Tag Archives: christmas gift

The Most Highly Anticipated Restaurant in Minneapolis

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As long as I’ve lived here {OMG, has it been 13 years!?}, I’ve never heard so much hype about an upcoming restaurant as I have Spoon & Stable. Naturally, with my love of dining out, I was anxious to try it. My expectations were high!

However, the wait list for reservations was about three months! What is this, New York City? Minneapolis does have an excellent restaurant scene, especially for being the Minne-Apple; but this is generally unheard of in our Twin Cities.

So you can imagine my excitement when my friend Kim picked Spoon & Stable as her choice of restaurant for our monthly Girls Dinner Night Out in January.

We had no reservations, but we had heard that if you arrive at opening, you can get a seat in the bar area. And you know that’s what I prefer!

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We arrived right before opening and there was already a small line. They opened the door to let us in out of the cold. A minute or two later, a few people came in and tried to walk right past us, rather than standing in line. They were trying to get to the bar, thinking we were waiting to be seated for our reservations. I stopped them in their tracks! HA!

It felt like there were 1700 people at the door waiting to greet us. When that happened to Rob and me at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, it felt like we had stepped back in time. It was all part of an experience. Here, it felt overdone. Perhaps it was just because new restaurants tend to be overstaffed at first. Spoon & Stable had only been open a couple of months. Not having worked in the restaurant industry, I’m not sure what the average time frame is to iron out the wrinkles.

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As you know, I’m not expert restaurant reviewer, I just give my impressions. To be quite honest, my posts on restaurants are often just to assist my memory on what we liked or didn’t like… or remind us what we thought looked good so we can order upon return.

Spoon & Stable incorporates a menu that changes with the seasons, which is concept of which I’ve always been fond.

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The night we visited Spoon & Stable was amidst my 10-day Not-a-Detox. This is when I was abstaining from alcohol, cheese, sugar and refined carbs. Normally, I will let things slide for an experience like this. I am a true believer that anything has its place in a healthy diet, as long as it is in moderation. The trouble was, at this point, I wasn’t practicing such moderation. So my 10-day Not-a-Detox was meant to prove to myself that I could live without these trigger foods of mine for 10 days.

While there are no guarantees that what I’d be eating would be without these ingredients, I was going to try my best to work with this menu. This also meant that I was not partaking in any adult beverages. I did scan the wine list, which was quite pleasing. I believe Jen and Kim split a bottle of Pinot Gris from Oregon.

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Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

When the warm bread arrived to our table, I was not going to partake. Then Jen reminded me that it was whole wheat! I ripped off a small piece and indulged.

We assumed that this would be the type of meal where we would want more than an entree. I considered the side order of broccolini, as a healthy choice. {I know, right?!!!} But decided it probably wouldn’t be worth it for $8.

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Instead, we all got starters of some sort. Jen went with a salad.

Belgian Endive Salad pears, stilton cheese, pecans, sherry vinaigrette 9

Belgian Endive Saladpears, stilton cheese, pecans, sherry vinaigrette $9

Kim and I both went with choices from the “Chilled” section of the menu.

Dill Cured Salmon* roasted beets, horseradish, pumpernickel 14

Dill Cured Salmon roasted beets, horseradish, pumpernickel $14

That Dill Cured Salmon dish was so beautifully plated. However, it wasn’t what Kim was expecting. I remember her saying that there was something bizarre about the dish. With our menus gone, it would have helped for the servers to describe the ingredients in the dish when they were delivered to the table. There are always additional, often intriguing, ingredients that aren’t listed on the menu at innovative restaurants like this.

My dish was also a plate of beauty!

Day Boat Scallop Carpaccio* green apple, shiso, chilies, scallion vinaigrette 16

Day Boat Scallop Carpaccio – green apple, shiso, chilies, scallion vinaigrette $16

I am a lover of scallops and can honestly say that I’ve never had them prepared this way before! I was very excited about it; but when I dug in, it took several bites before I got any flavor. “Where are the chilies?” I thought. Well, a few minutes in, I tasted them, but that lasted about two bites. That was kind of a bummer.

As a side note, I love this beautifully written review of Spoon & Stable by Paige from Alcohol by Volume. Although she compares her bar experience to Sitting in Coach, I didn’t exactly feel that way. But maybe I was caught up in my conversation with my girlies. The service was fine; however, I do agree that a bit more dish description would have been nice. I remember us commenting about that while eating. I would say that Tongue in Cheek does a much better job on this front.

Then onto our main entrees. Jen’s was another beautiful plate.

Slow Cooked Atlantic Cod* black garlic, za'atar spice, couscous 25

Slow Cooked Atlantic Cod – black garlic, za’atar spice, couscous $25

Kim and I ordered the same dish:

Grilled Heritage Pork* savoy cabbage, pork crackling, papaya salad, thai chilies 28

Grilled Heritage Pork – savoy cabbage, pork crackling, papaya salad, thai chilies – $28

I have one thing to say about this dish – BORING. It was devoid of all flavor. I wouldn’t order this again. What’s funny is that after we started eating, a server brought this out:

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She said, “You can choose to do what you wish with that! Eat it or not!”

What a strange thing to say. If I remember correctly, she said something about it being the piece off the bone. Huh?! This was the most flavorful meat of the whole dish! If I had a plate of that pork, I’d be recounting my meal differently. Maybe I don’t know what part of the pig it is. Of course, the crackling tasted like pork rinds.

When it was time for dessert, I ordered coffee.  Because of that, I don’t remember what these desserts are that the girls ordered.

I believe Jen really enjoyed hers and Kim wasn’t that impressed. Beautiful, but not memorable. To be honest, none of us were very impressed with our food at Spoon & Stable. So what’s all the hype? We dropped a bunch of dough for some food that hadn’t much flavor.

One of my favorite reviews of Spoon & Stable is by Mpls St. Paul Magazine food writer Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl. She tries very hard to remain honest and neutral in this review.

One particular quote that stuck with me because it mirrored my own thoughts, “But there were more dull dishes than magical ones.” Yeah, that pretty much sums it up for us.

I also love how she says everyone has a different context by which to judge Spoon & Stable. It’s true. I’m not sure what I expected, but I assumed there’d be flavor. That was my context.

A few weeks later, Rob and I used a deal voucher for another restaurant in downtown Minneapolis:

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The voucher included a three-course meal for two at Workshop. Every dish blew me away. It was one of the best meals I had had in a really long time. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos that night. So I can’t give you a true Restaurant Impression. {Their menu changes, too!}

Interestingly, Spoon and Stable has been nominated for a James Beard Award for best new restaurant. That can’t come without merit. But in my world, both the food at Tongue & Cheek and Workshop rank higher than Spoon & Stable. Still, is it fair of me to judge on one visit?

That all being said, I’d go back. I hear that there is a great cocktail program. I’d bring my husband at opening, we’d sit at the bar and maybe order an app or two. That’s what I’d do.

What’s been the most highly anticipated or hyped restaurant where you live?

What were your thoughts?

Cheers~
Carrie

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His & Hers Gift Guide – What They’ll Actually Use

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This time of year, I’ve been getting a lot of searches that link to this post from last year: Top 5 Gifts for the Hard to Buy For Person Who Has Everything. I want to offer up some more gift ideas this year. But I don’t want to give away my surprises of what I’ll be gifting.

Instead, I thought I’d create a different kind of list.

Part One – His

If you read last year’s post, you’ll know that my shopping for my husband is very difficult. He usually just buys what he wants when he wants it. And no matter how much thought I put into them, the gifts I get him end up in a drawer or on the shelf in the closet. So, instead, the HIS GIFT LIST will include items that Rob has either bought himself or has been given, but that he uses all the time.

Part Two – Hers

Here you will get a my Christmas Wish List. No, this is not a post to get what I want for Christmas. Besides, probably only one person I’m exchanging with actually reads this blog. And I’m pretty certain my mom is done with her Christmas shopping already. 😉 Instead, it’s just a list of things, that if offered to me this holiday season {or any old time}, that I would not turn down! It’s meant to give you ideas for women you may know like me.

Let’s start with the guys, since they seem to be the hardest to shop for, right? For additional ideas, please read Running with Racheal’s post from last year.

Great Gifts for Guys

{aka items Rob uses ALL THE TIME}

  • Smartphone – His iPhone is the one gift that Rob thanks me for throughout the year. He doesn’t know now, how in the world he ever lived without it. The thing is, it was a surprise a couple of years ago. He didn’t even know he’d want one. Because of the never-ending thank yous, it’s the gift that keeps on giving!
  • iPhone Wallet – Rob bought this for himself within the last year and it’s made his life so much simpler. When getting ready for work in the morning, he no longer has to go in search of his wallet and his phone. It’s all together now. He found his on eBay and there are several styles. His is pictured below. He gets compliments all of the time. They are cheap, too!
  • Extra iPhone Chargers – Rob found these cheap online, too. I never strayed away from my one charger that came with my iPhone. But once we got extra, it made life so much easier! I can’t tell you how nice it is to have one in my car, one to keep in my suitcase or carry-on, purse, one for the office and the living room. Rob keeps one at work, too. It was handy when we left one behind on vacation to have extras on hand. Only downfall: When we finally upgrade to iPhone 5 or later, we’ll have to buy all new ones. But no matter, these were seriously cheap.
  • Flashlight(s) – Laugh all you want, but whenever we need a flashlight we can’t find one. This year, a friend of ours put flashlights in our golf tournament goodie bags. Of course, they were meant to keep in our golf bags to look for lost balls. But since we are too lazy to look for them are such good golfers, we use them around the house. Now, if we had about 5 more of those…
  • Lounge Pants – I don’t know about you, but we live in comfy pants over the weekend. That is, until we leave the house, of course. We’ve received lounge/sleepwear pants for Christmas a couple of times and now I don’t know what we’d do without them. They come in many styles. Rob’s collection includes Guinness and ESPN lounge pants, among others.
  • Packer/Wolverine Gear – You can never have enough gear to cheer on your team. Just make sure it is the size, style and fit that your recipient likes. I’m just sayin’, when I get him this kind of stuff, it always gets used!
  • Hammock – Once upon a time, Rob bought a hammock from Hammocks.com. And on any beautiful day in the spring, summer and fall, I come home to him reading, relaxing or napping in that thing. The dogs join sometimes, too! We bought our friends, who invite us up to their cabin every year, one as a thank you gift. It’s a priceless gift, really. It may be hard to think about when it’s so cold, but that’s why they are on sale today! We recommend the Quilted Island Bay with metal stand. Rob’s tip: Get coupons and promo codes when shopping online by typing in “Hammocks.com Coupon” instead of just “Hammocks.com” to save extra dough!
  • Dinner out – Rob nearly always takes me out to dinner, so it’s a special treat when I buy. Sometimes, I’ll make my own little certificate stating such {as I explained in this post} or what restaurant I’m planning on taking him, like I did for his birthday one year.

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Great Gifts for Gals

{aka gifts I would Graciously and Gratefully accept}

  • Socks – Not kidding here. As it grew colder this fall and I had to put the sandals away, I found that many of my socks were either missing a sibling or developed a hole. I’ve thrown away quite a few. I like fun, funky socks, but they can be hard to rotate within the wardrobe and Rob isn’t a fan. So even just comfortable black socks will do!
  • Turtleneck Sweaters – Are these out of style? I’m having such a hard time finding nice ones! I’m a freeze baby. So in the winter, I like warm sweaters. When I’m trying to overcome Pirate Eyes in the early, black a.m. of winter, I don’t want to have to think about my outfit before work. I want to put on a warm turtleneck sweater and dress it up with a scarf. DONE. Solid colors are best… and timeless.
  • Alligator Clips – This is the name Rob gave to a hair clip I used to rely on all of the time. I’ve lost it since our trip to California this fall and just feel LOST. I am all about low maintenance when it comes to my hair and rarely use a hair dryer. I used to twist it and put it up with my alligator clip when wet. Later in the evening or the next morning, I can wear it down without having to do very much with it! We’ve search stores everywhere for more, but just found them online under other names – beak clip, Japanese clip, concorde clip. There are lots of colors and styles to choose from!

Beak Clip

  • Opolo Mountain Zinfandel – This is one of our favorite wines, but it’s not really priced for everyday. So it’s a treat when we get it!
  • Davis Family Vineyards Pinot NoirGuy Davis knows his Pinot. I never actually liked Pinot Noir until I tasted his at his tasting room on a trip to the Russian River Valley. You can’t find it in stores, so you’ll have to order some. Might as well get a case while you’re add it. Your life will be transformed.
  • Davis Family Vineyards Wine Club Membership – Hell, why not just join the club? I did join the Davis Family Vineyards Friends and Family Club after that trip, but canceled when we needed to buckle down to buy our house. I should just get back in this club and swear never to buy a cheap bottle again and savor every drop of this wine. Quality over quantity, right?
  • Other Wine Goodies – I love this post by grapefriend, with some unique wine-related finds. In particular, I’m intrigued by the wine2go flask and the rewined carmenere candle.
  • Champagne – I love me some bubbly. But it’s extra special to receive a bottle of real champagne!
  • St. Germain – This elderflower liqueur is one of my all-time favorites. I haven’t met a cocktail I didn’t like when it’s made with it.
  • High Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil – At one point, we bought a Groupon to join an olive oil club. Each month for three months, we got high quality, expeller pressed Italian olive oils! We didn’t continue because it took us all year to use them. The third bottle is almost empty, so we’re in the market for more. I also love this idea of adopting an olive tree and receiving the olive oil produced from it.
  • Cheese of the Month Club – Um. I’m from Wisconsin. I’m a Francophile. No brainer.
  • Fruit of the Month Club – I’ve always wanted this! Fresh fruit delivered to my door every month, yes please! I’ve been eyeing the Arizona Orange Company for two years now…
  • CSA Share – I absolutely adored my CSA box in the summer! But it just proved to be too much food, even split with a friend. They had solo shares this year, but were more basic and sold out right away. If you want to give someone a CSA share, make sure the pick-up location and window is doable for them.
  • Donation to a Cause I Support/Admire – Like a Pet Rescue or Shelter, such as Homeward Bound, where I found Sophie almost 9 years ago and the Carver-Scott County Humane Society, where we found Shamrock this year. When friends of ours refused to let us pitch in for the timeshare and rental car when they invited us to join them in Hawaii, we donated to the Marine Mammal Center in support of the endangered Monk Seals on the island of Kaua’i. We were lucky enough to see them there.
  • Packer Gear – Can never have enough!
  • Packer Tickets – Hey, I am getting higher up on the waiting list; but if anyone can spare a pair, we’ll take ’em! {We support our team during winning AND losing seasons!}
  • Gourmet Coffee – I’m always willing to try a new brew.
  • Tickets to Evita – I love musicals and Evita will be in Minneapolis this year. I loved the music in the movie and have never seen it performed live.
  • Dairy Queen Ice Cream Cake – Laugh if you must. I had a roommate with whom we bought these for each other’s birthdays! The Bonus is that the two of us shared it, so we both got to pick away at it All. Week. Long. It’s been years since I’ve had one, though, so maybe my tastes have changed. Wouldn’t hurt to find out!
  • Gift Certificates – I know some people think that these are impersonal, but I love them. They say to me, “I know you like to shop here, so pick out what you want!” or “We really loved this place and thought you might like it, too.” I also like to save them to use as fitness or weight loss rewards. Here are some great places for which to receive gift cards:
    • Sul Lago – Our favorite restaurant “South of the River.” The very first time we visited, we saw about a dozen or so people come in to order gift certificates at the bar!
    • Restaurants – We like to dine out, so any place we haven’t tried, under our Restaurant Impressions Wishlist will do. Otherwise, we always like to try other people’s favorites, so recommendations are welcome.
    • Kohl’s – I don’t buy clothes very often, but when I do it’s because I need something. Kohl’s is close and familiar. I like to save gift cards here as rewards to myself. I’ve found a lot of good deals on workout gear here, too!
    • Barnes & Noble – I don’t have a Kindle or Nook. I still read real books. But I really think B&N gift certificates are good for travel guidebooks. We love to travel. If you know someone is traveling somewhere, buy them the most current guidebook. Or, they can walk right into a store and flip through guidebooks to see which ones suit them best.
    • Spa – I don’t know any girl who wouldn’t appreciate a spa day or to choose their own spa treatment. Just a pedicure can do wonders.
    • Movies – We don’t go to the movies often, but when we do, we ask ourselves why we don’t do it more!
    • Car Washes & Oil Changes – Okay, this one sounds really impersonal. But truthfully, I hate spending money on this kind of stuff myself. So having a card to just use whenever it is needed would be so wonderful.
    • Amazon Gift Card – Well, because you can use it for ANYTHING!

All I truly need for Christmas is health, love, spending time with family and reconnecting with old friends.

However, sometimes we just fret over that perfect gift for a loved one. So I hope these his and hers lists inspire you with ideas for the rest of your shopping this year. Or sit down and make out your own list. You might just come up with something for someone else!

What is a gift you wouldn’t turn down?

Did this post give you any ideas for someone else?

Cheers~
Carrie