Yum, Yum, Dim Sum!

With the end of the school year and spring finally showing its face in the Twin Cities, there seems to be fewer hours in each days and less free time on weekends…but not so much that I have been neglecting my foodie cravings!  So here are our recent ventures, presented in a very particular order 🙂

Borough May be my new favorite spot in the North Loop.  Pricey, but lick-the-plate amazing.   Every dish is daringly and beautifully crafted… we started with a peanutty-cilantro octopus served with daikon and a butternut squash puree.  Both our entrees achieved a similar level of excellence.  My chicken was prepared three different ways and the poached egg nestled in my mashed potatoes was a surprising compliment.  Charlie had a flaky halibut served with giant white Peruvian beans.  Next time: the skate!

Ward 6 So good we went there two weekends in a row!  An excellent non-pho addition to the East Side.  Excellent drinks and a somewhat diverse-but-well-executed menu really make this a do not miss.  It’s tiny and they don’t take reservations, but it’s well worth the wait (which I guarantee you there will be).  Make sure you save room for the made-to-order beignets and a side of ice cream!

Yangtze This was my first dim sum experience (besides the book I read to my students) and it definitely touched my heart.  I can’t tell you what exactly we ordered (Charlie was in charge of that), but every dumpling, bun, and rice paper roll was a happy little explosion in my mouth.  It was a much-needed departure from a typical American brunch.

The Anchor Fish & Chips Tip number 1: Do NOT ask for malt vinegar (this place is Irish).  Tip number 2: Order fish and chips.  #nuffsaid

Mosaic Cafe Great for a casual brunch, lunch, or dinner.  I loved the twists on old favorites like “Banh Mi’tloaf” and tempeh sloppy joes.  Their garlic rosemary fries are baked, not cooked, they use grass-fed beef, and they bring in local brews from Harriet Brewing right across the street 🙂

Szechuan (pronounced sē′chwän′) Charlie was excited to see actual authentic dished on the menu.  Being the expert, he chose ma po tofu, a spicy, salty comfort food of tofu and ground pork.  He was not disappointed, and I, not being the biggest pork fan in the world, couldn’t get enough.  The duck was flavorful, but a bit dry.  We were confused about the less-than-stellar reviews floating around in cyberspace.  Must be people expecting the Americanized chow mein and such!

Erte Had the best black bean burger of my life here.  Charlie dug his jambalaya…I thought it was too tomatoey.  Par for the course for this Northeast hangout.

Masu Sushi & Robata Charlie had heard they had excellent ramen.  While it was more than a few giant steps up from what I ate in college, and the noodles were perfectly cooked (I heard they’re flown in fresh from LA), the stock left me wanting.  I did, however, enjoy the floating poached egg.  And their sushi?  Nowhere as good as Origami’s (We also returned there shortly after just to double check :).

Northbound Smokehouse & Brewpub  Their fish dips app and brews were both pleasant starts to our dining experience.  Everything else was merely palatable–nothing to get excited about.  And at $10 a place for a sandwich and no side, I would much rather go to Buster’s on 28th.

Nacho Mama’s Overpriced, Americanized “Mexican” food.  Portions are way out of control and the server didn’t know how to pronounce “relleno.”  Plus, they charge you $2 if you ask for extra salsa…

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NYC 2013

A rock concert + spring break recently drew me to NYC yet again.  While our stay was brief, we accomplished most of what we set out to do.  Here they are, highs and lows…

Union Square Greenmarket

We chose the most perfectly crisp, sunny day to visit the farmer’s market.  The glorious weather was amplified by hot apple cider, quiche, donuts, sticky cheese, and even a local brew!  I highly recommend it as a non-touristy alternative.  As a bonus, I heard it gets even better as the weather warms up!  Open MWFSa.


Bali Nusa Indah

Located in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, this quaint Indonesian restaurant over-all was very good.  The batagor bandung blew our minds–I have never eaten smaller bites in hopes that my food would last longer!  Their sate ayam was stisfying…I can see this restaurant being a fav take-out place. As an added bonus, they had a very nice Côtes du Rhône to calm my wineitis!


Who doesn’t love a restaurant covered in portraits of their patrons’ dogs?


Tasty homemade muffins and a drink serve as apps in the pre-fixed menu.  We both chose omelets which were coupled with fresh greens and amazing potatoes.  We liked the place so much we came back later in the night for Manhattans and goldfish!


On our bucket list: A slice in the streets of Little Italy.  Check!



One fancy dinner, that’s all we wanted.  Since Kefi was/is temporarily closed, we decided to stay Greek and made reservations at Loi.  A definite low.  The lamb was bland, the lobster chewy,the mussels teeny, and the tomato sauce was paste.  I have never seen so much sediment in a glass of wine.  To make matters worse, the service was also severely deficient.  We had empty drinks, and our server only checked back when our meal was winding down.  My company was the only bright side to this dismal experience!

Regardless, I still adore New York. Deftones rocked and we will be back!


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Cure For the Weekday Woes

While I have been keeping busy on the weekends with weddings, parties, and road trips  I have found I have an excessive amount of free time during the week.  I can only clean and do house projects so much!  So I have been spending lots of time running and cooking.  (Right now it’s WAY too cold to run, so I’m blogging instead 🙂  Together, the two activities have been helping me shape a healthier lifestyle that is also cost-efficient.

While none of my cooking experiences have been complete failures, some have proved tastier than others.  Here are some of my successes…

  • Hummus, arugula, goat cheese and sun-dried tomato quesadillas (cream cheese optional).  Love the strong flavors!
  • Pan-fried cantaloupe and honey served over cottage cheese (safe for my oral allergy syndrome)
  • Spinach-chicken burgers with a lemon, sun-dried tomato aioli (and I don’t even like mayo)
  • Arugula, cherry tomatoes, and goat cheese pasta (add a little garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil for a quick, healthy dinner)
  • Chickpea, sweet potato, and rice stew (great aroma, awesome combination of herbs and spices like coriander and cilantro)
  • Beef stir-fry with fresh ginger and toasted sesame seeds (yes, I actually made beef)
  • Homemade granola bars and oatmeal (the possibilities are endless!)
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YumPower and Other Healthy Holiday Habits

YumPower is HealthPartners’ campaign to eat *reasonably this holiday season.  I loved the idea, so here’s how I have been practicing my YumPower…

1) Exercise prior to the big meal.  Not only will you feel less like binging, but recent research also shows that it can reduce the effects of eating fatty foods on blood vessel function.

2) Don’t starve yourself before the big meal–it usually just leads to over-eating.  Snack lightly prior to and pace yourself during!  Listen to your body.  When you’re full, stop.  You’ll enjoy the experience just as much, if you not more.  I promise 🙂

3) Water.  After oxygen, of what do we need more?

4) Portion size.  A few Thanksgivings ago, I devoured a plate FULL of mashed potatoes and paid the price.  A small sampling of all your favorites is guaranteed to satisfy both your taste buds and belly.

5) Fruit and veggies.  You know they’re good for you, so why pass them by?  #noexcuses

6) Volunteer to bring your own dish.  That way when barf-a-que chicken and beef chili sans any vegetables are the only things on the menu, you’ll have  a go-to option.

Warning: Practicing too much YumPower has been prove to lead to late-night pizza, therefore negating all preciously enacted Powers.

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Bad Customer Service Or Inappropriate Customer Service?

Last night I went to Chino Latino with a group of friends.  At the end of the meal, our server brought us one bill (without asking how we wanted it split up) and we asked him to apply the cash and then split the rest between the cards.  As he was handing us the cards back, he noted, “Just so you know, if you all put $13 as a tip, that would be 20%.  I’m sorry, but this is my livelihood.  It’s how I make a living.”

We all left feeling slightly stunned and insulted.  Of course we would have tipped him correctly!  So now I’m left to ponder…what this bad customer service or culturally inappropriate customer service?

Initial response: Bad.  As a former server, I would never have had the balls to say such a thing.

As a Midwesterner/MN Nice-er: Inappropriate.  Everyone knows passive aggressiveness is part of our cultural identity!  He was perhaps a little too direct for our level of comfort.

But perhaps our reaction comes through the culture of our age: MAYBE we’re just too old to hang out in uptown and just don’t know how to be culturally responsive to hipsters…

Even though I joke, I have to give a shout-out to Dr. Sharroky Hollie for the awesome training he did in our district!  I hope this doesn’t make me a Twister…

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Food, Food, And More Food

The holidays are upon us, and with them, massive consumption of food.  So I thought it only appropriate to share some of what the best (and the sub-par) of that the Twin Cities has to offer.

Most Tantalizing

Northeast Social Club (American Bistro): Not for the the supertaster. Apps include frog legs, quail, and calamari.  Be sure to seriously consider the specials, or try the Amish chicken (with ricotta dumplings-yum!) off the regular menu.  If you’re there on a “fish and chips” night, do not pass it up.  Lightly-dusted (the redundancy is necessary) fresh cod served over roasted red potatoes…this is how fish and chips should be done!

Gorkha Palace (Nepali/Indian/Tibetan): Best lamb I’ve had since Europe!. Try the Chicken Tikka Masala (ask if you can sub lamb) and don’t forget to order a side of naan.  Make sure you have reservations! If you do need to soak up some time Bulldog sits just around the corner 🙂

Origami (Japanese): Boasts the title ‘Best Sushi in the Twin Cities.  Agreed.  If you’re in the mood for sashimi, try the Alaskan Salmon (deliciously gamey and lean).

Chiang Mai Thai (Thai): Was an fine choice for restaurant week.  Had ‘Cat On Fire’ (a spicy catfish dish) that was even better as left-overs.


Butcher & The Boar (American): Like meat?  Eat here.  Choose from rabbit, head cheese, antelope, and rabbit.  And, of course, wild boar.  The highlight of the dinner was, for me, the fried green tomatoes.  If I return, I will be making my selection off the waters menu.

Quangs (Vietnamese): I had heard the best pho in the Twin Cities was to be found here.  I have had better at multiple restaurants in the Frogtown area, as well as at my local fav, Vietnam Star/Zen Asia.

Most Over-Rated

Figlio (Italian): At first I confused the restaurant with the once-was St. Paul Fima.  The whole experience was  a complete bust.  Out of 6 meals, 0 were anything more than low-average.

Babani (Kurdish): After my initial enamoration, I was let down by Babani.  Good for a one-time experience at best.  Still cool that it’s BYOB…it balances out the over-priced entrees!

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For The Love of Dogs

Starring Baxter, Sunny, and Roxy!

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