Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hope’s Silver Spoon Café – Richfield, MN

It had been a while since M.Giant and I had a quality lunch date. We set one up and decided to go back and give Hope’s Silver Spoon one more try. It wasn’t because we loved it, it was because we were broke and this place is dirt cheap. The first time we went here, we were amazed at the menu, the food, and the people. This time, really wasn’t that much different in our amazement, frankly.

As I mentioned in the previous review – old guys and old ladies come here to drink coffee and read the newspaper. It doesn’t appear anyone actually eats here. In fact, here’s a typical customer at Hope’s. You’ll notice a severe lack of food in his vicinity, despite physically being parked in a food-producing venue.

As I said in the previous post, the menu is weird. Lots of weird listings for American food items and Chinese food items mixed in. It’s not that the food items are weird it’s just a weird vibe seeing them all intermingled like that on a menu. I’m anti-segregation, except when it comes to my menus and some of my music. That’s why we came for the buffet. We got the first plate of our culinary tour and were surprised to see onion rings on the buffet. There were a handful of unmarked items on the small buffet, so I scooped some things I recognized onto my plate.

I got a good wonton, and a greasy, yet somehow dry-on-the- inside egg roll. I skipped the egg drop soup, based on the previous experience and the unbreakable skin on the top of the soup. I did, however, get a stringy fried chicken leg. I got some cabbage and noodle thing that, once I tasted it, I decided it was clearly Cigarette Stir Fry – it was absolutely inedible based on the flavor of cigarette smoke in it. The General Tso’s Chicken was ok, but also smelled of cigarettes. The meatballs, which I remembered as being good, were not and were a little fatty.

Randomly, while we were eating our lunch, the owner lady came over to our table and leaned in VERY close to M.Giant’s face and asked “How is your food”. SUPER intense and M.Giant physically burrowed into the booth to escape her soul-piercing gaze. He said it was good and she moved on. I’m not sure why she needed to speak directly into his mouth to ask this question, but M.Giant provided an acceptable answer and lived to see another day (and another plate). The food may not have been the tastiest thing we ever had, but it was filling.

On the second pass through the buffet, M.Giant dropped his onion ring into the sweet and sour sauce on the buffet, but I’m not sure it helped it. I got some more of the same, minus the cigarette-y bits, but it was a much smaller plate. At least I wasn’t tempted to eat until I was stuffed today.

Lunch ended with one last trip to the buffet to get a sugar-coated donut. It ended up being the best part of the meal for me, but then again, I’m a serious fan of donuts. It was the perfect thing to leave the restaurant with – that donut flavor in my mouth coating my teeth with sugar.
The last time we came here, there was a really odd group of people here. This trip was no different. As we were paying, a group of people were coming out of the back room, which was closed off with a screen while we were eating. All of them were serious smokers (you could smell it and they all hurried outside to smoke). One of them had on a house arrest anklet thing (or maybe a drug rehab anklet thing – they look the same to me), which we didn’t understand, unless she lives with like 50 feet of this restaurant – in which case I feel bad for her for many reasons. They all seemed to know this random old guy and gave him hell for not being at their meeting. I’m wondering if it was an AA meeting or some sort of court-appointed counseling session. But was the judge really that angry with the people that he’d sentence them to gather here at this place?

I’m sure I’m going to offend some people, but this trip was much worse than last time. The kitsch/oddity factor has worn off. Even the cheap factor has worn off. I’m guessing I’m not going to be headed back here with M.Giant anytime soon.

Top 5 things about Hope’s Silver Spoon Restaurant
1. Donut
2. It’s really cheap
3. Eating lunch with M.Giant makes any day exponentially better
4. Cream cheese wontons are good
5. The American food on the menu seems so much more appealing now

Bottom 5 things
1. Cigarette Stir Fry
2. Depressing old people waiting to die
3. Greasy egg rolls
4. General Tso’s Chicken
5. Meatballs

Hope’s Silver Spoon Restaurant
6700 Penn Avenue S.
Minneapolis, MN 55423

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Cupcake – Minneapolis, MN

D.Rough and I had cause to celebrate on a Saturday afternoon, so we stopped by someplace she had wanted to go for a few months now. Cupcake is a cute little cupcake bakery that makes a ton of different kind of cupcakes with fun toppings and even more fun names. Even the door handles of the store are fun and made from large wisks! The kitchen in back is completely visible, so you can see like 10 people back there making and frosting these crazy things. It’s lots of fun to watch.

We had trouble deciding, since there were so many, but I finally decided on the Trademark cupcake and D.Rough got the Mad Cow. I needed a smoothie of some sort, as well, so I got a Kiwi Banana smoothie and D.Rough got a tea to drink.

We went out and sat on the patio and cut the cupcakes in half so we could share.

The Trademark cupcake is a vanilla cupcake filled with chocolate mousse and then covered with frosting, orange sprinkle balls, and blue frosting writing that says “cupcake”. I’m not a cupcake connoisseur or anything, but it was pretty darn delicious. There wasn’t nearly enough chocolate mousse in this one, but I was still pretty happy with it.

Sadly, D.Rough’s Mad Cow was MUCH better than mine was. Hers was a serious chocolate cupcake covered with cream cheese frosting and three milk chocolate disc thingies. The cupcake was really soft and flavorful, and the frosting was top notch and not crunchy like some I’ve had. Excellent flavor.

I even found the bathroom entertaining (no, pervs, not in THAT way). The bathroom is painted fun colors and has old baking pans bolted to the wall instead of paintings. I’m no expert, but I think there are hot dog and hamburger bun pans. They were about that size and shape, so fel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

D.Rough thought Cupcake was pretty good, though no claims that it was the best. She actually IS a connoisseur of cupcakes, so she’d know better than I. That being said, I’d still go out on a limb and recommend this place. It has a really fun feel to it and there’s a cool antique store in the same building that we walked around and found awesome things in.

Too short of a trip to give a top 5, but I’d go here if I were you.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Baker’s Wife Pastry Shop – Minneapolis, MN

Every once in a while, I get a random txt from MommasBoy with a photo of some amazing food I need to try. He’s an amazing food scout and knows what I like. Recently, I got a photo of a donut from him. He claimed it was from the best bakery in the world – Baker’s Wife – and I needed to go there. I could tell it was a cake donut, so I wrote back I wasn’t impressed (I’m a militant hater of cake donuts – if I wanted cake, I’d eat cake!). He said they had some ham thing I needed to try. And he also said, “I love St. Paul, but Baker’s Wife is my favorite bakery ever!” – Those are some strong words coming from a die-hard St. Paulian.

Fortunately, I woke up early on a Saturday to play disc golf with my regular group. When this happens, it means I get to go get donuts before playing. I remembered MommasBoy telling me about Baker’s Wife. It was mostly on the way to where we were playing that morning, so I swung by. Lots of parking out front, so there weren’t any concerns there.A couple of guys went in before me and were looking in the cases at things. There are hand written signs saying what they have and what is what in baskets on the counter. There are post-it notes everywhere in the kitchen with numbers and recipes and things on them. This place is actually a home kitchen that just happens to be in a pastry shop.

The next thing I noticed was… there weren’t any donuts. Sure, there were cake donuts near the cases, but not REAL (raised) donuts. I was already soured by the whole thing. I immediately had an urge to kick MommasBoy in the nards for wasting my time. I suppressed it, thankfully. I looked at what else they had. I was surprised at both the amount of pastry items they have and also the combinations of flavors they had. Lots of fun sounding things. Cinnamon rolls as big as your head, teacakes, snowballs, danishes, and tons of other things I can’t even explain. Sadly, I’m not a pastry guy though. I really wish I was, but I’m just not. I almost gave up on the place and walked out.

Then I heard one of the guys who walked in with me tell the lady “I’m looking for something buttery, yet savory.” The lady replied super nicely, “Well, you need to try our Ham and Cheese Danish, then!” I hadn’t even seen this thing, but I immediately knew this was what MommasBoy wanted me to try. It looked really good, and it was pretty huge. Right after those guys left with their danishes, I told the lady that I wanted one of the same since she had convinced them so easily. She could also tell I was eyeballing the Crème Brulee Danish, so she said “You’d probably better get something sweet to finish this thing off with.” So I had her throw it in there. It was also enormous. I got a glass of milk to go and since they don’t have cartons of milk, they put it in a paper coffee cup with a coffee lid so I looked like a grown up. Hahaha

I went out to the car and noticed the bag was already greased through. That’s a super good sign in my book. I know some people frown upon this, but I know it means I’m going to love whatever is in that bag. I also like to tell people, so they don’t cradle it against their favorite jacket and stain it – I’m helpful like that.

The Ham and Cheese Danish was incredible. Seriously. Super light and flaky pastry crust like I’ve never had in my life. Really. Really. Really. Flaky. And awesome. And it was pretty large, if you can’t tell from the photo. It has the big-ness. The cheese inside was perfectly melty, but not runny, and the there was a perfect amount of ham, so that it wasn’t overpowering the rest of the pastry or cheese. It was better than any breakfast sandwich I’ve ever had. I will have many of these.

I had much higher hopes for this second item I got at this point. The Crème Brulee Danish was made of the same pastry crust outside, but the inside had the delicious egg custardy good that had been blowtorched to a crunchy sugary cover on the whole thing. Again, the pastry part was delicious, but as soon as I hit the custard part, I knew I had made the right choice. The custard goo was firm, but sweetly soft. It wasn’t some low-brow Crème Brulee, it was the real thing and done really well.

When I arrived at the disc golf course a few minutes later, I stepped out and brushed a heap of flaky crumbs off my lap and shirt. It was soooo worth stopping there before playing that morning.

I take everything bad that I said about MommasBoy back. I can’t wait to see what he sends me next!

Top 5 things about A Baker’s Wife Pastry Shop
1. Ham and Cheese Danish
2. Crème Brulee Danish
3. REALLY nice people working
4. Amazing selection of pastries
5. Very home-y and lived-in feel to the shop

Bottom 5 things
1. No raised donuts
2. I had to apologize profusely to D.Rough for not taking her when I told her how awesome it is
3. Despite being on the way to disc golf, it isn’t on my way to anything else
4. Some people don’t like that much grease (I call it flavor) (And I’m assuming it’s butter)
5. This shop is making me reconsider my dislike of pastries… (I almost wrote pasties, but that’s a different article)

A Baker’s Wife Pastry Shop
4200 28th Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55406

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Supatra’s Thai Cuisine – St. Paul, MN

D.Rough and I have tried to go to this Thai restaurant at least three times. Every time we try, they’re closed. And not because of anything they’re doing – they have pretty standard hours, in fact. Either D.Rough and I are driving past or show up late and after they’re closed, or we show up on Sunday and forget they’re closed all day. Again, totally our fault, but because of that reason, we sort of made it our mission to eat there.

We checked the hours on line and made sure we were within the window of eating allotment – and even then, we pushed it almost till closing. That’s just who we are – we’re very European and like to eat at 9 or 10 each night. Not at 5pm like old people (cough…Pul-Chevy...cough). We pulled into the 3-car parking lot (well, 2 cars with one additional handicapped spot) – yes, we are totally serious (and that’s pushing it because if all spots are filled then the car in the end spot is unable to back out at ALL) – and touched the door handle. And it OPENED!!! The people working thought we were crazy when we cheered out loud for the door opening. They clearly didn’t know the hassle we went through to eat here.

We got seated next this couple on a first date. It was painful the entire meal listening to them talk, neither of them realizing they had NOTHING in common. At all. Anyway, the menu is really comprehensive and had a lot of things on it you won’t find at most Thai restaurants in the area. Lots of specialty dishes, and pretty much all of the standard Pad dishes and appetizers you are used to. Additionally, this place is much nicer inside than we expected it to be. It’s borderline fancy and not dive-y at all.

We decided on an order of spring rolls – I’m glad D.Rough likes them as much as I do. And after much deliberation, we decided on Peanut Curry Stir Fry for D.Rough and I got Goy See Mee. When asked how spicy we liked it, D.Rough asked how serious they were. The waitress assured us they were serious about their spice, but we were still skeptical – this is Minnesota, after all. We both got 3 out of 4 on the spice level. That sounded fair, right?

IF I could explain how annoying the couple was next to us, I would. But I can’t. The woman constantly referred to television shows and how she’s a vegetarian who can’t stand the smell of meat. And the guy was some sort of travelling tradesman who claims he loves spicy food, likes to talk about his ex-girlfriends, and try to sound like a road scholar…who just happens to have missed the education part and the part about fact you DON’T make up.

The spring rolls arrived and were really large. They were presented really nicely on their sides and with sprigs of cilantro sticking out the top. Fortunately, they were delicious, also. Very fresh tasting and very cilantro filled – so if you’ don’t like cilantro, be warned. I really enjoyed these. They were served with the sweet rice wine dipping sauce instead of hoisin, and we still loved it.

The food came out really quickly. D.Rough’s was a thick peanut sauce with pieces of chicken and lots of spinach, served with a bowl of rice. Just from looking at hers, I thought – wow, that’s gonna be hot. Maybe there were more peanuts on top than pepper flakes. Maybe. She dug in and mentioned it was pretty darn hot. Then we though, hey wait, Thai food usually grows in heat. A lot. And it did. Fortunately, the rice helped cool things down for her, and even more fortunately, it was really good Thai food. I had a couple bites and really enjoyed it. From what I could tell, anyways – my mouth was on fire.

My Goy See Mee was stir fried egg noodles served on crispy egg noodles – the best of both worlds. It is presented rather beautifully on a fancy blue and white plate and then the stir fried part is served on top of the crispy noodles. I dug my fork into the first bite and when I lifted it up, I noticed the peppers underneath the vegetables. Lots of peppers. Even more peppers than D.Rough had. Uh oh.

(Note at this very time, the ass-clown next to us was talking about how he loved things spicy and he challenged the little Asian girl server to eat one of the peppers whole – which she did. She said she had been eating them with her dinner back in the kitchen and warned him they were hot. The guy tried to do it and started coughing. Then he asked his date if he could drink her water, after he had finished his. Smooth….)

The first thing I noticed was the food was really delicious. The second thing I noticed was it was just a tad greasy – I had to dab my mouth and chin after almost every bite. The third thing I noticed was that it was molten lava – also leading to the wiping of the face after each bite (to get rid of the fire-y oil and to stop the sweating and to wipe the snot rolling out of my sinuses). Seriously, this was hot after bite one. And it got hotter. In fact, I ordered a bowl of white rice to help with the cooling. And then I got waterlogged from sipping water before and after each bite. When they said 3 out of 4, they mean 13. The worst part about it was that the dish was really good and I loved eating it. The vegetables were fresh – celery, bok choy, carrots, mushrooms, baby corn, and onions (which I picked out) and the sauce was very mostly light, minus the oily part. I had to use my fork to crunch up the crispy noodles, which was funny, because they kept exploding when I’d crush them and end up all over the table and the floor and my lap. This is a difficult dish to eat with a fork. I couldn’t imagine how impossible it would be to eat with chopsticks.

Thankfully, the couple next to us left and allowed us to smack-talk them for the remainder of our dinner. They were exhausting. But thankfully, the food made up for it all. Next time, we will for sure steer clear of the level-3 spice. But we think we can handle the level-2. In fact, we’re looking forward to it. There are a bunch of things on the menu we want to try. We will remember to check the hours before we go, however.

And for the record, there are a lot of Gluten-Free dishes on the menu, if that’s your thing.

Top 5 things about Supatra Thai
1. Chicken Peanut Curry Stir Fry
2. Goy See Mee
3. Spring Rolls
4. Really comprehensive menu
5. Great Monday and Tuesday happy hour/half-priced wine

Bottom 5 things
1. The awful first date next to us
2. Parking lot is insanely small – there is street parking though
3. We really wanted dessert, but were too full (and waterlogged) and they were closing
4. REALLY spicy – probably our own fault for ordering level-3, but it was still delicious
5. They have Pepsi products, but no Dew.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Tea House – Plymouth, MN

A-Wow and I like to meet up for lunch from time to time. We both work for the same company, so we like to call these “working lunches”. They’re clearly not. After the last adventure we had, A-Wow suggested one of his favorite places for me to try – The Tea House.

I was actually coming from a Nurse Coaching session for my health insurance. If you couldn’t tell from reading my blog, I like to eat. And generally the food I eat isn’t filled with lettuce and sprouts (and if it is, then it’s battered and deep fried). I failed 4 out of five of my biometric screening tests and was getting a consultation so I can lower my insurance rates. I had just listened to the nurse run through the list of foods I wasn’t supposed to be eating, secretly smiling the whole time, knowing A-Wow and I were going to demolish a Chi-Buf immediately afterwards. Hahahaha. Sucker.
When I walked into the Tea House, just a tad earlier than our scheduled meet time, I noticed the buffet was at least three times larger than the last place A-Wow and I went. This was already a good sign. It’s difficult to see in this photo, but just past the medium-sized buffet in the middle of the room, there is a wall-length buffet just behind it filled with even more goodies.
The lady showed us to our booth and then we got started loading our plates. This place has sooo many things on the buffet. More than any Chi-Buf I’ve been to. General Tao’s Chicken, Chicken in Black Bean Sauce, Mongolian Pork, Sesame Chicken, Egg Rolls, Vegetarian Egg Rolls, Fried Cream Cheese Wontons, Fried Lo Mein Noodles, Pan Fried Beef Dumplings, Sweet and Sour Chicken, Egg Drop soup, Kung Pao Chicken, Broccoli Chicken, Cumin Beef, Chicken Steak (had a bone), Fried Rice, etc. The only thing I didn’t see were any seafood dishes.

I was still a bit jaded from the scolding I had just received from the nurse – “You’re tubby this…” and “Cookie dough is not a food that…” and “Your blood is like gravy this…” and “You’ve got two weeks left to live…” All this culminated into my first plate being at least 50% fried deliciousness.
The fried cream cheese wontons were really good, as were both egg rolls. They were all fried, but they didn’t feel greasy. I wasn’t constantly wiping my fingers off nor had grease dripping down my chin. Really good. The same went for the sweet and sour chicken pieces. Fried, but not greasy. See, I’m already eating healthier, Miss Nursepants!

The fried rice was better than most, as were the fried lo mein noodles. The General Tao’s Chicken (bits of fried chicken in spicy sauce) was pretty outstanding, and I totally got more on my next trip. And finally, the chicken in black bean sauce was NOT fried, but it was delicious anyway. I’ve never had that anywhere, and, like Ronnie James Dio, now I’ll be on the LOOKOUT for it.

And based on the above two paragraphs, my initial estimate of 50% of my plate being fried MIGHT have been a little low…

No matter. The next trip up, I got some egg drop soup (HA! NOT fried). It was one of the better ones I’ve had despite it being more egg-y than broth-y. It also had a strong corn flavor, which I’m totally becoming a fan of after recent versions of egg drop soup I’ve had have had corn in them. I like it. ….and back to fried. A couple more egg rolls and fried wontons, and a fried beef dumpling – which was also delicious. I got a couple of other things this time I missed the first time. Mongolian Pork – delicious! – and Cumin Beef – weird, but mostly good. The Kung Pao Chicken and the Sesame Chicken were above average, and the Broccoli Chicken was about average – just not a fan of broccoli chicken, I think. Finally, the Chicken Steak – which, as far as I can tell, is just large piece of chicken without bones – was just ok (and correct that, there WAS an accidental bone left in my piece).
I’m guessing I packed away a couple thousand calories, tons of salt and MSG, a boatload of fried-full-ness, BUT, I drank water. That’s much healthier than Mt. Dew, right? See, I’m well on my way to a Jack Lalanne body! (Oh wait, he died, didn’t he?...)

Overall, I was really thrilled with The Tea House. I didn’t want to tell D.Rough how good it was, since she had a turkey sandwich for lunch, but I accidentally spilled it. It was amazing and I can’t wait to take her here. The Tea House has a number of locations and if the other ones are even close to as good as this one, D.Rough will be happy.

I’ll be back, Tea House!

Top 5 things about the Tea House
1. General Tao’s Chicken
2. Chicken in Black Bean Sauce
3. Mongolian Pork
4. Egg Drop Soup
5. Overall HUGE buffet

Bottom 5 things
1. Broccoli Chicken
2. There’s a weird set up with napkins and silverware on the buffet itself, and not at the tables
3. There’s no place to put your heaping plate while you’re trying to get soup
4. We forgot to invite A-Wow’s awesome roommate and now feel terrible about it. Next time, Doughboy!
5. A-Wow and I really dropped the ball on the Nathan Lane jokes (The Tea House’s address is 88 Nathan Lane in Plymouth)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Tschida Bakery – St. Paul, MN

Sometimes when I actually wake up on time for Saturday morning disc golf, I figure out a way to get donuts without telling D.Rough about it. She doesn’t care or anything, but I’ve told people before: A donut you’re sneaking tastes infinitely better than a donut everyone knows about and is ok with you eating. In fact, I’m trying to get people on this bandwagon with me – so I’ll repeat it every time I talk about donuts.

I thought I’d stop by Tschida Bakery since it was on the way to BobaFred’s house – mostly. I had heard D.Rough talk about going there as a kid, but I couldn’t remember what she had said about it. I remember her mentioning there was a “for sale” sign in the window the last time we drove past it, but it doesn’t appear that anyone has purchased it. On the plus side, they’re still open for business as usual.
The place is a small mom and pop-type shop with a cute little store front on Rice Street in St. Paul. You can park right out in front, which I did. I saw a guy literally run to beat me inside the store, which was funny because when I got to the door, I couldn’t open it. I’m not sure if it was jammed or if the I-Have-To-Have-A-Donut-ASAP guy actually locked the door so I couldn’t get in. I pulled super hard and it sounded like I pulled it off the hinges – it was soooo loud. The lady behind the counter didn’t even notice. The other guy scurried out with his donut as quickly as he’d come through the door that magically worked for him.

It’s pretty dark inside, which I thought was weird since the inside is painted white. Just a weird feeling inside – gloomy almost. I asked about a couple of donuts and was disappointed to see they didn’t have any vanilla frosted donuts that weren’t filled with goo. Ah, screw, it I got a vanilla frosted donut with cherry goo in the middle. It wasn’t what I wanted, but it would have to do. If worse came to worse, I’d eat the donut part and pitch the goo. I also got a large cinnamon twist donut. They didn’t have any milk, which I thought was odd, but it didn’t matter. I’d rough it. You have to have donuts with milk. Pop simply doesn’t work. I know a chemical engineer and I’m SURE he’d confirm this fact. It’s just science.

I went back out to the car – the door allowed me to exit – and snapped a quick photo before I gorged myself.
I started with the vanilla donut – really moist. Not greasy or anything, just soft and fluffy. I was a few bites in when I realized these things really aren’t sweet at all. I had even opted for eating the cherry goo, and it still didn’t add much to the sweetness. It wasn’t that there wasn’t flavor – THAT part was there. It tasted like delicious fried dough. It just wasn’t sweet at all. Odd, since I had frosting all over my hands and lap. It just didn’t make me crave more of it. Very weird.

I finished that and moved to the cinnamon twist. This donut was even more soft and moist than the vanilla one. I’m not kidding. This thing was a glorious fried pillow of air. If they could make beds out of these things that I wouldn’t stick to or eat in the middle of the night, I’d buy one. Probably the softest donut I’ve ever eaten that I can recall. But again, the thing is slathered with glaze, but without a hint of sweetness. I’m not usually a sweets guy, but when it comes to donuts, I want them sickening sweet and tooth-coating. These didn’t have either of that. Just amazingly soft dough.

So the upside – awesomely soft pillow-like fried dough.
The downside – no sweetness that makes you want more and coats your teeth.

Maybe the lady behind the counter really meant they were out of sugar, not out of milk. It’s an easy mistake. She was super nice though, so I promise I’m not being mean. I sincerely hope someone buys this bakery and uses their dough recipe. Maybe they will also bring a couple bags of sugar as a little treat to the customers, as well.

When I got home, I told D.Rough my critique of the place. She laughed and said she always thought that when she went there as a kid. Just something missing from the flavor. She never really craved the donuts there, and we think this might be the reason. Some people have different sweet tooth range, I guess. Not anyone’s fault.

Have I mentioned the dough?....

Tschida Bakery
1116 Rice Street
Saint Paul, MN 55117

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Plymouth Creek Disc Golf Course – Plymouth, MN

It was our usual Saturday morning round of disc golf. I’d been out of town or out of the country for a number of weeks, so I was sure I was in considerably rusty form. It didn’t matter. It had been raining for a few days, so everything was going to be swampy, but it looked like the weather was actually going to hold out for us. And by “us”, I mean BobaFred and I – everyone else cancelled. Since BobaFred won two weeks in a row (he’s a bit of a champion), it was his choice where to go. He emailed it in to the group – Plymouth Creek.

I’ve never been there, so I quizzed him about it in the morning when I picked him up. He said they played there maybe once a year and it wasn’t anyone’s favorite course, but it’s good to get out there and play it once in a while. Then he warned me about the smell…

I didn’t know what he meant until we got to the first hole at the course. There’s a wide creek you have to throw over to get to the basket. It smells like raw sewage being dumped into the creek underneath this little bridge you have to walk over. It’s bad. So bad, in fact, that one of the guys in the group behind us threw into that creek and refused to get it since it smelled so bad. Yeah, it is that bad.

Here’s a quick overview – there are a lot of trees on this course. A LOT. Thankfully, there is almost always a very obvious fairway to throw down. You don’t really have to choose a route. It’s laid out in front of you. However, you DO have to be able to throw the disc where you’re aiming. This key strategy seems to elude me after I’m away from the game for a while. And overseas travel and visits to Illinois haven’t been allowing much disc golf time. I found out quickly just how bad I had reverted.
I hit an incredible number of trees. Some of them twice (I’m not kidding). I also found that dirty nasty creek three times – it wraps all through the course so you keep seeing/smelling it. I managed to retrieve my disc from the disgusting water each time though. Go me – and now of course, I’ll burn my shoes and golf towel.

The course is 12 holes long, so if you want to play it twice, you’re going to take a little bit longer than a usual 18-hole round. This is something I overlooked when I told D.Rough I’d be home by 10 to make our 11am appointment. When we started the second round of 12, I commented that we’d need to make this a quick round so I could make it home in time. Then, I proceeded to fire a disc straight into the woods and lose it. We looked for about 10 or 15 minutes and never found it. So much for being on time.

I ended up playing absolutely horribly and never turned my game around. The course is challenging and actually is probably pretty fun to play. There are a lot of mosquitoes and some sweltering heat when the sun comes out and no wind moves in the dark forest, but it’s still a decent course. I enjoyed playing it as poorly as I did. There are mostly drive-able holes, but there are a few really lengthy ones that will challenge even the best golfers – since the long ones also have that creek in play their entire length. You just have to be able to avoid far more trees than I was able.

BobaFred ended up beating me by 14 strokes. Yes, I said FOURTEEN. I was a wreck. And I was about 45 minutes late. Fortunately, once D.Rough smelled the sewer smell on me, she allowed me to take a lightning fast shower before we headed to our appointment – which we still made on time!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

King's Place (Take 2) - Miesville, MN

I surprised D.Rough with a road trip to Miesville, MN. It’s basically Hastings/Red Wing, so it isn’t actually BY anything. You have to MEAN to go to Miesville. I’d been to King’s Place once before, with my friend Ruby Vita, and had wanted to go back ever since.

The place has a large dining room (multiple dining rooms in fact), and a large bar. We sat down in the main dining room and got a couple of menus. I knew the list of burgers was extensive, and I also knew that it takes forever to decide which one I actually want because of this. It was a long time in deciding for both of us, but we ordered some fried cheese curds since we knew for sure THOSE were needed.

I wish this menu was online so I could stew over it before I get to the restaurant and have to decide under pressure. It isn’t, so I’ll include some photos here of what you’ll be in for.
Honestly, the toppings aren’t weird or bizarre – they’re just combined in weird ways. MANY different ways – Over 50, in fact. I decided on the Curve Ball –a burger with a fried egg, American cheese, ham, and waffle fries. I also upsized the burger from ¼ pound to ½ pound. That’s how I roll (and why I have rolls). D.Rough got the Garden burger since she was in the mood for something slightly healthier than most of the burgers on the menu.

The curds were delicious. Actual cheese and plenty of batter. The fryer appears to work wonders. I’m guessing anything you order that touches that fryer is going to be fantastic. I’ll see what I can do to test that theory.

The burgers came out. Mine, of course, looked gargantuan compared to D.Rough’s. But it was awesome. The fried egg was what tied it all together. It was runny without being sloppy. It didn’t drop down the front of me, just a little on the plate. It was top notch, I tell you. Great quality burger patty. The ham and cheese went perfectly well together, as did the waffle fries that were on it. It was basically a four course meal on a bun. Stellar.

D.Rough said her burger was really good. She didn’t rave about it or anything, but then again, most of her burger was healthy – that’s the penalty for eating healthy. And yes, I’m kidding. Veggies are fun too – especially deep fried ones, which we didn’t order. She was pleased with her burger and when I mentioned coming back to King’s Place for a Miesville Mudhens game, she didn’t have a problem with it at all. That’s a good sign.

If you get a chance, head to Miesville. The people working at King’s Place are fantastic, you won’t go hungry (although it will take you an hour to decide what you want), and you can catch a minor league ball game across the street when you’re through. Brilliant!

Top 5 things about King’s Place
1. Curve Ball (burger)
2. Cheese curds
3. Waffle fries can be put ON a burger
4. ½ pound upsize potential
5. Wonderful staff

Bottom 5 things
1. We had to rush back and couldn’t stay for the Mudhens game that had just started across the street – but we DID miss the rush crowd!
2. No Dew
3. It seriously is in the middle of nowhere, Minnesota
4. RubyVita is going to yell at me for going here without her (I’m not scared, I can take her in a fight)
5. I said this last time – they need some sort of slide sampler platter where you can get 3 or 5 of these things.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Baseball Game: Minnesota Twins vs. Chicago White Sox – Minneapolis, MN

I’ll start by saying this: I really hate baseball. I tried to play as a youngster when my friend Jason tricked me into playing little league with him. It went poorly, to say the least. You throw a ball at me and I duck – it’s instinct/self-preservation. Needless to say, I had zero hits and maybe 30 walks that season. I don’t even think I swung the bat when I was at the plate. Probably because my eyes were closed - seriously.

Despite all this, I usually find myself at a couple of baseball games each summer (Twins, Saints, Mudhens, etc.). I’ve got friends who love the game, in-laws who love the game, and I can usually find cheap or free tickets from people trying to off-load them at the last minute when they can’t attend. This time around, Rita’s boss had a handful of tickets he couldn’t use, so D.Rough and I got the phone call asking if we wanted to go. Of course we want to go.

Despite my loathing of baseball, I DO love stadium food.

On my drive home from work that afternoon, it started raining. Hard. I was convinced the game would be rained out, but apparently, these guys are known for playing games in the rain as long as it isn’t lightning and as long as the infield doesn’t get too sloppy. But Rita and D.Rough were determined to make it happen. They took the light rail down to the park and I drove straight to the stadium from work, when I realized the gridlock traffic wasn’t going to allow me to run home before the game.

So, honestly, this is the best possible scenario for me. It’s pouring rain and the only thing there is to do is wander the concourse of the stadium buying food and drinks. Seriously, this is a scenario where I would consider buying season tickets. Hahahahaha.

While waiting for D.Rough, Rita, and Kym, I noticed there was one food booth open to people who weren’t inside the park yet. Why, yes, I WOULD like a brat while I wait for the light rail to drop off D.Rough. Cha-ching!

It was a pretty standard brat, but it did the trick. It tided me over until I could get inside the park and get other unhealthy food. Plus, when I sent a photo to D.Rough’s cell phone of the brat, I got the proper enraged response.

Then, once inside Target Field, we had nothing to do since we weren’t going to sit in our seats in the rain. So I found some cheese curds. Delicious gooey cheese curds. It was a pretty small portion for the price, but they were worth it.

As I had finished my curds, a couple walked past me and looked at me funny. Granted, I’m used to this, since I look like a sasquatch and had changed out of my work shirt and tie into jeans and a band sweatshirt. But they looked and pointed a little bit more than most. I thought maybe they were returning the favor since I was probably staring at the guy’s excellent sideburns, so I probably had it coming. Not a big deal, until someone tapped me on the shoulder 10 seconds later. It was the couple.

She said she didn’t want to sound weird but wanted to know if I was the guy that wrote for Youcarewhatwethink. I said yes, but probably more suspicious-sounding than I intended. She said she was a big fan and loved to read the reviews. She introduced herself and her husband (Jen and Eric – I haven’t come up with fun nicknames for them just yet, so I’m totally selling out their identity) and said that even though they were both vegetarian, they loved the blog and appreciated that I give shout outs to the vegetarian food I eat and give them ideas for places to go. She said she felt honored to meet me, but I assured her it was me that was more flattered since someone actually recognized me from the asinine photos I put on the blog of myself. SUPER nice couple.

After my brief but huge ego-boost, I needed a cheap margarita to bring me back down to the real world. Well, they don’t have anything cheap at Target Field, but they do have margaritas that TASTE cheap! Mmmmmmm Jose Cuervo. Mmmmmmmm $7.75 for a 10 oz plastic cup with salt on the rim. It wasn’t the best margarita I ever had, but it certainly wasn’t the worst.

After our first loop of the concourse waiting for them to start the game, we decided which places we were going to go back to actually eat. I knew I needed a corn dog, so we headed out for the state fair booth – the only place you can get corn dogs in the stadium. While walking there, I needed a snack. And fortunately, Kramarczuk’s sausage booth was between me and the state fair booth. If you don’t know this company in the Twin Cities, you should get familiar with it. The fact that they have a booth in Target Field should tell you something about them. They’re serious about sausages. D.Rough was going to get a sausage of some sort (twss), but cover it with fried onions to deter me from eating any of hers – rude. However, I tricked D.Rough into buying me a Polish Sausage while she was in line buying her own food. And it was delicious. Approximately 81.4% more tasty than the brat I had before getting into the game. I’m not a topping guy (aside from ketchup), so keep in mind I didn’t slather it with mustard, relish, sauerkraut, and onions. But even so, it really is that much better than the regular fare at Target Field.
Immediately after getting the Polish Sausage, they announced the game was officially postponed and being rescheduled for a later date. After the collective groan from the soaked fans, the mass exodus began. Which also meant there was no way for me to get to the state fair booth for my corn dog. Sad. Face.

It’s probably a good thing the game got rained out, to be honest. I had my eye on the Carvery meat booth and the Asian food booth next to it. I also would have probably wanted ice cream at the end of it all and maybe some nachos as a between-snack snack. Instead, we got to walk back in the rain to my car parked in a random parking ramp.

Overall, this was one of the best days I’ve had at the baseball park. And, family and friends – please don’t stop inviting me to come to baseball games with you. I love professional sporting events, and as you just saw, I LOVE stadium food. I’ll be happy to accompany you to the game and then disappear while the actual game is happening. It’s a skill I am honing.

Thanks again to Jen and Eric for stopping me and saying hi!!! My friends now think I’m a minor celebrity. They won’t admit that out loud, but I can tell that’s what they think – hahahahaha.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Hola Arepa Food Truck – Minneapolis, MN

This was the opening weekend for the Uptown Market. You’ll remember last year when I went as often as possible and tried to eat as many Magic Bus Café hotdogs as I could and then convince all my friends they needed to go there and try everything. This year, I showed up at the Uptown Market, expecting to see the Magic Bus Café, and was a tad bit bummed about their absence. I know they have places to be though, so I completely understand. Fortunately, while driving over to the Market, I saw someone had posted a photo of the Hola Arepa food truck on Facebook, which was open for business at the Uptown Market. I knew I was going to have one of those, since I love Arepas.

The opening day of the Uptown Market was a little disappointing vendor-wise. I had heard a lot of the usual vendors simply didn’t show up without calling the Market people to let them know. Totally understandable absences for some of the vegetable vendors since many of the products simply aren’t ready for sale yet. But there were a lot of other vendors missing. Normally, at the Uptown Market, there are 4 or 5 blocks of vendors, food booths, and musicians. This time around, there was about a block and a half of vendors, food, and musicians. The sad part was that there were TONS of people. I’m sorry, absent vendors – you missed out on some serious publicity and cash. The Open Streets Minneapolis on Lyndale Avenue was the same day, drawing TONS of people on bikes and foot, and handful of street performers all up and down Lyndale Avenue. This drew a lot of crossover with the Uptown Market crowd, which was nice to see. It helped out the vendors that were there, so that’s good, and I’m happy to see that. This also meant the two food vendors in the Uptown Market were completely swamped. The line for Hola Arepa was about 25 people deep when I arrived.

If you’re not familiar with Arepas, they’re a South/Latin American style of taco – sort of. It’s like a cornmeal pita cut in half and filled with delicious toppings. Usually some sort of shredded meat with cheese and cilantro and other things, but they also have vegetarian ones with black beans and lettuce and such. I ran into EJens at the Market and we decided to stop at Hola Arepa for lunch, especially when we saw our fried Jesse in line near the front. Hahahahaha. He was willing to take our money and our order and help us out so we didn’t have to wait. Awesome.

While we were standing near the line, someone from the food truck would periodically come out of the truck and erase a menu item. Hola Arepa was selling out of everything they had. Hooray for them – boo for people standing in line hoping to get something that was being erased. This huge crowd was generating serious business for this awesome food truck. Ejens, Jesse and I all got the pulled pork arepas, since those remained on the board when Jesse got to the front of the line.

We waited a couple of minutes for them to call Jesse’s number and they arrived. Frankly, I was a little surprised at how small they were, since we paid $6 for them. However, I had just returned from China where I could get full for $3.
The cornmeal pita was stuffed pretty full of pulled pork, black beans, cotija cheese, and some special yellow/green secret sauce. I took one bite and knew I had a winner. They were good. The nice thing was the cornmeal pouch wasn’t greasy like MANY other arepas I’ve had (yes, I’ve had a LOT of them), especially street food arepas. It seemed to be almost grease-free, in fact. The pulled pork was super tender and tasty and you can’t ever have too many black beans for me. The special sauce will remain secret since I don’t want to begin to guess what sorts of vegetables and things make a sauce that color, but it is really delicious. The whole thing got a thumbs up from me.

Again, they’re a little bit smaller than I expected, but it was more filling than a standard sized taco. But flavor-wise, you won’t be disappointed. I’m assuming that’s another reason the line for this place was so lengthy. Word was getting around these things were fantastic. Also, there were only two food vendors to choose from…

I’m looking forward to next weekend’s Uptown Market. Just because there is an awesome food truck selling arepas, doesn’t mean I won’t go to the equally awesome purple Magic Bus to get a hot dog or 3.

Here’s hoping for a fantastic Uptown Market season in 2011, and here’s hoping Hola Arepa food truck returns to fill my belly!!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Great Waters Brewing Company - St. Paul, MN

D.Rough and I were driving through downtown at an odd hour of the day, trying to figure out what to eat for dinner. We were both hungry for burgers but wanted something new. She suggested Great Waters and after checking out the menu posted on the window of the place, we went inside. … and then we went out to the patio since it was beautiful outside and we wanted to people-watch.

It’s a fairly standard micro-brew pub with lots of in-house-crafted beers and decent sounding upscale bar food. It didn’t take long for us to go through the menu and figure out what we wanted. I went with the Bacon Cheeseburger a half pound of ground sirloin topped with bacon or Canadian bacon with your choice of Cheddar, provolone, Swiss, mozzarella, Pepper Jack, smoked Gouda or bleu cheese. The whole thing is served with lettuce, tomato and onion. I went with the regular bacon and pepper jack cheese. I also got onion rings, since I was in the mood. D.Rough decided on the Buffalo Chicken Sandwich - buffalo sauce drizzled over a grilled chicken breast and topped with bleu cheese. She added some potato salad to hers instead of fries. We also needed a couple of ciders, so we got the Fox Barrel Cider (since that was all they had).

We checked out the local color while waiting for dinner. People were tearing down from an artwalk, so there was a lot of activity and people running around doing things. It was the perfect afternoon to check things out and we weren’t in a hurry to get anywhere – that’s a nice feeling.

The food arrived and looked pretty good. We cut both of our sandwiches in half to share and dove in. I started with the onion rings – which were really quite good. Thick batter and none of those random underdone spots that are dough-y. Really, these get better and better the more I think about them. The bacon cheese burger was good. I had really high hopes for it, based no how it looked, but it wasn’t awesome. Just a decent burger. D.Rough agreed with me, especially after she had a few bites of hers.The buffalo chicken sandwich was much better than the burger. And it helped that she had ordered a side of buffalo sauce to dip it all in. The blue cheese flavor was really good and countered the spicy buffalo sauce better than many sandwiches I’ve had. She totally won on this little foray. I didn’t try the potato salad since it isn’t my thing, but she said it was alright. Just a little mustard-y from the comments she made.

The cider is just ok. It is really sweet and after doing some reading, I found out it is a pear cider made by Crispin – not my favorite cider manufacturer. It was, however, a good balance to have with the spicy buffalo sauce and sweet enough for a hot summer day. I just always wish Crispin Ciders had more flavor. I feel like Crispin is like Gatorade compared Kool-aid: just a little bit too watered down flavor for me. Strongbow or Hornsby’s or even Woodchuck have a more solid flavor and mouth-feel to me. I’m no fancy connoisseur or anything, but I do have opinions on things. It didn’t stop me from having two of them, though. Sorry if I’ve offended Crispin people. I still like Crispin Glover – does that count for anything?

Top 5 things about Great Waters Brewing Company
1. Buffalo Chicken Sandwich
2. Onion Rings
3. Good menu selection
4. Great patio with people watching capabilities
5. Good portion sizes – no complaints on being full

Bottom 5 things
1. The bacon cheese burger was a let down
2. We missed happy hour, which is always a bummer
3. I heard a couple of people near us not thrilled with their food – but ours was alright!
4. Crispin’s Fox Barrel Cider – I know it isn’t Great Water’s problem, but it did affect my meal
5. D.Rough totally dumped cider in my lap…. (she’s going to hit me for putting that in the bottom 5 list…. Hahahahahaha)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

1029 Bar - Minneapolis, MN

D.Rough fell in love with the Smack Shack lobster rolls during the Zombie Pub Crawl last year. They serve REALLY high-end lobster rolls out of a food truck at festivals and in parking lots during the warmer months. Since that time, the Smack Shack has taken over the kitchen at the 1029 Bar and is now serving its glorious food there. We were glad to hear it, and we headed over one random night.

The place has a divey feel without being unsafe – our kind of place. It’s sort of a cop-bar where there are police memorabilia all over, as well as signed bras and beer lights everywhere. They also have pull tabs and meat raffles here. Again – our kind of place.
The menu isn’t expansive, but we both knew what we wanted. D.Rough wanted lobster and I wanted Mac and Cheese. We were starving and knew we’d be destroying copious amounts of food, so we just didn’t hold back. Instead of the regular lobster roll, D.Rough got the King Lobster Roll (twice the lobster as the regular), I got a Sausage Po’ Boy and Bacon Mac and Cheese. And then the waitress mentioned she had just eaten some of the buffalo wings they have there, so we got an order of Smack Wings as well. I told you we were hungry.

We were also thirsty, so we ordered a couple Jameson and Gingers for us to drink. And then we might have ordered a second round…

The lobster roll is a serious lobster sandwich. It has cucumber pieces, and tarragon and lemon aioli dumped on a grilled bread sandwich. D.Rough loves this thing. Sure, it was enormous, but she was mentally prepared for it. I’m not a lobster fan, so there was no use wasting even a bite on me. I had plenty to eat anyway. D.Rough has claimed this is one of the best lobster "anythings" she's ever had. This lobster roll has come up in various conversations over the past year, even conversations so non-food related it has astounded me. That's how good these lobster rolls are.

The chicken wings are good. Not stellar. Not life-changing. Just good. We probably didn’t need them, but it was fun having a ton of different flavors while we were gorging ourselves.

The Sausage Po’ Boy was immense. Seriously, this was LARGE. I’m not sure if you can tell, but each half of the sandwich has 2 links cut in half (that makes four, if you’re from Kentucky). They were Andouille sausage links with aioli, tomato, and greens on a huge bun. This thing was way more sandwich than I could eat. I seriously couldn’t eat it all, even though it was delicious.

One of the main reasons I couldn’t eat it all was the Bacon Mac. This is one of the best Mac and Cheese dishes I’ve had. We think it’s because of the Taleggio Cheese they use. I’ve never heard of it, but the cheese was top-notch. Lots of applewood smoked bacon pieces throughout and a cracker crumb crust and herbs on the top of the whole thing. I have a feeling next time, I’m going to skip the sandwiches and just get two orders of this. It was awesome and I’m glad we got it – even though, I have a feeling I didn’t share with D.Rough as much as I should have.

This meal costs us a bunch, but we both felt it was worth it. There was tons of entertainment here, as well. Karaoke in the back of the room looked lively, we got to see a fist fight with a guy wearing an eye patch, and the spinning tri-wheel action was in the front (we don’t know what a tri-wheel is, sorry). We got our money’s worth. We also stuffed ourselves until we were uncomfortable. Overall, I call this a win.

[D.Rough commented that she was tempted to go back to 1029 without me while I was in China the past few weeks, but she resisted the urge. I believe I will reward her by taking her there ASAP!]

Top 5 things about 1029
1. Bacon Mac (and Taleggio Cheese)
2. King Lobster Roll
3. Sausage Po’ Boy
4. Smack Wings
5. Entertainment value/atmosphere

Bottom 5 things
1. Eating this much food gets pricey – our own fault
2. It is really dark inside
3. We still don’t know what the tri-wheel is
4. We don’t think our potential wedding venues will allow catering by the Smack Shack… we will press them though… stay tuned
5. The fist fight happened right behind us. Don’t worry, we protected our drinks…