Thirsty Thursday – Tongue in Cheek

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As part of our Thanksgiving Staycation, we had a lazy day that Sunday. We had breakfast, sipped coffee and hung out in our pjs catching up on the DVR. {Well, that’s pretty much every Sunday morning for us.} 

We never did eat lunch, so we opted for an early dinner. There was only one problem: The Packer game was on at 3:25pm.

That just would not work. I didn’t want to go to a Sports Bar to watch the game for three hours when it was on local television and could watch it in the comfort of my own home.

But I had an idea. I scanned through our Groupons and looked up each restaurant. Finally, I chose one that did not look like it had an TVs:

Tongue in Cheek - in St. Paul

We would DVR the game and watch it afterward, sans commercials. This also meant Rob couldn’t be on his smartphone during dinner to check scores. Win for me!

The bar at Tongue in Cheek opens at 4pm. Since our tummies were empty, we took full advantage of that! We also took advantage of their Happy Hour.

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We started by splitting the flight of Cock(tail) Teasers. I don’t believe you can order these teasers outside of Happy Hour. I didn’t see them on the regular menu. Rob said that he couldn’t imagine having to create these miniature cocktails for just $2 each. He thought, “How annoying for the bartender!” But they’ve thought of everything here. They make the teasers ahead of time, so that they are ready-to-serve with only a garnish needed.

Flight of Cock(tail) Teasers - $12

Flight of Cock(tail) Teasers – $12

The cocktails are pictured in order as they are on the menu, only from right to left. And that’s how we tasted them. Then we ranked them. Surprisingly, both Rob and I ranked them in the exact same order!

  1. Jack’s Pool – This one surprised me because I’m not a huge rum fan!
  2. Mother of Dragons - Another surprise for both of us. The jalapeno was subtle and the flavors were well-balanced. Who knew I’d like a Jim Beam cocktail?
  3. Cross Eyed Mary - Oh yeah. I love me a good bloody and I actually prefer gin to vodka.
  4. Tickle My Tiny Pickle - What you’d expect by the menu description.
  5. When in Rome – I thought this would be my fave. It wasn’t. But I didn’t not like it! Bottoms up!
  6. Why Not Minot? – Not memorable because, you know, I don’t even remember this one.

Each of these cocktail teasers came from each of their six sensory categories of all of the craft cocktails that they offer. Check them out on the main menu:

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Looking back at that menu, it does look like you can get a flight of cocktails, if you’d like, outside of during Happy Hour. It’s just more expensive. I’m not sure if you get to choose which drinks come in your flight though.

We arrived in our Packer gear and the bartender commented. Rob told him that we were taping the game, so dining here was perfect because we wouldn’t have access to the score. We come to find out that Mike The Bartender is from Milwaukee and it was killing him not to keep us updated!

Mike gave us a ton of menu recommendations, including items that I wouldn’t have tried otherwise. Like this, for example:

Goldi-Lox - gravlox, horseradish, dill, salmon roe - $2

Goldi-Lox - gravlox, horseradish, dill, salmon roe – $2

All of the teasers on the menu are meant to be one or two bites. This one was much more! The teeny, tiny spoon probably helped with that. And for just $2, this teaser packed a ton of flavor! Not listed on the menu is the avocado puree on top, along with some crispy fried shallots that add a little extra crunch. {Mike did an excellent job describing each dish as he delivered them to our table.} I thought that this taste was perfection!

At this point Rob checked out the beers on tap. I found it to be a nice varied selection of mostly Midwestern origin:

  • New Holland Dragon’s Milk (MI)
  • Summit Winter Warmer (MN)
  • Indeed Sweet Yamma Jamma (MN)
  • Rush River Double Bubble IPA (WI)
  • Cuvée des Jacobins (Belgium)

While Mike poured him a Dragon’s Milk, I sipped on a $3-Happy-Hour Sangria.

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I thought it was pretty good; but the more I drank it, the less I liked it. Not sure if that was because of the oncoming cold or because it needed to be stirred before I started drinking it.

We also ordered a cheese plate:

Artisan Cheese Trifecta - $9

Artisan Cheese Trifecta – $9

There was a blue, a semi-soft goat {which Rob loved until I told him it was goat cheese} and the Wisconsin Pleasant Ridge Reserve. Those little dollops are of apple puree, mango puree and balsamic. It was divine to drag a little cheese through it, despite the fact that purees like this always make me think of baby food! {In a good way.}

But the plain crackers to accompany the cheeses left a bit to be desired – like some fresh bread. Yes, I desired that.

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 Rob ordered us another $2 Teaser:

Charred Feta - strawberry & black pepper jam - $2

Charred Feta – strawberry & black pepper jam – $2

If you think that looks huge, it was really only about two to three bites. Here’s a photo with a fork to give you some perspective.

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But the bites were tasty! The salty… with the char… with the sweet… This was perfect for a taste! Any more than that would probably be too much.

I was originally planning to just order some more teasers for my dinner because a Heavy Table article I read suggested that was the best way to go. But Mike suggested the salmon. And who could argue with Mike?

Wild Salmon - goat cheese risotto, zucchini, tomato-gin consommé - $25

Wild Salmon – goat cheese risotto, zucchini, tomato-gin consommé – $25

Mike was right to recommend this. It’s probably some of the best salmon I’ve had! It was well-seasoned, the goat cheese wasn’t too overpowering and the zucchini ribbons had the perfect texture. My only gripe is that the salmon was just a tad under-cooked for my liking. But I still sopped up every bite!

And you know already that Rob got the burger.

The Cheeseburger - Cheddar, House Pickles, Arugla, Aioli - $12

The Cheeseburger - cheddar, house pickles, arugla, aioli – $12

 This burger will move to Rob’s Top 10!

{Which reminds me, he still needs to update that.}

I think there are three things that generally make Rob burger- happy:

  1. The quality of the meat.
  2. Seasoning the meat.
  3. The quality and use of the bun and toppings.

It’s places like this, where quality rules. Tongue in Cheek’s Mission:

We are devoted to only using animal products that are raised or caught in a humane and sustainable manner. This is something we are passionate about and it will never be compromised. We believe living a good life tastes better.

Amen! Oh and for the record, Rob thought the fries were just fine at first, but later said that they kept getting better with every bite!

 ~

We loved Tongue in Cheek so much that we bought another voucher when we got home. The East Side of St. Paul is an up-and-coming culinary hot spot. When I walked in to Tongue in Cheek, it reminded me a bit of Ward 6, also located in the area. Then the quality craft cocktails reminded me of Ward 6, too. However, these two restaurants are different enough that you need to experience both.

I love the concept of the Teasers on the menu at Tongue in Cheek. It gives people a chance to step out of their comfort zones to sample some things they maybe normally wouldn’t, without the worry of wasting money or a meal. I’d come here just to try all of the little different bites they have to offer!

Have you dined at a restaurant that offers small bites or teasers on the menu?

If so, what were your favorites or what did you try that you maybe would not have otherwise?

Cheers~
Carrie

Hola Arepa!

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We had a little Staycation over Thanksgiving. All of the trips back to Green Bay for Packer games, allowed us our own Bye for the Turkey Holiday. I put up a Christmas tree for the first time in a few years and we cleaned out our basement storage. It felt good to declutter!

And despite that there was no turkey, I still feasted over that weekend. I had the opportunity to try a few new restaurants. {Well, before I came down with that cold.}

I will continue with my Australia trip report soon. It’s just that a couple of these restaurants are newer and deserve a little recognition, especially since I had trouble researching top dishes online.

Enter Hola Arepa in South Minneapolis.

My friend Lisa invited me to brunch. Neither of us could think of where we wanted to go. I was annoyed with myself because I’m always “noting to myself” that I should try such and such a place next time I do brunch. But do you think I can remember what those were?

Then, while I was thumbing through Mpls St. Paul magazine, I found this:

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Decision Made.

Hola Arepa started as a Food Truck! The focus was on Venezuelan sandwiches called arepas. The full-service Latin-inspired restaurant has been open since early 2014, with brunch available since mid-October. I’m not sure that I’ve ever had Venezuelan food before. I had to do a little research on what was best because everything on the menu looked so good!

I was able to find this article, which is what made me intrigued by the rum-spiked wild-rice horchata, called the Carlito’s Whey, instead of the Bloody Mary, for which I was more in the mood.

Carlito's Whey - wild rice horchata with whey, scarlet ibis run, marletti, spice bag bitters - $8.5

Carlito’s Whey - wild rice horchata with whey, scarlet ibis rum, marletti, spice bag bitters – $8.5

Hey. I liked it. I didn’t love it. I thought horchata was supposted to be more milky? It’s been a while since I’ve had that, though. Would I order it again? No. Lisa described it as an “alcoholic version of a a watered down chai latte.”

We arrived just before 10am on a Sunday morning, so that we would not have to wait. It’s a small place and by the time we finished eating, it was full. But the decor is bright and cheery, making the room seem very open and spacious.

I was debating what to order. I mean, I’m at a joint called Hola Arepa, whose namesake made their food truck so popular that they opened this brick and mortar location. So, I should really order an arepa, right? I had never had a sandwich with cornmeal griddle cakes serving as the bread. This was my chance.

But again, that article had me going back to the Tostada Chilaquiles. So when it was time to order, I enlisted the help of our server:

“I’m debating between the breakfast arepa and the chilaquiles.”

Without skipping a beat, she replied:

“Chilaquiles.”

Her confidence in the dish without feeling the need to give an explanation was refreshing and is what made my decision!

And my mouth was happy.

Tostada Chilaquiles - with tomatilla salsa, fried eggs, black beans, housemade queso fresco, pickled onion, radish, jalapeno, microcilantro - $11 (add pork $2)

Tostada Chilaquiles – with tomatilla salsa, fried eggs, black beans, housemade queso fresco, pickled onion, radish, jalapeno, microcilantro – $11 (add pork $2)

Don’t be alarmed by the amount of cilantro atop the dish. That photo is deceiving. There really wasn’t that much.

I absolutely loved this dish.

I ordered mine with pork which was as juicy and flavorful as I had read. I loved the crunch of the tortillas and the surprise of the runny yolk. All of the components were in perfect balance so that nothing seemed to overpower anything else. I did end up removing the couple slices of a jalapeno after one set my mouth on fire, though. I like jalapenos, but forget sometimes how much stronger they are when raw versus pickled. Speaking of pickling, I wasn’t too excited reading about pickled onions in the dish. But they worked!

Maybe this doesn’t look like a lot of food, but it was. I ate almost the whole thing and felt overstuffed by the time I got home. My taste buds were completely satisfied that it might be difficult to deviate from the chilaquiles when I go back…

All was not lost on the arepa home front, because Lisa ordered one.

breakfast arepa - fried egg, black beans, tomato, cojita, aioli verde - $11.5 (add pork - $1, add guac - $1)

breakfast arepa – fried egg, black beans, tomato, cojita, aioli verde – $11.5 (add pork – $1, add guac – $1)

All fillings are made from scratch and include naturally raised meats and organic veggies. Lisa wasn’t sure how she’d like the cornmeal since she isn’t a fan of corn tortillas. But she was pleasantly surprised! My bite of her sammie was a little bland, but that was after the flavor explosion I had from the chilaquiles. This may also be why she found the aioli verde slightly spicy, whereas I did not. The yuca fries could become addictive, though…

And this was one breakfast where we just had to have dessert!

mini churro - fried and tossed in sugar with chocolate coffee sauce - $2

mini churro – fried and tossed in sugar with chocolate coffee sauce – $2

The churros were really hard and crunchy. I don’t remember them being that way, but it was probably in Spain in the year 2000 that I had one last. Crunchy or not, I didn’t love it and can skip it next time.

I’d go to Hola Arepa for breakfast any day. Just invite me! Although I will have trouble ordering anything other than the chilaquiles. But I will try a bloody with Peurto Rican sofrito next time. Or I could try something new at dinner.

Have you had Venezuelan food before?

Cheers~
Carrie

Sleep

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I don’t even know where last week went.

Yes, I do. I spent it sleeping, for the most part.

I don’t remember the last time I slept so much in my life.

I felt like I was hit by a truck with this cold. I’d go into work and suddenly become woozy. Then I went home. It happened every day last week.

Then the uncontrollable cough hit. Bronchitis? Perhaps.

Then the aches, the weakness, the hot and cold factor. The flu? Maybe.

I drank my fluids.

I slept. A lot. 

I thought that after taking a four hour nap in the afternoon, I would have trouble going to bed and sleeping through the night.

I didn’t.

I’m feeling much better now.

I have a feeling that nasty cough is going to stick with me for a while.

But as long as I continue to drink my fluids and get my sleep, I’ll make it through.

I’m not as productive as I would be if my health was 100%.

But I am alive and I have that to be grateful for today.

Besides, snuggles with my little Sophie Jean have increased.

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And who can complain about that?

Cheers to your health!
Carrie