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Archive for May, 2011

My next post is going to be about a restaurant that is my new favorite place to take people from out of town…it’s a food truck gone dive bar trio that serves among other things, a d*mn good lobster roll.

Yes, a really good lobster roll in Minneapolis…and I’m not joking.

But before I tell you about this restaurant, first you need to know what a lobster roll is.  While some of you might know  I’m guessing that a majority of us Midwesterners might not even know what to picture when you hear the term “lobster roll”.

SIDE RANT: BUT I’ve been having lobster rolls and clam strips for years and am now patiently awaiting the migration of clam strips to the Midwest.  I am very lucky to have grandparents that live on the East Coast and most years we would go up to Maine and dine on these local treats at little roadside stands or picnic tables overlooking the ocean (or highway).  

Summary: if you’ve never been to Maine then you need to put it on your bucket list.  Now back to your regularly scheduled program.  

What is a Lobster Roll?

  • Is it a lobster flavored dinner roll?
  • Is it a lobster tail rolled into a ball of some kind?
  • Is it a lobster that has been specially trained to do somersaults?

You’re completely wrong but that was a nice thought.

First of all, you need to know that there are two different variations of lobster rolls; one with mayo and one with butter.

  • The mayo version contains chunks of fresh lobster with mayonnaise and sometimes celery and a light seasoning.  Then the mixture is cooled in the fridge for a bit before serving.

MAYO version of the lobster roll

  • The butter one I’ve never seen but essentially it’s hot lobster rolling in butter on top of a roll and apparently is referred to as “Connecticut style”.  (One one-way ticket to Connecticut please!)

BUTTER lobster roll version

What’s With the Bun?

Now to the bun….this is special and is what gives the lobster it’s “roll” title as you probably already figured out.  The lobster and seasoning are served on a buttered and crunchy-fied hot dog bun (or some kind of hot dog bun looking cousin).

While that might sound weird, if you ever try eating a lobster sandwich you’ll quickly understand why it’s a hot dog bun that is used for this application.  But how boring are hot dog buns?

Thus the New England split-top hot dog rolls (with flat surfaces on each side) was born.

It was created when a very nice piece of sliced bread fell madly in love with a hot dog bun.  As you know, the next step is clearly marriage so they took the plunge.  But hot dog bun was pushing 30 and he didn’t want to be an “old dad” so they decided to put a bun in the oven and add to their Carb family.  Then a little bundle of joy came into the kitchen and they had a child named “New England split-top hot dog roll”.

Genius!

This Still Doesn’t Sound That Great

If this doesn’t sound good then you’re doing methamphetamines or something. Check yourself into rehab.

Next up, where to find these treats locally and save yourself a $400 plane ticket to Coastal Maine!

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“Extremely impressive” and “uncomfortably full” are both terms that I would use to describe our meal that had a few weeks ago over at my friend Steph’s house.  Ms. Food and Wine cooked us up a delectable dish straight from the pages of Food & Wine magazine and it didn’t fail to impress (as always!).

I’m just going to dive right in and give you a slide show with the links to the recipes in the title of the dish underneath.

Honey and Lemon Glazed Roast Chicken

And don’t worry, she made sure to take the liberty of brining the chicken overnight to make it extra moist….which was a step further than the recipe!

Brussel Sprouts with Lemon and Thyme


Homemade Potato Gnocchi


Gnocchi with Wild Mushrooms


Grape and Golden Raisin Chutney

Almond, Elderflower and Lime Travel Cakes

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How Did I Find This Book?

While cruising the Kindle bestsellers list this stuck out to me since it was a true story.  And since I’ve been on a medical kick lately I picked it up.

About the Author

Rebecca Skloot is an award winning science writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine; O, The Oprah Magazine; Discover; and many other publications. She specializes in narrative science writing and has explored a wide range of topics, including goldfish surgery, tissue ownership rights, race and medicine, food politics, and packs of wild dogs in Manhattan. She has worked as a correspondent for WNYC’s Radiolab and PBS’s Nova ScienceNOW. She and her father, Floyd Skloot, are co-editors of The Best American Science Writing 2011. You can read a selection of Rebecca Skloot’s magazine writing on the Articles page of this site.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Skloot’s debut book, took more than a decade to research and write, and instantly became a New York Times best-seller.  (source: http://rebeccaskloot.com/about/bio/)

About The Book

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells—taken without her knowledge in 1951—became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, and more. Henrietta’s cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can’t afford health insurance.

Review

It is unbelievable that such unjust can be done to one family.  The true story of Henrietta’s childhood, family, demise, and then the rebirth and undying cells was a moving story to say the least.  While I found the novel to get quite scientific at times, I understood why it needed to be that way.  In order to appreciate the contributions that Henrietta’s cervical cancer cells have done for science, it had to be in there.

While some of the family trees and back stories can get kind of confusing I found Rebecca’s commitment to getting to know Henrietta’s family chalked of integrity and the best part of reading this was knowing that some of the proceeds went to the Henrietta Lacks Foundation that helps the Lacks descendants with educational and healthcare needs.

***/5 stars

The only reason that I gave it 3 stars is because there were very slow parts and it got bogged down in medical terminology so parts were quite challenging to get through.

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Beirut Restaurant
1385 Robert Street S
Saint Paul, MN 55118
(651) 457-4886

Websitewww.beirutrestaurantanddeli.com
Menu:  http://www.beirutrestaurantanddeli.com/menu.shtml

How Did I Find This Place?

My coworker and fellow ethnic food lover sent me over a calendar invite entitled “Exploring Global Cuisine: Lebanese”.  I thought to my self “what kind of food do they have, lentils?  This might not go well.”.  SIDE RANT: My only other run in with a country this close to Lebanon was Kurdish  food which didn’t make my top 100 list of things that I’d ever eaten.  It was interesting, but, since I can’t understand how cucumber can be a main ingredient I struggled to find spices or flavors that I connected with.

Now back to Beirut.  But since my coworker Stephanie said that it was one of her favorite lunch spots for years since she worked right down the street, I was excited while remaining slightly apprehensive.

Gateway to Lebanon

Atmosphere

Walking into Beirut was extremely surprising.  And it’s not because of the outside or anything, it’s because of the fact that it’s directly across the street from a Chuck E Cheese’s.  I quickly found out after eating here that if I were a parent, every Saturday would be a “Chuck E Cheese day” for my kids.

Very clean inside with what I suspect are traditional Lebanese paintings and artwork and definitely a few steps up from my standard atmosphere when I go for ethnic food!  Also appeared that they had a pretty extensive and global wine selection and even sell some of their patron’s favorites in a refrigerator near where you pay for your meal.  Items include their famous garlic sauce, garlic dressing, and quite a few other things that sadly I can’t recall.

On the weekends they kick it up a notch and have belly dancers come in on Fridays and have live Arabic music on Saturdays but please note the reservations are strongly recommended!

Inside Beirut

Menu

After looking at the menu I quickly discovered that Lebanese food is a much closer cousin to Greek food than it is to Turkish or Iraqi cuisine which was great news to me!  Appetizers include: hummus, tabouli, fattoush (diced tomatoes and onions, mixed with chopped parsley and toasted pita bread, tossed in a dressing of garlic, lemon, oil and salt) and a lamb dish called Kibbee Nayee.

Sample of Their Lunch Menu

I have to note that one of their lunch options is phenomenal for the first-timer.  The Beirut lunch sampler is for 2 or more people (will adjust to suit your group) and includes the following for only $11.25/person:

• Hummus bi-tahini
• Tabouli Salad
• Falafel
• Shawirma
• Lahem mishwe (beef or lamb)
• Shish Ta’ook (chicken kabob)
• Served with bread

While you might not know what all of it is….get over it and just order it!  I promise there are no pig eye balls or anything scary and it’s the best way to try out all that Lebanon has to offer.  Other lunch entrées include pocket platters that have something for everyone (lamb, chicken, beef, and vegetarian).  Lunch kabobs, gyros, are also few other fan favorites over lunch.

The dinner menu is slightly different but features similar flavors…but if I were you, I would make it worth your time and spring for the “Mezza” which is an EVEN BIGGER sampling and selection of all the traditional Lebanese dishes for $18.00:

Starting with a selection of appetizers:

• Hummus bi-tahini
• Tabouli
• Cabbage Rolls
• Falafel
• Kibbee (baked or raw)
• Baba Ghannooj
• Grape leaves
• Shawirma
• Olives

Then your choice of (2) kabobs:

• Kafta mishwe
• Shish ta’ook (Chicken)
• Lahem mishwe (Beef)
• Lahem mishwe (Lamb)*$1.50 extra per skewer

Meal

We ordered the Beruit lunch sampler which was served with a large basket of Lebanese bread that I would technically consider pita breads.  Luckily we had something to wrap all of the following dishes in something or I swear I would’ve used my hands:

Lamb Shawirma

Hummus Bi-Tahini

Tabouli Salad

Lahem Meshwi

Chicken Kabobs w/ Heavenly Garlic Sauce

While admittedly my exploration in hummus is limited, it was the best that I’ve had to date, the lamb was super tasty and well spiced, the tabouli was tabouli…not much to say about that besides that it was fresh, the lahem meshwi was very crunchy and moist in the middle and the chicken kabobs were perfectly cooked; super moist and tender in the middle.

Then there is the garlic sauce.  If you are on a date I would not suggest lusting in this but holy man….I’m not sure why this fad hasn’t slid over into more cultures.  It’s phenomenal.  They apparently also have a garlic sauce that can go atop salads that is the same base but toned down or thinned out.

Lastly, you know the old children’s book lesson, “If you give a mouse a cookie, it will want some milk”.  Well if garlic sauce was my cookie then baklava was my milk and since I know that it’s not something that is even feasible to make at home I had to get it.  And I was not disappointed.

Baklava, a Lebanese Dessert That You Can Only DREAM of Making

Overall Impression

The service was very good but it was lunch on a weekday so I can’t vouch for the weekend scene but do suggest making a reservation as the website and fellow reviewers recommend.  The food was excellent; perfectly cooked, fresh and different.  In summary, I can’t wait to go back for more!

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Fresh bars, cakes and pies…oh my!

If you live in the Twin Cities and don’t know about how amazing Key’s bakery section of their restaurant business is then you need to get to one of your nearest Keys Cafe and order a cake for your next office event or girls night!  I have probably had almost everything on their catering and bakery menu and have YET to be disappointed.

Their bakery favorites of mine include:

  • Strawberry shortcake
  • Carrot cake
  • German chocolate

and let us not forget the

  • “House” chocolate cake

Keys Cafe House Chocolate Cake

If you think that you can compare to their cake baking abilities than I dare you.  No, I double dog dear you to try to make a cake as rich, moist and amazing as this.  The frosting and butter cream frosting is equally as amazing (fluffy, sweet and irresistible).  For someone like me, even if I wanted to make a cake like this it would surely take me FAR more time and effort than paying the $30-$40 for a monstrous double sized cake (above) that feeds 16 + people.

But if you are going to Key’s Cafe please don’t make the mistake of grabbing a cookie on the way out either….it just isn’t the same as the cakes.  While the cookies are good…they are so far shadowed by the bars and cakes that it doesn’t even make sense to spend your time in the minor leauges when you have the Yankees starting line-up equivalent right there in the glass case in front of you.

Lights from Cake Heaven

Keys Cafe Locations: http://www.keyscafe.com/locations.php

Keys Cafe Bakery Website: http://www.keyscafe.com/keys-bakery.php….for the order forms click on the appropriate location.  Please note that not all of of the locations have the extensive bakery menu so you’ll need to double check and order ahead.

Keys Cafe Catering: Offered by Location

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Asian Pork Chops and Sesame Bok Choy

This recipe was adapted from Cooks Illustrated with a few of my favorite flavor preferences.  I also took the liberty of excluding a few ingredients that I didn’t own and had to google to see what they even were!

INGREDIENTS

Glaze

  • ½ cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon crushed or minced garlic
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger

Chops

  • 4 boneless, center-cut pork loin chops , 5 to 7 ounces each, 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat oven to 300 F

1.) Combine all glaze ingredients; mix thoroughly and set aside.

2.) Pat chops dry with paper towels; season with salt and pepper…and marinade while you’re cooking with a little soy sauce just cuz

3.) Heat oil atop a large skillet (you know the huge breakfast ones) over medium-high heat until smoking. Add pork to skillet and cook until you have a nice crisp edge, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn chops and cook 1 minute longer; transfer chops to plate and pour off any oil in a stove top skillet. Place chops in oven.  While the chops are in the oven, COOK THE BOK CHOY ON THE SAME LARGE SKILLET TOP.

4.) Add any accumulated juices to a stove top skillet and set over medium heat. Simmer, whisking constantly, until glaze is thick and color of dark caramel (heatproof spatula should leave wide trail when dragged through glaze), 2 to 6 minutes. Drizzle sauce over chops when bok choy is finished.

Sesame Bok Choy

This is something that even your pickiest veggie critics will like.  There was one person that stepped up to my table not knowing what bok choy was and left a bok choy lover!  This one was also adapted from a Cook’s Illustrated recipe that I ran across a while back.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 baby bok choy (about 4 ounces each), each head halved lengthwise…or two regular sized ones cut in half
  • 3 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 heaping tablespoon)
  • 1 inch piece fresh ginger , minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds , toasted in a small dry skillet over medium heat until lightly browned and fragrant, about 4 minutes

INSTRUCTIONS

1.) Combine soy sauce, stock, vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, and sugar in small bowl.

2.) Heat large nonstick skillet over high heat until hot, about 2 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, swirl to coat pan bottom. Place bok choy in skillet, cut-side down, in single layer. Cook, without moving, until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Turn bok choy and cook until lightly browned on second side, about 1 minute longer; transfer to large, warm platter (heated by placing it on the stove top since the oven is on).

3.) Place soy sauce mixture in a small pan and saute on medium heat for 3 minutes, drizzle over cooked bok choy on a serving platter and sprinkle with sesame seeds.  PLEASE NOTE that the sauce on top (for the chops) was too dark and if you find it getting thick like I did just add a tablespoon of warm water at a time and slowly whisk it in.

Chop Sauce on Top, Bok Choy Sauce on Bottom

And voila!  There you have a decently priced meal that you would have paid $30 for in a restaurant.  And this pork was even organic so throw on another $10 a chop!

I would talk about the caramelized onion mashed potatoes but since they didn’t turn out I decided that they would wait until next time.  Next up, the dessert that I didn’t make but have to write about!

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I am going to break up my “girl’s night” courses into three separate posts since it would have turned out as the longest blog post, EVER.

First course was a salad that I found while cruising the television a couple of months ago.  My friend Jen absolutely loves goat cheese so I have had this on my brain since I watched that episode of “5 Ingredient Fix” with Claire Robinson.

Crunchy Goat Cheese Medallions (click for printable version)

Looking for something crunchy and tangy to spice up your salad?  Try this quick recipe from Claire Robinson of “5 Ingredient Fix” that will wow your guests.  I would suggest serving this with a vinegarette dressing.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups fresh bread crumbs
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • ¼ cup rosemary infused olive oil, plus 3 teaspoons
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves, plus 4 sprigs for garnish
  • 1 (12-ounce) log fresh goat cheese, sliced into 1/2-inch disks….TIP: to slice, use a run a string of unused dental floss that is washed off…so it’s less minty
  • 4 ounces baby mixed greens, washed and dried

Directions

1.) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
2.) In a small bowl, mix the bread crumbs with salt and pepper, to taste. Add 2 to 3 teaspoons of the olive oil, to just dampen the crumbs and mix well with a fork. Spread onto a rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven until golden and crisped, about 5 to 7 minutes. Allow to cool, then toss in chopped thyme.

3.) Brush the goat cheese disks lightly with the remaining 1/4 cup of the oil and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Coat the cheese on all sides with toasted bread crumbs. Bake on a parchment or silicone lined rimmed baking sheet until warmed through, about 5 minutes.
4.) Divide the mixed baby greens between 4 plates. Carefully, divide the goat cheese rounds on top of each salad, garnish with a sprig of thyme and serve.

Crispy Goat Cheese Medallions Over Fresh Greens with Thyme Garnish

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