Tag Archives: tapas

First Course {Closed}

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This week, we dined for the second time at this little gem of a neighborhood bistro in South Minneapolis. First Course is described on its website as “a little bit of Soho, ‘oh so close to home’, with its casual yet chic decor and its sophisticated yet comforting style of contemporary American cuisine.”

I beg to differ.

Although, I do love the decor and the cozy ambiance.

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 But, for the most part, I’d describe the food more as Mediterranean. Don’t tapas, cheeses, antipasti, olives, pizza, pasta, olives and seafood all scream Spain, Italy and the south of France? It does to me. And it sings heaven.

But there are a few things that are uniquely American about First Course. For example, the nice array of craft brews on tap. Quite a selection for a restaurant with maybe a dozen tables:

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Many of the wines, too, are Mediterranean in style. You’ll find some unique, yet affordable ones by the bottle and the glass. There are also bubblies, a rosé and some ports. And Tuesdays are half-price wine night – by both the glass and bottle!

On our first visit, we ordered a few small plates and thoroughly enjoyed some Mini Burgers {with white cheddar, tomato and chipotle aioli} and some Beef Skewers that we thoroughly enjoyed.

The menu changes often with featured specials every day. This week, I chose a the Pizza of the Day:

prosciutto, smoked mozzarella, olives, san marzano tomato sauce and red pepper flakes

prosciutto, smoked mozzarella, olives, san marzano tomato sauce and red pepper flakes

Sounds good, no? I was honestly very disappointed by this pizza. The sauce was way too sweet, I could barely taste the mozzarella, And the prosciutto was too think for my tastes. There wasn’t much flavor either. The best part? Picking those oil cured olives off the pizza and popping their salty goodness into my mouth.

However, this is the second time Rob ordered pasta and he was once again pleased:

Linguine with proscuitto, sun-dried tomato, garlic, basil, olive oil and parmesan

Linguine with prosciutto, sun-dried tomato, garlic, basil, olive oil and parmesan

Nothing was left on that plate when Rob was finished, nor was there with the last pasta he ordered, which was off the specials/features menu.

We love the little bar here and were lucky to get a seat at it both times. It is small enough, though, that if you plan to go at prime times on the weekend, it’s worth making a reservation on Open Table.

This is a place that I’d love to meet with girlfriends for a glass of wine and some small plates. The premise of “First Course” is that it’s a place to come to relax to kick off your evening or to dine on multiple courses.

Where do you like to start your evening when you are going out to dinner or for a night out with friends?

Cheers~
Carrie

 

 

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The Bottle Room

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Happy Wine Wednesday!

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We found The Bottle Room completely by accident, as we were driving back to my parents house while there for a weekend in 2012. Rob spotted it and I took the roundabout all the way around to go back to it!

A wine bar?

In Green Bay?

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When I moved to the Twin Cities from Green Bay in 2002, there wasn’t even a coffee shop near my parents’ place. Not even a Starbucks in the entire city.

Now I can’t even think of a decent wine “South of the River” in the Minneapolis/St. Paul suburbs where we live. Not only was this wine bar in Green Bay, but it was just minutes away from where my parents lived.

While I was growing up, there wasn’t really anything nearby because we lived more on the outskirts of Green Bay near the villages of Howard and Suamico. Ordering pizza in was unheard of. But now, Lineville Road is lined with restaurants, grocery stores, multiple gas stations, an auto parts store, a Shopko, a bowling alley and now…

A WINE BAR?

We walked in that evening to find a much larger than expected space filled with people, live music and great ambiance. We were highly impressed and felt instantly at ease…

We’ve been back to The Bottle Room every visit to Green Bay since then.

They have a lot to offer… For instance, their Wine Flights:

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When I told my fellow Wineaux friend Jenny about this place, she knew she wanted to stop there when she came to town for a Packer Game. These next several photos are courtesy of her. {Thanks, Jenny!}

That night, most of the gang went with the wine flights.

Wine Flight Delivery...

Wine Flight Delivery…

My dad with his whites and Rob with his reds:

Jenny ordered a mixed flight of sorts that was available at the time:

That night, I wasn’t feeling the flights, so I went with a cocktail:

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Can you guess which cocktail I enjoyed?

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I like, too, that they offer liquor flights. What a better way to learn what you like than spend a ton of money on a bottle of liquor at a store.

And there is more to their menu than the usual run-of the mill wines. They do have some interesting lesser-known options.

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But I do wonder how the business thrives here. The prices seem more on par with the Twin Cities, not those of Green Bay. I couldn’t imagine that a lot of people would pay these prices in this area. But the place was packed that first night we were there and when we went back with Jenny!

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One of my favorite things to order here, though, is a flight of ports. It comes with a chocolate truffle!

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Those truffles are sooooo good, that I’ve been known to just order a glass of port and a few truffles a la carte… 😉

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But wait… There’s more….

They have a few ever-changing craft beer selections on tap, too:

You can even take home the draft beer in a refillable growler! There’s also an extensive list of beers by the bottle:

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With over 75 wines and all of those beers, you’d think that’d be enough to be called The Bottle Room. But it is also a retail space. You can buy any of the wines that you liked to take home with you.

The selections line the wall:

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There is food, too. They describe it as tapas-style. I wouldn’t go that far. It’s more a selection of small plates, mini pizzas and sandwiches.

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Rob adored the Truffle Pizza on our first visit so much that he was disappointed that he tried the Old World Pepperoni the next time. Besides $14 – $15 is a lot for such a small pizza. I mean, even we wouldn’t pay that in the Twin Cities.

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One day, as I was thumbing through an issue of Wine Spectator Magazine, I saw The Bottle Room listed with an Award of Excellence! If I remember correctly, it was noted as a new wine bar and a new winner of that award. I wasn’t surprised.

I dream of having a place like this “South of the River!”

I only have one gripe about The Bottle Room. We visited one afternoon with my mom and were the only people there. My mom ordered a cup of coffee. When she finished her cup, she had to ask for a refill. When we got our bill, they charged her for two coffees for a total of $6. That just seems kind of ridiculous to me. They had to brew the pot regardless if she had one cup or two. It wasn’t like it was an espresso or specialty coffee.

Still, we’ll continue to return because we love the selection and ambiance and don’t know how long The Bottle Room will thrive in this market. We sure hope it does. It’s a little slice of heaven in Green Bay, if you ask me…

Do you have a favorite wine bar near you?

What’s the best wine bar you’ve ever experienced?

Cheers~
Carrie

Solera – Minneapolis {Closed}

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Sometimes, the only way to get my husband to try a restaurant is to buy a Groupon. We have to use it, right? There truly is Power in the Groupon!

Solera is a Spanish tapas bar in the Theater District of Minneapolis. I’d been there a few times with girlfriends. I love the concept of small plates and getting to try a bunch of different flavors. It was something my friend Jen and I loved when we were in Barcelona back in 2000.

I just feared that Rob would hate it. I feared that there would be little for him to eat {a lot of seafood on the menu} and that the plates would be too small. I feared he would go away hungry. I had even considered using the Groupon with a friend instead of Rob.

Then I thought, “No! I want him to try it!” And I knew that having the Groupon was the only way to get him there.

As a backup plan to quell both of our fears, I told him that if he was still hungry, we’d stop at the Scottish Pub next door afterward.

I’m so glad we went.

Because he loved it!

Rob hates downtown Minneapolis. I can’t stress this enough. While he loves dining there and going to concerts and sporting events, he detests navigating the city. He hates parking, construction, traffic and when there are so many people that you just can’t get a seat where you want to or arrive on time if reservations are made.

So I made sure to go at an off-time – on a Sunday afternoon, right when Solera opened. It was a beautiful day and we sat at the bar.

We started off by ordering a Spanish specialty and one that you know I like:

Sangria Menu!

Our choice:

Sidra
St.Germaine, sugar • 7

I’d never had a sangria made with hard cider before! It was actually made with Crispin, which is probably the only good thing that particular cider is good for. I just may be actioning my own Cider Sangria next summer!

Pre-meal crusty bread with oil for dunking

When you order tapas, the plates come out as they are ready. You are not served in courses or all at once. I like this concept because whatever you get will be hot and freshly prepared. In addition, if you are still hungry, you can order more. The bartender recommended 3 to 5 tapas for two people, because the size of them really depends on each dish.

First to come out:

Patatas Bravas
spicy harissa, aioli • 8

These potatoes were more than delightful. The spice of the harissa gave them a nice kick. Talk about flavor! As you will come to see, this is certainly not a place where we will be screaming Season It Already!

And why was I worried about these plates being too “small” for dear hubby? With the four plates of tapas we ordered, we couldn’t even finish these, despite how good they were!

You may not know this yet from my blog, but I have a not-so-secret love affair with scallops. I was introduced to them later in life {read: after college} and I almost always order them anytime they are offered {read: when not served with bacon}.

Despite the fact that tapas are plates meant to share, Rob knew that I would need to order the scallops. {He approves of the love affair.} But he also knew we’d be ordering other meat items for his culinary pleasure.

The Scallops

These scallops are different from those on the current menu. I imagine that the flavors change with the season. And while the flavors of these scallops are indescribable {the bartender and server went into intricate detail on how they were prepared!}, let’s just say that I was fully satisfied and smiling ear-to-ear. My plate was cleaned.

Next up:

Bistec al Guacho
seared sirloin, smoked paprika, chimichurri • 9

While Rob said that the meat was just a bit chewy, it didn’t stop him from eating it! And flavor? How could there not be with a fresh chimichurri sauce covering it?

And finally:

Pork Ribs
brandy glaze, pimenton rub • 14

For being an American girl constantly in search of flavor, you may be surprised to learn that I don’t particularly like ribs nor barbecue sauces. {Gasp!} There is something about the smoky and sweet flavors that everyone loves that I’m just not into so much. That being said, I gave these pork ribs a try and was pleasantly surprised. Rob licked his fingers clean.

And you can’t stop in Spain without having a little Sherry, right?

Solera Sherry Menu

Being the girl that cannot make a decision, knows nothing about sherry, and is still in search of her inner Frasier Crane, I finally just had the bartender choose one for us:

Our after-dinner sherry

The perfect end to a meal! I sometimes taste Bit-O-Honey when I drink Sherry or other sweet Spanish wines. Is this just  me?

What are your favorite small plates to eat, make or order?

Cheers~

Carrie