Thursday, April 30, 2009

JJ’s Clubhouse – Golden Valley, MN

Coach, KingDavid, WiseCracker, and I needed to eat since we all hurt from laughing. Seriously – hurt. When I was at Major’s earlier that week, I drove past JJ’s Clubhouse and wanted to try it. I had never been there before, so I thought.

When Coach asked where it was, I told him it was near where we stayed when we all met for a ball game in 2007 in Minneapolis. When we got closer, I realized it’s exactly where we stayed in 2007 and we did in fact eat there the morning after an all-night Wii marathon in the hotel next door. So I had been there. I’m a moron sometimes.

Anyway, the menu had a lot of bar-type sandwiches on it and we all found something to eat. I ended up with a Cajun Pork Tenderloin and a bowl of chili. It just sounded right. The chili was better than a lot of chili I’ve had at restaurants. Cheese covered and served with crackers. It had chunks of steak in it and was a little bit spicy – without being too much to handle. The tenderloin was seasoned with some spicy goodness and came with two slices of pepperjack cheese on it. Awesome combination. The sandwich was spicy and flavorful and juicy. A couple of stringy parts, but you’ll have that when you’re eating a pork tenderloin. Didn’t matter – it was still really good. My lips were tingling a half hour after eating it, but not in a bad way. I’d get this sandwich again without question.

Coach was impressed by how serious Minnesotans are about their pull tabs (gambling for people too cheap to buy scratch-off tickets). The money goes to good causes like youth hockey, so Minnesotans are serious about it. They have lottery/pull tab booths full time in bars. Very serious.

I’d go back to JJ’s anytime. And the beauty of it is with my lack of short-term memory, I won’t even remember I’ve been there in 6 months. That works to my advantage, I think.

Top 5 things about JJ’s Clubhouse
1. Cajun Pork Tenderloin
2. Chili
3. Good sized menu
4. Kept the refills coming
5. The onion rings looked good – too bad WiseCracker wasn’t in a sharing mood – ha ha ha

Bottom 5 things
1. They have screwdriver specials on Saturday and Sunday mornings, but not Thursday afternoons
2. Slow service
3. Seemed to be a lot of kitchen staff sitting around the dining room
4. Difficult to find off a frontage road from I-394
5. Coke products – no Dew

Edinburgh USA (Take 2) – Brooklyn Park, MN

Since Coach was in town, we decided to do some golfing. It had been a long time since any of us had been golfing, so we hit up a nice course – the same course that my nephew the Delivery Boy and I went to last year - Edinburgh USA. This is a top notch course. And to share the love, we invited KingDavid (who hasn’t golfed in 10 years) and his brother WiseCracker (who is a much better golfer than we).

We started early and set the bar low for the round equally early. A LOT of slicing and a lot of divots and a lot of tree action. When the trees started to come into play on the second hole, we discussed a little side-game Coach and I have played for years called SPF (I won’t get into what this stands for). Basically, you get one stroke deducted from your final score for every tree you hit – this keeps us from getting super angry and quitting by the third hole (well, some of us). There’s a second phase to the side game which involves playing an entire hole with one club, including driving and putting, and the lowest score gets to deduct that score from their final total as well. The end of the round usually involves a significantly better score than we actually shoot – but it keeps it fun.

KingDavid really impressed us with the number of trees he hit right off the bat – like solid and consistent performance. So his adjusted score was going to be astronomical. Well Coach stepped up his game by gaining a never before seen SPF gold medal 6-point shot by hitting a tree which then ricocheted off and hit a really expensive house super loud (1 stroke deducted for the tree, 5 strokes for the house). It was hilarious. This house shot was followed by him hitting his next shot approximately 175 yards up onto the green 2 feet from the hole. Then Coach continued making his move by racking up tree after tree. Then we saw this sign…

There was considerable laughter, not only at Coach’s expense, but mostly. Coach hit a hilariously errant shot and drilled a huge apartment building at least 150 yards off the fairway. Then two holes later, he hit a shot so off course it flew into a swimming pool behind one of the rich people’s golf course houses. Things got even more hilarious when Coach hit a really awful shot and ended up bouncing it off the front of our golf cart. WiseCracker threw his hat up into the air and fell on the ground laughing. This was the beginning of the end for Coach.

We tried to guess what Coach could possibly hit next – cars? Geese (which he came SUPER close to doing)? Children? Groundskeepers? Walrus? Pterodactyl? As background, Coach comes from a long line of quitters and clappers. Since he didn’t seem to be clapping, it was inevitable that he was going to be quitting. And he did.

The ball he lined up the wrong way and smashed solidly (his best shot of the day) straight into the pond was hilarious. Then when he threw his driver further than he hit his ball, it was also hilarious. Then when he went to pick it up and snapped it over his knee – also hilarious. Then he systematically snapped all of his clubs in half – also hilarious. The policy at the course is you must have a bag and four clubs – but they didn’t specify whether you had to finish the round with four or just start the round. CLASSIC!!!!

We were laughing so hard my face now hurts. We’re not sure of the actual score since there were a handful of holes he didn’t finish. But it was worth the price of admission for me.

Top 5 things about golfing at Edinburgh USA
1. Coach hitting a house after a tree
2. Coach hitting our golf cart
3. Coach hitting a swimming pool
4. Coach hitting an apartment building
5. Coach coming within a foot of hitting a goose in the water

Bottom 5 things
1. Pricey, but worth it
2. Course will be much greener in a few weeks
3. Coach has to buy new clubs or take up a new sport
4. Coach was legitimately trying but the course clearly hated him today
5. They flew in a cold Scotland rain while we were playing – we left the grounds and it was 70 and sunny

Mastodon, Kylesa, Intronaut – Fine Line Music Café – Minneapolis, MN

Coach came up from Illinois to see what was sure to be one of the best shows of the year at the Fine Line Music Café. We’ve been Mastodon fans since the beginning, seeing them on their EP album release tour and then on their next album tour when we saw them with 12 other people in Milwaukee. Combined with Intronaut, it was going to be an awesome show.

We started the night at Popeye’s which is always a treat, even though I live 10 minutes from it now. Just a lot of memories of pre-concert gorging at Popeye’s for both of us. We headed downtown and planned to walk a couple of blocks in the downpour. We saw a huge line since the show was sold out, but by the time we got there, the line had gone inside and we got right in.

Intronaut played first, which was unfortunate since they’re an incredible band. Amazing. I had seen them before in Des Moines with HotGirlsBrother, but even though he lives in Minneapolis, he was on his death bed and decided to give his ticket to another friend, TheDoctor, one of the coolest guys in the history of cool guys. Intronaut’s bass player (Luis Guzman’s twin brother) plays a 6-string fretless bass and uses all of the strings to their fullest extent. Fantastically creative and groovy while there’s a good mix of metal and chordy music. To top it all off, the drummer is phenomenal – really fast and creative, and able to play incredibly technical parts along with the guitars. They’re just awesome.

Kylesa played next and I can’t say enough awful things about them. They’re like a terrible garage rock band. The vocals (from the female frontwoman or the other guitarist) were raspy and not strong or like the thing that held the band together and made them good. They had two drummers, who both played the exact same thing, which is stupid and redundant. And if *I* can play guitar better than either your lead or rhythm guitarist, then your band sucks. The guitarist’s comb-over really irritated me as well. I would have liked to miss these guys. While Kylesa was playing, this super drunk girl came up and stared bumping against Coach. then she started bumping against this girl next to Coach. Then she started grinding up against Rug, one of our friends). Rug was visibly uncomfortable and kept scooting back to dodge her. But she kept scooting back with him. Classic. This girl was L O A D E D. I was going to try rubbing her hind-end so she thought it was Rug, but I was laughing so hard I couldn't even do it. The look on Rug's face was hilarious.

I could go on and on about Mastodon, but I’ll try to keep it reasonable. Mastodon just released a new album so they played it in its entirety – start to finish. They took a quick break and then played 12 more songs from their other albums. That’s a LOT of metal and totally unexpected. I would have been happy with the first set which was different from their usual stuff in that they sing more, but it’s a story-album. To wrap it all together, they had a movie playing in the background from an old black and white knight and castle movie with spacey scenes sumperimposed over it. Very cool and trip-py, without being a dirty hippy drug thing. They swapped out instruments a couple of times which was cool because it allowed them to play the entire album exactly as the CD. The singers don’t have good voices, but they accommodate it by singing kind of whiny and morphing it to the music which is cool. I would love to go on about this, but the band is one of the best bands I’ve ever heard. The drums are amazing and the rhythm guitarist has the best hair and facial hair I’ve ever seen.

I’m not sure if I’m a fan of the fine line. They must have overbooked because it was painfully crowded – like the fire marshal would have shut it down if he showed up. You literally couldn’t move. People were getting drunk and angry about it as well. Oh well, I’m sure the venue owners were happy the show sold out – it was a great show regardless.

Top 5 things about the show
1. Mastodon - playing an hour longer than I expected them to
2. Intronaut
3. Drunk girl with Rug
4. Mastodon’s guitarist’s facial and scalp hair
5. Sound quality was great

Bottom 5 things
1. Kylesa
2. Best game in the world – “Who would you let live?” – did not make it to 10 *
3. Oversold show and waaaay too packed (fire marshall would have shut us down)
4. HotGirlsBrother missed the show – I’m assuming swine flu
5. Intronaut should not have been the opening act

* “Who would you let live” is played when you are at a show and you try to decide who you would let live if someone was going to blow up the building. You are allowed 10 people for each participant with only two disagreements. Coach and I have never made it to 10 – hopefully that tells you the caliber of people that attend these shows. Yes, we’re elitists. Ha ha ha

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Kabobi – Eden Prairie, MN

I had eaten close to this place on a number of lunch occasions with work people, but no one ever voted to go here. So I went by myself. Kabobi touts itself as a Persian fire-roasted grill. Lots of meats and rice and pita/flat bread. It’s borderline fast food, more along the lines of a Noodles & Company. Order off the menu boards and get a number, get your own drinks and silverware. Not that any of that is bad – I’m just painting a visual picture for you.

The menu has standard greek/middle east fare on it – gyros, kabobs, rice, hummus, falafel, etc. Most of it looked good (With the exception of the random hamburger thrown in the middle of the menu), so I decided to go with the combo plate called Soltani. It comes with a shish kabob (chicken, onion, green pepper) and a Koobideh (ground lamb skewer thing) along with rice, flat bread and grilled tomato. And they remove the skewers before serving it – we all know how much I hate high labor food (yes, working around a skewer is labor for me – ha ha ha).

The food was pretty good. The chicken kabob was the best part in my opinion. Seasoned perfectly and fire-roasted (like the name says) and topped with that green spicy sauce I can’t ever remember the name of (tahini, maybe?). It was excellent. The lamb koobideh was good, but didn’t wow me, even with the tsaziki. Just average. The tomato and bread were fine. But the rice – I’m amazed at how much there was. I had rice with every biteful and probably 20-30 spoonfuls of just rice and still left a ton of rice on my plate. However, the thing LOOKS really good on the plate with the rice, so I’m sure that’s why it’s there – appearance. The white rice was topped with Saffron rice and looked very classy. No complaints there.

I got really full eating here, which is good because it wasn’t cheap. It cost me $14 for my food and I got water. I heard them wring up a gyro and fries and I think it was $8-$9. Honestly, it was good, but for my money, I’d much rather go to a divey hole in the wall or street cart for this kind of food. I think the flavors are more vibrant at a smaller less fast-food shop.

I’m sure I’ll be back, but it’s not at the top of my priority list.

Top 5 things about Kabobi
1. Chicken Kabob
2. Koobideh
3. Grilled tomato
4. Flatbread
5. Can get in and out of there quickly for lunch

Bottom 5 things
1. Pricey
2. Huge mound of rice (even though it looked pretty)
3. Maybe the rice made the food taste bland, but it was
4. Pretty limited menu
5. Parking is a nightmare there for lunch

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

White Castle (Breakfast) – Minneapolis, MN

I’m assuming many of you out there have eaten at White Castle at some point in your lives. If you haven’t, I wouldn’t recommend it, but some people feel they have to at least try the place. What a lot of people didn’t know is that they have breakfast. I’ve heard some people talking about it lately, so since I was in the neighborhood at 0’god in the morning, I popped in the drive thru to check it out.

Here’s as close to a recommendation for White Castle as you’ll get out of me – It wasn’t terrible.

I got a couple sausage, egg, and cheese sammiches on the standard white castle super soft buns, and an order of french toast sticks. He breakfast sammiches come in the same cardboard containers as the regular burgers, but were not bad, borderline good in fact. (The sad part is I’m comparing it to other fast food breakfast sammiches and the competitors are actually ranking higher on my scale – that should tell you something.) The buns make the difference in the flavor somehow, I’m just not sure of the science behind it. The french toast sticks were standard frozen sticks deep fried with a syrup dipper thrown in. Standard fare I guess.

For those of you who knew Gerd, you’ll know she was a SERIOUS fan of White Castle. Not even a joking kind of fringe fan – she went regularly and tried to hide it from me regularly – ha ha ha. At first I thought it was odd that she never mentioned eating breakfast there, but when you have your morning routine timed to the second (and still never get to work on time), I understand she wouldn’t have had time to swing by in the morning. That being said, I thought about her the whole time, knowing she would have given me grief about this breakfast for the next 10 years, secretly feeling snubbed that I didn’t take her with me for breakfast.

If you feel it is your mission in life to eat at a White Castle, then I would suggest breakfast there rather than lunch or dinner. My stomach hurt noticeably less after breakfast then it did when I remember eating burgers there. My stomach was still angry at me, but not trying to claw its way out of my body.

Top 5 things about White Castle for breakfast
1. Milk from Kemps – ha ha ha ha ha ha (I crack myself up)
2. Soft buns on the sammiches
3. I successfully rationed my dipping syrup so each bite of deep fried french toast had some – rarity indeed
4. Cheap and filling
5. There was no one in line – I wonder why

Bottom 5 things
1. This was Gerd’s favorite fast food. She should have been there with me…
2. Feel like your entire person is covered in grease afterwards
3. Post-breakfast gastrointestinal issues
4. I still don’t feel like eating ever again and it’s lunchtime
5. My car now smells like Gerd’s car and it makes me miss her terribly

Major’s Sports Café – Golden Valley, MN

I went to a quick business lunch at Major’s on the recommendation of the gentleman that set up the meeting. I hadn’t ever heard of it, but I’m always up for new places. It’s kind of a sports bar atmosphere mixed with casual restaurant. Lots of TVs with various sports but generally a clean and nice restaurant environment. Kind There is a formal dining room section, a sports café section, and a standard bar section. Good thinking, designers – well played.

The staff was super helpful and explained the lunch specials, which were pretty diverse for a sports bar. The menu itself was pretty large as well, so I was sure to find something to eat and not starve. I wasn’t in the mood (nor did I have time) to gorge myself, so I opted for something off the lunch menu. I decided to go with the shredded pork chimichanga. I know, bad move, never order Mexican food at a sports bar. But based on the lack of quality Mexican food in the Twin Cities, I didn’t figure it could be that bad, right?

We chatted about business and such (sounds important doesn’t it? – it might be – time will tell) and the food actually came out pretty quick. Since it was a business lunch, I decided not to whip out the camera phone and snap a photo – my apologies. The chimi was pretty generous for lunch and looked delicious. Lots of melty (real) cheese on top and I found myself looking forward to this one. The meat inside was cooked perfectly and had a god mix of black beans, pork, and more melty white cheese inside. It was pretty good. And for a sports bar in Minnesota, it was great.

I’ll not balk at going here in the future. It’s not really close to me, but if someone decides that’s where we should go, I won’t complain (even though they had Coke products). It might not be top of my list of places to bring out-of-town guests, but it was pretty good for lunch.

Top 5 things about Major’s
1. Pork Chimichanga
2. Sports weren’t rammed down my throat (I’m not a sports bar kind of guy)
3. Nice environment for a business lunch
4. Super friendly staff
5. Quality selections on the menu

Bottom 5 things
1. Probably can’t get in there and out of there in under an hour (I wasn’t even close, but I was yapping)
2. Off a frontage road and parking lot is weird to get to
3. My Mexican rice was a little bland
4. Coke products
5. I didn’t get offered a job at the business lunch – ha ha ha (totally NOT the fault of Major’s)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Falafel King – Bloomington, MN

I had driven by a couple of these and always wanted to stop in. I finally made a point to do just that. It was worth it. It’s located in a strip mall outside the Cub Food store in Bloomington, but we all know I’ve gotten over the stigma of eating in strip malls.

The place was MUCH nicer inside than I would have thought. Like extremely nice. To the point where I felt kind of bad standing there waiting for my food wearing a t-shirt and jeans. I contemplated eating at the place, but when I realized it was a little nicer than I suspected, I decided to get it and bring it home. There’s a nice bar inside fully stocked with all kinds of wine, beer, and hookas. I’m assuming the hookas are for the outside seating. But as I said, for a place with a menu board on the wall, it’s nicer than you’d think.

I decided to go with the Shawirma, though a gyro sounded really good. I confused the guy by switching sauces on him, but the guy who actually made my food was cool with it. I chatted up the chef while he was working since there were few other people inside at the odd hour that I went. I just needed something light so I got a half (which is still half a pita shell filled with goodies). It came in a standard Styrofoam container with some tsaziki sauce and some peppery goodness.

When I got it home my mouth was already watering from the smells coming from my passenger seat. I could smell the charbroiled tomatoes and meat on the thing and I needed to eat this SOON.

The meat was REALLY flavorful. I’m not sure whether it was from the grill or some marinade, but it was fantastic. Fresh ingredients (you can usually tell) and the sauce and peppers were perfectly matched for this dish. I was pleasantly surprised. I’ve eaten a lot of gyros and shawirmas in my day, both in the U.S. and abroad, but this was near the top of the list. Honestly, it was amazing.

I’ll be back, Mr. King.

Top 5 things about Falafel King
1. Awesome chunks of meat
2. Sauces
3. Really nice atmosphere inside
4. Very friendly staff
5. The menu has a lot of stuff for different taste buds

Bottom 5 things
1. Gerd would have LOVED this place, even though she generally steered clear of pita-type food
2. I should have gotten the full size and gorged myself
3. There are about 13 things on the menu I wanted to try
4. I wish I liked falafel
5. I’ll clean up a little before I go there next time – I don’t think the Uptown Falafel King is as fancy

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Great Rib Fiasco of 2009

My apologies for the length of this thing... (TWSS)

As some of you know, HotGirlsBrother and I are on the hunt to find the best ribs in the Twin Cities, so we have had a Rib Night scheduled for a few weeks. EnyaFace! recommended we go to Scott Ja-Mammas for some good ribs, so that was the plan. Now I’ll get into the fiasco part.

As background, I dropped my new BlackBerry Storm two nights ago. Apparently, they’re not made to withstand high impact, because none of the pieces I picked up off the hardwood floors seemed to get any reception. So I’m without phone (don’t have a landline), I’m without txt capability (that’s how HotGirlsBrother and I generally communicate), I’m without addresses or phone numbers, and I’m without GPS. I’m waiting for my replacement to arrive today, but it’s still not here yet. Sigh.

I send HotGirlsBrother an e-mail saying my phone ‘sploded and he assured me this would not hinder our quest for ribs. We communicated a few times (yes, while I was at work) and made the necessary arrangements to meet at Scott Ja-Mammas.

I arrived at SJM a few minutes early (I was anxious I guess). I pulled up and saw the sign said it was closed. I saw lights on inside, so I assumed they forgot to switch the sign or something. I walked up to the door and it was locked, but the guy inside came and opened the door. He asked if I had called in an order. I said Nope. He apologized and said they were closed for the night and on their way to the hospital for emergency surgery. I assured him it was no problem and he kept apologizing. He looked harried, so I’m assuming it was family of some sort – Family first, I always say. So I sat out on the steps to wait for HotGirlsBrother. The guy with the call in order showed up and as the owner was leaving, he apologized again. Again, I assured him it wasn’t a problem and I’d be back.

With no phone to call anyone, I sat outside and waited and watched the crazees walk past to the gas station for bags of M&M’s. Must have been a special, because I saw multiple people walking out with them. Weird. Anyway, HotGirlsBrother and Low-Vee pulled up and saw me sitting. I hopped in their car and quickly explained the situation. Plan B was now to drive to Capp’s for ribs. Hooray!!! We drove a short while and HotGirlsBrother said, “Why are you riding with us? Now we’ll have to come back for your car.” So we drove back and dropped me off at my car. I had to follow them because I had no GPS (what the hell did I do for driving 5 months ago when I had never touched a GPS?). Apparently there were many missed turns and wrong lanes and cutting off other drivers, but I stayed close and we made it to Capp’s via the scenic route.

We roll inside and the guy greets us and says, “We’re still on winter hours so we closed at 8.” You could hear the Incredible Hulk theme music as HotGirlsBrother pounded the door as he stormed out of the building. Are you kidding me? HotGirlsBrother immediately calls Ted Cook’s 19th Hole BBQ and demands to know if they were open. They were, but they only had 4 slabs of ribs left, so we’d better get here fast. We raced to our cars and I made sure I tailed Low-Vee’s car the whole way there.

We got there and there were more than a few people inside, likely ordering OUR four slabs of ribs. There was a hilarious D-bag at the counter who had clearly been kicked in the head by a horse or was on Quaaludes or something (does anyone still take ‘ludes or did I just seriously date myself there?). The guy in the keebler elf window asked D-bag a question and multiple seconds later, D-bag grunted and pointed to random guy next to him. Random guy ordered, and the keebler elf guy looked at D-bag. After a couple more seconds of awkward silence, D-bag yells out of nowhere, “Half Chicken. Spicy as F*CK!!!” (*note, he did not say “firetruck”).

We got up to the counter and we made sure we asked if they had X-item before we ordered it. Fortunately, everything we needed, they still had remnants left. SCORE!!! We waited for our food while D-bag would hold the door open for people coming in and then he’d make weird comments to them (which seriously would have made me leave). When they called D-bag’s order, they told him the amount and he just stood there for a few seconds and then eventually reached into his wallet and paid for the random guy’s food also. I’m assuming they were together or maybe one was the other one’s handler. We got our food, made a small cheer for victory and then left for HotGirlsBrother’s apartment.

Without my GPS, I’m retarded all of a sudden. I honestly realized I know like 10 streets in Minneapolis, and don’t know any of the shortcuts I should know at this point. So I guess I took the scenic route to his apartment. Not only that, Low-Vee takes priority on his parking spot behind the building, so I had to drive around to find parking. Then since I didn’t have a phone, I couldn’t call to tell them I was there. Then, I didn’t remember his apartment number, so I couldn’t buzz his apartment. Then none of the apartment numbers were labeled or named, so I couldn’t buzz him. I went around back and yelled at the general direction of his window, only to anger someone who was clearly NOT HotGirlsBrother. So I went back around front and sat on the steps, hoping they would come down and get me. Apparently, they looked out the window of the floor he lives on and didn’t see me (since I was SITTING on the steps), so they kept waiting. For a half-hour. I’m sitting on the concrete steps in the cold with a bag of quickly-becoming-cold red beans and rice.

Eventually, they came all the way to the door and HotGirlsBrother felt sufficiently guilty and I got to eat my ribs (they were already done eating). Then we watched American Idol (first time I’ve ever seen the show) (and likely the last).

All in all, I’m glad the fiasco is over and I’m glad I got to eat ribs. Eventually.

Top 5 things about the Rib Fiasco of 2009
1. I’m sooooo glad Gerd wasn’t there or she would have stabbed someone in the throat with a plastic butter knife – her patience was thin when it came to food
2. Ted Cook’s ribs are really good (even when not completely hot)
3. Best non-Popeye’s red beans and rice
4. The guy from Scott Ja-Mamma’s was super apologetic – don’t worry, I’ll be back there!!
5. Hilarious slow-mo D-bag at Ted Cook’s

Bottom 5 things
1. Being phone-less, GPS-less, address-less, and txt-less sucks really bad
2. No Scott Ja-Mamma’s ribs
3. No Capp’s ribs
4. Waiting outside in the cold
5. American Idol

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Justin Timberlake Fest 2 – Minneapolis, MN

I got invited by HotGirlsBrother’s friends to attend this year’s Justin Timberlake Fest Party. HotGirlsBrother and TheDoctor were hosting this event at TheDoctor's house. I was half hoping it wasn’t as serious as they were making it sound, but alas, I was wrong. Now, I’ve got nothing wrong with Justin Timberlake, and in fact think he’s a good entertainer and has a great voice, but the style just really isn’t my thing. But, I just got my grade for one of the MBA class I wasn’t doing so hot in and I passed. But mostly, these are good people and I like them… and I had four flasks filled with a variety of girly high-octane beverages. (I won’t tell you what they were filled with or you’ll be convinced I DO like JT…)

I arrived and didn’t make it further than two steps in the door before four people and a dog hugged me. I’m not complaining, but the dog DID get a bit fresh with me. I wish Gerd had met LeBron. Gerd would have never left the house if that had happened, but I know she would have loved LeBron second only to our wonderdog Zoey. Secondly, I was in a rush to get to the party, so I forgot my belt. And pants stuffed with four flasks weighs down a guy’s pants, so I had to borrow a belt to keep my pants up – it wasn’t one of THOSE kinds of parties… or was it…?

So JTFest2 is just what you think it might be. A bunch of people sitting around watching Justin Timberlake concert videos… And singing along… Loudly… and getting VERY mad when people talk… and take photos… which I did anyway… with a flash… which apparently throws off the mood…
(Note LeBron in the bottom of the photo. Gerd would have stolen LeBron for SURE!)

Here’s how dark the room was WITHOUT the flash.

A lot of people whom I wouldn’t necessarily assume would like Justin Timberlake seemed to know all the words. And occasionally his dance moves, which were demonstrated (with the assistance of some alcoholic beverages).

Then there was some bizarre conversation about Prosopagnosia (which is a medical condition, not a sweet metal band… yet) in the laundry room after talking about bladder shyness and kicking the host in the nards (See? None of it made sense even to those of us that were involved in the conversation). Then the night ended with some Mastodon and Metallica Guitar Hero, even though the red drum pad didn’t work. Apparently, the snare drum accounts for 58% of the drum music, which when left out (like the drummer from def Leppard) brings you to a total score of 42% - Fail.

Top 5 things about Justin Timberlake Fest 2
1. I get to tell people I went to a Justin Timberlake Party
2. Copious amounts of alcohol
3. Celebration for my passing grade
4. Hilarious conversations about how hot JT’s forearms are
5. LeBron is a licker

Bottom 5 things
1. Gerd would have loved everything about JTFest2 – LeBron, Justin Timberlake, awesome friends, girly drinks
2. I forgot my belt
3. I haven’t gotten word yet of a Mastodon or Intronaut Party
4. I had a flask malfunction and one of the girls had to assist in opening it
5. Bummer red pad on the Guitar Hero drums
[Editor's note: #6 would be the amount of crap I've gotten from the TheDoctor about NOT putting his name in this post enough - ha ha ha]

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Cecil’s Deli – St. Paul, MN

I’m usually suspicious when vegetarians recommend meat places to me, but since it was Trash, I decided to humor her. She hasn’t steered me too terribly wrong yet. I was intending to go to another Jewish deli, but she said if I was looking for a good deli, I had to go to Cecil’s in Highland Park. And before I go any further, I have to apologize to EnyaFace! for not calling her and letting her know I was going here since it’s so close to her house. I didn’t think about it until I was driving home. Next time, Enya!

Cecil’s is a traditional deli with a restaurant area in the back, meat counter and mini-store up front. I followed someone in who was getting a to-go order, so I didn’t look like a newbie when I got to the counter. I ordered a Richboy sandwich (much better than a Po’ Boy) and a bowl of Matzo Ball Soup. After I ordered my food, I wandered the aisles of the small store and found some really bizarre things. I’ve got a couple Jewish friends, but I just can’t get over fish and sour cream (at all, let alone in the same jar).

They came and found me when my order was up. They handed me a bag and I headed home. When I opened it up, I was greeted with a pleasant surprise.

This was a serious sandwich. While on just standard size bread, the thing was packed to stuffing with meat and cheese. It’s layers of corned beef, turkey breast, salami, swiss, American, and pepper jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, and Italian dressing. This thing was heaped like I would make my own sandwich at home, but with much better ingredients. Crazy big. And then the matzo ball soup was amazing. I’ve had this soup at a lot of places, and this is one of the best one’s I’ve had. Very chicken-y and flavorful. Some matzo ball soups are bland with spongy balls, but these were perfectly cooked. I’m guessing just about anything you get at this place is going to be phenomenal.

Thanks for the recommendation, Trash. I’ll be back here (and I’ll bring EnyaFace! next time).

Top 5 things about Cecil’s Deli
1. Richboy Sandwich
2. Matzo Ball Soup
3. This place is filled with meat and cheese – what’s not to like about that?
4. Generous portions, seriously generous
5. I was able to pick up a gallon of milk without an extra stop at the store

Bottom 5 things
1. Gerd would have made us go here every weekend if she had a chance to try it
2. It was a little pricier than I thought it would be (I DID get got the Richboy though… ha ha)
3. It’s a tad far to “swing by” on a regular basis
4. The bread got a little soggy with the Italian dressing, but not terrible
5. I should have eaten there for the full experience (I was going to say something about there not being bacon, but I know my Jewish friends would have called me out on it – ha ha )

Monday, April 13, 2009

Fairview Pinotage 2006 – South Africa

Gerd and I got hooked on Pinotage while out in San Diego the end of last year. So we’ve been picking up bottles here and there when we can find them. I’m not a wine connoisseur, so you’ll just have to bear with my description from a layman’s perspective.

This Pinotage is a deep red with a smoky flavor with a bit of spice – you’ll know what I’m talking about after the first sip. It’s very full-bodied, but not very dry at all (which I’ve found is pretty rare). Don’t get me wrong, it’s not sweet, but it’s kind of a fat big flavorful red. I thought, this would be perfect with some serious steak, and then I looked at the back of the bottle and it said it’s great with curries and braised or barbecued red meats. It also says it would go well with a rich cheese, which I would agree with. But seeing how I only have Kraft Singles in the fridge, I thought better of it. Though I wonder if I could pair some sort of wine with Easy Cheese… now THAT’s got me thinking…

Top 5 things about Fairview Pinotage
1. Big fat wine without being dry enough to suck the moisture out of my mouth and make me thirstier
2. Sounds fancy when you recommend a wine from South Africa to your friends
3. A couple glasses of wine makes for top-notch quality on my take-home final
4. I’m glad I didn’t bring this to someone’s house and only get one glass
5. Makes me look forward to my other reds since I know I have considerable red meat in my freezer

Bottom 5 things
1. Gerd was looking forward to drinking this with me
2. I didn’t eat this with a juicy steak
3. Had to drink it alone
4. I’ll be re-writing my take-home final tomorrow night
5. Now I’ll have to go buy more (after I drink a couple other bottles)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Brunch 2009 – Rosemount, MN

I got invited to Easter Brunch by KingDavid this year because he found out I wasn’t going back to Illinois to see my family. His parents (whom I’ve known for 20+ years) were going to be in town and were planning a brunch at Jensen’s in Eagan (which I find hilariously apropos, since I would be forgoing the usual Brunch with the Jensens to go to a restaurant called Jensen’s – no relation). KingDavid’s brother and his family would be joining us as well. I had myself all geared up about eating at this place when I got a last minute call that Jensen’s was off and we would be eating at his parent’s house (his parents have a vacation home in Minnesota so they can come visit both sets of grandkids). Something about “price” and something about “you eat too much, tubby” and something about “eat before you get here”. And yes, I’m totally kidding.

I arrived at the agreed upon time at the parent’s house. KingDavid had not arrived yet and he lives about 20 minutes closer than I do. Hung out, met the niece and nephew, drank mimosas and talked about my life in the past couple of years. We eventually gave up on KingDavid and his crew about half an hour after the agreed upon time and started to eat without them. I offered to wait for them and got laughed at. Apparently, half an hour late is still an hour early for the KingDavid family.

Ham, corn soufflé, mashed potatoes, egg casserole with ham and corn flake crumbs, and a little something I was informed was an experiment. KingDavid’s lovely mother likes to whip up things and have a captive audience sample. This time it was a sausage and egg mixture with cinnamon bread mixed in and pecans on the top. And honestly, it wasn’t bad. It seemed that most of the people there were on to this experiment thing and not everyone tried it, but truly, it was pretty good. Weird, but good. Lots of flavors battling in my mouth for dominance.

KingDavid eventually showed up with more food like broccoli-tortellini salad, fruit, and cookies. The broccoli salad was really good, and I’m not usually a cold salad guy. Why was it good, you ask? Bacon makes everything wonderful!!! (And yes, before QueenRachael gets upset, it would have been good anyway.) Their kids are hilarious and cute and while we thought they were playing Wii upstairs in the den, they were reading books.

We watched some of the Masters golf tourney and then KingDavid assembled this kite the grandparents had brought back from Florida. It seemed to be taking a long time, which is odd because KingDavid was a physics whiz kid, so we mocked him a little bit. Then I looked at the directions and stopped mocking. Wow, it might have made MORE sense if they were in Chinese. Seriously advanced kite building here. All sorts of taping and sticking and bending and peeling and inserting (TWSS) and eventually it was complete. We went outside and the proceeded to watch the wind rip part of the kite within the first 3 seconds of use. Nothing a little (or a whole roll of) tape can’t fix, right?

I always love hanging out with KingDavid and his family. They’ve been wonderful for the past 20+ years and continue to be the best support system ever with all of this terrible stuff that happened in February with Gerd. I know Gerd loved them almost as much as I do. Even though I didn’t get to see my immediate family, KingDavid’s family still let me be part of their family which means more to me than I think they realize. Truly, much much more than they realize. It was a rough day, with all the crying I did while no one was around, but I’m glad I’ve got another family up here to lean on.

Top 5 things about Easter brunch
1. Still having a family holiday even though I was away from my family
2. Egg casserole thingy with ham and corn flake crumbs
3. Mimosas should be required at brunch
4. Broccoli-Tortellini salad (with bacon)
5. Watching kids eat pixie sticks and get frustrated because the ends got clogged when they got them wet

Bottom 5 things
1. I really wish KingDavid’s parents could have met Gerd. They would have loved her
2. Holidays without Gerd are excrutiating
3. Kite directions that include more than 2 steps
4. Didn’t get to eat at Jensen’s in Eagan, but still hope to
5. Had to forego the usual Jensen’s brunch

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Corner Bar – Minneapolis, MN

After a brutal class last night, some guys decided it was drinkin’ time. We had hit up Town Hall Brewery last week, so we decided we didn’t want to walk as far to drink, so we only made it as far as the Corner Bar (which is directly across the street from the Town Hall Brewery). I had heard they had a decent menu, so I figured why not.

The inside is a standard sports bar with crap tons of televisions (mostly showing the same boring baseball game). The inside isn’t noisy, but there weren’t a lot of people there on a Wednesday night. There were people, but there were empty tables as well. We checked out the menu, which said something being new and found lots of stuff to eat. The appetizers were the same price as the sandwiches, so the other guys ended up splitting some wings and a pitcher of beer and I got a meatball sandwich with onion rings and a jack and coke.

The food came out pretty fast and looked awesome. The meatball sub was smaller than I expected, but I might be spoiled by my hometown meatball sandwich place in Illinois where they’re huge. But lots of onion rings came with it, so I won’t complain. I got full. (And it was too dark to take a photo). The meatball sammich was actually, very good. Great pizza sauce and the meatballs tasted like actual meat. The onion rings were tasty, but there more undone spots than usual, so there were some batter issues clearly. The jack and coke (or however many I had) were the regular drinking glass kind, not the tiny glass kind, which is always an added bonus. Apparently, when I go out with people now, there seems to be some drink-spillage problems. Even though I'm not the spillee, I seem to be around a lot when it happens recently.

The bill was quite a bit more than I expected, but I guess maybe they take full advantage of the full-size drinks (since I took advantage of the full-size drinks). But the food was good and it’s close enough to walk to when I’ve had a rough night at class.

Top 5 things about the Corner Bar
1. Tasty sub
2. Full size jack and cokes
3. Lots of onion rings
4. You could hear your tablemates
5. Decent sized menu for a bar

Bottom 5
1. Gerd would have gone out for drinks after class (and she would have swiped my pickle – no that’s not code)
2. Sub was a tad small
3. Onion rings still had some doughy spots
4. It was waay more expensive than I thought
5. Most of the “new appetizers” were wings of some sort

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Eden Restaurant – Eden Prairie, MN

This is a little hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurant in Eden Prairie that I’ve gone to for lunch before. In fact, Gerd would get upset with me because I never took her there for dinner but I talked about going to lunch there fairly regularly. This place is in a strip mall, to be exact, an industrial strip mall, so it’s not even in a retail setting. There’s engineering shops, HR resource companies, and a host of other random industrial shops set up, so I’m guessing Eden Restaurant doesn’t see a lot of the “just walked by your place and thought it looked good” crowd. In fact, it doesn’t even look like a restaurant from the outside, except for the neon open sign in one of the windows.

The service is kind of a buffet style. The menu for the day is handwritten on a dry-erase board before you get to the cafeteria-style serving line. You tell the guy what you want and he arranges it on your plate. You grab drinks and silverware and pay at the end. I ordered the hot and spicy ginger chicken and the chicken and peapods and an egg roll on a bed of half rice/half rice noodles (that’s how I roll). I had to wait a short while as they were just finishing up a new batch of peapods, so I grabbed a table and water and silverware and paid.

A short while later, the food came out and the guy assembled it all on my plate. I WATCHED him do it (this is important). I took my food back to my table and actually remembered to take a photo for you, EnyaFace!

Now what I’m about to tell you only happens to David Copperfield and maybe David Blaine. I started eating waiting to find the noodles that I watched the guy put on my plate and never found them. They seriously vanished. All I got was rice. I’m not complaining at all, since the price I paid would not have included the magic show at any other place. They were just gone. Weirdest thing EVER.

Anyway, the food was good. Not phenomenal, but good. The egg roll, again had some cinnamon in it, but just a touch, so it was still pretty good. And the thing was fried extra crispy, which ruled. My friend DawgMan told me before I went the first time, “You may not like the food, but you’ll definitely get full!” This is true. The food is average, but the portion size is waaaay generous, as you could see from the photo. It’s literally a heap of food on a plate. (And I do actually like the food enough to keep going there, so it can’t be too terrible, right?) I will warn you about the water though – everytime I go here, I get the water. And every time I take my first sip, I think, “Dang, I forgot I’m not supposed to get water here.” The water has a really bad taste to it. It might be because you get it out of a giant igloo container like you’re at a church picnic or something.

Aside from the water, this place is a perfectly good lunch spot. I know you HAVE to be looking for it in an industrial strip mall, so you won’t stumble upon it. But it really is a decent place to eat if you want a super fast lunch and you need to fill up.

Top 5 things about Eden Restaurant
1. Hot & Spicy Ginger Chicken
2. Chicken with Pea Pods
3. Egg Roll
4. REALLY generous portions
5. Disappearing noodles is actually on the TOP 5, not the bottom 5

Bottom 5 things
1. Gerd would have yelled at me when I got home tonight for going there again without her
2. They can turn off the accent like a switch… I’ll just leave it at that…
3. Water tastes bad
4. You can’t recognize the place as a restaurant
5. It’s truly open three hours a day, so I wouldn’t have been able to take Gerd there anyway

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sunday Brunch with the Jensens - The Herkimer – Minneapolis, MN

Brunch this week started with pre-drinks at the VFW – the best drink deal in town, as I’ve said before. Seriously cheap drinks on a Sunday morning, and the people there are good people. Plus, HotGirl was in town as it was her birthday and she was celebrating by watching HotGirlsBrother get all sloppy drunk the previous night while she stayed sober. Hilarious.

After a couple of rounds, we headed across the parking lot to the Herkimer, which I’ve heard people recommend, I just haven’t gotten there yet – until today. The Herkimer is owned by the same guy as Moto-I, so I was pretty sure I was going to like it. The inside has a similar feel to Moto-I, but isdecidedly American, so really clean and bright and friendly. The menu is average size featuring breakfast foods until 3pm and appetizers and some lunch-type offerings. I decided to go with the Morning Mixup which is eggs, peppers, cheese, served over seasoned red potatoes with your choice of meat. I got the sausage on the food, but ordered a plate of bacon for myself since bacon is the most important part of any meal.

The meals came out (after more drinks) and were really good. I didn’t hear anyone complain about anything (except that HotGirlsBrother kept spilling drinks at both the VFW and the Herkimer – all over the tables)(the waiter brought him a cup with a lid so he’d stop spilling). The bacon was perfectly cooked and the Mixup was excellent. It seemed small when they brought it out, but I got good and full, so I really won’t say it was a small portion – just visually. I tried a bite of someone’s Macaroni and Cheese with Hot Dogs in it and it was really tasty. I might go with that next time. Although the nachos looked really good as well. I suppose I’ll be back here soon, since the food was really quite tasty.

As usual, things got good and loud with our brunch group and HotGirlsBrother got shushed a number of times, especially when he found out I had never seen “It’s a Wonderful Life” nor “Miracle on 34th Street” and he went ballistic (and knocked over a drink). But these are great brunch people who know how to have a good time.

Top 5 things about the Herkimer
1. Morning Mixup
2. Side of Bacon!!!
3. Collectible pint glasses
4. Macaroni and cheese with hot dogs
5. Got to hang with HotGirl – it’s been far too long

Bottom 5 things
1. Gerd would have made me take her here for breakfast a lot if she would have gotten to try it
2. Godzilla-style drink spilling
3. The mini egg sammiches sound delightful, but I was warned against ordering them as they’re “too mini”
4. It was extremely difficult to NOT eat someone’s bacon while they were in the restroom for like 30 minutes
5. One of our regulars got called away for “jesus practice” since he’s doing something for a church on easter (fortunately, he’d only had a sip, and not the usual 5 – ha ha)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Red Moon Chinese Café – Eden Prairie, MN

I needed a mental break at work, so I went out to lunch by myself. Get some reading done in the peace and quiet. Since it was close to an ATM I use, I went to the Red Moon Chinese Café. Didn’t know anything about it, no one has recommended it, and I didn’t have a ton of money to spend. Plus it’s in a strip mall and I’m apparently on some mission to hit all the strip mall restaurants in the Twin Cities based on my previous posts.

The inside is very RED. That’s all I’ll say about it. I sat down and checked out the menu. There were some traditional things and some specialties and a cool “build your own lunch combo” thing, which looks pretty appealing if you already know what you like. Since I didn’t, I opted for the lunch buffet. It wasn’t a huge buffet, but weirdly, I completely filled my plate, so they must have had everything that I usually like on this thing. Go RMCC!

Here’s a rough breakdown of the food I ate:

  • BBQ Riblets: Meh. Kind of bland. Not terrible, but not great either.
  • Beef Broccoli: Really good. Beef was nice and tender and the veggies were crunchy and flavorful.
  • Chicken Green Beans: Really good. Great white meat pieces of chicken in a peppery sauce with perfectly cooked green beans.
  • Sesame Chicken: Meh. Again, the sauce was bland. I couldn’t tell if I was eating the ribs or the sesame chicken at various points.
  • Rice Noodle Chicken Soup: Very watery and missing some flavor. I could see pieces of chicken in it, but couldn’t taste them. It tasted like really watered down chicken broth with some noodles.
  • Cream Cheese Puffs: Average. They were fine, but didn’t wow me.
  • Egg Roll: Meh. But I say that because it was very cinnamon-y, and I’m not a fan of sweetened egg rolls.
  • Sweet & Sour Pork: Not good. Very mushy breading and the sauce was much more bland than I’ve had in the past.
  • Water: not good. Tasted kind of a cross between chlorine and fish tank water. Honestly, it was a really bad taste. I almost ordered a soda so I could have something to drink.

It’s kind of disappointing the best dishes were the ones with the least ingredients and the least amount of work – those were right on the mark though, truly. Anything labeled as spicy was significantly NON-spicy, so you know. I might not go here again, unless my work people want to go there. It wasn’t the best Chinese food I’ve ever had. I’m not really a buffet guy either, so that doesn’t help their odds. On the upside, my fortune cookie message was completely non-ghey this time.

Top 5 things about Red Moon Chinese Café
1. Chicken Green Beans
2. Beef Broccoli
3. Super quality service
4. Really cheap
5. Quiet relaxing lunch

Bottom 5 things
1. Really bad water (this should never be in the bottom 5 anywhere)
2. Sweet & Sour Pork
3. Rice Noodle Chicken Soup
4. Egg rolls
5. Sheer amount of RED‎

Town Hall Brewery – Minneapolis, MN

So after a long class, my project team and I decided to hit up the Town Hall Brewery to unwind. Gerd and I went there once and I had gone before on previous trips to Minneapolis. So I knew the place was good. The THB is one of those dark-wood old-timey feel bars with homemade microbrews and really awesome and filling food.

When I’ve gone here in the past, I’ve ended up with the Mashed Potato Pizza which is incredible. But I decided to mix it up a bit. I went with the Goat Cheese Nachos, since they sounded vaguely evil (what with the goat and all) (anything with “goat” in it sounds evil to me). There’s an option to put chicken on it as well, which I did. Top that off with a Jack and Coke and I knew I’d be sleeping well later.

The waitress brought all our food out and I was most pleased. A large plate of tortilla chips slathered in a goat cheese crème sauce, salsa, and chunks of chicken. It was incredible. The cheese was very rich, but combined with the salsa, it was the perfect rich and spicy mix. Seriously, I would recommend the heck out of these things. I finished most of them, despite trying to get the others in my group to help. I was pleasantly full – not the whining kind of full, like sometimes happens.

I would have taken a photo, but it was too dark. I could draw you a photo as well, but you wouldn’t recognize it as food, I assure you.

The place filled up with more people about 9pm and then got sort of loud. Our group was leaning forward at our table so we could hear each other, but it still wasn’t like a club atmosphere or anything. Just a little noisy with lots of people talking. I don’t even think the music was that loud, just a good bar crowd.

I love the Town Hall Brewery. I’ll be back there for sure. And now that I know I can order something besides mashed potato pizza successfully, I’ll be more adventurous – though those nachos were freaking good…

Top 5 things about the Town Hall Brewery
1. Goat Cheese Nachos
2. Mashed Potato Pizza (from previous trips – it’s good enough to make this current list!)
3. Large list of microbrews and other drinks
4. Great wind-down spot after a long day
5. I heard the Winterberry homemade brew is top-notch

Bottom 5 things
1. Gerd loved to eat here and I know she never tried the goat cheese nachos
2. It’s dark and hard to read the dark menu
3. The noise level ramped up after 9 (like normal bars, so I shouldn’t complain)
4. Had to get my own silverware from the server station
5. I did want to try about 10 other things on the menu (not REALLY a bad thing)