Tag Archives: twin cities

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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Half-Priced Wine Nights in the Twin Cities

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Twin Cities peeps, remember last Wine Wednesday when I said that I have a gift for you?

Did you notice the new heading at the top of the page? If not, here you go… Just click here.

It’s my new page on all of the restaurants in the Twin Cities that I have discovered offer half-priced wine nights!

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You’re welcome.

I was inspired to keep my own list when I did a search on any given night and came up with out-dated lists from 2008. I know it will take a bit to keep up and I can’t promise that it won’t become outdated because a restaurant can change their offerings at any time.

But I’m giving you the tools of somewhere to start.

Here is what I’ve done:

  • I’ve categorized the list by days of the week. Let’s face it, when you aren’t sure where to go on a particular night, knowing which restaurants offer half-priced wine may persuade you!.
  • I’ve included a link to the restaurant website where you can get the phone number of the restaurant.
  • Not all restaurants will list their half-price wine specials on their websites. Even if they do, it’s recommended that you call first because not all restaurant website are up-to-date either.
  • If you find a change or want to add a new restaurant, just comment below or email me at Uncommon Wine (at) Yahoo (dot) com.

Now go find that restaurant with that half-priced wine in the Twin Cities!

Happy Wine Wednesday!

Cheers~
Carrie

Best Twin Cities Restaurants to Take Out-of-Town Guests

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This post was inspired by a friend who has family in town this weekend. She wanted ideas for where to take them. And while she came up with her own answer, it did get us to thinking where we’ve taken our out-of-town guests.

I feel a little guilty writing this one.

Why? Because I know that there will be some opinions out there. I may sound like I’m dogging some Mpls-St. Paul institutions. Let’s just say that these are not necessarily the best restaurants in the Twin Cities to take your out-of-town guests. Of course, that all depends on you and your guests. Your tastes might be completely different from ours.

So, instead, let’s label this list as our favorite places to take guests who come in from out of town. We want them to experience restaurants that we not only love, but that are also either unique, capture a piece of Minnesota or offer a bit of fun. They are listed in no particular order. At the time of this writing, Restaurant Impressions might not be written on all restaurants listed yet. But you can always hop over there to check!

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Cossetta’s – St. Paul

I have to admit that Rob has never been to Cossetta’s {the original eatery} and I haven’t eaten there in years. However, after a trip to the newly renovated/expanded Alimentari, including the eatery/pizzeria, Pasticceria, Italian grocery and restaurant with my parents this past May, it’s worth a trip… if only for the pastry/gelato/supermarket experience. Most would notice how grand the paticceria and rest of the building looks. But instead, my dad noticed what kind of light bulbs were used. He’s cute like that.

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Buffalo Tap – Savage

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, 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.

This photo doesn't do this perfect Juicy Lucy justice!

This photo doesn’t do this perfect Juicy Lucy justice!

If that’s not enough of a reason, the bar has a rustic, Minnesota northwoods cabin feel that makes the perfect setting for out-of-town guests. The menu is large with something for everyone. They also serve buffalo, hence the name. And fried cheese curds. As a cheesehead myself, I like to show guests from back home where I watch Packer games when they aren’t on regular TV here in Viking Country. Yep, it’s right here at “The Tap.”

A plus: There are some excellent beers on tap!
A minus: Said beers are often way overpriced.
A plus: You can still get a bottle of Mondavi Cab for $11.95. Not kidding. As my husband would say, “Cheap at the price.”
A plus: They make some of the best Bloody Marys – perfect for game day.

Three pluses over one minus? We’ll take it.

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The Happy Gnome – St. Paul

This is an easy pick for your guests who may have an affinity for beer like we do. Rob stole my brother away on one visit, leaving his other half behind with the kids. They sipped fresh brews and devoured poutine. Oh yeah, this was all just a few days after my back surgery. Maybe he needed to get out, too. 😉

If you’ve had a late night, I’d say get the delectable breakfast sammy the next morning. Best in the Twin Cities! But the folks at this gourmet gastropub change the menu often, so who knows if it’ll be available when you read this. No matter what you order, you should always wash it down with a beer or two that you’ve never had and perhaps may never have again.

Jared's Beer Flight

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Forepaugh’s – St. Paul

Rob likes to describe this experience as “taking someone to your rich uncle’s house.Forepaugh’s is housed in a 19th century Victorian Mansion. You can make it an expensive, fancy evening out, if you’d like. {A lot of special occasion events are held here.} Or you can do what we do: Drop by during happy hour in the bar area and let Joey or Victor wait on you. The bar menu is less expensive and quite good. In fact, we voted them as having best “Toast” in the Twin Cities. You’ll just need to go to find out what that means. And The Double Double Bacon Cheeseburger is on Rob’s Top 10 list. Furthermore, the Deconstructed Banana Cream Pie is a dessert for which you’ll return. It’s an impressive place. Have your guests take a walk around the mansion and check out all levels. Ask the staff about the ghosts.

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Sul Lago – Prior Lake

Perron’s Sul Lago is a no brainer for us, being one of our favorite restaurants and all. Forget Manny’s. Forget Murray’s. {And, yes, we’ve had both.} If you want a steak, come here instead. That being said, let me preface that statement with this: I like filet mignons. The best I’ve ever had in Minnesota is here. My mom said it was the best steak of her life. But I tried a friend’s sirloin and wasn’t as pleased. Maybe that’s because I know how much more I love the filet. Still, the steak sandwich gives Murray’s a run for its money.

It’s a place where the service is great because they leave you alone to linger for hours if you wish, just like they would in Italy. Rob’s favorite pasta – the Sausage and White Truffle Oil – is back on the menu! The food is fantastic, as is the ambiance. And, you’ll find our favorite Bartender, Billy, there, too. He makes the best French Pear.

French Pear Martini: Elderflower liqueur, pear vodka, sparkling wine, lime juice

French Pear Martini: Elderflower liqueur, pear vodka, sparkling wine, lime juice

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Nicollet Mall – Minneapolis

While this technically isn’t a restaurant, it’s a great area in downtown Minneapolis where you can stroll and hop from place to place to try a little bits of what Minneapolis has to offer. We recommend going on a Saturday afternoon when it’s not crazy-busy. Just be sure that there isn’t a Twins game or a big event when you go or that whole lazy-Saturday-afternoon plan will be blown out of the water. We do this because we aim to get a seat for our guests.

Our favorite stops? The Local Irish Pub (duh!), the News Room (especially for the brie cheese curds), Devil’s Advocate (tap beer selection) and Brit’s Pub (rooftop lawn bowling). My husband also found this great map of the Mall and printed out menus for each location for his parents when they were in town. In the evening, The Dakota Jazz Club is recommended for something swanky. We often pop in when they open for a cocktail and some frites before venturing somewhere else down The Mall. Other evening faves include Vincent (French) and Zelo (Italian).

BRIE CURDS DEEP FRIED BRIE, HOMEMADE BLUEBERRY KETCHUP 11.95

Brie Curds – The News Room

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So those are our current picks. And after yesterday’s post, I realize that I should be taking peeps to The Bulldog NE more often. I think we’ve only done that once. Whether they are beer and burger lovers or just like sweets, I’m sure they’ll love it as much as we do.

What are your favorite places to take out-of-town guests where you live?

Cheers~
Carrie

Ambiance vs. Atmosphere and Best of the Twin Cities

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If you haven’t seen it yet, please check out my new tab above titled “Best of the Twin Cities“!

I’ve compiled a list of my personal favorites throughout the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area and listed them for you. Whether you live in town or are just visiting, if you are craving something specific, give my “bests” a try. If my jury is still out on a particular category, but my husband has a favorite, I’ve listed his favorite as such: (Rob).

Of course, it’s impossible to try everything and by no means am I a professional food critic. This list may just end up being posted for my memory’s sake. If you have some favorites of your own, please share so we can give them a try as well!

I may be updating this list from time to time, but will that be monthly? Annually? Probably just whenever I find a new fave. We’ll see.

Until then, I’d like to clear the air….

I’ve gotten in the habit of saying ambiance when describing the mood and feel of a restaurant. Why? Whenever I’ve said, “This place has a really nice atmosphere,” Rob comments that the atmosphere is composed of the same gases there as anywhere else. Haha. You’d think that he is a science geek; but it isn’t so. Now that I’ve become so accustomed to using the word ambiance, I catch other people using the word atmosphere. And while it technically isn’t wrong, I just can’t get the thought of describing the air in a building as “nice” as being anything but just plain weird.

Why do we have to be so literal?

On that note, we could move on to topic of the overused and misused word literally. For fun, here are a few of my favorites. You’ll get the message. Enjoy!

What misused phrases annoy you?

(All in good fun, of course!)

Cheers~
Carrie

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

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This is now an ongoing list…

After updating this list once, I’ve decided we’d really like a record of what burgers Rob has had on his past lists. Therefore, I’ll be updating with the new list about once a year, with the most recent list on top… Enjoy!

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As of 7/31/15, Rob has amended his 4/21/15 Top Burger List to put a new Burger at #2:

1) Lake & Irving Minneapolis | “The Patisserie 46 brioche bun actually makes this burger. Toasted, buttery…epic goodness.

All other burgers move down one notch.

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Rob’s Top 10 Burgers in the Twin Cities – 4/21/15

*4/21/15- To be fair, burgers with an * indicate that we haven’t had this burger in the past year.

First off, if you like your burgers cooked medium-well or well done, please read no further. You clearly can’t appreciate a burger.
1) Parlour Minneapolis | The parlour burger is out of this world.
1a) The Bulldog NEMinneapolis | They are incapable of making bad food. My favorite is the Truffle Burger, but all of them rock.  Don’t forget to enjoy it with a Kasteel Rouge and for the love of God, top it off with a cupcake afterwards.
3) Buffalo TapSavage | Not all burgers here are outstanding, but if you order your buddy sitting next to you the Parmesan Patty Melt Juicy Lucy, he’ll buy you a new car.
4) Forepaugh’sSt. Paul | In-house ground beef, crazy-melty cheese, and the eating all in the ambiance of your rich uncle’s mansion. Not a bad way to spend the day. Skip the funeral-esque dining area and sit in the bar and kick it with Victor or Joey.
5) Burger JonesBurnsville | Get the Stack Pack with 3 patties.  Loaded with cheese.  Great fries, to boot.
6) David Fong’s – Bloomington | This melts in your mouth.  Who knew?
7) Blue Door Pub* St. Paul | The problem with the Blue Door is that unless you live next to the place, it can prove to be a good waste of the day. For me, a 20 mile drive + 60 minute wait to fit into one of their 3 tables just isn’t worth my time. On burger alone, this would rank higher. But it’s my list and I’m listing them how I want to list them.
8) Harriet BrasserieMinneapolis | Perfectly cooked, perfectly seasoned high quality beef. Bun was average , but it wasn’ t about that. Locally sourced gourmet burger.
9) The Happy Gnome St. Paul | Nice and juicy, enhanced by the beer selection.

10) Haute Dish Minneapolis | Wonderful burger. Great seasonings. Only comes one way – almost rare. Good for them, good for me!

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Original Post:

Just before the New Year, I posted my husband’s list of the Top 10 Fries in the Twin Cities. Here is Part Two – because burgers and fries go hand-in-hand. Wouldn’t you say that’s the quintessential American Restaurant meal? Personally, I don’t eat burgers and fries very often; but when I do, I want them to worth the splurge!

Because my husband is a burger guru and will promptly tell you upon the first bite if a burger was properly seasoned or not, I asked him to put together his list of the Top 10 Burgers throughout the Twin Cities Metro.

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 an Impression on the restaurant, I’ve linked to it as well. Feel free to add your comments if you enjoyed {or didn’t enjoy} a burger at any of these establishments.

*This List was updated on 4/11/14*

Just before the New Year, I posted my husband’s list of the Top 10 Fries in the Twin Cities. Here is Part Two – because burgers and fries go hand-in-hand. Wouldn’t you say that’s the quintessential American Restaurant meal? Personally, I don’t eat burgers and fries very often; but when I do, I want them to worth the splurge!

Because my husband is a burger guru and will promptly tell you upon the first bite if a burger was properly seasoned or not, I asked him to put together his list of the Top 10 Burgers throughout the Twin Cities Metro.

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 an Impression on the restaurant, I’ve linked to it as well. Feel free to add your comments if you enjoyed {or didn’t enjoy} a burger at any of these establishments.

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Rob’s Top 10 Burgers in the Twin Cities – 4/11/14

*4/11/14 – To be fair, burgers with an * indicated that we haven’t had this burger in the past year.

First off, if you like your burgers cooked medium-well or well done, please read no further. You clearly can’t appreciate a burger.
1) Anchor Fish & Chips* {& Burgers}Minneapolis | Get the Helicopter Burger. You can read reviews online as to why it’s a crowd favorite, but you simply have to taste this.
2) The Bulldog NEMinneapolis | They are incapable of making bad food. My favorite is the Truffle Burger, but all of them rock.  Don’t forget to enjoy it with a Kasteel Rouge and for the love of God, top it off with a cupcake afterwards.
3) Harriet BrasserieMinneapolis | Perfectly cooked, perfectly seasoned high quality beef. Bun was average , but it wasn’ t about that. Locally sourced gourmet burger.
4) Buffalo TapSavage | Not all burgers here are outstanding, but if you order your buddy sitting next to you the Parmesan Patty Melt Juicy Lucy, he’ll buy you a new car.
5) Blue Door Pub* St. Paul | The problem with the Blue Door is that unless you live next to the place, it can prove to be a good waste of the day. For me, a 20 mile drive + 60 minute wait to fit into one of their 3 tables just isn’t worth my time. On burger alone, this would rank higher. But it’s my list and I’m listing them how I want to list them.
6) Café Barbette* Minneapolis | – Yummy little Royale with Cheese. Great fries. Lots of mosaics. Happy fun time lunch-y place.
7) Forepaugh’sSt. Paul | In-house ground beef, crazy-melty cheese, and the eating all in the ambiance of your rich uncle’s mansion. Not a bad way to spend the day. Skip the funeral-esque dining area and sit in the bar and kick it with Victor or Joey.
8) Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant* Minneapolis | This burger is overlooked for Vincent in most rankings. Vincent’s smoked gouda/short rib burger is fine, but I’d take the Dakota’s perfect burger any day over Vincent’s. Get the fries, also!
9) The Happy GnomeSt. Paul |Nice and juicy, enhanced by the beer selection.

10) Harry’s Café Lakeville | Get the 5-Cheese Patty Melt. Feta baked right in to their buttery crust. Order the thrice cooked Angela Fries to accompany the burger.  (This is the only place in the entire world I enjoy ranch dressing with the fries…go for it.)

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On that note, click here to read about Rob’s Top 10 Fries in the Twin Cities.

How ’bout you? What makes the perfect burger for you?

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

Cheers~

Carrie & Rob

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.

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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

The Homegrown Experience

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As I mentioned, this past weekend, after my cooking and cleaning frenzy, my friend Jen and I attended The Homegrown Experience at the beautiful Nicollet Island Pavilion in Minneapolis.

I would have never known about this if if wasn’t for Goldstar. It’s a another Daily Deal site. And you know how I love those! I would have never known about this event if I hadn’t received the email. And this was its third year in existence! Since I prefer to eat and cook with fresh, quality ingredients and I love supporting the local community, I jumped at the chance to check this it out.

Upon checking in, we received bags and wine glasses along with some coupons and advertisements. This was included in the ticket price as well as the tasting samples we were about to receive!

I really wouldn’t have called it a “Food and Wine Festival” as Goldstar described. There wasn’t much wine being poured. However, despite my affection for wine, that wasn’t my reason for being there. I wanted to learn more about local, organic and sustainable food in the Twin Cities metro area.

And so we did.

There were so many wonderful samples that I’m sure we made a meal out of it. There were all sorts of vendors including co-ops, non-profits and restaurants that use local or sustainable ingredients. Products included wine, beer, spices, bbq sauces, chocolates and candies, oils, coffee, beauty products, cheese, ice cream and more. We made our way through all of the booths, but patience was key. There were so many people! The lines were long and went extremely slowly. Some people popped in and out of booths, which caused even greater delays in the lines. I’m not sure if the lines were meant to be there, or if we, as the crowd, created them though!

My favorite bite was provided by one of the Eastside Co-op – just a simple crostini with colorful tomatoes, basil and a drizzle of olive oil. They had some excellent chocolate we nibbled on as well.

Truth be told, while I recognized some of the restaurants, I was unaware of the majority of the businesses showcasing their products and services! I collected a lot of brochures, pamphlets and business cards. In fact, now that I think about it, I picked up a few magazines/catalogs, too. In my weekend cleaning frenzy, they must have ended up in a pile somewhere. I have to find them! I’m most looking forward to the current issue of Edible Twin Cities!

However, probably the most interesting discovery to us was Twin Cities Local Food. When we approached their both, we saw this:

Camelina Oil

What’s camelina oil?” You ask? I did, too. Camelina is a wild flax chock full of those healthy omega-3 fatty acids. You can learn more about camelina here. The camelina oil was used in a dressing and bread was offered for dipping to sample. But why was Twin Cities Local Food showcasing it?

Because local farmers and producers of local food products are offered through the Twin Cities Local Food online marketplace! As a member, you place your order online by Wednesday morning.  By Thursday afternoon, your order is ready for pickup at the location of your choosing. There is a drop off site in Minneapolis, St. Paul and Savage. SAVAGE! We south-of-the-river girls were excited about that!

We were told that the produce is picked up from local farmers the same day, so everything you get is fresh, fresh. It’s the perfect alternative to a CSA. You get the choice of what you’d like and what you know you will use that week. A win-win! We are seriously thinking of giving this a try. {P.S. It’s a year-round service!}

Currently, memberships with Twin Cities Local Food are $10 for one month, $35 for six months and $50 for a year. You can even place two orders without a membership just to give it a try. But really, $50 a year? If you go once a week, that’s less than a $1 to have fresh, local produce of your choosing delivered to one location? Or, look at it this way: It’s less than $4 a month. You’d pay more for shipping on anything you order online!

Why don’t I just give it try and let you know what I think…

Where is your favorite place to shop for fresh, local produce?

Cheers~
Carrie