Tag Archives: risotto

I Made It! {And I need cooking advice.}


Well, I made it through NaBloPoMo posting everyday for the entire month of November. It was a challenge, but I found that it wasn’t as difficult as I had thought. I have so many ideas popping around in my head and I was able to finally put some down in print.

I finally put up a bunch of Restaurant Impressions {which is my husband’s favorite part of the blog}, some of which we’d experienced quite awhile ago. Other times, I posted these impressions within a few days of dining there. {And I’ve found that is always the best when everything is fresh in my mind and I can still taste the food.}

But now I’m going back to posting about three to five times a week. If you are still following, you may have been getting sick of daily posts anyway, right? 😉

This week…



I have three days available to cook and then we’ll use the leftovers. Here is what I intend to make:

  • Mediterranean Risotto courtesy of my November Foodie Penpal {Thanks, Brandi!} along with flank steak. Anybody got a good recipe to make it flavorful and tender? I’ve never cooked flank steak before because it’s not Rob’s favorite cut. But it was on sale and is grass fed beef! I have about 3/4 pound. I would love it to be well-seasoned and tender. We usually eat filet mignon or sirloin and like medium rare. Suggestions welcome!
  • Pasta with this arrabbiata pesto. I found this jar in the store and bought it on a whim because we love spicy sauces! Any suggestions for a protein with this one? I think some sliced chicken breast would work well. But since Rob is allergic, do you think sliced pork chops will be okay?
  • Something easy with ground beef. What’s your favorite, easy go-to?



Despite my attempts to plan fitness every Monday, it just hasn’t been happening. To get back in the groove, I’m in search of a core strengthening program for those who’ve had back surgery. I’m finding that even “easy” yoga and “basic” pilates are still difficult for me. And I want to have that core strong before I attempt to begin running again.

Until then, I need to do what’s best for the back and keep walking

Please, give me your best tips and recipe suggestions for the above!


Mediterranean Foodie Penpal! {Reveal Day}


No, my Foodie Penpal this month was not from the Mediterranean.

{All U.S. residents are matched with other U.S. residents.} However, Brandi from Kansas really took what I said about liking Mediterranean food to heart! Just wait until you see all of these goodies!

FPP post Foodie Penpals

The package I received was decorated beautifully in festive wrap as well as some French phrase stickers to make this Francophile smile. 😉

photo 1I opened the box to find a cute card atop all of the goodies that Brandi chose especially for me. She bought from three different stores! She said she had fun carrying my list of likes/dislikes around in search of just the right items. How sweet is that?! 😉

photo 2(1)

And the contents:

photo 3(1)

  • Mediterranean Risotto – We love risotto in our house, but I’ve only made it once. This one has dried zucchini and red peppers right in the mix. It’s on our dinner menu in the near future. Perhaps with these Mediterranean Pork Chops?
  • Chocolate – Chocolate and hazelnuts always remind me of FRANCE! Oh la la… I had to divvy this baby up into eight pieces so I wouldn’t eat the bar in one sitting. I’d rather have a little bit of chocolate every day. Chocolate with hazelnuts never disappoints!
  • Apple Chips – A healthy snack. Love these!
  • Halva – Totally new to me! It’s made up of ground sesame seeds and cocoa. A decandent treat that reminded me a bit of the flavor of a Butterfinger, but the texture of fudge. Yum!
  • Dry Roasted Edamame – Wasabi flavor – Brandi chose these because I said I liked nuts and she said they “seemed a do-able cousin. Plus it’s a healthy snack packed with protein.” And spicy! I like spicy!
  • Tomato Basil Cheese – Um, cheese? Yes! Um, tomato? Yes! Um, basil? Absolutely! Win, win, win!
  • Mediterranean Quelitas Snacks – Cheesy. They are from Mallorca. I’ve seen it as a stop on Mediterranean Cruises when Rob and I were planning our Honeymoon.

Brandi, you are so sweet to think of me when picking out these goodies. I’m loving trying everything. I can’t believe there are so many new-to-me items!

Thank you again!


Would you like to be a part of Foodie Penpals? You don’t have to be a blogger and don’t have to participate every month – just the months you want to! Here’s how:

Thinking you want to become a Foodie Penpal? You don’t even need to be a blogger to do it! Nor do you have to participate every month. Here’s how:

1. Sign up by the 4th of the month that you want to participate.
2. On the 5th of the month, you are assigned a Foodie Penpal.
3. You communicate with your penpal about any food allergies or preferences, as well as where to ship the package.
4. By the 15th of the month, send $15 worth of food to your penpal that may include homemade goodies, local treats or just some of your favorite discoveries that you want to share! The box must also contain something handwritten.
5. You’re Foodie Penpal will ship a package to you as well by the 15th!
6. If you are like me, you squeal with delight when your package arrives.
7. You enjoy said goodies, which you may have never known about otherwise.
8. If you are a blogger, you post about the package you received on the last day of the month – Reveal Day! {If you are not a blogger, you do not need to do anything, but thank your Penpal, of course! However, if your Penpal does blog, you can choose to write a guest post, if you so wish.}
9. To sign up for January {they’re taking a break in December}, click here.


Come back tomorrow for a guest post written by Brandi on what she received from me!

What is your favorite Mediterranean Food?


Redwood Room – Rochester


I can hardly believe that it was July when my friend Stacy and I dined at the Redwood Room in Rochester. In this post about Pinot Gris, I told you to “stay tuned tomorrow!” to hear more about this gem of a restaurant. Then I wrote nothing about it.

Well it’s time.

Because this place deserves some recognition.

You can dine at the Redwood Room either casually or if you are celebrating a special occasion. The dark interior and lighting give the basement venue a special sort of ambiance that might even make for a great first date. Better yet, they also have LIVE music nearly every night of the week. Although, on this trip, we dined too early to see any of that. I am not sure what time music generally starts. The online calendar just lists the date and name of the musician(s) that will be performing, but not what time they are expected to begin. I’d recommend calling for details and then making a reservation to ensure you get seating!

I remember being intrigued by the cocktail list online, but not finding those that interested me on the menu upon arrival. No matter. As I mentioned here, we happened upon a particularly delightful Pinot Gris:

Four Graces Pinot Gris - Willamette Valley {pronounced will-AM-met, damn it!}, Oregon

Four Graces Pinot Gris – Willamette Valley {pronounced will-AM-met, damn it!}, Oregon

We were brought some bread, which I remember as delightful as well:

543We started with an appetizer to share:

Risotto Fritters Spheres of Arborio risotto with a gooey center of smoked mozzarella and a crispy exterior of panko breadcrumbs . Served with a creamy artichoke tomato sauce. $8. 95

Risotto Fritters
Spheres of Arborio risotto with a gooey center of smoked mozzarella and a crispy exterior of panko breadcrumbs . Served with a creamy artichoke tomato sauce. $8.95

They were tasty; but we both agreed we would try something else next time. They were nothing like the risotto cakes that we were blown away by one New Year’s Eve at Sul Lago.

Stacy already knew what she wanted as her main course:

Shrimp Risotto Arborio rice cooked in our house made chicken stock tossed with Black Tiger sh rimp, sweet corn, pancetta, cream and fresh basil . $1 7 .95

Shrimp Risotto
Arborio rice cooked in our house made chicken stock tossed with Black Tiger shrimp, sweet corn, pancetta, cream and fresh basil. $17.95

The dish was just devine. Look at all of that fresh basil!

I was in a craving salmon that night. When I saw this entree for just $16, I was shocked. In the Twin Cities, you’d find a dish like this {and probably the risotto above} for at least $22. What a steal! Only an hour and a half south of from The Cities, Rochester offers some more affordable cuisine without sacrificing quality.

Cracked Pepper Salmon Fresh Atlantic salmon filet brushed with ro semary & garlic infused olive oil. Served with a creamy dill sauce and Redwood Room house rice. $1 5 .95

Cracked Pepper Salmon
Fresh Atlantic salmon filet brushed with rosemary & garlic infused olive oil. Served with a creamy dill sauce and Redwood Room house rice. $15.95

So good. For appearance purposes, the sauce could have been thinned a bit. But it tasted just fine. I love me a good creamy dill sauce and this hit the spot!

We did take a look at the dessert menu, but opted to pass, if only because our bellies were way too full.


I guess we were in a seafood-kind-of-mood that night. But now I’m curious about those gourmet pizzas on the menu….

What’s your favorite seafood dish?

Have you found a restaurant that seems to be a better value for the quality than others?


Heidi’s Minneapolis {Closed}


This past weekend, we celebrated my birthday with our birthday dinner tradition. Last year, we were in Chicago, on our way to Ireland and I had an absolutely perfect experience at Naha. It was going to be tough to top that.

I wasn’t really trying to top anything, though. I just wanted to go someplace nice and new for dinner. Originally, I had chosen Louis Ristorante in St. Paul. But then, just one week before my birthday, I received this email in my inbox. I was immediately intrigued and changed my restaurant choice to Heidi’s.

Rob made reservations for early Friday evening, perhaps to make a night of it. We tend to sit at the bar when we dine out, but this birthday girl got to choose.

First, it was 80-freakin’-degrees. It’s never 80-freakin’-degrees around my birthday! It’s the time of year that starts to get rainy, dreary and cold. So I had seriously considered sitting out on the patio. But I remembered the photos from the article and thought about how nice it would be just to sit inside, not at a bar, but at an intimate table. {Besides, the street traffic seemed pretty loud.}

We were seated in a corner of the restaurant. The table was set for two, but each of our chairs were situated with their backs up against each corner of the wall, so we that neither of us would have had our backs to the rest of the dining room. This is the first time I’ve been seated this way. In hindsight, it seems so obvious, but at the time, I thought it was brilliant.

Rob still found it strange that after we ordered our silverware was placed in front of us, in the middle of the table instead of beside us:

130The menu here is a little different, so I’ll explain a bit how Heidi’s works. You can order a four-course meal for just $48 by choosing one item from each item on this grid.

121Or you can order anything off the grid à la carte. I know it’s hard to read, but that’s the best I could lighten/clarify that photo with the lighting in the restaurant. But you get the point. You can see a version of it on their website, too.


You can choose to go with the seven- or nine-course menu. If you decide to go this route, all of people in your party must do the same. This was not an option for us with Rob’s allergies.

122Before we ordered, we each started with a cocktail.

Ramos Gin Fizz    20 (please allow 8 min) Beefeater gin,lemon, lime,vanilla, simple syrup, cream egg white, orange blossom wate

Ramos Gin Fizz – $20
(please allow 8 min)
Beefeater gin, lemon, lime,vanilla, simple syrup, cream egg white, orange blossom water

I really couldn’t justify getting a $20 cocktail. But I wanted to know what all the hype was about since THRILLIST said it was “worth every penny.” Although I had no problem waiting the eight minutes for the drink preparation, I tried to time it just out of curiosity. It took about eleven minutes and that is with no one else in the restaurant ordering beverages.

The verdict? It was good. I’ve honestly never had a gin fizz before, so I don’t know how it would compare to others. But I wouldn’t order it again. Maybe it wasn’t my thing. Maybe I just expected it to knock my socks off. In any case, I know it’s labor intensive. Maybe I need to order one at the Bradstreet Crafthouse to compare.

Then there was Rob’s cocktail:

Bobby Burns    11 Dewar’s, sweet vermouth, Benedictine

Bobby Burns – $11
Dewar’s, sweet vermouth, Benedictine

I’m not a huge fan of whiskey, but I took a sip anyway. At first, the whiskey is in your face, like I’m used to, but this drink has a really mellow finish. And I couldn’t figure out why! I couldn’t even pinpoint the flavor. That must be from the Benedictine.


I knew I was going to go with the four-course option and had an idea what I was going to order by what I thought sounded good by the THRILLIST recommendations and by, of course, looking at the menu online. Rob decided on two items from the à la carte menu which would be brought out during my two middle courses.

First Course

Chilled Langoustine

Chilled Langoustine – $9 (à la carte)

This was such a beautifully presented dish, one which took me a while to even notice that the eyes were still on the critter. That’s usually a turn-off to me. I don’t like me food staring at me. The flesh was topped with an almond cream, which was quite luscious. While good, it’s something I really wanted to try, but not something I’d order again.

At this point, I was feeling a little rushed. I  know that the staff was only trying to provide good service. We were the only people in the restaurant for a while, so we were the only customers to tend to at the moment. But I was hoping to order some wine with with my seafood and I wasn’t even near finishing my before-dinner drink. I had planned on ordering a glass of white wine with the seafood I was having:

124I was looking at the Viognier in particular.  It’s a wine from the Var region of France. It’s a smaller locale {where I studied for a semester during college} within the region of Provence. It’s rare to see a wine from that region on a restaurant list and I know that Viognier tends to pair well with scallops…

But before I knew it, my second course arrived.

Second Course

Sauteed Diver Scallop - $17

Sauteed Diver Scallop – $17 (à la carte)

What I really wanted was the Apple Orgy for my appetizer. I really no idea what an apple orgy is; but it came highly recommended by THRILLIST and I thought I saw it on the grid/à la carte menu. That night, it was only offered as part of the nine-course tasting menu. I inquired about this to see if our server could swing an exception, but he wouldn’t/couldn’t budge.

But I wasn’t disappointed because my scallop was out of this world! I dipped my fork first into the side of lavender cream. Heaven! The scallop was perfectly seared and laid atop a bed of sauteed greens. I couldn’t quite place the citrus-y sauce drizzled, but it mixed well with the darker balsamic sauce. I found it to be such a well-balanced dish of unique flavors that this scallop has found its way onto my unpublished/unofficial list of the best scallops I’ve ever had.

Believe it or not, Rob went vegetarian for the evening…

Smoked Mushroom Ragout - $7

Smoked Mushroom Ragout – $7 (à la carte)

He was in heaven and said it was the best $7 he’s ever spent! Lots of umami going on there!

Third Course

Originally, I wanted to try the tilefish in the THRILLIST post. But I didn’t expect it to be available when I didn’t see it online. Then I thought about the halibut. At this point, though, I had just had two courses of seafood. So I decided to go with the Petit Filet instead.

With it, I ordered a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. Rob chose the French Syrah to go with his entrée.

126Rob is not a fan of South American red wine, so I was surprised when he tried mine and preferred it over his! I liked both of them and found that they paired equally well with my steak. So we switched.

This filet was incredible. I normally order medium rare, but I sometimes find that in restaurants this nice that I need to order medium. Such was the case here, so I’m glad I told the server what I wanted.

I wouldn’t say that this steak is as good as my favorite filet in Minnesota at Sul Lago, but it’s still one of the best filets I’ve had. Rob couldn’t believe the value. This steak was listed as $36 à la carte. And I was getting this entire four-course meal for $48.

And if Rob didn’t order this, I was planning on ordering it…

Caramelized Onion Risotto 12

Caramelized Onion Risotto – $12 (à la carte)

This risotto is excellent – cooked perfectly al dente with lots of onion flavor. {Biz, this risotto is not for you!} 😉 Still, Rob’s love affair with the parmesan risotto at Sul Lago cannot dissolved. It’s actually no longer listed as a side on the menu there, but he orders it anyway!

Fourth Course – Dessert!

Hibiscus Meringue 9

Hibiscus Meringue – $9 (à la carte)

THRILLIST intrigued me with this one, too. So I had to try it.

At first bite, it was a little blah. The flavors were so subtle and the merigue so light and airy {which it is meant to be.} I guess it wasn’t what struck my mood that day. Rob felt the same, but as I continued to eat the dessert, it got better as some of the flavors mixed together and I had no trouble finishing it!

Dinner at Heidi’s was an experience – one that I’d recommend. I’m curious about their Thursday Night Happy Hour. Who wants to try it with me sometime? If we have another patio night with this weather, it’d be perfect. Or we might just have to wait until next spring…

We did make a night of it and had an after dinner cocktail. You’ll have to wait until later in the week to read about it!

Do you ever do a course-style meal or tasting menu at restaurants?

If so, what’s the best one you’ve had?


Cafe Ena – Minneapolis


I chose Café Ena to dine one evening when my husband said that he’d take me anywhere for dinner when our Friday night plans got messed up. It was kind of a last minute decision, but I love this neighborhood of South Minneapolis and also knew that it would be hard to get him there otherwise with so many other great restaurants around. It was also the night before our Dog Day 5k walk.

We started off with a bottle of Tempranillo. I mean, it is Latin Fusion Cuisine, right? I haven’t been ordering wine in restaurants lately because they are so overpriced. I know I can get a good quality pint of beer for $4 or $5, but a glass of mediocre, often open-too-long, wine is about $8-$12 per glass. Bottles of wine are usually double or triple the retail price. So if I want something decent tasting, I’m paying $50/bottle or more. But I digress. This wine was decent.

I was in a chicken mood and had been trying to decide between the Pollo and the Ena {chicken filled ravioli} dishes. When this happens, I usually ask for guidance from the server. And while I know it’s annoying to them, I do like to hear their opinions. However, Jaime was not giving up his thoughts. Instead, he just went a little more in depth with the descriptions. He did say that the Pollo was a little more filling than the Ena, which, in the end, helped me to choose.

Pollo  Herb lemon marinated chicken served over a marscapone-trio bell pepper risotto in a guajillo butter sauce garnish with pickled onions.$18.95

Herb lemon marinated chicken served over a marscapone-trio bell pepper risotto in a guajillo butter sauce garnish with pickled onions – $18.95

This was some of the most flavorful and juicy chicken I’ve had! I was quite satisfied with this dish. The risotto was good, too. I made Rob take a taste and he was blown away. Perfectly al dente and highly flavorful, he said it’s some of the best risotto he’s had. It’s hard to convince him of that when he loves the Parmesan risotto so much at Sul Lago.

Rob doesn’t really ever discuss with me what he is thinking of ordering. And he never asks the server for advice, either. Sometimes, he even tells me that he is ordering something different from what he actually orders. This time it was the:

Bife de Chorizo Gorgonzola-crusted Argentine steak served with garlic herb fries, sautéed artichokes, asparagus and red peppers; drizzled with chimichuri. $23.95

Bife de Chorizo
Gorgonzola-crusted Argentine steak served with garlic herb fries, sautéed artichokes, asparagus and red peppers; drizzled with chimichuri – $23.95

I’m not sure why this is described as “chorizo”, but Rob loved it. He said he’d order it again any day. The fries were mediocre, but that really wasn’t what we were there for anyway.

What threw me off guard was the ambiance. I expected it to be dim, quiet and intimate. However, the interior was bright and despite the great Latin decor, the way the booths and tables were set up, I felt a little like I was at Denny’s. I apologize for that description because the food is totally worth checking the place out. That may be why many people were getting food to go. You know, I always forget about to-go orders. I need to remember that when we don’t feel like going out, but I also don’t feel like cooking.

My plan is to take my girlfriends back here. It seemed like a place that they’d enjoy. But that night, Rob and I skipped dessert. Instead, we went for a nightcap across the street. More on that later this week…

Where do you go that you love the food but aren’t as fond of the ambiance?

What is your favorite place to pick up food to-go?


Culinary Boot Camp: Risotto


Earlier this week, I told you about my experience with local cooking classes over the past year. I love them so much that I’m going to continue to take them whenever I can. And I plan to post my impressions here on Season It Already!

My most recent Class:

Culinary Boot Camp: Risotto

at Local D’Lish in Minneapolis

While my friend Jared and I may have met because we are fellow Wineaux, we have become foodie friends as well. {Although, I’m not sure that I like the term “foodie”. I’ve learned that I’m not quite as adventurous as I’d like to think I am.} Still, food and wine go hand-in-hand; so it’s only natural.

In fact, last summer, Jared and I snagged Groupons for a food tour of Northeast Minneapolis. Jared, Rob and I booked this intriguing tour for one particular weekend. However, we later learned that my friend Katie {another fellow Wineaux!} was going to be in town from Ohio with her husband for a wedding. We wanted to meet up, but with limited time constraints on their part and this tour already booked, we ran into some difficulty. So, Katie and her husband decided to join us! The tour was fantastic and a great way to explore the city for both out-of-towners and locals alike. We stopped at five different eateries in Northeast Minneapolis and learned the history and sampled the food of each. I would highly recommend Twin Cities Food Tours. The tour starting point was at Local D’Lish – a small urban market focused on local, organic ingredients and giving back to the community.

So when a Groupon opportunity came up to take a cooking class at D’Lish, Jared and I jumped on it. Unfortunately, with both of our busy schedules, it was difficult to find one that we both could attend and were interested in – there were so many options! I think we bought the Groupon in February, but the class we scheduled wasn’t until May. While risotto isn’t the lowest calorie option for me to learn how to make while trying to lose weight, Rob and I have recently come to love it!

You see, I used to think risotto was just rice. I didn’t understand that it was a different style of rice (arborio) and what intensive labor it takes to make it. And I think I hadn’t had the right stuff. I can’t pinpoint when we first discovered its greatness, but when made properly, we can appreciate it to its fullest.

However, this class involved so much more than learning how to cook risotto!

Instructor Kate Moore started out by making us an appetizer while teaching us some basic cooking skills in preparation for our risotto. She made the whole class fun and engaging!

Jared assisting Kate in class

We learned how to make our own stock. I found it interesting how she added the hot stock to the risotto, something you can’t do with stock-in-a-box, unless you heat up the boxed stock first before adding it to the dish. But how many people actually do that? Kate also taught us flavor profiles and how to change things up so that we could use the bean dip base (our appetizer) or risotto to create our own add-ins.

She kept talking about how we really need to make sure everything is really well-seasoned. {I knew I liked her for some reason!} She warned us that the salt she added may seem like a lot, but that we need to add more salt than we may be used to when we work from scratch. Pre-packaged and processed foods are already laden with {often too much} salt. Cooking from scratch allows you to control the sodium, and even if you feel you like you are adding a lot, it’s still far less than what you’ll find in most packaged/processed foods.

“Taste frequently, season fearlessly!” she said.

Another phrase she repeated throughout the class: “Food is sexy – because you have to activate and engage all the senses.” I like that.

However, one of the most surprising parts of this class for me was that I had the best salad dressing I’ve ever had in my life! While, Kate did give us some basic recipes, she also included how we could leave room for creativity. She encouraged us to play with the ratios and “build those muscles” – cooking muscles, that is. “The path to success is paved with mistakes well-handled,” she said. So true! I’ve felt like a failure in the kitchen more than a handful of times and often feel like giving up. Kate gives you the confidence to be your own boss in the kitchen. I felt empowered.

I have since tried to make the dressing we had in class, and while it wasn’t as perfect as I remembered hers to be, it still was such a great alternative to bottled dressings or the simple vinaigrette.

Since I highly recommend that you visit Kate’s website and seek out a class or book her for a private event, I don’t think she’ll mind if I post her recipe for this dressing I can’t get over:


Emulsified Herb Vinaigrette

  • 1/2 to 1 cup loosely packed fresh herbs (50% parsley and scallions, 50% directional herb)
    • direction herb = the herb you want as the dominant flavor. Kate used basil in class.
  • 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar or champagne vinegar (I only had balsamic on hand, which I think is what gave my dressing a different flavor)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil
  • salt & pepper

Put everything except the oil into your food processor or blender. Blend to combine/purée guts. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in olive oil to emulsify. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. “Feel free to play with the ratios to build those muscles!”


I thoroughly enjoyed Kate’s class at D’Lish. I loved her personality and style and learned a ton. Kate trained and worked at the popular Lucia’s Restaurant and Wine Bar in Minneapolis. She currently teaches cooking classes through various venues and also does private events at very reasonable rates. They are great for bridal showers, birthday parties, couple’s parties and other social events. She’ll come to you!

Have you ever made risotto? If so, what was your experience?

Where have you had the best risotto?