Thursday, August 28, 2014

Minnesota State Fair 2014 - St. Paul, MN

People like it when I do a breakdown of what I ate at the Minnesota State Fair. (Well, my mother doesn't, since she thinks I'm going to die...)

And my sister PalmMapper and brother-in-law Uncle DumDum came over from Michigan to experience this State Fair for the second time. We did some serious damage to the food here. I'll do a quick write up, in case you're planning to go in the next few days.

Here's how it shakes out:

Deep Fried Breakfast Sandwich on a Stick (from the Sandwich Shop) - ham, eggs, sausage, cheese, in a pancake sandwich, and then deep-fried. Pretty delicious way to start your day at the Fair!!!

Chicken in the Waffle (from the Blue Barn) - fried chicken pieces covered in sausage gravy served in a waffle cone. Probably the best thing we ate at the Fair. Just beware of the malted milk ball at the bottom of the cone. It ruined everything. Ask for yours without the milk ball at the bottom.

Pig Collar Korean BBQ with Kimchee Pickles (from Famous Dave's) - Pretty boring meat unless you added some Devil's Spit spicy BBQ sauce. Not bad, just underwhelming.

Alligator on a Stick (from Bayou Bob's) - Alligator sausage on a  stick. It just tasted like a brat. If you want alligator, get the nuggets. They're sooo much better than this sausage.

Liftbridge Mini Donut Beer - I mean, you HAVE to try it, right? It was surprisingly good. The sugary rim helped, as well.

Pretzel Curds (from O'Gara's) - Quite awesome, in all honesty. Pretzel and almonds crushed up in the batter and deep fried. Great dipping sauce as well.

Deep Fried Buckeyes (from Spaghetti Eddie's) - deep fried balls of chocolate and peanut butter served with strawberry jelly. Suuuuuuuper rich. You'll need to split these between your entire family. But they are good.

Jello Salad Ice Cream (from the Hamline Church) (see mom? I went to church.) - Ice cream with cranberry and lime swirls with some marshmallow bits. Served with an extra izzy scoop on top. I got the pomegranate and didn't love it. Overall, not the greatest ice cream I've ever had.

S'More's Beer (from Giggles Campfire) - A coffee stout with a chocolate graham cracker rimmed cup. Not a terrible beer on its own. I liked the Mini Donut Beer much better.

Cheese Curds (from Mouth Trap) - Best cheese curds in the world. Every time.

1919 Root Beer (from the 1919 stand) - I love this root beer.

Teryaki Ostrich on a Stick (from China Town) - Ground ostrich meat on a stick. Served with teriyaki sauce and we grabbed some sri racha, as well. Pretty good, honestly.

Cheese Curds Round 2 (from Mouth Trap) - I told you they were the best curds in the world.

Hot Patty - Spicy Beef (from West Indies Soul Food) - Good and spicy, but not as good as they are in the Bahamas. It's ground up spicy beef in a pastry shell, like a caribbean empanada.

Beer Flight #1 (from the Ag Barn) - All four of these beers were super good. ALL of them.

Beer Gelato (from Mancini's) - It's like ice cream, but beer flavored. Good and refreshing, but I don't know that I need any more of it.

Sweet Martha's Cookies (from Sweet Martha's Cookies)(My sister had to get some) - They're just burnt cookie dough. Next.

Hot Dago on a Stick (from Luigi's Fries) - garlic sticks and meatballs covered in mozzarella cheese and baked. Served with peppers and marinara sauce. I shouldn't like this as much as I do. It's sooooo good.

Fire Dog (from Pickle Dog) - It's like a ham roll up, but with pastrami. A layer of cream cheese and a pickle inside, and then jalapeños inside. Super good and I'm going to start akin these for parties. Parties of ONE at my house.

Grainbelt Blu (from Schell's) - Blueberry flavored beer, but then they added some odd slushy foam on the top. Just get the beer. It is odd, but good. And purple.

Blue Cheese and Corn Fritz (from the Blue Barn) - Corn fritters with a tiny bit of cheese inside served with chimichurri sauce. Great sauce and great fritters, but I really wanted to taste the blue cheese. These were good, but filling at the end of the day.

Farm Handsandwich (from the Blue Barn) - Braised beef with french fries and covered in pimento cheese. Great meat flavor. I liked this, but not as much as the Chicken in the Waffle. We may have gotten a second order of the chicken....

Seriously, this was one of the best State Fairs ever. I'm so glad my sister and brother-in-law got to come from Michigan to hang out with me!

Great time. Now, it's time to die.

Friday, July 18, 2014

BYO Burger – West St. Paul, MN

D.Rough and I drive past this place every time we go to the gym – which I’ll tell you is NOT very helpful. We caved one day and I thought I’d let you guys know how it is.

The inside of this place is interesting. Odd, but interesting. It’s a construction-themed restaurant, which makes sense when you use the Build-Your-Own part at the beginning. So there’s all kinds of black and yellow stripes on things and orange warning signs and such.

Once you look at the various menu boards, you can decide to build your own burger or pick one of the signature pre-designed burger options. I figured I’d take the easy way out and get one of the signature ideas. The Hawaiian Burger sounded good to me – grilled ham, pineapple, salsa, lettuce, and tomato, served on a multi-grain bun. D.Rough go the Atomic Burger – fried onion strings, pepperjack cheese, jalapenos, horsey sauce, and BYOB sauce on an onion roll. And we caved even further when we ordered some cheese curds – I may or may not have talked D.Rough into getting these with me.

The Atomic Burger looked good, though I thought it would have more onion rings on it. That being said, it was a delicious burger. The meat was juicy without being greasy, and the sauces were well developed. This was a good burger!

The Hawaiian Burger was also quite good. The salsa didn’t taste like it was from a can/jar and the ham (or Canadian bacon) added some good flavor to the already delicious burger. It was a little messy, but really quite fantastic.

And of course, the cheese curds were amazing. It’s hard to mess these things up. They were really what we both wanted.

Not enough things to do a Top 5 list on, but pretty much everything was great, especially for a small chain burger place. It wasn’t a greasy spoon burger, it was just a well put-together burger. I’m looking forward to going back and trying out my own concoction on these guys. (and more cheese curds).

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Lake & Irving – Minneapolis, MN

D.Rough and I set up a double date with two of our favorite people, LowVee and Kevin, at Lake & Irving in Minneapolis. They had some interesting things on the menu that I was looking forward to trying.

We grabbed some drinks and some ciders before ordering and then set out to find the best things L&I had to offer. We ordered some homemade corn nuts (duh) and some pork aranchini bites. D.Rough wanted the Buttermilk Chicken Sandwich with Duroc bacon, pepperjack, and served on sourdough. I had been dying to try the L&I Half Smokes – chili dogs with Duroc pork and beef sausage and chuck chili.

The corn nuts come in a small paper bag with an appropriate amount of grease residue on the outside of the bag. The little nuggets were super tasty and fried well – I’m not even sure how these things are made (probably wizardry), but I’m glad someone figured them out. We probably should have gotten two orders of these…

The aranchini bites were decent. Not fantastic, but just good. They were a little small, but they’re BITES, after all. They didn’t have a ton of flavor, but they kept our mouths full until the meals arrived. Again, not terrible or anything, but fell a little short (mainly because we’ve eaten these things in Italy and it’s hard to compare them to the US versions).

D.Rough’s Buttermilk Chicken Sandwich looked better than it tasted (despite the poor quality of the photo due to dim lighting). The chicken was fried well, but didn’t end up being as juicy as she had hoped. The pepperjack flavor didn’t come through but the sauce drizzled on it was pretty good. She had to look for the bacon pieces, so obviously there wasn’t a lot of bacon flavor in the sandwich, either. She was fine with the sandwich, but she’d order something else the next time we go back.

The Half Smokes I had high hopes for, since they had been written up in Citipages or some other food-related publication. The dogs were cooked well and had good flavor, but I was really surprised at the minimal flavor of the chili that was on top when I tasted it alone. I couldn’t tell where the pork stopped and chili began – but there was a lot of it piled on the dog. It tasted fine, but I really thought it would be a big bold meat flavor and it wasn’t. It could probably be compared to a decent chili dog, but when you get them at a nicer restaurant, you expect something to pop or stand out. These were just alright, I’m sorry to say. Even the fries were just about average.

I’m not saying it was a terrible meal. I’m just saying I’d order something different the next time we go there. We’ll likely be back, but we’ve got a few other places in Uptown to hit up before then. That being said, our next double date with LowVee and Kevin is going to be something crazy. I’m sure of it.

Top 5 things about Lake & Irving
1. Corn Nuts – homemade!
2. Full bar, so good drink selection
3. Open late with limited food offerings
4. They do have a parking lot in back
5. The brunch menu looks pretty fantastic

Bottom 5 things
1. Half Smokes/Chili Dogs
2. Aranchini Bites
3. Average fries
4. Buttermilk Chicken Sandwich
5. It’s fairly pricey for the quality of the food we got that evening

Monday, July 14, 2014

French Hen Café – St. Paul, MN

D.Rough and I headed over to the French Hen Café for breakfast (well, more like brunch since we slept late). I had heard good things about this place and couldn’t wait to eat here.

We started with a few blood orange mimosas (D.Rough got Prosecco and I got Moscato). It’s hard to have a bad meal when you start with these things.

D.Rough ordered the Croque Suzette – a grilled sandwich on Brioche with smoked ham, Gruyere, Dijon béchamel, and topped with a sunny side up egg and served with hashbrowns. I ordered the Omelette a la Florentine – spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, and Brie and I got a side of root vegetable hash.

The food came out pretty quickly and we shared each of these things like pros.

The Croque Suzette was really good. Dense but tasty bread with all kinds of messy toppings. Great ham and Gruyere flavor were especially good combined with the runny egg. Great work on this thing. The hashbrowns had great flavor and were thinly cooked, so there were lots of crunchy parts.

The omelet was tasty and had a lot of fresh tasting ingredients on the inside. I will say the highlight for me was the root vegetable hash. Really seasoned well and lots of good textures and fresh flavors.

We didn’t spend long here, although we did pop into the flower shop next door (run by the same wonderfully nice family). It’s a very nice atmosphere and they serve really good food. They also serve dinner, so I’m curious how that’s going to be when we return. Looking forward to it!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

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

As many of you know, D.Rough and I like to host a Bad Movie Night occasionally and show horrible movies to our friends – mainly movies that no one should be able to find, let alone OWN. I do, however, own many of these films.

I wanted to host a night where I really pushed the envelope on people’s comfort levels. So warned people these movies would be pretty awkward, disturbing, horrifying, and bodily-fluid-filled. So, it was a WTF-themed Bad Movie Night.

The first movie was “Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS”. This is a film shot in the 70’s on the set of Hogan’s Heroes about a Nazi doctor named Ilsa. She does experiments on men and women and then tortures them in bloody and horrific ways.

The second movie was Takashi Miike’s “Vistor Q”. This movie is more suspense and oddity than it is traditional horror. There are a lot of bodily fluids in this one and some really gross disturbing stuff.

People were genuinely angry at these movies and appropriate bothered by them, so mission accomplished. I’ll make sure the next batch of bad movies are more FUN for people. But the best part of these Bad Movie Nights is the potluck food people bring based around the theme of the night. In this case, the WTF-theme encouraged people to think outside of the box and bring some really weird things for people to eat. I’ll list a few honorable mentions for the evening.

My own contribution was homemade mac and cheese (grandma’s recipe) but with hot dogs in it. Not too terribly weird, but I figured if people brought too many gross things, then I’d at least be able to eat what *I* brought.

D.Rough made a peanut butter, soy sauce, and garlic pizza with mozzarella cheese and sri racha and covered in peanuts. Actually, this ended up being fantastic and went pretty quickly.

LooseChange brought White Castle burgers and cheeseburgers, because seriously WTF is in those things?

Taco brought chips whose first letter spelled out WTF. Wavy – Tostitos – Fritos. Pretty creative, in my opinion.

SVB and Southpark brought dates filled with blue cheese and peppers. The note on them is pretty hilarious because I asked if that meant his date was “hot-ish”, which certainly got him scolded appropriately.

I give the honor of best food to Hüsker Stü. He brought the Snowplow Special – something he used to eat in his poor college days.

Thanks everyone for bringing odd food and yelling along with the movies. I’m already looking forward to the next Bad Movie Night!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Hearts Made Out Of Hands Incorrectly

For some reason, I have an irrational hatred for when people make a heart out of their fingers and thumbs. No particular reason why, I just do.

But what really bothers me is when people do it wrong. Like this, for example:

So I went ahead and fixed it to make me not mad. You're welcome.