Wednesday, January 28, 2009

India Palace – Eden Prairie, MN

We’ve got these “mandatory fun” times we have to do at work (it’s a long story, so I won’t go into it), so as a cop out, EnyaFace! decided to book a group lunch at India Palace. I believe she did it to snub me because the last time I had Indian food, I was with CorpseKitten, Trash, and Babo in Las Vegas – like 10 years ago – and I was forced to eat the children’s meal which was the only thing without curry. And I hated it. I have lived for years under the assumption I did not like Indian cuisine.

Wait, I’m lying. FunHater made me try some Indian food back in Illinois and I didn’t like it there either. That might have been due to the pink shampoo-flavored drink he made me try there also, though.

Since the thing was mandatory, I was forced to attend. It was a buffet set-up, so I was sure I could find something to eat, even if it was rice or bread (naan). I hopped in line and filled my plate with all kinds of things I’ll never remember the name of. Wait, I’m lying again, I picked up a to-go menu to refresh my memory as I’m writing this.

I tried Chana Masala, Chicken Tandoori, Chicken Tikka Masala, and some other rice thing with ground chicken, peas, and other bits (have no idea which one that was), all with some Basmati rice. I’d love to describe each one to you, but I can’t. I liked them all, but don’t remember any specifics. Super flavorful, nothing was soaked in Caraway, and I recognized almost everything I was eating.

I would eat here again and force Gerd to do the same. The buffet is the way to go at this place. Not for the unlimited portion aspect, but from the trying everything on the menu aspect. I may have to turn in my Indian-Food-Hater card after all.

Top 5 things about India Palace
1. Super friendly staff there
2. Things on the buffet are explained very well on cards above the food
3. Mandatory FUN, dammit!!!
4. I heard music that reminded me of Robbbb from Rockford
5. Enormous water glasses

Bottom 5 things
1. Gerd will have to drive an hour to make it here for lunch
2. Noticed after I ate that they had Mountain Dew!!! Aaaagggghhhh!!!
3. I may have missed out on good Indian food when visiting Chicken Little and Slutnik in Seattle
4. I can no longer say I can eat anywhere except Indian food places
5. Can’t remember which things I ate, even with the menu in front of me

Boca Chica – St. Paul, MN

My friend Kana-duh dropped into the Twin Cities for a visit and wanted to grab a bite to eat. He’s a long-haul semi truck driver from Ontario and since he’s driving all day, he’s got lots of things to say to people and must take advantage of every opportunity to free them. I’m always up for a good long chat (and food of course), so I picked him up at the truckstop where he was parked and we went to grab dinner.

Since he’s from Canada, he likes hockey – it’s like Americans liking Jerry Springer - even if you claim you’re not a fan, you secretly watch it when no one is around. So I thought we should check out the Tom Reid’s Hockey Pub in St. Paul. Clearly, Kana-duh was down with that. As we got closer, it dawned on me there might be a Minnesota Wild hockey game that night which was causing all this traffic. And there was. And Tom Reid’s was packed with drunk hockey fans. I suggested Mexican – he agreed.

Gerd and I have commented on the lack of quality Mexican food in the Twin Cities, but we have finally discovered a few places that are up to snuff. Boca Chica is one of these places. Huge menu and actual Hispanic people work (and eat) there. We grabbed a table without waiting and began to study the menu.

I got the Carnitas and Kana-duh got the Enchiladas Huatulco. Both came with Fideo soup which was quite good. I’ve always been a fan of fideo, so I was happy to see that it came with the meal. Still no Albondigas soup though (does anyone know where I Can get Albondigas in the Twin Cities?) The enchiladas were filled with shrimp and king crab surimi (mock king crab) and covered with a mild enchilada sauce. Kana-duh really liked the meal and said we picked a good place for dinner – hooray for eating out all the time in hopes that it will be useful someday!!!

The carnitas were the best I’ve ever had. Ultra-tender pieces of pork seasoned to perfection and then deep fried before serving. I can’t remember having better carnitas anyplace, truly. They melted in my mouth and filled me up rather quickly. They came with tortillas, black beans, cheese, guac, and sour cream. The only thing that might have been missing was a heap of lettuce for the taco-building event. And yes, we all know I hate high-labor foods at restaurants, but these are totally worth every second making my own. I’d do it for hours as long as I got to eat as much as I wanted.

We sent Kana-duh home with MY leftovers since he couldn’t stop eating his. He tried a piece of the carnitas and said he should have ordered what I got. So we wrapped it up for him and made sure he got back to his truck totally stuffed. We had a great dinner and it’s always good to see him. I’ll have a list of places to eat ready for the next time he comes to visit me, for sure. Maybe we’ll catch a hockey game or something.

Top 5 things about Boca Chica
1. Carnitas
2. Trinidadian/Mexican waitress was awesome
3. Enchiladas Huatulco
4. Fideo soup (or sopa as it’s called at Boca Chica)
5. Got to hang out and get caught up with Kana-duh

Bottom 5 things
1. Needs to be closer to my house (preferably in my living room)
2. Glossary or description of some random words on the menu might help
3. Kana-duh doesn’t know the Spanish words for Men or Women, fortunately there were pictures painted on the door to the restrooms
4. Lettuce on my taco-building plate would have been awesome
5. Coke products only

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Café Maude – Minneapolis, MN

I had a friend from grad school contact me about visiting our neck of the woods, so we decided to do dinner. Gerd had heard about this place on Penn (Trash might have recommended it) that we needed to try – Café Maude. We checked out the menu online and found it to be to our liking. We weren’t sure how dressy the place was, but we opted for business casual just in case.

The place is really nice inside. Not swanky ritzy nice, but artsy and sophisticated nice. Cool trendy artwork on the walls and an area for a jazz combo or something in one corner. The people working are very friendly as well.

We opted for a nice bottle of Malbec (which GErd claims was the best Malbec she’s ever had – she kept screaming the words “HANDS DOWN!” on the ride home – apparently, we’ll be buying a case) and forewent the appetizers (though the small plate items looked great). Gerd got the Hangar Steak and some seasoned fries in truffle oil and fondue. I got the pork tenderloin, and RPM got some Croquets and the Mac and Cheese.

The hangar steak was REALLY good. I think Gerd won this competition. Perfectly cooked and flavorful. The fries were really good as well, though I’m not sure what truffle oil taste like or where it was at. The fondue was basically a cheesy dipping sauce in a cup, but it was still good. The tenderloin was perfect. Seared on the outside without a char taste and served on risotto. It came with oyster mushrooms, which I tried, but didn’t care for.

We got to samples RPM’s croquets which were brilliant! Bacon and other fun things were inside, and now we know we’ll be getting a bunch of these when we go back for happy hour next time. You know if a nice restaurant has Mac and Cheese on the menu, you know it’s not coming from a box. It was one of the best I’ve ever had. Great cheese flavor – makes me wish I took a bigger bite… Really good though. You should get this when you go here.

Café Maude is a great place to have a really awesome dinner and the fact that they have a happy hour (I think they call it leisure hour – which rules) means we’ll be back sooner rather than later, since 2009 is the year of the happy hour.

Top 5 things about Café Maude
1. Hangar steak
2. Malbec
3. Croquets
4. Mac and cheese
5. They have a happy hour!

Bottom 5 things
1. Should have eaten more of RPM’s food – ha ha ha
2. Small parking lot, but plenty of on-street parking
3. I guess there is always a wait, so get reservations
4. Truffle oil isn’t anything to get excited about
5. Now that I’ve tried oyster mushroom, I know I don’t like them

Monday, January 26, 2009

Café Latte – St. Paul, MN

Since we were headed to the Roller Derby bout in St. Paul, we decided to hit up some new areas for food. Since my coworker, Enya Face!, ditched us for dinner, we found a place on our own. Gerd found someplace that described itself as a gourmet cafeteria. So basically cafeteria style (complete with trays) but a high end version.

We showed up at this place and after walking a half block, Gerd was already crying. Apparently, she forgot it gets cold in Minnesota (this has nothing to do with the food, I just like angering her by telling people about her loathing of cold-ness). We got inside and were totally confused at where to begin this process. Everything looked like a cafeteria, but people were popping in and out of line and not really moving in one direction. Very confusing. We peeked in between a couple of people just so we could figure out what they had, but eventually figured out the line went left to right.

We got a couple samples of salads they had (cold salads like pasta salad, but not as white-bread as that). I ended up liking the Schezuan Wild Rice salad a lot and Gerd got the Chicken Caesar Pasta salad. The next station had sammich fixin’s so I got a ham and turkey with some sprouts and tomatoes and Gerd got some pinkish-orange cream cheese sammich with lettuce and a pickle. We walked past the soup station, but since we had plenty (and Gerd wanted dessert), we skipped the soups, which looked awesome. Got our drinks in real glasses and paid.

We grabbed a seat and started with our newly discovered salads. I loved mine, though after the first 25 bites, it started to taste more like dirt. Still, it was awesome. Don’t be alarmed by my description. Gerd wasn’t thrilled with her salad after all, but I really liked hers when I tried it. I think she was put off by the chicken and pasta aspect of the Caesar salad, but it was really good.

The sandwiches were pretty good, but they ended up getting soggy pretty quickly, which was odd since we didn’t get any sauce or mayonnaise or mustard or anything to make them soggy. Must have been wet meat (TWSS) or something. Weird. They tasted pretty good, though to be honest, it was prepackaged meat like Subway uses and slaps on some bread.

Gerd went back for dessert and what she brought back was awesome. Some sort of Classic Vanilla Cheesecake and a Peanut Butter Tart Pie or something. The cheesecake was phenomenal. I can’t say enough good things about this and if you’re a regular reader, you know I’m not a dessert person at all. I didn’t attempt the peanut butter one, but they did have some signage about their not being filled with Salmonella or anything. But go here for the cheesecake – fo real.

The place is supposed to have a gourmet pizza side, which is around the corner I think and a fancy bakery as well. We didn’t see either of those places, but we saw various lines around the corner, so I’m assuming that it was just a confusing as the side we were on.

Café Latte was good, but I think calling it “gourmet” might be a bit of a stretch. Yes, it’s better than a lunch room cafeteria, but it’s not anything I’d write home about (except in a blog which my family from back home might read). It wasn’t gross, but I don’t think we’ll be back. There’s a TON of other places we need to try on Grand before we’ll be back here.

Top 5 things about Café Latte
1. Vanilla Cheesecake
2. Schezuan Wild Rice
3. Lots of desserts
4. Peanut butter tart
5. Soups looked awesome and interesting – Creamy Reuben, Split Pea Cilantro, Chicken Salsa Chili, Creamy Swiss Spinach, etc.

Bottom 5 things
1. Not designed for noobs – really confusing layout and no directionals
2. Not enough room near the food line
3. Thought it was buffet-style, but is a la carte
4. Really cold inside due to proximity of the front door to Antarctica
5. Multiple salad locations, which added to the confusion

Minnesota Timberwolves vs. New Orleans Hornets – Minneapolis, MN

Gerd and I got some cheap tickets to the Timberwolves game through our school. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have gone, most likely. We both hate basketball, so this wasn’t at the top of our sports priority list. But cheap is cheap, so we went. Gerd did her usual culinary research on the eating opportunities at the Target Center, so we at least knew what out stomachs were getting into.

We got to the game and were sitting in the lower section (which is the expensiver section – yes, I made up that word). But the very last row of the cheap section. The game, I don’t think I could tell you much about, so I’ll let Gerd if she wants to. We spent most of our time in the concourse sampling food. It was a really close game, so we left during the 4th quarter. THAT’s how much we like basketball.

Things we ate: corn dogs, porkchop on a stick, deep fried cheese curds, cokes, beef brisket with BBQ, Irish Nachos, and some funnel cake fries (shown below).

I’ll talk about the highlight and lowlights of the game for me. I couldn’t stop at 5, so I apologize in advance.

Top 5-ish things about the Tmiberwolves game
1) When they make a free throw, there is an audio clip of Mario hitting a coin. That ruled.
2) Gerd liked the Rage Against The Machine intro when they came out onto the floor
3) They had a concession booth with State Fair food – brilliant!
4) Timberwolves dancers – I could make a pun and put them in the “bottom” 5 – har har har
5) Gerd said the song selection in general
6) No lines at the concession stands, since there weren’t that many people
7) Air Crunch and Chomper – you just have to go to experience it.
8) Funnel Cake Fries at the State Fair Booth

Bottom 5 things
1) The simple fact that we went to a basketball game
2) Mike and Ike vendors (seriously) and didn’t get to see Coach drop a fiddy on them
3) Timberwolves dancers are not called Timberbitches
4) Gerd’s lame Underworld comment about the dancers “putting the cans back in Lycans”
5) The guy handing out flyers for other events refused to give the kids a flyer and said, “you don’t have any money any way”. Jerk

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Update on Boiler Room Post

Chao added some videos of the Karaoke madness to the Boiler Room post. Be sure to check it out and heckle in the comments.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Random Guy - Minneapolis Airport, MN

The trip home was uneventful with one exception. While walking to our shuttle at the Minneapolis airport, I see this guy running down a pedestrian ramp out of control while hanging on to (I'm assuming he was pushing it initially) one of those baggage carts filled with luggage.

Weird part - the luggage cart was tipped back, like a wheelie gone wrong.

Hilarious part - the guy hit the ground chest first and slid like 10 feet like Pete Rose.

I can't figure out the how's and why's of this particular incident, but I have never seen a more bizarre airport incident. Was the guy pushing the cart and it got away from him and he tried to leap onto the back to stop it? Was the guy showing off for his wife and popping a wheelie and lost it? Was he hydraulically blasted out of some chute and offered a reward if he stayed upright? Did someone glue the guy's hands to the cart and he needed to scratch his chest?

People stopped and asked him if he was ok, since it took him considerable time to stand up. Once I knew he was ok, the giggles set in for me. I couldn't stop laughing. Just seeing this guy horizontal being dragged by a tipped up luggage cart had me cracking up for the rest of the night. I'll never know what happened, but I kind of don't want to know. It wouldn't ruin my fun.

Pailin Thai – Seattle, WA

Gerd had never been to the fish market in Seattle, so we did a quick tour of that area. She liked it, but liked the French confectionary places much better. While there, we saw the most hilarious thing I’ve seen on the street in a while. This really large African American homeless guy was walking across a crosswalk in front of a nice BMW. He stops and then totally starts dancing right in front of it at the stoplight. Seriously bustin out some hilarious moves for like a minute. He stops and walks the rest of the way across the street. Then, he offered these two conservative white people on the corner some of the weed he was smoking. They politely declined and he continued to take long pulls on the joint, not offended at all. Hilarious.

We attempted to find a Thai place called Buddha Ruska (I think). When we found it, it was closed, but Slutnik had a backup plan. She’s so prepared. We went to Pailin Thai (which is NOT a republican Thai restaurant). It’s a really nice place to get some really awesome Thai food.

We got to sit in what appeared to be some sort of glass enclosure like a greenhouse, which ended up being cold, but whatever. Gerd totally stole my idea for ordering, so I had to go with a second choice. She got the Pailin Special Noodle which is thin noodles, vegetables and your choice of meat covered with a peanut sauce. I got the Chef Special Noodle which was large noodles, vegetables, and eggs with choice of meat. Gerd’s meal beat mine hands down, although mine was REALLY good. I also make a habit of ordering my food too spicy for her to eat and she gets her revenge by not sharing. Just rude.

We would go here again, although the service was a tad slow. If you get a chance, sit near the fish tank. Chicken Little thought he saw a giant scary fish and it was an old lady sitting on the other side of the tank – THAT was funny.

Top 5 things about Pailin Thai
1. Pailin Special Noodle
2. Peanut sauce
3. Watching old people attempting to parallel park out front
4. The spicy-ness levels were perfect
5. Bath and body works soap in the bathrooms (Gerd’s comment, not mine)

Bottom 5 things
1. Kind of slow service
2. Soda in cans – the bane of Gerd’s existence
3. Cold greenhouse
4. The fish tank has scary anemones in it
5. Gerd totally ordered the thing I wanted

Talarico’s Pizza – Seattle, WA

Despite a long drive from Portland to Seattle (which I did in Chicken Little’s car while he slept), Chicken Little was feeling a bit better. He had had some crackers and was able to keep those down. So what’s the next natural step after crackers? Greasy pizza!!!

We went to Talarico’s Pizza which is a place known for awesome pizza and ginormous portions. Sounds good to me. And yes, I offered multiple times to go someplace else if it would be better for Chicken Little’s delicate stomach. He assured me it would be fine.

The place is super dark on the inside. You almost can’t see it is so dark. We grabbed a booth and ordered appetizers. Chicken Little ordered Garlic Bread, giving his stomach one last chance to surrender before moving on to pizza. Gerd and I ordered Meatball Sliders. We’re assuming the garlic bread was good mostly based on the fact that he kept it on the inside after he ate it. Our meatball sliders were exquisite! Great pizza sauce around a good meatball with a slice of parmesan cheese and a basil leaf (I think). Really awesome. Gerd claimed she should have ordered 16 of them, but she didn’t.

Gerd went with a slice of Oglio D’ Avio pizza which is goat cheese, garlic, arugula, mozzarella, and sauce. This didn’t contain any meat, so she ordered it with pepperoni. I got the “South Street’, which is Italian sausage, spicy sausage, mozzarella, and sauce. These pieces are literally 14 inches long and huge. I was going to eat a second one, but now I’m glad I didn’t. They’re giant pieces of pizza. And the best part is they are really tasty as well.
I told you they were big.

This place was hosting Karaoke as well – how convenient, right? Well, after we listened to a couple of songs we realized these were NOT our people. They were basically professional karaoke singers. People taking this laughable event far more seriously than it was ever intended. These people were REALLY good. Highlights include two guys doing an Evanescence song and this ancient man singing SUPER depressing old-timey songs in a warbley Bruce-Dickinson-vibrato voice. Slutnik eventually showed up but we told her these people were out of our league. Way out of our league.

The highlight of the event might have been when Chicken Little came back from the bathroom and told us he saw what appeared to be a super drunk lady being led to the restroom. It turned out the woman was blind. Nice, jerk. (And if you say she’ll never read this blog, you’re an even bigger hilarious jerk…)

Top 5 things about Talarico’s Pizza
1. Meatball sliders
2. Chicken Little kept his food inside this time
3. South Street pizza
4. Oglio D’ Avio pizza
5. Karaoke eye-candy

Bottom 5 things
1. Good singers make karaoke not fun
2. Too much arugula on Gerd’s slice
3. Gerd had issues with the mess in the ladies room
4. Fog of doom covered the planet while we were eating – worst fog I’ve ever seen, seriously
5. Had to wait FOREVER for Slutnik. Ha ha ha.

Cameo Café – Portland, OR

My friend Babo and I had made lunch plans at the previous night’s karaoke activities, so we decided to meet at this place that had been recommended to him. The Cameo Café – which Babo was amused by when I asked if it was like “Word Up” from back in the day. While spelled the same, it bore no resemblance to genius that was Cameo (the band). Babo said this place was a Korean/American Breakfast/Lunch place (yes, with the slashes included) (and he was dead on).

Chicken Little still wasn’t feeling fantastic and decided to sleep in the car while we were eating. His loss. This place deserves multiple pages of reviewing. But I’ll condense it as best I can.

First off, the place is next to the Cameo Motel, an equally run-down looking establishment with blue and white paint on the outside. Not scary run-down, more homey-run-down. We walked to the front door which is a sliding glass door like you find in your house to go out on the patio. There were all kinds of photos, articles, and awards scotch taped to the door as well, so you really couldn’t see through it that well.

We got seated by the owner who - a very friendly Korean woman named Sue Gee. Then we saw the rest of the staff. One other pretty Korean woman and then the rest of the staff looked like X-strippers (The X could stand for any integer less than 1940). These women looked rough. Prison tattoos and stretch marks in places I didn’t intend to see during brunch. REALLY rough. I did however find it amusing the short order cook was a beast of a woman and wearing a purple velvet dress shirt while cooking hashbrowns.

The menu is a bizarre mix of American greasy-spoon breakfast fare and Korean traditional dishes. Everything we ordered, the waitress commented AT LENGTH about, as if reassuring us that it would be good. ODD. Slutnik got a ginormous pancake, Gerd got a Monte Cristo, Babo got Mandu Kook Soup, and I got Bulgogi Beef. When I ordered mine, I was asked if I wanted hashbrowns or rice with mine. Seriously? I went with the rice, despite my Alabama roots.

The Monte Cristo was really good and appeared to be double thick. Not entirely deep-fried like at Bennigans, but still awesome. The pancake I assume was awesome since they usually are. Babo's soup was good, but a bit different than he expected. And my Bulgogi was great (glad I went with the rice).

The owner came over and talked to Babo in Korean for a short while and invited him back to her place (I’m totally making this up since I don’t speak Korean). She told him to go to the location closer to his house which is more of a lounge and dinner place. He was non-committal as usual. Very nice lady.

One of the harder looking waitress came over to our table and asked if we needed the ketchup bottle of raspberry goo which Gerd was using on her Monte Cristo. We didn’t even get to say yes or no before she picked it up. She looked at Gerd and Slutnik and then squirted a blast of raspberry goo right onto Slutnik’s pancake and then another blast right onto Gerd’s toast!!! Then she turned around and left with the raspberry goo. We were speechless for like 30 seconds. Never have we experienced anything like that. It was classic.

The place was decorated kind of crazy as well. A parasol was duct taped to the wall near the door. There were various ethnicities represented in the decorating scheme. Random photos on the wall and more articles. The seats we were sitting in were like the wire metal patio chairs with really small hard seats. After about 30 minutes, my ass was completely numb. Another 15 and it was painful. The restroom you had to access through the kitchen area, but it was very clean.

This place was good, but sort of bizarre. I’d kind of recommend it just for the experience and the quality of the food, but the weird factor still throws me off a bit.

Did I mention Chicken Little is still asleep in the car through all of this? Ha ha ha

Top 5 things about the Cameo Café
1. I got to sing Word Up all day
2. Super nice owner
3. Great Monte Cristo
4. Beef Bulgogi
5. I didn’t even know Babo spoke Korean!!!

Bottom 5 things
1. Kind of freakshow experience as a whole
2. Raspberry squirting stealing waitress
3. Uncomfortable seating
4. Real rough staff
5. The Mandu Kook Soup may be an imposter

Voodoo Doughnut and Wedding Chapel – Portland, OR

Yes, you read that right – doughnuts and wedding chapel.

ALERT!!!! – If you are easily offended by sexual humor, please do not ready any further. Click here if you are. All I’m saying is… don’t judge.

Gerd found this place during a culinary investigation of Portland AFTER she saw a photo of Chicken Little eating a doughnut with Crunchberries on it. We knew this place was a MUST-DO. And as usual with Gerd’s discoveries, we were NOT disappointed.

Remember the previous night adventures with external stomach-acid? Chicken Little was still feeling terrible. And apparently this affects his parking abilities. Also, the reverse diagonal parking didn’t help. You have to back in at an angle and it wasn’t working. We piled out of the car to let him make additional attempts and went inside. He wasn’t going to be participating in the breakfast feast.

We waited in line outside in the cold. Apparently this place always has a line since the inside of the place is about 10’ x 10’. Seriously. Get more than 8 people inside and you’re done. But on the walls are really funny articles about accidents and porn stars and t-shirts and a large Isaac Hayes velvet painting. Class act all the way.

Once inside, we got to see the menu on the wall. A hilarious list of things you wouldn’t dream of for doughnut names. But alas, here they are staring you in the face. There’s also a spinning case (taking up valuable room) displaying almost all of the concoctions these doughnut wizards have dreamed up. We decided to do a dozen and then eat them on the road. Excellent choice – we all picked the ones we wanted to try.

Here’s what Gerd and Slutnik decided on: Bloop Loops (with real Fruit Loops on it), Old Dirty Bastard (with oreos and caramel), Diablo Something-Or-Other (with the pentagram), Triple Chocolate (with the cocoa puffs), a Buttermilk Bar, a MiamiViceBerry (the blue one), and I can’t remember what the Crunchberry ones are but Slutnik and Gerd don’t share well so they got two.

And here’s where it gets offensive. I’ll keep my comments to a minimum so as not to offend to much, but you can just imagine the shenanigans that ensued: some small cream filled doughnut that Gerd wanted (lame), and yes, there’s a Bacon Maple Bar (yes, a bacon-covered doughnut – my dream come true), the giant one is a Tex-Ass doughnut, and yes, the last one is aptly named “cock & balls” (and yes, it IS cream-filled – thanks for asking).

Since I said I’d keep my comments to a minimum, I’ll simply say these were the best doughnuts I’ve ever eaten. And sadly, the best one was the buttermilk bar that Gerd got. It was incredible. The other ones were also fantastic. If you are in the neighborhood, you need to go here. They change the items on the menu regularly, but they always seem to have most of the ones mentioned above.

They also do weddings in the place for a fee. They have a package deal with airfare, hotel, sightseeing, and wedding package. Seriously, you can get married here. There are also eating contests and challenges as well. The owner of this place is a mad genius!!!

Top 5 things about Voodoo Doughnut
1. Buttermilk bar
2. Bacon Maple bar
3. Cock & balls
4. Bloop Loops
5. Tex-ass

Bottom 5 things
1. The place is TINY
2. Reverse diagonal parking only – are you serious?
3. Long line all the time, apparently
4. It’s like a bad horror movie inside. Trash couldn’t go here – she has nightmares about such things
5. Their slogan is “The Magic is in the Hole” and they don’t have doughnut holes

Ace Hotel – Portland, OR

I can make this one quick. Second coolest hotel EVER. (The first was the Radio City Music Hall Hotel I stayed in with Trash and Corpsekitten in NYC.) This hotel looked like an old converted school building and you stayed in the rooms. Super high ceilings and old woodwork and hardwood floors.

But the place still had a modern feel – not sure how they pulled it off, but they did. Sliding hanging door for the bathroom, beds with no box springs (not ideal for bed jumping, sorry), and cool artwork. There was a large bed and two single beds in their own cubby holes, which ended up being super awesome.

The lobby was a hive of activity with people drinking coffee, playing with dogs (it’s dog friendly there), and working on laptops.

Here are some additional amenities:

  • Clawfoot bathtubs in some rooms
  • Custom blankets and sheets
  • Turntables in some rooms (seriously)
  • Flatscreen TVs
  • WiFi (when will this just become accepted as standard?)
  • Complimentary Mac laptop access
  • Bike Rentals
  • Laundry
  • Photo Booth

We will stay here every time we come to Portland. It’s awesome.

Top 5 things about the Ace Hotel
1. Decor
2. Bed cubbies
3. Fridge for left over Poutine
4. Dog friendly
5. Good restaurant guides

Bottom 5 things
1. Slidey door didn’t cover all of the bathroom – Slutnik is a peeker
2. Couldn’t find lights for the bathroom in the middle of the night. Night peeing isn’t good for anyone
3. No box springs – a detriment to bed jumping, but otherwise cool
4. Creaky hardwood floors during night peeing mission
5. Random wooden boxes under the couch – maybe they are dwarf-friendly as well?

Potato Champion – Portland, OR

We needed something to soak up some alcohol, so we grabbed a cab to the Potato Champion. Gerd found this guy while doing culinary research in Portland. It’s a cart in downtown where they serve fries covered with stuff. The cab driver raced us to the Potato Champion straight away.

Now when I say raced, I mean raced. At one point, we may have gotten airborne cresting the peak of a bridge. And this is where things turned bad. Remember the aforementioned imbibing at the Boiler Room? Yeah, “airborne” was not what Chicken Little’s stomach needed.

We made it to the Potato Champion and asked the cab driver to wait. Chicken Little stayed in the car while we piled out to order food from the cart. We got Poutine (which I giggled about everytime I said it that night), which as it turns out is a slop pile of fries, gravy and cheese curds. Brilliant!!! Though the onions were an unexpected surprise. We dealt with it though.

As we turned around we saw Chicken Little hanging out of the cab, not looking well. We got back into the cab and Chicken Little got out and started pacing in the parking lot. Then things started spewing forth. The cab driver was not pleased. Slutnik found Chicken Little a bag “just in case” and Gerd started to panic.

Chicken Little eventually made it back into the cab, sitting next to me of course. I was focused on the cab driver’s jams on the radio, rather than Upchuck MacGillicutty next to me holding a bag. Gerd is sitting on my left chanting “please don’t” over and over. And Puke Wellington is making dry heave noises on my right. Slutnik told the cab driver he might slow down. Classic.

Gerd started counting down the blocks (out loud) until we were back to the hotel. We made it back to the hotel just in the nick of time. Gerd handed the cabby a handful of cash for his troubles – seriously a handful. We wished Slutnik and Chucks Taylor a good evening and then ran upstairs. Hey, they seemed to have it under control!

Gerd oddly had lost her appetite, but I dug into the Poutine. It was awesome! Though occasionally it would remind me of our poor friend Chicken Little who would not be enjoying any Poutine, sadly.

I would recommend the heck out of the Potato Champion, drunk or sober. Just go here!

Top 5 things about the Potato Champion
1. Just saying Poutine makes me crack up like I’m 14
2. The Poutine was actually VERY good
3. Hot food on a cold evening is always good
4. Down-home clientele in line with us
5. The guy working the cart (I’m assuming the champion, himself) was super nice and helpful

Bottom 5 things
1. Stomach-jettison Boy next to me… ha ha ha
2. Surprise onions
3. Mario Andretti the cab driver
4. No mention of the Potato Runner-Up
5. Huge portion I couldn’t finish

Boiler Room – Portland, OR (long entry)

After dinner, we wanted to go out on the town and check out the night life. And since we’re all lame, we found a nice karaoke bar – The Boiler Room. When we walked past the place, it looked like there was a wedding reception going on inside, so we knew this place was going to get rowdy. We were right.

The wedding party was not quite loaded when we walked in, but they were well on their way. Hot dressed up girls and douche-bag guys. Maybe 4 or 5 maids of honor and the same number of groomsmen, and friends and families of the wedding party. They were singing all kinds of random stuff and not well – these were our people. Watching ladies over 50 singing all the words to Scorpions and Ratt songs is something you can’t explain…

Drinks, round one, just to loosen up. Chicken Little hopped up on stage and sang “Shout”, yes from the TV commercial (sadly, I know someone famous wrote it, but I’m a pop culture void, so I don’t know who it is). This actually got the wedding party yelling along with him, so it was a perfect choice to start with.

I couldn’t wait for Chicken Little, Slutnik, and Gerd to catch up, so I started to have “point-five” drinks – these are fill-in drinks between rounds – ie, round 1.5, 2.5, etc… I’m not a fan of karaoke, but my friend Jack Daniels and I have been known to do a duet from time to time (and the captain will join in for a three-way as well on occasion).

My friend Babo from Vancouver WA showed up to see us after leaving a fund-raising event he was at. He was still in a suit and tie, so he looked like he was there with the wedding party. Apparently, he had just won a BMX bike in the auction at the event. Yes, he's 40, but he wasn't about to let some punk kid take this bike from him. He has no idea what to do with the bike now, but at least he won. I love this guy. Babo didn't stick around long, but we made plans to do lunch the following day, so all is good.

The place started to fill up with civilians, so we got in our bid for a couple of songs early. I pulled off a stunningly terrible version of “Tragedy” by the BeeGees after a couple more drinks, although I had a fan throwing her fist in the air with me at the end of the song (video is here) Slutnik brought the noise with David Hasselhoff's version of "She's Like The Wind" (video is here) Chicken Little and Slutnik threw down a killer rendition of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” complete with Chicken Little dancing like a satellite (so he says) and what looks like choreographed dance moves which they claim were accidental (video is here) and Chicken Little’s excrutiatingly white version of Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness” – complete with Chicken Little yelling, “Show me some SOUL, white people!!!!” (video is here).

The drinks had flowed pretty solid most of the night (including my point-five drinks). Chicken Little starts loudly ranting about how white people are ruining this country. He instantly makes friends with this hilarious guy from India and his wife. And also ends up making enemies with this African American woman who points out that he’s Caucasian. Believe me, all of this is way funnier in real life than in text-form, but I had to tell the story. Every time the DJ would call someone’s name for the next song, Chicken Little would yell, “Steve? I hate that doosh!!!” or “Stephanie sucks! Pick Chicken Little!!!” At one point, Chicken Little and India-man were chanting “Chicken Little! Chicken Little! Chicken Little!” while pounding on the tables. Hilarious.

We started to gather our things when I heard my name called for a song I had put in for like two hours earlier. Jack convinced me that I had one more song in me. Slutnik was watching our personal items while Gerd and Chicken Little were using the facilities one last time. So I started in on Wilson Phillips’ “Hold On” without my cheering section. Apparently it didn’t matter, since right as Gerd came out of the restroom, two random girls hopped up on the stage with me to “help.”

As you can see from the video, these girls were militant. The girl in my face has a death grip on my microphone and the other girl had stolen the extra microphone and was singing loudly and then shoving the mic in Chicken Little’s face. The girl in front of me keeps grabbing my arm and then handfuls of my hair as she screams drunkenly in my face. Gerd said she didn’t know whether to hand out some whoop-ass or keep running film (she decided to keep running film for evidence against me later – typical girl).

You can see Chicken Little starting the crowd clapping over their heads. Classic. Then he starts dancing and screaming into the microphone. I love this video. At the end of the songs, I screamed the song credits out like some sort of wrestling announcer for some reason. Anyway, I butchered the song, but it didn’t matter, the crowd was insane (so I thought). The girl kept pawing me and talking to me after the song was over, and yes, Gerd kept running film. Needless to say, it was time to leave…

Top 5 things about Boiler Room
1. Otis Redding with extra white-sauce
2. Ladies pawing me during a Wilson Phillips song
3. Choreographed dance moves
4. Chicken Little’s inverted racist comments
5. Awesome crowd participation

Bottom 5 things
1. Standing in line for the restroom with d-bags
2. King d-bag asking me what the hell song I was singing up there
3. They didn’t have Salt ‘n’ Pepa’s “None of Your Business”
4. Gerd didn’t get to sing at all
5. Had to wait hours to sing your song

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sungari Pearl - Portland, OR

We had a hankering for fancy Chinese food while in Portland, so we headed to a magazine-recommended restaurant called the Sungari Pearl. It ended up being quite good for all of us.

They had a decent list of girly drinks, so I ended up with the Red Lotus - pomegranate juice and some alcohol that I can't remember right now. Gerd got a Malbec, since she's been hooked for months on this red wine. We also started with an order of fresh spring rolls - these filled with peking duck - called peking duck salad rolls. They were pretty good, although they seemed to have more cabbage inside than anything. That being said, we still devoured them.

Gerd got the Yin Yang Shrimp which was spicy shrimp and wine/garlic sauteed shrimp separated by a spinach leaf wall. Gerd's was really good. I got a couple bites and really liked it. The theme for the weekend seemed to be "Chao is a perv," so I channeled my inner perv to order the Chicken with Young Ginger. I should not let my inner perv order food for me. It was decent, but there was enough ginger in the dish that it tasted about two molecules away from cleaning solution. It was edible, but really not all that flavorful, since it didn't have any other vegetables except onions (which I don't eat).

There was a little kid water boy who kept our glasses super filled with water. After he would fill out glasses, he would slam the glass down directly in front of you, as if you were to drink it immediately. He would pop out of nowhere and grab your glass then slam it back down. Hilarious. The place notes in the review that it has metal chopsticks (written like this \m/ ). Not sure why this is a competitive advantage for the place, but they brag abut it.

Also I had several Hoisin issues. I kept spilling it everywhere. All over the table, all over other people's food, and all over my napkin in great globules. Not sure what my issue was.

Top 5 things about Sungari Pearl
1. Yin Yang Shrimp
2. Tang Tang noodles that Slutnik and Chicken Little ordered
3. Champagne punch that Slutnik ordered
4. Red Lotus
5. Peking duck Salad Rolls

Bottom 5 things
1. Militant water-filler
2. Chop sticks seemed pretty cheap-quality metal
3. Should have gone with a more mature ginger
4. My chicken came with no vegetables
5. Defective Hoisin sauce - oh wait, that might have been me...

Red Mill - Seattle, WA

Gerd has multiple lists of "Top X In The Country." The Red Mill is a restaurant on the Top 20 burgers to try before you die list and Gerd is on a mission to complete this list. I went to the Red Mill when I was out in Seattle this past summer, so I was totally down with going here again. There's a reason it's on a few different lists (include an Oprah list of some sort).

Gerd got the recommended burger form the list - the double bacon deluxe with cheese. It's a monstrous burger covered in cheese and bacon. Gerd got an order of fries and a chocolate shake as well. The shake was kind of an average run of the mill shake (pun intended), but the fries were pretty darn good.

I got the BBQ Burger, which is a large burger with BBQ sauce, some special Mill sauce, tomato, lettuce, and jack cheese. I ate some of Gerd's fries (and got scolded severely) and had some of her shake as well. These are awesome quality burgers, so go here if you're in the area ever.

I looked over the wall protecting the kitchen area and saw the holy grail of bacon. It is a two foot high pyramid of bacon ready to go on the burgers. Best picture ever.

Top 5 things about Red Mill
1. Quantity of cheese
2. The bacon pyramid
3. Double bacon deluxe
4. BBQ burger
5. Fries

Bottom 5 things
1. Really sloppy to eat in the car
2. There is always a line
3. Cash only
4. There is quite a bit of dust on everything inside - just be prepared
5. Dirty hippies ordering veggie burgers

Senor Moose - Seattle, WA

I ate here the last time I was out in Seattle visiting Chicken Little. Gerd needed to try it, for sure. Awesome Mexican food breakfasts and they tell you where each dish is from, which is kind of cool. Good idea.

Gerd got the Entomatadas (from Oaxaca) - tortillas in tomato sauce covered with eggs and cheese. When she ordered this dish, the waitress corrected her gringo pronunciation. Really delicious and flavorful (I even got a few bites of this one). I got the Huevos Mutoleños (from Yucatan) - tortillas, black beans, peas, and ham topped with plantains. Gerd claimed this dish looked like a plate of vomit, but honestly, it was amazing. Tons of different flavors but didn't seem like everything ran together like some dishes cooked all together. I would get this anytime I come across this in the future, rest assured.

Top 5 things
1. Huevos Mutoleños
2. Entomatadas
3. The refried beans
4. They have Mimosas
5. It wasn't nearly as busy as last time I was there.

Bottom 5 things
1. Vomit plate
2. Cans of soda
3. There was food left on our table from previous eaters
4. Couldn't finish my food
5. American-sounding name is deceiving

Alaska Airlines - Minneapolis to Seattle

We flew Alaska Airlines on our trip out to Seattle. We would both recommend it highly. They give a lot of freebies and really took care of us. That doesn't always happen in coach class, but this was a great flight.

The flight offered not just one complimentary beverage service, but TWO! And it was Jones Soda, not just standard coke/pepsi. We also got complimentary pretzels (which never happens any more).

Top 5 things about Alaska Air
1. Free Jones Soda. Twice.
2. No lines getting on the planes at all
3. We got gift certificates for McCormick & Schmick's for TWENTY dollars. Just for the heck of it.
4. Free snacks
5. You could get a burger if you wanted to pay a little extra.

Bottom 5 things (I only have 4)
1. Kind of rule sticklers about the policies (not really a bad thing I guess)
2. Couldn't see the eskimo on the tail of the plane
3. The pilot would get on the intercom every time we hit the tiniest bit of turbulence and apologize (probably a good thing, but wakes you up when you're sleeping)
4. They don't fly to all the places I want to go

Byzantion - Seattle, WA

Gerd and I took advantage of the three-day weekend and flew to Seattle to see some friends. After we landed, Chicken Little and Slutnik gave us a quick night-tour of Seattle, including the Seattle corn chute (his words, not ours).

We headed to a Greek restaurant, although it was not the first choice. The first choice of Greek restaurants had belly dancers, but not at the time we got in, so we went to another one called Byzantion.

The menu was quite extensive and had tons of different items on it. We started with a double of order of Saganaki (flaming cheese) - apparently Gerd and Slutnik weren't going to share. the cheese was really good, although the mother-daughter team had an issue lighting the second one. The splash of liquor caught the daughter's sweater on fire (just the sleeve). She apologized and said we'd have a good story - and yes we did. ha ha. She was really cool with it, but I'm sure it sucked.

Gerd got the Mousaka which kind of seemed kind of like a noodle-less lasagna. It's got eggplant and meat sauce covered with cheese and cheese. The cheese was really creamy and flavorful and the meat sauce was awesome as well. Really a good dish.

I got the Athens combination plate which had portions of a couple of things I couldn't decide between. It had lamb souvlaki - lamb on a skewer marinated in wine and olive oil; Keftethes - meatballs with tomato sauce and feta cheese; Tiropita - cheese and egg baked inside a phyllo pastry; and Dolmathes - grape leaves stuffed with rice, beef, tomato, and cinnamon. It was really delicious, especially the lamb. And last but not least, the vegetables that came with the meal were awesome. The zucchini and potatoes were great. I would order just potatoes if I went back there - superb.

We would eat here again, but I know there are many other Seattle places for us to try so we wont rush back or anything right away.

Top 5 things about Byzantion
1. Lamb
2. Nagasaki
3. Gerd's Greek lasagna (Mousaka)
4. Taters
5. Pastry thing (Tiropita)

Bottom 5 things
1. Slow on drink refills
2. Sweater on fire
3. Coach wasn't there to make comments about Greek girls
4. We sat close to the door and every time it opened, we froze
5. The grape leaves were really cinnamon-y

Friday, January 16, 2009

Cheng Heng – St. Paul, MN

We got a recommendation from one of my coworkers with this caveat, “Don’t expect much in the way of ambience…” Actually my coworker raved about the food, but when I hear warnings about ambience, it’s a green light for me. This is a Cambodian restaurant, and since we’d never eaten Cambodian food, an almost-recommendation was all I needed.

We dropped by this place after work after a really long drive down University Ave. It’s almost to the capitol building (the opposite direction of home). The building is split into weird sections. When you walk in, you’ll be faced with a smattering of toys – apparently this is where the owners/workers kids play. To the left are a handful of Asian-inspired decorations (planters, statues, and plants) and also the entrance to some sort of jewelry store (also filled with toys and randomness). To the right is most of the restaurant. A little further back and there is a sectioned off area which I assume is overflow.

We got a table and Gerd put her purse down loudly and started emptying it. Apparently, her spillproof coffee mug wasn’t all that spillproof. So I offered to order some cream cheese puffs (crab rangoons basically) and that cheered her up just a little bit. I also ordered some fresh spring rolls since we always have to get them when they’re on any menu.

We ordered our meals as well, but I can’t tell you what we got, unfortunately. There were a lot of “c”s in the items if that helps. We got a #24 and a #28. I can’t give you any more than that.

The crab rangoons were quite good. You know they’re good when you pick them up and grease drips out the end. Seriously, that means they’re good. These were very good. The fresh spring rolls were awesome as well. To be honest, we’ve never had bad spring rolls anywhere, so it’s a safe bet they were going to be good. And they were.

The #24 was some sort of glass noodle and mushroom dish that was really good. Wasn’t spicy at all and Gerd really liked it a lot. There were some cabbage-y things in it as well as some long skinny Asian mushrooms that look like worms. I even got to finish up the plate when Gerd got full. It was a winner.

The #28 was also good, but a bit bland honestly. It was noodles and bean sprouts and chicken and was pretty good, just not a lot of flavor going on. I dumped the sauce they brought out for me all over the top of it and that seemed to help though. Nothing weird about it, although it didn’t taste like Chinese food – more like Vietnamese food. So I guess where Cambodia is at, they stole more things from Vietnam than China. Go them.

After being worried about receiving a plate with a stick and some blades of grass on it – you KNOW you think of Cambodia the same way *I* do – I was pleasantly surprised to have really good food. I’d recommend this place, but we still have another 2,000+ restaurants to go to before we get back here. We won’t be scared of it any more if that’s any consolation!

Top 5 things about Cheng Heng
1. #24 (whatever that is)
2. Fresh spring rolls
3. It was pretty cheap
4. They have hoissin in ketchup bottles on the table – awesome!
5. Really good descriptions of each dish – very helpful

Bottom 5 things
1. Seems like a lot of weird stuff going on in there besides cookery
2. #28 was a tad bland
3. It’s really far from us
4. Pop in cans – Gerd HATES to ration her drinking
5. Gerd’s spillproof fail – not the restaurant’s fault of course

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

For Blood, Born of Osiris, Impending Doom, Emmure, Unearth – Station 4 – St. Paul, MN

As soon as I heard Born of Osiris was playing this show, I knew I was going. I love their stuff and couldn’t wait to see them live.

The website for Station 4 said the show started at 6:30 and was all ages. Fine. I showed up at 6pm expecting to walk right in. Alas, no, the doors open at 6:30, so I was waiting outside in the cold and snow. Have you been to Minnesota in January? Here’s an idea of what it’s like if you're sitting in my car:

Yeah, that’s minus 17.

I’ve got jeans and a sweatshirt on, so I’m freezing. But I’m not a stupid teenager, so I didn’t have shorts and a t-shirt on. Morons.

For Blood started the show. They’re a good tough-guy metal/hardcore mosh band. The drummer is actually REALLY good for a HC drummer. It’s nice to see. The guys looked like they liked being there. I bought their CD and expect it to be pretty good (haven’t listened to it yet).

Then, Born of Osiris took the stage. They were super tight and had awesome vocal interaction between the mains singer and the keyboardist (yes, keyboardist). The drummer was amazing, but the two guitarist kind of stood there noodling their awesome solos. I understand what you are playing is difficult, but don’t watch your fingers. And to steal a line from an x-roommate, the Asian guitarist had no business with that beard. The keyboardists moved around a lot and when he wasn’t playing, he’d move around the stage – go him for having stage presence – that’s nice to see. The bass player was really good but kind of got lost in the mix. And even when there were fruity guitars, the vocals still stayed tough – that’s how it should be. Great band, but I think better on cd when you can pick up on all the awesome stuff they do.

Impending Doom is a severely down-tuned and boring death metal band. They had a couple of breakdowns thrown in but even that didn’t get the crowd moving. Their gimmick is wearing matching black dress shirts with what I assumed was a pentagram on the pocket. I thought that until they started preaching about their lord and savior Jesus and also noticed they used the word “frick” enough to annoy me. Apparently, they’re a severely down-tuned and boring x-tian death metal band.

Emmure is a band I don’t give enough credit to. I like them a lot and now that I’ve seen them live, I think they kind of stole the show a little bit. Even though they had some hand clapping parts, they were still tough. They were very professional on stage, playing, presence, and speaking – lots of energy and talent. The drumming was amazing and sometimes it seemed like breakdown after breakdown (not necessarily in a bad way). The singer didn’t thrill me because he forgot to use consonants in a couple of spots. Just “agh agh agh agh agh” for long periods. Then he would yell, “Come on, you know the words!” hilarious, but I don’t think he was joking.

Unearth is a great band. I’ve tried NOT to like them since they kind of got big there for a while. But there’s a reason – I really think they’re a great band. I just forgot how good they were. The guitarists were both super talented and had some hilarious stage antics like they actually enjoyed being on stage. The drumming was top notch as expected, but still great to see live. There was a little handclapping, but not enough to be annoying. They played tons of their older stuff which ruled and even the new songs sounded awesome. I’m glad I didn’t leave early.

And I’ve talked about Station 4’s sound before, but I still hate only having one guitar per channel. It always sounds like I’m driving in my friend Coach’s car when he only had the left speaker functional. The songs sound totally different. Even if you put a little of the left guitar in the right speaker, it sounds better.

Top 5 things about the show
1. Emmure
2. Unearth
3. Born of Osiris
4. Chatting up one of the scene kid’s moms (who was my age – ouch)
5. For Blood

Bottom 5 things
1. Freezing my nards off
2. Only hearing one guitarist
3. The mini tacos hurt my stomach a bit
4. Doesn’t anyone have 2X shirts?
5. Impending Doom

For Blood
Born of Osiris
Impending Doom
Station 4

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Amore Victoria – Minneapolis, MN

This was Gerd and I’s first happy hour of 2009 – Hooray!!! We’ve driven past this place a number of times and saw the “1/2 price bottles of wine on Mondays and Tuesdays” sign on the front of the building. We checked it out and they had a happy hour as well, so we knew it was for us.

We arrived and told them we were there for happy hour and they seated us in the special “happy hour section” of the restaurant. Not sure what that was about, but it worked out well for us. We got a corner booth table and it was kind of cozy and dark.

There is a special happy hour menu and a special half-price wine list as well. We dove right in. We got an order of bruschetta, an order of caprese (which is basically bruscetta, but I wanted both – sue me), and a double order of meatballs. We also got a very nice bottle of Le Grande Noir Viognier 2006 (for half price – wurd).

Fortunately, the food came out in shifts because we ran out of room quickly on our small corner table. The bruscetta and caprese were really good. Lightly toasted bread with lots of toppings. There was a tad much of the basil, but that was easily thinned out. I managed to drip olive oil all over my nice shirt as well. Go me! The meatballs were really good and came swimming in a pool of rich and tasty meat sauce. Excellent. The wine was not what I expected, but we both liked it. Gerd was a bigger fan than I was, but I still managed to drink ¾ of the bottle, so it wasn’t THAT bad. Ha ha.

The service was excellent. Attentive, but not annoying. The place is small, but is still able to pack in a good crowd. We’ll definitely be back here. And I won’t spill on myself…

Top 5 things about Amore Victoria
1. Meatballs
2. Bruschetta
3. Caprese
4. Le Grand Noir
5. Happy hour goes until 7, contrary to the website’s posted time

Bottom 5 things
1. Spilled on myself
2. Heavy on the basil
3. Squeegie-ing out the women’s restroom while we were there. Some sort of “incident” apparently
4. The actual menu is enormous and everything looks good. Would take me forever to decide on actual dinner
5. People park like morons in the back (snow covered parking lot is the excuse)

Monday, January 5, 2009

La Bodega - Minneapolis, MN

I had never had Tapas before. Crazy, huh? Well, Chao thought so too so he decided to bring me to La Bodega last night in the Lyn-Lake area of Minneapolis. The reviews we read online prior to our visit were lukewarm at best, but Chao and I are are not ones to take other's reviews to heart. We started this blog to tell you all what we think so we set out to do just that.

We arrived to find no other patrons in the restaurant. None. A-1-ZERO. There are two sections of the restaurant. One had signage instructing us that it was the Tapas Bar having traditional tables and chairs and a bar, and the other half was more of a hip and trendy bar area with interesting tables and chairs that looked difficult for eating food. We chose the Tapas Bar and picked our location among the sea of empty tables and chairs. The decor was pretty awesome. The floors were wood and the waitress clunked around wearing heeled boots. The walls were decorated in theme and the bar area was neat.

We were given bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping as a starter. This was good! Chao had a Meringue drink which involved tequila, rum, pineapple juice, and grenadine. He thought it was good and bought grenadine at the grocery store the next day to recreate it. I had wine. Yes, Malbec again. We ordered several small plates including Shrimp with garlic and white wine, Queso Frito, Albondigas (meatballs), a pork and potato dish and a green bean dish. Sorry I don't have all the appropriate names for each but this places doesn't have a website to refer back to. The shrimp was awesome. Even Chao had one and liked it and he is not a seafood eater. The meatballs were also really good. They came with a tangy tomato sauce. The rest of the food was interesting. The pork dish was bland and the potatoes weren't cooked enough so they were a bit tough. Ha ha...tough taters. The green beans were fine but nothing exciting. The Queso Frito was described as fried cheese in tomato sauce and to me seemed to be the most promising item on the Tapas menu. This was a failure. I couldn't find much cheese. I think it might have disinigrated? It tasted like greasy tomato sauce. Bummer.

We decided that this place was pretty good but we wouldn't go back unless we had a great reason. Great reasons include being invited by others for fun, coupons, or being paid to go. We liked the experience and wish it would've blown us away but it didn't.

Top 5:
1. Shrimp
2. Bread with dipping oil and vinegar
3. Meatballs
4. Tapas are fun!
5. Decor

Bottom 5:
1. We were the only ones there for the first 20 minutes of our visit
2. Some of the dishes weren't very exciting
3. The potatoes weren't cooked all the way
4. Where did the cheese go?
5. Expensive for mediocre food

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Runyon’s – Minneapolis, MN

Gerd works downtown, so she’s driven by Runyon’s many times. I had heard it’s a place to get wings, but since I don’t like wings (see high-labor foods), I had to get something else. The place is a typical drinking establishment. A couple of booths, more high-top tables, and plenty of space at the bar.

The menu is pretty sparse, but has the standard bar food you’d find at most places. They seem to be known for their chili since they have some neon out in the front with the words “chili” - which meant I had to order the chili burger. Gerd got a side salad and a cheese burger. The guys helping assured us it would be out quick and it was.

The burgers were actually really good. The chili wasn’t phenomenal, but I’m glad I got a chili burger anyway, rather than a separate bowl of chili – I might have been disappointed. The combination was really good though. The cheeseburger Gerd had was really tasty as well. One thing that should get more attention is the fries. They are really tasty without being overly seasoned or salty. Very good.

We got in there and out of there pretty quick. No complaints. Just quality food and a decent price. We’ll head back here again at some point, for sure. Also, the Stevie Wonder poster is hilarious – you’ll know it when you see it.

Top 5 things about Runyon’s
1. Fries
2. Burgers
3. Super fast (because there wasn’t anyone else there)
4. Mirrors everywhere for people-watching (if there were people there)
5. Runyon Traveling All-Stars – pictures of people with other famous people or in interesting places wearing Runyon’s shirts – awesomely hilarious

Bottom 5 things
1. Kind of dreary being the only ones in there
2. No jucy lucy
3. Chili wasn’t phenomenal (wasn’t bad though)
4. Have to add more words that rhyme with onions
5. When I asked about pop, the guy said something about Shamrock. What the heck is that?

Grand Ole Creamery – Minneapolis, MN

Gerd almost always has a hankerin’ for ice cream after a solid meal. And we were headed near Carbone’s when she remembered the Grand Ole Creamery was nearby. Apparently, we just HAD to stop.

First off, I drove into the place, and couldn’t figure out where to drive. Yes, there was some snow on the ground, but there were these yellow posts all over the place. I ended up driving around back and parking because I couldn’t tell whether I was driving on the sidewalk, driveway, or parking lot. Super frustrating (I have road rage issues to begin with, so that doesn’t help).

We asked for a couple of samples of flavors and were left unimpressed. We opted for what we thought were going to be standard flavors at a mom and pop place – the butterfinger ice cream and the key lime ice cream.

The ice cream had a really bad texture to it. It broke apart in chunks like it wasn’t made with milk at all, but rather some sugary mixture. It was crumbly and dry and not refreshing at all. Weirdest thing. The Butterfinger ice cream was some sort of homemade concoction of butterscotch, peanut better and chocolate. If you’re going to steal the copyrighted butterfinger name, then at least have the decency to crumble up real butterfingers in the ice cream. That would have helped, but wouldn’t have solved the texture issue. Gerd’s key lime ice cream came with some graham cracker crumbles and the same awful texture.

We didn’t even half of this crap and threw the rest out when we got home. It hadn’t even melted. I’m not even sure it was actually ice cream. I said it was like some sort of white trash astronaut dried freeze dried ice cream crumbles. I’d not go there if you’re looking for a refreshing treat for $4.50 per scoop.

Why can’t we franchise a Whitey’s ice cream up here in the Twin Cities?!?!

Top 5 things about Grand Ole Creamery
1. They have enough flavors to satisfy a lot of appetites
2. It’s not terribly out of the way
3. Frozen to-go treats and sundaes (not just scoops)
4. Guy working the counter was very friendly
5. Very easy to get in and out when there are subzero temperatures… ha ha ha

Bottom 5 things
1. Terrible texture
2. Parking lot logistics
3. Not cheap
4. Butterfinger wasn’t even close to butterfinger
5. You’d think creamery would mean the treats are creamy – wrong

2008 - The Year of Gravy

As many of you know, each year, I dedicate 365 days to the higher pursuit of a random topic or two. In 2008, it was the Year of Gravy. In 2007, it was the Year of the Hat. And so on and so forth.

As a recap of 2008, I estimate I ate gravy about 50 times – yeah, that’s about once a week. Sometimes, it was beef gravy with some mashed taters. Other times it was ham gravy with Gerd’s family. Often times it was completely random restaurants claiming dishes came with a random gravy-like sauce. Chinese places treated me exceptionally well this year, as did the Cajun BBQ place in Tucson, just to give you some highlights.

You’ll all be happy to know, 2009 is officially the Year of Happy Hour. Gerd and I intend to hit up as many happy hours as possible this year. This may be a difficult task with school and all, but we’ll give it our best go. Leisure hours will also be included in this, as will other iterations of the word “happy.”

If you’ve got suggestions for us, we’ll be happy to take you up on any. We’re hoping to take advantage of food offers more than drink offers, but if there’s cheap girly drinks, you can count me in.

The Egg and I – Minneapolis, MN

Gerd and I have driven by here on our way to one of our other favorite breakfast places – the Sunnyside Up Café. We got seated right away and then waited about 20 minutes to get our order taken. The weird thing was that no one else around us had food either. Every table near us had nothing on their table and were just waiting. Weird.

The lady eventually came to take our order. Gerd got the eggs, hashbrowns, and hamburger patty (it was close to noon, and she was contemplating a burger, so this suited both her mealtime needs). I got a #3 skillet, which was Mexican meat, cheese, and eggs in a skillet with American fries.

When our food came about 20 minutes later, Gerd wasn’t impressed. The eggs didn’t look real and the hamburger patty was overdone and flavorless. The best part of Gerd’s meal was the bagel which wasn’t made there at the restaurant. My food was not at all what I expected. The skillet had jalapeños and mushrooms in it and a severe lack of meat (Mexican or otherwise). The eggs were draped on the top like some sort of wrinkly old blanket. I wasn’t impressed at all.

We left more than half of both our meals on the plate when we left and the waitress hadn’t come back at all to check on us. We left and probably won’t be back anytime in the next decade or so.

Top 5 things about the Egg and I
1. In the Uptown area, so very easy to get to
2. Got seated right away on a Saturday morning
3. They seem to have plenty of staff, so why so slow?
4. Bagel
5. The hot chocolate that someone else ordered looked beautiful

Bottom 5 things
1. Slow service
2. Extra bland food
3. Inaccurate menu or chef (not sure which)
4. The menu had nothing that made it stand out – VERY standard fare
5. Their claim to fame is the “kamikaze” pancake – plain pancake with blueberries on top – whoa…

Friday, January 2, 2009

Baker’s Ribs – Eden Prairie, MN

I needed a place close to work for a quick lunch and I had driven past Baker’s Ribs many times. I looked it up and it’s part of a 10-store chain, with the only location outside of Texas being the one here in Eden Prairie. The website had a pretty thorough menu, so I went to check it out.

I wouldn’t fancy myself a rib connoisseur, but I do know my way around ribs and have eaten a LOT of ribs in my day, and yes, from different areas of the country, both chain and mom and pop places. This place was really good. Not chew your own leg off to eat there good, but for Minnesota, it was really good. And so you know, it’s white-guy Texas-style ribs, so no sauce is on them.

You order at the counter - I got a lunch special, 4 ribs and a side. The meat just fell off the bone, which is what you’d expect from quality ribs. There was a lot of meat on the bones, but once you peeled the meat off the bones, the bones dried up nice and clean, like properly cooked ribs should. No problems gnawing on bones at all. It came with a slice of buttered white bread – wurd. The baked beans were a tad onion-y for my taste, but they had a great flavor, so I survived. I got nice and full at this place, even on a lunch plate. There are a lot of places I’d order a full slab of ribs from and be able to finish them. I’m not sure if I’d be able to do that here – they’re pretty meaty.

On top of awesome lunch/dinner stuff, you can buy bulk stuff for catering from these guys, which we just might do. Brisket, Hams, Chickens, wings, etc. It’s all really good. Just go here.

Top 5 things about Baker’s Ribs
1. Ribs – perfect with or without sauce
2. I got good and full for under $10
3. I don’t have to go to Texas to eat them
4. They have Strawberry Crush
5. Got in and out of there in under a half hour

Bottom 5 things
1. The décor just reminded me of Famous Dave’s for some reason
2. Onion-y beaked beans – again, that’s just me
3. Plastic silverware – call me an elitist
4. No moist towelettes (and you’ll need them)
5. TVs inside were showing soap operas

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Meritage – St. Paul, MN

(This will be a long one…) Gerd and I decided to do something fancy for NYE and spend a little bit more since it was a special occasion. We had a number of places on the list, but this place called Meritage kept rising to the surface. We asked a couple of people and they either had never been there or never heard of it. Gerd found a couple of articles raving about it winning all kinds of awards so we decided this was the place for us. We could go to the other places some other time. Gerd did some research on what some of the dishes were ahead of time, since some of them looked alien to us), which helped us out a little bit.

This time, I’m glad we had valet parking (maybe I’m lightening up on my loathing for valet parking). There was a MN Wild (hockey) game a couple of blocks away, so the area was pretty vehicle-laden. The guy that parked our car was bummed to be working on NYE, but he was really funny about it. We walked into this large lobby of what looked to be an apartment building or business office facility. The entrance to the restaurant is tucked around the corner and through a very unassuming doorway. Very narrow doorway in fact. Once inside we knew we were in the right place.

The interior was VERY classy. Though not as crowded as a typical French fancy restaurant (did I mention this is a French restaurant? – probably not), it had more tables and chairs than I thought they would upon first glance. They can pack people in and still have room for their staff to get around and serve food. Wine bottles line one of the back walls and the kitchen area can be seen, but it’s not entirely open.

Our waitress was awesome. She was glad we weren’t going to an event so she could dote on us for a bit and have some fun with us. She offered to help us out with a wine selection or offered the special NYE menu which came with wine pairings for each of the five courses. Despite the set menu sounding amazing, we went with our own selection. An awesome bottle of Bouchaine Pinot Noir 2006. I went to Bouchaine Vineyards near Napa a few years back with Trash and Corpsekitten and we had an awesome time with the owner’s daughter (sounds way dirtier than it actually was). Get this wine if you get the chance. It’s REALLY good.

They have sample plates (which are literally two-bite plates) which are not for sharing. For those of you who know me, you won’t be surprised to know I got the lamb bacon (yeah, that’s right), and I also got a Braised Oxtail Strudel. The bacon was better than any bacon I’ve ever had before. And the Oxtail was really good as well. Gerd got the lamb bacon and the lobster bisque. She loved the bacon and really really loved the bisque. I also ordered a bowl of the Chicken soup with Matzo Balls. They brought out the matzo balls in a bowl with some carrots and other garnish, and then poured the chicken soup on top of it. It was excellent.

We then split kind of an appetizer of Parisian Style Ricotta Gnocchi with Arugula-Walnut Pesto and Tomato Concassé. They were like little puffy cheesy things served over the pesto. Brilliant dish. Very light and you could eat them for hours if they kept bringing them to you. (They didn’t.) Gerd also got talked into a Roasted Beet Carpaccio salad with horseradish fromage blanc and walnuts. Normally, Gerd hates beets, but the waitress totally sold her on the salad. She said the fromage was a cross between cream cheese and heavy whipping cream. It was light and fluffy and you almost couldn’t taste the horseradish in it at all. It was also awesome (I only got a couple of bites of that one…) .

The main courses all looked fantastic. It was hard to decide, but the waitress was a great help in this. Gerd decided on the Lobster sous vide in butter. What I gathered from this is that this lobster is pressurized and slow-cooked literally in butter, so it fuses with the lobster flesh. After that process, the meat from the body and claws is removed and served whole. So you get a whole lobster and don’t have to do all the laborious cracking and shucking and whatever else you do to lobsters. It was served with a smoked mushroom pain perdu, which was sort of like French toast/grilled cheese with mushroom filling instead of cheese. Gerd loved it all. The lobster was top notch (and very cheap due to lowered lobster market prices), and the perdu was super tasty as well.

I got one of the items on the special NYE menu as well, but it was a difficult choice. It was the Beef Degustation. It was thinly slice beef loin medallions and a beef short rib, served with the little potato balls with a crispy outside. I hope I don’t get her in trouble, but our waitress called them French tater-tots, and oddly, that’s what they tasted like, but they were the best tater-tots I’ve ever had. The beef rib basically fell apart when I touched it with the fork – most tender piece of meat imaginable. The whole thing was drizzled in foie gras reduction that was the perfect compliment to the entire meal. One of the best meat dishes I’ve ever had.

We finished the meal and decided dessert was in order. Gerd and I fought but finally decided on these little pastry puffs filled with ice cream and then drizzled with hot chocolate sauce. They were excellent, but I honestly thought they would be more flashy. We (meaning me) decided that even after finishing off the bottle of wine, we could still find room for more tasty alcohol. We got a Haute Chocolat. It was hot chocolate with amaretto and cognac and garnished with brandied cherries. Wow, was that good! I might start making these at home for these cold winter months in Minnesota.

Bottom line, go to this place. It’s not stuff like a lot of fancy places. It’s classy, but still human. It’s not cheap, but if you want to both impress your significant other and get a top notch meal, then Meritage is where it’s at. VERY good place to enjoy eating.

Top 5 things about Meritage
1. Rich-people’s Lobster – they do all the work for you, aside from putting it in your mouth and chewing it for you
2. Beef Degustation
3. Lamb Bacon
4. Haute Chocolat
5. Staff including the Jewish valet guy (he told us he was Jewish during a hilarious story)

Bottom 5 things
1. Gerd’s knife was aerodynamically designed to slide off her plate every time she set it down
2. Valet took a really long time (not their fault – due to the MN WILD traffic)
3. Chocolate drizzle on ice cream should have been hot fudge
4. They had no Malbec, which is Gerd’s favorite this month
5. I don’t think I could pronounce about 2/3 of the menu (that’s my fault, though…)