1st- people's organic cafe, edina
8th- sopranos italian kitchen, st. louis park
11th- brit's pub, minneapolis
13th- 98 pounds, bloomington
26th- domino's pizza, hopkins
28th- in season, minneapolis
29th- duluth grill, duluth
1st- people's organic cafe, edina (b)
since i am almost never at the galleria, i have no idea what this space used to be or even if i was added on (hell, both mom and i couldn't remember what the restaurant that'll be switched to a pittsburgh blue is here, and we've eaten there twice. though not since 2007, so i don't feel as bad. it's kozy's steaks and seafood.)
it's not quite as shea as many other places.... though if you think 'what would the french meadow be if you moved it to edina and removed all hint of bakery and replaced it with photos of coffee fields' you'd probably be close. because it's the same thing only upscale- pretty literally. several menu items are crossovers. and though they do table service at the bar (at least they did when we were there), the rest of it is french meadow a la breakfast and lunch- counter ordering.
it's not bad, visually, but when we were there the lack of people (the stores were closed when we went), the cool jazz and the servers that seemed friendly as they had to be for the pay (not authentic) gave it a less than welcoming vibe.... both of us thought that.
though i do quite like the grilled cheese at french meadow when it's on, i went with something different here, the tilapia tacos with pico de gallo, too-cold mashed avocado, sour cream, and diced pickled onion ($12). i can't rely on their web site as it's not updated with the current menu (and also has a wholly tacky advertisement at the top, as it's being hosted free... um... no. that needs to go...).
the tilapia was good and well seasoned, alas the gluten-free tortillas were a mess. they fell apart out of the tinfoil which was suppose to keep them warm, but the tinfoil fell apart too. plus they tasted like corn-flavored sawdust and the texture was what you think that description would carry. they were not good at all. and ironically the toppings that it came with didn't bring much to the party, the taco i added mom's side dish cole slaw to tasted the best- it had a spicy dressing and interesting textures (though could've been cut a lot more evenly). i also expected tacos to come out on the plate all made, too..
mom liked her warm curried chicken croissant ($10) more than i liked my dinner, though i thought hers could've used more chicken and less oil as when she was done the plate was slick with it. it was at least interesting. they do spices well here. anyway, i would say both dishes were organic priced for sure. but we had a groupon, which helped. to use up said groupon we split a cowgirl cookie ($2.50), which was... ok. not the best baked good, not the worst.
i will say i was most impressed with the water. you had to get your own (which i prefer, being an overly thirsty person who does tons of water refills), they had sparkling water. i loved that. maybe too much. that was the highlight of my meal, and i wish i was kidding. and it's not that the food was horrible either. but sparkling water. no charge. nice.
and given my dislike of many places in the galleria (and the southdale area in general) it's probably a better choice than most in the southdale area, and for sure the galleria.
8th- soprano's italian kitchen, st. louis park (c)
since mom likes trying new places in general and had not been here, this was my pick for mother's day dinner (since both of us are not at all fond of going out for mother's day brunch). well, it was new and jp samuelson is in the kitchen. we went even though there were three lines of charges in reviews and blogs about this place- the food was spendy for what you get (tiny portions), service was meh, and the food was bad.
since girly wine runs in the family, mom got a glass of the moscato d'asti ($7, nothing free for mom here then). she right away honed in on the spaghetti and meatballs ($16.95). i went with an item on the new part of the menu, the half chicken dinner ($17.95). so was it expensive?
prices- yes, it was on the high end of things, but then again, the pasta is house-made (i've read). and it was enough for mom to take about half home, so i'd say it's about a typical portion for a main dinner course. and there were a lot of meatballs. my chicken was massive and came with roast asparagus and fingerling potato salad. so not tiny food and there have been a few places that do price half-chicken dinners this high. re pricing- they do have a $10 lunch.
service- they were busy so while the server was personable and knew the new stuff on the menu, i also didn't get time to ask for a knife to cut the half-chicken (and we only had a butter knife). so that was messy. but generally things were on the good foot, even with bread and water refills and host station staff.
but they also didn't stop to check in soon after they delivered the food (so i couldn't ask for a knife right away), and they boxed up the leftovers in a very half-assed way (mom's spaghetti was hanging out of the box and my chicken and potato salad looked like they had just tossed it into the box without a utensil, mixing them together). so it was kind of a wash.
the food- tres meh. the spaghetti was ok but the sauce needed more seasoning mom and i thought. though she did think my dad would've loved the meatballs. the fingerling potato salad i think would've been tastier warm plus needed salt- my whole dinner needed salt, and mom also thought that, and she's not a saltaholic. the grilled asparagus should've had more care taken- there were a few too many woody ends i had to discard. and the chicken was... good. besides salt, it needed sauce or something to make it interesting. it says something when the thing i think we both liked best was the bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
after all that i kind of wished i had ordered the duck instead, but i would think that would've been even more difficult to get at sans knife. and it only listed one side (peas) that i wasn't in the mood for.
i had kind of hoped that the magic of jp samuelson would cancel out the average blandness that is crave, italian style- they're owned by the same company.... oh, and with a stupider name and more red and dark wood decor... i will say i liked the eclectic soundtrack more than mom did- some sinatra, vivaldi, and more modern tunes too.
since nothing stands out that we had and it wasn't anything i can't get cheaper and the same or better elsewhere (a whole chicken at the nearby costco is $5 or so, for instance, plus the walk is closer than the ramp we ended up in... because seriously? $4 for valet parking in st. louis park is a very bad joke) i have no reason to rush back. it's one of those places i wouldn't avoid, but wouldn't recommend, but would go to if it came down to it.
11th- brit's pub, minneapolis (c-)
for convenience and due to a craving for a chicken sandwich, i had the tandoori chicken pita ("delicately seasoned chicken breast, sliced and served with shredded lettuce in a warm pita with cucumber mint yogurt," $10.95). the sandwich was decent but messy (i recall it being in a pocket pita but could be wrong- it's been about 5 years since i've had this particular dish...). i wouldn't call it delicately seasoned, it still needed flavor.
at least the newer fries are an improvement over the awful ones they used to have, they're now average. the service, though, is usually pretty bad in the area where we were eating. and it was worse than usual this go around. sadly, it's what we expect.
13th- 98 pounds, bloomington (b)
haven't been back since christmas 08, it seems. the prices have gone up a bit- for our lunch it was a bit under $10 per person (we had $5 off two lunch buffets), but you do get a beverage with that. i did like it a bit better than last year's pick for a buffet (grand city) but not by a huge amount... pretty much i've not run into any grade a chinese food buffets ever, i'm not quite sure such a thing exists. there's always problems somewhere in dealing with quantity food.
here it was mainly in some of the fried items- the cream cheese puffs (still bad), normally a weakness of mine, were not at all good. nor was any kind of breaded and fried thing (mom and i agreed on that) except the vegetarian egg rolls and the potato puffs (which weren't labeled for some reason). that struck me as the really weak point as there's some buffet foods i know better than to even attempt due to the always-badness they have going on for them (seriously, what is with the bananas in sticky red goo and why is that dish so ubiquitous in chinese buffets? has anyone ever eaten that? is it the same stuff they started out with?)
so since i remembered to look at what i liked from before, i had a lot of chicken dishes, and they were still really good, the 'chicken on a stick' (yakitori or some such) was still quite tender and tasty, the usual dishes (sweet and sour, general tso's, black pepper) were all with good bits of chicken, no gristle or fat, and they used fresh veg in the dishes. and no cornstarch. still quite impressive. the lo mein was decent. and they had strangely good garlic bread. still no egg drop soup. i had no sushi this time, as even krab has some crab it in it. ah, allergies.
for dessert they had a pretty nice lineup of fresh fruit including decent strawberries and very good pineapple. the mango was stringy though. almond cookies were still very good. the vanilla ice cream/milk was ok, but the green tea one? was actually really really good. who knew?
26th- domino's pizza, hopkins (b-)
i was looking forward to eating out, but allergies trapped me inside. i didn't even feel like getting a bowl of cereal out and since i had found a good deal on pizza i went with it. it was hot when delivered (on time). and it tasted better than last time i tried any delivered pizza in that it tasted like food, but that was probably because i just got a plain cheese and dumped a bit of good stuff on it. it'll probably be better for breakfast and later on. in life and in dinner sometimes you end up with the choice that doesn't require any thinking.
28th- in season, minneapolis (a+)
seriously, if there was a way to give this a higher grade i would. one of the best meals i've ever had. even better than the morel dinner at meritage last year in a few ways. but jym kyndberg's (who started morel fest at bayport cookery back in the day) way with morels combined with don saunders french training and way with sauces? freaking killer awesomeness all around.
beyond the food, there was a bit more willingness to work outside the prepared menu. yes, i'm allergic to shellfish and want it not on any of my places, places will go along with that. but they also were willing to work around my 'don't eat pork' thing, which meritage was not. the service during dinner reflected that ethic.
and there was the lower price than meritage's dinner- $60 for the menu below, $35 cheaper than meritage's (wine pairings were $30 for the regular, and $75 from the sommelier) at a time when morels are running 2-3 times more than last year (i saw them at around $20 per pound last year, i've seen them at $40 this year, and have heard reports of $60 per pound, retail). this was a bargain. plus they started us out with a free glass of champagne.
and the food itself... well-thought out and impressive on all courses, we expected tasting portions but all courses were sizeable. and they were served with lovely bread with citrus butter. and we had a lot of bread running through all available sauces, that was for sure. both our plates were really clean when sent back to the kitchen.
the amuse was a deep-fried morel, mine with gruyere, the usual version came with crab. i think mine looked better, but then again i am always a sucker for cheese on pretty much anything. even other cheese. the person i was eating with remarked that mine was probably even better than what they got. maybe they were just being polite. it was a nice bite or two to start out though.
we were discussing pickling on the drive to the restaurant, i was quite happy to see a plate with pickled morels with asparagus, and then also i think they were sauteed with a green pea puree and ramp soubise. the pairing was pretty much spring on a plate. and the whole plate was made even better with the inclusion of my new favorite potato dish, the best 'tater tots' in the world, potatoes lorette. if those potatoes had any cheese action in them, it would be one of those dishes i would marry. they're light and crispy and wonderful.
the next one was another course where i got a different plate- the crispy pig's head with morels, spinach (i think) and sweet soy mustard was what most people got, i got crispy tofu. and i'm thinking that tofu was house-made someplace, the texture wasn't like anything i've seen in a commerical product. this dish was best eaten all together, the sauce united all the flavors in harmony and cut any bitterness the greens may have had. the tofu gave it a bit of a creaminess that i'm sure took it to a bit of different place than the fattier bits of pork did, but it was still a happy place.
next up was wild king salmon with speck, creamy polenta and morels ragout. mine didn't have speck. i didn't miss it. for that matter, and not that it wasn't done perfectly, i don't think i would've missed the salmon either. the ragout had elements of a very good stroganoff, based on cream and madeira and pairing it with polenta send that dish straight to italy.
the sauce was very rich and hearty, which made the duo of wild acres pekin duck that came next- breast and what i called a 'duckball' (meat and grains in a ball cooked until crisp on the outside) in a wine sauce with morels seem oddly delicate by comparision, even with the wine sauce.
after all that, dessert. it was my favorite course, which is not usually true of any meal, just because the chocolate-hazelnut cake with rhubarb and strawberries and a tuile came with my new favorite ice cream in the world (taking over from squid ink), morel ice cream. i really wanted to take a pint of that home, though it would probably cost me more than the whole of the meal. i am not at all sure how morels work so well as ice cream, maybe it's the earthiness? unlike putting cream in the sauce to make the ragout heary, the cream here makes the dish delicate. that ice cream? i would marry as it is. even without the cake and all the rest. as is. straight up.
29th- duluth grill, duluth (a-)
looking for someplace different and interesting to eat on a day trip to duluth (having been disappointed in many places here), i came upon duluth grill... who knew? this west duluth spot right off the highway, a former embers, features a lot of local, organic, and homemade stuff in many classic grill dishes and modern interpretations thereof (and draws a very large and diverse crowd because of it). and does them very well indeed, for the most part.
mom loved her califoria classic grass-fed beef burger ($9.29) "topped with our BBQ sauce and caramelized onions, with lettuce, tomato, and mayo on a grilled bun." she wasn't sure if it was the best she ever had, but it's the best she's had in a really really long time. she was way into that plus the cup of beef and barley soup served with wheat crackers she opted for as a side. and she was more into my side, the beer-battered french fries, that i was, though i admit they were the best battered fries i've ever had.
i was more into my 'triple g' sandwich ($8.99)- a gouda and goat cheese gourmet grilled cheese on marble rye. i opted to add avocado ($.79) to it to make it even more unctious. it was very nice indeed, and i liked the contrast of the creamy texture of the goat cheese with the melted gouda. i think it would've shone even more with maybe cheddar added, or bacon or cherry preserves. but it was an interesting take on the subject.
the malt i got, homemade peanut butter and organic chocolate with added banana was overpriced for $4.49 (though i think they left off the $.69 for adding banana to the original flavor). you get the glass only. no extra in the container. and it was runny, not thick, plus the peanut butter and chocolate weren't very prevalent. maybe they gave me a shake and not a malt? or maybe it was the not great but ok kemps ice cream that they use? je ne sais pas. not bad, just not as good as the other parts of the meal.
service was good for a packed crowd (even late, it was around 1:30 pm when we got there and there were major queues), too. the restaurant is decorated so it looks nothing like an embers on the inside (except for the counter spaces), with some very cool art and a laid-back vibe all around. but with the packed crowd a bit more attention to the restrooms would've been nice.
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