Tag Archives: burrata



I visited my friend Stacy down in Rochester this beautiful weekend! Did I ever mention that I get the best sleep whenever I stay with her? I usually get about nine hours of nearly uninterrupted sleep. It’s wondrous.

We hadn’t exactly decided on a dining spot before my arrival. But Stacy suggested Salute Wine Bar. Naturally, because we are Wineaux friends, this made sense. We pulled up the menu online and it was a done deal!


We arrived at around 6:30pm on a Saturday evening. There was maybe one person at the bar and two tables occupied in the entire restaurant. That seemed a little strange to me. However, the location was a bit strange, too. We parked in the Kahler Grand Hotel ramp because the Salute website (http://www.kahler.com/salute) infers that the restaurant is located in or adjacent to the hotel. However, there was little signage throughout the hotel. We had to ask an employee where it was. “That’s in the Marriot,” was the response. It was out across the courtyard. Perhaps the Kahler Hotel Group is affiliated with the Marriott? I looked it up just now and… Yes.

The restaurant never did get very busy, which was a bit worrisome for a place to survive. I thought maybe they hadn’t marketed it properly. Stacy said that despite the “NOW OPEN” sign, that it had been around for a couple of years. Or maybe it was a slow weekend at the Mayo Clinic, which is within walking distance. Or maybe the weather was just too nice… Whatever the case may be, the lack of people was sad because we absolutely loved our food!

While we were selecting our wine, we were brought a bread basket and poured some olive oil flavored with porcini mushrooms.


The bread was mostly saved for our appetizer, though. You guessed it – burrata! It’s one of the most beautifully plated I’ve seen – balsamic and olive oil separated on either side of the pieces. It tasted like heaven, too.


Burrata Pugliese – sweet balsamic, fresh-pressed olive oil, young tomato 

What I like about this wine bar is that they offer 3-, 6- and 9-oz pours. Unfortunately, they are not very interesting wines. They were pretty common. We decided to go with a bottle instead. The wine we chose may not have exactly gone with our dinners, but we tend to prefer reds. When I saw it on the menu, I just had to have it! The odd part? Our waiter, though cordial, never offered us to taste the wine before pouring each of us a glass. Every restaurant does that – and this is a wine bar?!


Now to the reason why this wine caught my eye… You see, I met Robert Hall a few years ago. I wandered into the liquor store side of a local Byerly’s grocery store. There was tasting going on! I can’t pass up a free tasting of new-to-me wines. They were Robert Hall’s wines and he was there presenting them. They were absolutely lovely. Many of them were Rhone varietal blends. I started discussing this with him for a bit and he said, “Are you a sommelier?”

Of course, I beamed!

I would say that I probably have more knowledge about wine than the average wine drinker; but I’m no where near sommelier material. But for a wine maker to think I know a thing or two – that’s a compliment. I purchased my favorites that day as well as had him sign a bottle for me.

Because of that experience, I knew that his Syrah would be a solid choice for dinner. I’ve also had very good luck with almost anything coming out of Paso Robles.

For dinner, I was considering the Half Brick Chicken. I loved the options for sides! I could make a healthy choice by choosing a vegetable; but I loved that there were so many from which to choose! To make it easy, I just went with the sautéed vegetables.


Here’s a little story about Chicken Under a Brick… The first time I had this dish was on the day Rob and I got engaged in Tuscany. It’s a method used to make the skin extra crispy because the weight of the brick presses the chicken against the hot pan or grill. I swear it makes the chicken juicier, too. I loved it so much, that a few month’s later, I saw it on a menu at Palomino in downtown Minneapolis and had to order it. It did not disappoint! Sadly, Palomino closed just a few months after that. 😦

I hadn’t had another Chicken Under a Brick for quite sometime. The last time which was the night before we left for New Orleans.  This time, the chicken had absolutely no flavor.  It was just… chicken.

So you can imagine I was a little skeptical about ordering it this time.


Half Brick Chicken – Rosemary, garlic, white wine sauce with sautéed vegetables – $18.95

But my chicken was juicy and flavorful! Winner, winner, chicken dinner! Ha! The asparagus, broccolini and carrots on my plate were cooked crisp-tender. It was a satisfying and mostly healthy meal. But there was no way I could eat an entire half chicken!

Stacy on the other hand, chose some homemade gnocchi and added shrimp.

*Gnocchi $15.95 Gorgonzola, pine nuts Add Grilled Chicken $4 | Shrimp $6

Homemade Gnocchi – gorgonzola, pine nuts – $15.95 | Add Shrimp – $6

I love blue cheese; but sometimes I find gorgonzola sauces can be too rich. I took a bite and found Stacy’s gnocchi to be perfect pillowy texture and the gorgonzola perfectly balanced. That is a winner of dish that I’d recommend to anyone!

By the time we left, one more table had been sat, there were a couple of people sitting at the bar, another table was seated in the bar area and a small bachelorette party was hanging out there as well. I still couldn’t believe how empty it was for what wonderful food we had!

If you are in the Rochester area, I would recommend Salute. Its’ a hop, skip and a jump from the Mayo Clinic.

We didn’t do dessert at the restaurant, but instead picked some up at Mr. Pizza North on the way back to her place and a had a taste of each of these:

Caramel Pecan Cheesecake, Chocolate Raspberry Brownie, Nanaimo Bar

Caramel Pecan Cheesecake, Chocolate Raspberry Brownie, Nanaimo Bar

Surprisingly, that is the exact order I preferred each treat. I hadn’t had dessert in a while; so it was a sugar overload. But I savored every bite!

Have you been to a restaurant where the lack of crowds surprised you?


Summers are for Rooftops…


Rob and I are so grateful for Living Social, Groupon, AmazonLocal and those sorts of deals. Without them, we would have never discovered certain restaurants, nor explored particular parts of the Twin Cities. Having a voucher with an expiration date makes us very likely to patronize a business. {As much as I’d like to, there is a reason why I haven’t been to La Belle Vie or Saffron yet.}

That’s how we ended up at the Union Rooftop.

We went on our favorite day to visit downtown Minneapolis: Sunday. It tends to be a little sleepier and laid-back. We arrived a little after 5pm and walked into the Union Restaurant, where no one was seated, not even at the bar. It made sense. It was a lovely day. I wouldn’t sit inside either. I mean, who wouldn’t want to sit up on the rooftop? We were just hoping we could get a seat outdoors. The Union’s rooftop is covered; so it can be used any time of year – perfect for Minnesota. Check out photos here.

First off, how did I not know this was here?

Union is in the theater district, on the same block as Maruso’s… have I been blind??

We got into the elevator with two other young women and proceeded upstairs. When we got out, we really weren’t sure where to go. So we took the small half-staircase up to the next level. It seemed like the most logical thing to do. But when we got to the top, it was the spitting image of the bar below.

That’s because it was the bar below!

We were on street level again. It sure did feel like we went up a floor. So we all had a good laugh about it and got back into the elevator where we made sure to push the correct button.

Then, on this glorious, breezy, warm, but not-blindingly-sunny day, we realized that The Rooftop glass roof is retractable and the entire rooftop patio was exposed to open air.


As a couple get up , we snagged a seat at the bar where Rob’s Dangerous Man “Ecuadoras” hat became a conversation starter with our barmates. Being from out-of-town and beer lovers, they were surprised that they hadn’t heard of DM yet. You better believe it’ll be a stop on their radar next time in town {when it isn’t a Sunday}.

I wanted to start with a cocktail and chose the Aviation. It had been a while since I’d had one. I just love this photo. That cherry is so perfectly placed and doesn’t even look real.

Aviation - Tanqueray, Luxardo, Crème de Violette, Lemon

Aviation – Tanqueray, Luxardo, Crème de Violette, Lemon

It wasn’t the best Aviation I had, but I’m not complaining.

Rob wasn’t too enthused about ordering the bartender’s recommended Stone Self-Righteous. Rob was surprised by the rating when he looked it up on Beer Advocate. But it was the taste that the bartender pushed on him that won him over.

Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Black IPA

Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Black IPA

As for food, the menu looked great online. Union is known for their seafood. So I was eyeing the Scallops with Shellfish Risotto in a fresh herb pesto.

But then I spotted it:

Caprese Salad yellow beefsteak tomatoes, basil, burrata 9.95

Caprese Saladyellow beefsteak tomatoes, basil, burrata 9.95

I rarely pass up on an opportunity to indulge in burrata.

Those tomatoes were perfect with just the right amount of olive oil, balsamic and basil, as well as seasoned with salt and pepper. Oh, how it reminded me of Italy! But that burrata… oh, that burrata. It was delectable, with it’s creamy, mouth watering center. I would order that again any day. It comes in a close second with Tangiers. But I think that is only because Tangiers had a lot more going on on the plate.

And you, guessed it – Rob ordered the burger:

All American Double Patty Cheese Burger 12.95

All American Double Patty Cheese Burger

This burger was HUGE! But what do you expect when you order a double? Rob thinks that there had to be a pound of meat on that thing. He thought he might even get the meat sweats. 😉

And look at this cheesy goodness:

photo 5

Oh, how I love natural sunlight! It makes me look like I’m a semi-decent photographer, even with my iPhone pics.

Will we return to the Union Rooftop? Well, what do you think?!

What’s the coolest rooftop you’ve experienced?

Please take advantage of every patio you can this summer!


The Tangiers & The Martini


I have no photos for today’s post because, frankly, the photos I’d take of The Tangiers would not do this gorgeous venue any justice. It was dark when we arrived, too, which created the perfect ambiance. But I do highly recommend that you click here and take the “Tour” of The Tangiers to see how beautiful it truly is…

What drew us to this place? A Groupon… for dinner. But it definitely has a more lounge-like vibe to it. In fact, on Saturdays, it doesn’t open until 6pm. We had no idea what to expect or how busy it would be, so we arrived at opening.

The extravagant decor absolutely wowed us.

I felt like we were stepping back into the 20s. Rob commented how there had to be a lot of money in the leather alone. The lighting created the perfect ambiance for a backdrop of a romantic date. Although, I have no idea what the place is like during the busiest hours… Is it calm and relaxed? Does the music change to something more upbeat that would turn this lounge into more of a club?

But we were there for the food.

At first glance,  when walking in to such gorgeously stunning space with luscious red velvet curtains, sparkling chandeliers, rich leather couches, you’d think the food here was an afterthought.

But it’s not.

As usual, we pulled a couple of seats up to the bar. And because I felt like I was entering the era of The Great Gatsby, I knew this was a place for a cocktail. {They call these “potions” during Happy Hour. I love that!}  In fact, there is even a martini on the menu called The James Gatsby made with Maker’s Mark, simple syrup and mint leaves. I chose the signature cocktail – The Tangiers with vodka, prosecco and, yes, you guessed it – St. Germain.


A little sidebar here… Speaking of St. Germain and speaking of the 20s, a couple of weeks ago we got The Great Gatsby on Netflix. Rob surprised me by picking up ingredients and making cocktails to complement the film. My man really knows me, because this is what he made:

Left Bank Martini

1½ parts Gin
1 part St-Germain
1 part Sauvignon Blanc

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled Martini glass. Garnish with a lime zest twist, if desired.

Well, I loves me a dirty martini from time to time, too. But sometimes, they are just a little too dangerous. The Left Bank was, too, if only because they were so delicious! But the room wasn’t spinning. That was Baz Luhrmann‘s camera work.


The menu at The Tangiers is very small. When I looked for it online, I thought that what I found was maybe just their bar menu or a sampling of their dishes. But that was it. It didn’t matter to me. There was only one thing I was looking to try:

Burrata Salad

“Heirloom tomatoes and avocado tossed with basil served with a rich cream-infused mozzarella ball”

Now I absolutely adore Burrata, but the way that this was presented and the marriage of flavors made me fall in love with it all over again. For being in the middle of winter, I was quite impressed by the ripeness and flavor of the tomatoes, too.

Rob ordered The Tangiers Flatbread – pulled pork, diced onions, housemade barbecue sauce drizzled with Sriracha aioli – which he thought would be just an appetizer before going elsewhere. But he found it so delicious that it filled him up. And he didn’t even eat all of it!

Have I mentioned yet how much I loved the decor and ambiance here? I kind of wanted to stay to find out what the place ended up like as it got busier… But that would be way, too many martinis. In any case, it was a cool place to feel like we stepped back in time and that we were experiencing a little bit of elegance, even if only for a little while.

The Tangiers would make a lovely stop for a romantic date. It might also be fun to treat some out-of-town guests for a cocktail. But I’m not sure I could walk in The Tangiers for just a drink.

There’s no doubt that I would have to get the Burrata.

What is your favorite kind of martini?



I Nonni – Lilydale


I chose I Nonni as the restaurant for my birthday dinner two years ago. It was our first time there. Besides having won awards for some of the best Italian in the Twin Cities, I was intrigued by their extensive wine list. We were going to Italy for our honeymoon just a month later and they had obscure wines from the Amalfi Coast on the menu. You won’t find Falanghina or Aglianico wines on 95% of Italian restaurant menus in the U.S.!

We enjoyed our meals thoroughly that evening {especially the fresh, handmade pasta} and we talked about going back, even if just for Happy Hour in the bar. But with so many dining options in the Twin Cities, it took a Groupon to get us back there. Actually, we had two of them to use.

Furthermore, this summer we had so many Groupons to use that we had them scheduled on our calendars so that we would redeem them before they expired. I Nonni was slotted for a Monday after our Summer Couples Golf League.

But we couldn’t get in.

We tried on two different Mondays. On both occasions the sign read:




I had been perusing their menu online that day to narrow down what I wanted to order. On the website, there was no mention that there was a private event, nor that their restaurant would be closed. It was so frustrating! And what are the chances that the restaurant would be closed on the two specific Mondays that we chose to dine there? Sure, I could have made reservations, but I never knew what time we could get there after golf. Besides, we just wanted to eat in the bar.

On the third attempt, I called ahead. Would there be a private event that night? No. Whew. We were in luck.

Upon arrival, we entered the restaurant through the door next to their sister shop Buon Giorno Italian Market. The market carries fine Italian foods as well as offers sandwiches, pastas and salads in a casual deli-like setting where you can eat-in or take to-go. They also offer catering and Holiday Gift Baskets. We’ve walked through the place a few times, but have never bought anything. I now have a sudden urge to go back. Maybe I can find the Blood Orange San Pellegrino that Rob so adores.

Anyway, entering I Nonni through the door near the Market leads you to the wine room. The wine list is extensive and impressive at I Nonni and consists of, I believe, only Italian wines. They claim that it’s one of the finest lists in the U.S. And while I can’t vouch for that personally, I have no reason to argue that! I can’t find it anywhere on their website, but I seem to recall that you can purchase any wine in this room for service at your table. Don’t quote me on that. Just ask instead. In addition, an Italian Wine Club is offered where they bring in Italian wine makers for tastings and to meet you!

We walked through the wine room into the bar and found a place to sit.

We ordered some beverages:


VECCHIONE nonno nick’s Milwaukee style old fashion


APEROL SPRITZprosecco, aperol, orange

Fun drinks, but nothing to write home (or on a blog) about…

While we were skimming the bar menu, I also looked around the room. Two people walked in. I did a double take. Wait, they came in a side door… Wha What? OMG – through a different entrance! Maybe the restaurant wasn’t closed those other two times. Maybe we just tried to enter through the wine room – which was closed for a private event!


Yes, they often host private events in their wine room. I resolved to use the correct entrance on our next visit.

But, we did enjoy our food while we were there:



Good Burrata, with fresh tomatoes, basil and olive oil. But not the best I’ve had. It didn’t stop me from finishing it, though!


House-made pasta, spicy sausage fennel pollen ragu

Rob loved this dish and would not only order it again, but would recommend it to anyone.

When we returned to use our second Groupon, we did use the correct door. To do so, just use the long corridor on the left side of the building under the Osteria I Nonni arch. We saw another party walking in that direction. This whole time, I thought that walkway was only for those who wanted to dine outside. WRONG, I was. This is where you enter the bar.

Of course, the restaurant was open. To this day, I feel like a complete idiot. On this trip, we wanted to try some of the pizzas on the bar menu.


Pizza Salasiccia

We were not impressed with the pizzas. Sausage is one of our favorites and this one was pretty much flavorless. We asked them for some red pepper flakes and the bartender had to fish a bowl of it out of the kitchen for us.


Half Pizza Salsiccia Half Pizza Margherita

I couldn’t decide if I wanted the Pizza Calabrese or the Pizza Margherita, so the bartender suggested that I get half and half. He made it sound like it was a big favor he’d be doing to ask the kitchen to do this for me. However, it came out half sausage / half margherita instead. No matter, I was hungry. Still, I received it after Rob received his pizza and we knew the sausage pizza was pretty flavorless. We could not believe when we tasted the Margherita how much better it was!

Our notes: Go to I Nonni for the fresh pasta – not the pizza. If you are really craving pizza, stick with a simple margherita.

Maybe we were just spoiled by the pizza in Italy, but to us, this wasn’t really Italian. It was I Nonni’s own take on Italian, which basically, is any pizza in America.

I Nonni’s menu is seasonal, which I love. Looking at the menu today, we are anxious to try the:

house-made spicy sausage with black truffle, fennel pollen, crema and pecorino romano

For that reason, we may be going back soon…

What is your favorite place to dine for pizza or pasta where you live?