Monthly Archives: June 2015

The Cuddle Alarm


Sophie and/or Shamrock Saturday

I am not a morning person. I never have been and don’t expect I ever will be. When the alarm goes off, I’m a multiple snoozer. I need time to slowly wake up.

Somewhere along the way, Sophie has come to learn this, too.

Enter the Cuddle Alarm:


When Sophie hears the alarm, she gets up from wherever on the bed she was sleeping and comes up next to me, nestling herself either in the crook of my neck or armpit.


Then she demands belly rubs.


You don’t understand how blessed I am that this is the way I get to wake up in the morning!


We call it the Cuddle Alarm. You all should have one.

Happy Saturday!



Cure for the Summer Cold = Magic Pho + Hot Toddy?


I’ve got one of those summer colds.

It started out as a scratchy throat and over days progressed into stuffy head and then into full-fledged coughing fits from my lungs. Not pretty.

I’m such a baby when I get sick because I don’t very often.

Last night, I didn’t want to cook the San Marzano Pasta I had planned. I wanted some soup – some really good soup. And since I had no energy to make it myself, I tried to think who had the best broth-based soup. Then it hit me.

I picked up some Nha Sang Pho. {I may have ordered some momo, too.}

I swear it’s Magic Pho that they’ve got there. Those spices make my mouth sing. I was warm and content.

And just before bed, I googled an Easy Hot Toddy, hoping we’d have the ingredients. As luck would have it, we did.


Well, sort of. The whiskey I used was not your average whiskey. It was Rob’s Mac 12 Scotch.


There wasn’t much left, but I still got his permission. I mean, I’d want him to ask me first if he wanted to use a bottle of Opolo Zin to make a Sangria. { In which, the answer would be, “Hell, no!” But in what universe would Rob make his own Sangria, I don’t know.}

The Hot Toddy was the perfect night cap and a nice change from the endless cups of tea I’d been drinking the past few days.


And you know what? Today, I feel a bit better. Groggy, but the coughing fits are not to be had. There’s only a sniffle or two.

So could Magic Pho and a Hot Toddy be the cure for the common cold?


But I’m more inclined to believe that it’s been since Thursday and maybe this cold has just run its course. {Well, almost.}

In any case, I’m grateful to be {almost} healthy again.

What are your tricks for getting through a summer cold?



The Best Article I’ve Read in a Long Time…


Sophie & Shamrock Saturday

This post is supposed to recap what came in Sophie & Sham’s June BarkBox. But I want to take a minute to link you to The Best Article that I’ve read in a really, really long time. You know that I ❤ pupper dawgs, so a restaurant review from that point of view just melts my heart.

You *must* read this one about Stanley’s NE.


I loved that article so much that it prompted me to buy this Living Social deal to Stanley’s. We are still debating if our pups are well behaved enough to bring them with us.


 Now let’s move on to this month’s BarkBox.IMG_3227

Sophie and Sham were just panting away when I said the word “BarkBox!” That’s all it takes.

As soon as the box is open, into it they try to go…


Space Rover! What could be in a box marked with, “To infini-pee and beyond!”? These items:

IMG_3236Although there was a little “Ruv Note” indicating that we would be receiving something else in place of the last item on the list. See “To the Dog of the House”  below. It was one of those beef knee cap things that replaced the Swisher Sweets. An odd name, no?


Sham instantly went for the Star! It’s funny how the new toys always become his favorites! But he quickly dropped it when I opened this:

IMG_3238I had Daddy break the chew bar in half so the two could share. Happy dogs all around. Now, if only they’d write a post about their BarkBox like Camper did of Stanley’s NE. Maybe I could bribe them with a treat next month…

If you’d like to sign your pooch up for BarkBox, click Sophie & Sham’s referral link to get a free box added to your subscription!

Happy Saturday!

Last Weekend


I rarely do an entire weekend recap, but this past one was just so much stinking fun. And my photos are completely random. Those, I guess, are my reasons for sharing.

You know I’m in in my mid-to-late 30s when my girlfriends and I go see a concert at a casino. Yes, that’s right. We went to see the Bare Naked Ladies at Treasure Island Casino near Red Wing, MN.

I was a little late booking the hotel and found that all rooms were booked at the casino by the time I did! {It was so smoky there anyway!} Instead, we stayed at the Americinn about 15 minutes away.

It was a short walk from Kelly’s Taphouse Bar & Grill, where we had dinner.


I built my own burger because I could put it on a pretzel bun! The only bummer was that they didn’t ask how I wanted it cooked and it came out well done. Doh! It still tasted it good, though, if that gives you any indication of the quality of the meat and my ability to put together awesome toppings!

They had a decent variety of draft beers with 41 total on tap!

I tried to make Rob jealous by texting him what I  ordered:

I had never seen Surly Pentagram on tap, nor had I ever had it. I’m starting to like sours! And check out the ABV on that beer – 6.66%. That makes me chuckle. Although it was four of us in attendance, I only took a picture with Stacy. I’m telling you – it was just random photos all weekend! She just happened to be on the same side of the table as me.


We had a taxi pick us up at Kelly’s and take us to Treasure Island. On event nights, that’s $30 per couple and $10 for each additional person. As we rode along, we got to know our driver, who was a bit new. We asked her if we would have to call to get a pick up after the show. She told us that cabs would be lined up out front.

Knowing we were in a much smaller town than any of us have lived in, Kim joked, “Do you have, like, two taxis running at a time!?”

The driver didn’t know she was joking and said, “Well, we normally have two, but tonight, because of the event, we’ll have three.”


We all had a good chuckle over that. We knew we’d probably be waiting a while for a cab afterward. 🙂 So we just had to look it up:  The population of Red Wing is about 16,000.

We arrived late to the concert, missing all of Colin Hay {from Men at Work} and pretty much all of the Violent Femmes {bummer!}. Still, it was a great show. BNL is one of those groups I need to remember to see whenever they are in town. They are so entertaining because they always add some sort of medley tribute to current pop culture. {I mean, they did sing a part of Let it Go from Frozen this time!} They always make me laugh. So this is on the list of bands to see all of the time, just like Gaelic Storm.

In fact, Jen and I are kicking ourselves that about ten years ago, we decided we couldn’t afford to go on a music cruise that had both BNL and Gaelic Storm as performers. Will not make that mistake again. #regret

But this show was great, despite the fact that the chairs where are seats were located were already pushed up together and we ended up mostly in the aisle.


I took a few videos, too, but I’m not sure what the copyright laws are to put those up on youtube to share with you all. Colin Hay did come out to play a Men at Work song with BNL, also using the Violent Femme’s saxophonist, which is an instrument that’s absolutely needed to play Who Can It Be Now?!

Such a fun show!

After returning home, I spent most of Saturday lazing the day away, until Rob and I went to dinner at I Nonni. And guess what? It was open. 😉 We then ventured over to Sunfish Cellars about a 1/4 mile down the road to see if they had any interesting wine or beer. Maybe some Blacklist?

We discovered something new!

Sunfish Cellars’ small little cheese shop has now turned into a wine bar!


We sampled the GSM flight, the favorite being the Chakalaka from South Africa. The Les Hérétiques is actually mostly made from the Carignan grape, which is common in the Rhone Valley where GSMs originated. And the Joel Gott Alakai just tasted like it had been opened for some time.

Rob really wanted to try the K Syrah {I love that name!}; but the bartender pulled it up on her iPad and told us it’s actually $25/glass. We decided to keep an eye out for it in the store, instead, to see if a bottle was more affordable. {We did not find it.}

As much as I love the name of this wine,

I don’t think this was the smartest way to display three bottles of it.



Sunday included a morning run, an afternoon nap and dinner at Marin. After I posted that write-up, I realized that I never told you about Rob’s chosen entree, which is really too bad because he loved it! #secondchances


Grass-Fed Sirloin with fingerling potato, confit tomatoes, smoked onion mustard

I really couldn’t have asked for much more for a perfect weekend…

Although this weekend is looking to be pretty nice as well: A little burrata at Tangiers, 70s & 80s night at the Varsity, a long Saturday morning run, a St. Paul Brewing History Tour and dinner at Restaurant Max. Now if we could only fit in the Sweet Colleens at the Stone Arch Bridge Festival

I love summers in Minnesota!

What are your summer weekends looking like?


North Shore Brewery Tour – Part III {The Finale!}


Happy Thirsty Thursday!

This is Part III to conclude our brewery tour to Duluth and along the North Shore. You can read the other parts here:

Part I – Details about Get Knit Tours and Brewery Stop #1: Blacklist Brewing Company
Part II – Details on Brewery Stops #2, 3 & 4: Canal Park, Lake Superior and Castle Danger {our fave!} Brewing Companies


Did I tell you how Get Knit Tours really thought of everything on this trip?! I’ve already explained that all food {breakfast, lunch and dinner} and tastings were included in this trip, that our coach bus had its own bathroom and electric outlets for devices and that every brewery was so different from each other that it kept things very interesting!


But I failed to mention a few other important other perks!

  • Complimentary Pint Glasses – A Get Knit pint glass is included in this tour. But we also received a special Bent Paddle Festiversary pint glass to commemorate the occasion.
  • Water and Snacks – This may sound silly, but during a day of drinking, you might not think about how dehydrated you are getting. Furthermore, everyone can always use a bit more food to soak things up. On at least three separate occasions on the bus tour, our guides came around with water, pretzels, string cheese and Skinny Pop popcorn.
  • Growler Storage – If you buy a Growler at any brewery, Get Knit has coolers in the luggage cargo to store them and keep them cool until the end of the tour!
  • Drink on the Bus! – Or if you want to drink said Growler *now*, this was possible, too. It was perfectly permissible to do so and Get Knit even had plastic cups available for your sipping pleasure.


But before we move on to the last two stops of the tour, look what Rob and I found this week!

{Found at The Wine Thief & Ale Jail}


Now to those final two brewery stops…

5) Carmody Irish Pub

Why stop at an Irish Pub on a brewery tour, you ask? Because that is what Rob and I always do when we travel. How did Get Knit Tours know that?! 😉


Truthfully, the reason why we stopped at this Irish Pub is that they brew their own beer here – in the basement! It’s a smaller operation, so they took about 15 people down there at a time to check it out.

Here’s your brewer:


He makes some seriously good stout.


Just like other breweries, you can get Growlers to go here. And like many other Irish Pubs in the U.S., you’ll see dollars affixed to the ceiling. There’s a bit of a variation here.


After sampling, Rob and I took a load off and sat at the bar to enjoy another local brew. I love how some are masking-taped with names!


When in Duluth, I recommend a stop at Carmody Irish Pub.


5) Bent Paddle Brewing

We were lucky to end our tour at Bent Paddle for their Two-Year Festiversary. As part of our tour, we got free entry into the fest, our first pint of beer free {in our festiversary pint glass!} and a voucher for a food truck for dinner.


But first we started with a tour of the taproom and brewery.

FullSizeRender (4)

I know I should have branched out, but I had to get the Cold Press Black Ale that I really loved the first time I ever tried Bent Paddle {which was only a couple of months prior!} Rob went with the Harness the Winter IPA which he said is an excellent winter brew, despite the fact that he was surprised it was still available!

What can I say about Bent Paddle?

For a brewery celebrating only its two-year anniversary….

FullSizeRender (2)The facility is HUGE!

We were a little disappointed about the Festiversary, though. Big group events are not really Rob’s thing, but that wasn’t the issue. What bummed us was that they were supposed to have several types of specialty beers on tap, including multiple cask ales. We got there too late, however. There was only a Blonde left that interested neither of us. Our only other option was to get a pint of one of the beers we had already tasted on the tour. 😦

As for the food trucks, I don’t know why, but we didn’t do our research beforehand and check out all of the trucks. Instead, we just ordered from the first one we stopped by – which was a hot-dog stand. Wait. It wasn’t even a truck, come to think of it!

I ordered a Thai-one-on Dog, which was actually quite tasty – a hot dog on a bun topped with thai peanut sauce, a crunchy slaw and some jalapenos. We were supposd to get a side item, as well. But for this vendor, it was just another regular hot dog on the side.

Rob and I didn’t spend much time out there. We went back into the taproom to chill instead. After our one free beer outside, it didn’t matter where we bought our next one. At this point, I had met my threshold for beer. I was done. So Rob bought me a root beer! Delicious!

Want to know where to get those Bent Paddle beers in town (Duluth)? Try here!

FullSizeRender (1)

At about 8pm, we started to make our way home. Some people opened their growlers and drank on the bus while playing cards. Our guides popped in a movie to entertain the rest of us. Both Rob and I fell asleep.

And when we arrived, I noticed that most people had eventually fallen asleep! Even the people who got really drunk on this tour seemed to be doing okay at this point. Despite all of that, the one thing Get Knit did offer everyone before descending the bus is aiding people in calling cab rides. Not many people were on the tour by themselves, so I think there was someone able to drive in every group.

We got home that night and and fell into bed, tired but content. It was a perfect day trip! Thank you, Get Knit! You can check out their other events and tours here, including their upcoming Rails & Ales – a Minneapolis-St. Paul Light Rail Brewery Crawl!

What was strange was waking up the next day without our dogs

Have you done a tour of multiple breweries like this?

If so where?

What did you think?



More Marin {Closed}


I know that I’ve already written about my experience at Marin. But I loved it so much the first time that the only way I knew I could get Rob to go was to buy a Groupon. This is one of the most successful ways that I know how to get him to go to restaurants I want to try. Not only does it make it a bit less expensive when you aren’t quite sure about the restaurant; but there is also {and most importantly!} the power of an expiration date.

We have to get there before it expires rather than just talk about it!

{We’ve been talking about La Belle Vie, Saffron, Café Lurçat, Barley John’s and Joan’s in the Park for years.}

So it was a Groupon Living Social Deal that brought us to my beloved Marin.

As you may have read in my most recent post, we just love spending time in downtown Minneapolis on a mellow Sunday evening! Unless there is an event going on, we don’t have to worry about long waits or big crowds.

I don’t know why this place is called Marin, but I did learn that it’s also lesser known county near Napa & Sonoma!


Per our usual, we asked if we could sit at the bar.

It wasn’t included with our deal voucher, but I started with a little apéro…

#3 Champagne Cocktail 10 Lairds, Stirrings Ginger, Peach, Rhubarb Bitters

#3 Champagne Cocktail – Lairds, Stirrings Ginger, Peach, Rhubarb Bitters – $10

Unlike my previous cocktail at Marin, I loved this one! Those flavors together were complex. I loved the ginger in it! I recommended it to our other barmates.

Speaking of those barmates… We overheard the manager telling a story to them about his grandfather’s bourbon. He then stopped over and gave us a little taste because he didn’t want us to feel left out. 🙂 It was so smooth and may have converted Rob from Scotch to bourbon. Maybe…

What I loved about this Living Social experience with Marin is that although they have a specific Living Social menu, you can always order anything else off the regular menu for an upcharge. You are not limited to anything!


I immediately went in search of those scallops I adored… Which now that I think about it, I adored them at Mill Valley, too. They are sister restaurants!

Our choice of House Red or White was very decent! We each had a glass of Thomas Henry Pinot Noir. The white was a solid Pinot Grigio, too. I like the little break from the normal Cabernet or Chardonnay for house wines.


Baby Kale Salad with Manchego, Pine Nuts, Lemon-Chili Vinaigrette – $8

I found this salad to be very salty! However, at that moment, I also decided that pine nuts should now be put in every salad. And I thought maybe that the greens were arugula instead of baby kale because of the spiciness. But now I know it was that chili vinaigrette!

Rob chose the soup of the day, which was supposed to be Caribbean Pork.

How often does one see that on a menu?!


But Rob took one sniff and thought he smelled something fishy.

He asked me if I would try it. First I smelled it. Yes, it did have a sort of fishy aroma; but I reasoned it could be the spices that were used. Then I tasted it. Hmmm… It was a little fishy and the meat did seem more of a fish texture than one of pork. I wasn’t 100% sure, so I told Rob that he should ask our bartender. She didn’t think they would put anything fish-related into this bowl; but she went back to double check.

She came back and quickly whisked it away!

They had just changed it to Fish Stew that day! They were happy to exchange it with Rob’s other choice. He went with the same baby kale salad I did and agreed that it was very salty. He also concurred that all salads should have pine nuts on them. Forever and eva. Amen.

Apparently, scallops are not in season… So I went with the salmon.

Salmon, Fermented Black Bean Sauce, Spinach 26

Salmon with Fermented Black Bean Sauce, Spinach – $26

That sauce is more of a broth, but it was wonderfully flavorful. It made that spinach taste like The Best Spinach in the World. I am quite pleased that scallops were not in season!

This three-course meal was definitely more doable than the huge multi-course meal we had at BANK. Dessert was a scoop of housemade ice cream or sorbet, of which they had four flavors of each!

I can’t even differentiate which is which in the photos. They brought them while I was in the restroom, so they were slightly melted upon my return. No mattter, they were delicious. Rob got the Insight Yuzu Pale Ale Sorbet (really!) and I got the Cardamom Ice Cream. Both were creamy and delicious; but the cardamom ice cream was the favorite of the two!

Rob loved everything about this restaurant, which I knew he would. I think that sometimes it’s the small online menu that turns him off when I suggest a restaurant. This Living Social Deal allowed him to experience the restaurant to its fullest.

But I still need to make it to the Library down stairs! The Library is to Marin like Parlour is to Borough and Marvel Bar is to Bachelor Farmer. (I believe.)

Happy Hour is available in the bar and in the Library (when open) Monday through Saturday from 3pm to 6pm and 10pm to 12am. There is no HH on Sunday, but there is the Sunday Supper. Rob hates the word supper, but I think he’d still go with it because it’s specific three course meal for just $20 per person. This includes only a few featured items, so it’s best to check ahead. They post the menu on line every week. You can add a bottle of their Marin Label House Wine for just $12!

What brings you into a restaurant you haven’t tried yet?





Eating at the BANK


Oh how we love mellow Sunday evenings in Downtown Minneapolis! It’s one of our favorite times to dine out there.

On this particular Sunday evening, a Groupon brought us to BANK Restaurant located in the Westin Hotel. We had been to BANK once before out of the recommendation of one of my husband’s co-workers. But that was back before my blogging days; so I can’t even remember what I ate there.

This is proof that my blog has also become my memory.

At least we liked it enough that when Rob saw that this deal included a four-course meal for two with a bottle of wine, he begged me to book it.

BANK’s interior is sleek because they have very much retained the look and feel of what used to be the Farmers & Mechanics Bank back in the 1940s. (Hence the name of the restaurant.)



In the photo above, you’ll see the Chef’s Teller Counter to the left. This is where the actual teller counter was located back in those banking days. Behind the counter is now an open kitchen. Diners can pull up a seat to the counter and watch their food being prepared. I’d say that it’s a nice way to be entertained if you are alone in town on business!

We made our way to the Gold Bar in the center, which is a great open layout to facilitate the meeting of others. Remember, this is a hotel bar and restaurant!

The restaurant itself is a very big, open space. I found this comment on Groupon a little humorous:

“Great service…due to high ceilings, the temperature was a little warm.” 

Uh. What?! The high ceilings are part of the allure, in my opinion.

These were our choices for a bottle of wine included with our Groupon:


Of course, wine included in these sorts of deals is usually on the lower end. However, we were still pleased by the Casa Lapostolle Merlot that I was surprised Rob chose. It’s a fantastic value wine, as are many wines from Chile. Though BANK does boast offering more than 70 bottles from around the world.

TIP: Make a trip to the restroom while you are at BANK and you will walk by the Wine Vault. This is the original bank vault converted into a wine cellar! It’s quite clever.


For the record, this was way too much food.

Had I known this, I wouldn’t have devoured my portion of our shared starter:


Mac & Cheese – torchio pasta, mornay, cornflakes

Yes, those are really cornflakes. I expected them to be pulverized into breadcrumbs; but instead it was like that someone just pulled out a box and shook some over the Mac and Cheese. I also had never had torchio-shaped pasta before. That was another first.

After sharing that, we each had a choice of soup or salad:


Chicken Tortilla soup with avocado and crema

I was a bit underwhelmed by the Chicken Tortilla Soup, but I liked the added avocado. Both the mac and cheese bowl and this soup bowl were much deeper than the bowl of pasta Rob had back at Lyn65. At this point, I was a bit smarter and didn’t finish the soup.


Roasted Golden Beets w/sunflower seeds and sprouts, whipped ricotta, orange confit

Did you know that Rob loves beets? He was enamored with this beautiful dish. Still, he only ate about half of it. We were both already starting to get full!

My entree was the chicken:


Pan Roasted Chicken – confit chicken thigh, roasted carrots, fingerling potatoes, lemon thyme reduction

This was beautifully plated, rich and flavorful! It was still so much food, even if I were to just have had the entree! I probably only ate about half of it, and that was only because I pushed myself to do so because it was so good!


Hanger Steak – with oven fried tomatoes, yucca, grilled scallions, chimichurri

Rob was equally pleased with his perfectly medium-rare cooked lean steak. {This is definitely not the best photo to illustrate that.} We had a bit of an argument about what chimichurri is, but a quick google search settled the score: “a green sauce used for grilled meat, originally from Argentina. It is made of finely-chopped parsley, minced garlic, olive oil, oregano, and white vinegar.”

In any case, Rob says that it will always remind him of our friend Brendan, because he cooked us up a beautiful steak with chimichurri when we went to Charlotte to visit.

I love that the sauce is plated around the steak, not drenched over it. You can dredge the steak in just the right amount of sauce that you desire. And with my undying love of tomatoes, I would have eaten those on Rob’s plate if I wasn’t already so full myself.

I have no idea how we ate this dessert:


Olive Oil Cake – with orange zest, creme anglaise, vanilla ice cream

Even sharing this moist, delicious Olive Oil Cake was difficult! It’s certainly a great, refreshing end to a fulfilling meal because the flavors are light and citrusy.


And now that I think of it {and peruse the online menu}, I do remember the cocktail I ordered on my first visit to BANK.

Ten Thyme Smash

refreshing and sophisticated – fresh thyme, cucumber, and lime shaken with ultra-premium tanqueray ten gin, and white cranberry-the perfect aperitif

I remember that I ordered it because Rob’s co-worker had recommended it. I loved the herbal flavors!

Just a quick note on what was different about this Groupon. In order to purchase it, we were required that I make reservations through the Groupon website, something we’ve never had to do before. But it was quick and easy! We had no trouble at all. And because of this, after checking in, we never even needed to show our Groupon. They already had our information. Don’t be turned away by that requirement! You can even cancel your reservation 60 minutes beforehand without forfeiting your voucher.

I do like using OpenTable to make reservations. However most Groupons that require reservations want you to call the restaurant directly rather than book online. Booking through Groupon was a nice alternative.

Do you book restaurant reservations online?

What do you like or dislike about doing that?