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Archive for August, 2011

I know that I raved about this author last time I reviewed “Fall of Giants” but I just can’t get over how much I am LOVING Ken Follett’s “Pillars of the Earth”.  I’m about 24 hours into the audio book (out of probably 38 hours) and it won’t be soon until I’m sucked in so bad that I’m at the “point of NOvel return”.

Everyone that is a reader has been there…you know…when you start with coming to work with weary and tired eyes from staying up too early reading.  Then you start missing dinner with friends, next goes the work functions, and finally…events like family reunions and weddings.  You disassociate yourself with society and only care about what ends up happening to your characters!

For example, I went on vacation last summer over Labor Day with my friend Amber up to their beautiful cabin on the lake with her whole family and a few others.  Turns out it was a BAD weekend for me to pick up “A Thousand Splendid Suns” since there I’m pretty sure that her family now thinks that I’m a deaf-mute since I spent the whole weekend hiding in corners with a face in my book.

For those of you that know me, I have NEVER been accused of being antisocial or not wanting to be part of the conversation…usually it’s the opposite and I find myself in situations where have to ask myself if I’ve breathed in the last two minutes.  Needless to say, “silence”was a very strange place for me.

But back to the book; “Pillars of the Earth” is full of complex characters with intertwining lives and relationships with a story line set in 12th Century England.  Might not sound like something that you would be interested but you’re dead wrong.  It’s riveting.

Can’t wait to see what happens next and the review will most likely be shortly after Labor Day at the rate that I’m going!

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Christo’s Greek Restaurant: St. Paul Location

Union Depot Place
214 Fourth Street East
Saint Paul, MN 55101

Website: http://www.christos.com/christos.html

How Did I Find This Place?

My coworker, Stephanie, picked this as a place for us to go on one of our global cuisine trips.  This spot had a particularly special meaning to her since this is the where her reception was held the day that she was married to her husband.  We also went there since the St. Paul location would closing down from July-December 2011 for renovations that they had worked out with Ramsey County (who owns Union Station I’m imagining).

Atmosphere

Union Station is an open aired train station with antique architecture and old world charm…with a Greek restaurant smack dab in the middle of it.  Which sounds absolutely delightful to me!

Union Station in St. Paul, Home of Christo's St. Paul Location

Christo's Restaurant, in the Heart of the Union Station

I loved how open and light-filled the restaurant was; it made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside (as if Greek food didn’t make me happy enough!).  The atmosphere here might have been one of my favorites in the Twin Cities to date.  I know that might sound strange but I just really enjoyed it.

Menu

Christo’s features traditional homemade Greek fair like tabouli, hummus, gyros, falafel, tomato-basil with feta soup, ke-babs, and while I didn’t get this it caught my eye…salmos exohikos.  It is a fresh Norwegian salmon with a dill aioli sauce baked in a flaky phyllo wrap that is served with broccoli over mixed greens with a dill vinegar.  YUM.  Then of course there are some stellar lamb dishes and many other Greek favorites on their dinner menu that I encourage you to check out on their website.

Meal

When you can’t choose just one, go for the weekday lunch buffet and have it all is my motto.  And what other option is there really when you can get everything that you would want for about $10?

yum Yum YUM

Here were some of our favorites:

Clockwise: Greek stew, dill glazed carrots, gyro meat, cucumber sauce, tabouli and Greek seasoned chicken

Clockwise: tomato-basil with feta soup, more gyro meat, cucumber sauce, and fantastic Greek salad

Lentil soup, that was actually phenomenal...and I usually don't like stuff like this!

Upon finishing our meal we were served a small complimentary slice of WARM baklava. PHENOMENAL.

Review

Christo’s offers a wonderful open air atmosphere with a weekday lunch buffet steal for around $10.  The freshness and high quality of all of the ingredients was everything that I could have wished for and we even were served a warm piece of baklava to sweeten the already pleasant experience that we had there over lunch.

Will be back there as soon as they open back up in December and I can’t wait to see what the renovations are going to be like…but admittedly am more excited about the food!

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While I thought that I had failed miserably, luckily I was able to save the crops!  Thank goodness because I’m not sure if we would be able to make it through the winter without the crops that I labored over this summer (ha ha).  

Check out some of the garden box pics post Miracle-Gro.  Turns out that the brand claims are true; they can make miracles happen.

Look at those cute little tomatoes!

Bushels of basil!

Didn't these grow up weird?

Stalks of spinach! That grew WAY differently than I had expected.

Check out THIS harvest! Talk about a high yielding crop! (insert sarcasm here)

But one little guy didn't make it...I forgot to tell the BF that I had planted some cucumbers outside of the garden box and it lost the battle between "cucumber versus lawnmower". The powder is bug repellent so don't get any crazy ideas people...

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Broder’s Pasta Bar
5000 Penn Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55419-1035

Websitehttp://www.broders.com/
Menuhttp://www.broders.com/pasta-bar/menu.html

Where Did I Find This Place?

I was having a major hankerin’ for some Italian food while we were in between seasons of “The Bachelor” and so instead of our traditional Monday celebrations at each other’s homes we decided to try a few spots out in Minneapolis.  Broder’s it was.

Atmosphere

Broders is located  in a historic portion of South Minneapolis where they own two different locations directly across the street from each other; Broder’s Pasta Bar and Broder’s Cucina Italiana, a specialty food items store with pickup and delivery services as well.

Broder's Pasta Bar's exterior, you can see the Cucina across the street too

When you walk in there is an adorable little bar where you can order a wine while waiting for your table or booth.  When you are taken to your table you are instantly able to see the entire dining area since the room is open to the kitchen with a small bar and an intimate dining area.

Broder's interior view from our booth. LOVE the colander re purposed as light fixtures!

Menu

Antipasti dishes include fresh mussels steamed with butter and white wine, bruschetta, and fico e prosciutto which are figs with prosciutto herbs, garlic, mascarpone and toasted walnuts.

Pasta, gnocchi and risotto dishes are made fresh to order and are always served al dente with the freshest ingredients available, including their made-daily in house pasta.  Their menu features a plethora of unique dishes that I could list off, but, since they are in Italian it doesn’t do a whole ton of good to the majority of you so I suggest clicking on their website above to see the whole list of goodies.

Desserts/Dolci are something that I wouldn’t suggest skipping at this spot.  Vanilla pana cotta, cannolis, flourless chocolate cake and of course…tiramisu.

Meal

After sitting down we were served three types of bread pictured below.

Broder's Bread

We then decided to try a few different things and swap plates throughout the meal, which is the BEST!

fico e prosciutto: fresh figs with prosciutto rossa, herb & garlic mascarpone & toasted walnuts

lasagna con granchio: housemade pasta layered with crab, ricotta salata, fontina, red peppers & spicy tomato cream sauce

This was one of Broder's seasonal dishes that featured fresh pasta, almonds, and lettuce in a balsamic sauce

Another one of Broder's seasonal dishes that features risotto, spinach, scallops, tomatoes and garlic

And now for the good stuff…

cannoli duo: two small cannoli - sweet ricotta with pistachios

profiterole: pastry shells filled with Sonny’s caramel nut ice cream topped with homemade chocolate sauce

tiramisù: nuff said!

Review

I had very high expectations based on the fact that I had heard it was good, that it has a sister specialty foods store and deli and because of the way that their fresh pasta was talked up on yelp as well as their website.

All in all, I thought that it was only alright.  The risotto was not even close to the point of being al’ dente (if risotto is even supposed to be served al’ dente…which I’m not sure that it is).   I felt like I was eating under cooked hard rice with almond flakes.  The sauce was also very runny, which I don’t think has ever been the case with any risotto I’ve had previous to this occasion.

The lasagna was good, but for main dishes the seasonal salad with pasta was the star.  I wish that I would have written it down but I didn’t so I apologize.

In regards to desserts, the tiramisù shined and I thought that the  presentation of the dish was beautiful.  The chocolate that surrounded the filled pastry was also worthy of licking your plate clean.

BUT in closing, it is a place that I am definitely interested in giving a second chance though since I’ve heard such great things and look forward to trying out some traditional dishes and sticking to server recommended dishes next time.

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How Did I Find This Book?

I found this book after I was on a war novel kick after reading a novel about WWI by Ken Follett and had seen this one on my list of recommended reads by audible and was also the winner of an “Audible Book of the Year” award in 2010 with the narrator, Bronson Pinchot, also winning narrator of the year.

Matterhorn, by Karl Marlantes

About the Author

Karl Marlantes grew up in a small town in the Northwest and eventually went to Yale and Oxford post high school.  Karl then went to Vietnam where he served as a Marine lieutenant in within the remote mountains.  Marlanta actually wrote this novel in 1977 only to be shot down throughout the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s by numerous publishers encouraging him to change the war from Vietnam to the Gulf or Afghanistan.  Finally in 2010, Atlantic Monthly Press/El Leon Literary Arts, picked up the book and the Cinderella story about a Vietnam veteran’s tale finally got to the part where the they lived happily ever after.

Karl Marlantes, author and decorated vetran

About the Book

I am so behind on my blog that I’m going to use someone else’s summary:

Matterhorn is a marvel–a living, breathing book with Lieutenant Waino Mellas and the men of Bravo Company at its raw and battered heart. Karl Marlantes doesn’t introduce you to Vietnam in his brilliant war epic–he unceremoniously drops you into the jungle, disoriented and dripping with leeches, with only the newbie lieutenant as your guide. Mellas is a bundle of anxiety and ambition, a college kid who never imagined being part of a “war that none of his friends thought was worth fighting,” who realized too late that “because of his desire to look good coming home from a war, he might never come home at all.” A highly decorated Vietnam veteran himself, Marlantes brings the horrors and heroism of war to life with the finesse of a seasoned writer, exposing not just the things they carry, but the fears they bury, the friends they lose, and the men they follow. Matterhorn is as much about the development of Mellas from boy to man, from the kind of man you fight beside to the man you fight for, as it is about the war itself. Through his untrained eyes, readers gain a new perspective on the ravages of war, the politics and bureaucracy of the military, and the peculiar beauty of brotherhood.” –Daphne Durham 

Source: http://www.amazon.com/Matterhorn-Novel-Vietnam-Karl-Marlantes/dp/0979528534

Review

So while I would love to tell you how much I liked it, I don’t lie.  I listened to it on audio book and I couldn’t wait until it was over.  It had many great descriptions of how Vietnam really was and how messed up it was but I just couldn’t get into it.  I think that it’s because I’m female and because this is so far from of the kind of books that I usually like.  I have read very little non-fiction and this is what I would categorize as mix of autobiography mixed with fiction and non-fiction.

For me it was 2/5 stars but I do believe that it had to do with the fact that this just isn’t something that I usually would read and I picked it up anyways.

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