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Things to do on a beautiful day in the Twin Cities


Quote

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?

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.

unnamed-2

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?

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!

Figlio: West End


Figilo Menu

This was quite possibly the worst happy hour food I have had in awhile. I was wondering why Rojo in the West End was packed while Figlio was mostly empty.

Now, I understand.

This place will not be open for much longer unless the food standards change dramatically.

Firstly, let me start out by saying that the space is beautiful. There is a large dining room and a nice bar area. Secondly, the service was great. They went out of their way to make sure that the guests were happy.

The only thing missing is good food.

The biggest disappointment of the night was the flatbread. I remember back when Figlio was in Uptown the flat bread and pizzas were all handmade with real dough and then cooked in a brick oven. You know having an open kitchen where you make the flat breads only goes well for you when you actually make the flat bread. Watching the ‘chef’ take out a pre-made hard flatbread out of a plastic package sealed it for me. Not to mention how the toppings were handled. Yuck.

Figilo Sliders

Big mistake ordering the porchetta bruschetta and sliders. Same thing different bread. Both not great flavor wise.

Figilo Fries

The only two things that I liked were the fries and wings. Holy moly,  the fries are great. Perfectly cooked and great with the béarnaise sauce. The wings were seasoned very well but I would have liked to have different sauce with it. The mustard and BBQ sauce did not do it for me. It was weird that I liked those things the best and neither of them were Italian which is most of the menu at Figlio.

Figilo Wings

My suggestions are to make your own dough and make quality flat bread and to take one or both of the Porchetta items off your happy hour menu. Make a new dish. Go back to basics and serve high quality real food even for happy hour. There are so many people like me rooting for Figilo from Uptown to be reborn. This is not quite it.

because pre-made is unacceptable

@mplsgossipgirl

Figlio on Urbanspoon

What was your experience here? Should I give it another try?

A Foodie Halloween – Acqua Forest Lake


Halloween Acqua

So, I am not sure what you are doing on Halloween but this sounds like a lot of fun. Acqua in Forest Lake is having a ‘night of the living fed’ dinner party.

Acqua just opened its second location in Forest Lake. You may remember the original location that is on White Bear Lake near Tally’s. I haven’t been to Forest Lake yet, but the food in White Bear Lake is amazing.  I had a honeydew gazpacho there once that made me look at gazpacho in a new light.

This Halloween party is limited to 200 guests and costs $100. This includes a five course dinner, drinks, a costume contest and raffle prizes.The dinner includes a cocktail hour with passed hors d’oeuvres, salad with fried pork belly, roasted butternut squash soup, scallops, beef tenderloin and pumpkin tiramisu.  Drinks include, wine, beer, and select cocktails.

It sounds really great but I hope they know how to serve 200 people at one time. I think that will be quite the challenge. This is their first time trying an event like this, so it will be interesting to find out how it goes. If it goes well, this would be a great event to have each year.

They are giving out some big prizes. The prizes for the costume contest are $1,000 gift card, $250 dollar gift card, and a $100 gift card. It would be a great way to treat your family to a wonderful meal. Also, they are not stopping there, they are also giving out two raffle prizes, one is a dinner for ten including wine pairings prepared at your home. The other is a limo, wine tasting, and dinner for eight at one of the restaurants. Plus, chances are good since they limited the dinner to 200 people.

You can sign up to receive weekly emails from Acqua that tells you about the specials and events like this one on their website.

If you want to attend you can call Acqua Forest Lake at: 651-464-6130.

because it is better than eating all of that candy.

@mplsgossipgirl

Don’t worry, I am not affiliated with Acqua in any way. I got an email from them and I thought I would share this fun event with people who love food.

Umami Takeout


Umami

This is not your normal takeout. This this some seriously good food.

I was excited to hear that the pop up restaurant Umami would be doing takeout since I was unable to get a reservation these first few weeks. I do like this process of making a reservation online beforehand and just showing up for your dinner already pre-paid. This makes it easy and plans a date/get-together ahead of time.

Umami by Travail

The chefs from Travail clearly are loved because getting a seat was extremely hard these first couple of weeks. But, good news!  They just signed a year long lease thanks to their large Kick Starter fund.  I am hoping to get to eat in the restaurant soon, but loved that I was still able to try some of the food via takeout.

I ordered everything on the takeout menu and it was only $25. It was definitely enough for 2 people.

Umami Takeout

My favorite item was the Bun. I could eat them everyday for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It is that light fluffy pillow looking like thing on the left bottom of the picture above. Another favorite was the ramen. They will have this takeout menu until October 19th, then will move to their Dim Sum concept after that.

I can’t wait to see what the chefs will come up with next. I love that they are bringing some love and energy to North Minneapolis with their unique approach to food.

because you really need to give it a try!

@mplsgossipgirl

Umami by Travail on Urbanspoon

Cheeky Monkey Fall Soups


Cheeky Monkey

I have been to the Cheeky Monkey twice in the last two weeks. I cannot stop myself.

There are two reason why I keep coming back:

1. fresh food

2. relaxed atmosphere

Cheeky Monkey Potato and Leek

The Cheeky Monkey has a daily dinner special and two daily soups. These Fall soups are exactly what I was looking for on a chilly day. On my first visit I had a potato and leek soup that was creamy and earthy enough.

Cheeky Monkey Salad

I paired the soup with a fresh perfectly dressed salad. One of my normal complaints is that restaurants over dress their salads. This one was flavorful but not dripping in the dressing which made the nuts and cheese hold up.

Cheeky Monkey Chorizo Soup

On my next visit I ordered a chorizo and white bean soup which was equally as good. They know how to build the flavors with these soups by adding in ingredients like kale and green onions.

Cheeky Monkey Watermelon Salad

With this soup I had a watermelon salad which was a summer dish and did not really go with the soup but still very good and exactly what I felt like eating. They also had the Surly Fest on tap which is the Octoberfest style of beer from surly.

Cheeky Monkey inside

because it is time to fall in love with Fall.

@mplsgossipgirl

Minnesota Cheese Festival 2013


Minnesota Cheese Festival, MNCheesefest, cheese

Get your tickets for the Minnesota Cheese Festival that is going on this weekend at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.

On both Saturday and Sunday there will be two sessions, one from 10-1 and another from 2-5 in order to keep crowds small and give you an opportunity to interact directly with the Cheesemakers.

During the event you will be able to sample the best cheeses from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa. You can also attend demonstrations, seminars, and buy cheese from local Cheesemakers directly.

Redhead Creamery that I mentioned in my post yesterday about neat Minnesota Kickstarter Projects will  be there. A few of my other favorite Cheesemakers such as the Caves of Faribault, Ellsworth Creamery, Shepard’s Way Farm, and Singing Hills Goat Dairy will also be there.

Support the Redhead Creamery project : http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/redhead/redhead-creamerys-cheese-needs-to-come-home?ref=home_location

You can get tickets: HERE

because I am not vegan anymore.

@mplsgossipgirl

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