Saturday, October 28, 2006

Road Food Pursuits - The 5-8 Club Tavern & Grill

Once again, this weekend was a repeat of the last; cleaning, packing, preparing to move. Ugh! And, like last weekend, I decided to treat myself to a little lunch. Today, I set out to taste some of Minneapolis food history.

The 5-8 Club Tavern & Grill
5800 Cedar Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN

The 5-8 Club Tavern & Grill is a landmark bar and restaurant located on the corner of Cedar Avenue and 58th Street on the Minneapolis/Richfield border. It dates back to 1928 where it started out as a ”speakeasy,” serving illegal beer and liquor during the Prohibition period of U.S. history.

Today, the 5-8 Club has become more family-friendly, neighborhood-type joint where you can get a great burger or sandwich and a beer. And one sandwich they are known for is their famous ”Juicy Lucy.”

For those not familiar, a “Juicy Lucy” (also seen spelled “Jucy Lucy”) is a creation that originated in south Minneapolis. Simply put, it is almost a “reverse cheeseburger, if you will. Two hamburger patties are pressed together with cheese stuffed on the inside. When you bite into it, you will get a nice bit of ooey-gooey cheese seeping out from the middle of the burger.

Controversy surrounds the Juicy Lucy; there is some dispute as to who actually invented it. The consensus seems to be that Matt’s Bar (located just 20-some blocks north of the 5-8 Club on Cedar Ave.) was likely the first to craft the “Jucy Lucy,” as they spell it. However, the 5-8 Club also claims it as their own. We may never know the truth, but the dispute certainly adds to the mystique of this sandwich.

The 5-8 Club is a cozy restaurant, decorated with colorful antique metal signs from years gone by. They put an emphasis on the quality of their products, noting that their meat is U.S. Choice-grade, all of their daily specials are made from scratch, and they even go so far as to bake their own hamburger buns!

I was greeted by a very friendly server and who took my order. What the 5-8 Club does different from Matt’s is offer a choice of cheese to stuff your burger with; American, Swiss, or bleu. On this day, I opted for the classic Juicy Lucy with American cheese.

Moments after the server took my order, the 5-8 Club was descended upon by waves of mini vans and foreign-built luxury station wagons. It was roughly 16 or so kids from a youth soccer team, along with their yuppie soccer parents. Of course, these screaming children all slid together a group of tables and sat right next to me.

Two different parents stopped by my table to say they were sorry for the noise. I assured them that it was OK, and that their apology was unnecessary. Other parents were apologizing to the wait staff (that must be a hell of a lot of fun, having to apologize to everyone everywhere you go!)

I will say this; the servers handled this large group with an unbelievable level of professionalism. They had smiles on their faces the whole time, and never looked flustered for a second. And throughout the melee, I was not forgotten about. Clearly, they must have some skilled servers at the 5-8 Club. And thankfully, my order got in before the soccer team, so I would get my food first! :)

The “Juicy Lucy” at the 5-8 Club

My Juicy Lucy arrived, and you have to appreciate the simplicity. You have grilled beef stuffed with cheese. Add a few pickles and a bun, maybe a little ketchup, mustard, and fried onions, and you are good to go. That’s it! The pictures doesn’t really illustrate that shape very well, but it was almost like a slightly flattened meatball. It was charred nicely on the outside, and (as promised) after the first bite, the melted cheese on the inside starts to ooze out.

And, with the cheese on the inside, there is an added bonus; it really does a wonderful job of keeping the burger moist and juicy, as the name would imply. This was a very flavorful burger. A nice basket of crispy fries and some cool cole slaw to round out the burger basket, and I had a fantastic meal. An awesome and most creative sandwich, whoever invented it!

I will have to go to Matt’s Bar sometime to see how their version compares. Incidentally, I found a website of someone who is searching for the best Juicy Lucy in the Twin Cities. While the reviews are subjective, I find the quest most interesting.

As for the 5-8 Club, I thoroughly enjoyed their version of the Juicy Lucy, and it was fun to be able to taste a unique piece of south Minneapolis culinary lore.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Holy basil, Batman!

I foresee myself eating at several restaurants in the coming week. Most of my kitchen and cooking equipment has been packed in preparation for next week's move, so I can't imagine I will be doing a lot of cooking. That being said, I didn't have anything to bring to work for my lunch today. It was the perfect excuse to go to one of a favorite ethnic restaurant.

7885 Main Street North
Maple Grove, MN

Originally opening in 1983 in St. Paul, Sawatdee is one of the first Thai restaurants to come to Minnesota, and to the upper Midwest for that matter. They now have seven different locations in the Twin Cities and St. Cloud, including the one in Maple Grove where I dined today (the Maple Grove restaurant also has an attached sushi bar called Zushiya which serves some great stuff, but I will cover that another time!).

Before you think that all Thai cuisine is screamingly hot, you should know that this is not entirely true. Granted, some of it can be quite spicy, but there are selections on the mild end of the spectrum, too. And at Sawatdee, there is a fair amount of leeway; you can customize the heat of your dish by using their "5-pepper scale." Simply request your preferred heat level on a scale from 1 to 5 (with 1 being mild and 5 being near the meltdown stage), and they will season your meal accordingly. And if that isn't enough heat for you, they have three ramekins sitting on each table offering extra crushed red pepper, pickled jalapeños, or chile oil (yikes!).

Holy Basil Supreme from Sawatdee

Today I had the Holy Basil Supreme from their special lunch menu. It is comprised of big pieces of chicken, red bell pepper, mushrooms, onions, jalapeño peppers, and holy basil. It is stir-fried with a light, thin, and spicy sauce and is served steamed rice on the side. The lunch-sized portion was more than generous (for only $8.50, by the way).

All of the ingredients were very fresh and tasty, with the vegetables still retaining some of their crispness. The holy basil itself is rather minty (this is different from the sweet Italian basil we all know, and it apparently does not release its fragrant aroma until it is cooked!). It mingles nicely with a sauce that is sweet, salty, slightly pungent (since fish sauce is used here), and pretty spicy with those big hunks of jalapeño floating around!. And the rice soaks up the sauce beautifully. An excellent lunch, and a warm one, too. I requested a "2" on the pepper scale, and it was spicy enough to make my nose run!

If you find yourself in Maple Grove looking for some good, spicy food, Sawatdee is the place for you.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Venison Stroganoff

I discovered I had one remaining package of venison in my freezer that my brother gave me. I decided to put it to good use and make some stroganoff.

Now, some people cringe when they hear the word "venison," thinking it is this horrible wild meat that needs a potent marinade to kill the so-called "famey" taste. I happen to love the stuff, and trust me, if your venison is "gamey," it wasn't properly handled. Bad venison can taste like fur, and that really sucks. But good hunters know that a properly cared for deer results in a unique, lean, and indescribably flavorful meat. Thankfully, my Dad and brother know what they are doing when they hunt, so their venison is always excellent!

If ever there was a dish that needed some color, it is stroganoff! That is why I added the red bell peppers. You could just as easily omit them if you wish. In the past, I have also used a colored pasta to brighten up the dish, but today I just used egg noodles.

The stroganoff turned out very creamy and delicious. The venison definitely brought some flavor to the party (although it goes without saying that beef could be substituted here), and by taking the time to brown the onions and the mushrooms, it also contributes additional layers of complexity. Another great dish for those chilly fall days!

Venison Stroganoff

-1 lb venison steaks, cut into strips
-1 T. fresh thyme
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-Salt and pepper
-Olive oil
-1 small yellow onion, sliced
-1 small red bell pepper, sliced
-8 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced
-1 cup beef consommé
-1 T. brandy
-8 oz. light sour cream
-1 T. cornstarch, diluted in 1 T. cold water (if needed)
-Egg noodles for serving

Combine the venison, thyme, garlic, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Drizzle in a tablespoon of olive oil, set in the refrigerator until ready to use. In a large skillet over medium heat, add some more oil cook the onions until very brown and almost caramelized and set aside. Sauté the red bell peppers for a few minutes until slightly softened and set aside. Sauté mushrooms until browned (you guessed it, set aside!). Increase heat to medium high and brown the venison. After the venison is browned, but not completed cooked through, return the vegetables to the skillet. Add the consommé and brandy and allow to come up to temperature. Reduce heat to medium. Just before serving, stir in the sour cream and allow to thicken (if more thickening is needed, stir in the cornstarch and water mixture and bring the temperature up a little bit until thickened to your liking). Serve over egg noodles and enjoy!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

14 Bean Fire Roasted Chili

Since I am moving soon, I have been making an effort to clean out my pantry a little bit so I don’t have to move as much stuff. This dish was an improvisation based on a couple of items I had in my pantry. I decided to make a 14 bean fire roasted chili.

Why 14 beans? Well, why not? :) I had a partial bag of Bob’s Red Mill 13 bean soup mix to use up. This mix contains, navy, pinto, red, black, baby lima, large lima, garbanzo, Great Northern, and kidney beans, along with black-eyed peas, yellow and green split peas, and lentils. I also added a few heirloom Christmas lima beans to the mix, so that is the reason for the "14 bean" designation! (A note on the beans: It is important to soak the beans overnight to hydrate them, and also to simmer them until tender before adding them to the chili. This way it greatly reduces the cooking time.)

What makes it “fire roasted?” I had a can of Muir Glen Organic Fire Roasted whole tomatoes in the cupboard. These tomatoes are slightly charred before they are canned, so they have a nice smoky flavor to them. Perfect for chili!

This was loosely based on my beer chili recipe, so you will see a few similar ingredients and seasonings to go along with the variations.

This chili turned out very nice. It was spicy with a little hint of smokiness, and the variety of beans made for an interesting textural contrast. Good stuff on a cold fall day!

14 Bean Fire Roasted Chili

-1 lb ground beef
-1 small yellow onion, chopped
-8 cloves garlic, minced
-Salt and pepper to taste
-3 T. chili powder
-1 T. ground cumin
-1 t. ground coriander
-1 t. dried Mexican oregano
-1 t. fresh thyme, chopped
-1/2 t. crushed red pepper
-1/4 t. ground sage
-1/4 t. cayenne pepper
-28 oz can Muir Glen fire roasted tomatoes (juice and all, broken up)
-1 cup beef stock
-1 12 oz bottle of amber beer
-1 1/4 c. dried beans (soaked overnight, simmered until just tender)
-1-2 T. brown sugar (optional)

Brown the ground beef with the onions and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, and add all of the spices and seasonings. Add the tomatoes, beef stock, beer, and the soaked/cooked beans. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and allow to cook, covered. Stir occasionally, skimming off any accumulating fat. Allow to simmer for 2 hours until the beans are soft, but not broken down. Add the optional brown sugar if it needs some sweetness. Enjoy!

Road Food Pursuits - Lions Tap

I was busy packing and preparing for my move most of this morning, and I worked up quite an appetite. Since I will soon be leaving the southwest metro, I have been trying to make a point to hit some of the great local restaurants that I will be moving away from.

Lions Tap
16180 Flying Cloud Drive
Eden Prairie, MN

Today I found myself at the Lions Tap for lunch. This well-known establishment is located in southern Eden Prairie on Flying Cloud Drive, practically on the Shakopee border. They are an award winning hamburger joint, and their slogan is simply, “Famous Hamburgers.”

The Lions Tap has a long and rich history dating back to 1933. It started out as a vegetable stand where they began pouring beer (now that is my kind of vegetable stand!). This evolved into a bar that eventually started serving hamburgers.

The current owners bought the restaurant in 1977, and they created what has become a closely guarded “secret seasoning” for their burgers. The Lions Tap has been consistently winning awards ever since, including numerous “Best Hamburger” awards from Mpls-St. Paul Magazine

I sat down in the bar at a booth. It is a cute, friendly place with several Vikings and Twins signs, and a little bit of taxidermy on the walls. Also on the walls you will find the menu. There is nothing fancy about it. They offer a few different choices of (you guessed it) hamburgers, either singles or doubles.

California cheeseburger with fries at the Lions Tap

I opted for the single California Cheeseburger with a side of fries. The burger was topped with lettuce, tomato, American cheese, and a few pickle slices. They offered a bottle of mayo on the side as well so you could apply as you desired (a nice touch).

As you can see, the even the single burger is so tall that they have to skewer it to keep it together! It was very pleasing to the eye. The patty was extremely flavorful, juicy, and well-seasoned (presumably because of their “secret seasonings!”). The crisp, cool vegetables offered a wonderful contrast of textures. Fries were of the “crinkle-cut” variety (a ketchup-grabbing style that I happen to enjoy greatly), and they were crispy and hot. And the whole meal, with a diet Coke, set me back $8 and change, so not only was this a great burger, but it was also a great deal. This more than lived up to the hype.

All of the staff was extremely friendly and welcoming, and my server was was fascinated with my little Olympus camera. I told her all about it, and I even got to show her the “cuisine mode” setting as I took a picture of the burger, which she thought was really cool (I always wonder what people think of this geek who photographs food, so her reaction was fun to see!).

I have to believe that a trip to Eden Prairie would not be complete without stopping for lunch at the Lions Tap. You will get a fantastic burger, and it will be better than any you could find at the usual suspect restaurants just up the road near the mall. It will probably be cheaper, too.

Gold Nugget: Back from the dead?

A couple of months ago I wrote that the Gold Nugget in Minnetonka was closing due to a condo development that was set to be built in its place.

I drove by this great neighborhood burger joint today and sure enough, the windows were all boarded up, the signs were ripped down, and there is construction fencing surrounding it and the adjacent building. It is looking like everything is set for demolition.

However, I am happy to say there is a glimmer of hope. In one of the windows, there was a giant sign that said “CLOSED: Grand Re-Opening Spring 2008.”

Perhaps some sort of deal was worked out with the development group to keep the Gold Nugget going in the new development? One can only hope. This was a place that was too good to lose, and I am sure the neighborhood misses it.

While that date is a long way off, I will be looking forward to the spring of 2008!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Fun with Boca Burgers

I have pretty much been subsisting on food from my freezer and pantry this week, and tonight I had a Boca Burger for dinner.

I must confess I kind of like these meatless pucks made of soy and vegetable products. The grilled vegetable patties are particularly tasty, and only 80 calories per burger, so they are really lean as you would expect. And they lend themselves to lots of creative and fun possibilities.

My grilled vegetable Boca Burger was topped with sauerkraut, baby Swiss cheese, spicy bread & butter pickles, ketchup, and grainy mustard, and it was served on a toasted, multi-grain Siebenfelder bread. Not too shabby for quick meal!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Russ Kendall's Smokhouse

I have been neglectful in failing to mention a place I visited (twice) a couple of weeks ago.

Russ Kendall's Smokehouse in Knife River, MN


On a recent trip up north, I stopped at Russ Kendall's Smokehose. It is located in the in the tiny village of Knife River, MN, which is between Duluth and Two Harbors on Scenic Highway 61. This place has been doing business on the North Shore of Lake Superior for more than 80 years specializing in smoked fish, as well as other smoked meat products.

I purchased a hunk of their sugar-cured salmon, one of their specialties. It was simply outstanding, with a beautiful smoky and sweet balance. Fantastic stuff! Still curious, I made a return visit on the way home to sample some of the sugar-cured trout and a little bit of their buffalo jerky. The trout was moist and smoky with a delicate, flakey texture. And the jerky did not disappoint, either. Nice, thick slabs of lean buffalo meat, not too salty, with a great smoke flavor.

If you are a fan of smoked fish and find yourself in the area, a stop here is worth your while.

The Archive of Restaurant Posts

This post will serve as an archive for any other restaurant-related discussions separate from my "road food" pursuits:

Buffalo Wild Wings - Plymouth, MN
California Pizza Kitchen - Maple Grove, MN
Chez Jude - Grand Marais, MN
Coho Cafe - Tofte, MN
The Crooked Spoon Cafe - Grand Marais, MN
Gun Flint Tavern - Grand Marais, MN
Joe Senser's Restaurant & Sports Theater - Plymouth, MN
Maid-Rite - Ankeny, IA
Noodles & Company - Maple Grove, MN
Raccoon River Brewing Company - Des Moines, IA
Sawatdee - Maple Grove, MN
Speak Easy Restaurant & Lounge - Moorhead, MN
Village Square Cafe - Walker, MN
Wild Onion Cafe - Grand Marais, MN

The Archive of Assorted Food Topics

This will serve as sort of a "catch all" archive for the various food-related topics, discoveries, products, or businesses that I have discussed in my blog:

Annie's Macaroni & Cheese
Blackwing Quality Meats (buffalo burgers)
Boca Burgers
Byerly's take-out sushi
Jelly Belly jelly beans
Lefse - A Scandinavian tradition
Lutefisk - Another Scandinavian tradition
Makenthun's Sausage & Deli's - St. Bonifacius, MN
Russ Kendall's Smokehouse's smoked fish - Knife River, MN
Superior National Golf Course's grilled sausages - Lutsen, MN
TJ's Country Store's Swedish potato sausage - Mahtowa, MN

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Tasting a bit of fast food history

While down in Iowa over the weekend, I felt I had to stop for a Maid-Rite. There are only a handful of these in Minnesota, and I haven't been to one in years. And since Iowa has a number of them, it was an easy call. I swung into a newer store in Ankeny on my way out of Des Moines.

The Maid-Rite Sandwich

Invented in 1926 by a man named Floyd Angell in Muscatine, IA, Maid-Rite restaurants are Iowa's contribution to the world of fast food. They have been serving their famous “loose meat sandwiches” for decades now. And with most restaurants being located in the Midwest (mainly Iowa), it has become somewhat of a regional specialty.

The sandwich is simple; it is crumbled ground beef served on a bun, kind of like a sloppy joe, but without the sauce. You can top them with pickles, onions, mustard, and (against the wishes of purists) ketchup. They are a little hard to eat, but they are nicely seasoned, flavorful, and (for beef that is already crumbled), quite juicy.

While I do think I am more of a burger guy, I will say the sandwich tastes very good, and is an interesting change of pace from the usual. And I enjoyed the chance to taste a little bit of fast food history as I made the journey home.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

My dinner in Des Moines

While in Des Moines this weekend for a race, I dined at the Raccoon River Brewing Company for the second year in a row. Once again, it turned out to be a good choice.

The Raccoon River Brewing Company is, as you would guess, a brew pub. They brew their own beer (consisting of several offerings all year long, as well as seasonal brews), and they have billiards, as well as live music on the weekends. But they also have a really creative menu that is above and beyond your standard pub fare.

Last year I had the smoked chicken with wild forest mushroom penne pasta, which was absolutely excellent. However, I thought I would mix it up this time and have something different.

Lobster Mafaldine at the Raccoon River Brewing Company

I ordered the lobster mafaldine, which was fantastic. Lobster meat and shallots with mafaldine pasta (sort of like a long, skinny lasagna noodle) tossed in a tomato-basil cream! They were quite generous with the lobster, and it was ever so delicately cooked. I loved the mafaldine pasta shape here, as the ruffles on the edges of the noodles made for a nice texture, and the wider part gave the creamy sauce something to cling to. A really tasty dish.

Unfortunately, as I was running the next day, I didn’t partake in any of their beer. But I did have one of their homemade cream sodas which was excellent (and, for some reason, bright blue!).

I look forward to going here again when I am in town. Next year, for three in a row?

Road Food Pursuits - Bernie’s Grill

On my way to Des Moines, I ventured off of Interstate 35 in Faribault to search for breakfast. In the old downtown area , I stumbled upon Bernie’s Grill.

Bernie’s Grill
129 Central Avenue North
Faribault, MN

It was not hard to spot. The downtown was pretty dead this morning except for one block where there were a ton of cars.

Open since 1995, Bernie’s Grill is a quintessential small town cafe and coffee shop. This Saturday morning they were doing a lively business, and I got one of the last tables they had available.

Breakfast at Bernie’s

I ordered one of their “Egg Specialties,” which consisted of two eggs, hash browns, toast, and I opted for the combination with the ham steak. The hash browns were expertly cooked and were among the best I have ever tasted. The crust actually made a cracking sound when you cut into them, and the interior was moist and soft. I had the eggs scrambled, and they too were well prepared, light, and fluffy. Toss on a couple of griddled ham steaks and some nice whole wheat toast, and I had an outstanding breakfast to start my journey to Iowa.

On my way to the downtown area, I passed several more easily accessible restaurants close to the Interstate (the usual suspects) where I could have stopped for breakfast. But this is the perfect example why it is fun to go off the beaten path. I wouldn’t have found Bernie’s Grill otherwise.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Fast noodles

I know, I have been eschewing fast food chain restaurants lately. But today I was desperate. And I ended up with a decent meal, so I thought I would share.

Failing to bring anything from home and not wanting to eat in the cafeteria, I ventured out of the office searching for something quick, lower in fat and relatively healthy (so no burgers today!), with plenty of carbohydrates in preparation for my race this weekend. I ended up at the local Noodles & Company, a place I have been to numerous times in the past. It met all of the above criteria, and it was pretty tasty as well.

I had the "Japanese Pan Noodles," which consisted of thick, chewy Japanese udon noodles in a spicy soy sauce tossed with shiitake mushrooms, crisp carrots and broccoli, and topped with bean sprouts and black sesame seeds. I added the optional chicken (Strange, they now serve a seared, fanned-out chicken breast on the side, as opposed to pieces of chicken tossed with the noodles. When did that change?). It was a generous portion of meat and noodles, and the food tasted quite good. Hard to fault a $7 meal like this.

As far as a fast food joint is concerned, this is not a bad option. At least they present a decent alternative for days like today when I didn't want a greasy burger.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Jean's Spicy Chicken Lo Mein

Yesterday I was feeling under the weather and wanted something to help rid me of my head cold. I ended up making a chicken stir-fry with noodles, kind of in the style of a "lo mein" dish you would find at your local Chinese take-out restaurant.

Whenever I get take-out, I usually get a container of BBQ pork lo mein as one of my choices. When done well, it is consistently a favorite of mine. I have always loved these noodle dishes with their nice chunks of meat and veggies tossed with long, slender noodles and coated in a sweet and salty sauce. Delicious!

Generally speaking, most lo mein dishes are pretty mild. Because of that, I often find myself adding some sort of Asian chile sauce to my take-out lo mein to spice things up. So today I decided to make my own lo mein, also choosing to make it with some fiery heat. I used a healthy dose of chile-garlic sauce (which can be found at most grocery stores in the Asian food aisle), as well as some crushed red pepper. I would also add many other nutritious, cold-fighting ingredients like fresh ginger, minced garlic, and lots of colorful veggies. The lo mein turned out pleasingly hot and was pretty darn good, if I do say so myself.

The stir-fry sauce is something that I have tinkered with over the years and continues to evolve. This has become my standard sauce that can be used for virtually any stir-fried meat/vegetable combination. While there are a lot of ingredients, once the prep work is done it cooks in minutes. And if you wanted to serve this stir-fry over rice instead of noodles, I would just eliminate the noodles and add a few more veggies of your choice. Here is what I threw together:

Jean's Spicy Chicken Lo Mein

Stir-Fry Sauce:
-1 cup water
-2 T. white wine
-2 T. light soy sauce
-2 T. dark soy sauce
-2 T. rice wine vinegar
-2 T. sugar
-1 T. oyster sauce
-1 T. chile-garlic sauce
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-2 T. fresh ginger, grated
-1 1/2 T. cornstarch
-A few dashes of sesame oil

Stir-Fry Ingredients:
-1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced thin
-1 T. light soy sauce
-1 t. crushed red pepper
-1 carrot, peeled and sliced thin
-1 red bell pepper, chopped
-1 small head of broccoli, cut into bite size pieces
-1 small yellow onion, sliced thin
-A few crimini mushrooms, sliced thin
-8 oz. long noodles, cooked (such as lo mein, spaghetti, vermicelli, your choice)
-1-2 T. peanut or canola oil

1. Mix all of the sauce ingredients together, stir well, and set in the refrigerator until ready to use.
2. Combine the chicken, soy sauce, and the crushed red pepper together in a bowl. Allow to marinate in the refrigerator for a half an hour or so.
3. Cut up all the veggies, add to a bowl, and set aside until ready to use.
4. Prepare the noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process and cool them down. Set aside until ready to use.
5. In a large wok or deep pan over high heat, add the oil. When hot, add the chicken, stir-fry until no longer pink, and set aside.
6. In the same pan over high heat, stir-fry the veggies for a couple minutes.
7. Return the chicken to the pan with veggies and pour in the sauce mixture. Bring it to a boil, allowing sauce to thicken and the chicken to cook through.
8. Stir the noodles into the dish until they are coated with sauce and warmed through.
9. Serve and enjoy!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Pizza, pizza...

Just had to show off tonight's pizza because it turned out so nice... :)

A homemade pizza with pepperoni, sweet peppers, caramelized onlons, black olives, crimini mushrooms, with fresh mozzarella and aged provolone. Yum!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Steakhouse at home

Tonight I cooked up a strip steak that Dad sent home with me last weekend.

When I was in Green Bay, WI, last May, I ate at Brett Favre’s Steakhouse and had the “Italian Crusted NY Strip,” so that was my inspiration for this meal.

I marinated the steak for 4 hours in about 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, a tablespoon of olive oil, 2 cloves of minced garlic, a teaspoon of Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. I grilled it for 4 1/2 minutes on my George Foreman (what can I say, I am an apartment dweller!) to medium-rare. The steak was topped with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and a drizzle of some really good 12-year balsamic vinegar. For sides I had a baked potato laced with some baby Swiss cheese, as well as some steamed Brussels sprouts.

A very hearty and enjoyable meal. The marinade added a tangy, garlicky flavor to the steak, with a nice hit of the mixed Italian herbs. It was a great way to end a tiring day of packing, cleaning, and preparing to move!

Now, if you will excuse me, I have a glass of red wine to finish... :)

Friday, October 06, 2006

Road Food Pursuits - Lone Spur Grill & Bar

Moving sucks.

I am in the midst of packing up my things and relocating myself to the other side of the metro to be closer to work. Since coming to the Twin Cities in 1994, I have lived in my current neighborhood for roughly 10 years. During that time, I have come to know the Lone Spur Grill & Bar quite well.

When I got my first job in ‘94, I was obviously still learning my way around the unfamiliar Twin Cities. I remember asking our receptionist if she knew of any good restaurants, and she emphatically told me to check out the Lone Spur. I have been going here religiously ever since.

So, while this road food pursuit doesn’t even involve a road (I can walk here), and it isn’t much of a pursuit because I found this place 12 years ago, it still deserves an entry in my blog!

Lone Spur Grill & Bar
11032 Cedar Lake Rd
Minnetonka, MN

The Lone Spur Grill & Bar is located just west of Hopkins Crossroads on Cedar Lake Road in Minnetonka. It is a Tex-Mex style restaurant with a little bit of smokehouse thrown in for good measure.

They specialize in smoked meats, and they have a full menu featuring brisket (one of their specialties), ribs, chicken, sandwiches, salads, appetizers, and the like. There are frequently specials being offered too, things such as smoked prime rib, for instance.

Normally when I go here, I opt for some of their Tex-Mex selections. They have several choices of burrito, taco, and enchilada type dishes as well. Here you get your choice of meat, and what is kind of neat is that some of those smoked meat products also find their way into the Tex-Mex dishes (brisket, smoked chicken). A unique combination.

The Lone Spur's enchiladas with beef brisket

Tonight I ordered up their enchiladas with the brisket. You get three corn tortillas stuffed with their famous brisket, topped with cheese and a green chile sauce. Sides include Spanish rice and refried beans. It is a mound of food.

I have always loved the Spanish rice. It is never gummy, and each individual grain seems to have soaked up the tomato and southwestern spices beautifully. And the beans are dense and chunky, heavily seasoned with cumin. They, too, are delicious.

I could go on and on about the enchiladas, but I will try to keep it brief; the shredded beef brisket is simply outstanding here. It is juicy and tender, wrapped in tortillas, and smothered in cheese and green chile sauce with a side of homemade salsa and sour cream. Awesome! And don't get me started on those tasty little bits of green chile and cheese that got so nicely caramelized under the broiler. Are you kidding me? Washed down with a Summit Oktoberfest, this meal was outrageously good!

If you go here, I can also highly recommend any of the dishes you see with smoked chicken. If I am not getting something with brisket, this is my secondary option.

Moving is no fun at all. I will miss having the Lone Spur Grill & Bar in my backyard.

Take-out sushi for lunch

This was today’s lunch; since I just got home on Wednesday and haven’t done any cooking, I have been subsisting on purchased food for the last couple of days now!

I am lucky enough to have a Byerly’s about a mile from the office. I take advantage of their take-out sushi stand in the deli quite often. For $5 or $6 bucks, I can get a tasty plate of sushi rolls.

Today’s selection was the snow crab rolls; an uramaki roll stuffed with cooked snow crab, avocado, and julienned cucumber. With a little dab of wasabi paste and some pickled ginger on the side, it made for a nice, light lunch.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Road Food Pursuits - My Sister's Place

While visiting my family on the North Shore, we took a trip to Grand Marais for a little lunch with my Mom and sister-in-law. I requested that we visit a restaurant I had not been to in a couple of years, but one that I enjoy very much.

My Sister's Place
Highway 61
Grand Marais, MN

My Sister's Place is located on MN Highway 61 towards the north end of Grand Marais. It is a rustic, family-style restaurant, decorated with a north woods theme. They serve a variety of sandwiches, as well as homemade soups and chili, but most people come here for the burgers.

Flannel is all the rage at My Sister's Place

By my count, they offer 26 different hamburger combinations (52 if you count the option of substituting a ground turkey burger instead of beef!). The selection is huge, and there are some most interesting choices. All burgers give you a choice of fries, slaw, or a cup of soup, and they are all $6.

The hamburger selections at My Sister's Place

Mom was looking for something lighter, so she opted for their creamy chicken wild rice soup, which I believe was their soup of the day. She enjoyed her lunch very much.

The "Trail Center's Bull Moose" burger

I had the "Trail Center's Bull Moose," a burger topped with crispy bacon, Swiss cheese, and a smoky BBQ sauce, along with a side of fries. It was a delicious burger served on a toasted bun. More often than not, you see BBQ bacon cheeseburgers served with cheddar, but I must say I love the addition of a nutty Swiss cheese here. Great stuff! The fries were crispy, too, and there was a perfect amount of them. A most enjoyable lunch.

I already know what I am having the next time I visit. My sister-in-law had the "Schmidt," which was a burger topped with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and fried onions. It was piled high with kraut, and she said this one was her favorite. It looked absolutely awesome.

If you are in Grand Marais looking for a great burger at a reasonable price, you need not look any further. And if you are anything like me, it might take you awhile to choose from the extensive list of burger combinations!

Road Food Pursuits - North Country Café

On a recent trip to visit my family, I passed through the north-central Minnesota town of Crosby. I found a place to stop for some breakfast. Given that I had to park a couple blocks away to get to the restaurant, I figured I must be in the right spot.

North Country Café
12 W. Main St.
Crosby, MN

The North Country Café is located on the main drag in Crosby. It is your old fashioned café-style restaurant that has perhaps a dozen tables, as well as a lunch counter.

I got the last available booth, and the friendly waitresses seemed to know everybody but me! And, several of the customers were talking to each other. This was a local joint, and I was the lone tourist passing through town.

There was some humor in that half of the North Country Café was non-smoking, and the other half smoking. In a restaurant this small, that really doesn't make much of a difference! Oh, well.

The menu is completely unpretentious. There were no cute names assigned to the breakfast, and each menu item told you exactly what you were getting. I chose the two eggs, sausage, hash browns and toast combination.

Breakfast at the North Country Café in Crosby

It was a really good breakfast. The scrambled eggs were fluffy and nicely cooked. The hash browns had a golden, crispy exterior, and were creamy and moist on the inside. Great sausages, too. I opted for the links, and they were well seasoned with a lot of sage. Nothing fancy, just very tasty, well-prepared, and quite satisfying.

Seeing that they serve real food at reasonable prices in a friendly, small town atmosphere, I can see why the locals frequent the North Country Café, and why I had to park so far away.

Road Food Pursuits - Crossroads Delicatessen

Better late than never, I always say.

I have been living within walking distance of the Crossroads Delicatessen for several years, yet I had never been there.

Crossroads Delicatessen
2795 Hedberg Dr
Minnetonka, MN

Located on the southeast corner of Hopkins Crossroads and Cedar Lake Road, this building used to be a Frankie's Pizza that closed its doors in the late 90's. Ever since, it has been occupied by the Crossroads Delicatessen, a real, honest-to-goodness Jewish deli.

The menu has all of the standards, such as matzo ball soup, lox, latkes, home baked breads, sandwiches, as well as a variety of appetizers and salads. They have a sit down restaurant, as well as a counter for take-out and baked goods.

I walked in the door, and immediately you smell the caraway rye bread. It was just a wonderful aroma. I was in a hurry, so I got their hot pastrami sandwich to go.

Crossroads Delicatessen's Hot Pastrami Sandwich

As you can see, the meat is stacked high. It was a very primal sandwich, absolutely loaded with thinly sliced and flavorful pastrami. I opted for the caraway rye bread, and it was light, soft, and delicious. Topped with a little bit of grainy mustard, a side of creamy cole slaw and a kosher dill pickle, it was a very satisfying meal.

I will try not to make it several more years before I make a return visit.