Things to do on a beautiful day in the Twin Cities


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Today is going to be one of those days. It is a day that most of us have been waiting for, for months. It is supposed to hit 70 degrees today!

Stop what you are doing and take a second to think about how you want to spend today.

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” -Eleanor Roosevelt

My suggestion is do something that you have never done. Explore some place you have never been to before. Try a food that you have never tried before.  Why? Because it might just put a smile on your face.

Here are a few things you could try:

- Pick up a picnic at a co-op, Maybe one that you haven’t been to before. I am a huge fan of Seward Co-op because they have many grab and go items.  Then head to a park that you haven’t been to before.

-Stop at a library and pick up a book that you have been meaning to read. Or ask the librarian for a suggestion. Take that book to a small coffee shop like Rustica.

-Cut out of work at lunch and take a day trip to Red Wing or Stillwater. Buy something for yourself.

-Head to the Walker Sculpture Garden and snap a few pictures. Then go to Gather and try out some of the items from chef Tyler Shipton from Borough.

-Go for a walk around Loring Park and stop by Brits Pub for a hard cider.

-Enjoy a meal outdoors on a patio or rooftop. Spill the Wine and Moto-i will have their outdoor sections open today! When you are there try something that you never have tried before such as a wine flight or a new kind of sake.

-Jump on the light rail and go exploring. Seriously, it can be a ton of fun.

because sometimes you just need to switch things up and disrupt your day to day routine.

@mplsgossipgirl

What adventure are you going to go on today?

So, you waited until the last minute to plan Valentine’s Day in the Twin Cities?


Valentine's Day, Twin Cities, Last Minute

Hey, it happens. I’ve been there.

Don’t fret because I have some ideas of how to wow your Valentine on Valentine’s Day. Which you must have just found out it was today.

My best suggestion is to quickly at least handwrite a card and go to the grocery and pick up dinner to make.

But, here are some other ideas too.

If you like to do things in epic proportions: 

Tell your partner to wear comfy clothes. Then head out to the Mall of America! Spend the night riding the rides and eating food at one of the local establishments. You could even go shopping for a gift while you are there. You will get 10 bonus points for creativity. Just remember to keep up the enthusiasm and pretend that you’ve had this plan for months.

If you will be watching House of Cards tonight on Netflix but you still want to impress your Valentine:

Go to a place that can help you with the meal like Surdyks. They will be able to point you in the correct direction.  You can make a cheese plate and a meal that is fancy with some help from your friends. Then, stop by Patina and pick up a gift.

If your Valentine thinks you are going out to dinner and that you already made reservations but, you didn’t:

Tell them that you heard of this really cool restaurant. But, they don’t take reservations. There are several places that don’t take reservations like The Sample Room, Brasa, or World Street Kitchen.

Play it cool like you had this plan all along. And buy a gift that can be used while you are waiting for a table or food.

If you want to have fun on Valentine’s Day and your Valentine is cool with having a relaxed night:

Go to a dive bar. Or a bar. They tend to not be very busy on Valentine’s Day because people go out to fancy restaurants.

You better have an awesome gift. Just sayin’….

If your single:

Order Toppers taco pizza and watch House of Cards. (Hey, it sounds like a great night to me.)

OR

Go to this event and support Secondhand Hounds with other singles. More information HERE.

Tonight, I will be eating a homemade dinner and binge watching House of Cards because nothing says love like that does.

Because it doesn’t matter what you do, it just matters that you make the person feel special.

@mplsgossipgirl

Add in your ideas. What are you doing for Valentine’s Day?

Why Groupon needs to go away


Groupon

I am the first one to admit that I was on the Groupon bandwagon. I loved the idea of getting something for a fraction of the cost.

At first, Groupon was that place where you could find out about something you had never heard about before. In fact, my first purchase on Groupon was a wine tasting. I was extremely excited that I would be the type of person that would go to a wine tasting and that I was the first of my friends to do something like this.

The funny part of all of this was that I never ended up using the Groupon.

I think I liked the idea of it more than actually using it.

But, now I have fallen off the bandwagon. After Groupon started sending daily emails with promotions I would never be interested in, learning about how they treat the businesses that use it, and the restrictions, I wish that Groupon would just go away.

Before Groupon would send one deal a day. Today I receive 3 emails and one was for electronic cigarettes. I don’t smoke. There is nothing novel about the deals that they have and they are not very local any longer.

Why aren’t they local? Because the businesses that have used the service usually end up worse off than they were before. I was told by a business owner that they made only about 25%. So, if it was a coupon for a restaurant worth $40 that you buy for $20 the restaurant only makes $10.

This makes places have to put restrictions on the deals. Cannot be used on happy hour, drinks, tips, or they can only be used for specific items.

Then things like this happen…

I was out to dinner on a Friday night when a group of people who were seated by me attempted to use a Groupon. This Groupon was actually for the restaurant that used to be in the place of this restaurant that closed but, this restaurant said it would accept the coupon anyway because they didn’t want the people to be out of their money.

The only problem was that these people ordered off the happy hour menu.

Does anyone really think that you should be able to use a Groupon on top of really great happy hour prices?

What proceeds to happen was the customers throws a fit. It was an epic fit that basically ruined the meals of everyone around them.  This is exactly why restrictions on coupons hurt the businesses that use them.

People don’t read the restrictions and then blame the businesses.

The staff at the restaurant handled it in the best way possible. Apologizing about the mix up but standing firm that they would not accept the coupon because of the restriction. The fit went on for about 20 more minutes where the customers continued to try and argue with the staff member to get them to back down. All the while yelling about how they would never come back here, that they were going to give them horrible reviews, and tell everyone they know never to come here.

I wished so deeply in my heart that the staff member could say, ” yeah, we think it would be best if you never come back here again too.”

I also hope they are reading this and realize how they were completely inappropriate.

All of us who want to eat great food and are willing to pay for it want coupons with restrictions to go away for good. Or I beg of you, if you are going to use a coupon of any kind don’t argue about the restrictions.

because Groupons just need to go away.

@mplsgossipgirl

What do you think? Do you use Groupon’s frequently and want them to stay? If you want them to go, why?

Smack Shack- Why I love this place


Smack Shack

Isn’t it great that there is a place out there that doesn’t apologize for what it is? Smack Shack does lobster.

Smack Shack Lobster

They do lobster because it started as a food truck that sold lobster rolls. But, also because they built a custom tank to hold the lobsters. They also have a huge boiling pot where they cook the lobster. Basically, the whole restaurant is built around the lobster. They unapologetically do lobster well.

So, what should you order when you go here. I don’t know… maybe lobster.

Smack Shack Lobster Roll

I tried the lobster roll and loved it. As someone who tends to be not the largest fan of lobster, this sandwich just made me happy. The lobster was cooked perfectly and did not have that weird taste that I sometimes get from lobster that has been waiting around awhile to be cooked. It was just very fresh tasting and tastes great with beer.

It was kind of hard to eat, so maybe not a good first date meal. Honestly, I was just munching down on it without caring what people thought of me. So, there’s that.

Smack Shack Shrimp and Grits

I also tried the shrimp and grits. It was pretty good but I wanted the grits to be a little bit more creamy.  But, the shrimp was cooked well and I don’t have anything bad to say about it. Only that there are a few other things that after watching people order them, I really wanted to try.

Next time I come in I want to try a soup. Someone eating around me was raving about the soup they were eating. I also want to try the fried chicken and waffles. Not something I normally would get from a restaurant but the couple next to me was splitting it and I was extremely jealous.

I should also note that valet parking was only $5 and that made it easy to come and go. Also, make reservations. I was there on a Tuesday which is usually not a busy day at a restaurant. It was completely packed.

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There is just something great about places like the Smack Shack. They do lobster and they do it really well. They created this crave-able item that will be something that when I think about eating it, I will head directly over to the Smack Shack because they do it best.

because do something and do it well.

@mplsgossipgirl

Congratulations to Smack Shack for reaching their 1 year Anniversary! They are having a party tonight 2/10/14 starting at 4PM. 4-6PM they will have complementary hors d’oeuvres and mini daiquiris in the bar plus music all night.

Smack Shack on Urbanspoon

Punch Pizza on Grand Avenue in Saint Paul


Pizza, Punch Pizza,

What is better than a warm pizza on a cold day?

This was my first ever trip to Punch and I was not disappointed. Not only did it hit the spot but it was affordable as well.

On a side note, Punch Pizza set its own minimum wage at $10 an hour to provide staff with a higher wage to help gain loyal employees and keep them around. Kudos to local restaurants that are paying their employees well.

Punch Pizza, Flames, Punch

As someone who is a fan of  neapolitan pizza I had a feeling that I would love Punch since they cook each of their pizzas in an 800 degree oven. I was right, the perfect chewy dough was just what I love about neapolitan pizza.

I had the basic margarita pizza which was very tasty. It is a simple but elegant pizza and the quality ingredients that are used make it stand out. I would order this again any day. But, it also made me want to try one of the more adventerous combinations.

Salad, Punch, Punch Pizza

They also have salads which I would recommend. I had the italian chopped salad which was very fresh and complemented the pizza well. I cannot wait to try the other salads. Sometimes at pizza restaurants salads are an afterthought. I think that the Punch salads could stand on their own. Although, I don’t think I would be able to go in there and not order a pizza too.

As mentioned above it was very affordable. My lunch bill for two people came to only about 20 dollars. I felt like I had a very high quality meal that I would have expected would cost much more than that.

My suggestion is to get a pizza and a salad to share. Don’t forget a local brew or glass of wine. If you are still hungry, order another.

because pizza warms the heart.

@mplsgossipgirl

Punch Neapolitan Pizza on Urbanspoon

What are your favorite pizza places in the Twin Cities? What is your favorite item on the Punch menu?

10 Reasons Why -22 Degrees is Not That Cold When You Are a True Minnesotan


Winter, Minnesotan, True Minnesotan, Cold

It’s cold out there today. Really cold. Like -22 degrees and it feels like -45 with the windchill.

If you are a true Minnesotan you go outside and think, Oh, this really isn’t that bad. It’s cold, but it could be worse.

There are a few reasons why we stay here when it is this cold outside.  We are smart enough to figure out how to keep warm in this polar vortex.

10 Reasons Why -22 Degrees is Not That Cold When You Are a True Minnesotan:

1. You own all the proper winter weather gear. This may include a parka, mukluks, a hat with ear flaps, and proper mittens. You don’ t care what you look like because at least you are warm.

2. You own at least 3 pairs of long underwear. Yes, you may look a little bit puffy today at work but your bum is nice and toasty.

3. You have a space heater at your desk. Did your feet get cold on your way into work? That is not a problem because when you get to work you can put them right in front of your space heater.

4. Almost everyone knows how to jump a car or knows someone who can jump their car and can do it in 2 minutes. We carry around the tools to get our cars started no matter where we are because it is the smart thing to do.

5. We all own at least 40 blankets. One of them is heated so that if it gets really cold we can plug it in and be nice and toasty when we sleep.

6. If you have something warm to drink it makes you think that you are really warm. We all have supplies of hot cocoa, tea, and coffee to make when it gets frigid. Your mom also used to put in those little marshmallows when you were younger.

7. When there are days like this we have a supply of movies, games, and indoor activities that keep us occupied for many hours. Plus, we may even get to sleep in.

8. We all know alternative (less safe) ways to heat our homes by using space heaters, cooking something in your oven, and lighting candles. You usually end up with a hot dish or a pot roast, it’s a win/win.

9. It gives us an excuse to cuddle up with those people you love. Body heat helps.

10. We know it’s not THAT cold because it could always be worse. It could be -40 degrees and it feels like -70 and it snowed 3 feet overnight and then it sleeted for that very brief warm up. IT CAN ALWAYS BE WORSE.

Lets be honest, we love it here in Minnesota, even when it is colder than Antarctica which is only at -11 degrees today.  We stay because of the people, the culture, the food, the community, and because summer is amazing here.

because I am a true Minnesotan

@mplsgossipgirl

How do you stay warm on days like this? What do I need to add to my list?

Isles Bun and Coffee


Isle Bun 1

Tucked into a small spot in Uptown, Isles Bun is one of my favorite places to grab a bite for breakfast.

They have the most delicious buns! You cannot go wrong with any of their variations. And don’t forget the cream cheese frosting that they keep on the counter.

Isle Bun 2

For what they lack in space, they make up for with how wonderful everything is. Even the coffee is excellent. If you are coming there on a weekend in the winter be prepared to take your bun to-go since space is so limited. During the summer they have outdoor seating.

If you want to be a hit at your next company breakfast, order buns from Isles. They have an order form on their website and you will be everyones favorite co-worker.

Because on a weekend, a sweet bun and a coffee can relax even the most stressed out person.

@mplsgossipgirl

Isles Bun & Coffee on Urbanspoon

It’s a Pre Fixe NYE


Happy New Year, Pre Fixe, Menu

Okay, don’t take this the wrong way. But, I am having a very hard time finding a place to eat dinner with a few friends on New Years Eve without a pre fixe menu. It is making me a little annoyed.

A pre fixe menu is a set meal with a set price. They usually are many courses and sometimes come with wine pairings. You normally see pre fixe menus at restaurants like La Belle Vie and restaurants that do farm to table.

I love a good pre fixe menu when it makes sense. Although, I don’t have a ton of cash this year to spend on a luxury dinner out for NYE. So, doing a pre fixe menu would be a stretch.

These are my ‘must haves’ for NYE:

  • A place where I can have a tasty meal.
  • A cocktail.
  • It doesn’t need to be fancy.
  • Quiet enough that I can have a conversation with my friends.
  • It fits in my budget.

Since I am on a budget, I cannot afford a $40 per person meal plus the cost drinks and a tip.  That turns very quickly into a $200 dinner with two people.

I am not a hater of pre fixe menus. When pre fixe menus work, they work. It works at restaurants that are used to pre fixe menus or are farm-to-table when they don’t know what ingredients they will have for the day until the farmer shows up. For example: I went to Saffron and had a pre fixe there and it was excellent. All the components fit perfectly together, it was just enough food, and I didn’t feel like I was being ripped off.

Saffron is doing a pre fixe menu for NYE at the restaurant and they are also hosting a last dinner meal with 6 courses and a location that you will find out 3 hours before the event. If that is not exciting I don’t know what is. Although, a bit unaffordable on my budget at $180 per person with wine parings, tax, and tip included.

My twitter follower @mspclothing suggested Piccolo  for a place with a good pre fixe menu.  I haven’t been to Piccolo yet, but it would make sense that would be great. Also, Veronica (@Andrjensn) suggested Restaurant Alma. Another good pick for pre fixe menus.

Now, my only annoyance with the pre fixe menu is when it doesn’t make sense. I can spot a restaurant trying to either save cash or turn over diners quickly from a mile away.

Is this what dining out on NYE has come to in Minneapolis? I hope not.

When I see restaurants with pre fixe menus that are priced way above what their normal priced menu item is–it does not make sense to me. You are loved for what you do day to day. Why not keep a good thing going? Maybe, add a special to your normal menu.

I completely understand that NYE is a big day in the restaurant business. But,  I don’t think the solution is an overpriced, not well thought out, and a quickly served pre fixe menu. If I am looking to eat at a place that fits my ‘must haves’ someone else must feel this way too.

Once place that reached out to me was The Butcher and The Boar. They will have their regular menu available for NYE. This would be a wonderful atmosphere to spend NYE with  friends.

Because it’s a New Year!

@mplsgossipgirl

Where do you think I should go on NYE? Do you know of a restaurant that has a great pre fixe menu? Or one that is affordable? Also, what places are your favorite for NYE?

UPDATE: Blackbird has a few specials but also will be serving their normal menu. Thanks @Andrjensn!

The Wizard of Oz- The Ordway


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I love going to The Ordway during the holiday season. There is just something about Rice Park covered in snow and the lights shining in all the trees that gets me into the holiday spirit.

Plus, the show that they choose is always a fantastic family show. This year was no different, they choose The Wizard of Oz starring Danielle Wade who won a Canadian reality show contest for the role of Dorothy.

Her performance was outstanding. What made this version of The Wizard of Oz entertaining was the voices of the cast members, they could really belt a tune. Plus, the video that was embedded in the performance.

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The video technology made the tornado scene very real. You may want to have a conversation about this with your children before you go to the show because otherwise it may scare them. Although, it did not really seem to upset any of the children who were sitting by me.

I think the show would be a great family outing. It is important to expose children to the theater early so they learn to love it for the rest of their lives. The Wizard of Oz runs until December 29th.

because there is no place like home.

@mplsgossipgirl

Disclosure: I am an Ordway Blogger and received free tickets to the show. All opinions are my own. I choose to be an Ordway blogger because I believe theater is very important and I love that we have such a wonderful theater community here in the Twin Cities.

Vote LoLa


VoteLoLa.com

As a supporter of local business, I had to tell you what is going on in Wrenshall, MN. A business called the Locally Laid Egg Company is one of four small businesses in a contest with intuit to win an ad during the big game.

The only thing you need to do to support them is visit VoteLoLa.com and click the vote button everyday until December 1st. Thank goodness, finally a contest where you don’t have to like anything, give any information, or sell your soul to help someone out.

I think you should support LoLa because they are local, sustainable, and they have a really awesome product. You may have had LoLa eggs if you have eaten at Duluth Grill, GastroTruck, or Surdyk’s Flights. You can find a full list HERE. Many of the local Coops sell the eggs too. If you have eaten the eggs at any of these places or in your own home you know how delicious they are. There is a different taste to eggs that are local and come from happy birds.

The Amundsen family wants to win to get people talking about different kinds of agriculture and encourage others to get into farming. Jason Admundsen started Locally Laid after his second layoff from a non-profit grant writing job and has invested everything into this business. You can tell just by looking at the Locally Laid website and blog that they truly care about what they are doing and want to do as much as they can to give back, including planting a tree for every delivery.

So, tell your friends, tell your family, tell your co-workers, and tell the person sitting next to you on the bus to VoteLoLa. It is even mobile optimized.

VoteLoLa.com

because happy chickens make yummy eggs

@mplsgossipgirl

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