1st- coffee bean cafe, shakopee
5th- the lexington, st. paul
10th-12th- iowa food, coralville/iowa city, ia
14th- crave, edina
19th- dino's gyros, edina
22nd- stella's fish cafe and prestige oyster bar, minneapolis
28th- vincent a restaurant, minneapolis
31st- minnesota state fair, st. paul environs, jasmine orchid, minneapolis
1st- coffee bean cafe, shakopee (b+)
a very quick chicken salad sandwich to go, with a slice of watermelon and a bag of chips. the watermelon was ripe, which was nice. the chicken salad was quite tasty, on whole wheat bread with lettuce, tomato, and red onion, but there were sandwich integrity issues... the bread was a very soft bread. it came with a few mints, which was nice, but i do wonder where the pickle went... it's supposed to have a pickle. a pretty decent lunch.
5th- the lexington, st. paul (c-)
i was here for a family function, so it was a limited menu. rolls (nice and warm, though they didn't taste like much), then a choice of four meals. i, not surprisingly, chose the worst of the lot- the lexington salad. basically a ceaser, with grilled chicken on top. the chicken was overdone, the salad was overdressed, and they didn't cut the cherry tomatoes in half (or the chicken breast in small enough pieces) to make eating it easy. nor did they take the tops off all the tomatoes, for that matter. blah.
mrs. brk went with the chicken pot pie, with a tasty popover crust. beverage service started out superb, and trailed off. a server also stepped on my foot, but at least they apologized. (apparently i am sneaky when i walk or some such). i got a peak at the menu... wow, were these things overpriced. the salad was $14 or so, and the pot pie $13. it's all very dark wood, old-school (emphasis on the old).
8th- masa, minneapolis (b-)
if you've been putting off coming to this d'amico empire offshot, i'd say a happy hour may be a good way to go. the prices on many of the spendier-side drink menu is half-off, for one. food prices are quite reasonable, though as with happy hour tradition, kind of limited. i'd recommend the mango margarita. at $4.50 or so, it was a good deal, but the $9-ish regular price seems a bit on the high side. sides are mostly under $2.50.
i went with a few fish tacos. they're smallish, and had some integrity issues, so they were mostly fork fodder, unlike your usual tacos. they weren't bad, but for what was supposed to be on the taco, including cilantro, it wasn't a big flavor explosion. very mild. the tacos are $1.50 per taco, and you can mix and match flavors.
the guac you get there comes in a huge portion, and it's also very mellow (not garlicky, or anything, maybe a bit of an onion bite). it was supposed to come with veg, so we got maybe two sliced radishes, and some not-very well cleaned cauliflower with it (a few pieces had rotting bits), odd choices. for that matter,
the hibiscus iced tea was mostly tea, as to be expected. hell, maybe the ragweed in the air killed my tastebuds (i'm on more allergy meds than usual). good, not great. maybe it's just me, here. 'cause the quesadilla with shrimp someone said was spicy was just flavorful to me. i don't know.
water service was good, but as the place filled up they could've used another server in the bar. the place is very bright and airy, with very interesting light fixtures. they had some pretty random tunes going (in a good way). the restrooms are quite nice, and the women's room has one of the coolest sinks... i'd go again for happy hour, but in general i'd say the menu prices don't thrill me, so i'd hold off dining here.
10th-12th- iowa food, coralville/iowa city, ia
blow into coralville around 4:30 pm-ish. wonder why you get tired when all you're doing is driving... especially with cruise control... anyway, since i was wiped, i decided after getting situated, i wouldn't go out to a 'real' restaurant, 'cause that seemed too exhausting. i went to the pioneer co-op, the whole foods of the greater iowa city area. they're supposed to have some great sandwiches there. i ask the counter person the best things on the list. they check my preferences (vegan, meat eater, vegetarian, etc.) and list a few things.
i opt for the chicken philly they recommend, and shop around for breakfast things when my sandwich is being made. when it's up, i take it to the small eating area. the sandwich has large bread, but it's not very full of cheese, veg, or meat. it's kind of skimpy, and a bit underseasoned. disappointing. though the pumpkin walnut bar i bring to the hotel is ok, it needs more pumpkin pie spice, and pumpkin flavor. (ok, and cream cheese frosting, but hey.... ). (c)
at the co-op, i picked up stuff for breakfast- dark sweet cherry jam from an iowa farm, a bit of rich cheese (oh, curse you lack of memory)... that was french and very buttery, though not brie or st. andre, and a croissant. i kept the cheese in the ice bucket, which works pretty well, keeping it cold most of the night, and by the time the ice has melted it's time to eat it when it's a bit soft. the croissant was middle of the road, but the cheese was tasty, and the jam was so good i decided to keep the jar i was going to give to my co-workers to myself.
lunch was going to be at the iowa river power company, but they're not open for saturday lunch. i did have an opportunity to eat at a corn fest, but it was a bit on the early side for lunch, for one.
anyway, i end up at the pita pit, craving something not good for me, with a side of fries. like dino's swiss and mushroom, really. but it turns out the pita pit is on the healthy side of things... who knew? i get a whole wheat pita with grilled chicken breast, tons of veg, tzatziki and a hit of 'special sauce' (a.k.a. vinagrette, kicked up, more or less). kind of like roly poly, only different. (b)
since i had a gift card, i stop at starbucks for a dulce de leche frapuccino. those things are wicked good, especially with the whipped cream on top. though yes, i know they're a chain and the beverages are hideously spendy. (a)
the wedding dinner is catered was catered by devotay, one of the restaurants on my list of possibilities. they're a tapas bar, and i'd recommend stopping by if you're in iowa city.
for appitizers, there was a selection of various spreads (pesto, skordalia, hummus, etc.), breads (pita, crositini, etc.), spiced jordan almonds (well, we think they were jordan almonds), a selection of fruit, and some lovely cheeses (most notably a blue and what we think was a truffled brie, but hey, i'd like to taste more to find out, no?), and some wraps.
dinner expanded the selection to include a pasta dish, a green salad, grilled asparagus with aioli, a caprese salad (very tasty, that), more bread, grilled chicken skewers. there was wedding cake, of course, too. i had the white cake with strawberry filling and yellow buttercream (i think) frosting. tasty. the only thing i could've wished for more is some ice cream (it was very hot), but instead consumed cherry lemonade (i had the bartenders do shots of cherry syrup in it) and water by the ton. the staff held the food up surprisingly well in the heat.
if i'm every in iowa city again, i'd try it for dinner. (a)
i just had breakfast in my room today- some cheese oat cakes i picked up at pioneer co-op and the rest of the jam. kind of boring, no? for lunch, it was back to starbucks (on the road someplace) to rid myself of more gift cardage. the chicken salad sandwich i got was humdrum, though once again, love the dulce de leche frapuccino. (c for the sandwich, a for the beverage.)
14th- crave, edina (b)
i guess the name implied to me that the food would be... cravable. but not so much. it's an american 'fresh' type of place (as far as i can tell from their menu), with an emphasis on that most american of dishes... sushi. why sushi? i don't know.
the placed used to be sidney's in the galleria, and i was there exactly once, many years ago, ordered a pizza. the plate it came on had rather a large smear of grape jelly (i hope it was, anyway, didn't want to contemplate anything else, really) on it. it was not an ingredient of the pizza. i never went back.
i ordered a pizza here. i did check the plate first. no jelly. it was a brie and portobello pizza. it had fennel on it. why fennel, i don't know. texture? anyway, the fennel was crunchy, sure, but the flavor wasn't improved by it. the whole thing was bland. carmelized onions would've been good. or red pepper flakes. sea salt. there were a few almost-burned mushroom bits scattered here and there. not something i would order again for the price ($11.50).
mrs. brk went with the sirloin burger with cheddar and carmelized onions. she reported it as quite good. the root veg chips that came with it were very tasty and addictive when hot. they seem to be made in-house. her burger cost less than my pizza ($10.95).
we had an app, too. grilled pita with three spreads. this was the best part of the meal (though the hot fresh bread with butter were nice). it was a house-made tapanade (nicely salty), a quite decent organic hummus, and a bulb roasted garlic that was also good on the bread and went well on top of the other spreads, especially with a bit of butter.. betcha i smell... um... festive tomorrow when it all starts leaking out my pores... heh. ($7.95)
the room had some interesting lighting fixtures, done up in dark tons, but with a sense of fun. i will say the redo makes the room more usable and dinner friendly. it's fairly loud in here, maybe because of the glass tiles on a pillar, glass wall, and high ceiling. (though it would help if the ceiling were more... finished... acoustically and visually). the bathroom fits in with the rest of the decor, and i like that they thought about the door handles. they thought about the style of the place, down to the place settings and tables and such. details.
though strangely, they had the most disgustingly dirty menu i've encountered in years. weird. i only touched it from the sides of the thing.
service was good before the place filled up, then it took ages to get our food packaged to go and to get the check. service was also friendly, uniformly. unusual, no? also oddly- very few people in jeans here. entree prices are a little high, but i'd almost expect that in the galleria. as a whole, it doesn't seem like anything i can't get elsewhere, closer, better, and/or cheaper. i won't run to it again, but it's not a place i'd avoid.
19th- dino's gyros, edina (b-)
it's been a year since dino's closed in shakopee. i used to go there every week or two for lunch when i was at work, try new menu things, etc. loved the fries, loved most of the the food. now i usually stick close to work, as i can't find anything to replace it. but i've been craving it recently, and since i don't think i'll be hitting the fair this year (where they have a booth), i went to the version closest to my house.
i tried the edina version once before, soon after it closed, and it didn't recapture the magic, so to speak. but i really wanted a chicken mushroom swiss and some fries, so mrs. brk and i did dinner here. they forgot the feta on the side she wanted (not on her sandwich) and gave her a big scoop later, and everything was ok, but of course it wasn't going to be like i remembered. closer, but not the same. not sure if it made the craving go away or not. if not, i may have to hit the snelling one and see if that does it for me.
22nd- stella's fish cafe and prestige oyster bar, minneapolis (b-)
the rake had an event here that offered people who rate restaurants on their web site a chance to do some tasting for stella's, who are thinking of adding some appitizers to their menu. oddly, i thought more of what they were serving with the new stuff than the new stuff itself.
they had a raw bar with some oysters, with acoutrements, nice. the fried shrimp, as always, was tasty. they had an antipasto platter with kalamata and green olives, roasted asparagus, artichoke hearts, bochcini, some proscuitto, ham, peppers, etc. (it needed a shot of olive oil in general, and bread), and some fruit kebobs (a dip, again, would've been nice). these were not the thing to be rated, but were all pretty good.
new bits- first there was a spoon with an artchoke heart (not fresh), with copa ham and fried mozzarella on it. not sure where they were going with it... and perhaps they should've put 'ham' after copa, as not many people seemed to know what it is. it was confusing at best. the fried mushroom risotto cakes with blue cheese dressing were crunchy, but needed... mushrooms. there weren't many to be found. the caprese on a cracker needed better ingredients all around (well, the basil and balsamic were ok). the clear winner was the smoked trout and herbed cream cheese on a cracker. those were tasty.
the planning was a bit off. they had food out, but forks and napkins were not to be found for the bit of the event. plates and glasses ran in short supply now and then. but it's the first time they've done it, they can perhaps be forgiven. the pros (ann bauer and jeremy iggers) were along for the tasting and for questions. (btw, i'd recommend the book iggers wrote, 'the garden of eating.'
28th- vincent a restaurant, minneapolis (a-)
i love their sweet corn veloute. the first time i had it was the best, of course... it had truffle oil on it. this version had creme fraiche, like the first one, a bit of arugula. i prefer the truffle oil, but still, it's all good when it comes to the sweet corn veloute. you should go there and try it when it's in season. it's like the essence of corn, with butter and cream. i try to get there at least once, if not more, for it when they have it on the menu (if i remember). you should go get some. you should, really.
go now, i tell you. go.
to go for my ideal dinner, i paired it with the always tasty fries (though the a- above is for the random bit of herb and the burned bits in the fries, not the best they can do), a kir royale (creme de cassis and champagne), and for dessert, a fromage d'affinois (double-cream cheese a la brie that though smooth and creamy had had a bit of a weird aftertaste, but the bread, nuts, dried fruit and balsamic vinegar the cheese came with chased it away).
service was good, as the place was less crowded than i've seen it in a while. i sat at the bar, and listened to the conversations... (particular amusing was the bit on cheesy 80s lyrics). between happy hour pricing and the gift card that brain candy won at brit's trivia, this ton of food was not so spendy out of pocket (the fries and the drink were happy hour priced). all good.
31st- minnesota state fair, st. paul environs (a-)
today was just a short solo run to get my yearly quote of fried things, yet still nothing on a stick. i'm evil. anyway, i had a nice breakfast of my two must-haves (minidonuts and cheese curds), and tried something new i saw in the paper... i wonder if anyone else saw the article and said... 'deep-fried pickles with cream cheese? i must have those!' because of course i did.
at 10 am-ish the booth was not so crowded, unlike the nearby cinnamon roll booth. very tasty, but for me i think they needed a bit more cheese, a bit more salt and if they only had one pickle slice per bit and they would've been better. they come with ranch dressing for dipping, i am not sure if ketsup would've been better. maybe both to compare and contrast. these were dill, and unlike the cheese curds, they had it all over town talk's fried pickles.
with all the free water and soy beverages (in the eco building, natch), i didn't get any beverages. i did pick up some sweet martha's cookies to take home to people, didn't have any... though i did think ahead and brought a zip bag for the spill-over ones.
the only really disappointing thing about fair food is the climbing prices, though maybe i just think they're a lot more spendy this year because i had to buy them myself instead of having mrs. brk pick up the tab.
31st- jasmine orchid, minneapolis (a-)
a vietnanese and thai place on campus. since i had just eaten a bunch of fried things, i just got a banh mi sandwich of curried mock duck. it's french bread with the meat, shredded carrots, strips of jalapeno pepper, cilantro, and daikon radish. just the right size, and a bargain at $3.50. it's owned by the same people who do the jasmine deli one, i believe. the minus is for the more stem than leaf on the cilantro. good to get there now before school starts.
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