Saturday, December 27, 2008

Corpsekitten's Xmas card

So I got what basically amounts to an Arctic mob threat in the mail.
Supposedly, the hand-crafted card lost some glue adhesion in trasit, but I think we all know what it means.

Thanks for the warning, Corpsekitten...

Rice Street Deli – St. Paul, MN

I’m not one of those guys who has to accept any eating challenge, however, I AM one of those guys that will eat something just because it’s a freak of nature. A coworker recommended this place to me because there was an article in the newspaper about a burger they developed – the Gangsta Burger. The Rice Street Deli is at the corner of Maryland and Rice – go there and get the hook up. The chef, Jason, is a regular guy telling it like it is and making up brilliant menu items – some standard, some freakish.

I can’t even tell you what all is on this burger. Check that, I looked it up. It’s three 6 oz steaks, two ½ lb burgers, a half-pound of Italian beef, a half pound of Gyro meat, 3 slices of swiss cheese, 3 slices of American cheese, tzaziki/cucumber sauce, and whatever garnish you want (lettuce, mayo, ketchup, onions, etc.) And when I say it’s heaped, I mean it’s heaped – it actually takes two people to make it (I don’t mean cook it, I mean assemble the thing into a tower). It’s probably close to a 4 pound burger. It’s incredible.

And of course, let’s not forget the fries. The Gangsta Fries are a heap of crinkle fries smothered (seriously swimming) in gyro meat and tzaziki sauce. I ate a crap ton of these on the way home, since it was easier to eat in the car than the burger was going to be.
The place has no inside seating. In fact, it’s in a gas station (Reemco Gas Stop). Also, the burger isn’t cheap, but the rest of the menu items seem very reasonable. The burger and fries cost me $25. Yes, twenty-five US dollars (but they throw in a couple of sodas for free if you’re stupid enough to try this thing). But I gladly paid the price and it was worth it since I’ll be eating it for the next three days.

The Gangsta Burger can be eaten as a challenge – if you finish it, they give it to you for free (you won’t finish it). You have to eat it there, I’m assuming while pacing through the aisles of the gas station, but whatever. And despite the fact that I’m a die-hard card-carrying carnivore, I finally found my meat overload threshold. You win, Gangsta Burger. You win.

Top 5 things about Rice Street Deli
1. Gangsta Burger - duh
2. Gangsta Fries
3. Chef Jason invited me around into the kitchen to take a photo of the thing
4. Mustafa – cool guy working the counter of the gas station, he might even own the place
5. Everything on the menu looks delicious

Bottom 5 things
1. Meat Overload – I NEVER thought I’d write that
2. Only $25 burger I’ve ever purchased
3. Not in a great part of town – not dangerous, but not fantastic
4. No inside seating
5. I now feel like I’m going to die and I have enough meat for three sandwiches left

Monday, December 22, 2008

Amazing Thailand – Minneapolis, MN

Gerd and I have driven by a handful of Thai restaurants we haven’t eaten at, so we thought we’d give this one a try. It had been reviewed highly, so we weren’t worried (though I will admit, the first one we intended to go to was closed on Sundays).

First off, I dropped off Gerd at the door (it’s negative degrees here) and went to find a parking spot. 20 minutes later and about a quarter mile, I found one. She thought I had died in the snow when I walked in the restaurant.

I sat down and she informed me she had already ordered spring rolls for us. She rules. Just then, the waiter came back and asked me if I wanted anything to drink. I was sticking with water. Gerd asked for a diet coke and he walked away. About ten minutes later, he came back with the spring rolls. Dropped them off and left. He didn’t take our order or anything (the menu was huge, but it didn’t take us that long to decide, really). We finished our spring rolls, then waited an additional 15-20 minutes until he came back to take our order. Are you serious?

Gerd ordered the Yellow Curry and I ordered the Amazing Curry (apparently, we had a hankerin’ for curry). This took considerably less time to receive our order, but Gerd’s coke came out just before the meal, so about a half hour after she ordered it. The Yellow Curry had all kinds of beef and potatoes in it and was really good. Gerd said it was “just alright” at the beginning but with each subsequent bite, she raved about it more and more. It did however come with these giant fried wonton skins dipped in something red, so Gerd referred to them as the Thai Doritos. Nice. She agreed she would order this dish again at a future visit.
My Amazing Curry was actually quite amazing. It was a thick gravy-like peanut curry (remember 2008 is the year of gravy for me). The curry hid a substantial layer of chicken and was garnished with broccoli. Sounds simple, but it was really great. I’m glad I got it. No wonder it’s the most popular curry dish there (so says the slow waiter).

We will definitely go here again, but only if we’re in a patient mood. We’re convinced it was the waiter and not the restaurant, so we didn’t get too upset at the place. It was maybe just an off night for him or something. We’re pretty lenient, I guess.

Top 5 things about Amazing Thailand
1. Amazing Curry
2. Fresh spring rolls
3. Yellow Curry
4. Décor is pretty slick
5. Perfect amount of spice

Bottom 5 things
1. Slow waiter (all the other waiters seemed normal speed)
2. Thai Dorito shells
3. Parking blows
4. The outside has so much neon, you think it’s a strip club or something, but it’s much nicer inside
5. We missed the Thai Dance Show (Fridays and Saturday only)

http://twincities.citysearch.com/profile/45394193/minneapolis_mn/amazing_thailand.html

Friday, December 19, 2008

Moto-I (Round 2) - Minneapolis, MN

Chao visited Moto-I when his cousin was in town, but he wanted to take me there so I could try it and so he could explore more of the menu. We went after our first snow storm of that week (first of 62) and started our visit off with an excellent parking spot close the restaurant. We decided to sit in a booth and we were two of only a few patrons for the evening. This awarded us extra attention from our awesome server. Our water was never less than half full and he had great recommendations for us.

We decided to go all out and try several things on the menu. I have never had sake before and as Chao mentioned before, this place brews their own. Chao ordered his favorite from his first visit and I tried some. It was good but I prefer wine so I ordered a glass of that. We ordered several small plates including a Hoisin Pork Bun, a Hen Bun, Kaarage, and Rangoon. We also ordered the Yakiudon and the Coconut Green Curry with chicken. The small plates were fabulous. I would give a special shout out to the Hoisin Pork bun and the Rangoon as my favorites. The buns are very unique. I have to use my most hated word of all time to describe them. Moist. Aaack! [Chao: The bun wasn't aaack, just using the word. The bun was awesome. Just clarifying.] The Rangoon were made with smoked salmon which is a bit different than the crab normally found and it was a super good change. The Kaarage was like a popcorn chicken which was good and the Hen Bun had a nice spice to it. The Yukiudon was excellent. The noodles were SOO good and the sauce was fabulous. The Green Curry, which was technically MY main dish, was super good but a bit spicy for me after awhile so I stole the rest of Chao's Yukiudon. I don't think he minded too much.

We had a great time here and will be back for sure.

Top 5:
1. Small plates are really fun and super good
2. Yukiudon noodles are fabulous
3. Sake is great here
4. They have Malbec wine
5. I want to bring all sort of friends and family to this place because it is so fun

Bottom 5:
1. I had to use my hated word in this post
2. I am a wimp and the Green Curry ended up being too spicy for me
3. It was really quiet in there so very little people watching happened
4. I am not good at using chopsticks
5. Chao lost his main dish to me! Wa ha ha ha!

http://www.moto-i.com

Edina Cinema – Slumdog Millionaire – Edina, MN

For the second part of the date, Gerd knew where she was going, so I didn’t have to freeze outside very long. We went to the Edina Cinema to catch a film – Millionaire Slumdog.

The Edina Cinema is a four-screen theater showing a lot of non-mainstream films. Some independent and some foreign. It’s an awesome place to see quality films. It’s standard theater concession stand had what Gerd considers one of the best popcorns in the industry – meaning LOADs and loads of butter. The theater itself was plenty spacious and had lots of room for people – very clean – no sticky floors or smell of urine/vomit.

So Millionaire Slumdog is an independent film from India about a kid (a chai walla – aka office coffee boy) (also my new favorite word) from the slums who gets onto “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” in India. He’s one question from the huge 20 million rupee prize when the police arrest him for cheating. The cops show him the film of the show and he explains how his life taught him the answer to each one of the questions they asked him. Really kind of slick. Also the game show host is like an Indian version of Dennis Miller. I chuckled every time the guy said “millionaire” – I’m 5.

It’s not a nice view of India, either then or now, but it seems to be pretty non-hollywood and raw. There’s a love story behind the whole thing with the main character and a girl he and his brother grew up with. I would recommend this film to anyone who likes foreign films. Even though it’s not really a Bollywood film, the dancing and singing has been stripped out (I’m assuming for the US release). It’s a very quality film. [Chao: I'll amend this to say I know Danny Boyle directed this so it's not Bollywood at all. I'm still not convinced it's not showing in India with a Westwisde-Story-esque dance seen for every transition though...]

Hilarious thing happened. The end of the movie came and they started rolling the credits. And no one in the theater moved. I looked around and no one was packing up their things to go. There was standard issue Bollywood singing and dancing during the credits, but the crowd was riveted. Seriously, I thought maybe the Rapture had happened and everyone was dead. As soon as the standard US credits (the ones with white writing on black background) started, then people got up to leave. Weirdest thing ever. Had NOONE ever seen a foreign/Bollywood film before? Weird.

Top 5 things about Edina Theater/Slumdog Millionaire
1. Great acting
2. Was more dramatic than I thought it might be given the topic
3. Super awesome popcorn (so says Gerd)
4. Really clean theater
5. Pretty close parking in the garage behind the theater

Bottom 5 things
1. Reaffirms my vow to never go to India
2. Crowd unswerving interest in dancing during the credits
3. Bathrooms only on the half-floor (like Being John Malkovich) between first and second floor
4. Eerie blue lighting in the lobbies of the theater
5. Severe lack of boobs for a foreign film

Edina Cinema
Slumdog Millionaire

Beaujo’s Wine Bar & Bistro – Edina, MN

Gerd decided to take me out on a date last night. She told me to be ready at 5:30 and she would take care of the rest. I hopped in her car at precisely 5:30 and she started driving North. We pulled into a parking garage which I am familiar with and found a spot. We got out of the car and Gerd got lost. Remember I don’t know what she’s got planned, so I can’t help her find her way since I didn’t know what she was looking for. I was also wearing a sweatshirt instead of a coat. Had I known we would be walking through the frozen tundra lost, I might have worn something more substantial.

Gerd walked us into a wine bar we had driven past a couple of times and mentioned we should go there. The place was Beaujo’s (I’m assuming pronounced Bo-Joe’s – only Frenchified). We found a nice table and got waited on right away. Decent wine menu, so we picked out something we would both drink and set about deciding on dinner.

The place is really nice inside. Mirrors behind the bar set in a cool pattern and low lighting with yellow sponge painted walls set a classy and intimate atmosphere. Attentive wait staff offered recommendations and explanations for things.

We got a Cloudline Pinot Gris which was light and fruity and had a sweet after taste, not dry (sorry all you dry drinkers out there). We’ll get this again, for sure. Very tasty. We referred to it as a “chug” wine, since you could go through it pretty darn fast and not realize it (yes we finished the entire bottle).

Gerd got the Steak salad and I got the short ribs (the special for the evening). Gerd steak salad had a ton of things in it – all appropriate for salads, so no complaints. Lots of chunks of steak floated throughout this salad which was covered in blue cheese dressing. I had a couple bites of hers and it was really excellent.

My short ribs were perfectly cooked. The rib bones slid right out of the meat and despite not being fork tender, the meat was excellent. A very appropriate portion as well. Nough so that I got good and full, but not enough that I had to gorge myself. Lots of meat on the plate. I got some green beans with the meat and everything was sitting on a bed of smashed Yukon gold potatoes. Brilliant meal.

We’ll eat here again, for sure. They have a mini-happy hour, so in 2009, we’ll be back to test it out.

Top 5 things about Beaujo’s
1. Cloudline Pinot Gris
2. Short Ribs
3. Steak salad
4. Atmosphere
5. Super attentive staff

Bottom 5 things
1. Wine list isn’t huge, but we found what we needed
2. Small menu, but we found what we needed (both big and small plates available)
3. I’m guessing it could get crowded on a weekend or theater night
4. Handful of pretentious people, but you get that at wine bars…
5. Not sure if that’s how you pronounce the name

http://www.beaujos.net

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Morelos – Richfield, MN

You’ve heard Gerd and I complain about the lack of quality Mexican food in the Twin Cities. Well, we’ve now changed our mind. We got a recommendation from our neighbor for Morelos. Apparently it’s well-respected when it comes to authentic Mexican food.

We had no idea what to expect, but when we walked in, it seemed very close to what we’ve been used to at quality meskin places. Tables, chairs, decorations all seemed to indicate we were in for a treat. The menu was really extensive and had some authentic dishes on it.

The chips and salsa were really good. We’ve had better, but it was above average so we still had high hopes. We also had to sample the margaritas – and you can’t sample with a small size, you have to get the large size – which we did…

Gerd got the Enchiladas Rancheras which were a couple of chicken enchiladas with rancheros sauce on them. She was REALLY pleased with this dish. She kept raving about it. I got a couple of bites from it and it was ultra cheesy. I’d get this anytime and I’m not a huge fan of enchiladas.

I can’t remember the name of what I got, but it was in the “hot” section. Something Maria Diablo Pollo – which I think translates as “Hail Mary, Chicken of Satan” as it was really spicy. Not bad spicy either. It had awesome flavor. I’m not one of those people who will sacrifice flavor for heat. For me, it has to taste good, and this did. I will tell you this dish is really spicy though. And of course, I would get it again and recommend it to anyone who can handle the spice.

Bottom line – we will visit this place numerous times in the next couple of years and we are no longer embarrassed by Twin Cities Mexican food.

Top 5 things about Morelos
1. Maria Diablo Chicken
2. Enchiladas Rancheras
3. LARGE margaritas
4. Really large portions
5. The staff was super nice and helpful

Bottom 5 things
1. We didn’t find it sooner
2. No menus-to-go. You can get to-go orders, but you can’t bring a menu with for your car
3. In a strip mall, but still awesome
4.
5.

Kinh-Do – Minneapolis, MN

Gerd and I went to this restaurant because we had seen it a million times on Hennepin Ave. We hadn’t really heard anyone say good things about it, but there always looked like there were people there. I know people have complained that this restaurant is touted as being Vietnamese and isn’t, but regardless of its authenticity, it’s pretty darn good.

We arrived and were seated right away. People in there, but not crowded at all. The menu is actually quite large, so be prepared to have some idea of what you want before you go there. They have fresh spring rolls, so we were excited about those. And we weren’t let down at all. They were great.

Gerd got the Curry Shrimp which looked super good on the menu. I got the Triple Crown. The Curry Shrimp is a Vietnamese curry which isn’t terribly spicy, but still has some zip to it. Gerd was bummed at the sheer tonnage of onions that were in it and wished there were more pieces of shrimp in it. However when she was finished, she said she was stuffed, so she took it back – she liked it a lot. The Triple Crown had beef, chicken, and shrimp in a bunch of vegetables and a brown gravy (you know I have to get in as much gravy as I can in 2008). It was perfect. I only had to pick out a couple of onions and I wolfed everything else down. Great food, despite not being “authentic.”

Staff were super helpful. I asked our waiter what a dish was on someone else’s plate and he told me without question. All of the food looked super good there, so I have no complaints about mine nor anyone else's. They also have a large vegetarian selection, and many dishes can be made vegan, if that’s your thing.

Top 5 things about Kinh-Do
1. Spring rolls
2. Triple Crown
3. Curry Shrimp
4. Super staff
5. Really large menu

Bottom 5 things
1. They love their onions
2. If you’re Asian, you won’t think it’s authentic. If you’re Caucasian, you won’t care
3. Word on the street is only one free refill on sodas – not confirmed
4. Not much parking
5. Small portion of rice with dinner, though the waiter did ask if he could bring more for us

Heart Attack Grill – Phoenix, AZ

I’m not sure where to start with this restaurant. Gerd found this place on the internet and my brother in law from Michigan also mentioned it to me. There is a sign on the door that gives some sort of explicit warning about there being nothing healthy inside, and they’re right. The place has kind of a strip club feel to it. The waitresses are all dressed as naughty nurses, really naughty nurses. You can only sit at the counter, which is set up like a strip club (not that I know, but I’ve seen movies). This is a new location - they used to have tables and chairs at the old location, but they're ... uh... upgraded.

You sit and they point to the pictures of burgers on the wall and ask “single, double, triple, or quadruple?” They only have cheese burgers in various sizes. The beef patties are half pounders and they are called bypasses – yes, as in quadruple bypass. They don’t have diet soda and Gerd got mocked for asking for it. They have coke (in bottles from mexico), sprite, beer, and shots of hard liquor.

I ordered a triple bypass and Gerd ordered a double bypass. We also got fries, which are deep fried in lard, are unlimited, and are sort of self-serve next to a nacho cheese pump. Gerd pushed down on the pump thingy and completely missed her fries, spraying cheese all over the bottom of the machine. Hilarious.

I picked up our sammiches and the guy told me “if you finish the triple, you get a ride from the waitress.” The burgers were enormous. Seriously, we had to get forks and knives to eat them. I wouldn’t have been able to fit it in my mouth. When I got back to our spot at the counter, the waitress said, “if you finish that, I’ll give you a dance and ride out to your car.” I was half tempted to leave just one tiny bite so it wouldn’t happen, but come on, I had to have the whole experience, right? Then she jumped up on the counter next to us while we were eating and started talking to us. Gerd later questioned how many OSHA regulations were violated by having nearly exposed stripper bits on our counter.

I destroyed my burger. I impressed myself a little bit. I also found out later that the burger alone was about 6000 calories (seriously), and that didn’t include all the cheese covered fries I ate. The burger was honestly delicious. I would have been impressed by the size, but the flavor was actually good too. Quality meat and very juicy, so not overcooked like a lot of burgers. I would go here again and maybe get a single or a double.

There are also pictures on the wall of people who have finished the quadruple bypass, listed with their time of completion. Now THAT is a serious burger. Apparently the record is 1:47. As in under TWO minutes. And he didn’t look like Kobiachi either. I would be impressed (and horrified) to see someone do that.

So when the waitress noticed I finished the whole thing, she clapped all stripper like and then began to look nervous. I didn’t mention the dance or the ride to the car, and neither did she. I started to get worried. Was it going to happen? Was it a hoax? Apparently, either she had some previous bad experience or was new enough to the routine that she blew me off. We were almost out the door when I stopped and said, “hey can I get my ride now?” (How many times have I said that?). She nervously said, “To your car?” “Yes, I thought if I finished my triple, then I got a ride.” (I didn’t bring up the aforementioned “dance.”) Again, she seemed nervous as she turned to her fellow waitresses and gave some sort of weird signal and whispered, “This guy wants a ride in the wheel chair.”

Clearly this was something that didn’t happen regularly, so I said, “hey look, if this isn’t something that usually happens, maybe I can just get a photo in the wheelchair.” This apparently eased whatever fear she had about Gerd and I tag teaming her out in the Jeep Commander. So Gerd and I got a photo in front of the menu. Gerd in front of the Double Bypass she ate, and me in front of the Triple Bypass I ate.
Then I got my photo in the wheel chair. Notice the cheese pump in the background and the SIGN that says I get a ride to my car if I finish the triple bypass

Here is the artwork in the bathroom. I almost didn't notice it, but it's hilarious.

We both left completely stuffed. It was a good decision to go here and not the healthier decision that was our backup. I would recommend this place not just for the experience, but for the actual food. It was really good.

Top 5 things about the Heart Attack Grill
1. Triple Bypass
2. Naughty Nurses
3. Unlimited fries cooked in lard covered in pump cheese
4. No diet soda
5. Naughty Nurses (how did that get on here twice?)

Bottom 5 things
1. Standard issue stripper perfume (from what I hear… er… smell…)
2. Conversational sitting on the counter next to you while you’re trying to eat
3. Bathroom was separated into stripper and non-stripper stalls
4. Gerd told me to put “no diet pop” – seriously?
5. Bald-faced lies about dancing and wheelchair rides out to the car for finishing a 6000 burger

Heart Attack Grill

Vacation - Day 8 – Show Low to Phoenix

My PLAN was to get up freakishly early and play one of the disc golf courses in Show Low at the crack of dawn. The fact, that I didn’t have anything heavier than a hoodie combined with the fact that I had a long drive in front of me nixed that plan. Oh well. Next time. We got a much later start than we had wanted to.

We did a quick tour of Show Low for Gerd, so she could see it in the daylight. It was bigger than she thought it would be, but still wasn’t impressed enough to look through the real estate ads. The drive out of town to the west was much less winding, but was also more snow covered. Not dangerous, but still a lot of snow and ice on the road.

We got into Phoenix with about an hour to spare before we had to return the rental car and check in for our flight. We had three different restaurants Gerd had researched for us, but we could only do one of them. We picked the Heart Attack Grill.

I will do a separate review of the heart attack grill – there are soooo many things to talk about there, so it deserves its own entry (TWSS).

We left the Heart Attack Grill completely stuffed and headed to Phoenix International Sky Harbor Airport. The rental area is really well layed out with each rental company having it’s own corridor of cones and cement tunnels to follow. The guy met us outside the thrifty booth and since he had his computer thingy read our license plate number, he said, “Mr. Jansen, right?” (I changed Gerd’s last name to protect her privacy/integrity/whatever). I said “nope.” He had a bizarre accent and it sounded nothing like Gerd’s last name. Gerd shouted, “Yes, actually that IS us.” Apparently she’s had her commonplace name butchered enough times, she recognized it. The Thrifty guy looked at me funny and then opened my door for me to get out of his car (which he now thought was stolen, I’m sure).

We whipped through checkin, then we whipped through security, then we whipped through the concourse to our gate. We sat next to these people hawking credit card applications who were really pushy. Gerd was mocking them openly (and loudly, I might add) and steering people away from those people. It was actually pretty funny. She wanted to set up a competing booth and give away starbursts or something to keep those credit card people’s clutches off of unsuspecting travelers.

We eventually made it onto the plane and home to Minneapolis. While waiting for our luggage there was a guy doing the most hilarious stretching exercises in the baggage area. He was making these hilarious grandiose movements and we were cracking up. Then another guy (who was only there to pick up his wife - not actually sitting on the plane for 3 hours like the rest of us) stood near him and also started stretching. Apparently they were in the stretching zone of the baggage area. Again, hilarious. No problems getting our luggage or grabbing a taxi home. However, when we did get home, we had to shovel 4 inches of snow off of our sidewalks. Let’s see, the last 24 hours: 32 degrees in Show Low, 70 degrees in Phoenix, and then 18 degrees in Minneapolis. Serious fluctuations in temperature…

Great vacation, then back to work the following day… sigh…


Top 5 things about vacation day 8
1. Heart Attack Grill
2. Super fast airport experience
3. Rental car area of airport
4. Much less winding drive going west FROM Show Low
5. Stretching guys

Bottom 5 things
1. Vacation was over
2. No disc golf
3. Snow on the ground to shovel
4. Credit card folks at airport
5. D-bag on the plane next to Gerd

Friday, December 12, 2008

Vacation - Day 7 – Show Low, AZ

I woke up early enough to play some disc golf in Marana. Marana Rock park is basically a river flood basin, so at certain points when the river has water in it, the course is underwater. I think it’s a great course and I didn’t expect much with 9 baskets. You play the front nine and then you play a modified version in reverse order. Great use of elevation and trees. On the last hole, I threw the drive over the flood culvert towards the basket – brilliant shot if I do say so myself. I walked up to it and noticed the culvert was washed away where I needed to walk. Like, straight dangerous. So I hopped in my car and drove into the residential neighborhood and walked across the park to take my putt for birdie (I actually made it – go me).

I drove back and picked up Gerd and hit the road for Show Low. But on the way out of town, Gerd suggested we stop at Brundog’s Zy-De-Que, a Cajun barbeque place we kept driving past that looked closed, but wasn’t. Seriously, it looked closed and partially under construction. Amazing BBQ at this place. We’ll be back for sure. If you drive past it, stop in, even if it looks like it’s closed. Awesome ribs, pulled pork, and brisket. I got something called the Sandwich of the Future. I had to order it because it came with gravy – and 2008 is the year of gravy (only in my book)(next year’s is even better). Awesome pork loin sammich with a peppery gravy on it.

Up into the winding mountains we went. We saw a sign saying there were daytime delays in Globe where we would have gone through to continue on to Show Low. We kept driving and saw another one, even bigger. We took the detour and headed into mining country. Superior and Miami are beat up mining towns. Seriously beat-ass mining towns. But the hillsides were multi-colored from the processed materials they spit out. Copper, Silver, and Gold mining country. Neat to see, despite the 45-minute detour. And now, Gerd and I are thinking of making it a point to visit every city in the country named Superior. Might be fun.

Got to Show Low right at dark, called the family and arranged for the dinner hookup – Did I mention there were 4 inches of snow? We dropped by my aunt and uncle’s house and met my other cousin there – I haven’t seen him in like 15 years. We got caught up and made introduction of Gerd and also their dogs. We headed to one of like 4 restaurants in the town (there’s probably more than that, but Show Low is a pretty small town). It was a Mexican restaurant with scarily few Mexicans working the floor. Licano’s Mexican food and steakhouse. We got great service and actually the food was pretty good (much better than most places in Minneapolis). I had a chimichanga and Gerd had an enchilada and a taco. Everything was great. We sat around and told stories. Then when we shut the place down (they close early up in those parts), we headed back to the relatives’ house to tell even more stories.

We got to see my aunt spoil her dogs by warming up their food in the microwave and then giving them half a million treats. Gerd was loving it (and probably thinking “see, I’m don’t spoil my dog THAT bad”). We had to leave because I was rather tired from all the driving. We headed back to our hotel room and realized I had forgotten to give my aunt all of the bags of randomness my cousin had me bring up from Tucson. I called my aunt and told her we were headed back. Classic Chao forgetfulness.

Once we got back to the hotel we decided to hit the hot tub (did we mention there were like 6 other cars in the parking lot when we got back?). Really nice hot tub and not at all creepy. We were the only ones for miles. We took a quick dip and headed back to the room to crash with the TV on. Ha ha. We were seriously beat.

Top 5 things
1. Zy-De-Que
2. Got to see even more relatives around the holidays!
3. Hot tub wind-down
4. Licano’s Mexican food and steakhouse
5. Marana Rock Park disc golf course

Bottom 5 things
1. Detour through mining country
2. Windy cliff-face roads don’t get along with my extreme motion sickness, even when driving
3. Forgot the packages in my car and had to drive back
4. 4 inches of snow
5. It’s a pretty long drive to Show Low to begin with… from ANYWHERE

Marana Rock DGC
Brundog’s Zy-De-Que

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Vacation - Day 6 – Tucson, AZ – aka Gerd’s Birthday

Generally on Gerd’s Birthday, my only duty is to drive her around to do whatever she wants, and hold out the credit card when the time comes. Today would be no different, except we wouldn’t be near home nor near her favorite restaurants. We would have to make due.

We woke up too late to eat breakfast, so I avoided that bullet. Ha ha ha. I was also told I would not be playing disc golf, so she avoided a bullet herself. Well played, friend.

We headed to downtown Tucson to check it out. We heard the 4th Avenue area of downtown has some cool shopping and food places. We also heard it may not be as happening on a Monday as a lot of the places use that day as a day off of working. Most places were open though. It wasn’t a thriving metropolis of shopping, but it was interesting to walk around there. We already knew we were going to El Charro, so we were only walking around trying to get hungry for this lunch-time adventure.

Gerd found this place online and found about a billion reviews all saying it was the best. And they weren’t lying. El Charro claims to have invented the chimichanga and I won’t dispute it. It was amazing. Their claim to fame is some sort of beef which they dry on the roof of the building and then shred. It’s called Carne Seca, and you NEED to get this if you go there. Best chimichanga I’ve ever had. I also got a sampler kind of thing called Enchiladas Banderas and discovered the best shredded chicken enchilada I’ve ever eaten. This place is incredible. We had their special margaritas complete with a Grand Marnier float which were amazing. I apologize for the bluriness of the photos, but you should get the point.


We had heard about this steak place called McMahon’s while researching restaurants on line. Gerd likes to eat steak on her birthday, so we needed to find someplace classy for her. We overheard some random guy in El Charro talking to the waitress about McMahan's Steakhouse, so Gerd turns around and starts talking to him about it. Apparently, it was one of the VPs of the company that owns McMahon’s. Really nice guy. He even offered to make a reservation for us. We politely declined, but when Gerd mentioned it was her birthday, he bought her some birthday flan. It was also awesome and neither of us really like flan that much. We’re converted flan fans.

We drove to the Foothills Mall and checked things out there. We did some light window shopping and bought Gerd a couple of things. She had recently seen Twilight, but wanted to see it again, so we dropped in and caught a matinee. Great vampire film and it’s no wonder she wanted to see it a second time. I’d recommend it. We then drove to La Encantada – a really fancy mall. It was pretty classy. We didn’t buy anything there, except gelato, but it was fun to walk around. We were killing time until our reservation at 8pm at McMahon’s.

We tried to kill time by finding a minigolf place. However, this one was super scary and super closed forever. The internet says people loved the scary tackiness of it, but I was bummed it was closed.

We drove home to change into nicer clothes and then headed out to McMcahons. It was really classy. The waitress however told us that Rodney, the sommelier, would help us pick out a bottle of wine. However, she pronounced it like salmonelliay – as if he was some harbinger of disease. Hilarious. Rodney was awesome and very down to earth. We knew what we wanted, we just wanted him to decide for us. Besides, they had a 70+ page wine list - THAT's serious. Gerd had a Bone-In Filet Mignon and I had a full rack of lamb. Both were incredible. Super tasty and flavorful. The potato Gerd had was perfect as were the Scalloped potatoes I got. We got a nice Malbec to accompany dinner and thanked Rodney for his recommendation. The place was louder than a lot of restaurants we’ve been in but there were a lot of large groups there. We would both heartily recommend McMahon’s Prime Steakhouse.

We drove home to partake in some boat drinks with the cousin. Her boyfriend calls girly drinks boat drinks. I think girly drinks is a more descriptive term, but whatever. They’re both fruity and tasty. Gerd fell asleep before she finished hers, so the cousin and I made sure her drink got disposed of properly… heh heh heh.

Top 5 things
1. Best Mexican food ever – El Charro
2. My cousin had a birthday cake for Gerd
3. Got to see Twilight
4. Got some new Wii games
5. Awesome Malbec from Argentina

Bottom 5 things
1. Salmonelliay
2. Scary mini-golf place was closed
3. Gerd is another year closer to being old like Chao
4. No cool shirts in our sizes at El Charro
5. Downtown Tucson

http://www.elcharro.com
http://www.metrorestaurants.com/restaurants/ms-restaurant.htm

Vacation - Day 5 – San Diego to Tucson

We woke up much later than anticipated. The long drive home left us exhausted and we needed to sleep in. We packed up the truck and said our goodbyes to the dog and our friends. We heard about this awesome grocery store in La Jolla called Bristol Farms. It’s a super fancy grocery store. It was awesome. Best grocery store ever. Gerd walked past the carrots and said, “those look so good, I want to buy them and it’s like 10am!” All of the meat and produce looked like it could be in a picture. Just beautiful. Go here if you get a chance. We grabbed some donuts and cookies and went out to the car.

On the way out to the car, we saw a McDonalds. Both Gerd and I love McDonalds breakfast, so even though we had just gotten road donuts, we swung through McDonalds for our Sausage and Egg McMuffins. We also noticed on their regular menu, they had ANGUS burgers, which looked amazing. Hey Mickey D’s, I don’t see that top notch stuff in Minneapolis! What gives?

Gerd needed to stop at In and Out Burger in Arizona, so we planned a stop in Yuma, AZ. I wasn’t impressed, but the concept is cool. The only thing they have is burgers, fries, cokes, and shakes. Gerd thought it was awesome though. Go Gerd.
We saw some dune buggies and four wheelers out in the desert sand dunes which was pretty sweet. But the nicest part about the Arizona stretch is that the speed limit is 75mph. Wurd.

We made a quick stop in Oro Valley on our way to Tucson. My friend from San Diego’s mother lives there and I hadn’t seen her in years. She’s the most wonderful lady. Seriously, I miss her a lot. Her new house is beautiful and I wish we could have stayed longer. But my cousin in Tucson had made us dinner. Next time.

We arrived at my cousin’s house, whom I haven’t seen in like 5 years, so after shoveling food into our maws, we sat around and got caught up with my cousin, her boyfriend, and her daughter. It’s so nice to get caught up with family you haven’t seen in a while. Especially when they’re as fun as my cousin is. She rules. All kinds of family crap talking, gossip, catching up, hilarious stories about who’s mom beat who more, etc. Awesome. We stayed up late, but since some people staying there had to work (aka NOT us), we hit the sack for a full day of Gerd’s birthday.

Top 5 things about vacation day 5
1. Bristol Farms
2. Seeing my cousin
3. Seeing my friend’s mom
4. Speed limit 75
5. Gerd says In and Out Burgers

Bottom 5 things
1. Seemingly endless drive including a time change
2. No angus burgers at McDonalds in Minnesota
3. Whole lot of nuthin in many places along this route
4. Periodic random border patrol stops along the way
5. Wished I could have spent more time with my friend’s mom

Vacation - Day 4 – San Diego, CA

We awoke without hangovers – always a good sign. We grabbed breakfast at the Eggery – a place our friends thought would suit us well. We will admit we were a tad bummed we didn’t get to eat on the water like one of the party people recommended to us, but the food was fine, so we’re not complaining at all. We took a quick walk on the boardwalk of the beach. Mostly this was because Gerd tried to buy a Dew at the mini mart next to the restaurant and then flipped out because it was taking too long. She hadn’t had a Dew in a like two days and she was at the end of the rope. We found a 7-11 for her and things were fine after that. Did I mention I hate sand but love bikinis? – That’s so tough for me to handle… ha ha ha.

We hopped in the Commander and drove to some cross on a hill. I don’t remember what it was or what it stood for, but I knew mom would be happy we did it. Then we drove to some really cool and open public park with a view. People were barbequing and it smelled awesome.

Gerd and I then drove to Encinitas to my friend Jill’s house. I got Encinitas Mixed up with Escondido – not a smart move, dingleberry. On the way, Gerd and I had the continuation of the pee-wee golf challenge, this time at Pelly’s Mini-golf at the Del Mar Golf Center. It was supposed to be a super cool miniature golf course, but it ended up being kind of lame. Although, I did win by a LARGE margin after dropping a couple holes-in-one.

Jill’s got a LARGE American bulldog who drools and talks. He’ll make the most hilarious talking noises and we all kept laughing. Apparently Jill’s BF doesn’t like it when he talks, but we kept doing it anyway since it was funny. The dog is also allergic to everything – lamb, chicken, rice, skittles, small children. So he got a healthy dose of hamburger and carrots for dinner. Looked kind of tasty actually.

Jill is in a band, so we went to go see her practice in Oceanside. She plays in a warehouse behind a sports bar – the Tremont Street Grill, so we ate there. I had a Cajun burger and some Cajun fries and Gerd ended up with a salad of some sort. The food was pretty good for bar food, but I don’t know if I’d go out of my way to eat there. Gerd mentioned the bartender had a nice rack (I TOLD you I was putting that in here) – I of course didn’t notice (wink, wink).

We watched band practice for a couple of hours – they were working in a new drummer (who was hilarious). They played mostly covers and couple of originals. It was a long day and Gerd was falling asleep – as was Jill’s BF. The band is a great bunch of guys – just need a couple more practices under their belt before they hit the big time. The best part was they were older guys and they were drinking drinks that made MY drinks look manly. Like Mandarin Vodka and Raspberry Mike’s Lemonade. Ha ha ha.

We took the scenic route home on Pacific Coast Highway, even though it was dark. It was still a beautiful drive home. Quaint little beach towns and some neat shopping areas interspersed with areas with LOTS of money.

Top 5 things
1. Bikinis
2. I rule at mini golf
3. Pacific Coach Highway – even in the dark
4. Got to see Jill
5. Jill’s band’s drummer is hilarious

Bottom 5 things
1. Still the sand thing
2. Peewee golf place
3. Gerd’s Dew freakout
4. Didn’t get to eat breakfast on the water
5. Encinitas is not just a mispronunciation of Escondido

http://www.delmargolfcenter.com/minigolf.htm
http://www.tremontstreetbarandgrill.com

Vacation - Day 3 – San Diego, CA

We woke up early so we could play some disc golf in the morning before the course got busy. Morley Field is something of a legend in the disc golf world, mostly because it’s been around for a really long time. Gerd got to play with Annie Kremmel, two-time woman’s Masters WORLD Champion disc golfer for the first part of the round. Annie was hilarious and made the funniest comments to her doubles partner who was playing with us. However, I was unimpressed with the course. It had some decent elevation changes, but I never ever felt completely safe anywhere on the course due to the criss-crossing fairways.

There were tons and tons of people out practicing the course for the tournament the following day (which we didn’t know anything about). It must have been a pretty large tournament since I saw like 5 TOP pro players out there I recognized. Val and Avery, Burl, and a couple of other who looked familiar (those of you who golf know who I’m talking about). I think it was their yearly team tournament they have out there for top players who qualify. I played about average for my current game, so I can’t complain. A couple of good shots, a couple of stupid shots, but mostly average shots.

We left the course, came home and showered, and then headed to El Indio for some awesome Mexican food. Gerd had done considerable food research before we left Minnesota, and this restaurant kept rising to the surface. You order at the counter and get a buzzer and go find your table. We got some chips which were fried (of course), but also had some sort of magic dust on them which was awesome. It almost seemed like a enchilada red sauce, but in powder form.

I got the Mortiditas, which are taquitos cut up for you and then layered with cheese. Unfortunately, it was pump nacho cheese, not real shredded cheese, but it was still good. I also got a carne asada burrito and a chicken taco. Gerd had a couple of carne asada enchiladas. Truly, this place was worth going to. It makes us want to spit on Minnesota Mexican food (figuratively, not literally).

We then headed to the lighthouse on the small strip of land between the bay and the ocean. It was beautiful out (a tad windy though). We checked out the light house and then went down to the cliff edge and walked near the tidepools. It was high tide, so we couldn’t see much in the way of ocean creatures, but it was still awesome.

While we were there, a group of people came to the edge of the rocks and I wasn’t paying attention to them. I looked over at them because my friend had a weird expression on her face when she saw them. I looked over at them just in time to see one of them dumping a REALLY large bag of ashes into the water – or more correctly, watch the ashes catch the breeze and go straight into my eyes!!! Gerd didn’t see any of it until we were walking back up the rocks and my eyes were watering. She thought I meant cigarette ashes in my eyes, but I told her, “No. It was pure Columbian Grandma in my eyes.” We were all cracking up at my inappropriateness. And my friend said, “I think it was more than just grandma – might have been a few cousins in that bag. My dad’s ashes were way smaller than that bag.” Again, we’re all going to hell.

We finished the night at a party thrown by my friend. She invited a ton of people including hanging flyers on every door in her apartment building. We had a blast. We went through 12 bottles of wine. Gerd fell asleep on the couch, but I stuck it out through the whole night, including through many hours of Jerry Garcia on the DVD player. Sigh… On a good note, I now have a ton of new wine I need to buy for our house!

Top 5 things
1. El Indio
2. Lighthouse point and tidepools
3. Pinotage and Malbec wines
4. Party in my honor
5. Got to play with nationally ranked disc golfers (and didn’t embarrass myself)

Bottom 5 things
1. Jerry Garcia
2. Grandma’s ashes in my eye
3. Morley Field
4. Gerd crashed early, like a pansy
5. Explaining to people that there are famous disc golfers

http://www.el-indio.com

Friday, December 5, 2008

Vacation - Day 2 - San Diego, CA

Got up early (like 9am) (actually 11am Central Time) and hit the shower. Gerd had some issues actually turning on the shower. I admit when I went to help, I couldn’t figure it out either. I had to ask for help. Apparently, I wasn’t pulling on it hard enough (TWSS). I had nightmares of pulling the handle off the shower wall and spending the remainder of the day bailing water. Fortunately, that didn’t happen and we got clean in due time.

We wanted to check out the beach, so we took the dog to the dog beach. Apparently, dogs aren’t allowed on most beaches, so there’s a designated one. It ruled. There were tons of dog splaying fetch and playing in the ocean and sniffing each others’ butts and digging in the sand. Super awesome environment if you’ve got a dog in San Diego.

Our friend wanted to show us the sunset cliffs which we were glad we saw. Sheer cliffs with multi-million dollar houses on the other side of the street. It was really a classy place. The cliffs were super cool and because it was high tide, there were places completely covered in water which usually aren’t and there were surfers all over the place hopping off the cliffs into the water to go out and find waves. Really cool.

Then the dog fell asleep with his head against the back seat. This guy can fall asleep anywhere - as demonstrated here:

We headed back home after a tour of the neighborhoods. Really quaint area and really classy in most spots. We got home, got a tour of the apartment pool, garage, and Jacuzzi, grabbed a change of clothes and headed to the zoo – after we found lunch.

We stopped by a Der Weinerschnitzel. We used to have one back in Illinois where I’m from and a lot of my friends still talk about it regularly. It’s basically a hot dog/corn dog/chili-cheese-fry joint, but it always had awesome and weird combinations. I ended up with a pastrami cheese dog and chili-cheese fries, and Gerd got a corn dog, a bacon-cheese dog, and a root beer float. Great food, and the photos I sent back to my friends angered them sufficiently.

We hit the zoo and had a blast of a day. I won’t even get into some of the awesome animals we saw, bu we saw everything. All of the zoo staff were friendly and patient and helpful. We saw some animals we were familiar with (pandas, tigers, giraffes, monkeys) and some that we are now fans of (Fossas, Dik Diks, and Okapis). Cool tour bus ride around the park, cool animal shows, and habitats made for the perfect day. Gerd had some of the most hilarious lines. I’ll put one of the cleaner ones (and even that one isn’t that clean): Something about not being able to lactate Rum (although that would make for an awesome pirate adult film).



We headed home to meet the friends and to grab some dinner. They met us at the door with glasses of wine, which is how every trip away from someone’s house should result. They recommended a fantastic wine bar which sounded great to us. We walked what they assured me was within walking distance, but ended up being multiple miles. And they walk REALLY fast. After a hard day of walking at the zoo, we were moving much slower. They would stop and let us catch up occasionally, but since we had multiple miles to walk, we had plenty of chances to do so.

The wine bar was awesome. 3rd Street Corner is a great place to both grab some food and some great wine. They let me pick out a bottle from the cellar and I got great kudos for picking out a nice white wine from Santa Barbara. Not too sweet and not to dry. Everyone seemed pleased. We got some olives and a really nice fancy artisan cheese plate. Gerd got a nice Mahi Mahi and I got a roasted chicken pasta. Gerd’s Mahi tasted great and was on a bed of awesome vegetables. Gerd was torn between that and the NY Strip, but being this close to the coast, she went with the better option. Well played, lady. The chicken pasta was really good – not the best I’ve had, but really good nonetheless. And yes, thanks for asking, it DID have bacon in it! I would get it again. Actually, I’d get something different and go back to the chicken pasta eventually. We finished with some dessert and cognac, which was a great finish to dinner.

We headed home to drink another bottle or two of wine and watched some tv before hitting the sack. Now THAT was a vacation day to remember. Perfect day.

Top 5 things about vacation day 2
1. Fassos
2. Lots of wine
3. Dog beach
4. Sunset Cliffs
5. Der Weinerschnitzel (aka angering friends)

Bottom 5 things
1. Wish I was rich enough to own a home on Sunset Cliffs
2. Miles of walking after miles of walking
3. We totally shut down the zoo – last ones there. Bummer.
4. Only got to see the panda for like 60 seconds
5. Shower handle issue

Vacation - Day 1 - San Diego, CA

Gerd and I needed a break, so we put together a trip to the Southwest. I’ve got friends in San Diego and family in Arizona, so we thought we’d see each and have a relaxing time. We headed out of Minneapolis on the 3rd after work. It was a really hot flight down to Phoenix – like people were complaining about how hot it was on the flight. It was bad. We survived but only barely ha ha. No problems on the flight aside from the temp and no problems on the flight from Phoenix to San Diego.

Well, mostly. When we showed up at the gate, there weren't any airport staff to meet us at the SD airport. The pilots got on the PA and said we’re here on time, but no one is here. Literally, we waited like 10 minutes for someone to show up on the skyway. It took three people to figure out how to move the thing. Apparently they were all new or “it wasn’t their job.” In fact, when they did, they didn’t know how to stop it once started and it rammed the side of the plane. Classic.

We hopped on the rental car shuttle. As Gerd is getting on the shuttle, the driver yells at her, "Break it down! Break it down! Break it down!" I turned around to see if she was egging on some of Gerd's famous dance moves, but apparently, Gerd was getting the riot act for not putting her handle on her rolling luggage down before getting on the shuttle. Chill out lady shuttle driver!

We grabbed a rental car from Thirty and they didn’t have a compact (the cheapest) available that we could drop off in Phoenix on the 10th. So we ended up with a Jeep Commander for the week. Awesome!!! It took us a while at the rental place due to some computer glitches and then issues with me trying to find the window button and then the door handle when we went to check out. But it was dark, right?

We used the GPS feature on my new Blackberry Storm to find our friends house. I hadn’t met my friend’s new husband, but we missed their wedding in August, so this was part of why we planned the trip in the first place – guilt. We made it to the house and met the new husband. Great guy. I would have liked him no matter what since he married my friend, but I actually really like the guy. We talked and got caught up and played with the dog – in general a fantastic start to the vacation.

We stayed up way too late talking and drinking wine, but it was a good thing, since I’m a bad sleeper anyway. We had a full day planned for Thursday, so we needed our beauty sleep.

Top 5 things about vacation day 1
1. No work!
2. Jeep Commander at a compact car price
3. GPS finding our way for us
4. Wine at the end of vacation day 1
5. My friends RULE!

Bottom 5 things
1. Super hot flight
2. Long delay at rental car place
3. My ineptitude of opening windows or doors of vehicles
4. Airport workers ineptitude at driving a skyway
5. Time changes make us sleepy at odd times

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Fat Nat's Eggs - New Hope, MN

We have a fairly big list of breakfast places in the area to try and last weekend we decided to go for Fat Nat’s. It helped that we had a coupon of course. We arrived and put in our name and waited about 15 minutes for a table. This was the perfect amount of time to peruse City Pages looking for shows, and spy on other people’s tables to see what looked good. Fat Nat’s has a bit of a diner vibe in one room and the other is full of tables and chairs. The décor wasn’t anything exciting except random signage was nailed to one wall advertising daily specials and other menu features.

I knew straight off from scoping out other people’s food I had to get some American fries. I ordered a scramble of American fries, eggs, cheese, and ham. It was fairly basic but REALLY good. It was served with toast with the smallest amount of butter possible. Maybe the toast butterer was having a bad day. I, of course, located additional butter and remedied the situation. Chao ordered one of the specials consisting of two pork chops, eggs, American fries and toast. His pork (ha ha ha) was a tiny bit spicy and really good. He was picking something green out of his fries, maybe chives? Other than that his breakfast was really good as well.

This place is affordable and the food is excellent. We will most likely return - after the rest of our list is complete, of course. There is another location of this restaurant in Brooklyn Park.

Top 5:
1.American fries were fantastic.
2.Lots of cheese in the scramble thing.
3.Pork chops were super good.
4.Affordable.
5.The staff was super friendly and our waitress was awesome.

Bottom 5:
1.Little to no butter on toast.
2.Whatever green things Chao was picking out of his taters.
3.Décor could be snazzier but I am not complaining.
4.Not a lot of room when waiting for your table.
5.Location is a bit out of the way for us.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Chapala – Waterloo, IA

We were driving home from Illinois when we got hungry for meskin food. As we’ve said, it’s pretty hit or miss in the Twin Cities, so we figured we’d eat it when we saw someplace good. We’d driven by this place a few times (it’s just off of US 218) and it always seemed busy and didn’t seem all fancified – a sure sign it was a good place to eat. Plus, there was a chubby statue of liberty inflatable yard thing out in front of the store next door and I had to get a close up. Ha ha.

The place is decorated really nicely. The tables are seemingly hand painted then lacquered, so they all had a unique feel to them. The walls are painted like large stones and had big pillars in the doorways so it could easily be converted into a sort of greek restaurant if they needed to. We got seated right behind this guy with a hilariously terrible mullet in a pony tail. It was like a train wreck – I couldn’t look away.

The staff were super nice and helpful and we decided to eat light so we didn’t fall asleep on the rest of the drive back home. We got a cheese crisp and a chimichanga. The cheese crisp was really big and had multiple kinds of cheeses on it. It was one of the best we’ve ever had (also they don’t have cheese crisps in the Twin Cities – weird). The chimichanga was filled with shredded beef which was cooked in some awesome sauce. REALLY flavorful and one of the better shredded beef concoctions I’ve had. The beans and rice were fairly standard, but were good.

We would eat here again, fo sure. The menu was really large and had some good combinations on it. And since know they have Dew, it’s moved up the ladder of restaurants in Waterloo.

Top 5 things about Chapala
1. Cheese crisp
2. Shredded beef
3. Dew
4. Staff were awesome
5. Large menu

Bottom 5 things
1. Lots of poorly dressed (and hairstyled) gringos
2. Salsa had a weird flavor (not bad but weird)
3. Girly drink menu was limited
4. Guacamole had a lot of onions
5. The restroom was oddly poltergeist-like, tall and skinny and bigger than it needed to be

No website

Orphan Thanksgiving – Minneapolis, MN

This year, Gerd and I were unable to go back to Illinois for thanksgiving, on account of having to work the Friday after the holiday. Instead, we were invited to “Orphan Thanksgiving” at M. and Trash Giant’s house along with other orphans. What we were supposed to bring changed like 12 times, but we eventually knew what we were supposed to bring.

We intended to hang out with the Giants the previous evening and then go home and make our food for reheating the next morning. Instead, we got involved in an epic battle of Rockband for the Wii for multiple hours and got home closer to 11pm. This was also when I found out we had to be back at the Giant’s house at 11am. Not sure why I was thinking in the 5pm range, but apparently that was faulty thinking on my part.

So at the crack of dawn, we set out making the cheesey potatoes (double batch as requested by Trash) and corn casserole for the lunch-ish thanksgiving meal. Actually, I slept until about 9, and then made my corn casserole – ha ha ha. Our kitchen now looks like something with batter innards blew up in it, but whatever, we made brilliant cheese-infused food for many people to enjoy.

Before lunch/dinner, I kept mis-hearing the word "corn" and hearing "porn" instead. Subsequently, I was required to run interference with M. Edium in the den. We colored space shuttles (I haven’t colored in over 25 years), and then cut them out (my cutting skills still rule – it’s like riding a bike). Then we built launch pads for said rockets out of blocks. Then we built a wall to the den, which Bitter’s boyfriend knocked over like Godzilla, much to M. Edium’s chagrin. Who knew kids that young even had chagrin?!

Eventually, we had a great time eating copious amounts of food, including an awesome turkey made by a recently-converted former-vegetarian. We all sat around the table, except for trash who sat by herself (apparently on time-out) at the bar/island. It was an awesome time. Everyone spoke plain English (a rarity when your family comes from Alabama like mine), only one roll was thrown (nice shot, Bitter), and I didn’t take my pants off because I ate too much – all in all, a winner of a holiday for everyone.

We then retired to the basement for some follow-up Wii action. A LOT of Wii action, including Rockband, and two pointless games – Cooking Mama and Order Up. Both cooking games. Both steeped in moronitude. Then when Bitter’s boyfriend returned we watched Noah’s Ark with John Voight. It’s the worst movie ever made, and Trash forces MANY people to watch it. (So you know, the writers of the movie took “poetic license” with the Bible – clearly, they’ll burn in some sort of fabricated CGI Hell for so many reasons.) Gerd hadn’t seen it, so she sulked through the entire thing. We tried to make it enjoyable for her, but she wasn’t having it.

We ended up going home quite late which kind of bit since we had to work the next day. But alas, we survived and came home with hilarious stories.

Top 5 things about Orphan Thanksgiving
1. Best hosts and friends EVER
2. Watching Trash’s face when she touched turkey (she’s a vegetarian)
3. First Thanksgiving in 30 years I wasn’t forced to watch football
4. First Thanksgiving in 15 years I wasn’t required to be at multiple houses and eat full meals at each one
5. Hearing people wax poetic about their usual distaste for southern Californian wine but sudden change of heart

Bottom 5 things
1. I did miss my family, and I KNOW Gerd did as well
2. There wasn’t a “bad kids” table – where I usually sit
3. The Halloween candy bucket was severely depleted…
4. Bitter had to go to work that afternoon, so she had to leave early
5. Ate too much, as usual

Chicago Bears vs. Minnesota Vikings - Minneapolis, MN

We went to the Bears vs. Vikings game last Sunday at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. I went to cheer on the Bears, Chao went to cheer for football as he doesn't have a favorite team. We parked about 6 blocks away and walked to the dome. It was a cold walk but worth it. We entered the dome and got in line for some food. While waiting in line, we noticed several clusters of Bears fans through the sea of people. It was hilarious because they would high five other Bears fans who were clearly strangers, and some were singing the Bears fight song. No, I didn't join in. You can ask Chao, I don't know the words when I try to sing it. At Soldier Field they are always up on the screen so I have not needed to memorize them before, but I guess I might need to now.

2 hot dogs, a brat, random chips, nachos, and 2 sodas later, we were in our seats chowing down. We were in the 4th row from the back in the uppermost deck of the dome. Even though we were up fairly high, we could see the field pretty well. We watched all of the pregame stuff including the Vikings entrance through an inflatable Viking ship which was funny to watch.

I won't talk much about the game because I am reviewing the experience of being at the game rather than revisiting the unpleasantness of losing. We had several Bears fans in our section and on the rare occasions when we did do something well, it was fun to be cheering alongside fellow fans. There were Bears fans in front of us, and I had my Bears sweatshirt on so I think they identified us both as Bears fans. One of the guys in the group turned around in excitement and prepared to high-five Chao, but Chao, not rooting for a specific team, and wearing a nondescript metal hoodie, and hating high-fives, glared at him to shoot down the upcoming display of camaraderie. On the couple of occasions the Bears did score, choruses of the Bears fight song could be heard throughout the dome. All sung by those who know the words of course. The Vikings had their fight song too, which included the word "skol." We didn't know what this meant so I hopped on my new Blackberry and read all about the fight song from Wikipedia. Skol is like a toast, and the song was written in 1961. We would have guessed 1891 though as it sounds VERY old.

A serious highlight of the game for us was one of the beer vendors in our section. He was the best game vendor of all time. He greeted fans with unique salutations such as, "Does anyone else need a beer besides me?" and "Who else is drinking tonight?" and our personal favorite, "Overpriced beer here!" He was also handing cards to random people purchasing beer. Chao said they were his business card so I don't know what that was all about, but I was intrigued.

There were several points during the game when Chao caught me in a state of confusion about something the cheerleaders were doing. There were some off on their own doing a different dance at times as if they were their own renegade cheerleading faction. One of their big dances between quarters was a girl-singer cover of Sharp Dressed Man originally by ZZ Top and the mascot had changed into a tux and danced with them. I couldn't figure out how this related to football, or getting the crowd excited. It just weirded me out.

Best overheard fan comment of the night was a guy singing, "Save a horse, ride a Bears fan." SOO pathetic yet it made me giggle.

Top 5:
1. Getting to cheer for the Bears when they aren't the home team is really fun.
2. Best beer vendor of all time.
3. Lots of other Bear fans.
4. Game hot dogs (Wrigley's are better though...)!
5. After the game the song, "The Night Chicago Died" by Paper Lace played over the speakers and even though it was meant to rub in the loss, I love that song so I got to sing along as we left.

Bottom 5:
1. The Bears lost.
2. I couldn't hear what any of the penalties were for and was confused several times.
3. Every time the Vikings did something well, the "Vikings horn" sounds and that was annoying. I could understand if it went off after scoring, but even first downs would require the horn.
4. The large scoreboard would sometimes go away so random families and large groups could be thanked for coming in that space. I would look over there if I forgot what down it was and get super pissed off because we were all welcoming the fricking Jacobs Family which is NOT as important as knowing if it was the 2nd or 3rd down. Seriously! Send them a damn thank you card!
5. Hot dogs and brats come with a bag of chips and this is the only way they are offered. Unless you get the cheap hot dog which is half the size of the bun. Also, I had to drink out of a Vikings cup. Next time I will bring a Bears cup from home or a cover to hide the Vikings crap.

Chicago Bears

Metrodome

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Midtown Global Market - Minneapolis, MN

The Midtown Global Market is basically an indoor international food mall. There are a couple of full-service restaurants inside, food court-type eateries, and various international groceries, food stands, and other miscellaneous items for sale. I took Chao here as a surprise after getting a recommendation for authentic Mexican food from a coworker. We arrived and entered the building and I was surprised by how much stuff was there. The market spaces for each vendor were fairly open and scattered throughout a large warehouse space. Some of the vendor spaces were nicely arranged and some were fairly unorganized and looked a bit messy. The place had interesting character though.

We headed towards the center of the market to find the Mexican place I was searching for. It is called, “Taquería Los Ocampo.” We ordered something small to split at the counter there and then while we were waiting for our food we were offered samples from the guy working at Safari Express. The samples were out of this world so we ordered some food there to split as well.

At Safari Express we ordered Beef Solan and Chicken Curry which came with fantastic rice. Safari Express features East African fast food. It was set up sort of like a Panda Express with the entrees in trays behind a counter. The Beef Solan was a bit spicy for me so Chao ate most of that and I had the Chicken Curry. Both dishes were full of spice but not overly hot as one would experience eating chili peppers. Both dishes were sort of a stir fry with vegetables and sauce and the rice it was served with was red and super awesome. Really, I don’t know what we ate but I would definitely eat it again!

At Los Ocampo, we had ordered a huarache with steak. This is an oval shaped flatbread made with corn masa and topped with steak, tomatoes, onions, sour cream, avocado, and maybe some other stuff that I can’t remember. It was served with salsa and some type of runny guacamole. It was REALLY GOOD. Chao thought it was sort of bland but I didn’t think it was, although we did eat this after having the Safari Express food which was a bit spicier. We both agreed that it was probably the most authentic Mexican food we have had since moving to Minnesota.

We were going to venture further through our culinary tour of the market, but were getting full so we walked through and checked out some of the other places but didn’t eat anymore. We will definitely be heading back for Round 2 soon!

http://www.safariexpresstogo.com/

http://www.midtownglobalmarket.org/

Top 5:
1. It is a fun place to go to try new things.
2. Safari Express rules.
3. Authentic Mexican food.
4. The food is affordable.
5. Lots of parking in the ramp across the street.

Bottom 5:
1. Location is okay, but I wouldn't go here at night alone.
2. Atmosphere was strange but this might've been because it was later and some of the vendors were closed giving it a slightly creepy feel.
3. There is little to no bland food here so don't go if you are picky.
4. We got too full to try everything we wanted to.
5. No drive through window. :)

Moto-I - Minneapolis, MN

I read a review of the Moto-I in the Pioneer Press about a month ago. It's brand new and is getting fantastic reviews. Apparently, this is the United States’ only Japanese Sake brewery. It got a great write up, so I was intrigued. I’d never had sake I liked before, but the food items looked good and I’m always up for trying new things.

Just out of pure coincidence, my cousin e-mailed me and said he had a long layover in Minneapolis and wanted to hook up for a drink at his friends place in Uptown. You guessed it – the Moto-I. Sure, no problem at all. In fact, I was pretty excited. Plus I hadn’t seen my cousin in a couple of years, so I was looking forward to that as well. My cousin is Japanese, and he’s also an expert in sake – he’ll be opening up his own sake bar in San Francisco very soon. He knows what he’s talking about.


I’ll make this review quick since I intend to do a full-length review once I eat a full meal there. But for now, deal with the quick version. The atmosphere of this place is pretty slick. Very modern, but with a true Asian feel to it as well (I’m assuming as I haven’t been to Asia). Clean lines on the woodwork and just a classy place in general.

As I said, I’ve never had good sake, so I tried to nancy out of ordering sake. However, my cousin suggested I try a specific one (they are currently selling three varieties – soon to be 9), which had a hint of melon in it – the Junmai Nama. Plus the owner, Blake, was standing right there, so I complied. It was fabulous. Truly amazing. I got a fantastic history lesson about sake and the brewing process as well, which really helped. Apparently, I’m a sake fan.

We also had a couple of small plate appetizers before I had to get him back to the airport. I got a Hoisin pork bun and an order of Karaage. The pork bun was a traditional small bun with flavored shredded pork inside. It’s the most popular bun on the menu, but they all looked good. I figured I’d go with the majority vote here. It was super flavorful. I will get this again for sure, but maybe try one of each flavor, since they’re small. The Karaage is deep fried soy sauce marinated chicken with a dipping sauce sort of like hoisin. It was like lightly breaded chicken cubes. Amazing flavor, yet seemed simple.

While my cousin was in the restroom, I swiped a bite of his dried squid (twss). I’m not a fan, but I’m sure it was great. He was joking earlier about it, “So, how was Minnesota’s squid crop this year? Ha ha ha ha.”

There were about 30 things I would like to try on the menu, so I’ll be back for sure. They have small plates and full plates as well. The menu explains most of what’s on it in English, and the place setting has a very good description of the sakes they serve. Go to this place. You won’t be disappointed. Blake and his wife were great hosts and were glad to hear I would be back.

Top 5 things about Moto-I
1. Junmai Nama Sake
2. Hoisin Pork Bun
3. Karaage
4. Atmosphere/Ambience
5. James the bartender was awesome

Bottom 5 things
1. Still pretty new, so they’re working out some glitches (you can’t write “bugs” in a restaurant review)
2. Not well labeled on the outside (might be soon though) – it’s across from the Jungle Theater on Lyndale
3. I wish I had more time to eat a full meal
4. Three different menus – lunch, dinner, and late night – soon to be combined into one
5. My pronunciation of Japanese words – I butchered most things.

Moto-I.com

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Minnesota RollerGirls – Roy Wilkins Auditorium - St. Paul, MN

This is going to be a long post, since it was such an awesome night. We sent out eVites to like 50 people trying to get people fired up about this sport. We got a couple of positive responses, so we were thrilled. Gerd and I LOVE roller derby, so we’re trying to spread the word.

We fought the Minnesota Wild traffic (NHL hockey team was playing the same night next door) and made it inside FAR earlier than we anticipated. I grabbed us some drinks and we hunkered down to wait for our group of people. We threw some coats on chairs around us, since the place was starting to fill up. There were SOOO many people that showed up in the auditorium. Waaaay more than the last bout we went to. Apparently Minnesotans love their roller derby!

The pre-show was the twin cities unicycle club. I missed a lot of it since I was in line for drinks, but what I caught was awesome. They did some jumping of bodies (live not corpses) which looks tough on a unicycle. They did some stair climbing and tight-rope cycling. They did some formations and stuff. Did I mention they had really young kids on tall unicycles? Like under 10 year olds!! Then they did a roller derby game called king/queen of the rink – last person on one wheel wins. It was hilarious and strangely cut-throat. They were just blasting each other and it came down to two guys and one little girl. The girl got taken out and the crowd started booing. IT was awesome. Great act before the bout, for sure!!!

It was another all-star game, so the first round was the rookies skating a punk vs disco theme. Lots of black clothes on one team, lots of sequence and hotpants on the other. I love watching the “green” skaters battle it out. They’ve got all the spirit, and much less of the talent. They fall at random sometimes and yet, they’re giving it their all. Go them.

The second round was the grudge match between the MN Rollergirls and the Madison Dairyland Dolls. Madison was won this competition four years in a row, so it was kind firing people up. This was serious action, complete with a little showboating which is always nice to see. These girls can really skate. I’m always impressed when I see them slingshot other skaters or jump over people or do some fancy contortion to get through the pack first. It’s awesome.

The halftime show was the Bratwurst Brothers, a local polka band. They got the crowd out onto the rink and polka dancing fast and furiously. Kind of impressive when there’s a thousand or so people dancing all spinny at the same time. The other 2000 people remained in the stands SINGING all the words to the songs. I didn’t even know there were words to songs other than roll out the barrel!

The third round (round two for the punk vs disco) was a solid round although pretty uneventful. I honestly don’t even remember who won – I think the punks?

The fourth round was the final round of the all-stars. Minnesota was trailing 95% of the round. The girls were getting more aggressive though. The ref started calling penalties left and right. At one point, there were more girls in the penalty box than on the rink. These penalties started to matter because MN started making a serious comeback. Down like 30 points, the girls were playing hard (aka dirty). A couple of times with Madison’s jammer in the penalty box allowed MN to make up serious points (like 14 in one jam!).

The crowd was going crazy! It was soooo loud in there. Time on the clock ran out, and most people thought it was over with Madison in the lead, but time ran out with both jammers in the penalty box, and according to the rules, you can’t finish a bout with a jammer-less jam. So they lined them back up for one last time. Suzie Smashbox, one of the best jammers I’ve ever seen, absolutely destroyed the pack. Lapped everyone and went back for more points!!! The crowd was on their feet screaming. The jam finished and we had to wait for the final point tally…. Minnesota won by TWO points!!! Insane. People were hugging and kissing babies and sloshing beer all over. It was the most intense sporting event I‘ve ever been to. Totally awesome.

All the people in our group were brand new to the sport and I was glad they got to see an awesome bout. It couldn’t have been any better.

We left and headed to Mancini’s Lounge for some after-bout drinks with most of our group. That place is straight outta Swingers. Red leather couches, mirrors everywhere, and a top 40 live band. Awesome. We ended up shutting the place down – it was a late night…

Top 5 things about roller derby
1. Girls on roller skates
2. Intense competition/skill
3. Crowd energy, close to 4000 fans
4. They serve mixed drinks…many mixed drinks…
5. Programs are an AWESOME touch

Bottom 5 things
1. Traffic from the Wild game
2. I didn’t know the words to the polka songs, so I felt like a loser
3. The lines for mixed drinks were long (like at most sporting events)
4. I missed most of the unicycle pre-show
5. I had to hold back a little since I was with work people

www.mnrollergirls.com

Popeyes – Minneapolis, MN

As many of you know, Popeyes is my favorite fast food joint of all time, hands down. I don’t usually write about places I go regularly, but since I haven’t written about Popeyes yet, I figured I would at least give it some attention in case I hadn’t mentioned it in the previous posts. . . Plus, so many weird things happened here, I HAD to write it up.

First off this location is typical – not in a great part of town, but not outright dangerous or anything. In fact, it’s in a better part than most I’ve been to (East St. Louis for example). Inside, there are signs everywhere about everything. If you are illiterate, you can just go to hell. Some are hand written, some are typed, some are plastic, some are small, some are large, some are legitimately TINY for their new menu items, some have words underlined for angry emphasis, etc. You get the point.

Gerd ordered her food and had no problem. I ordered mine and apparently they were out of everything I ordered. I was trying to mix it up and get one (or both) of the new items on the menu that came with the subtle name change (Chicken N Biscuits is no longer the game, now it’s Louisiana Kitchen). I tried to get something new and they were out. So I fell back on to the standard (but awesome) strip meal I usually get. I tried a couple different sides and got yelled at because they were out of red beans and rice. Then I got yelled at because onions rings are no longer a signature side (or they were out of them – I couldn’t tell which). I ended up getting mac and cheese. Then I ordered the one new menu item they DID have.

I started with the biscuit. Always buttery and flaky and buttery (did I mention the butter?). Wurd. The Mac and Cheese I had high hopes for, but those were dashed on the rocks of hope. It was really runny and watery and tasted terrible (didn’t stop me from finishing it though, let’s be honest). Stole some of Gerd’s fries which ruled, and then finished up 3 spicy strips. I seriously love that chicken from Popeyes. Wash all that down with a strawberry soda, which I can always count on at Popeyes. I took a couple of bites of the sausage and chicken jambalaya (one of the new menu items), it was really tasty, although a bit dry. This new menu item was a temporary seasonal item a couple of times, but I guess now it's permanent. I took it home and it’s in the fridge for tonight!

At the end of the meal, I looked down at our tray and GASP!!!!!..... Gerd had not eaten her biscuit!!! At this point, I began to question our suddenly shaky relationship. Who was this person sitting across from me (not next to me – I’m not one of those people)? Had she taken a blow to the head? I couldn’t stand it anymore!!!! “Are you gonna eat that biscuit?” She snapped back, “Don’t you touch my biscuit!” Hilarious. I said, “Uh what’s going on? You haven’t touched your biscuit.” Apparently, Gerd saved the biscuit for last as a sort of dessert. She called it dessert since she squirted three packets of grape jelly onto her biscuit and inhaled the thing. Apparently, she saves the best for last and I almost lost a finger trying to commandeer her biscuit.

Bottom line, I love Popeyes, even though this trip wasn’t optimum. Also, there was a toothless woman in the restaurant who was wearing a leather Popeyes jacket (I wonder how long her 13 kids didn’t eat for her to afford that?)

Top 5 things about Popeyes
1. Red beans and rice when you can get them
2. Chicken
3. Onion Rings when you can get them
4. Strawberry pop/soda (depends on where you’re from)
5. It can also be pronounced Pope Yes, since there’s no apostrophe

Bottom 5 things
1. Mac and Cheese
2. Out of a lot of things on Mondays apparently
3. Signage is hilarious
4. Got yelled at
5. The heart attack caused by (what I assumed was) a wasted biscuit

http://www.popeyes.com

Job For A Cowboy, All Shall Perish, Animosity, Annotations Of An Autopsy – Station 4 – St. Paul, MN

I’ll try to be quick about this show. This is a serious tech metal bill. All of the bands are super talented musicians, so there wasn’t even a question whether these guys were good. Hate Eternal was supposed to play, but cancelled “due to an injury” according to signage posted outside. Bummer, as I was looking forward to seeing Derek Roddy play some smoking fast drums.

The first band, Annotations Of An Autopsy, is from England. These guys can play. They’re very technical with some pig squeal vocals and low growls (like most of the bands). They had fun on stage and seemed genuinely surprised at the crowd being so into them. They attempted a wall of death, but didn’t tell everyone when to go, so it flopped. If you don’t know what a wall of death is, look at youtube. These guys should have played later. I liked them a lot.

Animosity played second and I really love these guys. Their newer stuff is a little more chaotic, but I saw them play in Davenport, Iowa, a couple of years ago, and they were incredible. Great musicians with lots of fun grooves and quick changes. The vocalist always seems to have fun as well. Moves around a lot and gets a little crazy. Great stuff.

All Shall Perish played third. I can’t get enough of these guys. They are amazing musicians and they aren’t afraid to show it and then break it down real heavy like. They had some dueling guitar solos (something I haven’t seen in a long time), and it wasn’t really that cheesy. They also were borrowing the guitarist from Sleep Terror, which is a huge feat, especially since he wasn’t playing lead – the guy is still amazing. The singer is a great frontman and they all seemed to have fun on stage, which is always nice.

Job for a cowboy, I can take or leave. I like them just fine. They’re great musicians and are pretty technical. Their stage present isn’t great, but it would be great for a top-notch supporting act. They’re headlining since they’re a draw, but if you went in order of talent and musicianship, I’m not sure they would be the headliner. They’ve got some good break down type parts, but mostly they’re fast and noodle-y.

Some things I saw at the show that cracked me up:
A) Some trashy whore-y girl wearing almost nothing. Normally fine, except she had a serious case of poison ivy on her upper body or some other unidentified rash. Girl, I appreciate your dedication to the metal show whore uniform, but hang it up until you get some salve or something.
B) During Job for a Cowboy, there was a different trashy whore dancing like a stripper to their music (and sound check). She was running her fingers through her hair and down her body all slutty. But if you know JFAC’s music, you know they don’t play the same speed or riff longer than 2 seconds, so I’m not sure what she was hearing, but she wasn’t on any sort of beat.
C) With a ratio of 75% comb-overs on the kids at the show, it was funny to watch the bands finish playing each song and then see 300 kids swing their head in unison to put their hair back on the right parted line and then run their fingers across their brows to keep it out of their eyes. You stupid followers… (sorry, just my little rant)

Top 5 things about the show:
1. Annotations Of An Autopsy
2. All of the bass players were really good and not filler
3. All of the bands seemed to enjoy themselves and the crowd
4. Trashy people watching enjoyment
5. I was home before 10pm – All ages shows rule!

Bottom 5 things
1. Sound guy – please put both guitars in BOTH main speakers so the people on the left can hear the whole band. Really bad form.
2. Hate Eternal cancelled
3. Comb-over kids
4. Coach and/or Jim weren’t able to go with me
5. I missed out on a guy selling a cheap ticket out front because he looked shady – I shouldn’t have judged (everyone looks shady at these shows)

Station 4
Annotations Of An Autopsy
Animosity
All Shall Perish
Job For A Cowboy