Saturday, June 30, 2012

Tom Reid’s Hockey City Pub (Poutine Crawl) – St. Paul, MN

A bunch of roller derby people in the Twin Cities got the bright idea to do a Poutine Crawl. Not a one-night event, but basically go around the area trying every variety of poutine available. I stumbled across this group on facebook during its planning stages and half thought, “It’s too good to be true.” Alas, it WAS true!

The group set their first meeting date at Tom Reid’s Hockey Bar in St. Paul. Poutine originated in Montreal and if there’s one thing Canadian’s know (I’m not saying there IS one thing they know), it’s poutine. Doing some sort of metric math conversion, you’ll end up with Canadian hockey players love poutine. Tom Reid’s should have the best, right?

If you don’t know what poutine is, it’s simple (pronounced POO-Teen). French fries (probably called frittes in Montreal), cheese curds, and gravy. Sounds interesting, you have to admit. I’ve been a long time poutine lover and have found a few of my favorite in the area already. But if some cool people want to go and check them ALL out, then I can get on board with that. It’s brilliant!

There were eleven of us at this first gathering. The waitress cracked up when we all ordered poutine (and a LOT of adult beverages - we found out they have 2-for-1's the night we went!). We chatted a bit about which places were on the list and it turns out there are quite a few. Citypages had recently published a poutine guide in the twin cities, so we would start there.

Enough talk. Our poutine arrived. Most of them – Tom Reid wasn’t really expecting this many orders of poutine, so they came out in two shifts. Hilarious.

Here’s my take. The fries were better than average for a bar, so no complaints there. Nothing seasoned about them, or anything, just simple and good fries. The cheese curds weren’t deep fried, just straight up, not that there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, I think that’s the traditional way. However, the cheese was melted into pools underneath the fries and wasn’t very “curd-like”, and was not the most stand-out cheese. It got lost in the mix visually, and flavor-wise. Finally, the gravy – a beef-ish gravy – was a little bit bland for most of us. Could have used some jazzing up with salt, pepper, and maybe some sri racha (I don’t think hockey bars believe in this mythical rooster sauce). Apparently, when people heated their left overs up the next day and doctored the gravy up a bit, it helped. There was also a considerable amount of parsley shrapnel on the top of the whole pile. It didn’t add anything, unless by seeing green on top, you can pretend it’s a healthy hillock of food... (In which case, kudos to you, Tom Reid!)

I will also point out that it’s a pile of potatoes, basically. Which means it fills you up extremely quickly. So, mad props go out to Killsbury Doughboy for finishing his entire plate.

The rest of the group didn’t even come close, coughcough A-Wow coughough…

(D.Rough and I split a plate between us and it was the perfect amount. No point in OVER-clogging your veins this early in the crawl!)

Despite the fact that none of us were particularly enamored with this first run of the Poutine Crawl, we all decided poutine is a bit like pizza. Even bad poutine is still relatively delicious. I don’t think anyone complained during this thing, but we all know we’ve got some life-altering poutine still on the list! Looking forward to this year-long poutine crawl!!

It’s difficult to do a Top 5 list for one item, so I’ll forego this for the poutine crawl posts. I hope you understand.

Here are a few comments from the group:

Sam: Well that was a pretty good start. I'm excited for the next round! My take on Tom Reid's Poutine: The fries were excellent. Golden brown, light and fluffy inside, just lightly crispy outside. The curds were ok, but not fantastic, and were too melty to truly recognize as curds. The gravy was bland, referred to by one attendee as "too close to KFC." Overall: Good bar food, but we can do better.

Jessie: I agree. This was a good starting point. And I can relive the experience with the poutine that's still left in my fridge. I look forward to next time at Rye Delicatessen.

Pete: One of the indicators of a real cheese curd is it squeaks when you bite into it, hence why it's sometimes referred to as "squeaky cheese". Either the cheese at Tom Reid's was too melted to discern its curdiness, or they don't use actual cheese curds (probably the latter as real cheese curds can be expensive). The fries were very good, but I feel there's better poutine possibilities out there.

Elise: I believe only fresh curds squeak and I think once you heat them up you'll lose all squeakiness fresh or not. Jessie, be sure to report on the re-heating success of the left overs, that's always a good thing to know!

Doug: The great thing about poutine is you can`t really miss. Tom Reid`s was good but there is better on the horizon. The bad thing about poutine is the mini-strokes you have after eating too much of it. Also, it made me take a giant poo this morning. 2 flushes!!

A-Wow: It held up relatively well to reheating, and the addition of some garlic and pepper did improve the flavor. But I agree that we will find much better poutine in the future. The chest pains are already subsiding...

Friday, June 29, 2012

Morty’s Snack Shop again – Bloomington, MN

Just a quick one…

I sent out a message saying I was going to eat at the Skihill snack shop in the morning and no one took me up on the offer. Sucks for them, since Morty had a TON of awesome things on the menu. Thank goodness I don’t mind eating delicious food by myself!

Hoping it appears on the menu at least one more time this summer, I skipped out on the pulled pork made with applesauce and sri racha and ordered the Sunday Brunch Burger. It’s a burger with cheese, bacon, hashbrowns and a fried egg on top.

This burger was monstrous. Really a lot going on here and I got exponentially more full with each bite. It didn’t dawn on me until I was almost done why – I had double the potatoes you normally get since I had ordered tots. Everyone knows potatoes fill you up super fast, so by the time I was done and headed back to work, I was already falling asleep with food coma. Totally worth it though! The burger was very tasty and sloppy. I know some people don't like that, but in this case, it worked.

Seriously, you have to go to Morty’s!

Hyland Golf Practice Center (Morty's Snack Shop)
8800 Chalet Road
Bloomington, MN 55438

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Chef Shack Food Truck – St. Paul, MN

Wednesday had rolled around, so it was time to meet friends for our weekly food truck lunch in downtown St. Paul. I arrived before the others and scoped out the offerings. I had to trick some of the others into meeting me downtown since it was just ont he verge of raining. But Myrna and Garrison are suckers for peer pressure and gave in. I finally decided on exactly what I wanted when Garrison arrived and talked me into something else - Chef Shack.

Today, I was going to try the Moo Mee sandwich. From what Garrison described, it’s a Thai meatloaf sandwich and it’s delicious. So, I popped in line and listened to about 10 people in front of me order the Moo Mee and carry off a delicious looking sandwich. Everything the Chef Shack uses is local and they’ve been around a while, so they know what they’re doing.

My order came up and I was handed a delicious looking sandwich (underneath all the pickled cabbage and carrots) and a side of chips. They encourage you to use their hot sauce on the sandwich and the chips, so I did. They will also warn you it is made with habanero peppers and to be careful – I was.

The sandwich was worth the switch and I’m glad I caved to Garrison’s suggestion. Really soft meatloaf-like meat (spruced up with the habanero pepper sauce), and fresh veggies on top. The baguette was firm but not tough and enhanced the flavor of this sandwich more than I expected. I’ve eaten a few different meatloaf sandwiches in my day (traditional, Cajun, spicy, etc), and this one was distinctly Thai – perfectly seasoned without being overwhelming and it also didn’t taste like some run-down diner’s version of meat loaf. This was quality stuff.

I was even more thrilled with food truck Wednesday when Garrison suggested we pop by the Cupcake Social food truck on our way back. That was the right move, especially since it was three blocks away.

We were both bummed that the lady in front of us had ordered what was the last of the Caramel Macchiato cupcakes, but we managed to find replacements.

We were also super nice and chivalrous and bought our respective ladies their own cupcakes. I bought a Key Lime Pie cupcake, a Lemon Coconut cupcake, and a Red Velvet cupcake. I was also smart enough to give D.Rough first choice of which cupcakes she wanted.
All of the cupcakes were really good (despite the fact that there was an “incident” with the Red Velvet on the way home – hit a few too many bumps in the road). I was pleased with all of them, since D.Rough was nice enough to share with me. She liked the Lemon Coconut and we both really liked the Key Lime Pie since the lime wasn’t overpowering. Awesome dessert!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Bacon Trolley Foodtruck – St. Paul

Another Wednesday, another day I get to meet friends in downtown St. Paul for food trucks! We chose a different location in hopes that we’d run across the macaroni and cheese truck, but it wasn’t in Mears Park, as we had hoped. Sad face. There were also only two food trucks – one bacon-themed and the other Italian-themed. Remember I said we had some vegetarians in our group? Well, this merely provided a needed narrowing of choices for them. Hahahaha. Sorry, ladies.

I, of course, went directly to the Bacon Trolley.

The people there were very fun and gave me crap for walking past their truck initially. I told them I had to find shade while waiting for my friends, but I knew for sure I would be back. They have a lot of pork-related items on the menu (not JUST bacon), so I actually had to ask for recommendations. I finally decided on the Pork Carnitas Tacos. And for dessert, “just bacon” (that’s the menu item, actually). It’s hard to go wrong with that kind of order.

I heard my name yelled and grabbed my food. It was much more food than I had anticipated, and was really grateful, since I was starving. There were three street-style tacos filled with shredded pork, salsa, and cilantro. The tortillas got a little messy towards the end, but the flavor was pretty darn good. No complaints at all (aside from maybe needing a few more – I’m a big eater)!

On to dessert! Three bacon strips wrapped in waxed paper. Nothing fancy, but I can honestly say this was the best bacon I’ve had in a long time. Thick cut and fried perfectly. I’m not sure where they get their bacon from, but it’s the best flavor I’ve had in months. Maybe since the Minnesota State Fair. It shouldn’t have been as good as it was, but it was the best part of the meal.

I’ll be back, wonderful ladies of the Bacon Trolley. I’ll be back.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Dr. Pepper 10 – Eden Prairie, MN

I’ll admit, I was amused (and only a little bit horrified) by the ads for Dr. Pepper’s newest creation: TEN. It explicitly says it is NOT for women. Sure that excludes a whole portion of the world’s population, but it’s ok! Based on research the company did, women proudly drink diet sodas, while men are afraid of being made fun of by their peers for drinking diet sodas (I’ve never seen this, but whatever). They kept in some of the sugar in the recipe, but enough that it still had 10 calories. That’s TEN times more manly calories than many diet sodas that women drink. So BADASS!!!! (I’m ooooozing with sarcasm, in case you hadn’t noticed)

I thought I’d check it out at work, since I could hide in my cube and dump it out if it sucked, and also so my “empowered” and lovely wife wouldn’t talk shit while I drank it – while flexing – in front of her. I gave it a couple of cautious sips. I’m not sure why I was cautious, but maybe I was afraid it would be riddled with testosterone and I’d kick a hole through my office wall and wrestle a janitor or something. Nope, nothing of the sort. And it truly tastes JUST like Dr. Pepper. I don’t think it matter what sort of equipment you’re operating in your swimsuit area – it’s delicious.

What the researchers may not have factored in was WHERE people might drink this Dr. Pepper TEN. For example, I’m now embarrassed to be seen drinking it at work by any of the 1,000 ladies in my office for fear of being seen as a d-bag. Will they worry I’ll punch them on the stomach and spit on them while they’re curled up in a ball and roid-roar “IT’S NOT FOR WOMEN!!!”? (probably not) Even so, I’m still going to bury the empty bottle in my garbage can under papers when I leave the office, just so no one mistakes me for THAT guy. Are you supposed to drink it around other guys? Is it a church drink? Is it a sporting event/NASCAR drink? Is it a kid’s soccer game drink? Is it a women’s lib rally drink? Will astronauts drink it? Are they unloading pallets of this stuff at men’s prisons? I have sooo many questions to ask Dr. Snapple if I run into him.

Again, I’m not condoning beverage-segregation, but if that’s what the research says is the target market, then I have to go with it. I’ll try to refrain from punching any ladies though. (Though I do want to go home and put on a wife-beater and sit in the yard yelling about things not being for women... Until my wife gets home and knocks me into next week.)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Gastrotruck – St. Paul, MN

Some roller derby friends of mine thought it would be a good idea if we met all in downtown St. Paul every Wednesday to hit up the food truck extravaganza that happens there. In fact, I told my boss I would be working from home on Wednesdays for the summer simply so I could hang with this crew each week. There are a few locations that the food trucks congregate, but we opted for the Food Court area of Wabasha and Kellogg for today’s trip.

With a few vegetarians in the group, the more options (trucks) we have at a place, the better. Then, they have things to choose between and don't get stuck eating fries and an apple. I went with Gastrotruck. Everything on the menu sounded delicious.

I decided, after much deliberation, to go with the pork belly (well, not THAT much deliberation). And I love quinoa, so I got a side of that as well. I left my money and name at the counter and the woman called me a short while later.

It looked even better than it sounded. I was unsure how this belly was going to manifest itself (Sandwich? Skewer? Cone? Salad?), but I was pleasantly surprised. It was a pork belly patty on a bun with chef-made kimchee and ginger aioli. I stared with the quinoa first, though. It was a nice pink color, which came from the sautéed beet tops that were a main ingredient – there were also sprouted beans in it. I loved this small side. Really flavorful and not mushy, nor dry. The perfect side dish for this sandwich.

The pork belly was melt-in-your-mouth kind of stuff. There was a tiny layer of fat around the edges that just dissolved when you bit into it. Very juicy and the perfect texture. I was going to offer it to people, but A), they were all vegetarians that day, and B) I wasn’t going to part with even a single bite of this sandwich. The Gastrotruck prides itself on being upscale/artisinal quality and this proves it. I’d recommend this very highly and am, in fact, looking forward to trying this again.