Tag Archives: minnesota

Foodie Penpals in Reverse!

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I interrupt this Subscription Box Saturday to bring you

Foodie Penpals in Reverse!

This was my first month with Foodie Penpals where the person I shipped to shipped to me. It was so much fun getting to know Brandi! You can see what she sent me here. I asked Brandi, since she doesn’t have a blog, if she’d like to post about what she received. She happily obliged! {I love that she wrote this like a letter to me, too. 😉 }

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I opened my very first Foodie Pen Pal box! How absolutely fun.

Thanks Carrie for your amazing gifts!

The box itself was adorable.

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As packaging can sometimes make or break a gift, it was clear this one was packed with care and attention, giving more value to your thoughtful choices!

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Inside, was a handwritten note as well as a typed explanation for each item chosen! It was super fun opening the letter and reading about your choices for me! I love words. I love reading. I loved opening something “just for me.” Having 4 kids, being chauffeur, nurse, teacher, mommy, wife etc . . . limited the time I had to write such a nice letter to you! Please accept my chicken scratchin’ and read between the lines as much as possible! I really TRIED. But you put me to shame here. {Carrie’s Note: SO NOT TRUE! It was uniquely you and I loved it!} Just know, your words were much loved and appreciated!

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Now for the goodies!

Pop’d Kerns: I love crunchy snacks and this one is no exception! What made this extra special was that it is uniquely Minnesotan. I’ve been warned they are addicting!

Highlander Grog Coffee: Coffee is my favorite drink! I can’t wait!

Wild Rice Soup: This soup is distinctly Minnesotan . . . I can’t wait to get it warming on the stove on a cold, windy, Kansas day. Which will be soon!

Creole Seasoning: I told you I love spices and seasonings so this was such a fun addition! I’d never tried this particular mix . . . until I added it to a Mexican/Chicken style dinner the other night. It was fantastic! I loved the slight change in flavor!

Assorted Chocolates: No comment necessary. Except, YES! YES! YES! Mmmmmm.

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Thanks again, Carrie, for your yummy gifts! How Fun!

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I am so glad, Brandi, that you loved all your goodies! If you would like to participate in Foodie Penpals, please click here for more information.

Cheers~
Carrie

Buffalo Tap – Savage

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There’s a lot that’s led me up to this post:

  1. I was able to knock a beer off my IPA Wishlist recently here.
  2. I recently talked about the best places to take out-of-town guests, partially due to this establishment’s Juicy Lucy.
  3. I experienced the most recent Packer win at this fave Packer bar.

So there you go. It’s time.

The Beer

I was really surprised when my husband told me that he wanted to go to the Buffalo Tap recently because he said he’d read on Facebook that they were were carrying bombers of the Stone R&R Coconut IPA.

“What?” I asked. “Do you remember my IPA Day post? That beer’s on my wishlist to try!”

Naturally, we went.

And let me just tell you, if you want updates on new beers, wines, dishes, specials or happy hours, it’s a great idea to follow your favorite bars and restaurants on Facebook or Twitter. I personally don’t do that. Well, I do some, but I don’t see every post. But that’s only because my husband does. I make him in charge of that! And it’s a great tip he’s given you!

615Our verdict? The beer was a good IPA in its own right. However, we were disappointed because we couldn’t find even the slightest hint of coconut in the aromas or the flavors. It seems a little much that Stone took the time to bottle and market this beer that way. And we love Stone!

But unbeknownst to us, Buffalo Tap had a beer we adore on tap that day. Only, we’ve only had it in the bottle before!

Creme Brulee STout

Do you see the Crème Brûlée Stout?

It is undeniably incredible in the bottle, but even better on tap. That keg went fast because we didn’t get back to “The Tap” again before it was gone. In fact, it can even be difficult to find this beer in the bottle. So if you do… You. Must. Try. It. Nom Nom. It’s made by Southern Tier, the same brewery that brings us the infamous Pumpking Ale, which is another one You. Must. Have. if you find it on tap like we did here last year and here this year.

In general, the beer here is ridiculously overpriced, especially if you want a specialty beer. For example, on Game Day a couple of years ago, I remember seeing a tall Guinness or tall Surly for $10. Your domestics aren’t too bad, but sometimes I feel like you need to take out a mortgage to get something special…

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Sample Beer Prices

But let us count all the other reasons Buffalo Tap is a hit, whether or not you bring out-of-town guests.

The Northwoods Feel

This isn’t important to me when dining out, but the décor is a nice touch when you are bringing out-of-town guests. To go with this theme, you’ll also find that they serve buffalo (hence the name) and elk. While I don’t generally eat either of those, it’s a nice option for others.

Minnesota and Wisconsin Food

The menu here is HUGE. Robert Irvine wouldn’t approve. But somehow, they make it work. The variety is also perfect when you have out-of-town guests with different tastes or just picky friends. Here are some things we recommend:

  • Cheese Curds – They have some of Rob’s favorite here. Choose original or spicy.
  • Bloody Mary – Technically a beverage, but it comes with a nice skewer of sides and a beefstick. Alongside you get a beer chaser {aka beerback}.
  • Juicy Lucy – As I stated in my post about where in the Twin Cities to take Out-of-Town Guests:

Forget Matt’s.

Forget the 5-8 Club.

Get your Juicy Lucy here – the Parmesan Patty Melt to be exact. Matt’s Lucy is a good dive bar burger that is worth trying, but our burgers at the 5-8 Club were absolutely horrible. On the other hand, the Parmesan Patty Melt Juicy Lucy at the Buffalo Tap is heaven. For those of you who don’t know what a Juicy Lucy is, think of an inside-out burger. It’s one with the yummy, gooey cheese right in the middle. This one is served on Parmesan Encrusted Bread. Need I say more? You just need a little patience because you don’t want to bite into it right away, or that cheese will squirt out and burn you. Give it some time to set. Then cut it in half. Drag the chips through any melty cheese that oozes out.

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This photo doesn’t do this perfect Parmesan Patty Melt Juicy Lucy any justice!

I’d also just stick with the chips. The fries are nothing to write home a blog post about.

My go-to healthy choice on this menu is the Cela Grilled Chicken Pita. {I substitute cottage cheese for the chips on this one.}

Grilled chicken diced and wrapped in pita bread with lettuce, tomato, cheese blend and cucumber sauce. Raw onion on request. Make it Buffalo Style by adding Buffalo Sauce and substituting ranch or blue cheese for cucumber sauce.

Tip: If you are looking for cheaper items on the menu, you can always go for the hot dogs or soup. They are still quite filling! Then, there’s the wine…

Packer Game Day

I love Packer Game Day at the tap! We get there early before the game starts because the downstairs area with televisions devoted solely to the Packer game fills every seat before kickoff. It’s like sitting in a roomful of friends!

There is a requirement to watch the game here, though…

BT-packTo be honest, I don’t blame them. If we are going to hold tables that could otherwise be turned during the lunch hour, it’s only fair. And $15 for at least 3 hours is nothing. In fact, Rob and I have known to drop way too much money here. Sometimes we’ll start with a coffee and Bailey’s (me) and a coffee and Rumple Minze (Rob). Then I’ll have a Bloody Mary since they are my favorite here. {Although, it’s been a while and they looked a little different when I saw others ordering them the last time I was there.} Then Rob’ll order a couple of beers and before we know it and have even had anything to eat, we’re up to almost $50.

One way to keep it more affordable when we are there for a game is to order wine instead. Seriously, you can get a bottle of Mondavi Cab for $12.95/bottle.

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While affordable, I had a harder time choking that stuff down this weekend than I have in the past. Maybe it’s because I was also drinking Diet Coke. {For some reason, I don’t like their tap water there; so I don’t drink it.}

Or you can take your chances and hope for a Packer Touchdown. Every time they score {a touchdown anyway, I’m not sure that field goals count}, you can get a Miller Lite for a $1. Our table was very lucky last weekend!

Packer Touchdown Beers

Packer Touchdown Beers!

You know me, I don’t tend to drink light beer, but if I’m needing a water or another Bloody Mary Chaser, I’ll take it. Or I’ll share. Remember, we’re all friends here!

GO PACK GO!

Where do you go to see your favorite sports team when it’s not televised on the main network stations?

Cheers~
Carrie

Living Social Beer Trolley Tour

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Last night I spent the evening wrapping gifts and talking with my mom and my 5-year-old nephew on the phone. I wished I could hug him right then and not have to wait until Christmas when we go back to visit.

Although I mentioned it in my post on the Top 5 Gifts for the Hard-to-Buy-for Person Who Has Everything, I fell like that now, more than ever, giving the gift of your time is one of the most precious things you can give.

For my husband’s 40th birthday, I threw him a “40 days before your 40th” surprise party {time with friends}. Then, on his actual birthday, I had 40 little gifts wrapped. The first one was a timer set to 15 minutes because the intent was for him to open a gift every 15 minutes so that he’d be opening them all day long! I also gave him the freedom to watch football, uninterrupted, all day long {time for himself}, though it was nice to reconnect with him every 15 minutes so that he could unwrap the his next gift. “Hurray!” he’d shout. I’d swear this man had not just turned 40!

One of those gifts was a gift of experience, but he would have to do it by spending time with me!

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As I may have mentioned a time or two, we’ve been blessed with new craft and  micro breweries popping up all over the Twin Cities metro since the Surly bill was passed a little over a year ago. Having lived in Seattle for a good five years, my husband is a fan of such beers and has turned me into somewhat of a beer snob.

So when I received an email from LivingSocial with an offer for a Beer Tasting Trolley Tour, I knew I had to snatch up a couple of tickets and put them in Rob’s birthday box. I didn’t know how good the tour would actually be, but I thought getting him to Lucid Brewing {one of his faves} with perhaps an opportunity to talk with the brewers would be a gift in and of itself.

Our tour included:

  • Lunch at Pizza Lucé with a Pint of Beer
  • Guidance by LivingSocial Adventure Staff
  • 12 Tastings of Local Craft Beers
  • Tours of 4 Local Breweries
  • Take-home LivingSocial Pint Glass
  • Round-Trip Transportation Aboard Vintage Trolleys

There were 60 of us in our tour group, split up onto two trolleys.

Trolley

It didn’t feel like that many people; however, except at the beginning, while dining at Pizza Lucé. We sat there for a good 20 minutes or more before someone came to take our beer order. It was sort of frustrating because we knew that the pizza wouldn’t be out right away, but it would have been nice to have something to sip on while we were waiting.

On top of that, the server was so unfamiliar with the beer menu. He couldn’t tell the difference between an IPA and stout. When he finally came back to the table with our beer, he said that he had three Surly Furious IPAs, but it was obvious that two of the beers were darker and were the stouts Rob and I ordered. He was so confused and had to go back to the bar to find out what was wrong. Seriously, if you are going to serve good local brews at your restaurant, train your staff already. {He wasn’t the only one clueless.}

This was our first time enjoying Summit Oatmeal Stout on Nitro!

Rob and I have concluded that we aren’t fans of Pizza Lucé crust. There is just no flavor there. Season It Already!

But truly, that was really the only complaint of the 5 and half hour tour. There was much fun to come! Our first stop was at Excelsior Brewing Company in Excelsior, MN:

Soup of the Day = Beer & Jumbo Jenga at Excelsior Brewing

Soup of the Day = Beer & Jumbo Jenga at Excelsior Brewing

We really *wanted* to like this place. But we just weren’t that impressed with the beer. Their new Summer Solstice was very strange, too. It had an aftertaste that I couldn’t place. Later, I realized it reminded me of a wine I once had, with an overwhelming eucalyptus finish.

After our three tastes there, we bought a glass of their Porter. Even that fell flat for us. There were many people who enjoyed the beers, though, and even bought Growlers for the trolley ride. {Yes, we could drink on the trolley!}

Don’t worry, we’ll still give Excelsior Brewing a chance. They are still very new. I believe their opening week was only back in July. I still really want to like the place.

Our next stop was at Lucid Brewing where they also share the facility with Badger Hill.

Lucid & Badger Hills on tap from this cooler!

Lucid & Badger Hill beers on tap from this cooler!

As expected, Rob loved being able to talk with the brewers at Lucid. {Another gift SUCCESS!} We had time to chat with the gal who owns Badger Hill as well. We talked with them about our favorites and at what restaurants we like to enjoy a pint or two of their beers.

Our favorite samples:

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Lucid Foto IPA – The dry hoppiness is something we both love in our beer.

Badger Hill Foundation Stout

Badger Hill Foundation Stout

Rob emptying sample number, uh... ??? while sporting the pretzel necklace we were handed upon entry. GENIUS!

Rob emptying sample number, uh… ??? while sporting the pretzel necklace we were handed upon entry. Genius!

They even tapped a firkin for us!

They even tapped a firkin for us!

At this point, Rob could have cared less if we hit another brewery. He was content. However, the next stop was Steel Toe Brewing in St. Louis Park. We had just tried the brewery’s Dissent a couple weeks prior at the Pig & Fiddle and were quite impressed.

Steel Toe’s facility was small enough that they only wanted one trolley-full of people in their facility at a time. Our LivingSocial tour guides were fun and sociable. They had trivia and prizes prepared for us on the trolley while we waited for the first group to tour. I learned a thing or two! Like…

Did you the official national alcohol of the United States is Bourbon?!

I had no idea! It sounds like “they” are trying to get that changed to beer. The U.S. does has more craft breweries than any other country.

We loved the time we had talking with the brewer at Steel Toe. He was a laid-back-down-to-earth guy. But come to think about it, really, they all were. I think it’s a requirement to become a brewer.

Steel Toe Brewing.

Steel Toe Brewing

We came away from that place with two Growlers: one of the Dissent Darlk Ale {really, a stout} and another of the Steel Toe Size 7 IPA. Guess that means that we’ll be back! {Every time you purchase a Growler somewhere, you pay a deposit for the glass jug. You can come back for a refill any time!}

Upon arrival back at Pizza Lucé, the LivingSocial staff came around the trolley, offering to take our information down and call cabs for us. Talk about prepared! They wanted to make it very easy for us to get a ride if we needed one.

We had such a good time that we would highly recommend a beer tour with LivingSocial. In fact, I’d recommend any event they offer. Most people think about the half-price restaurant and salon deals, but they really do put together great events. {I did a Champagne pairing dinner once and the food and pairings were incredible!}

We thought that this would have been even more fun if we had invited friends to join us. However, I bought the tickets on a whim the week prior and had no idea that it would be as good as it was. Now we know!

It took one little email offer to find the perfect gift for my husband. One where we could spend time together enjoying a fun experience. Thank you, LivingSocial!

What is your current favorite local brew where you live?

Cheers~
Carrie

Minnesota Wineries

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Did you know that there is a vineyard in every state in the Unites States?

Yes, it’s true. And if you don’t believe me, just check out this winery locator.

That doesn’t mean that all of these wineries and vineyards produce fine wines. But, really, what is the definition of a fine wine anyway? I thought that I once read that fine wines were made from vitis vinifera grapes. However, in doing a little extra research for this post, I couldn’t find that anywhere. In fact, it seems that there is no real definition for a fine wine.

I guess for me, then, it’s a wine from an established wine-making region. A region where winemakers have mastered the wine-making process based on the terroir of that region.

So what are the established wine-making regions in the U.S.? Well, just like the French have the DOC and the Italians the DOCG, the U.S. has federally recognized growing regions called AVAs (American Viticultural Areas). While I fully expected to find a listing of AVAs in California (i.e. Napa, Sonoma, Santa Barbara, etc.), Washington (Columbia Valley), Oregon (Willamette Valley), New York (Finger Lakes) and maybe even the up-and-coming state of Virginia; I was surprised to learn that AVAs have been established in 30 states. I guess I can’t definite fine wineas coming from an AVA either. Have I become a snob?

Either that, or I’m missing out and I better get drinkin’.

In any case, I haven’t really been a fan of many Minnesota wines. Maybe I’m more snobbish than I think. {I consider myself more of a beer snob than a wine snob.} I’ve actually been more keen on Wisconsin wines, to tell you the truth. The best Minnesota wines I’ve had have been those made with imported California grapes, not with grapes grown in Minnesota.

That being said, I won’t give up trying local wines and supporting the local community!

Luckily we had a chance to do a tasting at Woodland Hill Winery this June thanks to a gift certificate from our friends Terri and Steve! The gift certificate included a tasting flight of wines, a full glass of wine of our choice, a bottle of wine to take home, two Woodland Hill Winery glasses and a discount on additional purchases.

I liked these tasting note boards, where we could use a dry erase marker to take notes and the tasting room could re-use for the next guests:

Tasting Notes

While we tend to be red wine drinkers, our favorite was a white: La Crescent. As I understand it, the La Crescent grape was developed by the University of Minnesota to grow well in the climate here.

But our true favorite was the Vinny’s Red, made from Marquette grapes. I was pleasantly surprised! However, this was not an option for our complimentary glass nor the complimentary bottle. 😦 At least we got to try it. And of course they would name their best wine after the resident squirrel chaser:

Vinny relaxing in the tasting room…

As expected, most of the wines didn’t impress us much, though the Vinny’s Red Marquette does stand out. And the wines seemed a bit overpriced for the quality. However, it does take quite a bit to get a winery going, so what do I really know about pricing these things?

That reminds me, our bottle of La Crescent is chilling in the fridge as I type…

We were about to order the La Crescent as our glass of wine of choice while we perused the shop of wine gifts. However, Rob overheard someone talking about Sangria… and then he spotted it:

Spotted! A vat of Sangria behind the tasting bar!

It was a hot, hot day… and how can one go wrong with Sangria? And so we chose it. It hit the spot. Ahhh…

What are your favorite local wineries? Any you’d recommend?

Cheers~
Carrie