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food for thought: desserts

20 Feb

I celebrated a birthday earlier this month, and after a fun and tasty meal at Barrio, we pondered where to go for dessert. Pat threw out a few ideas, and ultimately decided we should try the bar at La Belle Vie. Apparently they are known for their fine desserts. La Belle Vie is a beautiful restaurant, and I found the bar ambiance to be classy and romantic. We chose a spot on a couch by the fireplace right near the bar. We were there for dessert only, so Pat ordered coffee and then we selected two desserts. We figured it’s not often we make it to La Belle Vie, so we may as well try two desserts (instead of sharing one) to get more of a sampling of their dessert menu, and also because…well…two desserts are always better than one!

We decided on the warm apple cake with truffle ice cream and thyme, and the something-or-other caramel cake with dark chocolate sorbet. We asked our server what she thought of our choices and she claimed they were her two favorites on the dessert menu. She described the apple cake as “not too sweet, but not savory” and the caramel cake as “think of your Grandma’s caramel layer bars- this is way better.”

The coffee came and I was very impressed by the silver service. Pat drinks his coffee black, and I rarely drink coffee (especially not at 9:00pm), but this coffee came with a lovely cream and some beautiful lumps of sugar, so I talked Pat into adding those delicacies to his cup. And he sure was glad I did, because then we got to SHARE his coffee. La Belle Vie’s coffee with cream and sugar gets two thumbs up from me!

Our desserts arrived and they were artfully and beautifully presented. The apple cake was alternating layers of white cake and baked apple, cut out into perfect circles. There was also a small scoop of truffle ice cream and a plop of thyme foam. The caramel cake was a small rectangular square of cake, with a scoop of rich, dark chocolate sorbet, and then way over on the edge of the plate was this glob of what can only be described as unidentifiable white stuff.

My conclusion: I don’t like fancy desserts. The apple and cake circles? They were fine. The truffle ice cream? Well, let’s just say in my humble opinion mushrooms should never be an ingredient in ice cream. And the thyme foam? Simply weird. The server was correct- the apple dessert was not very sweet and I would actually use the term savory to describe 2/3 of it. The caramel cake was good, but honestly I’d choose a homemade bar from my grandma any day. The dark chocolate sorbet was the only divine part of both desserts, and the mystery glob? I still don’t know what it was, but once in my mouth it provided me with the same sensation as eating a mouthful of pop rocks. Zesty!

In sum, I officially like my desserts hearty, large, simple, and delicious. Give me a chewy chocolate chip cookie or an amazing homemade bar or a generous scoop of ice cream or a warm piece of apple pie any day, and I will be happy. Desserts served at places like Birchwood Cafe, Crema, Izzy’s or A Baker’s Wife come to mind. Heck, desserts from my own kitchen come to mind!

So where’s the deep, deep ‘food for thought’ in all this? Do you like fancy frou-frou desserts? Or do you prefer a delicious, delectable not-very-exciting-but-always-dependable old stand-bys?

food for thought: denying the GS cookies

10 Feb

There’s been some controversy brewing in our household lately. On one side of the debate there is me, declaring a ban on Girl Scout cookies from entering our house this year.

My points, for the anti-Girl Scout Cookie position:

1. They are made with nothing but crap.

2. They are not that good.

3. The cost per box is ridiculous.

4. They are made with nothing but crap.

Last year Pat bought 3 or 4 boxes. Two thin mints, one samoas, and one of some random flavor that was new last year. If I remember correctly, we ate the samoas. We ate one box of thin mints over about a 6 month time-span. The second box is still in the freezer. The random new flavor sat in the cupboard for probably 8 months, until one day I made Pat bring it in to work. [As we all know, People At Work are great at getting food items to disappear.] I think my denial of the Girl Scout cookie purchase this year is valid. We don’t want to ingest the 5000 unhealthy chemicals that are in these things, we don’t even really LIKE them, and why spend $$ on something we don’t like, want, or need?

Girl Scout #1 came to the door about a week ago. I answered. She was very polite and cute and pleasant and asked if I’d like to buy some GS cookies. Her father stood behind her on the sidewalk pulling the sled full of cookies. [This must be a new development- instant GS cookie gratification!] I very politely and pleasantly said “we’re not buying any GS cookies this year. Thanks for stopping by, though!” And the girl very politely and pleasantly said “okay, thank you!” and turned to continue her selling journey down the block.

A few days later, Girl Scout #2 rang the bell. Pat was closest to the door. I urged him to stay strong. [He’s a notorious sucker for people coming door-to-door.] She asked if he wanted to buy any cookies. He responded: “no thanks, we’re not buying any this year.” And then he offered to make a donation to the Girl Scouts, which was declined!?!

Pat’s point in the Girl Scout cookie denial argument:

1. It’s mean to deny the Girl Scouts. “I feel like a curmudgeon.”

So, readers. Whose points are more valid, his or mine?

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(footnotes)
It’s Anne writing this post. Hi! I’m here as a contributor.
My senior year in college I did an internship with the Girl Scouts Council.
I admit it: homemade thin mint blizzards are really good.


goodbye. so long. farewell.

11 Jan

As I’m sure many of you have noticed, Jen pretty much runs the show on this blog. When we began our blogging partnership I was doing a fair amount of cooking, a fair amount of dining out, and also had a fair amount of time to blog about it all. Since becoming a mom to a second kid last April, I do a lot less of all things food related (unless one considers the cleanup of a gooked-up high chair to be food related [and blog-worthy]), have way less energy to compose my thoughts into a coherent post, and pretty much have been an all-around blog slacker here on She Said. She Said. With that, I am going to hang up the towel as a pseudo food blogger, and will leave Jen to her own very capable and very talented devices.

I know Jen has some great ideas in store for her readers, including a possible name change. You may see me around here at some point as a contributor or guest blogger, too. (If Jen will have me:)

Thanks for reading! It’s been fun!

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and before I go, I just wanted to share that this was my favorite post that I was a part of.

holiday highlights (yes, by Anne!)

29 Dec

Guess what? One time, before Christmas, I baked some cookies that were intended for the holidays. I took pictures and EVERYTHING. I was going to post the recipe and the visual aids that went with my cookie-baking, but I never got around to it in time for Christmas. So then I was going to post it in time for New Year’s, in case anyone wanted a New Year’s cookie recipe. But, I don’t think I’ll get to that, either. Maybe a Valentine’s cookie? I’ll see if I get there.

Instead, I’ll do a little holiday highlights post about some of the kitchen/cooking stuff that went on during our holiday.

We hosted our first ever Christmas Eve! We spent most of Christmas Eve day corralling children so that one or the other of us could either cook (Pat) or clean (me.) I borrowed a tablecloth from Jen, set the table with my Grandma’s china, got a centerpiece from Spruce, and had place cards made by the resident three year old. We had a total of four guests. I didn’t have to do ANY of the cooking for the meal itself (I did, however, provide us with a plethora of cookies for dessert), which was simply wonderful. Pat planned and cooked the entire meal. He went with a standing rib roast, mashed potatoes, a green bean/red pepper dish, and popovers. It was all very delish.

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On to gifts… we received a number of kitchen/cooking related gifts this year (much to our surprise and pleasure!) Pat’s parents gave us this (!): Le Creuset oval french oven (I think. Not sure on specs exactly- Pat would know.) Did you know you can find deals on these things at Marshalls?
We also got this: Oxo SoftWorks carving and cutting board. This is going to come in handy when we need a flat, smooth surface for rolling out pie crust or cookies or a pizza crust. We have tiled countertops which I HATE because junk gets in the cracks and it’s just so yucky.

Pat’s stocking stuffer from me Santa was this: Waring Pro immersion blender. We’ve had one too many times lately where we’ve taken a boiling hot soup off the stovetop and carefully dumped it into the food processor for pureeing. Not exactly the safest.

And in my stocking I found this: J.A. Henckels boning knife. A boning knife appearing in my stocking?? It was just for show for the kids. Pat failed to get me any stocking stuffers, and thought Ryan would find it odd if Mommy didn’t get anything from Santa in her stocking, so Pat took this boning knife that he had purchased FOR HIMSELF when he was buying a knife gift for his uncle, and put it in my stocking.

Something I desperately, desperately needed were new cookie sheets. Jen had sent me this article, Pat read it, and immediately went out shopping. Did you know Nordic Ware is made here in the Twin Cities? Did you know they have a factory store in St. Louis Park? These cookie sheets are nice. Too bad I’m tired of making cookies or I’d try them out.

Last but not least, our toaster saga. The toaster I bought to replace our 10 year old one was a piece of junk. The inner mechanism was bent, so one piece of toast would only go halfway down, thus ending up being only half toasted. I returned it the other day, and today Pat went out (to Macy’s! to buy a toaster!) and spent what I consider to be w-a-y too much money for a toaster. This thing better make damn good toast.

Some other fun morsels of goodness included chocolate bars infused with interesting flavors like lime and chipotle; tea; and meat rubs. Oh, and holiday M&M’s. We mustn’t forget the M&Ms.

 

 

Ba Bao Tea

16 Dec

About a year ago, I was gifted a few packages of Pagoda Red’s Ba Bao Tea. Last year at this time, I was also pregnant, and aware that some ingredients in certain teas aren’t advised during pregnancy. So I decided to shelve the Ba Bao and save it for a time when I could fully indulge and enjoy a relaxing cup of the tea. Even though I had forgotten about it, the Ba Bao has been waiting for me in the back of my tea/spices shelf in the cupboard. This morning I was craving a mug of tea and to my surprise and happiness, found two packages of the Ba Bao tea. I quickly microwaved up a mug of hot water, grabbed my cup-sized brew basket, and was about to pour the loose leaf tea in when I happened to glance inside the package and saw this:

(?????????)

Let’s look a little closer, said I.

I closely examined these strange objects in my bag of tea, and then I read the package.

Ba Bao Tea, with 8 treasures: goji berry, red jujube, boat-fruited sterculia, lycium berry, crystallized cane sugar, chrysanthemum blossoms, fine green tea, and longan fruit.

(????????)

Then, on the back, I read the DIRECTIONS. Amazing things, those directions: Empty contents of package into a teapot and add boiling water. Let 8 treasures blossom. Steep for 3-4 minutes. Strain aromatic brew as desired.

(!!!!!!!!)

So, I got up on a chair and dug around in the cupboard above the refrigerator, and I pulled out an ACTUAL teapot. Then I put the teaKETTLE on the stove to boil. Then I did this:

Then when the water was boiling, I did this:

Then I looked in my cupboard to see if I had any Asian-esque type of teacup. I did not. So I selected this lovely mug instead. Then I used the strainer as I poured the tea into my mug (because there were some black floaty things I didn’t want to drink).

And then I drank it. It’s r-e-a-l-l-y good. So I had a second mug.

Ba Bao tea… read more about it here!

eeking it out

29 Nov

Please accept this lovely picture of churros y chocolate as my final post for NaBloPoMo 2010.

3 brief reviews

28 Nov

We spent the long weekend in Duluth and actually dined out twice, so I thought I’d do a brief recap restaurant review here.

Lake Avenue Cafe

Friday night we went to dinner with my brother and sister in law. They had never been to the Lake Ave Cafe; Pat and I had been there once about a year ago. Locals have good things to say about it, and we were pleased with our experience last year. This time though, I wasn’t so impressed. I thought the entrees were a bit overpriced. I ordered the ratatouille. It was fine, but nothing special. It was my first time having ratatouille though, so I have nothing to compare it to. (I have a feeling that Jen’s would be better though!) Pat had the falafel platter and says “it was alright. It was fine.” Brother ordered the coq a vin, which he said was good but that he was still hungry after he was finished. Sister in law ordered the ox tail lasagna and described the dish as “rich and kind of greasy.”

We had a reservation for 8:00pm which was not needed- the place was empty. Could be due to us dining out the evening after Thanksgiving- not sure. For not being at all busy that night, the waitress was a bit inattentive, but that didn’t really bother me. Oh! Shortly after we sat down, the mayor of Duluth and the mayor of Minneapolis (and spouses) were just leaving.

I’d go back, maybe just for drinks and a light meal though.

Zeitgeist Arts Cafe

This place is a pretty sweet addition to downtown Duluth. It’s a restaurant, live performance theater, and movie theater all in one building. We dined at the restaurant Saturday night with some high school friends and their spouses. I thought the atmosphere of the place was great, and our waitress did a good job with our large party and the musical chairs we played after we ordered our drinks. She also comped my friend’s meal after putting in an order for the wrong thing with the kitchen. I hadn’t eaten much all day (except for the delicious turkey soup my mom made for lunch) so I was pretty hungry and decided to go with the prix fixe menu. I went with the parsnip and apple soup as my first course, and thought it was decent- maybe a bit bland. My next course was the mesclun salad, which was nothing special (the dressing seemed like it came from a bottle.) My entree was the pork chop, which can only be described as nearly impossible to cut. This may have been poor ordering on my part (the chef suggested it done medium, and I ordered it medium well) or perhaps it was simply a tough cut of meat, but the pork chop was not too enjoyable, especially with the weird shriveled peach things on top. For dessert I had the chocolate torte, and I liked that. I also liked the deconstructed banana cream pie that others ordered. Most others at our table ordered burgers or sandwiches, and I’d probably go that route next time too. My glass of Malbec was heavenly, I might add. And I’d love to catch a film at the theater sometime.

All in all, yes I’d go back.

Culver’s

We stopped at Culver’s in Forest Lake on our drive back to Minneapolis today. The natives were getting restless so we decided to pick our poison in fast food establishments so as to avert a tantrum/potty accident/hunger meltdown in the backseat. We had cheeseburgers and fries and soft drinks (the kid had milk). The cheese is American. The fries are crinkle. The cola is Pepsi. Not much more to say. I think Culver’s is better than McDonald’s. Is that saying much?

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Last year: Jen recaps Thanksgiving