Friday, September 4, 2015

The Great Minnesota Sweat Together

The Fair Food Fun Flog


Aug 27 through Labor Day


Forget about dieting for Thanksgiving. In Minnesota, you diet for the state fair. Every year, new vendors and foods are introduced to the hungry masses, who proceed to consume them in greater amounts than that turkey your relative (or maybe you) serve at Fatsgiving. I make it my mission to try to sample all the new foods, which I fail every year because there are so many, but never regret it because by the time I'm done, I'm not walking out, I'm rolling. This year was no different. DJ, spin that record, we're about to break it down up in this mo!

The Blue Barn

Ever since their opening last year, it has become a must for me. It's located in the West End Market, the shinny, new area that they added in 2014, right by the gate where the Park and Rides drop you off. It's the perfect start of you fair travel. What do I get? The blue cheese and corn fritters with their delicious green sauce (we were trying to figure out what it reminded us of, but couldn't quite put our fingers to it). Another great buy is the blueberry basil lemonade. I know, basil? In a lemonade? But trust me, they know what they are doing.

6 fritters are perfect for sharing!
New this year: The Cluck and Moo. Now, I did not try it this but it sounds delicious. Mashed potatoes with roasted beef and grilled chicken, smothered in beef gravy, crispy onions, and mustard BBQ sauce.


Java Jive

Next stop was Java Jive (located in front of the Grand Stand) for their new Espresso Float, just the pick-me-up we need for the long day ahead. Most definitely hit the spot.

With a hint of hazelnut
Now, if I was going to be honest, I did not expect the espresso to be anything to blog about, it is, after all, state fair coffee. How good can it REALLY be? Once I tried this, my doubts disappeared. This was GOOD coffee. And it made me think of Russia, where instead of creamer, we would put in ice cream to cool and flavor. It was gone in about 5 minutes.

Duke's Poutine

After we were hopped up on caffeine, I bee-lined for the poutine. Heh, that rhymes. Another fairly recent addition to the fair that has become my favorite. For those of you who are not Canadian, and have never heard of poutine, you're missing out. It is fries, with cheese curds (not fried) on top, drowned in gravy. The one at the MN state fair uses pepper fries and pepper gravy (I'm salivating just thinking about it), though there are variations of beef/brown gravy that are more common. Even if you're a finicky eater, these are perfect. After all, it's just fries, gravy, and cheese. They are located right next to the all you can drink milk, and should definitely be on your radar the next time you're in town for the Great Minnesota Get Together.

Boulevard Grill
Couldn't find a picture of the sign, so here is some food instead. Plain and taco tatchos
Because we didn't get enough of potatoes, the next stop on my list (oh yes, I make a list every year, with a corresponding map, of all the food places I wanna hit) was the Boulevard Grill, located on the west side in the Warner Coliseum, for some totchos. Another new food item this year, they are just what you would think they are. Tater tots with nacho toppings i.e. cheddar cheese sauce, seasoned sour cream, bacon bits, and green onion (with the option of adding chicken or taco meat). They were delicious! Reminded me of loaded baked potato. They went great with watching girls basically parallel park their horses in the actual coliseum (there was some sort of competition of precision riding).

Sara's Tipsy Pies
After we convalesced, walking around the agriculture/horticulture building (or rather, I walked around looking at the flowers and the boys decided to try beer), it was time for something sweet.  I knew we were close to my next stop at the food building. I was really exited for this new vendor because my aunt used her for the desserts for her daughter's wedding. 
2 gingers next to a ginger... Get it? :D
Special for the state fair, she made Rhubarb Blue Hunny Do Pie, hand pie with strawberry, rhubarb, blueberries, and Hunny Do Wheat Beer, which I HAD to try. We also got the 2 Gingers Irish pie, apple pie made with 2 Gingers Irish whiskey. The pies were great, a little tart and gooey, just the way pies should be. And ladies, she does weddings.

Hamline Church Dining Hall

With our bellies full, we were running out of steam so I figured it was time to head to the dining hall, north of The Garden (where I've never gotten anything before even though it's been around for forever) for some of their new Butter Queen Coffee ice cream. Wow was that good. Every bite I kept saying "Wow, this is delicious."
Almost forgot to take a picture, it was that good
They definitely got this one right. Chocolate espresso flakes in a browned butter and coffee ice cream. If my stomach could handle milk better, I would have gone for seconds, maybe even thirds.

The Track Out

There were a couple of stops that I had to make on the way out. Turkey to Go, located next to the all you can drink milk booth, was one of them. Every year, my boyfriend grabs one of their sandwiches when we get into the fair, and then one on the way out. Since work got in the way of fun, he couldn't make it this year so I wanted to get him his favorite bird to bring home.

It's moist, it's tender, it's to die for. Though they give you sauces and spices to put on it, the sandwich doesn't need any of that. I would have grabbed one for myself if I wasn't stuffed to my ears.

And, of course, what is the state fair without the obligatory Martha's cookies? We always get a bucket to bring home. They always load those suckers up sky high with those fresh baked chocolate chips, so you have to gorge on them just to get the lid on.
This is after several passes at the bucket
Though they have several locations, we usually go to the big one next to the Grand Stand and then grab the all you can drink milk to complete the combo.

Missed Opportunities

There were several foods that I wanted to try but didn't end up doing so, which I'm a little bummed about (because, you know, there is only so much stomach to go around). But mark my words, I may be able to squeeze them in next year (probably not though, because they'll have yet another list of new foods for 2016).

Cannoli at Al Fresco: Several years ago, there was a cannoli booth in the Heritage Square called Holy Cannoli, which is no more, so I was excited to see that they brought them back.

Chilled Bread Pudding at the Blue Moon Dine-In: This sounded interesting, especially the Old Fashioned Challah. I love challah, so combining that with pudding was definitely something I was interested in.

Cowboy Bites at the Frontier Bar: One of my co-workers said they were excellent. And from the description, I wouldn't doubt it. Sweet corn kernels, bacon, jalape├▒os, cream cheese, all blended together, breaded and (in the usual state fair fashion) deep fried.

Limerick Stix at O'Gara's: On the way back, I briefly considered grabbing them, damn the consequences and my stomach's capacity. But the more rational part of my brain won out so I missed out on all their pimento-cheese-and-cayenne-pepper-coated-in-corn-meal-mix-and-deep-fried goodness.

Mac and Cheese Cupcake at Lulu's Public House: Now this one I had on the list purely for the oddity of the food and because my friends and I have an inside joke about mac and cheese. Mac and cheese and breadcrumbs in a cupcake form? Sure, why not.


All these foods and more can be found on the State Fair's website:


AK

Monday, March 23, 2015

O Beautiful, Delicious Skies

Dining in DC


As I type this sentence, I am looking over the snowy Washington landscape. "Why DC in winter?" you might ask. The circumstances don't really matter (Russian passport), what matters is this is my next stop on my world eating tour. You gotta start somewhere and staying only in Minnesota would be boring. I got 4 nights and no mini fridge to keep my own food. Lets get to eating!




Cafe Romeo

If you're in the DC area, they're hiring!
I got no history background for this place, but I do know that they are under a new management. This place is a small, hole in the wall with an outdoor patio upfront. When you come in, the first thing that you notice is an incense like smell. Well, this isn't just a restaurant, it's a hooka lounge as well (which my boyfriend assured me isn't that uncommon but this is the first time I'VE encountered one). With that said, if someone is using one of the hookas and you are sensitive to those types of smells, I would suggest take your food to go. Oh, and they deliver, so you don't even have to get off your couch, if you have a couch in Georgetown. Another reason why I would be hesitant to give them 4 stars is because of their wait staff. Maybe it's because they are transitioning to the new management, maybe it's family. One thing is for sure, they are pleasant but not very attentive. We had to come up to the counter and ask for our check.
Wine and hookas... and the not so attentive waiter.

Now to the good part, the food. To say it lightly, it was amazing. Not only is the menu extensive, from salads and pastas, to pizzas and sandwiches, and everything in between, it caters to everyone. In fact, as a person who doesn't like meat unless it's in a crispy pepperoni or bacon form, I really appreciated the variety of options for me in particular. Though don't get me wrong, any meat eater would get their fill here as well.

To start off, we got a couple of appetizers (of which I didn't take a picture because I was too busy eating). Baked eggplant was really good, though it got better towards the bottom because of the oil base. Definitely something to think about for next time. Mozzarella sticks were pretty good too. I'm not a fan of Buffalo sauce flavoring (which flavored the breading around the cheese) but even I enjoyed them. Anthony (my bf), got a raspberry lemonade which was super yummy. It was frothy and liquid at the same time. I'm not sure how to describe it but it was good. It was gooooood.

Raspberry Lemonade, Steak Calzone, and Custom Pasta with Cheese Bread

For the main course Anthony got one of their XL calzones, the steak one. And when they say XL, they MEAN XL. This thing (though doesn't look as big in the picture because of the angle) was as big as his head , though not quite as thick. I got a "make your own" pasta which included cheese manicotti, spicy red pepper sauce, feta cheese, and roasted garlic and onion veggies. That bubbling delicious mess was served with a side salad and a cheese bread wedge. I closed my eyes on my first bite... it was that good.

Overall, a great food experience. I loved the atmosphere, but it is not for everyone. I would recommend. Make sure to wear your loose pants.
Overall




Z Burger


After some ogling at the sexy first edition shelves of the Library of Congress (300 some MILES of shelving, so many books, we can only dream), we were hungry and ready to try another Washington eatery, which was Z Burger, a 50's feel burger joint. While looking through the possible food places (pretty much the minute we checked in and figured out the free internet), we noticed Z Burger. Sure, according to their website they are a staple of DC and have been featured on numerous TV spots and newspapers, but what clinched it for us are the 75 varieties of shakes they offer.

The Shake Board
And though they were out of pistachio (boo), I got amaretto, which is the next best thing. On further inspection of the board, I should have gotten the tiramisu because that sounds delicious, but if I dwell on all the other shakes that sound good now, I'll never get to the end of this post. I digress. The amaretto and the caramel apple, which is the shake Anthony tried, were really good.

Unfortunately, the food was no different than any other burger diner. I got the veggie burger, which I'm pretty sure you can get in the Target frozen foods aisle, and Anthony got their bacon cheeseburger, which he enjoyed. What surprised me were the portions of the sides. We got large fries and onion rings. You pay for them separately, but I was expecting like a McD's large. What I got was a healthy, or in this case rather unhealthy (the bag of fries alone can give you a coronary), portion of both, most of which we took back to the hotel to munch on later. I love places that give you the most bang for your buck.

Veggie Burger and a Lunch Bag of Seasoned Fries

Overall, I liked the value and the shakes. There was no wait staff to speak of because it's one of those places you order at the counter and pick it up, so there were no issues there. However, I was disappointed in the food, it didn't wow me. I would still recommend it for the shakes alone, though. Those were fantastic.
Overall




I was really hoping to add to this post, however, after spending the whole day at the museums, our feet we falling off and there was no way we were going to walk to anymore restaurants. So this concludes my culinary journey through Washington DC, for now. I'm hoping to get back there and try some other stuff. There was a Turkish cafe that was a block away from our hotel that looked very promising, not to mention all the ethnic restaurants on the embassy row.

So long Washington, I'll taste you again!

AK

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Trek Up North

Eating Duluth's Favorites


I was recently up in Duluth with  some friends and, of course, when I asked around where we should go while there, I got about a dozen suggestions of food places. So, as the coordinator of that trip, I included the staples into the itinerary and figured that I'd write a quick blog about them.




Grandma's Saloon and Grill



Grandma's Restaurant Company was founded in 1976 based on a legend of Rosa Brochi, who ran a boarding house on the shores of Lake Superior. The founders based their establishment on the principle of customer satisfaction, and it shows. With cool tchotchkes on the walls, great location (we went to the Canal Park one, and I'm sure that on the roof patio, when it's not raining, you can see miles and miles of lake), and good food, no wonder that this is a staple of any Duluth trip.

I will say this, however, the item that I got from the menu, Chicken Tetrazzini (a house special) tastes a bit heavy to me.

Chicken Tetrazzini with Wild Rice

Don't get me wrong, it's not that it wasn't delicious, but whenever I get a rice dish, I expect it to be light. Especially wild rice. The sauce that they put on top was a bit too rich and heavy, so I couldn't finish my plate and it weighted down my stomach the whole evening after the dinner. On the other hand, my companions loved the choices that they made, especially the huge Bloody Mary my friend ordered.

Grandma's Bloody Mary
Overall, a good experience with the wait staff and the food. I would recommend. Just make sure that you know what your stomach can handle.
Overall




Betty's Pies


The original cafe dubbed Betty's Cafe began in 1958 when Betty turned her father's fish stand into a food stop. Betty's Pies evolved over the years, moving further up the hill to make room for the highway, changing ownership, and expanding. However, though the menu and the pie selection has grown, they use the original recipes developed by Betty herself.

The food is good, certain menu selections are unique, like pasties, but it's the typical American restaurant food that you can get at a lot of places. Honestly, I don't even know that I got what I ordered because the description didn't really match my plate but it was good.

Devil's Track Spicy Chicken Cheese Grill
But that's not why you'd stop there. It's the pies. The restaurant has a pie board in every room which features the day's pies selection and you really can't go wrong with your choice. You want chocolaty? They got chocolaty.

5 Layer Chocolate Pie

You want creamy? They got creamy. You want fruity? They have all sorts of fruity. You want both? They even have that.

French Blueberry Cream Pie

French Cherry Cream Pie

If you don't want to stop for the food, at least stop for the pie. It's definitely worth it and they are used to it.
Overall


AK

Thursday, July 3, 2014

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream... for BBQ

Huge Fan of Q-Fan 



Forget about Famous Dave's.  If you want some quality Q in this town, you don't have to look any further than Champlin's own Q-Fanatic. They might not be as famous, or have a hundred different sauces, which is the claim to fame of a lot of BBQ joints, but you can smell their quality in the air. Literally. Their mesquite aroma permeates the air outside the restaurant and you can almost taste the deliciousness the second you step into their parking lot.

The Place

The family that runs the restaurant started in the meat business back in 1893 with Johnson Brothers Meat Market in Hopkins. Though they have moved, to this day, Chef Charlie proudly upholds the tradition of quality ingredients with his own southern twist. And if you're a fan of the Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, you have probably seen Q-Fan on one of their episodes.


Though a family friendly restaurant, they are reminiscent of a dive, with dark interior and self seating. You order at the window and, depending on if you're dinning in or taking out, they either bring your food to your table or hand you the bag filled with delicious heaven. 

Down to Business

The meat, the sauces, and the sides are all amazing. For the ones with a weaker stomach, honey BBQ sauce on... well... anything is what you're after, be it a pulled pork, chicken, rib tips, or their signature Q-ban sandwich. For those feeling a bit more adventurous, the chipotle or the espresso (oh yes, they put real espresso in that sauce) BBQ sauce would delight your pallet. If you are feeling frisky, the vodka sauce will set your taste buds and your soul on fire (but in a good way).  Their newest addition, the ghost pepper sauce, I'm sure would appease even the boldest of tongues, though I have not been brave enough to try it yet. The sandwich that I go for: pulled chicken sandwich with espresso sauce and a side of the spicy potato wedges.

Pulled chicken sandwich (regular) with a side of spicy potato wedges and seasoned sour cream.


For such quality food you'd think the menu would break your bank but it won't. The quality and the quantity are well worth the 8 dollars you will spend on your sandwich. Not to mention they use local ingredients. Downsides? Because they do use local suppliers, they run out of items on the menu. And though you'd think that the simple solution for that is just to make more, each meal is made to order and their meats are smoked for 4 to 11 hours so that's easier said than done. They proudly state that they are not a fast food establishment so the average wait time is about 20 minutes. My suggestion to curb your waiting-on-my-BBQ blues is to call ahead.

The Breakdown

Food:



Dessert:
N/A

Wait Staff:




Atmosphere:



Would I recommend?
I can't recommend this place enough. In fact, go and call them right now and order something. I'll just wait here.




AK

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Deli-sious

Mort's: The Kibitz of the Town




Among the plethora of food places in Golden Valley, Mort's takes the cake. Takes it and makes it about a foot tall and delicious. But dessert isn't even the best part when it comes to Mort's menu. You want a sandwich? Oh boy, do they got a sandwich for you.

The Place

Mort's may have only opened in 2008 but they use those old family recipes that make this Jewish deli a neighborhood staple. The deli counter that greets you at the door opens to a high ceiling dining room with large windows, making it a pleasure to dine in, especially on those sunny days. Prior to the 2008 acquisition of the space on Winnetka Ave, Mort and his family owned another local legend. Maybe you've heard of it? The Gay 90s.With the purchase of the deli, I'd say they added yet another successful business venture to their portfolio.

Down to Business

If you're expecting great service from the dine-in side, you'll be in for a surprise. There have been many times where I would sit and wait to place my order or even for a glass of water, and while most of the staff is friendly, there are a few sour pusses in the mix. However, whatever the short comings of the wait staff are, they are more than made up by the back of the house. The food comes out quickly, steaming hot, and to die for. Whither you want a salad, a sandwich, a burger, or any other odd-bobs that make a Jewish deli, they got you covered. Want a knish? You got it. Beef borscht? No problem. Celery flavored soda? Yup, they even got that. Mort's menu might seem a bit daunting on your first visit but you can't really go wrong. My favorite? Mike's Kentucky Hot Brown, an open faced sandwich with a slab of rotisserie turkey, bacon, grilled tomatoes, cheese, and Parmesan sauce. Now doesn't that make your mouth water?
Mike's Kentucky Hot Brown (full) with house chips.
And it may seem like this place is a bit pricy, but fear not. You might get just one sandwich for those $13, but that sandwich is going to be so big, it will last you a day or two. Not only that, the quality far surpasses places like Subway or Jimmy John's.

The Breakdown

Food:



Dessert:

Wait Staff:



Atmosphere:



Would I recommend?
If you have not checked out Mort's yet, I would definitely recommend it. And one way to avoid the sub-par wait staff? Just take it to go. You'll even get a pickle with your order.



AK

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Introduction

The Pledge

or

How Stasia Will Eat the World

(at least a part of it)


I see you've stumbled on this written adventure, whither by accident or on purpose, and I welcome you. I will warn you, this blog isn't the first of its kind, nor does it have some world changing views or opinions that people are so very fond of these days.

I am a self proclaimed foodie. I like to eat. One glance at my picture would prove that. And it gives me a great pleasure to find unknown places and introduce my friends to them, especially if the food is one of a kind and, most importantly, great.

In this blog, I will attempt to systematically map out and taste the great state that I live in, Minnesota. Now, this isn't New York or San Fran, where there is a weird eatery on every corner and street, but still, this is a daunting task considering there are a lot of great places to eat here. One which I gladly and readily take on.

This won't be a constantly and consistently updated blog. I'll post as soon as I can and as soon as I gathered enough information on the food establishments. My ultimate goal is to do a post once every week, but I'll not get ahead of myself. I do have a day job, and though I would love to go out and sample new foods everyday, that would get a little pricy and time consuming. Not that people would be all too keen on reading this anyway.

So, without further ado, let the hunger games begin. (See what I did there?)



AK