Monthly Archives: December 2015

Fantasy Draft 2015


It’s the end of the year and I have not yet done my Fantasy Draft for 2015! Fantasy Beers, that is.

Since today is Thirsty Thursday and New Year’s Eve, I found it rather appropriate.

And so it goes… My six-pack pick of beers that I’ve loved in 2015.

And just as a reminder, these are not necessarily the best beers I’ve had this year. Some may be, but others might have just surprised me or stood out as unique! Plus, I have a few rules…


Rules for Fantasy Draft:

1) No repeat beers from previous years. (Although I still love all of those!)

2) No repeat breweries within the same six-pack. For example, even if I am in love with two beers from say, Central Waters, I can only include one.


Fantasy Draft 2015


Hibiscus Sour – Fair State LÄCTOBÄC: Two (MN)

This was the year of sours for me! I hadn’t understood them when they first became wildly popular, but I’m learning to enjoy them more and IMG_4074more. Fair State is a local brewery that I have not yet visited, nor had I had any of their beers before encountering the Hibiscus Sour at Stanley’s NE. It had all of the sour flavor with a nice infusion of hibiscus. The thing is that Fair State Brewing not only seems to be known for sours, but they change it up with a new one in this “LÄCTOBÄC” series of lactobacillus-soured beers. So who knows if we’ll ever see it again. I had number two. At the time of this writing, Fair State’s website shows that they are on number Eight: Salted Watermelon Gose.




Yes, you read that description in the photo correctly. First, I’d like to announce that the Indeed Rum King should have gone in a Draft long ago. But this stout is a little something extra special. When it comes to barrel-aged beers, Indeed does them right over and over again. I mean, that gorgeous night in September we also had a Barrel-Aged Door County Cherry Sour. Seriously.


Central Waters Call Me Old Fashioned (WI)

Visiting Central Waters was a pilgrimage of sorts for me this year. It really pains me that rule #2 is forcing me to choose between this beer and the Headless Heron Barrel-Aged Pumpkin Spice Ale.


Central Waters knows how to make bourbon barrel beers! I ultimately chose the Call Me Old Fashioned because it screams “Wisconsin!” and I’ve only had it twice. It’s something special because you probably have not had an American Red/Amber Ale aged in whiskey barrels with oranges and maraschino cherries. Have you? Plus, it’s never been bottled. It’s not even listed on CW’s website. Will we see it again? I don’t know. But I do know that in the late fall, I can find the Headless Heron at the liquor store down the street. So I’m glad I got to enjoy The Old Fashioned in case it isn’t released again.


Not Your Father’s Root Beer (IL)

The first time I saw this stuff advertised, we were at a local sports bar. I looked across the room and on the wall a poster read “NOT YOUR FATHER’S ROOT BEER Beer” in big, bold lettering. I thought to myself, “But what is it!?”

I understood that this was a hard root beer, but I was confused that the tagline “Not Your Father’s Root Beer” was easy to read, without a trace of the name of the beverage anywhere.NYFRB

But that is the name, silly!

This stuff is scary. It is nostalgic – very reminiscent of that root beer from your childhood. That’s all well and good; but it barely, if at all, tastes alcoholic. I love it. But I fear drinking too much of it. I’ve never had more than one in an evening. But generally, if drinking a sweet soda, I rarely would have more than one of those either.



Shock Top Twisted Pretzel Wheat (MO)

I fully admit that I will put beers that are created by breweries that mass produce in my draft lineup. Sam Adams Cherry Wheat has been on my list in years past. But the interesting thing about this beer is that I don’t even like Shock Top beers. I encountered this one at a St. Paul Saints game about two years ago {before the new stadium}. It was German night and they had a few specialty beers on tap.Twisted-Pretzel-Wheat-6-Pack

Pretzels and beer are an age-old common pairing, so how could this version not work.

I fell in love with it that night. But knowing it was a Limited Edition, I thought I’d never see it again. That was until I saw it advertised on my iBotta app this fall, offering a rebate on it. I hadn’t even ever thought of searching for it in a store! And sure enough, a trip to Total Wine yielded me a 12-pack. I once again remembered why I loved it so. I never even eat pretzels with beer. But this one just works. It’s one of my dad’s new favorites, too, since I’ve introduced him! Even my husband, who is not a fan of wheat beers, whole-heartedly admits that this one is stellar.


Castle Danger Sommelier George Hunter Stout (MN)

Our visit to the North Shore on a brewery tour, introduced us to Castle Danger, beers from which are just starting to make its way down to the Twin Cities.


Castle Danger really knows how to barrel-age their beers as well. {See a theme here?!} But they also make them unique. They’ll often start with their basic (but the taste is anything but!) George the Hunter Stout. A bourbon-barrel aged George will produce Gentleman George Hunter. However, what was even more exciting was the Sommelier George Hunter is George aged in Napa Valley red wine barrels! And it tastes fabulous.

Coming over to my house?

Pick up any one of these beers and you’ll win me over.


And just in case you are curious, here are my picks from previous years:

Fantasy Draft 2013
Fantasy Draft 2014

What was your favorite new-to-you beer this year?

Happy New Beer Year!

Studio 2


The girls and I had a dinner date out this month and it was my turn to pick. I was in a chill, wine bar sort of mood. The last time we had our girls’ night out, we tried to find a coffee shop after dinner. Kim discovered Studio 2, a coffee and wine bar in south Minneapolis. However, upon arrival that night, it was closed for a private event.

I decided this month was now the time to go back and give it a try!


At Studio 2, it’s more like a coffee shop in that you order at the counter. See that record standing up near my glass in the photo above? That’s the table marker. We had Guns N’ Roses. Drinks are served as you order; food is delivered to your table. As you can sort of see, there were no seats at the bar like a wine bar would have. This was truly more coffee shop in style.

Of course, I checked out the menu before I settled on this as my Dinner Night Out pick. From their website:

All of our food is made from scratch, using fresh ingredients sourced from local vendors and farms whenever possible. Our community kitchen is home to other local bakers and makers, our walls are open to local artists, and our stage resounds with singers, songwriters and speakers.

I had my eye on two of the dishes, too!

Jen and Kim both ordered the Grilled Cuban with Alexian ham, provolone, house B&B pickles and Dijon mustard on a multigrain baguette. They got their choice of salad or chips.

The bread was sort of dry and overall, not their favorite sandwich, nor Cuban.

I, on the other hand, was debating between the Chicken Laab, which is a Thai chicken salad with brown rice, carrot, cabbage, cucumber and a citrus vinaigrette, or the Autumn Bowl. It took the barista’s opinion to help me make my decision!

“The Autumn Bowl is nice and comforting on a night like tonight!”

Brown rice, roasted sweet potato, red pepper, onion, kale with maple tahini dressing

Autumn Bowl – Brown rice, roasted sweet potato, red pepper, onion, kale with maple tahini dressing

This bowl was exactly that – comforting. For the record, I’m not a fan of sweet potatoes. But the bowl intrigued me nonetheless. And now that I re-read this, I think I actually assumed they were carrots while I was eating them! This dish had the perfect mixture of flavors and textures. The dressing didn’t saturate the dish. In fact, I might not have called it a dressing. It’s not that the dish was dry – far from it! It was more that it was full of flavor.

It was the perfect dish.

I also liked that their wine list did not include the usual suspects, but rather, some more interesting wines:

Chateau Eugenie Cahors Malbec, France

My wine: Chateau Eugenie Cahors Malbec, France

It had been so long since I’d had a Cahors-region wine! The also have a nice selection of bottle craft beers.

We dined a bit early because I read online that there was music that evening and I wasn’t sure about getting a seat. Just before that began, the place sort of transformed! The menu was covered up and a Specials list was posted. Only these foods would be available during the performance. I was so glad that we had come early. Otherwise, I might not have been introduced to that Autumn Bowl!

Also, stools were pulled out and put up to the bar, assumingly for people to have a closer view of the band. We heard them just fine, but were still able to sit and chat. Despite their housemade coffee syrups, I ordered a plain old Americano and some dessert. I had – get this – a Vanilla Porter Brownie! It was so good and a great ending to a meal.

Winter may have finally come, but I’m still dreaming about that Autumn Bowl at Studio 2.

Name a new-to-you comfort food or dish!



The Story of Jean & The Christmas Cookies


I hope you all had a wonderful and merry Christmas!

For today’s Sophie and Shamrock Saturday, I’d like to share with you a little video starring my babies…

To set the stage, let me say that we hosted a Poker Potuck Party and several cookies were left behind. The next morning, my wonderful husband brought me coffee and cookies in bed.

Miss Sophie Jean wanted to get into that cookie tin…



One friend commented that we shouldn’t feed her after midnight. 😉

Happy Saturday!

Merry Christmas from our house to yours…


I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and turn it into a wonderful long weekend with family and friends!

IMG_5061 I will tell you that although our dogs love the holidays, Sophie Jean will not put on this Santa hat.


She will, however, lay under the Christmas tree, the way Benny Bear once did…

IMG_5055 Merry Christmas from our house to yours!






I thought I’d heard some great things about this new-ish AZ-Mex restaurant in South Minneapolis. So when a Groupon became available for brunch, I immediately bought one!

The origins of the name…


The menu sounded fantastic, somewhat similar to Sonora Grill – a restaurant I visited with girlfriends. I loved it, but never wrote about. That’s just what happens when time flies.

We arrived a little after opening to a tiny corner restaurant. Quaint, but not what we were expecting. There were two other patrons inside and I think only one more was seated the whole time we were there.

We pulled up to the bar and ordered some drinks. My Bloody Mary was pretty boring, so I ordered a Mimosa sans OJ instead. {Read: Just sparkling wine.} Rob’s Blood Orange Margarita was not bad at all.

Side Note: Saguaro seems to only have a license for wine and beer. Cocktails are made with sake, not vodka or tequila in our cases, here.

Still Rob jumped on a Surly Furious as soon as our bartender said that they were $2 all day long!


To be honest, our food was pretty bland. Rob ordered a steak taco thinking that it wasn’t bad. But it got better once he put some of their sauces on it. Their housemade sauces, Arbol Sauce and Saguaro Sauce, are found on every table. They are pretty tasty. But it’s almost as if they don’t want to scare people away with flavor so they leave it out of their dishes with the thought that you can just add your own.


My pork empanadas were very, very dry. I started to dip them in my egg yolks, which helped. Then I poured those yummy sauces on my plate and that is what made them the most edible. They were definitely overcooked. That guajillo sauce that I was dying to try was just drizzled lightly over the top; so I couldn’t really taste it, even before the other sauces I added.

Saguaro was okay, but we are definitely glad we tried it on a Groupon. We don’t need to go back when we have so many other places to try! In fact, it reminded me that I need to get back to Sonora Grill and bring my husband this time.

Have you ever had Arizona-Mexican Cuisine?



Sophie in a Bag?


Sophie & Shamrock Saturday

Today’s post is ALLLLLLL Sophie!

Every week, Rob packs a bag with clean workout clothes and a towel so he can lift weights in the gym at work. When Rob went out of town, I caught Sophie in his bag.


I’m not sure if she thought he was coming home, because she looked toward the front door…


Then she decided to build herself a little nest.

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She was going to try to get close to daddy.


Oh… did I mention… this is HER chair? Maybe the bag was just in the way.


I don’t think so… She eventually curled up and went to sleep.

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Happy Saturday!


Brunch at Parella {Closed}


It’s strange.

Amidst all of the culinary trends of today, several new Italian restaurants have popped up recently in Minneapolis. Eveyone has had Italian food. We do love Italian food, but the fresh, simple kind. And that’s what it sounds like most of these new restaurants are leaning towards! It’s hard to revamp such a classic cuisine without ruining it completely.

We have every intention of trying them all…

{Okay, wait. We tried that last one for a Happy Hour. It was killer. And I didn’t write on it. That’s an excuse to go back – for fresh thoughts!}

With so many new places to try, 

sometimes it just takes a Groupon to get us there.

We made reservations to Parella to use our Sunday Brunch Groupon the day after a Holiday Party. Seriously, it was the only thing that got us out of the house that morning!

And I’m so glad we did…


Although we had reservations, we parked ourselves at the bar. Our Groupon included a choice of Bloody Mary, Mimosa or Bellini. Obviously, I chose the Bloody Mary by the photo above. As much as I love cucumbers, it was a little too cucumber-y for my taste. The Bent Paddle Black Ale chaser made the world sing, though.

Check out the Happy Hour!


They are such good deals and HH available all day on Sundays. We had a Sicilian 75. Much better than the original French version, even at Arnaud’s.


Our Groupon did not include an appetizer, but this sounded so good we had to order it…

RICOTTA BRUSCHETTE Orange Honey, Black Pepper - $8 - $6 during HH!

RICOTTA BRUSCHETTE – Orange Honey, Black Pepper – $8 – $6 during HH!

This wasn’t as good as we both had hoped. It could have used a little more honey. The ricotta to honey ratio was such that all we could taste was the ricotta. Rob didn’t like the “smoky” flavor, but I didn’t mind it because I knew it was from the grilled bread. It’s not something we’d order again.

Two entrees were included with our Groupon. I’m not sure that my dish is really Italian, but I don’t think brunch really is either…


CAST IRON BAKED EGGS – Creamy Polenta, Bruised Kale, Pinenuts – $12

My first thought about this dish when it was served was, “Well, they could have served this with some bread so I could soak up some of that sauce!” But truthfully, it didn’t need it.

There is sausage in this dish! I thought it said on the menu we received; but it says nothing about it online, which is the description I copied to caption the photo above. But now that I think about it… I don’t think think there was bruised kale and I don’t remember pinenuts… And, wait, that’s not polenta!

This is actually a different dish than I captioned!

My version of Cast Iron Baked Eggs had sausage, charred scallions, and a creamy sauce that is too die for. The perfectly-seasoned sausage covered the bottom of the skillet so that every bite had that goodness! Halfway through my dish, I offered Rob a bite. He immediately had ordering remorse. I’d get this again any day. Again and again and again. I finished the skillet.

Rob’s pizza was a different story:


SUCKLING PIG and EGG PIZZABalsamic Onions, Oregano – $14

The description sounded not only divine, but also breakfast-y. Still the result was disappointing. We both agreed that it was the worst pizza crust we’ve ever had. It tasted very much of unbaked flour!! If you are an Italian restaurant, you’ve got to get the crust right. Rob enjoyed the sauce, but the pizza as a whole was pretty boring with not much flavor.

Here’s the thing..

Despite having probably the worst pizza we’ve ever had,

we can’t wait to return to Parella!

We loved the cool and modern feel inside, the spacious bar, the service, my incredible dish, the Happy Hour… Rob really wants to go back to try the pasta. I want to go back and share a bottle of Happy Hour Prosecco with a friend and nosh on the highly reviewed Misticanza Salad made with 20 herbs and greens. Oh.. and those eggs, again. Yes. Get thee to brunch at Parella before they change up those ingredients in the Cast Iron Baked Eggs!

Have you ever gone to a restaurant and had a bad dish but still had a strong desire to return?