette grill all night for all of us. She really knows her stuff and when she starts hosting these parties full time, we’ll be pushing her on all of our friends.
    video

    Yaaaaay for D.Rough’s birthday!!!
    video

    Yaaaaay for cheese!!!


    Yaaaaay for piles of meat!!!

    Tuesday, December 29, 2015

    ChuckWagon Charlie’s Smokehouse & Saloon – Chanhassen, MN

    A1 and I are big fans of ribs. He was off work one random day and we decided to meet (or meat) for lunch at ChuckWagon Charlie’s. I knew of its existence, but hadn’t ever been there, although A1 had been there a number of times in the past. Since it was in a strip mall, I knew it had a shot of being decent BBQ.

    I had to go with a half slab of ribs and a couple of sides – BBQ baked beans and also Mac n Cheese. A1 got the rib tips and some fried potatoes. I had a good feeling about these.

    The ribs were pretty good. Not Top 10 in the world good, but I was happy with them. They had a ice bark on them without being burnt and the dry rub on them was really good. Not much gristle on these and the meat had good flavor without a hint of liquid smoke on them. Great work, Charlie. The mac and cheese was decent, but at the very least, it didn’t taste like cafeteria mac n cheese. The baked beans were also slightly above average, so overall, this was a pretty good plate of food.

    A1 gave me a couple bites of his rib tips and I was really impressed with them. I usually steer away (pun intended) from rib tips because you kind of never know what you’re going to end up with. Sometimes, you get some fatty bits, sometimes you get some gristle, sometimes, you get all burnt cinders. These were all meat and had wonderful flavor. If this is their usual showing of rib tips, then I’d for sure get these next time. The fried taters were also really good – obviously not as good as my Alabama grandma made, but still pretty good.

    This place was kind of a sleeper surprise for me. And now that I know that I’ll get really good bbq here, I’ll be back with some friends.


    Not enough for a Top 5 list, but everything was above average, so it would have gotten a more positive than negative list.