Archive for the ‘Where I'm Eating’ Category

Happy anniversary to meeee!

August 4, 2011

Wowza…I’ve been working for three solid weeks. I know it’s been dead here on the blog, but I’m learning that this will happen when one works 12 hour days and through the weekends. I’m managing to smoosh a decent amount of fun and relaxation between these working hours, and with the recent incredible summer weather that hasn’t been involving the internets. Well, except for … I always manage to sneak a peek at the membases before bedtime.

Yesterday I high-tailed it out of work super early so that Aaron and I could celebrate our 8th wedding anniversary! We treated ourselves to a four-course meal at The Melting Pot in downtown Minneapolis. Neither of us had done fondue in a restaurant before last night. It was fun and it will definitely be memorable! Although maybe not as memorable as it could have been if I hadn’t ordered the four glass wine flight with dinner. Hmmm…

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The cheese fondue was yummy and the salad was decent, but it was the entree that we found unique, and as a grown-up who takes way to much fun in playing with my food, I have to say it was my favorite part of the meal. We ordered a plate that had two kinds of steak, lobster tail, shrimp, chicken, pork and ravioli and everything was raw. The waitress brought out a giant pot of hot vegetable broth, heated it until it was boiling, and then we skewered the raw meat with our fondue forks and cooked the meat for ~2 minutes before eating it. There were half a dozen sauces and dips to try with the different meats. And just when we thought we couldn’t eat any more, the waitress brought out a milk chocolate fondue and a desert plate which contained cheesecake, fancy-fied marshmallows, rice crispies, brownie, strawberries and poundcake. Let’s just say, full as we were, we made room. You don’t just pass up chocolate fondue. At least, as it turns out, we don’t.

I’d recommend The Melting Pot for a special occasion. It is pricey, but if you’re looking to splurge, you might want to give it a try.

That was a good Monday

July 25, 2011

Not the work part. At work there were some things, and then there was some stuff, so the work part of Monday was just meh. But after work has been fun!

Last week I was invited to write a blog post about my experience with Virtual Drinking Skeptically, a social videoconferencing group that brings people together to discuss skeptic topics. My piece is just a write-up of a recent VDS event, but I was honored to be asked to write about it, and today it was published on the Virtual Drinking Skeptically website. So that was cool.

After work I went to the doctor for a routine check up and then I had dinner plans with some friends. My appointment was done at 4:15 and dinner wasn’t until 6:30, so I decided to stop in to Half Price Books. I don’t know why I did that; I have an entire five-shelf bookcase filled with books that I haven’t read yet. But (as always), I made a great find:

Background: So, I’m all excited about going to Dragon*Con this year, right? I’m so excited that I forced my Mom to listen while I listed and described all of the different tracks that will be available at the convention. She perked up a bit when I told her that there is an entire track devoted to Anne McCaffrey. I confided that I hadn’t read anything by McCaffery and she ordered me to go read The Ship Who Sang. I’m easy so I put it on my must acquire and read list.

I couldn’t get it at Barnes and Noble without a special order, and there weren’t any copies conveniently located at the local library. I went online to purchase an e-book, but ended up finding a free PDF of the book instead. Unfortunately there were typos in it and I couldn’t download it to my phone without paying for it. But, I started reading it on the computer and was hooked.

It’s a really interesting story: In the future those who are born with physical disabilities but healthy brains are either euthanized or turned into “shell-people”; brains that control machinery. They are individuals with rights, and are self-aware, highly intelligent and possess a wide range of human emotions. They are employed by the Central Worlds to do things like man spaceships. The Ship Who Sang is about a shell-person named Helva and the adventures she has with her various “brawns” – the pilots who accompany her on her missions.

So, to bring a long story to an end, I was very excited to find the first three books in the series at the used bookstore, and as soon as I’m done with this blog I intended to spend the rest of the evening finishing The Ship Who Sang.

This next part is a little gossipy and petty, but I like it.

After Half Price Books I still had a little over an hour until dinner. I stopped in to a Caribou Coffee to sit back in one of their big comfy reading chairs, drink a frosty summer coffee drink, read and check the Twitters. Sadly, the comfy chairs were taken up by a man and his two young daughters. And when I say taken up, I mean I think they had moved in a few days ago. They had two netbooks on the table, the girls were laying on the couch watching a movie on a third computer, magazine were strewn every which way and the dad had his socked feet on the coffee table and was reading a book. Ah well, there were plenty of the hard high-back chairs so I took a table nearby the comfy chairs in case the man and his daughters left.

About 10 minutes after I sat down I heard the Dad say, “Girls, let’s go next door and have some dinner.” So they get up and leave their shit all over the comfy chairs. All over MY comfy chair. That’s not cool! You don’t get to hog all of the good comfy chair seating in the coffee shop while you go to dinner! And they left all of their expensive stuff just sitting there for any yahoo to steal. So…I go up to the barista and say, “I just heard that man tell his daughters that they should go get some dinner, and they left all of their computers and stuff behind.” The barista gave me a look like she understood the situation perfectly, and with a slightly naughty look said, “Really? They left? Hmmm…maybe I should put it behind the counter so nobody steals it.” And she did. She gathered up all of their junk, put it in a box and put the box behind the counter. When dude came back 30 minutes later he saw me reclining on “his” chair and said, “Hey, I had a bunch of stuff over here.” I gave him big doe eyes and said, “Yeah, the barista put it behind the counter so no one would steal it. You had, like, three laptops just sitting out in the open.” He got all sputtery and mad.

And then it was exactly time to go to dinner.

Dinner was…oh, dinner was fabulous. I went for sushi with five lady-friends and we had a ball talking pop culture, books, travel, food and all of those other relaxing dinner topics. We ordered a ton of appetizers, drinks, one of those big sushi boats, and a few desserts at the end of the meal. The food was very good and reasonably priced. If you’re looking for sushi in the Lakes/Uptown area of Minneapolis I highly recommend Wakame.

And now if you’ll excuse me…the shell-people are waiting.

Dining Out for Life

April 27, 2011

Dining Out for Life Minnesota is tomorrow – Thursday, April 28th.

Go out to any one of a gazillion and ten participating restaurants, and the restaurant donates a portion of your food bill to The Aliveness Project, a local nonprofit agency which each year serves one out of four people living with HIV/AIDS in Minnesota. The Aliveness Project offers an on-site hot meals program, food shelf, integrative therapies, case management, holiday baskets, HIV educational services.

I’m getting up early to have breakfast at Anodyne Coffeehouse in South Minneapolis before going in to work.

And for dinner I’m going to Joe’s Garage in Loring Park with a bunch of friends.

There’s an entire list of restaurants throughout Minnesota that are participating in Dining Out for Life.

Where are you eating?

Not for the faint of tastebuds

October 27, 2010

Yeah, this had “I have a bad feeling about this” written ALL over it.

Me: Hey, what should I make for dinner tonight?  Hmmm…I love tacos, and I love crab meat – hey, I should combine the two!

Me to Myself: Ummm…are you sure you want to do that?  You might ruin perfectly good crab meat, or perfectly good taco seasoning mix.

Me to Me to Myself: But, I like fish tacos.  And I like shrimp tacos.  So crab tacos would probably be tasty.

Me to Myself: You’ve only eaten seafood tacos made by professionals.  In restaurants.  Have you ever attempted to make any sort of seafood taco with canned seafood meat?

Me to Me to Myself: No, but I have eaten canned crabmeat and it’s pretty tasty.  And how hard can it be to make seafood tacos?  It’s the same thing as beef or chicken tacos, except with seafood. 

Me to Myself: Have you ever used a pre-made taco mix on any seafood before?

Me to Me to Myself: Well, there was that one time with the shrimp…

Me to Myself: You were drunk, you don’t even remember what that tasted like.

Me to Me to Myself: True…

Me to Myself: Soooo?

Me to Me to Myself: You know what?  I’m going to try it anyway.

Some time later…add a little lettuce, tomato, a dab of sour cream.

Me:  Here we go!  Canned crab meat tacos! [eating commences – nom, nom, nom – a slowing of chewing, a hard swallow and a pause] Ugh… this is horrible!

Me to Myself: *sighs* You never trust me.

Me:  I hate you.  [Mumbled grumbling.  Chew.  Swallow.  Repeat.]

Perugia: Gluten Free Dining

July 21, 2010

Yesterday we meandered through the San Pietro area.  One of the highlights of the trip was finding this random crepe kitchen, Le Cre.  It was tucked near the end of a tunnel-like alley next to the Pozzo Etrusco, an ancient Etruscan well.

I noticed the word “glutine” in a few places around the shop and then I saw a newspaper clipping with the words “gluten free” in the title along with a picture of the place.  The bar tender saw me pointing and saying “gluten free” and she nodded.  She pointed up and at the ceiling and in that moment I learned one of the loveliest phrases of my trip thus far: Senza Glutine.  Directly translated it means “without gluten”.

She spoke a fair amount of English, and was able to explain that the senza glutine side of this particular kitchen has been dedicated to gluten-free food preparation.  She told us that there were a few GF restaurants in the area, and that they were very prevalent in Southern Italy.  So it was that I enjoyed a crepe in Italy.

We nom nom nom on a nutella e crema senza glutine crepe

On Wednesday we ran across another luncheon place that had a senza glutine section on the menu, so I was able to enjoy PASTA in Italy 🙂

Thatsa lotta pasta carbonara – and it’s gluten-free!

Tonight (Wednesday evening) we stopped back at Le Cre for one final crepe dinner.  The owners close up Le Cre for the summer on Friday, so even though we’re surrounded by bars, paninitecas, pizzarias, tavole caldas and ristorantes, we decided to vist them one more time. 

One of the cafe staff makes my senza glutine crepe

Salami, cheese, whole marinated “spicy” button mushrooms, lettuce, mayo on a GF crepe

Mom said she needs a short break from “Italian food”.  Tomorrow night – sushi!

Uptown Cafeteria and Support Group

July 17, 2010

Uptown Cafeteria and Support Group Brunch Experience

The Uptown Cafeteria and Support group, or “The Cafeteria” is located in Calhoun Square, right across from Stella’s Fish Cafe.  The Hubby and I decided to make our first visit to The Cafeteria on a lazy Sunday morning when we could have the place to ourselves.  The Star Tribune recently did a piece on this trendy new Minneapolis hotspot and everytime we’ve driven by the place has been packed!  The rooftop – SkyBar – is supposed to be excellent in the evenings, but we didn’t get a chance to explore upstairs at brunch.

The cafeteria has garage-door windows that are raised up in nice weather; diners are inside but exposed to the sidewalk and the Uptown crowds walking by.

The picture above is from our table by the windows- it really was empty when we stopped by!  The food was simply alright.  Our eggs, bacon and toast were typical fare, and the potatos were too oily and heavy to be enjoyable.  On the plus side, the servers were very pleasant and attentive.  But there’s no doubt that The Cafeteria’s main attraction is its unique style.

This close-up photo of the bar really doesn’t do it justice – the bar is very long and has room for a lot of patrons.  I like the combination of liquor bottles and beer taps, top-shelf liquor cabinets and fancy flatscreen TVs set against a greasy spoon-style countertop and chairs.

The hallway to the bathrooms and kitchen is “wall-papered” with actual cafeteria trays.

The bathroom decorations are fun.  The Hubby took the picture on the left and the pic on the right is from the women’s room.  I think the women got cheated – we should have pictures of cafteria men or women glaring at us on the backs of bathroom doors while we pee!

I did not get a picture of the booths or the awesome walls covered in shag carpeting.  As I said earlier, our food was just meh.  But I love the ambiance and I’ll be back to try their evening fare, and definitely to check out the rooftop bar!  The Cafeteria seems like a great place to bring some friends for before or after dinner drinks!

What: Uptown Cafeteria and Support Group
Where: 3001 Hennepin Avenue Minneapolis, MN
When: Quiet brunch on the weekends, trendy crowds and yummy drinks in the evening.


Uno giorno fino a Italia!

One of the gorgeous cities of Cinque Terre

I’m going here, to Perugia

Gluten Free Pancakes

June 12, 2010

I make gluten-free pancakes at home.  I use a traditional recipe, but substitute in a mix of sorghum, rice and garbanzo (chickpea) flours for all-purpose wheat flour and I reduce the baking powder.  The result is a decent, but slightly drier and firmer, version of a pancake.  But tasty – especially if most carby goodness treats are not an option for you.

GF Flour Recipe
This recipe was given to me by a friend from her sister.  The sister has celiac disease and says she formulated this mix herself.  A google search for “Gluten free flour mix” will yield a ton of recipes, some claiming to be better suited for different types of baked goods.  I usually make about 1/2 gallon of the stuff and keep in it in a container for general use.

1 1/3 cup Sorghum Flour
1/4 cup Sweet Rice Flour (I usually use the easier-to-find Rice Flour)
1/4 cup Garbanzo (Chickpea) Flour

GF Pancake Recipe

I found this recipe on the internet ages ago using a general google search for “pancake recipe”.  I can’t give credit to a specific source anymore, but most of the recipes I found in a recent search resemble this one:

1 1/2 cups flour (GF or all-purpose)
1 tsp baking powder (if using wheat flower, up baking powder to 3 1/2 tsp)
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp white sugar
1 1/4 cup milk
1 egg
3 tbsp butter, melted

Yum, yum, yum!  The Hubby eats the GF pancakes and enjoys them, but sadly, I can’t compete with the traditional buttermilk pancake.

However, The Original Pancake House of Eden Prairie can.


The Hubby and I had breakfast at The Original Pancake House (OPH) in Eden Prairie this morning.  He really likes pancakes, and I figured that I could get some sort of egg-based breakfast.  I only cut gluten from my diet about three years ago, and when I was growing up OPH in Tinley Park, Illinois had been one of my favorite breakfast places.  I would always order the Apple Pancake.  For those of you who like pastries of the the apple persuasion, and who haven’t had an OPH Apple Pancake, you must take thee to an OPH location and have one at your earliest convenience – it is the pinnacle of apple+pancake experiences.  The apple is baked into the pancake, but it’s also baked on top of the dough and covered in cinnamon and butter.  Seriously, it adds another hour onto the treadmill, but who cares?


This is the Original Pancake House’s signature Apple Pancake...drool…

So back to this morning’s experience:  We get to OPH at 9am and the place is swarming with families – lot of babies and kids, tired looking parents, and patient grandmas and grandpas playing with the kids and cajoling the parents.  This is the last place on Earth I ever really want to be.  I drop the Hubby of at the doors so he can run inside and see how long the wait would be.  I drive in a circle around the packed parking lot – dodging the occasional excited kid or the zombie-looking-mom-with-stroller combo, and twice stopping for some idiot on a cell phone who blithely meanders in front of my car.

I think, Thank goodness I sent [The Hubby] inside – the wait’ll probably be 30 minutes or more and we can go someplace else. I make my round just as he’s coming back outside.  I make eye contact and start to drive forward, already planning Plan B, but he signals me to park and come inside and then dashes back through the doors.

Noooo!  I start to grumble thinking that he’s put us on the waiting list.  He can be much more patient that I am when it comes to restaurants.  He’ll wait 20 minutes in line to eat at one location, while I’d rather drive 20 minutes away and to eat somewhere with no wait.  But I’m a good wife, so I go park the car with only one little sigh and start the marathon trek back to the restaurant.  I even leave the smartphone, the iPod and the Saturday  paper in the car because The Hubby likes to have conversations when we eat out.  What up with that?

I get to the door and end up holding the door for this huge family of 12 (I counted), which isn’t so bad, except one really wound-up kid ends up going in and out three times before being pulled to a screeching halt (the screeching part…that’s literal) by a harried looking woman who I’m guessing is Mom.  I see the Hubby across the lobby-sized waiting area and he motions me over.  I give him my best shoulder shrugging “how the hell am I supposed to get over there” look as I begin sidestepping and weaving my way through the throng.  Inside I’m groaning, how long is this wait going to be?.

But behold, a veritable miracle – he’s gotten us a place at the bar!  We sit down, the guy brings coffee, water and menus, and we’re off.  They’ve got some tasty looking omelettes and sides.  I glance longingly at the Apple Pancake (curse you, gluten!), and then, a glorious phrase leaps from the page:

Gluten Free Batter is available at no charge for most of our pancakes.


Ceiling Cat be praised – gluten-free pancakes!  It looks like OPH started the gluten-free menu in 2007.  I was sad because they couldn’t make me the Apple Pancake with gluten-free batter, but I decided to get pancakes with a spinach, mushroom and goat-cheese omelete.*  I was pleasantly surprised by the pancakes – they were light (but not quite fluffy), and they actually absorbed syrup!  Woo-hoo!  I’ll definitely be going back, especially because there is no extra charge associated with the gluten-free batter.

As *anyone* who follows a GF diet knows, it is possible to find substitutes for our pastas, pizza crusts, sandwich breads and pastries, but by the Flying Spaghetti Monster do we end up paying a ridiculous amount of money for them!  Pizza Luce in Minneapolis/St. Paul serves GF Pizzas, but they’re much more expensive.  A small pizza made with wheat crust may run you $12.  The same pizza with GF crust will cost you $18.  A loaf of regular old sandwich bread may run $3; plan on spending $6-$9 for a GF loaf plus a trip to a specialty bakery.

So, a big thank you to OPH, and I promise never to complain (too loudly) about having to navigate the circus of families you attract every weekend!  I enjoy the quality of your GF pancakes, and I appreciate your willingness to offer GF options free of charge.  We’ll see you again soon!

One more shot of the Apple Pancake:

*As an aside, that’s way too much food.  I don’t recommend doing that unless you’re sharing or taking some home.  Ugh.

Giving you the biz.

April 6, 2010

Random Updates and My Latest Amusements:

I picked up the soundtrack to Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  It’s all orchestral (symphonic?), and it makes the BEST study/paperwork music, because there are no words to listen to or hypnotizing beats in the background.  Geeky and productive!

On Sunday we had yummy Buca di Beppo Italian Easter Dinner with The Hubby’s family.  Fried calamari, stuffed mushrooms, breaded mozzerella, caesar salad, stuffed shells, ravioli, chicken saltimbocca.  Mmmm…

The Hubby bought rollerblades!  He has always been hesitant to try in-line skates.  He is scared to break something (he’s an old man, you know), and he’s 6’3″, so he already has a long way to fall without adding another 4-6″.  The first time we went out he was so cute and funny, wobbling around like a newborn calf!

If you have access to facebook, check out the cutest video of me and my friend Elizabeth messing with her daughter, Edie.

The bookstore is having a sale and I was able to pick up some inexpensive Italian language materials so that I can learn a few nicities for my potential trip to Italy this summer.  Molto buono!  Divertimento!  The only sucky thing is that something is wrong with my Mac – it won’t let me install my old Spanish-language Rosetta Stone CD or my brand-spankin’ new Italian Berlitz CD.  I haven’t tried to install anything else by CD…   Bummer, I think a trip to the Genius Bar is going to be unavoidable this time.  Ciò è triste.

Pizza Luce has a gluten-free menu!

January 7, 2010

Pizza Luce has some of the best pizza in all of Minneapolis.  At least that’s what I’ve heard from friends and family.  For the longest time I couldn’t tell you what Pizza Luce pizza tastes like because I’m gluten intolerant, which means no yummy pizza crust, no regular pasta…what’s a good Italian girl to do???

Well, there are several brands of gluten-free (GF) pasta that can be found in specialty shops, co-ops and even some regular ol’ city  grocery stores, when the market demands.  GF pasta is actually pretty tasty if it’s made correctly; it usually takes ~16-18 minutes to fully cook, versus the comparatively brief 8-10 minute boil demanded by wheat pasta.  Those new to GF cooking (i.e., well-meaning friends who want to include me in the menu!  You guys rock!) often under-cook, which produces a mushy on the outside, crunchy in the middle noodle.  But it’s not their fault!  Remember:  Love the pasta-maker, hate the GF pasta.

So, I’ve got the pasta covered.  And now, after a trial period of Wednesday night GF offerings, Pizza Luce is offering a full-service gluten-free menu all week long!  At the downtown Mpls and St. Paul locations, one can find a plethora of GF products – and not just the usual bready stuff one would expect.  Sure the pizza crust is GF, but  so are the dips, the dipping breads, the appetizers (GF bruschetta…mmmm…) the pizza toppings, the desserts – everything is sans gluten!

The yummiest and most unexpected item we had at Pizza Luce were the mini-loaves that were served with the GF artichoke dip.  Soft GF breads are really difficult to make; it’s gluten that gives bread that soft, chewy consistency, and breads made with rice, potato, tapioca, sorghum flours tend to be compact, heavy and thick.  But these loaves were divine – Even the Hubby and best friend couldn’t tell that they were gluten-free.

The breads, flours, etc.  come from Cooqi, a specialty gluten-free bakery located in St. Paul. 

 So congratulations to Pizza Luce and Cooqi, for their collaboration and for turning out a comprehensive and high-quality GF pizza menu!

Of course, when you want to eat your left-overs at work, make sure you bring the box that contains your GF pizza, instead of the Hubby’s gluten-laden pie.  grumble grumble grumble.