7.30.2014

Quote of the Week

"To quote from Whitman, 'You are here — that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.' What will your verse be?"

- Robin Williams' character from Dead Poets Society

7.28.2014

Minneapolis Restaurant Week, Part 3: Sanctuary

Spoiler alert - I'm fine with a so-so meal at Sanctuary last week to round out my three stops during Restaurant Week (see posts on Coup d' Etat and Corner Table). Now, I know what you're thinking, "Wha!? You're ok with a mediocre meal?!" Yes, I am, as the night itself couldn't have been spoiled by just an alright meal. One of the things I enjoy most about dining out (or dining in for that matter) is the interaction of friends & family. And we had that nice of a time last Friday that the meal was secondary (or maybe thirdary?).

Personally, I liked that this started the night off right - delicious
  Overall, the food at Sanctuary wasn't bad, they just seemed to be a bit off their game, though they've told us they have participated in Restaurant Week previously. The chefs got backed up and our entrees were very very late. I was just about to comment to the waitress, when the item below came to our table "gratis", as if sent from on high - it helped ameliorate us and was delicious.

Fresh Burrata Mozzerella with Heirloom tomoato and, we believe, hibuscus honey
A few other things we noticed while we waited for foods:
1. The restaurant participates in the Restaurant Week, but doesn't seem to care that much about it. This is evidenced by the fact that they had one first course listed on the special menu and one dessert, plus just two entree selections. Maybe this is a ploy to get people to order off the normal menu, I'm not sure? What I did know is that if you didn't like beef ribs or a tofu with veggies dish, you'd have to go off the main menu.
2. Our waitress was 6-9 months pregnant. I'm no doctor, but I think she was closer to nine... her "popped out" belly button poked me in the shoulder (kidding!). This really wasn't an issue, but did give us something humorous to talk about and think about later. Do you tip more since she's waiting for two? Is she going to wait tables until her water breaks? Did she want to sit down with us and take a load off? Well, kudos to her for plodding on.
3. They weren't prepared to be busy. First courses and salads came out with no problem, but someone in management forgot to tell the main chef that it would be busy. Entrees took forever, though from what I ate, it would have been quick to plate up some already cooked ribs and polenta.

Speaking of that, here's what we ate...
We started with a salad course for the four of us to share, about one bite per person:
Cantaloupe with blackberries and preserved walnuts (that was a new one)
Then our first courses - we all had the same thing, as it was the option (is it an "option" if it's the only choice?):
Dolmas (or Dolmades if you're Greek - shout-out G-Dog!) - these may have been the best I ever had. We all wolfed them down (ok, maybe just I "wolfed")
So then it was that burrata course pictured above, and then some time later... our entrees arrived:
I chose the braised beef ribs, which were served with the "silver skin" on. It was also not possible to remove the skin from the meat, so I ate it all - ugh! Is it possible that braising requires the silver skin be left on? In any case, the polenta underneath would be good on anything, like an old shoe even
Dessert finished the meal, but it was so pedestrian I didn't even take a picture. They had one option for diners, tiramisu. One person in our group left about 3/4 of it on her plate, it was that hum-drum. I mean, who leaves dessert on their plate? One saving grace on this course was a delightfully summery lemon sorbet. I could have eaten much more of that than the tablespoon on the plate.

In the end, I just didn't see why a 6 year-old restaurant in a bustling part of the city, just blocks from one of the best performance centers in the country, would be so off. Nothing was really really bad, just passable. They have outdated decor, handing you menus on big wooden dowel rods (for reals!), really odd art on the walls (think "aggressive" local art), worn out dining chairs, and just the feeling that they're stuck in the past. I don't think they can hold a candle to the other big boys in Minneapolis, with many located right down the street.

Luckily, we all still had a great night. That's the best part of dining with friends and perhaps Minneapolis' Restaurant Week. I look forward to dining with these same friends again soon, but there's no way it will be at Sanctuary...

7.25.2014

Minneapolis Restaurant Week, Part 2: Corner Table

Not one to waste anything that is a (perceived) good value, I couldn't, in good conscience, miss a chance to squeeze in one (or two?) more restaurant visits during Minneapolis' Restaurant Week. Having just finished an after-work appointment, I decided to jump 6 blocks over to Corner Table and check - it - out.

First note, Corner Table has moved. Google Maps didn't know that, but they luckily put a nice piece of paper in their old locations' window with the address of the new location, just two block south. Phew. I made it. And what a wonderful outside and inside space they have created. It's warm, inviting, and cozy. What else could you want in an upscale neighborhood restaurant?


And as luck would have it, mostly since I was on my own for dinner, I sat smack-dab at the end of the "counter table", in the heart & heat of the kitchen. What more could I want?! Throughout the meal, the chefs interacted with me to a degree (more than any other restaurant) and would answer questions or offer comments. It never got to the point of them flipping me something to sample, but still, it was pretty rad for a part-time foodie.

They had a pork tenderloin ready at all times for their Brazilian-style stew called "feijoada"
  

Dill fronds, anyone?

The feijoada all plated up with their own homemade linguica sausage. They didn't mention this sausage on the menu or I think I would have chosen this entree instead - meh

I was also able to see or click pics of everything leaving the kitchen. It was a great way to see what I wanted to eat and also see what I was missing, or could have on my next visit. Everything looked good too - good enough for pictures.

I gave the menu a quick read and decided quickly on some of the "lighter" options:

Ricotta Gnocchi with fresh spring peas, lamb bacon (it's a thing now), and pea shoots
Good, fresh bread & butter to help cleanse the pallet (or fill the belly)


A wonderful, pan-roasted, wild Alaskan salmon with roasted fennel on a red pepper broth - a lil spicy too

And to end my night, I asked for their sweet potato donuts "to-go". I got to take them home and enjoy. Their sauce served with them was molasses-based, which wasn't sweet enough for me, so I made due by dunking them in maple syrup - delicious

That's their chocolate pot de creme with a caramel tuile in front (who doesn't like saying "tuile"?)

Their menu from Restaurant Week:




7.21.2014

Minneapolis Restaurant Week, Part 1: Coup d' État - Uptown

Like many cities, Minneapolis reserves one week in the summer as "new restaurant week". Restaurants that participate usually offer a reduced price, fixed (limited) menu, but in return are afforded the opportunity for so many more people to experience their restaurant firsthand, within only a week. People look forward to it all year. And crime of all crimes, I had yet to participate.

I sent an email out to a couple lady friends and we picked out a day and a few places we hadn't been from the list of ~30 restaurants. Of course, the one we chose was all booked even a week out, so I called an Open Table audible and went with a really new one I'd heard about in Uptown, Coup d' État (today meaning "to overthrow a government or ruling party", but literally translates to "stroke of state"). 


I'm not sure why they chose the name, perhaps it's a nod (or a hand gesture?) to the normal restaurant scene. It's clear from walking in it's just slightly different than other places, even in Uptown. It has a little edgier vibe, but still very inviting and warm. I don't know how they do it, but they do, likely with some of the nicest staff I've been around in some time, including a very pleasant and talkative bar manager, front of house staff, and our waitress. 


Since it was a Monday night, the drink on offer was also on happy hour until 7pm - perfect. Our fixed menu was $30 for three courses - can do. With just a few items per course you might think you wouldn't have enough to choose from, but that wasn't the case here. All three of us found something we liked, from each section of the menu, and were happy to put in our orders. Papa's hungry! (And maybe a little tipsy now, glad I skipped their "beer & a bump" happy hour drink special)


The food was the best part of the whole night. We all liked (and tried) everything ordered. 

First course
Deviled egg with dehydrated Kalamata olive, smoked trout roe, cumin and dill...maybe the best deviled egg ever (sorry, E). 


Second course
Pancetta wrapped pork tenderloin with fava bean, white bean, charred onion and a really simple, pleasing broth. 


Dessert
Rhubarb tartlet with vanilla ice cream. No pic for this one as I dove in head first. 

With full bellies and happy hearts, we were happy to head out into the heat for home, saying we should go to one more new spot this week, and thinking how we could get back to Coup. I just saw they serve brunch!

And how about this space tucked in back for ~40 of your closest friends on your special night? Chandel-yes!


7.16.2014

Central Avenue/3rd Avenue South Bridge, Minneapolis, MN

Nothing like a not-often-seen view of this iconic and historical bridge just off downtown Minneapolis to cap off a good meal at Wilde Roast. It's pretty from all sides and has gorgeous curves. Check. It. Out.




7.07.2014

Ride, Christmas Lake Loop

What else to do with a sunny, 90-degree day? Ride.
 
I picked a loop I know pretty well, skirting a large highway out to the lakes of Minnetonka and tucked in by a number of small lakes. The biggest or most easily identified is named Christmas Lake. It's a semi-challenging, picturesque ride and perfect on a late summer afternoon. 

Fancy 'hood if your names are all on a sign. 

Not the best sign to see on a road bike ride...

...but this one seems worse, though it was just a short stretch of...

...off-road road riding. Piece of cake.

And it all led to this...


7.06.2014

Delano, MN 4th of July Celebration

If you ever get the chance to check this out, wait, no - make plans to check out this small town 4th celebration. It runs four days, including a festival set-up (rides, games, music), plus food vendors, and one of the best firework displays I've ever seen, big city or small town. The ride out is easy, parking can be simple, and the expense isn't as high as "big city" events. 

Start with some refreshing lemon squeeze, and a half a cheeseburger. 

Get some charity bingo in, 3 cards for $1 per round. 

Check out the MN Disc Dog exhibition, beautiful dogs...this girl was so soft too. 

You can't forget the foods. I don't think you can ever go wrong with a pork chop on a stick and corn on the cob. So good, and a bargain at $7. 

Clean it down to the bone and make your mother proud.

Refill the lemonade and grab a vanilla shake from the local dairy board stall before heading to your previously placed blanket at your fireworks viewing spot (yeah, nobody will move your blanket or steal your stuff). Note: in hindsight, a lemon-based drink and a dairy-based drink may not have been the best combination. 

Zero Dark-Thirty - go-go fireworks!!!




Finish up a 13,000 step day with a walk back to your car while the crowds and traffic disperse. Home sweet home for sleep. Done. 

7.05.2014

Cottage Grove Bike Park - GO!


I had my own mini-adventure by taking a solo trip out to the Cottage Grove Bike Park. They seemed set-up for pump track only right now, but you can see the bike park taking shape and I believe they just earned a grant to have IMBA trail builders help them improve it all. 


The pump track consists of two distinct portions, far as I can tell, one for beginners with smaller smooth bumps and another above it on the hill that had bigger berms and bumps. Both are quite smooth, fun, and a great way to get a feel for a your bike and how to keep your momentum going. Riding without pedaling on them, which is the idea, can be a challenge, but a fun one. 


They have a small gazebo area set-up, including picnic tables. Could be an easy way to make the drive worth it by bringing lunch or a snack. Plus, there are  a couple Biff's ready to go if you're there long enough. 

7.04.2014

Yes, get LASIK!

Having worn glasses since being "caught" in a 5th grade eye check, I've had my fill of glasses and bouts with contacts (which feel like wearing steel wool in my eyes). Have you always wanted to look into getting LASIK?

First, get a consultation to make sure you're an eligible candidate for LASIK. They're usually free and you can easily check out a few different places, like I did.  I think you should too as you're going to pay thousands of dollars for laser eye surgery - better make sure the place feels right to you. 


I chose Whiting Clinic in St. Louis Park, MN. I liked them the best from the places I visited, based on service, presentation, and reputation, among other things. 


Second, know what you're getting into. They will use a laser on your eye, along with creating a flap in your cornea. If you freak out at the dentist, you probably won't like this. Then again, if you want to get rid of glasses in under ten minutes, maybe this is for you. 

Thirdly, be prepared for the post-op healing. Take the day off. Follow the prescribed eye drop schedule. Don't rub your eyes. Be prepared for burst blood vessels in the whites of your eyes. You have to do it all right as you spent so much on your eyes. Don't fall down now. 




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