Friday, June 27, 2014

Happy Birthday, Dad!

BIG HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my dad today!

I can't think of a better role model to turn into. He's the one that started my cookie dough addiction and taught me that there isn't a time limit to stand in front of a donut counter picking out the right donut with the most frosting. He taught me about watching professional wrestling and roller derby and how to be the best fan you can by yelling incoherently at every sporting event (the shirtless thing is all my own). He also taught me a bunch of other things that are actually helpful and have gotten me where I'm at today. I owe him a lot.

Love you, Dad. Hope your birthday doesn't put you in the hospital with sky-high blood sugar levels!

(When did my sister get so short?)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Z’s Smokin’ Bonez BBQ – Maple Grove, MN

HotGirlsBrother and I have a difficult time turning down BBQ and ribs of any sort. We heard Z’s Smokin’ Bonez opened up a while back and really tried hard to get there. It took us forever, but we finally made it (despite a last minute decision and then forgetting to call Low-Vee to come join us like the olden days when we did the Bar-B-Quest). We made the long trek out to Maple Grove to check it out.

THIS is a happy guy:

We were greeted by a young kid who was elbows deep in BBQ ribs. He could tell we hadn’t been here before and offered immediate assistance in ordering. Not pushy or anything, just really helpful. He ran through a couple of top sellers and we told him we wanted ribs. He explained that they basically sold everything by the pound (except for sandwiches), so we opted to split a half rack between the both of us.
When we got to the list of sides available, we were shocked. LOTS of things – a few standards and few really creative things. We went back and forth a few times with each other haggling on what we’d get, and we finally narrowed it down to four sides. Hahahahaha, yes, we narrowed it to four sides. Loaded baked beans, Bacon and Bleu Mac, Bacon Potato Salad, and House Cole Slaw. The kid was already chopping our ribs while HotGirlsBrother and I stood at the counter and argued. Then, we made the guy’s life hell by using a LivingSocial deal we got – the guy was really gracious about it and played it off like we didn’t just ruin his day. (We tipped really well to make sure his day wasn’t completely ruined!

They brought out the ribs and sides on cafeteria trays and we divided things up to make sure we got to try some of everything. The kid told us about the sauces they had and then sent us to the refrigerated case to pick out our own. We tried a little of every sauce they had there. And, it wasn’t just the side dishes that had some creativity to them! The sauces were magical and not like most I’ve seen in many BBQ joints. They, of course, had original and sweet & sassy, which is common, but then they had a Bacon BBQ, Peanut Butter BBQ, Mustard BBQ, Temper BBQ (and a sugar free version), Jalapeno BBQ, Wasabi BBQ, and a White BBQ (horseradish based). The guy is a mad scientist of BBQ sauces!

The Bacon Potato Salad was great. Lots of bits of bacon in it and rich creamy flavor that somehow wasn’t a heavy cream feel. I’m not saying it was light or anything, it was just significantly lighter than either of us expected. Fantastic.

The House Cole Slaw was good, even though we thought it would pale in comparison to the creamy ones we normally like. It was vinegar based, but not normal vinegar. Maybe apple cider or something more unique than that. Still sweet, but had the burn and tang of vinegar. I’d absolutely order this again.

The Loaded Baked Beans were so packed with other meats (rib meat, pulled pork, bacon) that you almost couldn’t tell if the beans were good. I think they were, but I was so focused on all the other meat, I couldn’t tell. These are almost a meal in themselves.

The Black and Bleu Mac was really quite good. There were little chunks of bleu cheese mixed in with the noodles and you could really taste the bleu flavor. I really liked this stuff. It’s some of the better mac and cheese I’ve had lately, in all honesty.

Finally, the ribs were so much better than we expected them to be. I say “expected”, but I mean “hoped”. And by that, I mean if they were bad, then we wouldn’t have to drive all the way back out to Maple Grove again. Sadly, these things were really delicious and now we have to drive all the way back out to Maple Grove again. Hahahah. Totally worth it, though. The bones slid right out of the meat. Just a little bit of fat to give the things flavor, and a little bit of cartilage to work through. But we cleaned these bones (or bonez) like wolves. Great dry rub on them and the smoke flavor is real, not from a bottle. We tried them with all of the available sauces and here are my choices for favorite sauces. I kept going back and forth between the peanut butter BBQ and the Jalapeno BBQ. The peanut butter was like a thick Thai peanut paste with a little kick and the jalapeno had great pepper flavor. Both of these were homeruns. The original was really good, as was the Sweet & Sassy. I’m not a mustard fan, but HotGirlsBrother really liked that one and the White BBQ. I thought the White BBQ sauce would be fantastic on a roast beef sandwich, so I’m keeping that in mind. The other sauces were fine, as well – I promise.

We left the place absolutely stuffed (so maybe four sides was overkill) and happy. The owner and the kids working there were really hospitable and helpful and talkative. Even though it is a haul from the Twin Cities proper, it’s worth a trip if you’re headed west on 94. I’m glad we finally made it out there. Now I need to check my calendar to find out when we can go again!!!

Top 5 things about Z’s Smokin’ Bonez BBQ
1. BBQ Ribs
2. Black and Bleu Mac
3. Loaded Baked Beans
4. House Cole Slaw
5. Crazy number of sauces!

Bottom 5 things
1. Not close to TC proper, but worth the drive
2. So many delicious things on the menu you’ll take forever to decide
3. Who am I kidding? There IS no bottom 5 list for this place!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Quesarito from Taco Bell – Eden Prairie, MN

Taco Bell’s newest creation is the Quesarito. It’s a burrito and a quesadilla rolled into one – literally. I had to check this thing out.

It’s got your choice of beef, chicken, or steak, and then Latin rice (which just has some green flecks in it), chipotle sauce, reduced-fat sour cream (which is handy, since you’d hate for this thing to push past 10,000 calories), and wrapped in grilled quesadilla with melted cheese. The cheese is there to make everything stick together.

I hate showing people the insides of the concoctions that Taco Bell creates, mainly, because they all look like a dirty diaper. That being said, you really need to unfold it to see what’s going on here. It’s a quesadilla wrapped in a burrito tortilla. There really isn’t any bad – unless you can’t do carbs or gluten (then there’s a bad).

Frankly, it’s delicious and very filling – thanks to two tortillas and Latin rice. There’s lots of cheese packed into here, though. Enough to kill a small child, certainly. So cut it into bites for said small child. Overall, the thing isn't as large as it looks in television commercials, but it's still a solid menu item. Again, as per usual, nothing mind blowing, but I feel like the test kitchens are really working for filling and palatable, rather than mind-blowing and appetizer-y. I’m not complaining, I assure you.

Nice work, Taco Bell test kitchen.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Paseo – Key West, FL

D.Rough and I managed to get far out of town on a mini-vacation and drove down the coast of Florida to Key West. We did some online review checking and this place called Paseo kept popping up as a place to go. We had the time (mainly since we were just relaxing all day and had no agenda/itinerary), so we checked it out.

Paseo is mainly Caribbean cuisine in sort of a walk-up-counter small corner shop. There are menus at the beginning of the line so you can decide before you get to the cashier/order taker. D.Rough wanted the Caribbean Roast, which the cashier told us was one of their top sellers. I got a West Caribbean Bowl. We also decided to split a roasted ear of corn.

We found a spot outside at the patio tables and waited just a short while for our food to arrive.

D.Rough’s sandwich was pretty impressive. It was slow-roasted pork shoulder slices on a toasted baguette with aioli, cilantro, pickled jalapenos, lettuce and large slices of caramelized onions. The pork was delicious and was complemented well by the aioli and jalapenos. And the bun wasn’t overly toasted, so it didn’t cut up the roof of your mouth. Great sandwich!

The roasted corn had some white cheese partly melted on it, with some cayenne/paprika mix with cilantro. It was really delicious (and I got it all over my person – thankfully, I was shirtless the whole time I was in Key West) and had some serious heat to it. We both loved it.

The West Caribbean Bowl was almost like a deconstructed nacho bowl. It had rice and beans, salsa, shredded cheese, sour cream, and jalapenos with a chicken thigh and tortilla chips. The meat fell right off the bone, so it was easy to pull apart and eat with the chips and toppings. I loved this thing. I left them an empty bowl, which I’ll guess happens a lot. The chicken had great flavor, which was sort of the highlight of the bowl. Fantastic lunch!

I’m glad we decided to check this place out. Sometimes, we ended up getting burned on listening to online reviews, but this place was everything it was claimed to be and more. Really nice people working there and amazing food. It was also REALLY reasonably priced, We couldn’t find a copy of the menu online before we got there, so I grabbed a menu and scanned it. You’re welcome.

No Top 5 , just go here. You won’t regret it!

1000 Eaton Street
Key West, FL 33040

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Pat’s Tap – Minneapolis, MN

A lot of people have told me I need to go to Pat’s Tap – mainly all of my friends who live in Uptown. I finally had a reason to go there – my wonderful cousin DishSoap was in town visiting and I wanted to try out something new. DishSoap is generally up for anything, so we dragged her to Uptown to check this place out. I also happened to mention it is a skee-ball bar, which may have helped the cause… Yes, I’m serious, it’s a skee-ball bar.

The place is packed. ALL THE TIME. Just put your name in at the hostess desk and grab a drink at the bar. D.Rough ran into one of her friends from college while waiting and we got (re)acquainted with her, which made the time pass quickly. The hostess said it would be a 45 minute wait, but it ended up being closer to 20-25 minutes. Even better.

The menu is full of amazing things. They do serious cheese-related items here, like curds, goat cheese fritters, and home-made cheese-its, but we were all in the mood for deep-fried pickles. So, we got those. D.Rough wanted the Harissa & Honey Roasted Chicken and DishSoap wanted the Bacon Cheeseburger. I opted for the Friday Fish Fry, which I’ve had a craving for recently (usually on non-Fridays when I can’t order it anywhere).

The deep-fried pickles came out and we were all thrilled. They were HEAVILY breaded pickle spears. Not pickle chips. And you HAVE to get the aioli dipping sauce that comes with them. These things were the best fried pickles I’ve ever had. There was a few fights over these as dinner commenced. We will be ordering these again. Probably one order for each person, so we don’t have to share.

For as busy as the place was, the food came out pretty quickly. I’m not sure if they have a giant kitchen filled with cooks or if they’re just amazingly fast, but either way, I was thrilled. We didn’t even have time to get up and check out the skee-ball action. It was packed over in that area with people playing, anyway, so we wouldn’t have gotten to play or anything.

DishSoap’s bacon cheeseburger looked delicious. It’s topped with Swiss cheese, fried onions, and of course bacon. She said it was a pretty amazing burger, so you’ll have to take her word on it.

D.Rough’s Harissa & Honey Chicken Sandwich had pickled chilies, Burgkäse emmentaler, garlic aioli, and is served on focaccia bread. She was really impressed with this sandwich. Lots of fun flavors, and the sweetness of the honey was impressive on the chicken. Great pretend-healthy option!

My fish was fantastic. The breading was thick, but not greasy. There was a lot of fish on the plate and with the lemon squeezed on it, tasted wonderful. It was exactly what I wanted. The tartar sauce added the right amount of tang, as well. The fries are pretty good here, so I would not steer anyone away from them. I’m a fan.

Great food, lots of good drinks at the bar, and an extremely lively atmosphere – and that’s all besides the fact that they have skee-ball. If we didn’t have to rush off to other plans, we would have stayed and played, but we didn’t. Next time, since we’ll be back soon. I guess my shifty Uptown friends weren’t lying about his place. It’s pretty awesome.

Top 5 things about Pat’s Tap
1. Deep fried pickle spears
2. Friday fish fry
3. Harissa & honey chicken sandwich
4. SKEE-BALL!!!!
5. Great cocktail menu

Bottom 5 things
1. You will have to wait. Maybe not long, but you will. Just get comfortable
2. Parking can be an adventure during busy times in Uptown. Or you might get lucky
3. If energy (noise) isn’t your thing, then don’t go here
4. I want SO many things on the menu
5. You may have to wait in line for skee-ball, it’s pretty popular