Saturday, June 30, 2007

Meisters for lunch

This morning I went for what was nearly a 16 mile run, my longest run to date. My reward was a burger. And a darn good one.

Today I made a return visit to Meisters Bar & Grill in Scandia, MN, but this time for lunch. On my original visit back in the beginning of May, I was at Meisters for breakfast, vowing that I would return for lunch.

So lunch I would have. They have a number of nice looking burgers and sandwiches to choose from. I opted for the “Bacon BBQ Meisterburger,” a 1/3 lb. burger with bacon, Swiss cheese, and BBQ sauce. Fries would come with it, and for an extra 50 cents, I made it “California style” with some tomato, lettuce, and mayonnaise.

The “Bacon BBQ Meisterburger” at Meisters Bar & Grill

This was a fantastic burger. In the picture, you will see that the burger is resting on top of something. That is all bacon, baby! (Good grief!) The burger was well prepared and juicy. The creamy Swiss cheese, a delightfully smoky BBQ sauce, and the aforementioned mound of crispy bacon all complimented the burger nicely, as did the upgrade to the California toppings. Excellent!

And bless Meisters, they make their own, homemade, hand-cut fries! (And there was much rejoicing!) So few places do this, and that is really a shame because the flavor is incomparable to frozen ones. The fries were delicious and something to be savored.

The online menu appears to have the incorrect price for my burger. It was actually $6.99 according to the computerized receipt, and with the 50 cent upgrade to the California fixings, brought the price to a scant $7.49. Add a diet Pepsi and some tax, and my total bill was all of $9.84 before tip.

Are you kidding? A burger this tasty with honest-to-goodness homemade fries for such an inexpensive price? Wow. I will be coming to Meisters Bar & Grill again. And again. And again. :)

Monday, June 18, 2007

A nice pizza

I made this a few days ago.

Essentially, it is a pizza Margherita, but with pepperoni. Tomato sauce, mozzarella, fresh basil, a drizzle of olive oil, and a few slices of some nice pepperoni I bought at the store. Oh, there was a grating of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on top for good measure.


Saturday, June 09, 2007

Road Food Pursuits - King’s Place

Today was a nice sunny day, perfect for a road trip. I hopped in the car and headed southeast of the Twin Cities to find a burger joint that had I read about in the past. It was time to investigate.

Miesville is a small farming community of slightly more that 100 residents. It is located south of Hastings on US Highway 61.

Although tiny, Miesville is a hotbed for amateur baseball and is home to the Miesville Mudhens. Driving in to town from the west, you can see the light of Jack Ruhr Field before you can even really see the town itself. You almost feel like you are driving to the “Field of Dreams!” Baseball is legendary here, and it has been for decades.

Also legendary are the burgers at King’s Place.

King’s Place
14460 240th St. E.
Miesville, MN

King’s Place in a small, unassuming bar located right along the south side of the highway in Miesville. If you are not paying attention, you could easily drive right by (as I did!). It is an old building (built in 1916, according to the menu cover). And while King’s Place might not look like much from the outside, the inside tells another story.

The bar and restaurant areas are finished with rustic knotty pine, and the walls are covered with all sorts of cool neon beer signs. It is a very warm and welcoming environment with a friendly staff. A small town bar at its finest. And did I mention they serve burgers?

Let’s face it, the reason you come to King’s Place is to have a burger, and that is what the menu is all about. I didn’t total them up, but it appeared that there were close to a couple dozen options to choose from, all with different toppings and condiments (make that upwards of four dozen if you count the option of 1/4 lb. vs. 1/2 lb.!). All of the burgers were named after terminology from the game of chess or (perhaps not so surprising) baseball!

Since I was in Mudhen territory, I selected the “Mudhen Burger,” 1/4 lb. size, which was topped with bacon, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and I added chopped raw onions to the mix as well. I also ordered fries on the side, and a diet Coke.

The “Mudhen Burger” at King’s Place

The burger was clearly hand-formed, nicely charred, and delightfully pink and juicy on the inside. An excellent fresh “beefy” flavor, too. Crispy bacon, creamy Swiss cheese, and raw onions were all excellent accompaniments, and I loved the kraut on the burger as well. This was great stuff! The burger tasted homemade, as a good burger should. Throw in an ample portion of shoestring fries on the side, and you have a wonderful lunch.

The prices at King’s Place are ridiculously cheap. My Mudhen Burger with an upgrade to fries was only $5.75. Throw in the diet Coke with some tax and my bill came to a mere $7.83! In this day an age, these prices don’t seem possible. Yet they are. King's Place offers one of the better values I have encountered in my various quests for burger greatness.

A trip to the Hastings area is worth your your time. It is very close to the Twin Cities. The upper Mississippi River valley is quite beautiful. Stop in at the Alexis Bailly Vineyard outside of Hasting and sample some delicious Minnesota wine (believe me, they produce fantastic local wines with some unique grapes). And since you are in the area, I would highly encourage you to swing down to Miesville for a burger at King’s Place.

And if you are there in the summer, take in a Mudhens game, too!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Ragu of Pork Shoulder

After seeing this recipe, I was inspired to try something similar.

I loved the idea of using fennel in a ragu (both fresh fennel bulb and fennel seeds), but I didn’t want to mess around with the pork spareribs. Instead, I bought a pork shoulder and borrowed a few ideas from the recipe to make something on my own.

Here is what I came up with, a ragu of pork shoulder. The shredded pork is very tasty with a wonderful texture, and the fresh fennel and fennel seed add an interesting and delicious flavor. It is even better the next day.

Ragu of Pork Shoulder

-2 T. extra virgin olive oil
-Salt and pepper
-2 lb. pork shoulder
-2 carrots, diced
-2 stalks of celery, diced
-1 small fennel bulb, diced
-1 small yellow onion, diced
-4 cloves garlic, minced
-1 t. fennel seeds
-1/2 t. crushed red pepper flakes
-2 T. tomato paste
-1 c. dry red wine
-28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
-1 11.5 oz can V-8 vegetable juice
-1 t. Italian seasoning
-8 oz. crimini mushrooms, sliced
-A few leaves of fresh basil, torn
-1 lb. short, tubular pasta
-Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for serving

In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Sprinkle Salt and pepper on the pork shoulder and add to the Dutch oven. Sear on all sides until nicely browned. Transfer the pork to a plate.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the carrots, celery, fennel bulb, and onion. Sauté the vegetables until slightly softened (perhaps 10 minutes), stirring with a wooden spoon to scrape up the brown bits in the pan. Add the garlic, fennel seeds, and crushed red pepper and allow to cook for a minute until fragrant.

Add the tomato paste and stir to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the red wine and stir to deglaze the pan. Add the crushed tomatoes, V-8, Italian seasoning, and return the pork to the Dutch oven. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer. Add the sliced mushrooms and give it a good stir to incorporate the ingredients.

After 2 hours, the pork should be very tender. Carefully remove the pork to a large cutting board and allow to cool slightly. Skim the surface of the sauce to remove excess fat. When cool enough to handle, shred the pork meat with a fork, discarding any remaining fat. Return the meat to the Dutch oven and allow to heat through. Add the fresh basil at the last minute before serving.

Serve over your favorite short, tubular pasta; penne, mostaccioli, ziti, or as I used here, whole wheat gobbetti. Grate some Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese over this, too!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Road Food Pursuits - The Drive In Restaurant

One of the great things about this time of year in Minnesota is that the handful of drive in restaurants we have in this state are now open for the summer season. Today I took a short road trip to partake in one of them.

The Drive In Restaurant
572 Bench St.
Taylors Falls, MN

The town of Taylors Falls, MN is located about 40 miles or so northeast in the Twin Cities and is nestled along the St. Croix River. It is a gorgeous area. And they are lucky enough to have a drive in restaurant that still has carhops in poodle skirts, and still serves root beer in a frosty mug.

The Drive In Restaurant is hard to miss. Just look for the giant, spinning, mug of Frostop root beer! This is an honest-to-goodness, authentic drive in that serves a number of burgers, sandwiches, fries, onion rings, desserts, and the like. It simply oozes nostalgia, and not at all in a phony way. And judging by the number of people dining here this Saturday, the Drive In is quite popular.

My carhop (friendly, attentive, and most pleasant) took my order. I selected the “Drive In Burger” basket; a 1/3 pound patty with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise, with both American and Swiss cheese.

The “Drive In Burger” at the Drive In Restaurant

The burger was marvelous. It was a thinner patty that had an excellent char on the outside, and it was still very moist. There was almost a little bit of crunch when you bit into it. All of the ingredients were nice and fresh. Cool lettuce, juicy slices of tomato, and crunchy pickles mingled beautifully with the melted cheeses and condiments. I absolutely loved this burger.

With the burger basket comes a side of crinkle-cut fries, a style which I like very much. They were crispy and delicious, and with my burger sitting on top of them, they soaked up some of the juices and condiments that ran off (yum!).

Dining here at the Drive In is a great value, too. The burger basket was all of $6.94, a small price for such wonderful quality. Add a large diet Coke and some tax, and the total bill came to $9.19.

I am beginning to think that all burgers should be eaten in cars and served to you by carhops in poodle skirts. There is just something about eating at a drive in. It brings back memories of a different time when fast food simply meant good food fast. You can enjoy a beautiful summer day and take in the very social and festive setting that a drive in offers. And you get to dribble juices from your burger all over your driver side window (which I did, thank you very much!).

And if you live near, or are traveling through, Taylors Falls, you too can have this experience at the Drive In Restaurant.