My Blog on WCCO-TV: Bite of Minnesota

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Have You Tried Starfruit?

Last week during the Cub Foods VIP event, I was introduced to a new fruit - starfruit.  While I've ordered the starfruit flavor at Tea Garden several times in the past, I never knew much about the real version of the fruit.  Truly, I've never ventured into the world of tropical fruits besides the standards like pineapple, mango and bananas (although I did discover a love for passion fruit in the last year).  From the outside starfruit doesn't look like much: 

But once you cut into it, it's a totally different story.  Hello fun and beautiful fruit!

Tom, the produce guy at Cub Foods let us sample starfruit during our tour.  The skin is edible, but a little tough, so I stuck to eating just the fruit part.  It was delicious!  A little tart with the texture of an Asian pear, this is a great fruit to brighten up your day.  At $1.29 a piece, it is definitely a splurge, but I made my husband feel special by sending starfruit slices in his lunch the other day.

Have you tried starfruit?  What did you think?

Don't forget to enter the Cub Foods gift card giveaway - just a few more days left to enter!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cub Foods VIP Event & Giveaway!

Whew, what a week! Not only did I attend three major food events, but I managed to fit in a couple lunches, a gathering with like-minded women food bloggers, a Cub Foods VIP event, a celebration of the 1 year anniversary of Heavy Table (congrats!), and even purchased a bridesmaid dress for a summer wedding. I have so much to blog about and so many goodies I've collected to giveaway that I barely know where to start!

Let’s start really close to home with the Cub Foods VIP event. For those of you out-of-towners, Cub Foods is a grocery store owned by SuperValu, a Minnesota food distribution company. Awhile back I was contacted by Carmichael Lynch Spong, the PR company working with Cub, with an invite to a VIP Event hosted at my local Cub Foods. There were several reasons why I wanted to go:

  • Finally, an event in my own city – this is “my Cub”
  • I’ve been a bit dissatisfied with “my Cub” lately and figured I could voice my concerns
  • It offered an opportunity for a behind the scenes look at Cub
  • A lot of my blogger friends were going
Although I had many reasons to go, I also had many hesitations. Would this really be worth my time? Was this event geared towards mommy bloggers? Would any of my questions really be answered?

For the most part, all answers were yes. While it was obvious the event was geared towards moms due to the constant mom references and calling us all mommy bloggers, I successfully resisted shouting, “Hello, food blogger with no kids here!” Instead I tweeted it (hee hee).

We were treated to a tour and I have never seen the store so clean and expertly stocked. Surely this was because VIP’s were coming in;) We stopped at various sections to listen to presentations and try foods. Of course my favorite section was produce. Tom, the produce manager, taught us about exotic and fun fruits Cub offers like starfruit (yum!), kumquats, blood oranges and passion fruit (my favorite scent). But was he ready for my questions? Turns out, he knows his stuff. He’s been working with produce for about 20 years and loves it. So, I fired away:

Why is the Swiss chard completely wilted every time I visit?
Tom said they must have had a bad shipment. He then called the distributor and followed up with me at the end of the tour. For freshest kale, Swiss chard and other greens, come in early in the week.

Why is the passion fruit so shriveled?
Turns out a little dimpling isn’t so bad. It helps the fruit pull away from the outer shell and is easier to eat.

If you advertise selling local produce, where is it?
Of course this is easier to do in the summer months. Buying local at high volumes can be risky, but when it works out, the signs are labeled so you’ll know. Apples and corn are popular local items when in season.

Why don’t you consistently sell Equal Exchange (fair trade) bananas?
It is Cub's standard organic offering, but sometimes suppliers run low and to avoid not having organic bananas, Cub has established several partnerships.

Can you tell your stock people to not punch the spinach bags when stocking?
Ok, I didn’t really ask this one, but I wanted to.

Tom is responsible for simmering me down. I was incredibly impressed by his follow up and his eagerness to answer my questions and any others I may have in the future. While I will still rely on the co-op and farmers markets for most of my produce, I feel a lot better running to Cub when needed because my voice was heard.

Another thing that redeemed me? The awesome gift bag. I won’t lie; I’m a sucker for free stuff, especially free stuff that I will use. In an effort to spread the Cub Foods love, I’m doing a giveaway. While I can’t give away the perishable items I received, I can give away a gift card! 

I'm giving away a $20 gift card to Cub Foods!

It’s pretty simple to enter. Leave a comment about your favorite Cub Foods item. Maybe it’s something you sneak into the cart last minute, maybe it’s something that is always on your grocery list. Whatever it is, list it below and you’re entered to win!

*Each comment will be numbered and will be chosen using a random number generator.
*Make sure your name is attached to your comment so I can identify you.
*Contest ends at 11:59pm CST Sunday, February 28th and winner announced within 48 hours.
*Must be a resident of the United States and have a Cub Foods in your area.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Easy Appetizer: Endive with Boursin Cheese

While my house isn’t set up well for entertaining, I don’t let it keep me from having people over. Recently I hosted a dinner party with a couple friends. I tend to do most of the prep ahead of time and while dinner may be complicated, the appetizer I made was very simple.

Awhile back, my mom was heading to a dinner party and called me for suggestions on what to bring. I quickly went to her house and showed her this super easy appetizer. She had no problem putting it together and it received rave reviews, especially from the vegetarian at the party because it was the only meatless option. Score!

I put together this little video to show you how it is made. Good luck and enjoy!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Time For a Party...or Three

There are a few upcoming food events happening next week in the Twin Cities. I’m pretty excited for the opportunity to dress up, eat great food from local restaurants and drink fabulous wine, beer and cocktails.

Kicking everything off is Minneapolis-St. Paul Magazine’s Best of the Best Party on Monday evening. I have attended this event the last few years and absolutely love it. This year it is again being held at the Guthrie Theater and I cannot wait to see what the restaurants have in store for us! Last year, I went back repeatedly for Lord Fletcher’s beef tenderloin served on a potato chip and Stella’s oysters.

It looks like they have some great restaurants lined up for this year (OM, Muffuletta & Café Ena to name a few), and it is nice to see a lot new restaurants attending. The party has a great vibe and I always run into people I know. Did I mention the event supports Second Harvest Heartland?

Tickets are still available, so get yours here.

Next up is Macy’s Gourmet Gathering, the kick off for Minnesota Monthly’s Food & Wine Experience. I have never been to this event, but when it was suggested that I go, of course I said yes. Held in Macy’s Downtown, local vendors will be offering food samples, culinary demonstrations, and wine and spirit tasting. I can’t wait to see what the night has to offer!

Rounding out the week is the Minnesota Monthly Food & Wine Experience being held Saturday and Sunday. While I missed last year’s show, I attended in previous years and was overwhelmed by the amount of vendors offering food, beer and wine. I was afraid I wouldn’t get to them all, but eventually made it through. Trust me, if you plan to sample the alcohol at this event, plan on bussing home.

Not only are there plenty of tastings, but culinary demonstrations and book signings are taking place too.  There's also a local chef challenge happening and I plan to catch the final round on Sunday to see who takes home the prize of $5,000.  Any guesses on who will win?

Find out more about all of the week's events here.
I am eager to shoot some video at the events and share it with you. I’m also excited to grab new recipe ideas from the vendors and see what I can cook up in my own kitchen.

I should probably make an extra appointment with my personal trainer to work off all the calories I’ll be consuming...

FTC Disclaimer: I have been provided tickets for all three events mentioned above, but was in no way obligated to write any posts. I have enjoyed these events in the past and encourage you to enjoy them as well by attending.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Lunch Outing: Gourmet Gallery

In downtown Minneapolis, there is a little known lunch spot. It is only open Monday through Friday from 11am - 1pm; the menu is quite limited, as is the seating. However, there is no need for a reservation or a big withdrawal at the ATM because as I said, it’s a little known lunch spot and it’s incredibly affordable.

I’m talking about the Gourmet Gallery at the Art Institute International Minnesota. A “dining lab” where students in their final quarter of culinary school are able to practice in real life situations. The hosts, servers, and chefs are all students aiming for that “A” grade.

I was lucky enough check out the Gourmet Gallery last week with a friend of mine and was quite impressed. We were seated quickly, our waiter was very personable and comfortable making recommendations and the food was very enjoyable.

I ordered the Gnudi: Spinach ricotta pasta, toasted pine nuts, wilted spinach in a parmesan brodo (broth).

I have never tried gnudi before, but it’s very similar to dumplings or gnocchi (without the potatoes). The parmesan brodo was a bit salty for me, but gave the dish more depth in flavor. Surprisingly, these little gnudis were quite filling!

My friend got the Pork in Adobo: Braised pork, rice, avocado, La Perla tortillas, crème fraiche and cilantro.

I tried a bite of her dish and the pork had just the right amount of smokiness from the adobo and I liked how it was served with local La Perla tortillas.

I would definitely return for lunch to try some of the other menu items (menu found here). Everything was so affordable. Our total bill, including 2 drinks, was $16 – that’s $8 a piece! Surely beats a skyway burrito or sub sandwich.

If you get a chance, check it out for yourself:

Gourmet Gallery
15 S. 9th Street
Minneapolis, MN 55402
(612) 656-6881‎
Open:  Monday - Wednesday, 11am - 1pm

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

660 Curries: Mathura Palak Paneer

When I first had the opportunity to meet award-winning chef, Raghavan Iyer, I admit I was quite nervous. He has multiple cookbooks, is a known authority when it comes to Indian cooking and he was about to open a restaurant in downtown Minneapolis. Of course I was nervous!

However, as soon as I shook his hand and heard his calming voice, all my nervousness washed away. We chatted for a bit, exchanged business cards and promised to meet again, and we did meet again, many times. Each time I learned more and more about spices and other ingredients used in Indian cooking and always walked away with a fun fact.

Did you know that a whole spice can produce 8 distinct flavors?

I had to wait until Christmas because I was hoping to get Raghavan’s latest cookbook, 660 Curries, as a gift. Sure enough, I am now the proud owner of this 809 page cookbook!

It is pretty overwhelming, but is divided into sections by the main ingredient used. I had recently purchased paneer, India’s only cheese (another fun fact from Raghavan), so I turned to the “Paneer Curries” section. Paneer has a texture that is very similar to tofu. I even tried a paneer dish at OM thinking it was tofu. So much for my tasting skills.

I chose to make Mathura Palak Paneer (aka Cheese Cubes with Spinach and Mustard Seeds). First off, I had to make a Punjabi garam masala and decided to grind it using a mortar and pestle.

It took me about 15 minutes of hard work to eventually turn it into this:

The cinnamon was the hardest and I ended up sifting it a little to remove the large pieces of cinnamon bark. Now I have a jar of garam masala to use anytime!

The rest of the recipe was a breeze compared to the spice grinding. I served a mixture of spinach, cherry tomatoes, paneer, and spices over brown rice to complete the meal.

It was such an amazing dish! The flavors had depth and complexity. It was amazingly satisfying for dinner (and lunch the next day too). I can’t wait to try more recipes from this book. In fact, we’re having dinner guests over this weekend and I sure hope they like curries!

**OM is currently offering cooking classes with Raghavan.  He is incredibly knowledgeable and a great teacher.  I encourage you local folks to check out the classes here.
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