Tag Archives: St. Paul

Summer – Soaking Up Every Last Minute!

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I’d love to say that I’m taking my own advice this summer.

But I had a bit of a standstill – the summertime blues, if you will. I’m not sure what that even means. I just know that I was a little down and knew I shouldn’t be. I became angry with myself because I knew I was wasting away the summer! It was a vicious cycle.

So, now, as my friends in education talk about going back to school, I realize that summer will end before I know it. It’s time to soak up every last minute.

I had been collecting links to share with you at the beginning of summer. I was attempting to create the…

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Well, better late than never!

But first, you have to read Why Summers are The Best in Minnesota.

Now here are a few more things to do in MSP before the snow falls…

  • Minneapolis Patios – I love sitting outdoors and having a cocktail, a meal or conversation with friends. Get a list of the best ones here.
  • Twin Cities Food Truck Guide – Food Truck fare doesn’t have to be greasy. Look around for some unique, gourmet fare without the gourmet prices.
  • Outdoor Movies – Many cities play outdoor movies throughout the summer. Here is a list of those in Minneapolis, put together by Thrillist. Try to catch one of the last few!
  • Taproom Tours by Bike – I had envisioned taking a Nice Ride bike around Minneapolis exploring this summer; but I don’t think time will permit at this point. At least I have this list for next year!
  • Irish Fair – This is a free event that happens in St. Paul every year – this weekend! I am looking forward to watching a little hurling and seeing one of our favorite bands, Gaelic Storm.
  • The Great Minnesota Get Together – And lastly, we have the big event that signals the end of summer for nearly all Minnesotans: The Minnesota State Fair. Here’s a look at the new foods you can expect “on a stick” this year.

Do you have an end of the summer ritual?

How do you plan to soak up the remaining bits of summer?

Cheers~
Carrie

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Barrio Tequila Bar

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I’d been wanting to go to Barrio for a while.

I learned on a trip to Puerto Vallarta that I earned through The Traveling Vineyard, that I like tequila tasting as much as I like wine tasting. I also learned a thing or two about tequila.

  1. Jose Cuervo gets away with calling themselves tequila because they are 51% agave and 49% caramelized sugar. For that reason, it’s not a friend of MINE! {For the real deal, look for 100% agave instead.}
  2. I have expensive tastes in tequila.
  3. I was margarita’d out when I got home and thought I’d never have another one again.
  4. But give me some anejo on the rocks with a squeeze of lime and a splash of cointreau and I’m good.

Wow. I think that trip was back 2007. Time flies. I think I’ve recovered from no-margarita-ever-syndrome. But I still rarely drink them. Still, Barrio didn’t seem like a place where I could drag Rob. We’d always pass it by in Minneapolis while walking along Nicollet Mall. So when it was my turn to choose where to dine for girls’, night, I suggested Barrio.

There are three locations – one in Minneapolis, one in Edina and one in St. Paul. Based on where the three of us live, no location stood out as more convenient. So I chose St. Paul because, there, Barrio is situated in Lowertown. I figured that after dinner, if we weren’t really feeling Barrio, we could head over to the Bulldog for some brews, Bin Wine Bar if we wanted something more mellow or I could even return to FACES for a drink. They are all right within walking distance of each other, facing Mears Park.

We arrived early on a Saturday night and very few people were there. That’s because, well, it’s a bar and early on a Saturday night. However, there were still some really drunk people there at the table next to us! It had me wondering how long they were there.

Inside, it felt spacious and although it was still light out, I imagined it could feel a little dark and ominous in the evening. I loved the candelabra-styled chandeliers.

As much as I would have liked to try one of their tequila flights {they have a whole menu of tequilas!}, none of us really have that kind of dough to throw around at the moment, especially with my expensive tastes! So we each opted for one of their fun tequila cocktails instead.

Kim’s:

Mama Cita Hibiscus margarita with pineapple and orange juices, cabrito blanco and a splash of cava ...9.5

Mama Cita
Hibiscus margarita with pineapple and orange juices, cabrito
blanco and a splash of cava – $9.50

Mine (almost gone!)

Macho Comacho Blood orange margarita made with ancho infused tequila and a splash of cava ... 1 0

Macho Comacho
Blood orange margarita made with ancho infused tequila
and a splash of cava – $10

Jen’s:

Cesar Chavez Our champion margarita with cabrito reposado, mandarine napoleon and orange ... 1 0

Cesar Chavez
Champion margarita with cabrito reposado, mandarine
napoleon and orange – $10

Of the three, I liked mine the best! I can’t believe how perfectly balanced the chile was in the drink. You could definitely tell it was there, but it was neither overpowering nor too subtle.

The menu isn’t very large and most of it consist of appetizers, small plates and tacos. All of the flavor descriptions sounded like they knew what they were talking about when it comes to elevating Mexican cuisine. We each decided on one small item and then chose to share a couple of small plates, too. The food came out randomly, just as if you are to order tapas.

Kim chose:

Sugarcane Skewered Tequila Shrimp • tequila, lemon and ginger marinated shrimp are grilled and served with lemon mojo ...7.5

Sugarcane Skewered Tequila Shrimp
tequila, lemon and ginger marinated shrimp are grilled and served with
lemon mojo – $7.50

Jen and I each ordered a taco:

Barrio4

Pork Carnitas Taco
duroc pork shoulder slow cooked in cinnamon and orange with salsa verde, onion and cilantro – $4.50

That is my kind of taco, with the dual corn tortillas with which to wrap the filling. They make me think of what a street taco should be like. We’ve had similar ones at Chino Latino. And there’s something about shredded pork with salsa verde and cilantro that I always love!

Then we got a few plates to share:

Grilled Chicken Chimichurri • skewered chicken is marinated in chimichurri and served with a mango-black bean salad ...8.5

Grilled Chicken Chimichurri
skewered chicken marinated in chimichurri and served with a mango-black
bean salad – $8.50

The chicken on these skewers was way over-charred. That is all I could taste. That’s really sad because chimichurri has such a lovely, fresh flavor that would have made this chicken sing. The black bean side salad was good and would have rounded this dish out perfectly if it weren’t for the lasting char flavor.

And I thought I’d love these since I once learned how much I love the spice of guajillo chiles:

Adobo Grilled Chicken Quesadilla guajillo, chipotle and garlic marinated chicken filled flour tortilla with queso oaxaca, roasted corn and poblano peppers ...8.5

Adobo Grilled Chicken Quesadilla
guajillo, chipotle and garlic marinated chicken filled flour tortilla with queso
oaxaca, roasted corn and poblano peppers – $8.50

I was right! The have the perfect balance of flavor and heat! I think the poblano peppers added something extra, too. I would highly recommend the quesadillas here. Okay, so if I’m in Lowertown, St. Paul and craving quesadillas, how am I to choose between Barrio and The Bulldog?!

And as I suspected, we were feeling a little mellow, so we opted to head over to Bin for a glass of wine afterward. But alas, they were closed for a private event. We enjoyed our after dinner drinks at FACES instead.

I think Barrio is a great place for groups. If you are eating {or just need to soak up some of that tequila!}, there’s lots of stuff to share. And if you like to tequila and fun cocktails, you won’t be disappointed.

They do have happy hour pricing on food and beverages and offer private party menus, too.

My husband is not a fan of sharing plates with others when dining out.

What is your stance?

Do you like to split appetizers and dishes to try many things?

OR

Would you prefer to keep your plate to yourself?

Cheers~
Carrie

FACES mears park

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My friend Jared and I bought a Groupon deal for a five-course dinner at FACES Mears Park in St. Paul. I had never been there and the menu looked exceptional. Not knowing what is going to be offered at these types of dinners, I have never been able to do these with Rob. You just never know if he’ll be allergic to something that ends up on the plate. We know that they can sometimes accommodate, but Rob never wants to inconvenience anyone with too many exceptions.

Since Jared and I are wineaux friends, this was a perfect night out for us because each course was going to be accompanied by a Wine Pairing!

The service here was fantastic. And what I really loved is that the chef creating our meal that evening came out to explain each and every course.

First Course

Scaloop

Scallop served with a glass of Brut Cava {read: Spanish bubbly}

I absolutely love scallops. And I love it even more when they’re done in an interesting way. The whole bacon-wrapped scallops trend is way overdone. In fact, any bacon and scallop dish has me rolling my eyes. This lone scallop was sandwiched between two flaky pastry-like puffs and a wonderful sauce.

Second Course

Mac & Cheese w/Tempura Shrimp

Mac & Cheese with Tempura Shrimp served with a Vinho Verde from Portugal

I voted this the best Mac & Cheese in the Twin Cities. While this particular dish is not on their menu, it’s a version of their Lobster Mac & Cheese. Whole wheat pasta is used to impart more flavor. Chef also told us that it’s made in the same style as risotto, adding a little at a time and mixing until incorporated, thus giving the dish a richer, creamier texture. Done. I’d order this again in a heartbeat. And while I also roll my eyes at Lobster Mac & Cheese, I’d probably overlook that here just to have this style of Mac & Cheese again!

Third Course

Filet En Croute

Filet en Croute served with a Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon from California

Think Beef Wellington here, but perhaps with a flakier outer crust. If my memory serves me, the meat was a little more well done than either of us were used to, but the sauce was rich and flavorful. By the time I finished, I was stuffed. I knew we had two courses left, but I had no idea one of them was another entrée!

Fourth Course

Seafood Tagine

Seafood Tagine served with a Pinot Noir

Isn’t this one of the most beautiful dishes you’ve ever seen?! Upon the lifting of the lid, the aromas were powerful and tantalizing. This was one dish of which I could tell that our Moroccan chef was most proud. I believe the seafood that day included salmon, halibut and mussels. The broth was intensely flavored with a Moroccan Chermoula. I was so full, but managed to enjoy a few bites. I could sit there and inhale those aromas all day!

Fifth Course

Moscato

Tuxedo, Truffle & Napoleon served with Moscato

This was probably the least satisfying pairing, but I always love me a rich truffle or a flaky, yet creamy Napoleon. I was so full at this point that I was glad these little desserts were only bite-sized.

I was very impressed by this restaurant and hope to return soon. I’m still a little unsure of why this place is called FACES mears park. Is it because the restaurant actually faces Mears Park? Or is it because there is a face as part of the logo? Or is FACES an acronym for something? It could be a combination of these, too. Whatever it may be, I think people would love to know that little tidbit of information. Usually a restaurant name is pretty understandable. But I’m unsure about this one.

The restaurant is run by Executive Chef David Fhima. Fhima’s was a Minneapolis restaurant that was on my wish list years back. But I never made it before it closed. Luckily, I was able to try his food here! Something else I love? From their website:

We source our products mostly from local farms, utilize organic produce and dairy whenever possible and use only grass-fed meats. Our breads, pastries and desserts are made from 100% unbleached, whole wheat flours, honey and turbinado sugar. We never use ANY preservatives or additives.

Gotta love that.

Have you ever wanted to dine somewhere, but learned that it closed before you got the chance?

Cheers~

Carrie

Top 10 Fries in the Twin Cities {A Guest List}

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*This List was updated on 2/26/14*

My husband is a burgers and fries guy. I guess that just happens when you are allergic to anything with fins or feathers. This year, I asked him to give me a list of his Top Ten Burgers and Fries throughout the Twin Cities metro. He gave me the lists separately, because very rarely will the fries and burgers both be extraordinary. They deserve to stand on their own. This post is the edition on fries, as you may have guessed from the clever title.

For me, when it comes to French fries, I can take ’em or leave ’em.

Let me rephrase that.

If the fries are there, I will eat them. And I will eat too many of them. But I don’t ever crave fries. I don’t say to myself, “Oh… I sooooo want some fries tonight.” But if I did {and maybe you do}, I’d want them to be the best stinkin’ fries ever.

I’d want them to be worth it.

While I’m working on losing weight, ordering something at a restaurant sans fries is the way I tend to go. If I’m feeling that rare “need” for fries, I will steal a few of Rob’s. {I find it much easier not to eat too many if the fries are not mine or if it wasn’t established up front that I’d be sharing them with someone.}

When I received back the list of Rob’s Top 10 Fries in the Twin Cities, I got this as the number one answer:

Pops for Champagne – Chicago

“Words cannot do them justice.  Firm outside, soft inside, brown buttery, boiled goodness.”

Um… I’m sorry, honey. We can’t just get in the car and go there for dinner. I know you loved them beyond anything you’ve probably ever eaten, but they just don’t count! Still, I guess you win because they made it into the blog post anyway!

So here are my husband’s Top 10 favorites {with his descriptions!} within dinner-driving-distance of those of us in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metro area. If we’ve written a Restaurant Impression on the restaurant, I’ve linked to it. Feel free to add your comments if you have enjoyed {or didn’t enjoy} fries at any of these establishments.

Rob’s Top 10 Fries in the Twin Cities – 2/26/14

2/26/14 – To be fair, restaurants with an * indicated that we haven’t had these fries in the past year.

1 ) Red Stag Supperclub* Minneapolis | Great local potatoes and the olive oil/rosemary seasoning works wonderfully.

2) Burger JonesBurnsville | Served in a cute tin, and not a small order, these are wonderfully cooked fries.  A side of chipotle aioli doesn’t’ hurt.

3) Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant*Minneapolis | Perfect pomme frites served with bearnaise.

4) Harry’s CafeLakeville | A multi-stepped fry, Harry’s Angela Fries are terrific with their mozzarella drippings. A side of ranch dressing (the only fries on my list benefitting from ranch) sets them off!

5) Barbette*Uptown/Minneapolis | Wow!  FRENCH fries.

6) Groveland TapSt. Paul | Parmesan Garlic Fries…yummy slender little spuds.

7) Mosaic CafeMinneapolis | If you would have told me that I would have enjoyed BAKED Rosemary & Garlic Fries, I would have laughed at you. But then I did. We couldn’t finish them, so we actually took these home and rebaked them. Not kidding.

8) Vincent* Minneapolis | Funny. A French restaurant with fries patterned after McDonald’s. These are quite tasty.  But, not quite as good IMO.

9) Relevé Champagne Lounge Minneapolis | 🙂

10) Cavé Vin*Minneapolis | Happy fun time shoe-strings.

~

What makes the perfect French fry for you?

At which restaurant in your neck of the woods would we find your favorite fries?

Cheers~

Carrie & Rob

American Burger Bar – St. Paul

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Since tomorrow is Independence Day in the U.S., I find it only fitting to give our impression of the American Burger Bar.

We happened upon American Burger Bar when we couldn’t dine at the restaurant we had planned on because there was a private event. I thumbed through our Groupons for something in the area and found a Restaurant.com gift certificate for the American Burger Bar.

Since Rob is a burger enthusiast, we’d been meaning to try this place. The reason why we hadn’t? Restaurant.com gift certificates never expire. We are always trying to use up our expiring Groupons first.

While there are also locations in Minneapolis and St. Joseph, we dined at the one situated in downtown St. Paul. The interior had more of a supper club feel, not what you’d expect for a burger joint.

American Burger Bar claims that their burgers are:

“Handcrafted and Delicious

“Handcrafted burgers, fresh-made malts and an amazing beer list helps make American Burger Bar a major treat for everyone!  We use only the highest quality meats, cheeses, and breads in preparing your food.”

Sounds right up our alley, right? Well, here is our impression.

We started with the Chorizo Feta Dip for an appetizer. I didn’t even notice it on the menu, but Rob ordered it. How he knew it was on the menu without me reading it to him, I have no idea. 😉

Chorizo Feta Dip

This dip was better than expected! I’m glad Rob ordered it. It was very similar to a spinach artichoke dip, but with a spicy kick from the chorizo. This could easily be split between four or more people or would be too easy to overeat! My tip would be to put a small amount on your plate so you can gauge your portion size.

Mr. Burger Connoisseur ordered the:

Smothered Patty Melt

What a cute little All-American look on the top slice of the bread! The cheese melted into an “A” with a couple of American flags gives it a nice touch. However, the novelty was lost on the flavor. There was none. Maybe Rob and I have had too many above average burgers that we just weren’t impressed by this one.

I ordered the:

Turkey Burger

Because I had originally planned on something healthier that evening, a burger was going to be a little bit of a challenge to put in my calorie budget for the day. However, I was at a burger joint. And since I hadn’t ordered nor made a turkey burger in a really long time, I thought this was the place to order one. Their burgers are handcrafted after all.

But what I got was a frozen patty. No, my burger did not come to the table in a frozen state. However, it was obvious that this patty came from the freezer. This was far from half-crafted. I guess one could argue that I didn’t order an actual burger. However, if you are going to be “burger” bar, don’t you think all of your burgers should be made well? Especially when you boast “high quality meats”? The burger was disgusting as was the sauce sitting next to it on the plate above. The fries weren’t even worth it. Don’t worry, I didn’t go hungry. I still had that chorizo dip.

Oh yeah, and their “amazing beer list” was less than stellar.

Our verdict? We were grateful to have that Restaurant.com gift certificate rather than pay full price for this food. We have no reason to go back again. There are so many other places that have better burgers in the Twin Cities.

Fire up that grill this 4th of July, because you can definitely make a better burger at home!

What’s your favorite kind of burger?

Cheers~
Carrie