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dual restaurant review: Red Stag Supperclub

10 Nov

She said. She said. was out on the town this past weekend. After months of finding a date that worked, we were finally able to take Anne and Pat out for their 10 year wedding anniversary. 10 years! That is definitely worth celebrating.

Brette and I had been to the Red Stag Supperclub recently and loved it and thought it was perfect for such an occasion. As usual, we’ll break it down for you in terms of atmosphere, service, and of course, the food.

Atmosphere:

Anne says: There was flannel! I would describe the atmosphere as “urban hipster supper-clubby kitschy-casual.” It was darkish, kinda noisy, with lots of activity.

Jen says: I agree with Anne’s description. I loved the supper club feeling, the variety of people and clothing, and the overall vibe.

Service:

Anne says: Our waitress was attentive, friendly, and informative. Gave her opinion on her favorite dish on the menu, which is always appreciated. Let us take our time ordering; we weren’t rushed at all.

Jen says: One thing I really appreciated is that before she gave her opinion on her favorite dishes, she didn’t say, “well, everything is good here”. That bugs me. They did a great job keeping our water glasses full and checking in regularly. On a side note, I loved that you could get still or sparkling water (at no charge) and you indicated your preference by which side of your coaster was flipped up. Bubbly water flowing free? Yes please.

Food:

Anne says: So much on the menu sounded really good. I had a hard time deciding what to order because I wanted to try lots of it. For starters we had the smelt fries (so not my thing, but the rest of the table liked them) and the truffled kettle corn, which was good. I was debating between ordering the squash ravioli, the roasted chicken, and the limousin burger. After much discussion at our table about the pros and cons of ordering ravioli in a restaurant (namely, the portions are typically quite small), I decided to go with the roasted chicken. I was not disappointed. It was served with polenta and kale and was very tasty and satisfying. The men both ordered the beef stroganoff, and I think they were both quite pleased with it. Jen will tell you about her meal. Oh! And Red Stag has an extensive drink/wine/beer menu. I had a cool, refreshing glass of sangria. I had it downed before my meal arrived, so yeah, I liked it.

Smelt Fries

Jen says: Smelt fries! I was so happy there was someone else there that was excited to order them (thanks Pat!). I mean, don’t you just have to order something like that? They were super tasty – little fried fish that I preferred dipped in ketchup. I loved the truffled kettle corn too. It is so different and distinct. I don’t know if they use a truffle butter or oil, but whatever it is, it works. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to go there without ordering a bowl. I too struggled with the main dish trying to decide between the burger and the swordfish that was on special. I ended up going with the swordfish since I would likely never make it at home. It came with an olive relish and red pepper sauce and it was super tasty. All of our meals were so good, that I completely forgot to take a photo of the entrees!

I opted for a glass of red wine (the Syrah), and Brette wanted me to mention that he thoroughly enjoyed his Old Fashioned. I think ordering an Old Fashioned at a supper club is completely appropriate and almost mandatory.

All in all, we all really liked the Red Stag. I would absolutely recommend it to others and would welcome an excuse to go again. I would advise making reservations as both times we’ve been there, it’s been very busy.

And then there was ice cream….

It pretty much goes without saying that when the four of us go out for dinner, we will end the evening with a trip to a local ice cream shop. I mean really, is there anything better than good ice cream?

We headed to Izzy’s and were not disappointed.

Anne says: I *heart* ice cream. I had the cinnamon ice cream with a chocolate izzy scoop in a waffle cone. (With a sample of the bubble gum for dessert). Izzy’s makes a most excellent cinnamon ice cream. And their chocolate is TDF.

Jen says: My heart rate just increased thinking about a trip to Izzy’s! I opted for the pumpkin ice cream with a cinnamon izzy scoop in a waffle cone. Side note: for Christmas one year, Brette gave me a pint of pumpkin ice cream from Izzy’s in my stocking. Hands down the best stocking stuffer I’ve ever received.  The pumpkin is my favorite flavor. If you live in the area and have a chance, head over there ASAP.

Have you been to Red Stag? What did you think?

One year ago: food for thought on coffee shops

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restaurant review: Heartland Restaurant

20 Sep

There are benefits to dog-sitting. And I’m not just talking about the joy of having another dog in the house along with that dog’s quirks and that dog’s hair.

We recently dog-sat for our friend’s black lab, Dakota. As a thank you, they wanted to take us out for dinner. We would never argue with that – in fact, that is a rad thank you gift. They really wowed me when they said they wanted to take us to Heartland. They had recently dined there and said to each other, “Jen and Brette would really like this place”.

They know us too well. I’ve been wanting to go there for years – literally. Since the first time I heard about Lenny Russo and his local amazingness, I’ve wanted to eat there.  I’m not really sure why I haven’t. I kept thinking I needed to save it for a special occasion because I was certain it was “super fancy”. Lenny was nominated a James Beard award this year for Best Chef – Midwest…he’s kind of a big deal. He’s been on the ‘local’ seen since forever. Since before I even knew there was a local scene and never thought about where my food came from. He has always known it’s the cool thing to do.

Heartland recently moved to a new location in downtown St. Paul, right across from the farmer’s market. Since I never experienced the previous location, I cannot compare the two, but I will, of course, share my opinion of the new location.

Another cool thing about Heartland is they recently opened their Farm Direct Market in an adjoining space. They will be selling products from the farms they work with along with things they make at the restaurant… soups, stocks, etc. Neat, huh?

Back to our evening. Meet our gracious hosts, Chuck and Jaime:

Aren’t they cute?

Fun fact: I think the whole first year I knew Chuck, I didn’t know his real name. We just called him “the freshman”.

I guess that’s what you do when you’re a super cool junior in college.Hopefully I’ve grown up some in the last 13 years.

I’ll be dividing my review into our standard three areas: atmosphere, service, and the food.

The Atmosphere:

The restaurant is a lot bigger than I had anticipated.  There was plenty of room to have the tables spaced out a bit so that you weren’t sitting on your neighbor’s lap. The noise level was perfect. Lots of “buzz”, but  quiet enough that our fellow diners didn’t have to listen to the in-depth discussion about how to organize and divide MN Twins season tickets for 2011.

Everything was very clean and I loved the big island in the middle of the dining room where the servers could get new silverware, wine glasses, and the wine itself. Just like a home kitchen, it seemed to be the hub.  The decor was very comfortable and homey. Nothing stood out to much which was somewhat comforting to me. Sometimes fancy or wacky decorations make me feel to ‘uncool’ to be there.

Not the best photo, but you can kind of see the island over Brette’s shoulder.

Service:

Our server, Matt, was wonderful. Now, I need to come clean on this. Matt could have provided the worst service ever and I would still say he’s wonderful. His Barry White voice was almost hypnotizing. I loved listening to him talk. I was tempted to ask him to explain every single dish on the menu. Lucky for us, he also happened to provide good service and was very attentive.

Although Matt was attentive, it took an incredible amount of time for our food to arrive. We had a 7 p.m. reservation and our first course did not arrive until 8:30. We were there until about 9:40. Had this been a Friday or Saturday night, I would not have cared as much, but it was a Wednesday, so it seemed a bit much. I don’t know if this is a normal thing at the Heartland or if they were a cook down. It certainly wasn’t a deal breaker.

The Food:

I think the opinion was unanimous. The food was fantastic.

Their menu changes every single day based on what is available from the farms they work with. I love that.

They have two pre-fix options; the flora and the fauna. This makes it so easy for a vegetarian to get a great meal without stressing over the menu and asking for substitutions. I ordered the flora since it was just easier and I didn’t have to make any decisions on the rest of the menu; where everything looked amazing.

My first course was a wild rice salad with preserved blueberries, butternut squash, a mizuna pistou and arugula sprouts.

It was beautiful and I loved it. The blueberries were so fun to find. They blended in with the wild rice so you couldn’t really see them, so it was always a surprise to bite into one.

My second course is the number one reason I went with the flora pre fix menu. A Savory apple bread pudding with a goat cheese béchamel and shoestring butternut squash.

If you do get to Heartland and there is a version of this on the menu – please get it. It was all I could do not to lick the plate.

I couldn’t wait for the photo – I had to try the béchamel STAT!

It was the perfect size portion. I mean, I wanted more of it, but it would have put me into a coma. The bread was just soft enough to absorb flavors, but it didn’t disintegrate in your mouth. I loved the soft apple chunks along with the crispy butternut squash on top. The textures were perfect. I might just have to try to recreate something like this.

My dessert course: Gateau marjolaine, sheep’s milk ricotta,zestar apple, hazelnut genoise and brandied prune. If you’re like me, you don’t know what half of those things are. Just know you’ll like it.It’s a big cookie sandwich! What made the dish really stand out was the brandied prune – which I was originally very skeptical of. If you had a little bit of it with each bite, it made everything else taste better.

I liked everything that I ate.

The boys both had the Fauna pre-fix menu and raved about the catfish and the lamb dish. Jaime went the ala carte route and really liked the broccoli soup and the wild boar chop. I think it’s fun to say, “I’ll have the wild boar chop please.”  :)

As a table we shared an appetizer of Wild Boar Braunschweiger. This is no grocery store mystery braunschweiger. This was made in house and was very tasty with the other accompaniments on the plate.

I would definitely recommend Heartland. The food is fancier than your local pub, but it is delicious and reasonably priced. It’s a great place for a special occasion, but I think also perfect for a Wednesday evening with friends. Sometimes a little bit of fancy is a good thing, especially when it tastes this good.

Have you been to Heartland? What did you think?

on the road: seattle part 2

16 Sep

Time for part 2 of our trip to Seattle. If you need to catch up on part 1, please go here.

Before we left for Seattle, everyone we talked to that had been there said we HAD to go to the market. That would be the famous Pike’s Place Market.

Now, I love markets. As you know I have a routine about the local markets here in Minneapolis.

This is one of those markets that is open every single day. I was most excited about visiting Pike’s Place. In fact, I made Brette promise me a whole day there. In the back of my mind, however, I wondered if I was going to be disappointed. It had been built up sooo much. It’s like being the last one to go see what everyone says is the ‘best movie ever made’ and thinking it was just okay. Brette was even more worried of this phenomenon than I was. He was expecting a number of vendors would be selling “crap” that they didn’t even make.

Thankfully, we were not disappointed. Just the opposite. We were ecstatic and loved everything about the market (except maybe the crowds) and went there not just one day, but every single day we were there. Sometimes more than once!

I learned from a vendor that you must prove that you make/grow/produce the product you sell. There are five vendors who have been grandfathered in but other than that, you have to prove yourself. I love that.

They have everything at this market from the famous fish guys, produce, jewelry, restaurants, flowers, honey, nuts, wood products and a zillion other things.

The famous fish guys

OMG Peaches! That’s how the guy described them to me and he was right, the first word’s out of my mouth were “Oh my God!”.

Brette’s favorite street performer.

Yes, we had two cameras along.

It was near the market that we found many of the more casual restaurants to enjoy. The food in this part of town is nothing short of amazing. I don’t think you could go wrong with any of the options around. Just follow your nose to whatever smells the best. Here are a few places our noses took us to.

Beecher’s Handmade Cheese:

Brette picked this one for lunch. The menu had a number of sandwiches featuring cheese that they make right there on site – and you can even watch them make it! I started up a conversation with the gentleman behind me who turned out to be a local who worked near by. He goes to Beecher’s a couple times per week. He made me try a sample of their mac and cheese (well, made is strong word. It didn’t take much convincing) and he helped me decide on sandwich.  All of their sandwiches are of the grilled cheese variety. Mine featured their flagship cheese along with tomatoes and basil. Brette went with one that also had the flagship cheese along with soft shell crab. They were the perfect food to eat while standing against a wall and watching the hustle and bustle of the market. We were very satisfied. On a side note: the Seward Co-op is now selling Beecher’s Flagship Cheese!

Pike Place Chowder:

This is also right in the middle of the market craziness but absolutely worth seeking out.

They have a variety of chowders including a classic clam chowder, a manhattan version and even a vegan version!

We both opted for the special which was a crab and oyster chowder. Brette got his in a bread bowl and I opted for a regular bowl along with a market salad which was chock full of fresh veggies from the market. We didn’t speak much while we were eating. It was that good. It was piping hot with lots of crab and oyster chunks and the creamy broth was soul-warming and it didn’t come across as super heavy. This would be on my “must go back to” list for the next time I’m there.

Piroshki on 3rd

We first saw Piroshki at the market and then on the way back to the hotel we noticed they had another location right next door. I loved the name and I loved the smell coming from the door, so we stopped in for breakfast one day. The woman working who I assume was one of the owners was adorable. Brette could have listened to her russian accent all day long. She was great at helping us pick our piroshki.

So what are piroshki? According to the Piroshki web site, they are small baked or fried turnovers or dumplings with savory meat, vegetable or fruit filling. They use recipes from Russia where they were originated. We ordered a sweet and a savory plus coffee which she insisted came with cookies. Who was I to argue?

When I asked what her favorite savory was, she answered quickly that it was whatever one just came out of the oven. So, we went with that – the spinach, egg and cheese. Our sweet was a rhubarb filling in a butter flake crust.

a blurry view of the spinach, egg and cheese

I thought they were both super tasty and if I lived next door to this place, I would likely try whatever was fresh from the oven on any given day. I think Brette would too as long as he could listen to her talk.

Cafe Campagne

This cute french cafe was on many people’s list as a place to go. I like cute french cafes so it didn’t take much convincing. We ended up eating there twice. Once for breakfast and once for brunch. The service was not super fast, but I really enjoyed the food there. Our first meal wasn’t anything crazy spectacular but I loved that they had plain yogurt and house made granola. It was perfect for me that day. So was the chocolate croissant.

The day we were there for brunch was after our 8 mile run along the scenic waterfront. We were hungry and ready to eat.

I ordered: OMELETTE AU BASILIC French rolled omelette filled with basil, topped with fresh tomato compote, served with chicken and pork sausage. It was hands down the best omelet I ever ate. Perfectly cooked so it just melted in my mouth. The make their own sausage and after not having meat for so long, it was a great way to get reacquainted.

Brette ordered: BURGER D’AGNEAU* Lamb burger with grilled balsamic onions, roasted red peppers, aïoli and pommes frites.

He pretty much went into a food coma afterward. To say he enjoyed himself would be a massive understatement. He didn’t make it all the way through the mound of pomme frites but it was a very solid effort.

I would go back to Cafe Campagne (am I sounding like a broken record yet?). I loved the atmosphere and I half expected to be able to speak french just from being there.

Now for Safeco field.  We’re pretty big Twins fan and we love being able to go to games at different stadiums. We really liked Safeco, but it’s not as nice as our brand new Target Field here in Minneapolis. I know, I know. They are 10 years apart in age and the new one is always going to be nicer. I get it. Still, have you been to Target Field? It’s so awesome!

It was a nice cool night for a game and of course while we were there we had to try the stadium food specialties.

I heard a rumor they had sushi. I was expecting the pre packaged sushi you find at the grocery store, but was surprised to see the gals at Rice n’ Roll, rolling sushi to order. Sure, it took forever, but it was darn tasty. How many times can you eat sushi and watch a live baseball game?

Brette followed his nose to the field specialty – the garlic fries! Good gads, the garlic on these suckers was crazy! There was easily a whole head of garlic on these fries. We did not make-out like teenagers that night.

Instead we watched the Twins BEAT the Mariners and had a leisurly stroll back to our hotel.

Why yes, we are wearing the same sweatshirt. No, we did not communicate clearly what we were packing for the trip.

One last food find I must mention for Anne’s sake. I missed her on this trip as she and Pat are great travel buddies. One thing about Anne is that she can sniff out ice cream shops better than anyone. Being on my own, I had to make her proud.

I found one! It was even Gelato! It was pretty fantastic too. I tried a dish of the chocolate along with the marscapone. Anne – it was great. I was only sad you weren’t there to enjoy it with me!

This was such a wonderful weekend getaway. We really liked Seattle despite the hills we were not expecting. I had no idea Seattle was hilly. Why didn’t anyone warn me?  I could spend a whole post just on the hills and the giant one Brette forced me to climb.

If you have a chance to visit Seattle, I would highly recommend it. How can you not love views like this?

on the road: seattle part 1

14 Sep

I love Minneapolis. It’s the best city to live in. Period.

If you are disagreeing with me, you clearly haven’t lived here in September when the weather is perfect and beautiful, so I will forgive you.

However, there are some periods during the summer months where the heat and humidity are absolutely stifling and horrid. I especially love those days where I choke on air. Lovely.

It’s during this time of year that a trip out west is the perfect getaway. Seattle has been on our list of cities to visit for quite some time. As we (and when I say we, I clearly mean Brette) checked out the MN Twins schedule for the year, we realized they were playing in Seattle over a weekend in August. Perfect. We now had a bigger reason to visit. We do love checking out other stadiums and I love to cheer on my boyfriend Joe Mauer.

So a few weeks back, we headed west to Seattle and to no surprise, we loved it. The weather was amazing. It was in the 60’s with a slight breeze pretty much every day. Perfect for jeans, a t-shirt, and a hoody. My favorite uniform.

We stayed at the DoubleTree Artic Club Hotel. It was about 30 feet from where the light rail dropped us off and a walkable distance to everything we wanted to get to. The building is super old and incredibly charming. Although our room was small, it had all the ammenities we needed.

We would recommend this hotel to others and we would happily stay there again. The mini french press is what sold us. :)

We didn’t have much of an agenda while we were there – we were looking for some relaxation, not an “on the go non-stop ” trip. There were  a few things we knew we wanted to do: spend some quality time at Pike’s Place Market, cheer on the Twins and check out SafeCo field, and of course, enjoy great Seattle food.

We succeeded.

I, of course, asked for restaurant recommendations from anyone that would listen to me. We limited ourselves a little because we didn’t rent a car. We went everywhere by foot. This was not only economical and environmentally friendly, but it also let us enjoy the food even more. We were walking it off, right?

We hit up both super casual places and a few nicer places. I think we got a good mix of what Seattle had to offer. We typically get to know a city through it’s food. I feel like I got to know Seattle very well and I like it a lot.

I’m going to share some of the nicer restaurants we went to in this post and in my next post I’ll share the more casual places and let you in on some of our other Seattle observations.

By nicer restaurants, I don’t necessarily mean fancy. They are just more the sit-down dinner types of places.

I’m listing them in order of when we ate there because that’s just how my brain works.

Matt’s in the Market

This place was recommended by a few different people and for good reason. It’s right on the corner of Pike and Pine in an old building on the top floor. It’s kind of hidden really. We had to ask a few people where to find it. We were there on a Wednesday night at about 7:30-8:00 and managed to get the last 2 seats at the bar.  The atmosphere was really nice with great view of the market. The wait staff was very friendly and the food was a big win.

I had the Heirloom Tomato Salad with Watermelon and Ricotta Salata followed by their Gazpacho with Crab and Olive Oil Toast. I really enjoyed both dishes. I typically like my gazpacho chunky and this one was completely smooth. I wasn’t sure I’d like that, but the olive oil toast on top for dipping sealed the deal.

Brette was making all sorts of noise about his meal – he couldn’t stop talking about it. He had the arugula salad with crab, citrus, avocado and pine nuts, which just might be the perfect combination. He followed that up with the Black Cod served over potatoes and a grilled corn relish. It was a major win – he was so happy with his meal.

We would both go back to Matt’s and recommend it to anyone. Although casual dress was completely appropriate, the food was a big fancier than we expected. It’s not super cheap, but not crazy either.

Serious Pie

So, in Seattle, Tom Douglas is the man. The man at awesome restaurants that is. He has quite a few in Seattle and we had the pleasure of dining at two of them. It turns out he knows what he’s doing.

The first one we hunted down was Serious Pie…pizza pie that is. This place is a definite hot spot. We got there at about 8:30 on a Thursday night waited nearly an hour to for a seat. (they do not take reservations) It was a lovely night, so we hung outside and enjoyed the glorious pizza fumes coming from inside.

The service was great and on top of it. Our waiter did a great job of checking in with us the perfect amount of times and kept us informed of when our pizzas would be ready.

My pizza had chanterelle mushrooms and truffle cheese. This happens to be Tyler Florence’s favorite pizza ever. I must say, Tyler knew what he was talking about – it was awesome! I did not let one bit go to waste (though I did give Brette a piece). The crust was my favorite part – it was soft and chewy but not soggy at all. The mushrooms were fantastic and the cheese was creamy and perfect.

Brette opted for the sweet fennel sausage and peppers version. He was also in pizza heaven. Brette loves the fennel sausage and this one did not disappoint.

We were fat and happy when we left. We were also grateful for the mile walk back to our hotel.

Wild Ginger

We read about this Asian hot spot on a few blogs and had heard good things. I love asian food so was excited to try it one afternoon for lunch.

Brette thought the atmosphere felt kind of like a hotel. I kind of dug it. Very kitschy and asian-y.

Our waiter was nice, but I swear he was 12 years old. He did a fine job on the service no matter what his age.

I had the Monk’s Curry – a vegetarian curry featuring eggplant, hard spiced tofu, sweet potato, peanuts and other fresh vegetables in a spicy exotic Thai curry sauce.

It sounded perfect and I LOVE eggplant so I was super amped. The taste was pretty good,but I have had much better curry dishes in Minneapolis.  The biggest flaw to this dish was that it was cold. Not super cold, but not quite room temperature either. That majorly bummed me out. I mean, how hard is that to serve hot?  On the up side, I had the option of brown rice instead of white which was a nice touch. I wish more asian restraunts would offer that.

Brette had the Seafood Thai Noodles – Fresh wide rice noodles that are wok-fried with scallops, prawns, squid and mussels in a light soy sauce with hints of basil and chili.

At Asian restaurants, Brette will always order a noodle dish. He loves all things noodle. He enjoyed these noodles, but didn’t necessarily think they were anything spectacular.

While our food was not necessarily bad, we would not rush back to this place and if we’re in Seattle again, it will not be on our list.

Dahlia Lounge


This is another one of Tom Douglas’s restaurants and was specifically recommended by a number of people. I made reservations well in advance for our last night in Seattle. It was the perfect way to end the trip.

I really enjoyed the atmosphere. I found it romantic and comfortable with a little bit of modern mixed in. It was packed, but we weren’t on top of the table next to us and we could have a conversation without having to talk with outside voices. (I’m not a fan of restaurants where my voice is scratchy by the end)

Our server was very nice and let us take our time. I never felt like I was being rushed (another pet peeve). He gave some tips on the menu and kept our glasses full.

The food was fantastic.

We split the Tuscan grilled bread salad with pesto, olives, mozzarella, and spicy coppacola. I loved that they offered to split it – so it came on two separate plates. Perfect. It was delicious. The grilled bread gave such great texture and it soaked up all the juices of the dressing so it had great flavor. We were both loved this dish.

For the entree, we did something we rarely do. We ordered the same entree. Gasp! We typically shy away from that but we both really wanted salmon. We’re in Seattle for pete’s sake! So we both got the Washington king salmon with sweet corn~potato chowder, mustard greens, and bing cherries. Mine was perfectly cooked and the potato chowder was my favorite part. Brette thought his might have been a tad overcooked, but still really liked it and gobbled it down.

Dessert might have been my favorite part.I had the Triple Coconut cream pie with white chocolate and toasted coconut. Oh my heavens was this delightful. It got very quiet at the table. All of my attention was focused on this pie.  I reluctantly let Brette have a bite so he could experience how lucious and amazing it was. He was a believer.

Brette indulged in the Chocolate Budino Tart. He was sold on the soft gooey center. It was very good, but I think my pie stole the show.:)

This photo is from the Dahlia Bakery web site. Mine didn’t last long enough to take a photo!

I think this pie is a good place to end for now. Please drool as appropriate.

I’ll be back later this week with more photos, restaurant reviews and adventures from our trip to Seattle.

In the meantime, have you been to any of these places? What’s your verdict?  (I realize I have about 1 Seattle reader – (Hi Kate!), but maybe some of you have visited?)

new scenic cafe

5 Jun

I went out to eat!! Girls night out!!! (It’s about time!)

We reunited in Duluth, and decided to dine at the New Scenic Cafe along the shore north of Duluth. I have heard so many good things about this restaurant, and have never been there. I was EXCITED. And starving. So let’s get right to the food, shall we?

Perusing the menu, I wanted to order one of just about everything. Really, I had a hard time deciding on my entree. I ended up choosing that night’s special- the pork tenderloin atop corn masa and squash, with fresh corn kernels, cilantro and scallions. It was utterly delicious. My only regret is that I didn’t order a starter- WHAT was I thinking? Three of my dining companions ordered the Moroccan stew, which was reported to be very flavorful and yummy. The other entrees ordered at our table were the bay scallops (they looked great- and I don’t even like seafood!), the halibut, and the chicken sandwich. I heard nothing but rave reviews from the others about how pleased they were with their delicious meals.

Then there was dessert. Dessert!! Just LOOK at the dessert menu!!! I wanted to order one of everything off of that menu as well. {{And how awesome is it to be dining with people that adore dessert as much as you do?!}} While everything on the dessert menu sounded tempting, I simply could not pass up the raspberry rhubarb pie served with fresh whipped cream. It was divine. The crust was superb- light and flaky and tender; and the raspberry/rhubarb middle was delicious. The crust, filling, and whipped cream were a trifecta of perfection.

So, the food at Scenic Cafe?? AWESOME. DELICIOUS. CRAVING IT RIGHT NOW. I’d for sure go back to try more off their menu. And the things I’m adding below are more of a footnote, and will in no way inhibit me from returning to the restaurant. Yet I feel they must be mentioned.

Ambience: The restaurant building is nothing fancy. Their website describes it as a “cabin feel”. It’s basically a long building with some wood siding on the outside. The space consists of a long room with an entryway in the middle with another long room on the other side. With nice huge windows overlooking Lake Superior. It’s definitely scenic!! Decor: plain, minimal. But none is needed- the view is stellar.

Service: I’d give this aspect of the dining experience the fewest amount of stars, if we were counting stars around here. The service can only be described as slow. There were a number of other patrons in the restaurant when we were there at 7:00pm, but the place was by no means busy. Understaffed, perhaps? I only saw our one server, and if she was taking care of all the tables, then I could see how some of these less-than-desirable server snafus could have happened. For instance, our dinners arrived at different times. Two of us got served, and then a few minutes later the other entrees were brought to the table. Not ideal, as this leaves two meals to sit there getting cold, or two diners feeling uncomfortable as they eat in front of those who don’t have food yet. When we ordered dessert, the same thing happened. One of us was served dessert, while the others sat there waiting and waiting for ours to come. And the coffee was delayed and not served immediately with the dessert. I had ordered a blackberry iced tea, and received a plain iced tea. It was quite good, so I didn’t complain. My friend, though, had to order her beverage three different times because they were out of the first two things she ordered. A result of us being there the day after a long holiday weekend? Perhaps.

Our server seemed very knowledgeable about the menu. In our group, there was one vegetarian and two gals who aren’t eating dairy, and the server seemed to know specifics about every dish that we inquired about. She made sure to let the chef know which orders had to be dairy free. Basically, she spent a good few minutes conversing with the people in my party about their non-dairy needs. I thought they made it really clear what their needs were. And then back comes the server at dessert time, asking if non-dairy eater #1 would like cream in her coffee and whipped cream with her pie. Hm. Oh yes, and we were also very lucky to have a group of stinky bicycle riders who smelled like they hadn’t bathed in weeks be seated next to us. I’m not saying this is the restaurant’s fault; just saying that the Scenic attracts patrons of all sorts from the shore, all who are looking for, and receive, a great meal.

If you happen to find yourself in the Duluth or North Shore area this summer, I highly, highly recommend the New Scenic Cafe.

pizza on the farm

20 May

Have you ever had one of those experiences where you feel like you are in movie? Like a scene from a romantic comedy or a “chick flick”?

That is exactly how I felt on Tuesday when the Gourmet Dinner Club trekked to Stockholm, WI to have pizza on a farm. This is not just any farm. It’s a very busy one. It’s called the A to Z Produce Farm. They have pigs, cows, wheat and lots of vegetables on this farm.

Once a week, on Tuesdays, they open up the farm to the public and create amazing pizzas in their 2 brick ovens. They use mainly ingredients they source on the farm like pork from their “happy pigs”, wheat they’ve milled, cheese from their cows and various vegetables. Cool, right?

It gets better. The farm itself is gorgeous! The buildings are old, but have been kept up beautifully. The grounds are lush and the views are breathtaking.

Here are a few photos:

Lots of lilacs. These were conveniently next to the bathroom.

I love the color of this building.

There is a catch to the farm. The only thing they provide is the pizza. You need to bring things like: something to sit on, plates, silverware, napkins, beverages, side dishes (if you so desire) and then you need to take everything home with you.

We made a complete picnic experience. Let me break it down for you.

First, the drive. It took about 1 hour and 40  minutes to get there from South Minneapolis. I know – it’s kind of a haul. However, the drive was breathtaking. We drove to Hastings, crossed over into WI, and took the very scenic 35 South to Stockholm.  Next time, I’d like to stop in some of the cute towns along the way.

The farm itself is in the middle of nowhere really. All of a sudden it appears and you can see the cars lined up, kind of like Field of Dreams. We got there at about 6 p.m. It wasn’t overly crowded, but definitely full.

Ready for pizza!

Once you find a picnic spot, you need to go order the pizza. Here’s the menu:

The pizzas are a little more expensive than your average pie. However, your average pie was not made out of ingredients from this farm. When you broke it out per person, it was just fine – in my opinion.

We had about a 30 minute wait, so we decided some appetizers were in order.

Edamame crackers, white cheddar and hummus.

Next, I wanted to check out the ovens!

This woman was crazy busy bustling back and forth between the two ovens. When I asked if I could take a picture, she smiled and said, “As long as I don’t have to stop moving!”.  Each pizza only takes 1 minute in the oven. That is some crazy heat.

Now that I got that out of the way, we could have a toast.

Lee had the fancy cup. Though, I felt we were very green. No plastic or paper at our picnic; only the reusable goods, thanks to Natalie.

Speaking of Natalie, she became our very own pizza delivery gal!

We were very happy to see her.

Pizza #1: Canadian Bacon (from happy pigs) and onion confit:

Pizza #2: Herb pesto with macadamia nuts, roasted sweet peppers, roasted tomatoes and fresh mozzarella:

I brought a salad because I always like a little salad with my pizza.

It's like a rainbow!

Am I the only one that likes salad with my pizza? I’m not sure where I picked that up.

Here’s my first plate….

There may have been a second one just like it later. I cannot confirm or deny that.

We rounded out the meal with a little dessert. Lee made some kick-butt chocolate ginger brownies.

Lee, I’m going to need that recipe, okay?

Amanda brought some watermelon which was a great way to counteract the brownie(s) I ate.

It was such a perfect meal!

In case you’re wondering (we were after the long drive), they do provide bathrooms. They have one conventional bathroom and then they have this guy:

This is not your typical outhouse. It’s a Bran Can!

I did not have the pleasure of using the Bran Can, but apparently it was not at all smelly and one of the cleanest outhouses around. They use the byproduct of the flour produced on the farm to cover the waste and then it is composted for a year and used on non-food crops.  Cool, huh?

Okay, enough about bran can.

The verdict on the pizza?

The pizza was very good. We all really liked it and were very happy eaters. My favorite was the herb pesto version. I’m a sucker for roasted tomatoes.

Now, with that said, it wasn’t the best pizza I’ve ever had. However, it was really good pizza and put that together with the experience, atmosphere, and company it made for an amazing evening.

I would highly recommend heading out to the farm. It’s worth the time, the drive and the price. In fact, I’ve already suggested to Brette that this would be a great trip for my birthday later this summer.  It would be great for a family, a group of friends, a girls night out, or a romantic date.

A to Z Produce

Pizza Hours: 4:30 p.m. – 8 p.m. on Tuesdays

N2956 Anker Lane
Stockholm, WI 54769

(715) 448-4802

restaurant review: sea change

17 May

I am checking things of my 2010 food goal list like crazy!

One of the restaurants on my list is Sea Change, the new (er) Tim McKee spot at the Guthrie Theatre. McKee won the James Beard Award in 2009 for Best Chef in the Midwest. It’s kind of a big deal. At least to food geeks like myself.

Sea Change focuses on sustainable seafood. They work with fisheries that use responsible methods in gathering and farming seafood. I love that we have a restaurant like this in Minneapolis, which doesn’t have the direct access to the ocean as our friends on the coasts. One can only eat so much Minnesota walleye.

We were joined at Sea Change with our friends, Willa and Arnoldo. This is them at the Brasa event a few months ago.

If you can believe it, they are even cuter now.

The Atmosphere:

I loved our surroundings. Loved them! First of all, the Guthrie itself is just a really cool building so it’s no surprise that the restaurant inside is cool looking too. Hip decor, a really funky bar and an open kitchen make it very visually stimulating. What I liked even more was that although there were a lot of people there, I couldn’t hear the conversation at the table next to us and I could hear everyone at my table just fine – no shouting necessary. I get annoyed in busy restaurants where you are jammed in and can’t hear a thing at your own table.  They had the acoustics worked out perfectly.

The Service:

I thought the service was excellent. Our server was very attentive and helpful. He gave some tips on navigating the menu and some wine suggestions, but also gave us plenty of time to decide and of course, chat. I never felt rushed or that he was trying to turn the table over. We were there for about 3 hours. Granted, our reservation was after the show at the Guthrie had started, so the theater crowd had already left.

The Food:

The most important part! Overall, I loved my food. I was very happy with everything I ate and it consisted of things I never make at home which made it such a treat.

Brette and I started with the mussels braised in Grain Belt (beer) with bacon and potato chips. I really enjoyed these and you knew the bacon was there as soon as the dish got to the table. The smokiness hit your nose instantly.

Willa and Arnoldo shared the grilled octopus with salsa verde, spanish peppers, and pimenton. I believe they enjoyed it. I had a bite, but I knew it wasn’t going to be my thing. I have a texture issue with octopus.

We all shared the special, which was grilled razor clams with chimichurri. I was the only one that really liked these. They were very different than regular clams. I found them to be very meaty and delicious.

For my main course I had the ocean trout with spicy lobster sauce, pickled burdock, braised butter lettuce and nori.

Ocean trout is very different than the lake trout we get here in the Midwest. It is more like salmon in color and texture. It is also very tasty! What made this dish for me was the lobster sauce. It had very sizable chunks of melt in your mouth lobster. I’m salivating just thinking about it. It was very difficult not to lift of up the plate and drink the sauce.  I would definitely order this again.

Brette had the mackerel with escarole, pine nuts, saba and radish.

This wasn’t the prettiest dish I have ever seen. The fish is very gray, inside and out. Brette thought it tasted pretty good, but not spectacular. He really liked the pine nuts underneath it though.

Willa ordered the crisp skinned arctic char with white beans and artichoke giardiniera.

She was very happy with this dish, especially the white bean puree. And who doesn’t like crispy skin?

Arnoldo ordered off the “not fish” menu with the lamb tenderloin with merguez, falafel, onion and red pepper yogurt.

This was also a winner, though it was not medium rare as it was supposed to be. It was definitely medium – but still tasty. He definitely won for prettiest plate.

For dessert, Brette and I shared a peanut butter chocolate torte with a blackberry sorbet.

Peanut butter and chocolate is one of my favorite flavor combinations,  so I knew I would like it. By adding the blackberry sorbet, it reminded me of a pb & j sandwich with chocolate. Yes, please.

Arnoldo ordered a goat cheese tart number – I can’t remember the actual title of the dish. Considering the plate was clean at the end, I think he liked it!

Overall, I think we all really enjoyed our experience at Sea Change. I know I would go back in a heart beat. I think it’s a great place to go for a special occasion or a nice night out with some friends.  It’s definitely a good place to go if you’re a fan of great seafood.