Tag Archives: burger

Put on your PARKA! {Closed}

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Because winter has arrived!

I’m not a huge fan of winter, so I’m trying to embrace it as much as possible… But it’s hard for me to come up with a list of things I do like about it.

When I saw a Groupon Living Social deal for a restaurant in Minneapolis called PARKA, I was intrigued. Those of us who live in Minnesota practically live in our winter coats for at least four months out of the year.

The restaurant intrigued me because:

  1. I had never heard of it before even though it opened back in January of this year.
  2. It hails from the owners of Victory 44, which has been on our wishlist for burgers because it always seems to win that “Best Burger” title in the Twin Cities.
  3. Parka has this “Perfect Burger” on their menu, too!

After I informed my husband of my deal purchase, he said, “Why have I never heard of that place before? I know where I want to go for my birthday!”

And so we went, on a Saturday night… early. I spent all day reorganizing and purging from my closet and dresser, so we didn’t eat lunch. I think we left the house around 4:15pm, by which time we were hungry. It didn’t appear that they were the type of place to take reservations. And I knew that if they just sold a bunch of deals, the place just might be packed.

The place was pretty small and reminded me more of a coffee shop. You order at the counter and your food is delivered to you.

They carry three beers on tap and they are all from the local brewery, Indeed Brewing. We’ve had a few of their beers before, one of which includes the LSD, which doesn’t get great ratings, but I totally puffy heart it. There are many more beers available by the bottle or the can, as well as wine. But we, eh hem, Indeed ordered the Midnight Ryder Black Ale on tap.

Our deal included two beverages, an appetizer, two entrées and a dessert. We placed our orders, tipped in the jar and had a seat. Below is the Living Social photo for the deal, but it was pretty much taken from the seat where I sat that evening!

Source: Living Social

{Source: Living Social}

The décor design feels Scandinavian and cozy, reminiscent to the heritage that is rooted here in Minnesota. And although the term Parka is Aleutian, it captures the essence of the cold weather than we Minnesotans either complain about or embrace all winter long. In the corner is a very old TV {with knobs!} and VCR playing recorded {obviously} old North Stars hockey matches. Hockey is beloved here, and although the Wild are wildly popular, the North Stars are still highly missed. I’m sure watching those games is nostalgic for some.

Our beers were promptly delivered to our table:

Indeed Midnight Ryder Black Ale

Indeed Midnight Ryder Black Ale

Originally, for our appetizer, Rob wanted to order the bacon fries. Despite my anti-bacon-on-or-in-my-food preference, I conceded because, after all, it was his birthday dinner. However, we were told that the bacon fries came with the burger, so if we planned on ordering that, we might want to try something else. We asked for an appetizer recommendation. Here’s what we got:

Devils on Horseback

Devils on Horseback

Unless you’ve heard of these before, the average person would not know what these were because there are no descriptions on the menu. I must say that our service was excellent and when someone came to check on us and we asked about the creamy foam, we were given quite a lot of detail about the dish!

Devils on Horseback = Bacon-wrapped, blue cheese-filled dates baked in the oven accompanied by a blue cheez whiz (foam), almond brittle and a ginger date purée.

Who would have known this otherwise? And it was so good! I actually liked not knowing what all of the accompaniments were before I tasted them so that I wouldn’t have any preconceived idea or thought whether or not I’d like every component.

Rob was giddy as he exclaimed that he felt like we were getting to try dishes on Top Chef!

Then came our entrées, which ended up being a bit disappointing.

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The Perfect Burger

I wouldn’t go as far as to say that this burger was perfect. I would say it was good, but it wasn’t one I’d ever get again. Maybe I’d give it a try over at Victory 44 just to see if there is a difference. The cheese was nice and melty, but the meat was a little strange to me. And although the bacon wasn’t overpowering, I still wasn’t feeling it.

We didn’t see any bacon on the fries and Rob thought the white topping was goat cheese, but when I dipped my finger in it, it felt like a powder! I tasted it first, then made Rob try it. And neither of us could taste any flavor. When we inquired about the topping we learned that it was bacon fat powder. Lucky for me, the fries weren’t overpowered with bacon. But if you are looking for bacon fries, these probably won’t satisfy you. The fries themselves weren’t all that exciting anyway. If we are in that neighborhood and craving fries, it’s off to Mosaic we will go!

The second entrée we split:

Mac and Cheese

Mac and Cheese

A hefty portion of mac and cheese arrived along with our burger. Rob found the dish to be creamy; I did not. Plus, it needed some sort of seasoning. It was completely blah. I ended up mixing in those greens and mustard seeds in, which helped a bit, but not enough to get excited about ordering the dish again. And those sausages? I thought they’d be house-made or something. They had a little kick to them. But they were just hot dogs!

And finally, probably the star of the show:

Chocolate Layer Cake

Chocolate Layer Cake

Rob and I rarely order dessert, so this wasn’t the dish we’d been waiting for. Besides, Chocolate Layer Cake sounds a little boring. But this dessert was far from that!

Side note: By this time, there was a line nearly out the door!

Rob was in the restroom when the plate was delivered to our table. I asked what kind of ice cream was served with the cake. The bearded gentleman who brought it to our table wasn’t sure. But I told him that it was okay, I could just taste it! He said that he could check, too.

When Rob returned to the table, he was impressed by the presentation. Bearded man returned and said, “Did you taste it yet?”

I hadn’t because I didn’t want to start Rob. Then, “I’ll give you a dollar if you can guess!”

I took a bite and tasted coffee. But it couldn’t be that easy! I love coffee ice cream, but there was something slightly different about this one.

“Some kind of coffee?” I said.

“Close.”

He turned to Rob, “I’ll give you a dollar if you can guess, too!”

Rob had nothing.

And it was revealed:

CHICORY ICE CREAM

I was pretty darn close. It did remind me of the coffee I’d had in New Orleans! I love when chefs attempt at fun, unique ice cream flavors. Who would have known that this would come with our chocolate layer cake? It’s not noted on the menu! The cake was very good, too, by the way, along with the toasted marshmallow!

But when I bit in into the white chocolate, it almost bit me back! There was something that seemed spicy in there. I couldn’t decide if I liked it or not. I was just more fascinated by it than anything else. I would go back for more in between bites of the cake. My palate was thoroughly confused. I flagged bearded server down again only to find out that the sugar they use to make that white chocolate is the sugar used to make Sweet Tarts. Have you ever heard of such a thing?

Talk about an interesting dining experience, especially with such basically described items on their menu!

This deal reconfirmed something for us. Deal sites like Groupon and Living Social allow us to try something new, whether it be a dining at a new restaurant, discovering a different neighborhood, or trying foods we won’t normally try. It opens up a whole new world for us and gets us out of our comfortable little box.

Just think about it, even if we had heard of Parka before, we may not have ordered anything there but the burger and mac and cheese and then would have gone away disappointed. We still have another deal to use, so we’ll be trying some different entrées next time around.

Now, after all that…

What do you like about winter?

Cheers~
Carrie

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Republic

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Saturday night, Rob rounded up some friends and we went down to Republic, a craft beer bar and restaurant. Rob had almost chosen it for his birthday dinner this week, but decided it would be more fun to head there in a group.

It’s the second time we’d been to the Uptown location of this restaurant. But all it took was one visit to put Republic’s beer and burgers on Rob’s Top 10 lists.

There are several things that I love about this place:

  • There are no televisions! – Thus, no distractions. Unless your mate is constantly on his/her SmartPhone, you should have his/her undivided attention!
  • The Simplicity – There is one menu with one side listing beers by category {Ales, Belgians, IPAs, Ciders, etc.} and the other side listing food by category {Daily, Vegetable, Beef, Cow, Pig, Bird}
  • Local Beer Selection – Of their 56 craft beers on tap, about of third of them are local – meaning within the Twin Cities metro. There are many more hailing from the entire Midwest.
  • The Beer Flights – They are exceptional here because there are no exceptions. You can choose any three beers in a flight of half-pints for $10.
  • Beer Feature – There is also one Beer Feature that is just $3 at any given time until it’s gone!
Republic Beer Flight - 8 oz pours of any three different beers

Republic Beer Flight – 8 oz pours of any three different beers

This is the route I like to go so that I can try a variety of beers. Jen and Kim did the same and each included a Cider in their lineups. Lately, mine have been consisting of the Porter and Stout varieties. But I did add the Steel Toe Imperial Red Ale to the mix this time.

The Food

I’d like to describe the food here as “Elevated Comfort Food.” I can almost guarantee you that I’ve heard that phrase somewhere else. So I can’t attest to its originality. But I do think it describes it well. Here are some examples:

Beer Battered Fish & Chips - Fulton Blonde beer batter, house-made tartar sauce

Beer Battered Fish & Chips – Fulton Blonde beer batter, house-made tartar sauce

When I asked Kim how her fish and chips chips was, she gave me the look and said, “It’s awesome.” You could see that there were spices in the batter. And that is not how she described the fish and chips at Pat’s Tap.

Sausages - roasted potatoes, mustard

Sausages – roasted potatoes, mustard

Even though this was so simply described, our friend Mike was intrigued. When it arrived, I asked what kind of sausage was in the dish. He said, “Kielbasa, I think.” Rob hates the word “hearty,” but if we had to describe any dish as such, this would be the one. There were a lot of potatoes! Purple, Yukon, baby reds… He had a pile leftover after eating half of them and all of the meat. His wife, Lisa, said that they’d take them home and she’d make some hash for breakfast.

Poached Eggs - grilled vegetables, roasted potatoes, chimichurri {add steak for $6 or sausage for $4}

Poached Eggs – grilled vegetables, roasted potatoes, chimichurri {add steak for $6 or sausage for $4}

I surprised myself by ordering poached eggs in a restaurant. But. It. Just. Sounded. Good. I added steak and was glad I did. The grass-fed beef was perfectly cooked and maybe even “made” the dish.

The poached eggs were a little overcooked, in my opinion. I like me a runny egg and they were barely so. Also, I took a big bite of one and found something crunchy. After a few bites, I realized it was an egg shell and it was all dispersed throughout my mouth. I have never experienced this before. How could it happen? I thought maybe I was imagining it, until I carefully forked up another bite and found another piece of shell in tact. When I showed the server and asked her to take away my napkin which contained the remains of the shell-bite, she apologized; but that was about it.

That being said, those roasted veggies were divine. And I ate every bite of potatoes. I don’t buy potatoes because I could eat them in quantity with no regard to portion. So, indulge I shall, when they are offered on my plate at dinner.

Angus Burger - carmelized onion, bacon, aged cheddar -or- blue cheese {burgers served with a mixed green salad, sub fries for $2}

Angus Burger – carmelized onion, bacon, aged cheddar -or- blue cheese {burgers served with a mixed green salad, sub fries for $2}

And then – The Burger. Lisa, Rob and Jen all ordered one. Jen said that there was a good amount of blue cheese on hers. Other places are a little skimpy on that. And she went on to explain how she never had any patience to cook up some carmelized onions herself, but how wonderful she forgot that they are! Rob confirmed that it is still one of the best burgers he’s had in the Twin Cities.

What is your favorite comfort food?

How would you kick it up a notch?

Cheers~
Carrie

From Pat’s Tap to…

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November Girls’ Night took place on a back-to-back weekend with last month’s Girls’ Night. Rob asked the girls if he could crash it. Not only did they happily oblige…

But Jen offered up her turn to choose the restaurant to Rob!

He was tickled. He threw out five options he was considering, just to make sure he wasn’t completely stepping on our toes.

It was narrowed down to Pat’s Tap.

I love this tradition of trying new restaurants with the girls every month. There are no rules, except that we each take turns choosing the location. We do tend to try new places, unless someone has a hankering for something they’ve loved before… 😉 One of the reasons dining with just the girls is fun for me is that we often get dine where Rob normally wouldn’t like to go, namely seafood joints. {I know, they usually have steak or a burger, but his choices are limited.}

For example, one month, we dined at Sea Change. I never posted on the restaurant, quite frankly, because I kept my iPhone in my purse, took no photos of the beautiful food and just spent time chatting and catching up with the girls. Because that is really the purpose of these dinner nights. And sometimes, that’s all I want to do!

All of that being said, it’s fun to add Rob to the mix sometimes, too. No matter the situation, his personality and sense of humor gets everyone laughing.

I did take a couple of photos that night, but they aren’t very good ones. So I hope my words convey the character of this place more than anything else!

The Ambiance

Pat’s tap does not take reservations. I warned Rob of this because he doesn’t like to stand and wait – ever. The plan was to arrive around 6pm on a Saturday evening. Luckily, there was a table or two left and we didn’t have to wait at all, despite the fact of how busy it was. The bar was packed and people were standing.

I’d call this a quintessential neighborhood bar {and eatery}. It seems to be the hangout for people about 30 – 45. And there was Skee Ball! Seriously. However, I don’t think we were ever going to get in on that action with how busy it was. If you’ve been looking to join a Skee Ball legauge – they’ve got ’em here.

Skee ballThe Beer {and wine and cocktails}

The beer list is quite extensive! There are a couple of handfuls on tap and a gazillion more in the bottle. Whatever your taste, you’ll find something. The wine list is pretty decent, too. Not just the usual suspects. And the craft cocktails had me intrigued. I almost went in the that direction.

Instead, I went for the Deschutes Jubel Ale on Nitro. It’s a seasonal, festive beer that I’ve only seen on tap in these parts the past couple of years. Enjoying it on Nitro means it’s smooth and creamy. They also had the Deschutes Black Butte Porter on Nitro, which we recommended to Kim. The best part? These two Nitro taps are offered at Happy Hour prices – ALL MONTH LONG (any time of day).

An excellent beer, on Nitro, for just $3 per pint – YES, PLEASE!

The Food

We started with a couple of apps, of which I took no photos.

  • Kim and Jen split the Zucchini Cakes with Lemon Honey Aioli – I took a bite and loved the shredded zucchini texture. They were so good! My only complaint was that aioli was a little too lemony for me. And I like lemon.
  • Rob ordered the House Made “Cheese Its” – Everyone pretty much agreed that the real thing is better, but I applaud the effort. They tasted more like Goldfish and I didn’t have any problem eating them!

At this point, none of us were particularly famished. But I’d heard rave reviews of the burger here, so I was still hoping someone would split one with me! Rob said that he would and really wanted the Bacon Burger.

“That’s okay,” I said. “I’ll just take the bacon off and give it to you.”

“Uh, no,” he replied, as he pointed to the menu. “It says here that the bacon is in the burger.”

As being one of The Odd Ones who is not a bacon fan {I like it by itself, but not in or on my food}, I hemmed and hawed for a bit. Finally, I said that I’d just go with it because it was something I’d never had before.

But when it came time to order, Rob went with the Big Cheese Burger instead. Oh how I love that man!

I don’t think I mentioned how great the service was here! The only thing that took some time was getting our beers, but I can imagine that the bar was backed up at that hour. But the server brought out our dishes that we split on separate plates!

BIG CHEESE BURGER. . . . . . . 13 Cheddar, tomato, garlic dill pickles

BIG CHEESE BURGER – $13 (Half of a sandwich pictured)
Cheddar, tomato, garlic dill pickles

One thing that is really hard to tell in that photo {besides what the dish actually looks like} is that there is a big, thick slice of cheese that is FRIED. It’s all golden and carmelized on top.

Despite the fact that we talked about it with our server, Rob totally missed this. He thought that piece of cheesy goodness was the top bun. He gave me the tomato and ate the top bun by itself claiming that he thought it was a crouton. When it came time to eat the burger, he had a look of confusion on his face about his “top bun.” It was then that we explained the fried cheese concept to him all over again!

Here’s what we will tell you – This was an excellent burger! It does not make Rob’s Top 10 List, but will come pretty darn close. It is also one we’d order again. The fries were okay, but nothing to rave over. And a half burger was just enough food for me.

The girls also split an order:

FISH & CHIPS. . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Cornmeal breaded MN perch, remoulade

 FISH & CHIPS – $14 (Half an order pictured)
Cornmeal breaded MN perch, remoulade

I’m pretty sure neither Kim nor Jen had ever had perch as a fish fry before. However, that’s the name of the game on Fridays in Northeast Wisconsin where I grew up! One thing I don’t think any of us ever had, though, was fish with cornmeal breading.

I believe that they thought the fish was fine, but that the cornmeal made it taste dry. I think they’d try something else next time.

Also, when Jen dipped her fish into the tartar sauce, she said, “Whoa! That’s spicy!” She was expecting traditional tartar sauce.

But it wasn’t. We all tried it and Kim and I concluded that we thought it was raw garlic that was making the sauce spicy. But there was something in it that we couldn’t put our fingers on. We tasted lemon, garlic, and fresh herbs individually and we thought that there just had to be something else in there. We asked our server and she told us it was a remoulade, but wasn’t exactly sure what was in it.

So it wasn’t actually a tartar sauce at all. Still, I’m not sure that, by definition, a remoulade is meant to be spicy either. It’s a French word. And while classical French cooking has a lot of flavor, it’s not generally spicy. Rob loved it and stole a ramekin away from the girls in which to dip his fries!

~

By splitting a burger and ordering $3 Nitro beers, Rob was surprised and please by our bill. One of the best values in town for the quality we were served!

By the end of the meal, we thought about going somewhere for dessert. But we were full and had no room! We checked our iPhone apps for nearby watering holes, but we weren’t yielding any intriguing results. Instead, we decided to drive around a bit…

Come back next week to find out where we went after Pat’s and why we had to Ring for Champagne…

Have you ever had bacon in a burger rather than on it?

Cheers~
Carrie

B

Patty Melts & PumpKing

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One late Sunday afternoon, Rob and I decided to have an early dinner at one of our favorite Hipster joints – The Lowry. {Yes, I know. We’ve been there soooo many times and I still need to post about it.} However, forgetting that the Vikings’ game was in town, we ended up in the throes of traffic. Before we got stuck amidst it all, I called an audible {get the football reference?!} and told Rob to exit. We headed over to St. Paul to another Blue Plate restaurant – the Groveland Tap.

We had only been there once before. This time, we were able to pull a seat up to the bar. We were happy to see that one of our favorite Twin Cities breweries – Steel Toe – was featured on tap with their Size 7 IPA. And it’s always nice to see the local Surly representing, too.

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But we just had to have a bit of PumpKing since it is our favorite pumpkin ale and it was on tap. We wanted to make sure we didn’t miss out on the last of it. It’s probably one of my Top Ten Favorite Beers, if I were to have such a list… Hmmm…

We also tried a the local Lucid Seasonal which was pretty good, too. If I remember correctly, it was even on Cask. Wait, it was! I just found a photo I took of the board that listed all of the beers: Lucid Amber with Pumpkin Spice & Clove.

002I was indecisive on what I wanted to eat and eventually ordered the Turkey Burger because it sounded similar to the one I love over at the Lowry, a sister restaurant. There’s no photo here, but rest assured I devoured it and a had few of the Cajun fries that came with it. It was very good, but not exactly the same as what I remembered from Lowry. But here’s the other thing eating that turkey burger reminded me to do:

Learn to make poblano pesto!

It’s what they put on their turkey burgers and I love it. There’s something about poblanos that I’ve learned from cooking out of The Homesick Texan, that gives Tex-Mex its flavor without being spicy like, say, a jalapeno. You know me, all about flavor.

I thought Rob would go with a Juicy Lucy, since he loved it last time. But he decided to go with the Patty Melt, instead, and this time with Parmesan-Garlic Fries.

001So, while the photo does this burger no justice {it was an afterthought}, at least I snapped one. Rob said this Patty Melt has usurped his best Patty Melt at Harry’s Café! It sounds like it’s time to update the Top 10 Burger List! And those parmesan-garlic fries put the cajun ones to shame.

So this is our formal personal reminder note:
Get the parmesan-garlic fries next time we find ourselves at the Groveland Tap.

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I mentioned that Groveland Tap is part of a group of restaurants owned by Blue Plate. Normally, I’m turned off by chain restaurants. It’s not a chain per se. Each of these restaurants has its own unique menu, character and overall feel. And the food is really good. We’ve been pleased every time. I liked this sign outside of Groveland tap that describes each restaurant:004And a quick skim of the Blue Plate website indicated that a new restaurant called the Freehouse is opening in December. I think we’re going to have to check that one out!

What are your favorite burger toppings?

Have you ever topped with poblano pesto?!

Cheers~
Carrie

Beverly Hills & Maison 140

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Yes, our week-long vacay to Cali has been spewed at you completely out of order. So where did Beverly Hills come in? After Pasadena, but before Temecula. We spent one night in a beautiful boutique hotel called Maison 140, which I found on TripAdvisor.

What we learned is that, apparently, Beverly Hills pretty much shuts down on Sunday. That was our day there. I picked our hotel based on its (walking) distance from various restaurants. A couple that we considered were the Crustacean {for the Garlic Noodles we saw on The Best Thing I Ever Ate} and La Dolce Vita for the Italian food and the ambiance.

But both were closed on Sunday.

#planningfail

But we did still have a great time. Our hotel was in walking distance of Rodeo Drive. Walking down that street felt foreign to me. Not just because of all the high end shops, but because we didn’t hear any English spoken. I couldn’t pick out any celebrities, but then again none of the well-dressed shoppers were speaking any English. I am not sure why that surprised me…

Every girl from my generation remembers the scene in Pretty Woman where Vivian’s friend writes “Reg Bev Wilsh” on a pizza box with a tube of lipstick to remember where her friend is staying. Well, we were instructed by our friend to just go there… And to have an exorbitantly priced $20 glass of wine and people-watch.

So we did.

The Beverly Wilshire {Note: It is now owned by Four Seasons} is located on the corner of Rodeo Drive and Wilshire Boulevard, also walking distance from our hotel. We hoped to take a seat out on the patio, street-side, because it was a gorgeous day. However, there were no tables to be had. As we made our way toward the door to step inside, I heard Rob gasp. He saw this:

044This Batventador Lamborghini was parked on the side of the road. I find the little cones quite amusing. I wonder who owns it! Were they inside the building watching everyone gawk at it? The funny thing is that we actually ended up seeing four different Lamborghinis that day. Now, Rob is a car guy, so this was quite fun for him. In BH, Porsches, especially the Carerra, are so common that we started calling them Ford Focuses. “Oh, look! There goes another Ford Focus!” we’d say to each other – every time we saw one.

When I was finally able to pull Rob off the street, we stepped inside. There was no worry about a dress-code, really. Rob was wearing shorts and a nice shirt. I was wearing capris and a nice shirt. Maybe if we had been wearing sweats or something, it would have been different; but I didn’t feel out of place at all.

We strolled up to the bar and had a look at the menu. After all that, Rob just ordered a House Cab…

041She actually gave him a taste before she poured him a glass. He told me that it was the best House Cab that he’s ever had. Then she showed us the label – Iconoclast Stag’s Leap Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – Napa. Seriously? Who puts a wine from Napa on their menu as a “house” wine? Let alone, who puts one on their menu from a distinct vineyard? We were quite impressed. And while we were expecting it to be overly expensive, when we got the bill, it was “only” $15/glass. If only we had a glass of wine nearly this good for some of the $12 glasses we pay for back at home…

I went a little further into the menu book for my drink. The Pretty Woman cocktail caught my eye because it was made with St. Germain, which is probably my all-time favorite liqueur. But there was a pink version of the cocktail on the menu for Breast Cancer Awareness month that I chose instead:

Meyer Pretty

Meyer Pretty – house-made Meyer limoncello, vodka, Meyer lemon juice, St. Germain, pomegranate syrup & egg white – $17

Our total bill for those two drinks, with tip, came to about $40. But we enjoyed every sip. That is when we wandered around a bit to find a place to have a quick appetizer and perhaps another drink. We finally found a place open called Roni’s, which reminded me of a little neighborhood joint you might find in Europe. We each had a mediocre beer and some horrible poutine. They were probably the worst fries of my life. But we liked the vibe of the place and got to witness some strange interactions – including a request for $500 worth of twenty-dollar bills. The funny part is that it seemed like a regular occurrence.

I spent a lot of time on TripAdvisor and Yelp trying to find an open restaurant that would suit us for our dinner that evening. However, Rob was drawn to the menu of our hotel’s sister hotel that had a restaurant inside called Hush. We both just wanted a relaxing/lazy evening. It was close to our hotel and we didn’t have to think anymore about it, so I happily obliged.

But it turned out to be just a mediocre meal. We each ordered a cocktail that ran about $14 a piece. We started with the Mosaic Fries which sounded delicious. They were pretty good, as apparent by the photo of the remaining fries below…

Mosaic Pommes Frites Parmesan, Parsley & 8 Essence of Truffles

Mosaic Pommes Frites – Parmesan, Parsley & Essence of Truffles – $8

I ordered a caprese salad because a salad just sounded soooo good. And with my love of tomatoes…

Heirloom Tomatoes, Arugula, 14 Avocado, Fresh Mozzarella, Extra Virgin Olive Oi

Caprese Salad – Heirloom Tomatoes, Arugula, Avocado, Fresh Mozzarella, Extra Virgin Olive Oil – $14

To be honest, the tomatoes weren’t that good, but I had no problem finishing this bad boy. Rob on the other hand, ordered something you’ll never believe he ordered – A BURGER! 😉

The Mosaic Burger Swiss or Cheddar Cheese with Spring Greens, Tomato, Char re d Red Onion 16 & Butter Pick le , Choi ce of Fries or House Made Chips

The Mosaic Burger – Cheddar Cheese with Spring Greens, Tomato, Chard, Red Onion & Butter Pickle {+bacon}

Again, a decent burger, but we weren’t wowed. Let’s just say that the menu looked more intriguing than the food was satisfying. And before we knew it, we spent $75 {before tip}.  At this point in the trip, we had already spent about twice as much money as we had planned. So we decided our best bet would be just to go back to the hotel room and relax.

I can’t ever remember a time when I just lounged in a hotel room and watched TV on vacation! It was so nice to do this for once! Rob was able to log some hours for work, too, because Internet was included in the room rate. The mini-bar provided us a half-bottle of wine and I sunk in to the most comfy-cozy bed and settled in for some mindless TV…

046I adored this bed so much that I didn’t want to get out of it. It was sooo much better than the one we about to sleep in for three nights at South Coast. Seriously, I still dream of this bed. The room was cute in general. The funny thing is that I did not know this when I booked the hotel, but it is French-themed! {Yeah, Carrie, it’s called the Maison 140. Duh.} Check out this sculpture in the room:

048My chip-fanatic husband wanted me to get the Doritos in the picture. He picked these up at Target in Pasadena because he’s never seen the Tapatio Hot Sauce flavored Doritos before.

I loved the adorable Frenchness of the entire place, including breakfast! Breakfast is not included with the room rate and parking is an extra 28 smackaroos. So when I saw online that I could get a package deal for parking plus breakfast for two people for just $24, I took it. The breakfast was continental, but included croissants and pain au chocolat!

054Okay, so not the best pastries I’ve had… but still… There was strong, French Press coffee!!!

053Needless to say, Carrie was a well-rested happy girl departing Beverly Hills that morning…

057What else did I like about Maison 140? I loved that we were pretty much in a little, quiet residential neighborhood but still in walking distance of what we wanted to do that we needn’t drive anywhere. That was huge in Rob’s book, too.

How do you choose a hotel when you go on vacation?

Cheers~
Carrie

PUBlic House

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How did we end up at PUBlic House in Old Town Temecula for a late lunch pre-brewery crawl on that rainy Wednesday afternoon in October? Well, it started with a hunt for the town’s best burger.

Although we had the best sliders of our lives that Monday night in Old Town at The Edge, Rob wanted to find the best burger. We had a late breakfast that morning after a full day of wine tasting the day before. After breakfast {even though we were all “wined out”}, we knew we had to taste the wines of the vineyards where we were staying at South Coast Winery! {More on South Coast tomorrow for Wine Wednesday!}

We walked over to the tasting room where Gregg began pouring us some exceptional wines. He also gave some food pairing recommendations and talked about a burger he makes with wine, as well as described how to make a Caribbean-style fish. He had my mouth watering so much that I almost asked him if we could come over for dinner.

We joined the Wine Club there and while I was at the register signing up and paying it, something occurred to me. We had not yet had a burger.

“HEY!” I said to Rob. “Why don’t you go back in there and ask Gregg where we can get the best burger in town! We’ll do a late lunch there before we check out the local breweries!”

He sprinted off into the tasting room and came back with a solid answer:

“PUBlic House.”

There wasn’t any hemming and hawing from Gregg. There was no “In and Out” burger response like we’d receive the day before. {Which, by the way, we did not pass up on In and Out while we were there!} With Gregg, it was PUBlic House all the way.

So we went.

It was a rainy afternoon and I was grateful that we spent the beautiful day before doing all of the tasting and enjoying the vineyard views. Today was a perfect day to recover and then spend the evening beer tasting.

The host stand was outside and we asked if we could be seated at the bar. I thought that they’d lead us inside. But instead, they led us around the back to the part-covered outdoor bar. The outdoor heaters warmed the area as the rain beat down. Despite the rainy dreariness, it was so nice to be outside in the fresh air. It was the perfect ambiance.

As we pulled up a chair to the bar, we were happy to see that there were several local beers on tap!

089The bartender caught us squinting to figure out the taps. He declared that there were more upstairs and slid a beer menu in front of us. The Limited Editions immediately caught our eyes.

085Don’t they sound soooo good? I ordered the Farking Wheaton W00tStout while Rob ordered the Firestone Walker Velvet Merkin. If you don’t know what a merkin is, just do a google search. Our bartender told us to do the same. 😉

I know it says that these are 12 oz beers, but the pours just seemed bigger than that!

086We tasted each of them. And while similar, I liked the Velvet Merkin just slightly better. I reread the description and realized that the W00tStout was 13% alcohol against the Merkin’s 8.6%. It was my turn to drive for the brewery crawl that night. It was at that moment that Rob and I realized that it would be best if we switched beers.

Then we searched the menu for the restaurant’s burger description:

087HELL YEAH!

But 10 oz?! We decided this was a burger we’d have to split. We also put in an order for some Opal Basil Fries. While we were waiting, we perused some more of the menu. I texted the photo below to a friend of ours who loves S’mores more than anyone we know. We thought it would be the perfect dessert for her!

090That prompted me to look at what was under “The Little People” Menu:

088Isn’t that the foodiest menu you’ve ever seen for a kid?!

Then the burger arrived…

092It was difficult to cut in two, but we managed. And let me tell you, it was sensational. But it was huge and just one half was filling enough for lunch. I wanted to slather that horseradish sauce on everything. Some of the best horsey sauce I’ve had! And you’d think that side salad was an afterthought; but it was just as enjoyable.

The fry basket was huge. I actually took the following photo AFTER we ate our fill of the fries. We didn’t put a dent in it at all. It was all burger that afternoon!

091These fries were good, but I liked whatever fries they were testing out and passing around beforehand. I think they were truffle or parmesan or something.

This burger did not disappoint. We’d highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good burger in Temecula. The rest of the menu intrigues me, too. We really liked this place and know that if we lived there, we’d probably be there often. Too often, I’m sure! Thanks, Gregg, for the recommendation!

Do you eat horseradish? If so, how do you use it?

Cheers~
Carrie

California Vacay: Pasadena

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Our vacation began in Pasadena.

Wait, do you remember THIS poll?

Yeah. Well, we didn’t end up going to any of those places. Our goal is to travel internationally every year. However, the back surgery I had this year drained much needed vacation time and funds for such a trip.

So when I found out that my friend Erika was getting married in Pasadena, I said to my husband, “That’s what we are going to do instead!” Not only could we celebrate the special occasion with a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time, but we could also get a taste of Los Angeles and then drive down to Temecula Wine Country.

Why Temecula?

I’ve been to Sonoma. We’ve been to Napa. It was time to try something new. And a friend suggested Temecula because she said it’s more laid back than the other two well-known wine regions. But we’ll get to that tomorrow – on Wine Wednesday!

Our first day started out by waiting in this 1 hour and 45 minute line to get our “reserved” rental car:

014It was followed by another 15 minutes to stand in a line with our paperwork to get said car. While I could complain, the rental cost us half the amount it did when we rented for the same amount of time for our wedding in Pensacola in 2010. I told Rob that instead, we should think of it as them paying us $150 for standing in line for two hours.

Then, there’s the traffic. At first, we didn’t understand what all of the fuss was about. But time lost due to the rental car line and a little bit of traffic kept us from stopping in Chinatown on our way to Pasadena. We wanted to check out the Phoenix Bakery, which the groom’s family owns! #fail

But we were going slowly enough that Rob made me take a photo of this exit sign:015~

That night, we spent catching up with friends from Milwaukee who just moved to L.A. this year! It was a gorgeous night sitting outside at the Yard House. There’s an excellent selection (over 50) of beers on tap, which is pretty remarkable for a growing chain restaurant. We had to try a few pints of California beers and maybe a couple from out of state that we can’t get in Minnesota. I personally thought it was fun to try a Youngberry Chocolate – half Lindeman’s Framboise, half Young’s Double Chocolate Stout. It appears we’ll be getting a Yard House in St. Louis Park in 2014. I’ll only go, though, if they put some local stuff on tap and support the little guys!

Rob was quite pleased with his food, too. He ordered a burger or some sort and upgraded to the truffle fries. {Surprise, surprise!} He also ordered a side of Shiitake Garlic Noodles to split. I tried a few different street tacos. Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of these because, fortunately, we focused our time catching up with our friends. It was the perfect place to do that! Great find, Juan!

~

The wedding was absolutely beautiful. It made me so happy to see Erika so happy! We had a long lull between the wedding (10:30am) and the reception (6pm), so we went to lunch with our friend Lisa to one of Craig & Erika’s favorite restaurants in Pasadena – The Green Street Restaurant. It was highly recommended by Erika to order the Dianne Salad, but I didn’t because I thought I wanted something more substantial. All we had for breakfast was the Starbucks Coffee in the hotel room. {Yay, Westin for that perk!}

Here’s what we ordered instead:

Pimento Cheese Bacon Burger with an upgrade to the Potato Chips with Carmelized Onion Dip

Pimento Cheese Bacon Burger with an upgrade to the Potato Chips with Carmelized Onion Dip

Rob really enjoyed this burger. The chips were really good, too!

Caprese Sandwich - La Brea Bread grilled with olive oil topped with fresh mozzarella cheese, roasted tomatoes, tomato-caper spread and pesto with a side of fruit

Caprese Sandwich – La Brea Bread grilled with olive oil topped with fresh mozzarella cheese, roasted tomatoes, tomato-caper spread and pesto with a side of fruit

This sandwich was good, but it didn’t knock my socks off. I really should have just listened to Erika! I mean, in college, we used to go to Perkins late in the night to order those Bread Bowl Salads and talk until the wee hours…

~

Before entering the restaurant, I saw a wine shop next to a cheese shop right across the street. Ding Ding! Knowing that we’d have more time after lunch, I begged Rob and Lisa to stop there afterwards. Maybe we could find some wine to pick up for later? The Wine Detective indicated that there was a tasting going on. I didn’t have to beg them too long. 😉

But I was wrong.

This wasn’t a typical wine shop where you buy bottles of wine. It’s more of a… Wine Tasting BAR! Have you ever been to one of these before?

033Here’s how it works. First, you get a card with a $50 credit. They take your credit card to start your “tab.” You take your card to the stations which consist of 16 white and 32 red wines. Let me just say, these are high end wines. They are wines that you probably wouldn’t be able to get a glass of or taste unless you were at the vineyard, at a specified tasting or bought an entire bottle.

Then you insert your card into the slot of the station that corresponds with the wine you want to try.

The red numbers indicate the cost for a one ounce tasting pour. If you want to try it, just push the button for the machine to dispense the wine from the bottle. I photographed this one because it was our favorite. There was a Chateauneuf-du-Pape that came in 2nd place for us. {Can someone say graham cracker flavors?!}

The Wine Detective just opened for the day when we arrived, so we had the place to ourselves. However, there is space to sit and relax and enjoy happy hour or time with friends like you would at any wine bar. For the wine above, you could enjoy it by the glass for $12, if you’d like. I think the employees would need to dispense that for you though? Or maybe you’d dispense it four times for four ounces? We didn’t get that far! We were too busy tasting. We also learned that the price per bottle was for here {corkage} / to go.

When you are done tasting, you bring your card to the front and the amount you used from your $50 card is charged to your credit card. At first I was a little nervous tasting $2 – $4.50 one-ounce pours so quickly. I thought we’d rack up a hefty bill. But then Rob pointed out, “Look at all of the expensive wines we may have never had the opportunity to taste unless we bought a whole bottle!” POINT. We did enjoy a nice taste of Brunello. 😉 I don’t think any of these wines were under $30/bottle. But then again, we only tasted reds.

~

Before the reception, Lisa and I got to be flies on the wall at the Tea Ceremony. As explained to us by one of the groom’s uncles {I think}, this is a Chinese tradition in which the groom’s family officially accepts the bride into the family. Each couple in the family comes up to formally sip some tea and pass the couple a red envelope with a {generally monetary} gift. The groom’s mom often offers a piece of jewelry, sometimes one that has passed down within the family. It is done with every married couple in the family, starting with the grooms parents and then from eldest to youngest couples. There was a lot of joking around going on! While I know it is tradition, I loved seeing that everyone was having fun with it, too.

~

The reception, too, was beautiful. Look at these gorgeous centerpieces! I loved the tradition of each of the fathers introducing their families that were present.037Overall, we had a great time in Pasadena. Who knows when we will be back? Perhaps for a Rose Bowl game? My high school band played there in 2012! In fact, Erika was at that game and texted me when she saw them!

In any case, we know we have friends in the Los Angeles metro area, so it’ll be a great destination whenever we want to get away from these Minnesota winters. 😉

Have you been to any unique wedding ceremonies or witnessed cultural wedding traditions?

Cheers~
Carrie