Monthly Archives: May 2015

Tricks for Treats

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Shamrock and/or Sophie Saturday

Shamrock loved the treats he received in his BarkBox last month that he wanted to show you a couple of simple tricks he likes to do for them.

Sophie has copied a few of Sham’s tricks; but they just don’t look the same on her because she doesn’t have his mittens. I think Sophie can stick to her Ewok noises instead.

Happy Saturday!

Cheers~
Carrie

 

Chives

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Back in February, we went to Green Bay for my brother’s wedding. Because of the festivities, we left the dogs back in Minnesota. We didn’t want to have to worry about getting back to my parents’ place at any point in the weekend to feed or let out them out. Thankfully, their Auntie Jen-Jenn agreed to watch them over the long weekend.

It was very strange not having the pooches with us on the long drive; but it also felt odd that we didn’t have to drop them off at my parents house before going to lunch upon arrival. Instead, we drove right to Chives in Suamico.

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Chives is a restaurant in Vickery Village, which is a cluster of historical buildings with quaint little shops. It’s beautifully decorated over the holidays.

Across the street is a boulangerie called Bread Bank. Chives owns this little bakery, so all bread served at the restaurant is fresh-baked. I love that it is housed in an old Suamico Bank building! #clevername

It was lunchtime on a Wednesday {February 11th to be exact!}; so it wasn’t very busy. But the restaurant is small, so I can imagine reservations are often preferred in the evening. However, on that Wednesday afternoon, we weren’t the only people sitting at the tiny bar! In this part of town, that surprised me.

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They had a pretty decent wine selection, so I went with a glass.

IMG_1319Rob, on the other hand, went with a local tap beer. They have four {what I believe are rotating} taps which are located just under their board of specials. The specials are difficult to read in the photo below. But let’s suffice to say that they focus on fresh ingredients and use flavors you might not find in a town this small. {Population of Green Bay =104,000, Population of Suamico = 11,700}.

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It’s a pretty freaking adorable place. For the hour and a half or so that we were there, I could have counted the phone ringing at least two dozen times for people requesting Valentine’s Day reservations for that Saturday. Of course, an establishment like this was fully booked. They had decided to start taking reservations for lunch that day; but not many people seemed to take Chives up on that offer.

I ordered the quintessential lunch – soup and sammie.

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The Bistro – Grilled Cheese, Greens Salad, & Soup of the Day – $12

The soup of the day was their tomato of some sort. I wasn’t that much of a fan; but I’ve been spoiled by some pretty tasty tomato soups back home. But the salad hit the spot and that grilled cheese – THAT GRILLED CHEESE! {Yes, that was me yelling.} It was perfect comfort food for a bitterly cold winter Wednesday. The bread was all sorts of wonderful with its perfectly toasty exterior with just the right amount of crunch. What’s even better – it still let the cheese shine through! Decadent is a word that comes to mind. Now that I think about it, I may need to get my mom some bread from the Bread Bank next time I’m in town.

Rob, of course, couldn’t stop himself from ordering the burger.

*Chives Burger with Smoked Onions, Bacon, Maytag Bleu Cheese, & Choice of Chive Fries or Greens Salad with French Herb Vinaigrette – 12 (Plain Hamburger or Cheese Burger 10)

Chives Burger – Smoked Onions, Bacon, Maytag Bleu Cheese & Chive Fries – $12 

He was very happy with his choice and I know he’d order it again. Everything was fresh and the ingredients were top notch. Those fries were topped with – you guessed it – CHIVES!  There was a healthy amount of garlic, too. They were addicting. We picked at those fries long after we were full.

It’s so cool to have a scratch-cooking style restaurant so close to my parents’ house! Chives is another breath of fresh air in a region that is often overrun with chains and sports bars.

Are there any new gems that have popped up near where you grew up?

Cheers~
Carrie

 

Thirsty Thursday: The One South of the River

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Happy Thirsty Thursday!

At long last, we finally have a Brewing Company/Taproom South of the River! For those of you who aren’t local to the Twin Cities, “South of the River” refers to the suburbs located south of the Minnesota River. To Minneapolites {or Minneapolitans}, this feels sooooo far away. Truth be told, as a South of the River resident, I live only eight minutes from a friend in Bloomington, the city where the Mall of America is located. Dwellers of the city don’t think MOA is far away at all. {Although some wish that it were!}

Despite that argument, and the one where I profess that we can get to The Lowry in Uptown Minneapolis in just 16 minutes, it would still be nice to have a brewery in our neck of the woods.

Enter Badger Hill Brewing.

We first discovered Badger Hill on a Trolley Beer Tour back in 2012. They were brewing out of extra space at Lucid Brewing company. I’m sure it was a challenging task, but they finally opened up their own brewery and taproom in Shakopee this past year.

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We’ve been there a handful of times now. But truth be told, I’d rather go north to MSP. Call me a beer snob if you’d like; but I’m hard-pressed to find something interesting or that I even like at Badger Hill.

Check out the menu:

One of my past favorites at Badger Hill was the Foundation Stout. However, my first couple visits to the Shakopee location had me realizing I’m not such a fan anymore.

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The first time I ordered it, the bartender served it quickly, with half of it as head. When it finally settled, the glass was missing almost a quarter of its beer! I was quietly angry, complaining to my friends. “You are a brewery and you don’t even know how to pour a proper pint of stout?”

Sure, I probably should have said something, but because I don’t want to be that customer, I kept it to myself. A few months later, it got better; but I discovered that I wasn’t even liking the Foundation Stout. It was tough for me to even finish it. So I am thinking one of three things have happened since we first visited Badger Hill in its infancy:

  1. They changed their recipe.
  2. My palate has changed.
  3. I’ve been spoiled by all of the other exceptional stouts in the Twin Cities like here, here and here.

We’ve picked up on Social Media announcements when BH was serving a couple of specialty beers – like a Cherry Dunkel and a Caramel Macchiato Stout. But alas, we’ve never been able to make it there before they run out.

Where Badger Hill has a real winner though, is their Traitor IPA. I absolutely love the name of this beer because the premise is that this IPA is so good that you will be a traitor to your favorite one! It’s solid enough that they can proclaim that.

I took this photo because the shape of Jesus a heart had formed on the top:

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Rob: “That looks more like a butt to me.”

Me: “Perfect! I love you with all my butt!”

Rob: “Huh?”

Me: “My butt is bigger than my heart, so that means so much more, right?”

I don’t drink IPAs much anymore {mostly because they make me crave salty foods, like fries!}, but this one is absolutely the go-to beer for me at Badger Hill.

Last Thursday, we met up at BH for a going away party for a couple of Rob’s co-workers. They all arrived there not long after the end of the workday. There were a lot of people in need of food! However, unlike many of the city breweries, a food truck is parked at Badger Hill only on #FoodTruckFridays. The solution?

Badger Hill keeps a binder of local delivery menus!

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About 50 tacos and two huge orders of fries were ordered and delivered from Taco Loco for our group. It’s a pretty decent-sized taproom, so it’s a perfect place for a get together like this.

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Some of us also tried the craft sodas, which is usually a treat for DDs. However, our friends told us to shy away from the Root Beer. I went with the Cherry Cola instead and couldn’t drink very much of it. There was very little carbonation and the flavor did not remind me very much of cherry or cola. I didn’t taste a hint of sweetness either.

There is also a big jug of water where you can help yourself.

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Our friend Dirk said that the water was really good! He said that there was a sign that indicated that this is their brewing water. Our friend Chay wanted to try it as well. After tasting it, he said that it was a little bit sweet. What?! I needed to have a taste for myself.

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Dirk’s and Chay’s palates must be way more discerning than mine. It tasted just like water to me. Rob didn’t detect any sweetness either.

What I really need to do the next time we meet up with people at Badger Hill is to get a flight of beers to try the others on the menu that I assume I won’t like. You never know, one of them just might surprise me, like the Frank’s Red Ale did at Day Block.

It would be nice to have a brewery south of the river that is worth a trip for the urbanites. I’m not sure Badger Hill is there quite yet; but, perhaps, it all depends on what you like.

How far will you travel to try something new?

Cheers~
Carrie

 

On the Corner of Lake & Irving

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For the second Friday in a row, things were crazy enough at work that I didn’t eat lunch. For the second Friday in a row, when I got home, I was hangry.

My friend Jen said she’d come pick me up for dinner if I picked a place. It was the most perfect possible weather you could possibly have in Minnesota. It was 70 to 75 degrees. The sun was out, but not beating down unbearably, nor was there any need for shade. There was no wind nor humidity. And the best thing yet: There were no mosquitoes! There is a really short window for a day like that in Minnesota.

There was no reason to be indoors.

I had to find a dining spot with a patio.

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After much indecision, I finally chose…

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Lake & Irving is on the corner of – you guessed it – the corner of Lake and Irving in Uptown Minneapolis. I chose it because it not only had a patio, but also because of its proximity to Lake Calhoun. When choosing a restaurant, I was worried that the patios would be too busy because of the beautiful day. Lake Calhoun would make a nice walk afterward so that we could at least enjoy some of the weather if outdoor seats could not be had.

I really dig Lake & Irving’s menu!

That’s one of the other reasons why I chose it.

Beer

The tap beer selection includes a dozen craft beers – some local, some not. None of those taps are wasted on Mich Golden Light! The list changes frequently and includes what’s up next in the rotation.

Wine

The selection of wines is a well-rounded list that doesn’t include any of your Usual Suspects. I like that. In fact, I rarely order something I’ve already had, unless it’s something I know I absolutely love, the value is a good one or it’ll make a good pairing with my meal.

Craft Cocktails

While Lake & Irving lists their inventory of liquor, they also have a small list of selective craft cocktails. Le Sureau {Prairie Organic Vodka, St. Germain, lavender simple syrup, grapefruit juice, lemon} interested me, but if I would have ordered one that night, I probably would have fallen asleep at the table. L&I’s version of a Johnny Jump Up is called a Power Up, made with a local cider and Powers Irish Whiskey.

Food

For the record, we did get a seat on the patio. 😉

Upon seating, we were immediately offered complimentary still or sparkling water. They serve it in a bottle so that they don’t have to keep refilling your glass.

The menu looked so good that I had a number of things that caught my eye – the Seared Ahi Salad, the Salmon Quinoa, the Caprese Panini and the Kalua Pork Sandwich.

My decision-making skills aren’t very stellar in general; but they are even worse when I’m hangry. Jen made up her mind pretty quickly.

CAPRESE PANINI  10 mozzarella, tomato, mac nut pesto, sourdough

CAPRESE PANINI – mozzarella, tomato, mac nut pesto, sourdough $10

{Side Note to Rob: The fries are nothing to write a blog post about. You can skip them.}

But you will be happy to know that I narrowed the menu down all by myself and didn’t even ask the server for any help.

SEARED AHI SALAD  16 Asian slaw, soy vin, mac nuts, cilantro,  avocado, sriracha aioli

SEARED AHI SALAD – Asian slaw, soy vin, mac nuts, cilantro, avocado, sriracha aioli – $16

This salad was just what I needed and complemented the weather perfectly! It was fresh and all of the flavors came together in just the right way. The tuna was a little chewy, despite the fact that they cooked it just how I requested – medium rare. But it was a minor detail when you put the whole salad together with those sauces and the crunch of the slaw and wonton crisps. I’d order it again.

The service was a bit slow, but we didn’t mind one bit. That was more time to sit and relax out on the patio! Once again, hangriness was cured. And just a few blocks away was Lake Calhoun, which drew a healthy-sized crowd that night. Still, the lake was calm and everything just seemed… peaceful.

What is your favorite place to relax on a patio?

What makes that place special?

Cheers~
Carrie

Prima

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I hope you all had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend!

But today is this week’s Monday and it’s back to the grind. So let’s just jump right into another Restaurant Impression, shall we?

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It was just by chance that we found Prima.

It was a Friday night and I was hangry. Work was busy, so I hadn’t eaten a proper lunch. The night before, my friend Kim asked what we had planned for the evening. Rob and I actually had nothing going on, which is rare. So I asked her to join us because I was sure we’d be playing some Restaurant Volley before going out.

Without going into too much detail, let’s suffice to say that:

  1. I was hangry (and tired, so cooking was not even an option).
  2. We couldn’t decide where to eat. Restaurant Volley was taking more time than usual.
  3. When we finally settled on Lyn65, we found that they had no availability until 8:30pm.

So we continued to drive along Lyndale Avenue in search of somewhere else to meet Kim.

I pulled out my trusty Google Maps app. I love how the GPS can detect where you are, then displays the businesses and landmarks around you. I scrolled along Lyndale Ave and found George and the Dragon.

But traffic was bad. We were at a stand still. There was road rage… not in our car, but in the one in front of us. The battery was low on my phone and I still needed to text Kim our location.

Then I spotted another restaurant that would be coming up on our right in just a few blocks:

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Okay, I took this photo the other day, not when we were in en route. So neither the 18-minute drive time nor the 1:15pm timestamp is accurate; but I’m sure you get the picture.

I noticed that Prima had an average rating of 4.6 stars, so I clicked on it.

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Oh dear, yes! Thank you, Google Maps!

There didn’t seem to be a real bar area; but we chose to eat inside rather than on the sidewalk facing the busy traffic.

While we waited for Kim, we perused the menu and ordered a drink. I spotted something really intriguing to me! Can you pick out what it was?

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It was something I’d never had nor envisioned having. The server said it was brand new, so they weren’t even sure in what type of glass the Hard Cider with Pinot Grigio should be served!

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It was crisp, dry and refreshing. There wasn’t even a hint of sweetness that came to the party here. Hard apple cider and pinot grigio wine is quite an interesting combination; but it seemed to work.

I didn’t order it, but I was also curious about the Elderflower Lemonade!

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And here is something very important that I’d like to point out about Prima:

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You are going to laugh when I tell you what I was craving… goat cheese! I looked high and low on the menu and found nothing of the sort, so I had to choose something different. After running a couple of choices past our server, I settled on:

Linguine Alla SorrentinaLunch 12.95 & Dinner 13.95 Oven roasted tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, spinach, aged Pecorino Romano

Linguine Alla Sorrentina ($13.95) – 0ven roasted tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, spinach, aged Pecorino Romano… with chicken ($4.00)

I just had to get the chicken after reading the notes about their farm. The chicken was juicy and seasoned perfectly. The pasta was a lot more flavorful than expected. I tasted a lot of garlic in there!

Kim went all out for the salmon, which was actually very reasonable priced.

Grilled Norwegian Salmon18.95 (dinner only) Roasted garlic mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus, portabello salsa, lemon butter sauce

Grilled Norwegian Salmon ($18.95) – roasted garlic mashed potatoes, grilled asparagus, portabello salsa, lemon butter sauce

Rob was in heaven with his pasta, which we both found to be cooked perfectly all dente. No mushy pasta here!

Paglia e Fieno14.95 lunch & 15.95 dinner Fresh spinach & egg fettuccine, roasted fennel, sweet peas, Parmacotta ham, garlic cream

Paglia e Fieno ($15.95) – fresh spinach & egg fettuccine, roasted fennel, sweet peas, Parmacotta ham, garlic cream

And with that, hangriness was cured. Thank you, Prima!

Do you ever use Google Maps or another app to decide on where to dine or what to do?

Cheers~
Carrie

Garden Pawty

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Sophie & Shamrock Saturday

Sham and Sophie now know the word “BarkBox” and respond to it just as they would respond to “treat.” Sophie came running out of the bedroom into the living room the last time I said the word. I haven’t been able to get a good video of this yet, but here is a start…

Until I get a better video, let’s talk about May’s BarkBox. The paper inside had a little something different printed on it this month. And it just happened to be this month’s theme:

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Garden Pawty!

The insert describing the contents even looked like an invitation.

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I was half-expecting Sophie to get a fun hat to wear out in the sun. 🙂 But they received the following instead:

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Sham went right for the butterfly, which we have dubbed Flutterby, as this is what Rob has called butterflies every since I’ve known him. The FETCH bone was ignored, but not the Farmers Market treats! The chews will be saved for a rainy day.

In other news, this month, Sophie and Sham were granted V.I.Pup status. This means that they were able to give a month of BarkBox to three friends for free! Those boxes are long gone; but they have good news. You can get a month of BarkBox free with your pooch’s new subscription, too, by following Sophie and Sham’s link here. Full disclosure: They will get one free, too. Everybody wins!

Happy Saturday!

Cheers~
Carrie

 

HammerHeart Brewing

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Happy Thirsty Thursday!

While sipping our half-pint flight of beers at Northgate one beautiful Saturday, Rob instinctively looked up a brewery that we’ve been wanting to go to for some time. It was just Too. Far. Away… from us.

However, Rob’s iPhone indicated it was just 16 miles north of Northgate, about a 19 minute drive. We hadn’t any plans for the rest of the afternoon and didn’t want to finish the couple of half-pints in the flight that we didn’t like so much… so why not? We took the little jaunt north up to HammerHeart Brewing Company.

It was a beautiful Minnesota spring day, but one filled with mud! Such was the case getting into and finding a spot in their muddy parking lot.

But upon stepping across the threshold into HammerHeart’s taproom, the first thing I heard was the sound of bagpipes wailing! I believe that it was just for a special event that bagpipers were in the house that day; but I felt like I was being personally greeted. Ha!

HammerHeart Brewing gets its influence from Celtic and Nordic cultures as well as metal music. It’s a very interesting combination that you can read more about on their website. Rob thinks my brother would love this brewery, but we only had so much time during his visit. This just means you’ll have to come back for another round, JR!

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So what drew us to HammerHeart, you ask? Well, we’d been wanting to go for some time after reading their every-changing tap menu online over the past year or two.


But what may surprise you after yesterday’s post is that HammerHeart focuses heavily on smoke in its brews. So why on earth would their tap menu intrigue me? There is something else. Can you guess what it is?

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Yes, that’s right – the bourbon barrel aged beers! Like many tap rooms, they are not available all of the time; but we saw on the website that there were several available that day. No matter what, HammerHeart has many more different beers on tap at a given time compared to most other breweries in the Twin Cities metro; so there is bound to be something for everyone. But just be careful to order the right beer…

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Rob ordered a beer for himself and then added “and one Flanary’s Brew” for me. However, he hadn’t read the entire menu to see that there was a non-Bourbon Barrel Aged Flanary’s Brew on the bottom. {See menu above.} And of course, it was the Bourbon Barrel one that I wanted and the original that I was served.

I told him that it was just fine. But he took one for the team because he wanted to make my one beer of this brewery visit count. He went back up to order me the correct beer. He would just have to drink the mistake. 😉 It was a win-win for both of us. For the record, it was worth it! I could handle a mildly smoked oatmeal stout if you aged it in a bourbon barrel. Go figure.

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Rob also returned with a growler and a pint glass for our collection, too.

This is a great brewery for locals. If we lived anywhere near Lino Lakes, we’d be back on a regular basis. But, alas, we don’t. So we’ll just have to save HammerHeart for a special occasions. But I will tell you, it’s entirely worth the trip.

Do you like smoky foods or beverages?

If so, what’s your favorite?

Cheers~
Carrie