Thursday, December 31, 2015

D.Rough’s Birthday Raclette Party – West St. Paul, MN

D.Rough and I don’t like to do normal things for birthdays, so we decided to have a cheese party for her birthday. D.Rough and I saw a piece about raclette cheese on a television show and knew we needed to have some. We just happened to have a friend who is a fancy certified cheese monger and she volunteered to help us host a ridiculous cheese party for D.Rough’s birthday. We invited a couple friends over (it was a pretty small list, due to the limitation of the number of people a wheel of raclette cheese would feed, so we apologize to anyone who didn’t get an invite).

Raclette is a type of fancy Swiss cheese that’s heated up until bubbly and them the molten cheese is scraped off onto a plate and served with boiled potatoes, cornichons, and other vegetables.  It’s sort of a cooking cheese by the ski lodge fire sort of thing. We rented a special raclette grill and had our friend PepperJackie order a bunch of additional cheese for us. We were going to knock this out of the park!

The raclette experience is pretty awesome. The swiss already have the fondue market cornered, but this kicks the whole thing up a notch. We added like 4 pounds of nice deli meat, 17 pounds of potatoes, a bunch of vegetables, some chutney, and pepper jelly. Oh, and a billion bottles of wine – hahahahaha.

Needless to say, it was apretty amazing birthday. Huge thanks to PepperJackie for bringing all the awesome cheese, explaining what everything was, and (wo)man-ing the raclette grill all night for all of us. She really knows her stuff and when she starts hosting these parties full time, we’ll be pushing her on all of our friends.

Yaaaaay for D.Rough’s birthday!!!

Yaaaaay for cheese!!!

Yaaaaay for piles of meat!!!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

ChuckWagon Charlie’s Smokehouse & Saloon – Chanhassen, MN

A1 and I are big fans of ribs. He was off work one random day and we decided to meet (or meat) for lunch at ChuckWagon Charlie’s. I knew of its existence, but hadn’t ever been there, although A1 had been there a number of times in the past. Since it was in a strip mall, I knew it had a shot of being decent BBQ.

I had to go with a half slab of ribs and a couple of sides – BBQ baked beans and also Mac n Cheese. A1 got the rib tips and some fried potatoes. I had a good feeling about these.

The ribs were pretty good. Not Top 10 in the world good, but I was happy with them. They had a ice bark on them without being burnt and the dry rub on them was really good. Not much gristle on these and the meat had good flavor without a hint of liquid smoke on them. Great work, Charlie. The mac and cheese was decent, but at the very least, it didn’t taste like cafeteria mac n cheese. The baked beans were also slightly above average, so overall, this was a pretty good plate of food.

A1 gave me a couple bites of his rib tips and I was really impressed with them. I usually steer away (pun intended) from rib tips because you kind of never know what you’re going to end up with. Sometimes, you get some fatty bits, sometimes you get some gristle, sometimes, you get all burnt cinders. These were all meat and had wonderful flavor. If this is their usual showing of rib tips, then I’d for sure get these next time. The fried taters were also really good – obviously not as good as my Alabama grandma made, but still pretty good.

This place was kind of a sleeper surprise for me. And now that I know that I’ll get really good bbq here, I’ll be back with some friends.

Not enough for a Top 5 list, but everything was above average, so it would have gotten a more positive than negative list.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Taco Cat / Eastlake Brewery – Minneapolis, MN

A-Wow and I were going to watch my new copy of “Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas” (which I would NOT recommend), but we needed some grub beforehand. We walked up to Midtown Global Market to the new brick and mortar location of Taco Cat. I hadn’t been before, but had only heard good things about it.

It was really tough to decide what to get, but I ended up going with the exact same thing A-Wow got – a sort of sampler. I went with three different specialty tacos. The Ruckus, The Outlaw, and The McFly.

The tacos didn’t take a long time to put together, and when we got them, we headed to the nearby Eastlake Brewery. This place doesn’t serve food, but they welcome you to go to any of the nearby food places in the Midtown Global Market and bring the food in while you drink their delicious beers. I got a pint of their Oostermeer 21 Belgian Strong Ale – it was pretty tasty and paired well with the tacos.

The Ruckus taco is grilled angus beef, cheese, pickled radish, onions, cilantro, mint chimichurri, and housemade salsa. Great beef flavor and it complemented the chimichurri quite well. Fantastic.

The Outlaw taco is slow roasted pork, kim chi, pickled jalapeno apple slaw, crème and salsa verde. The pickled jalapeno apple slaw went well with the pork and crema. I’m a big fan of this one.

The McFly taco is braised chicken tinga, red cabbage slaw, crème, cilantro, and salsa verde. Great taco with great chicken flavor.

Each of the tacos has two tortillas, which surprisingly held up throughout the entire meal without getting soggy and fally-aparty. The ingredients are super fresh and well paired. This place is really quite good. It originally started as a bike-supported taco delivery service, but this new brick and mortar has really blown me away. I can’t wait to come back to both of these places, hopefully without the Kirk Cameron dessert next time.

Not enough to do a Top 5 list, but thankfully, nothing bad would have made it to the list anyway! Thanks, Taco Cat and Eastlake Brewery.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Bad Movie Night (Christmas Wrestling Theme) – West St. Paul, MN

When I announced the theme of this Bad Movie Night, a friend of mine said she was really shocked there were more than ZERO of these movies. I assured her there were four that I know of, but I’m only showing two of them.

I showed “Santa With Muscles” – an early Hulk Hogan movie (pre-handlebar mustache). It’s a pretty awful movie where the Hulkster get amnesia and thinks he’s Santa and goes around helping orphans (including a REALLY young Mila Kunis).

The I showed “Santa’s Slay” – a movie where Goldberg (as Santa) is hell bent on killing as many people as possible in his once-every-thousand-years killing spree. It is pretty good by Bad Movie Night standards, and has lots of hilarious scenes to yell and laugh at.

I also showed “I Am Santa Claus” with Mick Foley interviewing various people who play Santa Claus at malls and holiday parties around the country. It’s a pretty epic documentary.

As usual, my friends showed their creativity during the potluck portion of the night.

We had Royal Crumble


and Adam’s Apple Rose

In case you’re looking for Christmas wrestling movies, these are some pretty top-notch recommendations. There’s also “Christmas Bounty” with The Wiz, but it tries to hard to be a Hollywood movie and falls flat – too flat for even Bad Movie Night.

Happy holidays, ya’ll.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Kelly’s Pub / Depot Bar – St. Paul, MN

The Depot is one of those St. Paul institutions – it’s a home-town-feel bar that serves American bar food. It’s very straight forward in its approach to serve lots of drinks and keep people fed. Nothing flashy. The inside is dark, in a clean dive-bar way, and the grill and fryer are hoppin’.

The menu consists of standard bar fare – burgers, chicken or steak sandwiches, coney dogs, fries, and onion rings. The reason D.Rough and I went there was for the coney dogs, so we both got one of those. I didn’t feel like it was enough, so I ordered a bacon cheeseburger too. When we walked in, I noticed the cook was making patties with his hands, not pulling frozen discs out of a bag. I almost got a deep fried pork sandwich, but the server told me it was more like a deep fried pork chop than a breaded flattened pork tenderloin like back home. I went with the cheeseburger.  …and some onion rings.

The coney was pretty darn good. The dog itself was not a regular grocery store dog. It had a nice snappy casing on it and the meat had a really good taste. The chili was decent (although, there could have been more) and meaty, and the cheese on top was about the right amount. I haven’t had a coney in a good long while and this one really hit the spot.

The bacon cheeseburger was also really good. Cooked perfectly with just a touch of pink in the middle to keep the rest of it juicy and not dried out. It had a nice layer of cheese on top, hiding the bacon underneath. With a couple of pickles, the burger was pretty darn good.

The onion rings were really good, as well. Also, NOT from a freezer bag. Nice thick better on large rings of onions. The batter was cooked all the way through without any doughy or greasy spots. These were good rings!

Overall, it’s a pretty good lunch spot, although a bit slow on the wait for food. I think the cook was making each ticket to order, one by one, instead of cooking three or four burgers or sandwiches at the same time for different tickets. I might be wrong. I wasn’t in a hurry, though, especially since they had drinks there.

Top 5 things about The Depot
1. The bacon cheeseburger
2. Coney Dog
3. Onion Rings
4. Not expensive at all
5. A full bar (with pull tabs) never hurts

Bottom 5 things
1. Not super fast, even for a lunch visit
2. Pretty limited menu (but what they have is good)
3. Small number of pretty standard beer taps
4. It’s a small space
5. I’ve heard this place gets nuts before and during Minnesota Wild games

Kelly's Pub / Depot Bar
241 Kellogg Blvd. E.
St. Paul, MN 55101 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Taste of Asia – Eden Prairie, MN

A friend of mine told me about an Asian restaurant in a gas station in Eden Prairie. Obviously, my curiosity was piqued. Since I had a slow day at work, I drove over there and checked it out. It’s not technically in a gas station, but it’s in the same building as a bunch of other retail shops – sort of like a gas station strip mall.

Taste of Asia has an enormous menu to choose from. I’d guess close to a hundred items on the list including both traditional Chinese menu items, but mostly Vietnamese items (Pho, BunRice, Com Tam, and other noodle soups. During lunch hours, they have a small buffet, which caught my attention, even though I wasn’t planning on gorging myself (who am I kidding?). While waiting for a table to be wiped down for me, I heard three different tables order multiple #8. The menu tells me that’s the Pho that people were getting, so clearly, I’ll be ordering #8 when I go there next time.

The buffet had 4 or 5 entrees, two different kinds of egg rolls, cream cheese wontons, two soups, fried and white rice, and a few other things. It doesn’t sound small when I explain it all, but it’s in a relatively small space, so it appears small. I tried as much as I could. Kung Pao Chicken, Sesame Chicken, Vegetable Lo Mein, Fried Rice, Egg Drop Soup, Chinese Egg Rolls and Vietnamese Egg Rolls, Cream Cheese Puffs, and probably other things. All of which were much better than average. Maybe not the best in the world (sometimes the buffet-portions diminish the taste and texture of various foods), but it was definitely above average and delicious.

The whole thing is about $8, as well, so I’m pretty happy with that. The food was really good and it’s close to work. It’s pretty much got all of my boxes checked for a wonderful lunch place. I’ll be back, without question. Next time, I’m either getting the Pho or the Hot and Spicy Chicken. 

Taste of Asia
12619 Valley View Rd.
Eden Prairie, MN 55344

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Minnesota Horse and Hunt Club – Prior Lake, MN

Full disclosure: I screw up Valentine’s Day every year. I try really hard, but multiple things inevitably go wrong, despite all my planning. This year was a pretty spectacular fail, in particular. Why does this even matter? Because this particular activity, one of many I had planned for Valentine’s Day 2015, was scheduled to happen in February, but ended up happening in November, due to weather, schedules, and a bunch of other issues. But it finally happened.

D.Rough and I went skeet shooting. I’d like to claim romantically skeet shooting, but that probably isn’t the case.

The Minnesota Horse and Hunt Club lodge had recently suffered a serious fire and had been rebuilt. The place is NICE. Really nice. It’s a large complex full of all sorts of shooting areas and hunting areas, and probably horses (which we didn’t see at all). We showed up, figured out where to park, and went into the lodge. This is going to sound weird, but we were completely out of our comfort zone. This doesn’t happen very often. Everyone was in camouflage and bright orange and D.Rough and I were in jeans and sweatshirts. There was just a weird vibe to the whole place. Not a bad vibe, just something we were totally unfamiliar with. It took some getting used to. What’s even more bizarre is how nice everyone was. It was clear we weren’t regular members here, and the staff and other members were really nice to us and made sure we were taken care of. Well done, MHHC!

D.Rough and I signed our waivers holding no one liable when we shot our own foot off. We told the woman behind the counter we had an intro lesson scheduled with Dennis and she double checked to make sure we didn’t have a gun. So apparently, you can easily rent a gun form places like this. We rented a 20-guage and the counter woman handed us four boxes of shotgun shells. I can’t tell you how out of our element we were at this very moment. Dennis, our instructor, showed up and introduced himself and grabbed our shotgun. We followed Dennis out to this beautiful lakeside shooting stand – it looked like the world’s smallest patio. 

Dennis went through a quick lesson on how to click the button on the remote control and fling the clay discs into the air from different angles. Pretty easy. Then he went through a pretty quick (alarmingly quick, in fact) description of how to load our newly rented shotgun. Shell goes in the side with the metal side facing backwards, push the button on the side to load it, then click off the safety. Really. That was it. Then he showed us how to track the disc as it flies through the air. Cheek to the butt, butt to the shoulder (which 12-year old Chad can’t stop saying now). With your cheek to the butt, when you move your head, the barrel moves – pretty slick. Surprisingly not unlike the Big Buck Hunter game at your local redneck bar.  Your turn, Chad!  Seriously. This was quick. Remember when I was out of my comfort zone? Yeah, this was suddenly worse.

In a split second, I freaked out a little. Did we have enough safety instruction before giving me a lethal weapon? Should I be wearing orange? Will these ear protector things stop me from being deaf? Will I end up with a black powder coated face like the cartoons? How far do these projectiles travel? What is my middle name? Do I have a fidgety trigger finger? Who’s hand is this? What the hell am I doing here? Happy Valentine’s Day, Rambo. Sack up and shoot this thing! Breathe.

Safety on? Check

Load the shell? Check

Click the thingy on the side (technical term) to load the gun? Check

Cheek to butt, butt to shoulder? Check

Click off the safety? Check.

Breathe? …………………………………………….. Check, eventually.

Yell “pull!”, but phrased as a question? Check.

Follow the orange disc as it flies straight ahead? Check

Pull the trigger? Check

I’ll be damned, but I blew it apart. First Try. FIRST. F. N. TRY.

Dennis was shocked. D.Rough was shocked. No one was more shocked than me, I promise.

I began to tell these two shocked people about how much Duck Hunt, Golden Eye, House of the Dead, and Big Buck Hunter I have played over the past 30 years, but D.Rough excitedly told me to DO IT AGAIN! I have the best wife ever.

Repeat all the steps. Put the thing in the thing. Click the thing. Cheek to butt, butt to shoulder. Click the other thing. Pull. Track. Trigger. Clay explosion. I’m now 2 for 2 on reducing the clay pigeon population of Minnesota. DO IT AGAIN!

I did the things. Shell. Click. Butt. Butt. Click. Pull. Track. Shoot. Explosion. THREE FOR THREE. This is sooo easy!!!!

Then... I promptly missed a whole slew of targets to bring me back to reality. It actually isn’t that easy, but it’s oddly fun. Not like white water rafting or swimming in mac and cheese fun, but it’s fun. I just happened to have a little beginner’s luck to start the day.

D.Rough stepped up and went through all the steps. She was as nervous as I was. But she’s also a bad-ass. She missed the first few. Dennis gave her some pointers. She winged the next one. Dennis gave her some more pointers. THEN, she nailed one. It was on. My wife doesn’t like to do things she’s not good at, but once she gets a couple of wins under her belt, she’s on board. She is now on board – hahahaha

Dennis told us we could walk around the campus and shoot from different stands. Some in the woods, some on the bluffs, some on the water, and a couple of other places. We headed into the woods to see how we’d do without supervision. And frankly, we did pretty well. Neither of us were going to win any marksman/markswoman awards, but we blew up enough clay discs to keep it fun. At some point along the way, D.Rough stopped saying “Pull” and started saying “DRAW”. This was hilariously awesome. This is why I married her. She apparently adopted some old west gun-slingin’ boss swagger and would make the most hilarious comments when she hit a target. …which was increasingly often towards the end. You rule, D.Rough. We finished up all of our shells and high fived each other (with our lips). 

We headed back to the lodge while commenting on how the walking areas weren’t marked off at all and how easy it would be to walk someplace dangerous if you weren’t paying attention. Thankfully, we were paying attention.

We got back to the lodge and went to the restaurant part. It’s actually really nicely decorated with taxidermy and nice photos.

The servers were all really nice and helpful, which sounded like it may not have been the case in the past (based on comments online). The menu has a couple of interesting game items on it (elk, pheasant, bison, duck, etc.), but we opted for a grilled chicken sandwich and a triple threat sandwich. 

The chicken sandwich was good. Not mind-blowingly good, but it had a nice smoked gouda melted on it and caramelized onions. We really liked the soft pretzel bun that held its structure through the whole sandwich. The fries were pretty standard, so nothing to report there.

The triple threat sandwich is pulled pork, pork belly, and bacon with gouda and bbq sauce. All of the meat was really good and not dry. Again, the pretzel roll was wonderful with this usually sloppy sandwich. And the tots were REALLY crunchy and tasty. We were both glad we got these and even shared nicely!

Overall, we had a good time at MHHC. Granted, it wasn’t all that romantic and valentine-y, but it was still fun to do. It’s good for people to step out of their comfort zone and we were glad we did that. I’m not sure we’re going to sign up to be members at the club, but at least we know we’re competent in defending ourselves in the event of the zombie apocalypse. And a big shout out to Dennis for helping us out and giving us pointers without making us feel like the morons we are. Hahaha

Top 5 things about Minnesota Horse and Hunt Club
1. Dennis – the guy was a champ and we couldn’t have done it without him
2. You don’t have to own a gun to do this – you can rent them
3. This will help you out of your comfort zone and then back to a new comfort zone
4. It’s both easier and more difficult to do than I thought
5. The restaurant is actually much better than we expected

Bottom 5 things
1. Safe walking areas aren’t very defined
2. It’s a long drive out there from the Cities
3. It can get loud out there with all the gun shooting
4. If you haven’t done this before, you’ll feel uncomfortable, but it’s pretty easy to get re-comfortable
5. I don’t suppose they’re in the business of romantic, valentiney-y type things out there – I could be wrong about this.