Posts Tagged ‘Restaurant review’

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.

Cuzzy’s Brick House Restaurant

March 21, 2011

My work group went out to lunch today, and I found another place that serves gluten-free pizza!

A wood-fired Brick House Pizza – Pepperoni, Sausage, bell peppers, red onions, mushrooms & black olives all served on a gluten-free crust.

For those of you used to paying top dollar for gluten-free alternatives at Pizza Luce (a small Classic costs $12.59. The same pizza with a GF crust is a whopping $5 extra at $17.59), Cuzzy’s Brick House is a breath of fresh, oregano-scented air. Their small Brick House (shown above and pretty much the same as Pizza Luce’s Classic) is $12.99, and they will sub in a GF crust at NO additional cost.

Cuzzy’s Brick House is located in Chaska, MN. It’s a bit of a haul if you’re coming from Minneapolis or the east suburbs (oooo..take THAT St. Paul!)  However, their menu is phenomenal and I could see making the occasional special trip out here with friends. Cuzzy’s is several steps up from your average soup, salad and burger joint. I mean sure, you can snag any number of variations of hotdog or cheeseburger if that’s what you’re craving, but they’ve also got appetizers like Portabella & Brie Bruschetta, pastas like the Butternut Squash Ravioli, entrees like the Cabernet Mushroom Chops and a desert menu that will add a couple of pounds to your bottom just from seeing it as the waitress carries the tray across the room.

Burgers and sandwiches run in the $8-10 range and the entrees are around $10-18. Their drink prices are reasonable, and the open, classy interior makes Cuzzy’s a great place to have happy hour. Also, I’ve been told that they throw a mean weekend bar night!

Cuzzy’s also has a restaurant in downtown Minneapolis (but doesn’t show pizza in the online menu), and The Victoria House in Victoria, MN is in the same family.

2880 Chaska Blvd., Chaska MN
phone: 952.448.5594

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.

Weekend Report: Kick Ass and Psycho Suzi’s

April 26, 2010

I saw Kick Ass this weekend with a bunch of coworkers from the bookstore, and I LOVED it.  Seriously, I heart Hit Girl – she’s one of the baddest ass action heroes that I’ve ever seen.  Check her out, but not at work because much like Hit Girl herself, this video is violent and crude.


On Saturday night me, the Hubby, and our good friend Courtney went to Psycho Suzi’s, a fantastic hipster tiki-themed bar in Nordeast Minneapolis.  They’ve got famous tiki drinks like The Native’s Curse, the Crummy Scoundrel and their over-sized version of a group punch bowl, the Flaming Pele. 

I ordered a drink special that had a really geeky chemistry theme –  the Tikium Euphorium, chemical symbol “Te”.  I was hoping to be able to read the description on the sign in this picture, but sadly it’s a leeetle to small to see.  I don’t know any cool computer tricks to blow it up and maintain the resolution, but hey – it’s still a cut pic of moi!

Another great thing about Psycho Suzi’s is the trailer-trash appetizers – we ordered tater tots and pickle roll ups – dill pickles rolled in ham and cream cheese…mmmm….


On Sunday I took Ashley to the Como Zoo in St. Paul.  We were going to take an Adventure Drive down to Manketo…oops, so an Adventure Drive is when you decide how much time you want to spend going in any one direction, then you draw a radius around your starting point, pick a direction or a highway and go explore.  But sadly, at our fueling stop (that’s the Carribou Coffee, not the gas station), I discovered that I had left my wallet at home.  By the time we got back to Minneapolis, we didn’t have nearly enough time to make it to Manketo, so we decided to shelf the Adventure Drive and go to the Conservatory and Zoo.

Ashley at the Sunken Garden

Waking Up in Stillwater

March 13, 2010

We arrived in Stillwater and at the Water Street Inn last night – Friday evening.  The Inn is cute and unique, but it seems that management has let things slide.  There are little tell-tale bandaid fixes everywhere you look – cheap, poorly painted molding, broken lamps and inexpensive lampshades, dented and scratched wallpaper (and poorly applied in the first place – you can count the panels from across the room) and mismatched wooden furniture every where you look.

But the room has such potential!  It is truly a two-bedroom suite, with the four poster bed and a small desk in the main entry, and then a pathway passing by the spacious bathroom and opening into a large, sparsely-furnitured room.  This second room holds a wonderfully modern and working fireplace (it warmed the room in minutes) and a large double-tub jacuzzi.  The balcony is small and narrow, but on this cold and foggy March morning it does provide a somber view of the frozen expanse of St. Croix river and the bridge connecting Minnesota and Wisconsin.  The room is colored in green carpeting and what one might call a daring mix of dark floral wallpaper in one room and green stripes in the next.  The wall sconces are lit with low watt bulbs, and small lamps are littered throughout  both areas, giving the rooms a dim, romantic atmosphere. 

As part of the “weekend get-away” package that we purchased, a four-course meal was provided in the fancy-looking restaurant.  The meal was simply alright.  Like the rest of the inn, it attempted to appear more high-falutin’ than it was.  The presentation was decent – large platters, candle light, champagne on the table (mismatched silverware). The artichoke dip was good, but the tortilla chips were obviously out of a plastic bag…one that had been open for a while.  My NY Strip steak was nothing special, and although I ordered it medium rare, it was a nice toasty well done.  The risotto cakes were flattened and underdone.   Aaron had a chicken and portabella mushroom pasta in cream sauce entree, and while the sauce was divine, the chicken was stringy.  The house salads were works of art, with expertly, artfully-sliced vegetables of many varieties on a bed of crisp, fresh mixed greens.  The ranch sauce also tasted homemade.  This place is a strange dichotomy of fancy and trashy!

We had a blast at the Irish bar in the hotel after dinner.  A violin-guitar duo was playing rousing Irish drinking songs, and they were the type of performers who don’t let their audience ignore them.  Every time someone new walked into the bar, they were greeted boisterously and asked for song requests.  We came back to the room at about midnight.  Aaron fell asleep in front the fireplace (have you ever seen one of the “cute baby animal falling asleep” youtube videos?) and I filled up the jacuzzi bathtub.  Geez, that’s a lot of water –  I could never own one of these things. 

Aaron is sleeping away the morning.  I don’t understand this whole “sleeping” thing.  He’s woken several times to visit the bathroom, to stretch his arms over his head and glance out at the river.  But then he ambles back to bed, snuggles in under the feather comforter and starts snoring again.  And if I know him at all, he’ll want to take a nap later this afternoon.  What up wi’ dat?  Doesn’t he know there are adventures to be had?  Books to read?  Meals to share?  Blogs to update?  But, it makes him happy, and I don’t need him to be awake for me to start my day, so I’ll just grab a book, settle in and cast the occasional bewildered glance toward the bedroom.

More adventures – and pics! – later.

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.