Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hope’s Silver Spoon Restaurant – Minneapolis, MN

Trash and M.Giant called to ask if I wanted to do lunch with them – DUR. They asked what I was hungry for and I started searching online to see what might pique my curiosity, provided it was close to their house. I stumbled across a place I had driven past many times and always wondered about - Hope’s Silver Spoon Restaurant.

The signage on the outside has always confused me. The restaurant looks like a mom and pop American food place, with advertisement of Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner, and Steaks, Ribs, Salads, & Burgers written on the windows. And then another window says “Chow Mein To Go” and something about Chinese Menu as well. What does that even mean?! Well, M. and Trash Giant and I found out today.

The inside IS a mom & pop style diner which is all well and good, except for the Chinese food buffet in the front of the room and Asian-inspired menus when you sit down.

And the clientele is especially old, like the people who go here don’t actually have any idea they’re drinking coffee all day in a Chinese restaurant. There’s some serious denial I think. It’s standard old guy/gal stuff – there’s one old person at each table sitting alone drinking coffee, but yelling across the restaurant at each other because they’ve all been coming here for 50 years and know each other. But not well enough to sit at the same table as each other – that would be weird, right? Clearly, M. and Trash Giant and I were the youngest people in here by about 40 years.

The tiny Asian woman (should we presume she is the alleged “Hope” from the restaurant’s moniker?) who seated us is super friendly and cute and explained everything we could ever want to know about the menu and the buffet. The menu is filled with Chinese food entrees and appetizers, except for the last two pages, which are decidedly American-inspired. Ribs, steak, chicken, gravy, mashed potatoes, salads, and everything else the windows advertised. Even the Dinner Specials (from 2-9pm) are both Chinese and American. Weird.

We told the hostess we would be getting the buffet after we found out it was $6.95 (cheapest I’ve found around here). We got up and the little Asian lady brought us to the buffet and explained where the appetizers were (which we could see), where the salads were (which we could see), where the entrees were (which we could see), and where the soups were (which we could see). She told us we could eat as much as we wanted – again, really cute.

I grabbed as many different entrees as I could fit on my plate the first time around. Then I would know what to go back for the second time. The food is unlabeled, so you really don’t know what you’re getting. But I’m an old hat at this Chi-Buf thing, so I could figure it out.

The cream cheese wonton was really good and crunchy – fantastic. However, the egg roll was, without a doubt, the most greasy egg roll I’ve ever had. (And it had meat in it, much to Trash’s chagrin…) It was tasty, but I could feel the grease running down my chin. Serious grease. The rest of the entrees were passable. Not stellar, but I’ve definitely had way worse. The Kung Pao chicken and the General’s Chicken were both good, as was the Lo Mein and Broccoli Beef. No complaints, really. The egg drop soup was the snot-like consistency kind I’m not a big fan of, plus it had mushrooms in it, which I’m also not a fan. There was a pan of what looked like meatballs in a tomato sauce, so I grabbed one of those and to my surprise, it was really tasty. But seriously, it was a meatball. I also grabbed a chicken wing, which I don’t even like, so I knew I’d be disappointed (and I was – too much work for a small amount of meat – how many times have I been told that...).

The food was good enough I went back for a second round. I got mostly the things I liked, since I did a pretty thorough job getting entrée samples the first pass. Again, the meatball was really good and I wasn’t disappointed with the second one.

Here, we see M.Giant's epic battle of Kung Pao Chicken vs. General Tso's Chicken. We may never find out the winner...

I’ll be honest, the place is really weird. M.Giant said it would be more cerebrally-digestible if it were different food styles at different time. For example, American breakfast, Chinese Buffet lunch, and American dinner. But no, it’s whatever you want, when you want it. I should have checked to see if you could order the Chinese food for breakfast. Sometimes, a good batch of Kung Pao Chicken is just what you need at 6am to fight a hangover, right? I’ll probably be back here, especially based on the price. But it does hearken to HotGirlsBrother and I with our horrific food combination challenge. I now know where I can score Chow Mein French Toast, finally.

Top 5 things about Hope’s Silver Spoon Restaurant
1. General’s Chicken
2. Really awesome hostess
3. Very inexpensive for lunch
4. If you want mashed potatoes and egg foo young, you can get it
5. Kung Pao Chicken

Bottom 5 things
1. Really greasy egg roll
2. Snot-like consistency on the egg drop soup
3. It’s REALLY difficult to tell what the menu is like from the outside appearance of the restaurant
4. REALLY old clientele
5. Not much in the way of vegetarian fare

No website.
Hope’s Silver Spoon Restaurant
6700 Penn Avenue S.
Minneapolis, MN 55423

La Bamba – Shakopee, MN

Sometimes I like to hit the road for lunch and look outside the immediate area for lunch places. I hopped online and tried to find something in Shakopee worth eating. I found what I thought was a Mexican restaurant there and headed off. Shakopee seems like a long way away, but really isn’t from where I’m located at work. When I got to Shakopee and found the place I was looking for, I discovered it was a Mexican grocery store, not a restaurant. I hopped back in my car and drove to the 3-block area of downtown Shakopee to see if I could stumble across an unknown Mexican restaurant. I found one that looked promising – La Bamba.

I walked into the small place and was unsure whether to sit or order at the counter. Just then, a tiny cute young girl – as in like 2 or 3 – popped around the counter with a menu in her hand for me. Hilarious and amazingly cute. I thanked her and smiled at her mother behind the counter and sat down at a table. There were like 9 or 10 tables in the entire place – it’s not large. The menu had some traditional things on it and a couple of house specialties and some seafood. Not a ton of things, but you could tell they put some effort and love into the food they did offer. I had to narrow down my choices from 10 or so things down to one item.

The mother came and took my order. I went with the Alambres – seasoned sautéed carnitas (pork), green peppers, onions, jalapenos, bacon, chihuahua cheese, served with tortillas. I also got a pineapple Jarritos drink because I LOVE it. After the mother left, the cute little girl came back and brought me a basket of chips and some green salsa. Again, super cute. She brought a couple of other people menus and they also ooohed and aaaahed over her. Awesome.

The chips were pretty standard, but the green salsa was pretty good. It was sort fo a cream green salsa, which I don’t remember having in the past. Not sure what the green thigns in the salsa were, but there were little pieces of white cheese in the salsa. It was really good. While I snacked on chips, I watched awesome Mexican music videos on the televisions on the walls. Mostly techno and dancing type music. Best entertainment ever while eating Mexican food.

The Alambres came out a short while later and looked awesome.

I guess I expected the meat to come on the plate and then be served with tortillas, but the whole thing was sitting on top of like 10 tortillas. I was shocked at the number of onions on the plate, but I guess that’s how these things are made, and I won’t knock it for the amount of onions. I picked off as many as I could and set about rolling up small tacos with the shells. They made 3-bite tacos, so I ended up using al ten of the tortillas. There was plenty of meat and vegetables so I only ate one empty shell. The carnitas were delicious, especially with the bacon pieces added in. Not a ton of bacon (of course there is never too much bacon), but you could definitely taste it in most bites. The red sauce that came with it was really flavorful and had some zing, but wasn’t terribly spicy. I really liked the combo of the jalapenos, the green peppers and the red sauce – perfect spice level. There was quite a bit of grease on my hands and face at the end f the meal, but it was a light and healthy grease, not like a dark and heavy grease. Hahaha. The pile of onions I left on my plate after the meal was embarrassing – I had to hide it with multiple napkins when she cleared my plate.

I finished my meal and the mom came over to clean my table. She came back with the check and the little girl threw a fit because she wanted to hand me the check – clearly this girl loves her job! The mom handed her the check and the little girl handed me the check with a big smile. It was hilarious. The place is really affordable and lunch cost me just over $10 with a drink. No complaints. La Bamba is really good and I’ll likely be back here pretty soon. I hate to skip lunch…

Top 5 things about La Bamba
1. Alambres
2. Super cute little girl being the best server ever
3. Green salsa with the chips
4. Any food with bacon added
5. Generous portions – I got plenty full

Bottom 5 things
1. Lots of onions – might have just been the dish I ordered though
2. There were some grease issues
3. Not used to food being served on a bed of tortillas – might have magnified the grease issue
4. Could have been more bacon – that’s just me though
5. To go menu has a LOT of typos in it – it’s just the librarian in me writing that part. It’s not a big deal, truly

La Bamba
105 S. Lewis Street
Shakopee, MN 55379

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Great Mandarin – Eden Prairie, MN

I work close to the Eden Prairie Mall and sometimes during my lunch break, I have to run errands and buy random things. Today was one of those days where I had to take out a flock of birds with very few stones. While perusing the mall, I saw a Chinese food restaurant. I was in an eating mood, so I popped into the Great Mandarin on the lower floor of the mall.

A random guy seated me and ended up being the nicest waiter in the world. Super talkative and not annoying. He told me to help myself and I headed to the buffet. There was a really large salad area, but the Chinese food items all looked pretty sad. It looked like it was all slightly overcooked and had been sitting there a while. There were plenty of people in the restaurant, so I don’t think that was the case, but everything looked really…. Brown. There were about 8 entrée dishes and a couple of appetizer things and two soups. I piled my plate high and grabbed a bowl of egg drop soup and went back to my table.

I started with the appetizers: the cream cheese wonton was really quite overdone. The shell was painful to bite into and the cheese on the inside was just a little too firm, like it was long past it’s time to be on a buffet. The egg roll was also quite overdone, but the flavor was fine on it, so I’ll only complain a little bit about it. The egg drop soup is the kind that reminds me of snot, so I didn’t even finish my bowl. Uggh. Not a good start.

The entrees didn’t redeem this place at all. The General Chicken was super overdone and gummy. The broccoli beef was sad. The vegetable medley wasn’t good at all. However, the green beans in some brown sauce were quite good, so I’m glad I got to finish my meal with those things. Most of the food here was not appealing and I’m hoping the things on the menu are much better than the buffet indicated.

The friendly waiter made sure my glass was full and let me eat in peace, and occasionally came over to chat without being a pest. Seriously, the staff here love their jobs and are really good at them (well maybe, not the cooks, but the service staff were fantastic). I also noticed this place has a super stocked bar. There wasn’t a single person in the bar area, but it looked like it might need to be hit up. In fact, on this day, I decided what the theme for 2011 would be. This is the earliest decision on a theme I’ve ever made. In fact, 2010’s theme – The Year of Three – was decided at the tail end of December. So the theme of 2011 is going to be The Year of Drinking in Malls. Anytime I can find a full bar in a mall, I’m going to grab a drink, because…. Why WOULDN’T you?!?! I’m looking forward to 2011 more and more now.

Overall, this place was really disappointing and had very subpar food. But honestly, I feel awful about giving it bad marks because the staff was so awesome. Heck, I want to go back and just hang out with my waiter. Hahahahaha. They’re good people, so maybe I’ll give the place a shot and order something off the menu on the safe side. I’m a big fan of three-strikes-you’re-out at restaurants ad this is on the first strike… I’ll just have to talk myself into it (or fully utilize the bar…..).

Top 5 things about Great Mandarin
1. Wait staff
2. Full bar
3. Green beans in sauce
4. Egg roll flavor
5. It helped me plan the theme for 2011

Bottom 5 things
1. General Chicken
2. Overcooked cream cheese wonton
3. Overcooked egg roll
4. Snotty egg drop soup
5. Broccoli beef

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Bennett’s Chop and Rail House – St. Paul, MN

I can’t remember whether it was my sister, NotMomsFavorite, or my niece, Frog, who said they knew people who owned Bennett’s Chop and Rail House in St. Paul. D.Rough and I had been trying to get here to try it out and report back to my family on the dining experience here. We were always a little hesitant to go here because a lot of the places on are pretty upscale. For those in the know, is a great website to book tables at restaurants in big cities without a bunch of hassle. They also give points which you can redeem for food gift certificates – wurd. However, at one point, D.Rough drove past the place and was relieved to find it’s a super casual neighborhood bar with beer banners out front and daily specials in giant letters on canvas signs. Regardless, I booked the dinner on just so I could get the points.

Upon arrival at Bennett’s, I realized that we were probably the only people who have ever done the online reservation thing here. It’s simply not that kind of place. However, they do class this place up as much as possible by putting paper table cloths on the tables all fancy-style and having giant bottles of wine sitting around the place.

We got seated in the back of the place where it was pretty dark (wait until you see the photos). But what was odd was that people kept staring at us – openly and for long periods. It was a bit unnerving, until we realized we were sitting directly underneath a television showing baseball. Hahahaha. That’s what they were looking at, not us. There are lots of old people in this place and we felt like people’s grandkids (which we ARE technically, just not any of these people’s).

The hostess had given us menus, so we thought we’d find some before-dinner cocktails to start the night right. I was amused to find a “his” and “hers” menu of cocktails. Yeah, this bar/restaurant hails from a time when sexism was expected and completely accepted. All the guy drinks were like liquid cardboard with scotch and whiskey and vermouth, while the ladies menu was filled with cosmopolitans and peach schnapps. Hilarious. Of course, I wanted one of the girliest sounding drinks – the Sunken Treasure (Malibu, Blue Curacao, Midori, and pineapple juice) – and D.Rough decided on a more manly drink than I did – a Lemondrop Martini (Absolut Citron and lemon juice).

When the waitress showed up, she said, “How are you ladies tonight?” After I assured her I wasn’t a lady – apparently it was dark enough that she didn’t see my full beard – she was horrified and apologized over and over. Sadly, I’m used to this mistake and tried to reassure her that it was fine. We all laughed it off – though no one laughed as much as D.Rough. We finally ordered our drinks after we all stopped laughing at me. Of course it was pointed out that I DID order a girly drink…

The drinks took a while to arrive, but we ordered appetizers while we waited. I turned D.Rough on to Poutine a while back and it always sounds good, especially when restaurants do fun things with it. Poutine is a Canadian dish that’s very simple: a pile of French fries, throw on some cheese curds and then cover with gravy. Bennett’s Poutine has a homemade short rib sauce on it and had melted provolone cheese on the fries. This sounded great. And what makes this dish even better is Bennett’s calls them “Hoser Fries” – hahahahah, take off, eh? We ordered some of those, as well.

When the drinks arrived, I was enamored with the color of my drink. Again, I’ll apologize about the low lighting for the camera, but this drink was the color of the fake water at Disney World rides. A stunning blue green that would make any antifreeze jealous. I took a big swig of it and choked it down – it was terrible. Probably the worst girly drink I’ve ever had in my life. I am convinced there wasn’t a drop of pineapple juice in this drink. It was all sickeningly sweet syrupy liqueurs that need some juice to diffuse them. It was like drinking sno-cone syrup straight. Wow Wow Wow. I won’t get this again.
D.Rough had only slightly better luck with her Lemondrop – it was basically straight Citron and VERY vodka-y. I didn’t mind, but yeah, it could have used some more lemon juice if I would have been the one to make it.

We finally decided on our entrees, which wasn’t an easy feat. There are a ton of great sounding items on this menu. Bennett’s is a meat and potatoes place. Nothing too fancy, but you can bet this place does a fantastic steak or seafood. Maybe not French-fancy, but it does have quality cooking and ingredients. And everything comes with potatoes – be ready for that. If we had realized that, we might not have ordered Hoser Fries (but we were glad we did anyway). I got the Creole Meatloaf (comes with mashed potatoes and gravy and green beans) and a bowl of tomato-basil soup and D.Rough got the Little Charlie’s (two sliders with grilled tenderloin medallions, caramelized onions, and horseradish cream sauce)(and yes, they have an apostrophe where they don’t need it – but who’s checking). D.Rough asked for a béarnaise sauce instead of the horseradish sauce since neither of us are fans or horseradish.

The Hoser fries arrived and were simply amazing. I wish you could see how awesome they were in the photo – heck, I wish WE could have seen how awesome they looked! Probably one of the better Poutines I’ve ever had. Every place likes to do it a little different, and this place had a great idea with the short rib sauce. The provolone cheese was good cheese as well, not the sliced and processed stuff like American cheese, but the good stuff. Great work on the Hoser Fries, Bennett’s.

My tomato-basil soup arrived and wasn’t at all what I had expected. It looked really good (in the dark), but honestly was just a fancy marinara sauce. I’ve had good tomato-basil soup before that tasted like actual tomatoes and basil, but this ended up being an awesome dip for the fries we had left on the plate without sauce and cheese. EXCELLENT idea, D.Rough! I never would have thought of that, but it honestly was the route to go. Maybe the chef would be offended if he saw it, but who cares, it was delicious.

The food came out (but you can’t see it very well in the light – sorry). It looked awesome. It was brought by our new waiter, since our original waitress handed him off when she went back to man
(or woman) the bar. The wait staff here are awesome folks and tons of fun to have help you.

The Creole Meatloaf was kind of a sausage-y beefy double slab of meaty goodness with some creole sauce on the top. It was really quite good and fork tender. I loved this. The mashed potatoes and beef gravy were good as well. The green beans on the side were super crisp and flavorful. No problems at all with this meal. It says it’s a house specialty on the menu and there is a reason for it. Really good.

D.Rough’s Little Charlie’s were also really good. I didn’t see that they were beef tenderloin medallions, so I thought I was going to get ground beef. But the bite was actually a ton better than I thought it was going to be, especially with the béarnaise sauce on it. Well played on the swap-out, girl. Hers came with - guess what? A choice of potato. She had gone with potatoes au gratin. They were in a ceramic crock and had melted cheese on them. They looked good (especially in the super dim light). She took a bite and burned her mouth. So she let them cool until after her meal. She took another bite and again, seriously hot. I didn’t believe her, so I took a bite and burned my mouth. I took another scoop and blew on them for about 2 or three minutes and THEN they were actually still hot, but cool enough to put in your mouth. I’m not sure what sort of nuclear fission crock Bennett’s uses for its potatoes, but I’m guessing a technology firm could make millions off of insulation made out of the same material. I guess it could have been an asbestos crock, since we could not tell in the dark. Either way, this crock kept everything excruciatingly hot.

The food here, overall, was quite good. Seriously, we were really impressed, but we were also dangerously full. It was a lot of starch and a lot of meat. We were moving pretty slow when the check came around and we had to leave. We had planned on getting dessert someplace afterwards and instead, drove home complaining about how full we were. We totally wussed out.

There were some characters in this place. We sat near a table of little old cute ladies having a birthday party for one of their friend. They were slightly tipsy and giggly, and then they all freaked out that none of them had brought a camera to take pictures of Marge’s birthday. Drunk old ladies are hilarious. Then, there were the cops that were taking the longest dinner break ever. Then, the Vulcan Krewe showed up as we were getting ready to leave. Bennett’s is supposedly the official drinking establishment of Vulcanus Rex, so it sounds like they start a lot of evenings at Bennett’s before going out and being loud, gropey, and creepy.

Go to Bennett’s.

Top 5 things about Bennett’s Chop and Rail House
1. Creole Meatloaf
2. Hoser Fries (or poutine, for those in the know)
3. Little Charlie’s
4. Super awesome and helpful staff (despite calling me a girl)
5. I think the hostess was amused that we had “reservations” for dinner. I’ll bet they get one reservation a year.

Bottom 5 things
1. Worst girly drink ever – Sunken Treasure
2. Tomato-Basil Soup
3. It’s super dark
4. Nuclear potato crock (might go in the Top 5 if you are a thermal engineer)
5. People staring at us all night while watching television

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Big Egg McMac (with Sausage!) – Minneapolis, MN

As many of you know, HotGirlsBrother and I love to try horrific food challenges and weird combinations of food. We’ve done the Big MacChicken, The KFCDoubleDown, and something else that I can’t recall right now. This weekend, we were on a mission to do what is called the Mc10:35. If you’re too lazy to click on the link, I’ll explain it: It’s an Egg McMuffin (with Canadian Bacon) and a McDouble combined into one glorious sandwich. It’s called the Mc10:35 because you have to order the breakfast sammich at 10:29 when they stop serving breakfast, and then order a McDouble when they change the signs to lunch at 10:30. The only time you can eat this is at 10:35 during the week (11:05 on weekends).

Everything about this challenge turned into an epic fail. A tasty epic fail, but an epic fail, nonetheless.

Because both of us were so excited and neither of us think well when we are so keenly focused on ridiculous food, neither of us actually looked up the thing to determine how it was built before meeting at McDonald’s. We got it confused with half a dozen other horrific food sandwiches, mainly the holy grail of McDonald’s sammiches in Japan: The Mega Tomago Big Mac. (Is it wrong to look for airline fares to Japan to eat a sandwich with circle-egg and three beef patties with special sauce?? I say no.) We are pretty sure this was actually the meal we were trying to create, but got confused with all the others. We would have failed on this one too, since the Mega Tomago has bacon on it! Aggghhhh!!!

I got to McDonald’s close to the breakfast-lunch changeover, so HotGirlsBrother ordered the breakfast part. However, he ordered Egg McMuffins instead of Sausage (or Canadian Bacon) McMuffins. We realized this about 10:29 and I ran up to order the proper sandwiches, easy mistake and no problem to correct.

Immediately after I order my two Sausage McMuffins, they changed the signs and I asked the counter girl if I could throw on a couple Big Macs as well, she seemed weirded out by it, but the manager gave her the nod and she let me do it. Awesome. After a couple of minutes (apparently the lunch change-over takes longer than I expected), I returned with a tray full of food. We anxiously unwrapped the sandwiches and I realized I still got the wrong breakfast sandwiches. I didn’t order Sausage and Egg McMuffins, I only ordered Sausage McMuffins (now I’m missing the egg). And on top of that, one of them wasn’t even sausage, it was Canadian Bacon!!!

Then to make things worse, we tried to figure out what we did wrong with the ordering by fully utilizing our smart phones. We discovered we wouldn’t have been right on either account, even if we had gotten the sandwiches we ordered. Next time, we’ll do our research. We were supposed to have done the McDouble, instead of the Big Mac and then we should have actually ordered the correct breakfast sandwich as well.

We weren’t going to let this deter us. Even though I had planned on doubling up on the egg and the sausage, I still was going to utilize as much of these sandwiches as possible. Technically, WE added the sausage patties to our burger, so that was all us – none of the other monstrosity sandwiches utilize the sausage, but we both love it. So while inspired by the Mega Tomago Big Mac and also the Mc10:35, our creation was neither – yet a hybrid of the two. We failed technically, but in actuality we were both winners! We put everything on the buns (discarding 3 out of the 4 half-muffins, cause that’s just too much bread) and HotGirlsBrother officially named it the Big Egg McMac, since you have to give something like this an actual name. And since we both love breakfast sausage, we added that to the name as well - The Big Egg McMac (with Sausage!). The thing is enormous, as shown in the photo (twss).

However, with the proper pressure and squishing, it will fit in your mouth (twss).

Both of us were really surprised at how juicy and flavorful the thing is. That’s kind of what we’ve found with some of these horrific-sounding sandwich combos: they’re much better and tastier with a combo of meat on them. Don’t be scared. The only thing HotGirlsBrother would have changed about his sandwich is he would have swapped out the bottom Big Mac bun with the Egg McMuffin piece, so it held up better. The structural integrity (yes, HotGirlsBrother IS an architect, thank you) of the lower bun wasn’t up to snuff to handle the awesomeness of the remainder of the sandwich’s vector mechanics. Plus, better meat traction – which is important. Next time.

I completed the meal by horrifying HotGirlsBrother when I shoveled two American-cheese covered McMuffin pieces into my mouth like a tasty cheese sandwich. I feel bad letting things like that go to waste, simply in the name of food challenges. Hey, I like to eat – sue me.

Overall, this sandwich was a success, and the best part is now we’re planning all kinds of inter-restaurant combinations of food. We started with the combo restaurants like KFC and Taco Bell (Chalupa Potato Bowl anyone?) and A&W and Long John Silvers (Clam Float and Chili Cheese Fish anyone?) and then we moved on to completely separate restaurant combos: Culvers and McDonald’s. I’ve already begun devising a combination of a tenderloin, a butterburger, a Big Mac, and a Sausage McMuffin with Egg: The Big Egg McButterloin. (also my new porn name…)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Bad Movie Night (Martial Arts Style) – Edina, MN

To continue the amazing series of films we’ve been having at my house, I decided to roll out one of my all-time favorite themes for Bad Movie Night – Martial Arts. I grew up watching waaaaaaaay too much Kung Fu Theater back in the day. So I could have spouted off half a billion ridiculous kung fu movies where the mouths don’t line up with the overdubbed sound track or scenes where ridiculous and impossible fight scenes occur. However, for this group of people, you need very specific styles of martial arts to hold their attention and to bring out the cat calls, scream, and yells.

I had one movie in mind for this film from day one. The second one was up for grabs. I grabbed all of my martial arts DVDs from the basement and began previewing… wow, do I really own THAT many martial arts DVDs? Yes, I do. And yet, I couldn’t find one that would draw laughter and yelling. So I hopped on the Internet and found some recommendation of ridiculous dialog or mind blowing fight scenes. I fired up the credit card and ordered way too many more martial arts films. Then D.Rough and I drove past a Hollywood Video that was liquidating and I scored about 12 more. I spent almost two months previewing nothing but Asian films for this one night.

I told people to bring various Asian-inspired food for the potluck portion of the night and we got some winners. Bacon fried rice, peanut noodles (delicious, Low-Vee), Ramen noodles, Pocky, Choco-Pandas, disgusting jelly shooters, and EJens brought this incredibly terrible drink that looks like tadpole eggs. It was some sort of basil seed drink, but the seeds were suspended in some sort of goo pouches. He poured it into a glass and dared people to drink it. It smelled like dirt and bananas. Super weird and the seeds squeaked when you bit them – I said it was the tadpoles screaming for help, but apparently, that wasn’t as amusing as I thought. Maybe that person wasn’t as drunk as they needed to be to find me amusing!

Additionally, B.Sweet was cranking out amazing mojitos with sake in the kitchen, while sporting a killer facial hair situation!

The night of the event rolled around and I still hadn’t decided on which movie to show. I had it narrowed down to two options. I weeded out some films that will get special recognition:
- Big Man Japan – funny but not all the way through
- Shaolin Soccer – Soccer and Kung-fu, really
- Kung Fu Hustle – the box says it combines kung fu and Warner Bros cartoons
- Tokyo Gore Police – there is a gun that shoots dismembered FISTS!!!

I told the crowd they had to decide which first film we’d be watching. The choices were: The Foot Fist Way or a Manga-derived film called Cutie Honey. The Foot Fist Way is a movie about a white trash tae kwon do instructor played by Danny McBride – it’s pretty funny. Cutie Honey is a movie based on a comic hero from Japan and is geared toward 14-year-old boys. While the initial consensus was Foot Fist way (mainly because Danny McBride is hilarious), the low-brow mentality of the group won out and we got to watch Cutie Honey instead.

Cutie Honey’s father was a police chief killed by some bad guys. Somehow, Cutie has been biomechanically enhanced to be a superhero and she’s on a mission to find the bad guys. There are four clans in the city who are all working for Jill, the main bad guy (or girl in this case). There is lots of fighting and explosions and ridiculous CGI in this film, but most of it is so outlandish that you HAVE to yell along at the screen. And, as I told the people in my living room, “This film is geared to 14-year-old boys, so there’s going to be lots of boobs in it. Sadly, you won’t see any of them.” There’s some running scenes and some underwear scenes, but never do you actually see anything. Besides, everyone knows Japanese lady parts are pixilated anyway. Hahahaha. (If you’re interested, I reviewed Cutie Honey on my other blog.)

We took a break and then started the greatest bad martial arts movie of all time. It’s called The Story of Ricky-Oh (or Ricky Ho in some versions). This movie has everything, awesome martial arts, terrible overdubbing, bad acting, changing hairstyles, androgynous prison bosses, super fakey special effects and blood, a guy that kicks a dog in half, another guy that ties his own severed tendon back together with his teeth so he can continue fighting, another guy that strangles someone with his intestines, a leaf played like a flute, face slashing, a fake eye that doubles as a mint-holder, and much much more! Just watch this one with some friends and you’ll end up needing Tylenol from laughing so hard. It’s brilliant.

Overall, a fantastic night of great fun food and hilariously awesome movies. I know the next one is going to have some sort of summer theme or cheerleaders or carwashes. We’ll see how creepy I can make this experience for people. hahaha

Monday, May 17, 2010

Kona Grill – Eden Prairie, MN

A friend is leaving the company I used to work for and was having kind of a going-away lunch. EnyaFace! and I headed over to Kona Grill for lunch to say goodbye and to get the dirt on all our former coworkers. It’s a fairly new restaurant in the bottom of an office building across from the mall in Eden Prairie.

The inside of place is pretty dark but decorated very modern – cool lighting, lots of glass, a fancy sushi bar, fancy wine racks, dark modern tables and chairs, and black napkins. Like I said, it’s dark. The menu is even super dark.

I scanned the menu trying to figure out what I was hungry for. The menu has a lot of items on it, but weirdly, none of them looked really appealing to me. I always find 5 things on a menu I have to decide between, but that wasn’t the case here. I’m not sure if it was the menu’s fault or my fault. I’ll blame the menu, since clearly, I’M not faulty. There are pastas and pizzas and sandwiches and appetizers and entrees and sushi and a section to combine two small plate items into one meal (actually a really good idea). Originally, I was leaning towards one of the steaks, since it’s a “grill” after all. But when I saw the price, I just didn’t want to pay $30+ for a lunch. Heck, I wasn’t even sure if I had that much in my wallet. I narrowed it down to macadamia nut chicken or a big burger. The waiter helped me decide on the Big Kahuna Burger – to which I added bacon, duh.

We got caught up on life and jobs with everyone when I realized I had been sitting there a while. About 35 minutes, in fact. Yikes. They brought out our food and one person’s order was messed up (so she had to wait even longer to eat and then got to eat about three bites before we all had to leave). Two other people got sushi and had to wolf it down to make it back to work in time for a meeting. My burger looked really good, so I wasn’t going to have an issue with this meal, or so I thought.

The burger was pretty dry. I was really happy with the portion size – a ¾ pound burger with a slice of swiss and a slice of cheddar, shredded lettuce and tomato, and of course, two strips of bacon. I bit into it and expected a mouth wateringly juicy flavor and got nothing. It was pretty drab – actually this tasted like *I* grilled this since I’m a terrible grill master. This thing was a pretty big let down. The fries were just alright and there weren’t that many of them. I’m not even a fry person and I was surprised how few there were.

From the sound of things around the table, people were pretty similar in their opinions that it was pretty expensive and a big let down. I was mostly surprised by the lack of things on the menu that were appealing to me – that never happens. I think if work people decide to go back here for something, I’ll go back, but I don’t think I’ll volunteer to set up a lunch here. Bummer, I had such high hopes for this place.

[Note: I DID go back and give this place a second try. Click here for the follow up review.

Top 5 things about Kona Grill
1. Really nice décor/atmosphere
2. Plenty of parking
3. Good idea for pick-2 combo small plates
4. There is lots of seafood on the menu, if you’re into that
5. There are some interesting flavor combinations here (macadamia nut chicken tacos?)

Bottom 5 things
1. Big Kahuna Burger
2. Speed
3. Small side portions
4. Heard the sushi was less than stellar
5. Pricey

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Hyland Ski Hill (Morty’s) (Again) – Bloomington, MN

I try not to review the same place more than once in the same year, so I had to wait an entire season to review Morty’s again. This isn’t to say that I haven’t been back here like 10 times in the interim, I just haven’t reviewed it for you. DawgMan was the one who turned me on to this place back in 2009, and oddly enough, it was his birthday and we needed to celebrate. A large group of my former coworkers planned the outing and picked an amazing day of sunshine – this means we eat out on the deck behind the restaurant in the sun and watch people at the driving range and disc golf course.

As usual, you go to the snack bar in the ski lodge and walk into the center of what looks like the food area – this is still a weird layout in my book, but I’m used to it by now. You look at the menu board for the specials, and then they have the regularly occurring menu on a sheet of paper near the entrance to the inner circle. Today, there were some fantastic items on the special menu. The chef here is twisted and I love it.

I was glad to see the Thai sandwich on the board again and I almost got it. The only difference was it was a chicken sandwich instead of a burger. I’m guessing you could have asked for a burger in stead of chicken and they would have done it. They’re really versatile here. The sandwich that won me over, however, was call the “It’s A Party In Your Mouth Burger” – yes, really. That’s the name. It is a burger with lettuce, tomato, cheese whiz, American cheese, deep fried cheese curds, and chicken fried bacon. Yeah, that’s pretty much what I dream about regularly. How could this sandwich be anything but brilliant? In short, it CAN’T!

This sandwich was awesome. It sounds like a lot of cheese, but honestly, none of the cheeses overpowered the burger – and that would be EASY with these three kinds of cheese. It was the perfect ratio. The cheese curds were crispy yet soft and there was just a smear of cheese whiz on it. The bacon was the best part (like it usually is) – deep fried and chicken-ed or whatever they do to it. It was fantastic. My friends and former coworkers mocked at first, but then all commented on how good it looked. That’s because it WAS good. The fries top off the meal, but being as I’m not a fry guy, they were just filler so I didn’t have to go back and order the Thai Burger (which crossed my mind, believe it or not).

This place is a hidden gem in the Twin Cities and I think people are finding out about it. This was the most packed I’ve ever seen the place, so Morty must be doing good business. I’m glad to see it. It’s easy to find – just south of I-494 on Bush Lake Road. I’m getting a whole lot of people hooked on this place.

I won’t give it a top 5 since the It’s A Party In Your Mouth Burger would be all 5 of them!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Kincaid’s Fish, Chop, & Steak House – St. Paul, MN

D.Rough and I have been talking about hitting up some happy hours in downtown St. Paul for a few weeks now. We finally found a night where we could capitalize on it. We were both busy until 9, which worked out well, since three of the places we wanted to go started their happy hours at 9pm. We settled on Kincaid’s since she had had good luck there in the past. I wasn’t sure if it was a fancy place or a casual place, so I brought along a nicer shirt in the car. When we arrived (and got rock star parking directly in front of the entrance), I realized I’d better clean it up and put on the nice shirt.

The inside is nice, but not stuffy. It’s classy, but there were people in jeans aside from me. We grabbed a seat in the bar area and scoured the menu. There were a couple of girly drink choices on the happy hour menu and all of the appetizers were half off from 9 to close. Cha-ching! D.Rough needed a Cranberry Mojito and I needed a Pomegranate Margarita. The drinks came out quickly and we sampled our choices while deciding on food.

The Pomegranate Margarita was quite good. Not a ton of pomegranate, and you could still taste the tequila. It was pretty good. I’m not sure if I’d make a pitcher of these at home or anything, but it was nice and light for the evening. The Cranberry Mojito was also good. It was a little strong on the mint side (which D.Rough likes), but aside from that, it was great. It was also served in a tall glass that made the thing look like a 64 oz BigGulp.

After MUCH deliberation, we decided on Teriyaki Tenderloin – flash-seared filet mignon slices, pickled ginger, and sushi rice; Warm Brie with Macadamia Nut Crust – Triple cream brie, balsamic reduction, house bread, apple slices, and honey drizzle; and Blue Cheese & Bacon Chips with chipotle ranch dressing and tomatoes. All three of these things are appetizers, I’ll remind you, but we weren’t prepared for the huge portions – hooray!

We really didn’t wait very long for our food, which was awesome because we were starving. The food arrived and completely covered our table. Seriously, we were reaching around candles and shifting things on a per-bite basis. It was much more food than I expected it to be.

The Teriyaki Tenderloin was really awesome. In fact, it was my favorite of the three dishes. The meat was really tender (and aside one piece of gristly meat discovered by D.Rough, unfortunately) and flavorful. It was served with these little toothpick things poked into each piece of meat and then there was a pile of sushi rice in the middle with pickled garlic on top of that. The whole thing was great.

The macadamia nut crusted brie was fantastic as well. Very soft and spreadable on the bread that came with the meal. Very creamy cheese and the crust on the outside added a great flavor to it all. And the balsamic reduction and honey drizzle combo was stellar. Well played, Kincaid’s. I loved this thing. Very simple, but filling.

The blue cheese and bacon chips were more like circle-cut fried potatoes than potato chips. They were pretty thoroughly covered with the blue cheese and bacon (actually could have had a little more bacon in my opinion, but I’m kind of a freak about bacon, if you didn’t know). The chips weren’t overly crispy, but were firm and not floppy. I would say just about perfect, especially for the toppings that were on them. The chipotle ranch was decent (I’m not a ranch guy), but the blue cheese crumbles were fantastic.

Even though I had a favorite, I don’t want anyone to think I wouldn’t order any one of these items again. They were really great. I wish I liked seafood, since a lot more of the appetizers involved seafood. So if that’s your thing, go check out Kincaid’s for late night happy hour.

When the bill arrived, D.Rough quizzed me on what I thought we’d be paying. I guessed almost double since we had three appetizers and drinks. It was under $25 for the whole meal. That’s super good, especially considering the amount and quality of food we ate. I know we’ll be back here for late night happy hour again. We do have a couple of other places to try in the meantime, but this might be a good fall back place to head to.

Top 5 things about Kincaid’s
1. Teriyaki Tenderloin
2. Warm Brie with Macadamia Nut Crust
3. Pomegranate Margarita
4. Blue Cheese and Bacon Chips
5. Amazingly affordable and delicious all around!

Bottom 5 things
1. I’m missing out on a lot of awesome seafood appetizers here – my own fault, I know…
2. Limited drinks with happy hour pricing
3. Either the table was too small or the food was too big – I vote for too small of table!
4. Maybe a little bit more bacon would have been nice
5. One tiny gristly piece of Teriyaki Tenderloin

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Wanderer’s Garden – Minnetonka, MN

TheDoctor talked Smallz and I into going out to lunch today. As most of you know, that’s not terribly difficult and simply involves a txt message like “What’s for lunch?” and then we figure it out from there. I did some quick Internet-sleuthing to determine which places within a half-hour drive I needed to review (the list is getting smaller and smaller). I found one called Wanderer’s Garden – a Chinese food buffet up north a bit. Smallz had been there, and said it was passable, so we headed there.

It’s a fairly standard Chi-Buf, so nothing much to report on the inside of the place. Plenty of people inside, a good sign. We got a table and headed for the buffet. There’s a salad portion of the buffet (which we all skipped) and then there’s the main Chinese-food portion of the buffet. I grabbed as much food as I could handle on one plate, knowing I’d have to go back for more, and headed back to the table.

The appetizer parts were about 50/50. The cream cheese wonton was flat, almost devoid of cream cheese, and pretty overdone. However, the vegetarian egg roll wasn’t bad. A tad too much cinnamon (par for the course in the Twin Cities, apparently), but still pretty tasty and perfectly cooked.

The various entrees were less impressive, to be honest. It seemed like all of the brown sauces were the same and not very good. The sauces were a little gritty/gummy. The meat was chewy compared to most chi-bufs I’ve been to and I wasn’t really a big fan. I even had some of the egg-foo-yung, which ended up being less than stellar. The sweet and sour chicken looked fine, except for the neon yellow sauce that I think was the sweet and sour sauce. The chicken itself wasn't that great either - a bit rubbery for my taste.

I even went up a second time to try some things I hadn’t gotten the first time and to retry some things, just to make sure. It didn’t help. The second plate was just as unappealing as the first one. I had planned on this lunch being a three-plate lunch, but just wasn’t feeling a third plate.

The highlight of the buffet for me was the sesame chicken. I know this dish isn’t hard, so that’s a little less than impressive. It was decent though.

The place was doing really good business, but I was less than impressed. Disappointed, in fact. I can think of a ton of much better Chinese food buffets to go to before I’ll go back here. Sorry, Wanderer’s Garden, I’m not a fan.

Top 5 things about Wanderer’s Garden
1. Sesame Chicken
2. Egg rolls
3. Lo Mein noodles
4. Fried rice
5. It's less than $9 to eat the buffet for lunch

Bottom 5 things
1. Beef and Broccoli
2. Sweet and sour chicken (and the freaky yellow sauce)
3. Egg foo yung
4. Cream cheese wontons
5. Potatoes stir-fried with onions

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Double Down Sandwich from KFC – Minneapolis, MN

HotGirlsBrother and I love to try horrific food together, especially the ones involving odd combinations of fast food sandwiches. When we heard this sandwich was going live to all KFC’s we started getting vocal about it. Much to our surprise, GingerVitus said she was on board with this little fiasco we were setting up.

For those that don’t know, Kentucky Fried Chicken’s newest promotional sandwich is called the Double Down. It’s a bacon and cheese sandwich, but instead of bread, they utilize two chicken breasts. Top that off with the colonel’s special sauce, and you’ve got a winner. People were saying it’s a heart attack on a plate, but I can assure you it doesn’t come on a plate – just a small cardboard box. There are two options, grilled or fried. This refers to how you want your modified “bun”. You can have the chicken grilled so it’s healthy or deep fried since you’re going to die soon anyway.

I drove halfway across the Twin Cities from work to meet HotGirlsBrother and GingerVitus at KFC. One glorious thing about this adventure was the fact that GingerVitus rented a ZipCar for the trip. She doesn’t own a car, but had to find a way to enjoy an awesome lunch with two champion eaters. I’m guessing this expense greatly increased the total amount paid for her DoubleDown. But it DOES show her dedication to projects like this. Kudos, GingerVitus.

I was feeling rather hungry, and since this was for science (I’m not sure where I came up with that, but I love to quote my scientific friend EJens), I had to order one of each kind of Double Down. I think this makes it a Quadruple Down. One grilled and one fried. Plus it’s a good deal to get the side, so I got Mac and Cheese for dessert.

We toasted our arteries clogging and began to dig in!

I’ll be honest, these things aren’t nearly as bad as I thought they would be. I know it sounds disgusting, but what’s the big deal about eating a chicken breast? There isn’t one. People eat them all the time, and Atkins people hate buns anyway. So the worst part of the sandwich is likely either the bacon or the Colonel’s special sauce (which never DOESN’T sound dirty). The grilled sandwich I found greasier than the fried one. This may because the fried chickens were able to grip the insides better than the slick grilled one. (Yes, I’m developing some sort of “chicken friction standard” for replacement of bread…) The sandwich is actually quite juicy and flavorful. The breading on the fried ones makes for a bit more flavor and interesting texture in your mouth, so I would vote the fried one head and shoulders above the rest. The things is GOOD, people. GOOD!

GingerVitus began to wuss out about 2/3 of the way through. We didn’t give her too much crap about it, but she seemed relatively happy with it. HotGirlsBrother was hilarious when he finished his sandwich. His stomach gave him that “Did you REALLY just put that in there?” attitude and then about 5 minutes later, his stomach was convinced by the awesomeiosity of what it had just been tasked with. I’m pretty sure the final verdict on the Double Down was a resounding “YES!” from all parties. After I finished my Mac and Cheese, I myself proclaimed this one of the best inventions KFC has ever blessed us with.

And yes I finished all of it, including my Mac and Cheese. I'm still alive, so suck it, arteries!

I’m thinking this was a good plan on KFC’s part. Screw nutrition, screw PETA, screw pansy sandwiches, screw bread, and screw all those medical documents trying to get people to back off of fast food. Apparently, this thing has been selling out all across the nation. You probably owe it to yourself to try one of these Double Down sandwiches. You will surprise yourself.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Fasika – St. Paul, MN

Whenever D.Rough and I can’t decide on what we’re hungry for, we end up having the most amazing meals. We went back and forth for a while trying to sort out what we didn’t want and got it narrowed down to Ethiopian food. I have only eaten Ethiopian food a couple of times in the past, thanks to FunHater, and each of those times was at the same restaurant in Milwaukee. But I’ve always had amazing food at that place, so I was definitely up for eating more. There was one place that D.Rough had been that she swore up and down was the best – I am discovering that I should listen to her when she recommends places. We went to Fasika.

The restaurant was full when we got there. The hostess/server suggested we sit at the bar and wait for a table to open up. We did so and watched some of the food come out of the kitchen ad tried to decide what to eat ourselves. The menu is pretty substantial, but very similar to what I was used to at my previous Ethiopian restaurant. D.Rough asked for a beer menu to see what they had that would go with Ethiopian fare – she decided on a beer from Ethiopia called Harar (which we laughed ourselves stupid saying over and over again in different voices).

Once a table opened up, we took our drinks and menus to the table the lady offered us. I told D.Rough what FunHater told me – order a vegetarian combo and then a meat dish for both people to share. She checked out the veggie combo and gave it the thumbs up and we decided on a non-dry beef (meaning something in a sauce and not jerky-style beef) – we got Beef Tibs. The vegetarian combo platter comes with all 7 vegetarian options, so we knew we’d be good on that.

The food came out pretty quickly – I’m guessing because it is various states of mush assembled on a giant platter. Ethiopian food is more of a solid mush than Indian food mush, since it must sit in a polite pile on the injira and not mingle with its fellow veggie friends next to it. For those of you not familiar with Ethiopian food, you are given a giant platter with injira on it (injira is a cross between bread and a crepe). The food is placed on the injira and then you are given additional injira to eat your piles of food with, rather than a fork. So you eat with your fingers – it’s great fun, honestly.

I’ll start with the beef tibs – the pieces of meat were very tender and delicious. The sauce had a little zing to it, but it was more seasoned than spicy. There were onions, tomatoes, garlic, lots of rosemary, and jalapenos in the sauce as well, so that’s where the zing comes from I’m guessing. Don't let the size of the plate fool you - these are large platters, not plates. The beef tibs were served with a small salad. When I was with FunHater in Milwaukee, we got a salad that had tomatoes, lettuce, and jalapenos – I loved it. This salad looked innocent enough until I started to feel some heat sneaking up on me. Oh, those green peppers weren’t bell peppers, they were jalapenos after all. Whoops, my mistake. Still an excellent and simple spicy salad.

The vegetarian combo platter should not scare carnivores away. I say this only because FunHater forced me to get it the first time and told me if I hated it, he’d buy me a meat dish. It is REALLY substantial as well, so don’t think it’s light fare at ALL. It comes with all seven vegetarian options on the menu. Here they are in order of how awesome I personally think they are:

- Misir Key Wot – Lentils cooked in Berbere sauce (spicy and delicious – the menu doesn’t lie) (Berbere is a spicy garlic, pepper, and onion dried spice used in meat and veggie dishes – it’s awesome)
- Shiro Wot – Spiced chickpea flour cooked in berbere sauce (also spicy and delicious)
- Atkilt – Vegetable stew (but still solid – weird) with carrots, potatoes, cabbage, peppers, and onions
- Kik Alicha Wot – Split peas (D.Rough didn’t believe me) cooked with curry and spices
- Misir Alicha – Lentils cooked with curry and spices
- Fosolia – Green beans and carrots cooked with curry and spices
- Gomen – Greens cooked how Ethiopians like ‘em

I won’t go into too much detail for each of these, but seriously, I ate (and pretty much cleaned up the platter after D.Rough got full) every single one of these things. Even though I put the greens down lower on the list, they were delicious. There were also some pickled beets on the platter, but for some reason, I can’t find a description of them, so they may have been put there by accident. I liked them, but D.Rough isn’t really a beet person, so I got them all. Ethiopian food isn’t spicy, but it makes your mouth warm. It’s not light and fluffy food, it’s rib-sticking heavy duty food that occasionally reminds me of southern home-style cooking.

We finished about 96.4% of our food on our platters. I had to, otherwise the staff will shame you into eating by saying there are starving kids in Ethiopia that would love to eat as much as you just did. And we weren’t uncomfortable full, either, like we have done to ourselves in the past – just right at the line of completely full. In fact, we DID manage to go get ice cream afterwards at the grand Old Creamery, so maybe we were 95% full – there’s always room for ice cream, right?

We plan to go back to Fasika very soon. We’ve got some friends that need to eat here, and if we have more people, we can order more things, right? There are a couple of combination platters to choose from, but I have a feeling we’ll do the vegetarian platter again and maybe some other kind of meat. That clearly is the way to go. In fact, while we were eating ours, the table next to us asked us what we got and then ordered the exact same thing as us. We’re trailblazers, I suppose!!!

Top 5 things about Fasika
1. Misir Key Wot – Lentils
2. Shiro Wot – Spiced chickpea flour
3. Beef Tibs
4. Great descriptions of things on the menu – thank you, Fasika!
5. D.Rough will say the Harar beer

Bottom 5 things
1. Surprise, those bell peppers are really jalapeno peppers!
2. The place gets crowded on a Friday night – dur, it’s awesome food!
3. Sometimes, you forget how much food you’re eating when it’s in platter form and you’re using your fingers
4. I’m positive I would butcher a number of the names of dishes here. That’s the added benefit of ordering a combination
5. Eating from a giant platter at the small bar looked tough for one couple we saw – get a table