Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Emily’s Lebanese Food – Minneapolis, MN

I got recommendations for this place from a girl at work. She said if I liked Kristos, I would like Emily’s a lot. This should have been my first clue – Kristos is Greek, Emily’s is Lebanese (not Lesbanese like Coach was hoping). Lebanon is southeast of Greece, just in case you’re wondering. They use some of the same ingredients, but the flavors are different.

So I’ll state for the record, I’m not a fan of Middle Eastern cuisine. That being said, I’ll give Emily’s a fair shake.

Gerd and I did some research on Lebanese food so we’d have some idea what to order when we arrived. Fortunately, due to our investigation, the items looked familiar. And honestly, the descriptions looked really appetizing. There are a bunch of smaller things on the menu that you can mix and match and then there are some entrees. A couple of salads and appetizers round off the menu. It’s more comprehensive than I would have imagined.

I originally wanted to do the mix and match thing, but everything I planned to get was included on the combination dinner #2, plus I got Tabouli and bread. Gerd got a combination (#1) which was just a smaller version of my dinner. She also got hummus and a salad (instead of tabouli).

Gerd and I aren’t fans of tabouli, but I wanted to try it there. Rumor is, if it doesn’t taste like dirt, then it’s good tabouli. This must have been good tabouli, since there was no dirt flavor, but the whole thing would have been better with strips of bacon and deep fried. It was good as tabouli goes, but it’s not a personal favorite. Gerd loved her salad. She’s a fan of the dressing which had a sort of “creamy tang” (which I giggle when I hear her say that). The hummus was really good as far a hummus goes. Gerd said there was some kick to it, but vanilla yogurt is too spicy for her. There was no spice. It was good anyway.

The meals came out and looked delicious. They came with stuffed grape leaves, cabbage wraps, and kibbi, which I refer to as meat brownies. Mine also came with a stuffed zucchini and a meat pie (also makes me giggle), which I referred to as a Lebanese hot pocket. The grape leaves are stuffed with ground lamb, rice, pine nuts, and cinnamon. The cabbage wraps were stuffed with rice, cinnamon, ground lamb, and pine nuts, and the zucchini was stuffed with, (you guessed it) pine nuts, ground lamb, cinnamon, and rice. So yes, these all sort of tasted the same, but had a different wrapper. The other things I really liked. The meat brownie (kibbi) was really good. It was kind of a lamb meatloaf brick with pine nuts, and cinnamon, and no rice. They were really good. Maybe they weren’t seasoned the exact same way, so they ended up being good. The Lebanese hot pocket (meat pie) was the best thing on the plate. Light flakey crust, and just take a guess at what was inside.

We brought home a LOT of food since the portions were enormous. Seriously large. So in my eyes, the place is good if you like Middle Eastern food. However, if you don’t, then don’t venture south of Greece. Some things were good though, so I’m sure the food is delicious. It’s just not my thing. However, I’m a big enough person to say the place is good.

Top 5 things about Emily’s
1. Salad dressing (homemade and sell it to go)
2. Enormous portions
3. Hummus
4. Lebanese Hot Pocket
5. Cute local deli/restaurant

Bottom 5 things
1. Same ingredients, different wrapper
2. I don’t think they have restrooms
3. Gerd assumes they won’t sing to you on your birthday
4. The berps afterwards don’t taste good
5. We had to look up where Lebanon was… I admit it

Acapulco – Stillwater, MN

Gerd and I needed to get out of town and try some new Meskin food places. We headed up north (more east than north) and went to Stillwater. We heard this Acapulco place was good, and since we love good Meskin food, we hopped in the car. By the way, Stillwater is a wonderfully quaint town. We'll be hanging out there this winter, fo sho.

We found the place off a frontage road (and a few other fun-looking restaurants to which we will return). The place kind of looked like a mexicanized version of Don Pablos (which is a good thing). Maybe a mexicanized version of Chevy’s as well. It looked promising.

We got an appetizer since we were starving. Something called the “5 scoop” something or other. It was really good. It had some special world renowned cheese sauce, beans and rice, salsa verde, and other goodies. It was the perfect appetizer. (Probably got more full than we would have liked, but two baskets of chips and salsa didn’t help either…). But make sure you ordered something that includes the world famous cheese sauce if you go here.

Gerd got the Chilaquiles Mexicanos. This is a dish she has seen me order and love, so she took a chance and was pleasantly surprised. It’s basically a bed of chips with chicken, cheese and ranchero sauce on top, kind of a super awesome casserole. It was super awesome. I usually prefer the salsa verde, but the ranchero sauce was a welcome change.

I got the Puerco En Chile Verde (I told you I liked salsa verde), which is pieces of pork in green salsa. Again, I’ll call your attention to my hatred of high-labor foods. Despite my aversion to ordering food which I have to build/assemble, this ended up being really good. The sauce was perfect and the pieces of pork were very tender and not fatty. Perfect dish.

Gerd was feeling dessert-y, so she got some fried ice cream. The crust on the outside was a little weird texture-wise, but I notice there wasn’t much on the plate when we left. I had a couple of bites of the ice cream inside, but I’m not really a dessert guy. It was fine, I guess, as fried ice cream goes.

Top 5 things about Acapulco
1. The 5 layer scoop
2. Fun atmosphere and decor
3. Good chips and salsa
4. Large drink menu
5. Chilaquiles

Bottom 5 things
1. Fried ice cream
2. None of the locations are close (all outer metro)
3. Gerd didn’t like lima beans in the rice (but *I* did)
4. The waiting area to be seated was arctic
5. Great food, but still not really authentic

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Our Kitchen – Minneapolis, MN

Yes, it’s really called “Our Kitchen.”

We’ve been driving past this place for a few months and we always cracked up at how small it was. Add that to the fact that it always looked like there were people waiting outside to get in here, and we determined that if it was good enough to wait for, then it was a place we needed to go to.

Seriously, here is how small the place is:

The place seats 19 people MAX – we counted. Gerd literally RAN to the door because she saw someone pulling into the parking lot. So we sit down and see people walk to the door and then stenad there for 25 minutes while other people finished their breakfast. Then we saw tons of other people walk to the window, see that it was totally full, and then walk back to their cars. All because Gerd ran to the door. There aren’t any tables – you’re either sitting at the counter watching them cook, or you’re sitting at a counter on the wall facing the window. Either way, you’ve got something to watch.

Gerd ordered the Kitchen Special, which was eggs, sausage, hashbrowns, pancake, and coffee. I got a ham and cheese omelet with pancake and hashbrowns. The food was awesome. I know there’s only so much you can do with your standard breakfast, but it was just plain good. The hashbrowns were handmade and perfectly cooked. The eggs were awesome. We’r enot even sure what was in the pancakes, but they were both awesome. And the sausage and ham were both awesome.

While we were there eating, these high school girls came in wearing old-timey dresses and ordered breakfast. Then a girl came in with a camera and an assistant and started taking photos. Now, I’ll remind you that there’s no freaking room at all in this place, but that didn’t stop them. They took hilarious photos of the two girls look lovingly into each other’s eyes while eating toast. The assistant would tilt the other girls’ heads or move their hands or shout commands when the photographer went outside to shoot photos through the window. Anyway, it was quite funny. Must have been a high school project or something.

Also, we saw the first snowflakes of the season through the window. Hooray for snow!!!

Get to this place if you can, but have some consideration and don’t bring a group, unless you plan to wait for hours for a spot at the counter not facing the people you’re eating with.

Top 5 things about Our Kitchen
1. Perfectly cooked hashbrowns
2. Great pancakes
3. HUGE glass of milk – finally a place with a decent sized glass
4. Entertainment while you eat
5. Super nice people own and work at this place

Bottom 5 things
1. REALLY small
2. Can’t look at the person you’re eating with
3. Weird underage lesbian photo shoot (just that they were in the way)
4. External people watching only – no internal people watching
5. It started snowing…

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Old Spaghetti Factory – Minneapolis, MN

We took the Delivery Boy to the Old Spaghetti Factory while he was visiting. We were showing him the downtown area and we all had a hankerin for Italian food. We drove by and saw the parking lot was relatively open, so we dropped in.

Brianna, our waitress, was one of those ultra-cute and ultra-bubbly (without being a valley girl) girls who was really attentive. No complaints about Brianna, right Nephew? She suggested a couple of items on the menu and didn’t even mock too much when I ordered a girly drink. In reality, I ordered a manly drink, called Pirate’s Punch, and it was really tasty and fruity, so shut it.

We forewent the appetizer, since we knew we’d be eating a serious amount of food. Gerd got the Manager’s Special (which will make Al crack up), which was a bunch of pasta with two different sauces. She went with the marinara sauce and the Mizithra Cheese sauce. Perfect combination of heavy and light, red and white, and awesome and awesome. It came with a salad and dessert, so she was thrilled. The Delivery Boy and I both got the Spinach Tortellini with Alfredo sauce. It was top notch stuff. Not the best I’ve ever had, but up near the top. The portion was exactly what I expected, though my nephew was a tad disappointed. He sweet-talked Brianna into bringing him another tortellini entrée (for which she gave an employee discount). She was shocked, but impressed. He thought about going for a third to see what would happen, but he had decided on dessert, so he declined. The tortellini was awesome though. Really rich and heavy cream sauce and the pasta was the perfect consistency.

Dessert was a scoop of spumoni ice cream for Gerd and a scoop of vanilla ice cream for the Delivery Boy. Although the spumoni was good, the vanilla was a whole lot better. Not sure why that is – maybe I’m turning into my father faster than expected, but it was really tasty. Might have been French vanilla, but I’m not up on my desserts, so I couldn’t even tell you.

Gerd and I will go here again, most likely. We’ve been kind of hit or miss on Italian food, so it’s good to know we’ve got this one in our hip pocket for when we get the urge.

Top 5 things about The Old Spaghetti Factory
1. Awesome Tortellini dish
2. Pirate’s Punch
3. Décor inside is really cool
4. “Complete Meal” is a pretty good deal
5. Designated parking lot ($2.00)

Bottom 5 things
1. Small portion size (can upcharge for $1.95 though)
2. Spumoni ice cream was a let down
3. Mizithra cheese has a weird straw-like texture
4. Scary guy popped out of nowhere when I was paying for parking
5. Wanted to try like 16 things on the menu (not a bad thing, I guess)

Minnesota Roller Girls – Roy Wilkins Auditorium – St. Paul, MN

This summer, I went to Seattle for a nerd convention (don’t ask) and while there, got to see my friend Nina do/play/participate in (what adjective is the right one!!!???) roller derby. It was super awesome. Like many guys, I went to see how women on roller skates knocking each other down (and because I was always fascinated by the hot pants and gold lamme back in the 70’s when it was on tv). However, once you know the rules and scoring system, the whole thing makes perfect sense and I was yelling like an idiot along with everyone else. Nina came to visit us this summer and we drove her to her traveling team’s bout in Milwaukee – yes, these people are dead serious about this sport. Gerd and I had a great time. And kind of got hooked…

So the season opener for the Minnesota Roller Girls was this past weekend. We knew we were going and we got the added benefit of having Coach and Toach come up from Illinois to visit us and watch roller derby. We especially knew we were going when we found out the bout was a “zombies vs pirates” theme. For background, Minneapolis does this zombie pub crawl which a few thousand people attend – hilarious.

The roller derby people adopted it and got fans to dress like their favorite. Then the zombie vs pirate bout consisted of rookie roller girls to give them some competitive track time. Great idea and tons of fun. And yes, Nina, I did wear my Rockets shirt from your Seattle team…

The first bout was zombies vs pirates. Great fun, and great action. The girls are hard workers and you can see they’re way engaged and also way green. Some skating mishaps and hilarity ensued. If you get a penalty, you skate to the penalty box and since there aren’t brakes, you slide into the box on your knees (ba-dum-bum). When the adrenaline is up, sometimes they skate in there too fast and fly over the chairs and ropes and into the crowd. Hilarious (and yes, dangerous of course – but whatever).

Second bout was the MN Roller Girls (MNRG) vs the North West Arkansas (NWA) somebodyorothers. These are the skilled girls with experience and a super competitive nature. It was amazing watching them skate VERY skillfully and avoid getting boxed out by the blockers. Two girls really stood out: Jawbreaker and Suzy Smashbox. Both from different MN teams, but since it was an all-star match, they were on the same team. They really tore it up.

Between halves, and ELO tribute band, name E.L.No, played for the crowd of like 2,500 people. Everybody out on the track getting crazy. It was a great time. They were really good musicians and were able to pull off a couple of really difficult songs (while Coach screamed requests from the balcony where we were seated).

The third bout was the second half of the zombies vs pirates. They were evenly matched and looked like they were slowly getting their skills together. Fun to watch and the announcers were very amusing with their one-liners and double-entendres.

The night ended with the second half of the MNRG vs NWA. NWA skated better than they did in the first half, but still got their asses handed to them by like 112 points. It was kind of a slaughter, but you could tell they were trying. They didn’t give up (like I would have done), and there wasn’t a run-rule where they just call the game, so they stuck it out.

Seriously, if you get a chance, go watch roller derby in your own home town or come up here to visit us and we’ll take you to a bout. MNRG has four teams, and of course, we picked our favorite team based on the color of uniforms, not based on which one had either Suzy Smashbox or Jawbreaker on it. Gerd is a Cubs fan, so she’s used to cheering for a losing team (burn)…

Top 5 things about MN Roller Girls
1. Girls on skates wearing tights and knee-high socks (come on, seriously)
2. 2,500 fans watching
3. Zombies vs Pirate theme - brilliant
4. Skating is now an actual sport in my mind
5. Girls flying into the crowd periodically
(I could make this list 15 things long if I wanted to…)

Bottom 5 things
1. Parking isn’t the greatest (or cheapest)
2. It’s hard to find the actual entrance to The Roy
3. Seemed like a long night of roller derby
4. My Seattle roller derby friends weren’t there to help cheer
5. My throat and head hurt from all the yelling I did (yeah, I’m one of those people)

Good Earth – Edina, MN

Gerd and I went to the fancy mall (The Galleria) for some window shopping. We have walked by the Good Earth restaurant a few times in the past and it’s always looked really good. I know its some sort of dirty hippie vegetarian restaurant, but it’s a fancy version where the customers shower. And it’s in Edina where the equivalent of hippie is anyone who makes less than $150K per year.

We got seated and then proceeded to wait about 15 minutes to get acknowledged. Not a good start, but I’m patient and willing to let the food speak for itself. In actuality, the long wait time allowed me ample time to really investigate the menu – which I did numerous times. And by doing so, I changed my mind like 41 times. They have REALLY amazing sounding items on the menu and they’re not all vegetarian (the ones that aren’t have meat that was treated kindly before slaughtering - Ha ha ha). They have all kinds of Asian, Mexican, Italian, and American dishes. And ALL of them looked really good.

We got waited on and had orders taken and they brought out a yardsale of bread for us. All kinds of things. Flat breads, fluffy breads, breads with seeds and other bits, salty breads, healthy breads… you get the point. There was some sort of pink hummus they brought out for putting on the breads and that was good too. Not sure what made it pink, but that’s not the point.

Gerd decided on some Acorn Squash soup (sounds pretty hippie-ish doesn’t it?). It was a simple looking dish wish a couple of sunflower seeds thrown on the top. One of the best soups she’s ever had, she commented. And it was great – I would get it again in a heart beat. Gerd ordered the tuna melt for her meal, which was a tiny piece of bread (she actually said they could have used a bigger slice of bread), with some tuna on the bread, and then smothered in cheese. Gerd loved every bite of it (despite complaining about the tiny bread).

I went with the nachos with chicken (free range and coddled, of course). I should have gone with the original plan which was the spicy thai chicken noodles or the thai wrap or the black beans and rice. I always forget when you go to a “healthy” restaurant, you’re going to get the “nice” version of whatever you order. I’m used to straight up bar nachos with a Wisconsin portion of cheese, handfuls of meat, and other random unidentifiable bits you just power through. This had a nice sprinkling of cheese, a small layer of black beans, some guacamole, and a bit of salsa in a cup. Oh yes, and huge chunks of chicken. Honestly, the nachos were delicious, but they weren’t filling at all. I left about 25 chips on the plate which hadn’t been violated with toppings. Seriously a bunch of plain chips were left over. Governor’s in Moline IL would never have considered such a thing. Again, don’t get me wrong, they were good, but they were as close to healthy as you can get when you order nachos.

We’ll probably go back here, based no the variety of the menu items alone. But I won’t get the nachos. And if they have the squash soup, I may just ask for a bucket of that and be happy.

Top 5 things about The Good Earth
1. Acorn Squash soup
2. Bread basket was awesome
3. Tuna melt was ultra cheesy
4. Great wine list
5. They have a take-away portion which faces the mall – great idea

Bottom 5 things
1. Waited a long time to get helped
2. Nachos were missing toppings and bad-for-you stuff
3. A LOT of snooty people patronize this place
4. Tiny bread on the tuna melt
5. They’re big into drinking wheat grass – I don’t even know what that is

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Uptown Bar and Cafe – Minneapolis, MN

Coach and Toach came up to visit for the weekend. We had planned it around one fun event, but we knew we had to take them to some of our favorite local haunts. We’ve been to the Uptown like 100 times, but it’s always awesome. There’s always waaaay too much food and you can get screwdrivers and blood marys at 8am. Wurd.

If you get there early enough you won’t have to wait around for a table (usually 10 is the latest you can get there and not wait). We did, thankfully. We got a booth and ordered some drinks – some of us ordered a screwdriver and got mocked for it. Whatever, I got a(nother) Uptown bar glass out of the deal.

I ended up getting the gyro omelet; Gerd got a #5, eggs, bacon, and toast on a giant bed of hash browns. And Coach and Toach got the same thing – a meat and cheese omelets. Coach was shocked at how much sausage was inside this four-egg omelet. It was like 46 sausage links. He claims he’s never eaten that much sausage, which made me laugh. Toach commented on how awesome the bacon was, and they both got plenty full. Gerd’s eggs came with cheese on them and were really good. Gerd also was mui full. My gyro omelet was the best thing on the menu in my opinion. Just the right amount of stuff in this thing. Gyro meat, cheese, and hasbrowns wrapped in an omelet. Perfection.

This is one of our staple places for breakfast, so if you come visit us, we’ll take you here for sure. Just go here.

Top 5 things about the Uptown
1. Gyro omelets
2. Super thick cut bacon
3. Alcoholic beverages for breakfast - wurd
4. They have bands play at night – good independent bands
5. The no-smoking law in MN makes this place much more fun

Bottom 5 things
1. Bar-side booths are too small
2. Have to wait if you get there after 10am
3. Some of the tables on the “stage” are card tables and are a tad unstable
4. You can’t ever finish your meal – I guess that’s not all bad
5. Easy to confuse with the Uptown diner (on the same road) (which is also good)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Bayside Grille – Excelsior, MN

Gerd and I were looking for someplace a little different for dinner. We honestly picked at random and ended up with Bayside Grille. Still not sure how, but that’s besides the point. (Probably some sort of Saved By The Bell reference, knowing Gerd...) Here’s how it went:

Some of you may remember I mentioned Gerd's version of Google Maps doesn't draw driving routes accurately at all. It's kind of off the grid. It's a wonder we found this place. Here's an example of what I'm talking about...

We pulled into a large parking lot full of cars, so we were thinking this is a hoppin' place. We walked near the front of the Bayview Event Center or banquet hall or something - NOT bayside anything. There was a young man out front who ran out to greet us at the sidewalk entrance. “You guys here for the wedding?” “Uh, no. We’re here to eat.” The guy seemed disappointed, but told us we needed to go around the side. What the “side” was ended up being the alley between buildings filled with garbage dumpsters and trash. We weren’t even sure it was the right place. We hadn’t seen anything with the word Bayside on it – only Bayview. We go around behind the wedding party tent and find a pretty non-descript building that might be a bar. It was!!! At last – the Bayside Grille (We think – still not identified really).

We sidled up to the bar and got some drinks with the locals. And they were “local” - everyone knew the bartenders and everyone was drunk. The bartenders were actually super good, just a little quirky. Otto and Brad really hooked us up though. No complaints – they were very attentive and made sure we were happy.

We ordered some drinks and got some nachos for an appetizer. Otto warned us the nachos were large. When they came out, we were shocked. It was a heaping mound of chips and awesome cheesy goodness. There were three things on top of the heap – an ice cream scoop of guacamole, an ice cream scoop of sour cream, and a pile of salsa. Looked really good, but really intimidating. Brad set the pile down, turned around and then the guacamole ball rolled down the huge pile and plopped onto the bar. All the drunk people clapped and cheered. Hilarious. The nachos were seriously awesome though. The cheese was really good – not even sure what kind it was – I get confused with my melted cheese when it’s white (Why’s it gotta be white? – that’s for you Al). We destroyed way more of this pile than we expected to.

Gerd and I weren’t quite full yet, so I ordered the Chicken Burrito Dano (yes, seriously as in "Book 'em, Dano") and Gerd ordered the Prime Rib – she’d been talking about it for hours. When those came out, Gerd was underwhelmed. The prime rib had an odd look to it. She cut into it and was even more confused. She took a bite of it and was almost angry. It was the worst piece of meat ever. Honestly, there are high school cafeteria meat-flavored patties that were better than this. She’s kind of a meat person (snob), so she ended up having like 4 bites and pushed it away. It was honestly terrible. However, the mashed potatoes were REALLY awesome. Here - take a look at this prime rib we brought home and won't eat. I don't think you can tell exactly how bad it is from the photo, but even the texture looks "off".

The burrito was pretty standard tasting for a gringo-restaurant burrito. It was really huge though, so I can’t complain. It filled me up something fierce, so all in all, I’d rank it about a 6 on the ten scale.

We got super full, but we wouldn’t recommend going to this place (unless you’re going to have drinks and get nachos, then Otto and Brad are your boys).

Top 5 things about the Bayside Grille
1. Nachos
2. Brad and Otto
3. Bathroom was really cool
4. The marina is actually beautiful
5. Burrito was good for gringos

Bottom 5 things
1. Prime rib blew
2. Had to walk through a smelly alley to get there
3. Drunk locals
4. Driving there and getting out of the compound is confusing
5. Menu was pretty limited. Not many choices

Friday, October 17, 2008

Convention Grill – Minneapolis, MN

You could step back in time if you knew Christopher Lloyd and go to an old soda fountain, or you could go to the Convention Grill. It’s a great short order place that we like to eat at when we’re hungry for quality burgers and fries.

We took my nephew to the Convention Grill for a quick lunch. The atmosphere is old timey and the servers all wear white (pet peeve of mine but we won’t get into that). The malts are to die for as are the phosphates – for those of you who know what those are.

I got a cheeseburger and Gerd got some sort of bacon-y lettuce sandwich. It was kind of like a BLT, but not quite. We ended up splitting ours in half. However, I got the waaay better end of the deal because the burger was phenomenal. Muenster cheese is the best on a burger and CG didn’t disappoint. We got a basket of fries (normally a half-basket is enough for two – just so you know) for the three of us. The fries are really amazing. I’m not even a fry guy usually, but I make exceptions from time to time. This time, we ended up with some of the bottom of the barrel tiny bits of fries, rather than the usual super awesome lengthy fries they have, but whatever. All that means is that you get your fingers all salty scraping them off the bottom of the paper. And of course, we didn’t finish the fries between the three of us so we took them home.

Truly, this is one of the better burger places in the Twin Cities. I’m not sure if it’s worth a 6 hour road trip or anything, n but if you’re in the neighborhood, you really can’t go wrong at this place. It’s not greasy, it’s juicy – get it right.

Top 5 things about the Convention Grill
1. Burger with Muenster cheese
2. Super awesome tasting fries
3. Old timey atmosphere
4. Bacon-y sandwich was really good
5. It’s super close to our house – wurd

Bottom 5 things
1. It makes me miss the Maid-Rites of IL/IA :(
2. They don’t have onion rings – but should
3. Bummer on the tiny fries
4. We always see people too impatient to wait – it’s a busy place
5. A place like this should have a “Green River” soda, but they don’t

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Roly Poly - Eden Prairie, MN

I was off from work on Monday due to a holiday. Chao was not so I decided to visit him at work and take him out to lunch. Although he paid. But I physically took him there in my car so it counts. We decided to go to Roly Poly. Roly Poly was one of my favorite lunch places when I was working in the Chicago suburbs a few years back. It is a sandwich place but instead of using bread, they use wraps to hold your ingredients together.

When you visit Roly Poly they have a huge menu of suggested wraps you can try. They have hot wraps, cold wraps, chicken salad wraps, hot beef wraps, lunchmeat wraps, peanut butter and jelly wraps, ALL KINDS. The best part about Roly Poly is their ingredients list is HUGE. Not only can you choose from their selection of wraps, but you can also RYO (roll your own – Roly Poly lingo). I would like to take this opportunity to give a shout out to all of those who made weird sandwiches when they were young. Potato chips and bologna people, peanut butter and Colby cheese people, hot dogs in a taco shell people (yes I did all of these)…this place is for you! Seriously, they have cream cheese, several flavors of mayo, cashews, cornbread stuffing, sunflower seeds, sirloin steak, brie…you can go no wrong. Well maybe you could actually. But still, tons of choices!

We arrived and Chao was overwhelmed with the choices. This is a good time to point out that they have everything listed on their website as far as menu choices and nutritional information if you are into that. If you are indecisive you might want to spend some time preparing before your visit. Honestly I don’t even remember what Chao ordered but it was good. I had the tuna melt which rules. I used to add a bunch of stuff to it like pickles and carrots but this time I went with the suggested ingredients. I wasn’t feeling the need to be creative.

Top 5:
1. Tons of choices
2. Good tuna
3. Celebrity sighting: Andy Bernard was there!
4. Tons of choices for dipping sauces
5. Can be healthy if you care

Bottom 5:
1. It is not close to where I work now
2. Tough to choose
3. No Braunschweiger on the menu (c’mon!)
4. Not a ton of seating
5. None of the wraps are deep fried

Monday, October 13, 2008

Arezzo Ristorante – Edina, MN

So Gerd and I have been complaining about the lack of quality Italian food in the twin cities. We’ve only tried a couple of places (Vescio’s is not to our liking – I’ll just say that), but have not been impressed. We decided to try Arezzo, since A) it’s close to home, and B) it looks like a classy joint, so the food might be equally classy.

We checked the menu ahead of time. The food isn’t outlandishly expensive, but it’s more expensive than Fazoli’s (or even Olive Garden – gasp!). We have seen people sitting outside enjoying the food and when we’ve walked past, the food has looked very appetizing. We had to try it.

We arrived and saw these two nerdy people on what appeared to be a first date, looking awkward and uncomfortable – this has nothing to do with the story. It’s just a funny side note. We got seated outside, as requested and were delighted to get waited on by Troy. A quiet, mousy fellow, who was extremely knowledgeable in the dishes and the wines served at Arezzo. He was honestly very good. We were seated near another section being served by a woman with really awesome curly hair (I think her name was Sarah?), but I still think we ended up with the right waiter. He suggested a couple of things and helped us decide on our dinners (since we changed our minds like 13 times).

Gerd got the Gnocchi Quattro Formaggi (four cheese gnocchi) with red sauce and white sauce and a salad. Troy said that was the way to go – it’s like having two dishes. I got the corn chowder (special for that evening) and the Costigliola Di Maiale Ripiena (pork loin chop stuffed with apples, ham and pecans).

The salad was fairly standard, although not iceberg lettuce. The fancy kind with unpronounceable names and good dressing. No complaints here. The Gnocchi was really tasty and having two different sauces was a great idea. The combination of the two kept the whole dish interesting even as you neared the end. Really good. The corn chowder I initially thought was too watery, but after the first bite, I knew it was perfect. Just the right amount of corn so as not to be corn casserole, but little tiny flecks of red bell pepper to add some zip to the whole thing. I would eat this again for sure. The Costigliola was amazing. The meat was perfectly cooked and was very juicy and tender. The other flavors mixed very well together and the provolone cream sauce was the perfect sauce for this dish.

Top 5 things about Arezzo Ristorante
1. Corn chowder – I know it sounds corny ha ha ha, but it is
2. Gnocchi was exquisite
3. Troy was a great waiter
4. Very nice atmosphere, inside and out
5. Costigliola Di Maiale Ripiena

Bottom 5 things
1. The names were very difficult to pronounce
2. Troy’s hair was nice, but the girl with the awesome hair was helping another section
3. Conversation was really loud at a nearby table
4. Some trashy trollops came into the bar as we were leaving and annoyed me
5. No unlimited portions – I could have eaten all night

Brookview Golf Course – Golden Valley, MN

As stated in a prior post, my nephew came up for a visit and brought his golf clubs to force me to play golf. We decided at 3:30pm on Sunday afternoon, that we should play another round. Hmmm. Where to go. Again, we picked at random and came up with Brookview. Looks like a lot of water and some mature trees. Let’s do it.

We raced to get there and there were very few people out, so we got right on the course. We were flying. Finished 9 holes in less than an hour and a half. This course was on par (pun intended) with most public courses I’ve played, though it was quite a bit harder. There is water in play on 16 of 18 holes. (For those that don’t know – that’s a LOT). The course had some great elevation and used the water very well. Some tricky holes. The course showed some wear, but was still in pretty good shape. Not run down at all.

The staff was pretty standoff-ish and a little rude, but I’ve seen worse. Those people made the day less enjoyable, but we still had a good time.

Since were racing through the course, we went in and extended our play to the back nine in hopes of finishing all 18 before it got dark. We were stuck behind a slow group so we skipped the hole they were on and went past them to the next one. Apparently, this was a no-no an we got the course marshall all up in our face (along with some crotchety old guy that told us if we were in his way, he didn’t have a problem hitting us. Nice, old man. I hope he didn’t have a problem with me hitting his ball back to him if he came close to us either. Whatever. We returned to our rightful place behind our original slow group and just kept right on their tail. We ended up finishing all 18 holes in close to 3 hours and before it got completely dark.

I ended up winning this round by like 5 strokes due to my nephew loosing like 12 balls in the water. Again, we laughed waaaaay too much but still had a great time. I’d golf here again, but not before I’d golf at Edinburgh.

Top 5 things about Brookview
1. Great use of water hazards, sand, and hills
2. I hit the majority of my shots in the fairway – which never happens
3. Finished in 3 hours – that’s FAST
4. Course was in pretty good shape
5. Pretty affordable

Bottom 5 things
1. Rude staff
2. Lots of leaves (I know it’s fall, but it got annoying after a while)
3. No beer cart
4. A lot of parallel fairways, which my nephew took full advantage of
5. Group in front taking multiple shots when they KNEW we were behind them

Edinburgh USA Golf Course – Brooklyn Park, MN

My nephew, the Delivery Boy, came up from Illinois for a visit this weekend. He brought his golf clubs with him to force me to play golf. I haven’t played in over two years due to lack of time, but I played quite a bit during the previous years. Like a slacker, I didn’t plan ahead and find us a course or reserve a tee time. (I was hoping it would rain so I would be forced to embarrass myself.)

We picked a course at random and one that looked really nice on the website (but hey, it’s not like they’re going to put up terrible pictures of the course, right?).

We booked a tee time, hopped in the car and drove to Brooklyn Park to Edinburgh USA. Call me aloof or accuse me of treason, but every time I see a business with USA at the end of it, I automatically assume it’s going to be white trash. T-shirts USA. Garden Tools USA. License Plate Frames USA. Whatever. I was proven wrong on so many levels with this golf facility.

First off, they made it look like an English (or Scottish, I guess) castle. Huge high stone walls and very well kept landscape. VERY well kept. This is the nicest public course I’ve ever been to. Seriously this place is 10 times the facility of the courses I’m used to in Illinois. It’s pricey, but you only live once, right? We ended up getting twilight rates and still pushed it to a hundred bucks. The people there were very friendly and helpful and talkative, so no complaints at all.

There was also a wedding happening while we were there, so we got to see some really well dressed people (and tramps) milling around. It’s a beautiful place for a wedding if you’re into marriage and such.

The course was immaculate, except for an occasional strip of grass missing (like they were getting ready to sod). But I might be able to count those spots on two hands, so it wasn’t distracting at all. The grass was perfectly green, no burnout or brown spots. All the divots in the fairways were well maintained. And the topography of the course was awesome. Great use of hills, tons of water, and great tree locations. Beer cart girl drove past us like 4 or 5 times and then when we ran out of drinks, we didn’t see her again. Ha Ha Ha. Classic. It was late though, so I’m assuming they quit working at 6 or something.

The 9th green is connected to the 18th green, which is also connected to the practice area. As you can imagine, this area is huge. And also right in front of where the wedding was happening. So my nephew and I are in the background of tons of wedding pictures trying to not shout out loud when we both made brilliant putts on the 9th hole. Sad but true. I basically had to keep my mouth shut the whole round as the course is in the backyard of large houses. I’m usually a pretty vocal player (both positive and negative), but I had to tone it down.

The back nine looked like they were draining the ponds to repair the banks, so the water on the back was less than perfect, but still was breathtaking. Very challenging water on the back nine. In fact, the 17th hole has an island fairway. You hit over the water to the fairway strip of land. Then over again to the green. This had the added challenge of being pretty dark when we played it. So by the time we got to the 18th hole, it was REALLY dark. Didn’t stop us – we were going to finish this awesome course. We hit safe shots and were able to find the balls. I hit my next shot to the green (because I rule [but only in the dark apparently]) and went and stood on the green to give my nephew some idea where to shoot. He fired one right past me, past the 18th hole, and across the practice green where someone was putting. Straight at the wedding party. It was dark though, so no one saw it. Hilarious. No one got hurt, the ball was found and played, and because my nephew fell apart on the last hole, I cam back to tie him for the day.

Awesome facility. I will gladly take anyone of my golfing friends here to play and will expect a perfectly maintained golf course. Also, I love golfing with my nephew. My face always hurts from laughing.

Top 5 things about Edinburgh USA
1. Perfectly maintained grass
2. Great water, sand, and topography
3. Beer cart – always a plus
4. 17th hole – island fairway
5. Looks like a castle

Bottom 5 things
1. There’s a dress code to keep up the classy-osity of this place. Sigh… it’s worth it…
2. Slightly pricey (but worth it)
3. Couple strips of grass missing
4. Beer cart girl stops at 6pm
5. Had to remain relatively calm on the course - maybe next time I'll take lithium before the round

Busters on 28th - Minneapolis, MN

Gerd and I got invited (in a roundabout way) to an engagement party/librarian get-together at Busters on 28th. One of those friend-of-a-friend kind of things. We knew the engagees, so it wasn’t completely random. We arrived, saw their table was completely full, and got our own table. Then we went over to harass the group that was already stationed at a table in the middle of the place.

We had lively conversations, mainly surrounding the fact that 90% of the people at the table were librarians and 50% of those people had the same name. Weird that so many people are named Gerd – ha ha ha...

Gerd got a Caesar salad and some cheesy things and I got a spicy Italian panini (still not sure why, since I’m not a fan of paninis). Gerd went with the waitress’s recommendation of the Spaten Oktoberfest amber and I went with the Strongbows. Gerd’s salad was like a log of romaine lettuce that had been grilled (literally charred – though I thought chard was a different leafy vegetable). And only one side of the lettuce log was covered in the dressing, so some bites were not great. Otherwise, the good parts were really good (I had a couple of bites, just to verify). Decent croutons as well. Her cheesy thing was pieces of mozzarella with some green stuff and drizzled with vinaigrette reduction (sounds fancy, and it was). It was also really good. She liked the Spaten very much.

The spicy Italian panini was decent, but it wasn’t spicy at all. I think they left some ingredients off (mainly the peppers – which oddly, makes things spicy). It was basically a grilled salami sandwich with cheese. And I’m just not a fan of grilled chewy sandwiches – can’t say I didn’t give it the old college try though. Granted, it was good, but it wasn’t what I expected. I would probably go with a burger next time (either bison or lamb) and probably the onion rings, which looked amazing when we saw them being carried to other tables. There were some issues with breaking down our portion of the check as well, but that might have bee our fault since we switched tables and waitresses midstream. Still, it didn’t seem that hard to pay for our portion. We eventually just left a handful of cash on our group table and left.

Top 5 things about Busters on 28th
1. Awesome place to hang out with friends
2. Cheesy things with green stuff (sorry for all the fancy technical terms)
3. Extensive beer list
4. The homecut fries were very good
5. Onion rings – visually only though – can’t vouch for the flavor

Bottom 5 things
1. Gets really cramped when full
2. Inaccurate spicy Italian panini
3. Charred romaine lettuce log with minimal coverage dressing
4. Can be very loud when full (like a lot of bars, so take that with a grain of salt)
5. Paying for food got to be a hassle

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Palomino – Minneapolis, MN

I was unsure of what to expect from the Palomino in downtown Minneapolis. I’d heard it was pretty upscale, but that’s never scared me before. I checked out the menu online and it seemed like it had some unique offerings and wasn’t THAT expensive. Despite it being the topic of a controversial yet hilarious Wesley Willis song, Gerd and I decided to check it out.

We headed to the bar when we got there – something we’ve been doing more of lately (I mean eating in bars, not going to them all the time). Kind of like dinner and a show – plus easy access to the drinks… cha-ching! The bar was mable topped and multi level – that’s class. Places for my Asian brother Yao Ming and places for Peter Dinklage – everyone wins. The guy working the bar looked like a leprechaun (having never seen one, I can only assume), which worked out well since gerd has been typo-ing the word “me” instead of “my” in her e-mails recently – and she has red hair – coincidence?... I think not. Heath, the aforementioned leprechaun, was brilliant! Great suggestions and descriptions, the appropriate level of mocking when I asked for a girly drink menu, and catered to us like we were the only ones there. Heath has a pointy beard, that’s the only reason I mention the leprechaun thing. Aside from that, he’s awesome.

Gerd and I had a hankering for an appetizer, so we decided on the gorgonzola cream covered criss-cut fries (invented by Kris Kross). Heath said they were stacked high and then the sauce was poured all over them – gesticulating wildy while giving the description. Like I said, he was awesome. Give this man a raise (or at least another pot o’ gold)!

Gerd got some sort of fancy margarita (served in a martini glass with salt-rim). It was quite tasty. I got something called “White”. My good friend Al would ask, “Why’s it gotta be white?!” I asked the same thing, my friend, I assure you. It was white wine with grand marnier, cranberry juice, maybe some grape juice and garnished with a lychee (the tastiest of the eyeball-shaped fruits – as you all know). I’m going to making 55-gallon drums of this stuff at home in the future, just so you know. It was like amazingly sweet wine/sangria. I could have had 26 of these things, but I kept it toned down – this time…

Gerd went with the Grilled Steak Salad (healthy and meaty) and I went with the Duck Confit Cassoulet (sounds fancy doesn’t it?). The steak salad was awesome. All kinds of greens and hazel nuts and blue cheese, and onion strings. It was really really good. The steak was actual steak and top quality steak at that. Every bite was as good as the next. The duck cassoulet, to my surprise, came in a freaking tagine!!!! Awesome. Picture this: a huge haunch of duck (do ducks have haunches?), a fat smoked lamb sausage, Italian sausage, white beans, taters, and tomato sauce cooked in a tagine. There is no place for you to go wrong. Simply amazing. The duck was perfectly cooked, the taters were fork-ready and silky smooth, the sausages were stellar, and there was a perfect amount of beans. Despite the duck being a high-labor food, this one was worth pulling meat off bones. Totally worth it. It’s going to be difficult NOT to get this the next time we’re at the Palomino. Tagine 2, Chao 0.

Top 5 things about the Palomino
1. Multiple tagine dishes, some not even identified as such
2. Really tasty girly drinks
3. Very attentive staff – mainly Heath in our case
4. Steak was the perfect complementary flavor for the greens and cheese in the salad
5. Duck was perfect as were its friends in the tagine

Bottom 5 things
There seriously aren’t any. We TRIED to come up with some. Parking is good and validate-able, prices were fair for the quality of food, bathrooms were nice, staff was awesome, tolerable number of rich d-bags in the bar area, fast, and classy. We have nothing bad to say about this place. Sorry. We tried.

Monday, October 6, 2008

General Pancho Villa – Brooklyn Park, MN

So we were driving around trying to find some Mexican, which (mainly due to the fact that Mexico is REALLY far from Minnesota) is very difficult to do in the suburbs of the Twin Cities. We had one in mind but we said, if we find another Mexican restaurant before we get to our destination, we’re stopping there. We found one. In a strip mall.

Despite my previous distrust of strip mall restaurants, I think I’ve come around to be more tolerable of them. We walked inside General Villa and were one of two groups of people inside this place. We grabbed the menus and set about ordering. Seemed to be mostly traditional Mexican dishes so our part would be hard to screw up – it’s up to the restaurant after that.

To start with, the chips and salsa were really good – spicy but good. This reinforces my policy of waiting until the drinks (or water) hit the table before sampling the chips and salsa – just in case. I got the chimichanga and Gerd got the chicken enchiladas. The chimichanga was amazing. Two kinds of cheeses and some enchilada sauce. It was very generously proportioned – I ended up bringing half home and I’m not a pans. The chicken enchiladas ruled as well. I don’t generally take the gamble of the roulette wheel that is enchilada red sauce. However, this stuff was really good. Lots of cheese, lots of flavor, and lots of enchilada.

Despite the horrific experiences we’ve had with Mexican food since we moved to Minneapolis, we’ve had a couple of meals at Mexican restaurants that make me think there’s hope. I’d recommend this place. And don’t think I won’t comment on the number of years Pancho spent in the military to become a General. It’s not Infantryman Pancho, it’s GENERAL – don’t forget it.

Top 5 things about General Pancho Villa
1. Enchilada sauce
2. Generous portions
3. Multiple cheesey goodness
4. Mexican soap operas on the TVs
5. Got full and brought home left overs for under $20

Bottom 5 things
1. Gerd hates it when pop is served in a can since it slows down her drinking of 32 sodas (I didn’t say stopped)
2. The bathroom had freshly been cleaned with a bucket of bleach – I almost passed out
3. GPV is really far out of the way
4. Gerd complained about too many vegetables on top of her enchiladas
5. No margaritas

Map to General Pancho Villa

Friday, October 3, 2008

Sausage Stuffed Meatloaf

Last weekend when playing Wii at M. and Trash's house, we were struck with the best idea ever. I was playing Cooking Mama, the second best video game of all time (next to Animal Crossing), and mama challenged me to cook a meatloaf with sausages stuffed into it. Chao expressed interest in this game for the first time ever, during the virtual preparation of this dish. He thought it looked good and that we should try it. See for yourself:

We recreated the recipe as best as we could and our version follows:

1 meatloaf
some sausages

Stick sausages into meatloaf and bake until done.

Pretty easy huh? I have included pictures of the result:

We bought a ready made meatloaf from Lund's and we stuck Polish Sausages into the middle. It was disgusting. But only because Lund's meatloaf sucks. Next time we are going to make my famous barbecue recipe (famous because it is now featured in my company's cookbook), and possibly stick Lil' Smokies into it. We are confident this will rule.

Top 5:
1. Sausage stuffed in things is always a good idea.
2. Novelty foods are fun.
3. Inspired by a video game.
4. Easy to make.
5. Would have tasted good if meatloaf didn't suck.

Bottom 5:
1. The meatloaf sucked.
2. All of that meat can get kind of expensive.
3. Couldn't tell if it was greasy or juicy, yet it tasted dry.
4. The sausages exploded in the oven because we forgot to puncture them prior to baking.
5. So many sausages, so little time.