Monthly Archives: April 2012

I’m a Beer Snob

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It’s all Rob’s fault.

I wasn’t always a beer drinker. I drank stereotypical girlie fru-fru drinks in college. Then, my friend Sally got me into wine. Eventually, I started drinking Leinenkugel’s Honey Weiss with a lemon. It was kind of an evolution of the palate.

But that was back when we were students. We didn’t know any better. We drank to drink.

After college, when my friend Jen and I spent ten weeks backpacking Europe, we drank wine in wine countries and beer and beer countries. When in Rome, right? It did not disappoint. I guess that’s when I learned that beverages could illustrate a sense of place as much as the food could.

Now, I’m a beer snob. And probably more so than a wine snob. I think I can appreciate a homemade wine or a local wine right out of a jug in a small town in France. I can often {but not always} appreciate a simple wine that completely lacks character, but still delivers some sort of flavor. But give me a lager anywhere and I can’t appreciate it.

I’ve always been pretty open-minded. So on our first date, when Rob ordered a couple different beers to sip on, I gave them a try. He had a hard time having just moved from Seattle, where craft brews were king, to Minnesota where the most exotic beer on tap was Summit Extra Pale Ale. {The “extra” has virtually no meaning.}

A couple months later, one date of ours was dubbed Ale Fest. Rob found a store that had a lot of different styles of beers and bought a bunch to try to teach me more.

I loved them.

It made me realize why I wasn’t a huge beer fan before. Buy the cheapest, most well-known beers and you’ll get water with a hint of beer flavor. Blech! No wonder they serve it ice cold – they don’t want you to taste it!

Now I prefer IPAs for their bitter hoppiness, nut browns and porters for their nuttiness and stouts for their coffee and chocolate overtones. While I can also appreciate a good wheat or Belgian from time to time, this is where Rob gets hung up. I guess he just wasn’t as lucky as me to have tried several beers in Belgium where they treat their beer like wine – served in the appropriate glasses at the appropriate temperature.

Nonetheless, I am a beer snob. You won’t see with a bottle of Miller or Bud light in my hand. Don’t try to offer me one either. I’d rather have water. Even a New Castle Nut Brown {where I once started with Rob and slowly evolved} now tastes light and virtually flavorless. Even Guinness, which many people call too dark of a beer just seems so light for a stout to me. I’ve been schooled on what these things should taste like… and also know what I like now.

Sidebar:

It’s sort of what I tell people who attend my Wine Tastings. Those who have never liked red wine before aren’t going to go into a store and buy a bottle off the shelf if they don’t think it’ll change their minds. And if they do, they aren’t going to spend more than $10 to give it a shot. That’s why Wine Tastings are the perfect opportunity to try something you normally wouldn’t. You can learn what you do and don’t like about particular wines to make good choices that suit your tastes in the future!

As time passed, we’ve been lucky that more micro breweries have popped up in the Twin Cites metro area. My beer connoisseur husband has found beers that even he has never tried before. It’s been a fun experience and even more fun to try local craft brews. {I have to say that local craft brews in Minnesota, currently trump local wines.}

When traveling, I used to search for unique stuff {food, beverages, experiences} indicative to the region. As we become a more global society, it becomes easier to find those things (that were once local nostalgia) in many corners of the earth. And while it’s a joy to find something you once loved on a trip, it also stinks that that very thing has now lost its sense of place… and the very reason to make a return visit.

Luckily, in today’s society, we have gravitated toward a new movement of supporting local businesses, produce and farms. Restaurants are following suit. I hope this trend goes global. Can you imagine if we were all to support our own local economies what kind of growth and sustainability we would see? Not to mention a more enjoyable meal from time to time. {Local foods that are in season always taste better than those from afar.}

But, Carrie, what about the calories!? I thought you were trying to lose weight?

This is true. I am working on losing weight. Yes, full-flavored beer can be high in calories. However, nothing is off-limits on my “diet”. If I want a beer, I want it to be the best-tasting one on tap. I will compensate for those calories for a little enjoyment. I prefer quality over quantity. However, if you really do prefer light beer, check out Snack Girl’s post on the subject. She and some friends and family did a taste test for your benefit. I’m not an expert in that category, so if that’s your preference, be sure to check her out!

What I want to learn next? How to pair beer with food, just like wine. I’m on the look-out for a beer tasting dinner!

What kind of beers do you like?

Cheers~
Carrie

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Peoples Organic Coffee & Wine Café – Edina

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I’d been to Peoples Organic Coffee & Wine Café with a friend once before.

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Now it was time to try it out on Rob. Although Rob loves restaurants that offer quality, fresh ingredients as much as I do, I knew that he already had his mind made up about this place – that he wasn’t going to like it. He didn’t need to say out loud that there were only a handful of items on the menu that suited him {and our Groupon only offered a choice from the Farm-to-Table menu, limiting his options further} or that many of the options were vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free.

So I asked him to keep an open mind.

~

We sat at the bar. It’s what we do best. 🙂

I love the bar design and the sunflower seeds instead of popcorn or peanuts!

~

Our groupon included one “Light Side” item. We chose the Salami Plate:

nitrate-free salami, smoked prosciutto, taleggio cheese, pepperoncini with house-made crackers & crostini

Our Verdict: We probably wouldn’t have ordered this “Light Side” normally at $15. However, the meats were top quality and the crostini… Oh my! Rob said that this bread has now beat out the bread at La Chaya Bistro! {However, he does note that they are very different from each other: crostini vs. soft bread, so a comparison may not be fair.} Whatever kind of oil they brushed it with had incredible flavor. And the crunch was perfect!

Rob's new favorite bread!

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I ordered the Salmon in Parchment because I loved it so much when I previously dined there with Lisa:

Salmon marinated in ginger & tamari with organic sautéed seasonal vegetables & organic salad with house-made blue cheese dressing

Carrie’s Verdict: I was disappointed with the salmon this time around. It was a little fishy, which masked the ginger and other flavors that I knew were supposed to be there. The greens were still great and the house-made blue cheese dressing was creamy and exceptional. So much so that this may make you cringe: I dipped some of my salmon in the leftover dressing. {Sounds just wrong, doesn’t it?} The vegetables were nicely seared so that the brussels sprouts had a tasty brown, caramelized crust on the cut side. Who knew I would like this vegetable?

~

Rob ordered the Grass-fed Cheeseburger:

Thousand Hills beef, swiss cheese, organic bibb lettuce, carmelized onions, tomatoes, aioli and pickles on an organic 100% sprouted wheat bun served with a side of cole slaw

Rob’s Verdict: “This is the best cole slaw I’ve ever had! But I kind of had a feeling it would be the moment I saw it.”

I’ve never heard Rob ever comment on cole slaw before. As for the burger, he gave it a “very good” thumbs up. He said that there was a lot going on with the toppings flavor-wise. I took a bite and particularly liked the caramelized onions. Although, I don’t remember this, Rob said that the tomatoes were actually sun-dried tomatoes, something of which he is normally not a huge fan. And while the high quality beefwas cooked perfectly, the bun left a bit to be desired. It didn’t bother me any, but Rob’s not exactly a whole-grain kinda guy.

We relaxed as we finished our beverages and scanned the crowd. “Wow!” Rob said, “If I were younger and single, this would be the place to meet women!” I laughed and reminded him of a sports bar near our home that is seems to be frequented by single men.

How could we merge the two? We could be matchmakers! Or not. Would the beer-drinking, sports-watching men have anything in common with the organic-loving, health-conscious women? Maybe. After all, Peoples Organic does have three varieties of Surly on tap! {For those of you who are outside of Minnesota, it’s an excellent local craft brew.} There are many more beers by the bottle as well as some unique wines on the menu. A little something for everyone, perhaps…

Would I return?

Probably. The portions seem to be just the right size. It’s a great place to go if you are looking for healthy options. There are several items on the rest of the menu that intrigue me, too. This includes the breakfast menu that is served all day.

Do you like places that serve organic and health-conscious foods?

Have you been to any restaurants lately that have surprised you?

If so, where and why?

Cheers~
Carrie

The Cove – Prior Lake

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My husband, the burger connoisseur, was told that we should try out The Cove in Prior Lake.  We ventured there one night on a whim.

I sat down at the bar and looked at the graffiti written upon it. There was a CD was sitting in front of me:

The bar at The Cove

We ordered some beers. The CDs became coasters!

The entire menu is very music oriented. For example, some of the appetizers include:

Bad to the Bone Wings

Bob Marley Calamari

Onion Ringz of Fire

Sweet Home Alabama Potato Friez

Burgers include:

Tom Petty Melt

Going Back to Cali Burger

Phish Sandwich

Pizzas:

Sgt. Pepperoni

Italian Disco Inferno

Margarita-ville

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We ordered an appetizer – The Pastrami & Swiss Sliderz:

Objects in this picture are smaller than they appear. Sauce in this picture is yummier than it appears.

I adored this slider.

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Mr. Burger Connoisseur ordered:

Magic Mushroom Burger Basket

Description: 1/3 pound 100% black Angus Young spiced beef patty covered with a tasty Portabella patty, sauteed onions & melted bleu cheeez….mmm, mmm good!

Mr. Burger Connoisseur’s Verdict: The burger was cooked to his liking. It was seasoned {which is, sad to say, easily missed in the restaurant world} and while it wouldn’t make his top 10 burger list, it was good enough that he would order it again.

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I ordered:

Oh My Dog! Basket

Description: 6 inch, 1/4 pound phat all-beef frank topped with our homemade pickles, onions and shredded cheddar cheeez ….as Mick Jagger would say; it’s only a hot dog, but I like it, like it, yes I do!

My verdict: I love me a good hot dog. It reminds me of summer. And football games. And this one was something special – juicy and cooked just right. The bun was toasted and the onion and cheese were the perfect combo for me! {I am a hotdog minimalist, so I often eat mine with ketchup only… and it’s the only time I really eat ketchup!}  And I don’t normally order fries anymore. I’ve learned that when I order them, I eat them because they are there. Now, I have two or three of Rob’s when he orders them and it satisfies any “I can’t order fries, so I want them” cravings. This basket was a good challenge for me to restrict myself to only few. It wasn’t hard. The fries were only okay and I was full. I mean, I basically had a big beer and a filling sandwich before the hotdog basket was put before me!

Thoughts about The Cove:

If you are looking for some pub grub, it’s a good choice. Many people came in to pick up to-go orders.

Best Burger? I wouldn’t say so. But I would say it’s a good one.

Would I come here again? Are you kidding? Not when Perron’s Sul Lago is less than a mile away! Okay, really, I would stop here any time. It’s a cool, casual place. Not much on the menu for healthy options, but I don’t think that’s what they are going for. 😉

Cheers~
Carrie

The Difference Between a Good Wine and a Great Wine – Part 4

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Wine Wednesday: The Difference Between a Good Wine & a Great Wine…

In the past few weeks, we’ve been examining five reasons that differentiate a good wine from a great wine:

1) Terroir

2) Age of the Vines

3) Yield of the Vine

Today we are on #4:

The Vintage

A wine’s vintage is the year that the grapes were harvested. This is usually in the late summer or early fall, when the grapes are ripe. For this reason, wines produced from grapes harvested in the Southern Hemisphere are generally six months older than those harvested in the Northern Hemisphere. That’s a little bit of trivia for you today. You’re welcome.

Why does vintage matter? Well, while the grapes and the land of any particular vineyard rarely change, the weather conditions vary from year to year. And if the weather conditions vary, so will the quality of the wine! The amount of sun, rain, wind, fog, frost and other weather-related factors can alter how the grapes ripen on the vine. For this reason, top quality wines are often rated according to their vintage and these ratings are great indicators of both quality and price.

If we are talking mass-produced wines, vintage does not always matter. Producers of wines that you can find when you step into nearly any wine shop across the U.S. are not concerned with vintages. They are more concerned with producing a consistent product. You will often see “Vintner’s Blend” or something of the sort on the label. This means that the mix of grapes and locale where the grapes came from are not as important and may vary from year to year. In my opinion, while these wines can be enjoyable, they often lack character.

On the other hand, winemakers that strive to produce the best wine based on what that year’s conditions produced can be considered artists. It can be quite difficult if the weather conditions left you with a less than desirable crop.

So what vintages are best? That depends on the region.

The thing is, most people don’t know what vintages are best, unless they love wines from a particular region or are collecting. However, do you remember a wine that you thought was phenomenal and had a hard time finding when you went in search of it? When you finally found it, you got excited! You picked up or ordered a bottle online, but once uncorked: meh… It wasn’t as you remembered.

This happened to my friend Ceci and I. We went out for dinner at tapas restaurant in downtown Minneapolis. We were excited not only to enjoy each other’s company, but also because tapas aren’t exactly at the top of our husbands’ lists. We perused the wine list and asked the server for recommendations. One particular red wine she described as being bold with deep espresso and cocoa notes, along with other adjectives that had us drooling . We both looked at each other with eyes that said, “YES! That one!

It was one of the best wines I’ve ever had in a restaurant.

The next week, I spent hours in search of it. I finally found it online for about $30/bottle. I bought three bottles to make the most of the shipping cost and brought one over to Ceci’s place the next time we were over for dinner.

We were so excited!

We opened it.

We tasted it.

Hmmm…

We let it breathe.

We tasted it again.

It was just not the same!

We were disappointed.

Maybe it was the ambiance that night that wooed us, not the wine? Could it have been the fact that we were pairing a Spanish wine so suggestively described by our server? Perhaps it was the fact that it was a giggly girls’ night out and we just got to enjoy ourselves and catch up over the one thing that brought us together in the first place – wine?

But I truly believe that wasn’t it. {My husband would argue this one though!} I called the restaurant to ask about the wine and found out… we had the wrong vintage. Unfortunately, I was never able to find that vintage again.

So we will never know for sure…

That being said, a few years back, I was into 2001 California Cabernets and pretty much anything from 2005 worldwide. However, a vintage is only good until it peaks. Just because X year was a good year, it doesn’t mean the wine will be good if you open it 2000 years from now. 😉 Did you know that MOST wines are not meant to age? But I digress…

For fun, here are some current Vintage Charts:

World Wide: 2000 – 2005

Great Older Vintages: Top Wines, Top Years

Robert Parker

Drink now or hold – love this one!

Yeah, these charts are for wines from well-known regions where terroir rules anyway. Some only collectors can afford. However, take a look at the charts and use them as general guide to help you find great values in lesser known, but nearby regions as well!

Champagne is a different story. Most Champagnes (bubbly that must come from the Champagne region of France and adhere to high standards) are non-vintage. Wineries will blend several vintages to make their “house style” for their brand. However, in a year with exceptional conditions, a vintage Champagne will be made. These Champagnes can often age and also carry heftier price tags than the rest.

So start paying attention to vintages now. And look for wines that are from smaller regions and appellations (i.e Dry Creek Valley vs. just California). You might find you favor one year over another. If you see a price difference, it just might have to do with the quality of the vintage.

Do you have any favorite vintages for any particular wines or wines from specific regions?

If so, please share!

Cheers~
Carrie

“Over a bottle of wine, many a friend is made…” Unknown

Perron’s Sul Lago – Prior Lake

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Do you remember when I told you that my husband likes to find restaurants I’ve never heard of before?

I think it all started with Perron’s Sul Lago…

We have a tradition for our birthdays: The birthday girl or boy gets to choose any restaurant where they would like to dine. The other person has to plan, drive and buy. Pretty sweet tradition, isn’t it?!

In 2010, Rob was checking out review websites online and found Perron’s Sul Lago in Prior Lake. Despite the fact that the restaurant had no website, the intriguing reviews outweighed the possibility that there could be limited menu options for him due to his allergies and personal preferences. Sul Lago became his birthday dinner choice that year.

We’ve been back about once a month since. In short, we kinda like it. 😉

In fact, we’ve brought more than a dozen friends and out-of-town guests here to enjoy the experience with us. In addition, we’ve recommended it to many friends who have chosen it as the restaurant to celebrate their anniversaries, birthdays and other special occasions.

So why do we love it so much?

Let us count the ways…

1) It reminds us of Italy.

  • On our first visit to Sul Lago, we found a seat at a table in the bar area and checked out the menu. The wine list was quite extensive, including dozens of Italian wines. Just scanning the menu quickly, one in particular caught our eye: Dievole Chianti Classico. What? This wine is from the Villa and Vineyard where I earned an all expense paid trip to Tuscany through The Traveling Vineyard and where Rob proposed!

Villa Dievole, Tuscany, Italy - November 2008

  • We were so excited to see this wine again! The Traveling Vineyard’s parent company carried it for a while, but it had long since sold out. Unfortunately, the wine was sold out at Sul Lago that night and the owner’s uncle and sommelier said that the distributor they worked with was no longer going to carry it. 😦  But fast forward to 2012: There is now a Dievole wine back on the menu!
  • Don’t expect to eat a meal and go. You are going to linger… as if you are in Italy. They will not rush you. And on your first visit, you may even feel like you are forgotten about once or twice. But you aren’t! They are giving you time to slow down, relax and enjoy your company while they pay extra careful attention to the preparation of your food. Give yourself about two hours. I’ve seen this described as “bad service” in reviews. And while it may be if you are going to Applebee’s, maybe it’s time to just sit back and enjoy life for once. Seize this opportunity. Besides, if you go there enough, they’ll start to recognize you and treat you like family. {Just like in Italy. 🙂 }

2) The beverages.

  • Start out with a cocktail. You are going to here a while. Besides, you need time to peruse the menu. My favorite cocktail:

French Pear Martini: Elderflower liqueur, pear vodka, sparkling wine, lime juice, pear slice

  • Men, you might think a French Pear Martini sounds girlie, but my husband orders it all the time. It’s just too good not to swallow your macho pride. We took my brother to Sul Lago this past weekend for his birthday. If this tough guy can enjoy a French Pear, so can you:

No, he is not ducking out of the picture. I just caught him while he was busy drooling over the menu.

  • There are no beers on tap, which can bum a beer lover; but we aren’t here for the beer. {They have it in bottles if you must have one.} This is a place where you order cocktails and wine. While the emphasis is on Italian wines, the extensive list includes world-wide options as well.
  • They have house-made cellos. We “experienced” too much limoncello on that Tuscany trip mentioned above, but learned to love it once again our Honeymoon on the Amalfi Coast {an area known for its lemon trees}. At Sul Lago, they make their own limoncello. You might get lucky and even find that they have lime-cello, orange-cello and grapefruit-cello on occasion, too. Order your cello as your after dinner digestivo. It’s all about the experience.
  • My only suggestion for Perron’s Sul Lago: Invest in an espresso machine. I love a strong espresso after a big, long meal, something that is truly Italian. There are so many more options you could offer in terms of drinks, dishes, desserts and experiences with an espresso machine.

3) The Food.

I guess it should go without saying that we enjoy the food at Sul Lago. They use high-quality, fresh ingredients and hand cut their meats. Since we’ve been there a number of times, here’s a sampling of what you can expect:

  • Bread & Oil
    • Before dinner, you’ll be served a basket of warm crusty bread and poured this concoction for dipping:

Olive oil, balsamic vinegar and parmigiano reggiano

  • Mushroom Bruschetta sautéed wild mushrooms, white truffle oil, parmigiano and balsamic reduction
    •  If you like mushrooms, you are crazy not to order this appetizer. It is a required appetizer for all the guests we bring to Sul Lago. The plate ends up looking like this:

Plate that once held Mushroom Bruschetta

  • Sausage Linguinewith sweet onions, fresh herbs, cream, parmigiano and white truffle oil
    • Rob would describe this as silly or ridiculous. I would have to agree. He almost always orders this. He tries to deviate, but usually ends up succumbing to its powers. I am lucky enough that he always shares a bite with me and I can order something different any time!

Linguine tossed with sausage, sweet onions, fresh herbs, cream, parmigiano and white truffle oil

  • Parmigiano Risotto
    • All the risottos are house-made. And while we also love the mushroom risotto that accompanies steaks and the roma tomato risotto upon which the salmon is served, Rob often likes to order a side of this cheesy parmesan risotto to share:

Parmigiano Risotto

  • Sautéed Baby Spinach with Prosciutto
    • This is a side item on the menu that I would not have thought of ordering. However, it came to our table magically on one visit. That night I ordered a spinach salad entrée. However, what arrived instead was this side item. The server knew immediately upon delivering our dishes that the kitchen had missed the mark. She left the spinach with me to munch on while she retrieved my salad.
    • I love spinach, but could it really taste this good? Our friend Craig dug in to give it a try. His eyes lit up, “This is the best spinach I’ve ever had!” {I really should add extra exclamation points for extra emphasis here.} After he finished his sausage linguine {recommended by Rob, of course}, he finished the spinach as well. 🙂
  • Steaks
    • You don’t need to go to downtown Minneapolis to get some of the best quality and perfectly prepared steaks in the Twin Cities. I enjoyed a filet mignon here on my first visit. {And have since ordered it again.} Highly recommend. Remember, the meat here is hand-cut and rumor has it that Chef Todd Perron came from The Capitol Grille steakhouse in Minneapolis. Enough said.
  • Seafood
    • I’ve ordered several seafood specials here as well as seafood from the regular menu. I’ve rarely been disappointed. The scallops and salmon have always been perfectly cooked. The Scallops Gnocchi have been a hit with our guests! And how beautiful is this dish?!

Fresh Atlantic salmon over roasted Roma tomato risotto topped with fresh lemon herb butter

  • Pizzas

    • Perron’s Sul Lago offers pizzas in the bar on Tuesdays through Thursdays and Sundays. Our favorite is the prosciutto and spinach. Insanely good.
  • Dessert
    • Forget the flavorless chocolate cake towers you find at other restaurants. Instead, get your chocolate fix with the Flourless Espresso Chocolate Cake. Quality over quantity at it’s finest.
    • Blueberry Bread PuddingI’m not even a bread pudding fan. This was recommended by the staff and boy am I glad it was.
    • Dessert Specials – Hell, why not? They are special for a reason. We had some berries with fresh whipped cream infused with amaretto one time. Where else would I find that?

4) The ambiance

  • Perron’s Sul Lago can deliver that feeling of a special night out the moment you sit down. From the warm earthtone décor to the low dining room lighting to the real tealight candles, it delivers in ambiance. But it’s not stuffy. Remember, you are meant to come here to relax and that’s exactly what you are going to do.
  • There is even a patio where you can sit in the summer and enjoy “the lake” on which Perron’s sits. {Sul lago means “on the lake” in Italian.}
  • The staff: We love ’em. Get to know them. Ask them for recommendations. They know their stuff. If you see Amy, Shawna or Billy the Bartender, tell ’em we said “hi” and that we sent you. 🙂
  • Reservations are highly recommended on Friday and Saturday nights and in advance on holidays such as Valentine’s Day or New Year’s Eve.

Our only complaint for a year was that there was no website.  But it has recently been launched! Check it out.

This is one restaurant south of the river that you can find quality fine dining equivalent to what you’d find in downtown Minneapolis or St. Paul.

Enjoy it to its fullest.

Cheers~
Carrie

HELP! Advice Needed from Runners…

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You may or may not have read that I’m running my first 5k later this month. I probably sound like I’m making too much of a big deal about it.

But it’s a big deal to me.

It’s something I never thought I’d be able to do. I never even wanted to try. But something changed when I read inspirational stories of people who were once unhealthy who had changed their lives and completed 5ks themselves. “If they can do it, why can’t I?” I thought. I need to give a shout out to the blogging community and friends on Facebook and Twitter for inspiring me with their posts and holding me accountable to mine. Thank you for showing me that I can do this!

Still… I need some advice.

It’s my first 5k and I’ve been online doing research on what to expect. However, I’m not finding much. What I’m finding is experienced and seasoned runners saying, “It really doesn’t matter what you do, it’s such a short distance.”

That’s not really helping me.

I know I shouldn’t be anxious about the little details, but I am. So if any of you have some simple answers out there, I’d appreciate it if you can share them! Hopefully, some of you will remember what it felt like to be a new runner.

So here’s my list of questions:

1) What should I do the night before the 5k? I know this sounds silly and this is where some of the experienced runners have come in to say it doesn’t really matter because it’s a short race. Friday nights for me normally consist of dinner out and a couple of poker games or conducting a Wine Tasting. I’m usually in bed somewhere between 11:30 pm and 12:30 am. However, I have taken the Friday night before my 5k “off” and have nothing planned. I am thinking I should keep it low-key, eat well and get a good night’s rest. Any suggestions on how to spend my evening are welcome!

2) What should I eat? Laugh if you will. I normally run after work, so I’m not very used to running in the morning. Even on the weekends, I wait until later in the day. The night before the 5k, do you recommend anything specific for dinner? Should I not eat after a certain time? What should I have for breakfast pre-race?

3) What time should I get there? Race starts at 8:30 am. Registration opens at 7:30 am.  I’m thinking the earlier the better to orient myself and not feel rushed.

4) What should I wear? I know this sounds silly, too. Intuition tells me to wear what’s comfortable. But you see, I’ve only been running outside for about four or five weeks and the weather has been very nice! I’ve been wearing fitted pants or capris that I’ve found in the activewear section of Kohl’s. I love them. They are a no brainer for race day.  Then I have one particular three-quarter sleeved shirt I like to wear or a comfortable t-shirt when it’s hot. However, this past weekend I ran in the rain when it was 46 degrees. I was worried about getting drenched and cold, so I put on a hat and found this in my husband’s closet:

waterproof windbreaker-pullover

I thought it would be perfect to keep me dry. And while it did do that, I got hot fast and felt like it weighed me down. Plus, it was a little bit big. It just wasn’t ideal.

  • Do you have any suggestions on what to wear if it’s raining on race day? I could buy my own waterproof lightweight jacket just for running, but don’t want to spend the money if there is a better option.
  • What about layering? On my Dog Day 5k walk, I remember wearing a t-shirt and a light jacket over it. I got hot immediately and needed to tie it around my waist. It was kind of annoying and I was mostly just walking that day.
  • In addition, they gave us a t-shirt. I wasn’t sure what to do with it, so I ended up carrying it the whole time. I had a dog leash in one hand, a t-shirt in the other. Where do you put these things? Do you bring them back to your car? Should I have a friend come to support me and ask them to hold them?

5) How should I warm up? I usually do a good 5 minute walk before running, but I’m not sure what I can/should do on race-day. I also know that I’m not stretching enough/properly afterward. I’ve tried to look these up online, but I’m not very good at following sketches of stretches.. I don’t know if I’m doing things correctly. Any advice or links you have for me?

6) What do I do after I finish? I guess I just don’t know what to expect here. I have no idea if anyone will be coming with me that day. Do I just leave afterward? Hang around for something?

Believe me, I know these questions are silly and I don’t want to discourage anyone newbies from running just because of the little details. So with that I’d like to share a few of the other things I’ve learned since I’ve started running:

1) Just do it. Yes, it may sound cliché, but Nike is right. If you try to learn everything you should do before beginning anything, it’ll hold you back. Instead, evolve in your journey. {Of course, always consult with your doctor first.}

2) Invest in the right shoes. I had a Groupon to Runner’s Gate and got a great pair shoes. Once I slipped my feet into them, I knew why my $30 pairs I used to get on sale at Kohl’s were just not cutting it. {I still do love Kohl’s, I just buy my running shoes elsewhere now}.

3) Along the same line: COTTON IS ROTTEN. That is, when it comes to socks. The folks at Runner’s Gate taught me this and I can’t thank them enough for my Feetures socks. Again, these aren’t a requirement to begin running, but they do make it much more comfortable.

4) Running is 80% mental. This is my own opinion. I didn’t read it anywhere. I do find running physically challenging since I’ve never been athletic. However, I’ve found that the majority of the process takes place in the mind. If I talk myself out of a run or tell myself I can’t do something during a run, it ruins everything. I need to psych myself up for the run and practice positive self-talk the entire time.

5) Running on a treadmill indoors is completely different from running outdoors. My running began in the winter and I did most of my Couch to 5k training on a treadmill. I thought I’d be embarrassed to run outdoors. But I also thought it would be easier because I wouldn’t be constantly looking at the time or adjusting the speed. The verdict: Running outside has been fine. No one has looked at my funny. Or if they have, I didn’t notice because I was so focused on the task at hand. The elevation changes have proven challenging to me since I didn’t practice any inclines on my treadmill. Still, it’s much more difficult to just quit during a run outside because you have to get back to Point A somehow!

6) Some days are easier than others. Sometimes I get mad at myself if I had a slow run day or didn’t improve. Then I remember that at least I did it.

For those of you who are runners out there, I want to thank you for all of your inspiration.

Your help in answering my simple questions above is greatly appreciated. For those of you new to running, what would you add to either list above?

Cheers~
Carrie

He Doesn’t Do Brunch

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With Easter coming up this weekend, I’ve been thinking about brunch. It’s common for families to go out for or make brunch after church on this holiday.

But my husband doesn’t like brunch.

For that reason, I can’t tell you the last time I’ve been out to brunch. Actually, I can! It was when my friend Madeline came to town and we went to Scusi {which no longer serves brunch}. That was about a year ago.

Back to Easter:

Ever since I moved to the Twin Cities, it has kind of become tradition that my family comes to visit the weekend of Easter. {We go to Green Bay for Thanksgiving and Christmas}. Usually arriving on Friday afternoon or early evening, my family typically leaves before noon on Sunday. There isn’t much more tradition than that. We do something different every year! Whether it be sending them off to the Mall of America, walking around Lake Calhoun or having an Easter Egg Hunt in our yard; it doesn’t really matter what we do. It’s more about time together.

Still, after they’ve all left on Sunday morning, Rob and I are somewhat in a quandary over what to do for our regularly scheduled Sunday meal out because brunch is everywhere on Easter Sunday! {Yes, we eat out every Sunday. It’s our own tradition!}

I’ve learned over the years to double check if a restaurant is serving only brunch on Sundays or if they allow ordering off of their regular menu before heading out the door. It’s not that Rob doesn’t realize that there are some perfectly great brunch menu items out there. It’s more that he associates brunch with buffets, of which neither of us are big fans. For Rob, I think it’s the limited selection due to his food allergies. In addition, he’s not one for sweet breakfast foods, which are often a focus at brunch time. For me, the thought of a buffet conjures up images of massive quantities of tasteless food. And while I do know that isn’t always the case, I still prefer quality over the quantity. Most of those buffet brunches are all-you-can-eat, too. While it may seem like a great value, it does nothing for those of us who are overweight.

Do we really need all-you-can-eat buffets in the most obese country on earth?

Furthermore, it can be difficult sometimes to differentiate if a restaurant’s brunch is a buffet or consists of a special menu. Sometimes that special menu can be limited, too. Still, I don’t mind brunch once in a while, but tend to fore go it for my man. It’s not like a sacrifice or anything for me. Besides, I find when I eat a bigger meal in the A.M., I tend to eat many, many more calories that entire day.  So, my husband is actually doing me a favor.

All of that being said, there truly are some great brunch menus out there. Maybe I should make that an assignment for the two of us – to scout out a great brunch menu and report back. I know, research is tough, huh? We just can’t make that kind of eating a regular occurrence.

Still, brunch menus and buffets tend to be very specific on Easter Sunday. So what’s our solution in avoiding this?

Pardon My French

This is a French bakery, café and wine bar in Eagan. It’s an order-at-the-counter type of place where they serve sandwiches, quiches, burgers, omelets, salads and other specials. We do indeed indulge in a dessert from the pastry case and sometimes walk away with a few chocolate truffles to take home as well. It’s a casual and cozy place where you can waste away the hours, just like in a café in France. The only big difference in my eyes: The portion sizes are huge! Think French pastries on steroids. It’s a good idea to split a dessert or practice The 50% Solution. At a ballpark in the U.S., you can get a footlong hotdog. Here, you can get a footlong éclair. {Okay, so I’m exagerating a little.} No matter the size, the desserts are delightful and have proven to be the perfect item to bring to impress when attending a party. And don’t forget to pick up a baguette or a specialty bread to take home on your way out, too!

My favorites? Well, you’ll just have to stay tuned next week to see pictures. In the meantime, check out these Easter Wine Pairings if you are in a last minute crunch.

Do you like Brunch?

If so, where are your favorite places to enjoy it and why?

Do you have an Twin Cities Brunch recommendations for us?