My Blog on WCCO-TV: Bite of Minnesota

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Lunch (and dessert) on the Town

Most days, I eat lunch at home. I work at home, so it doesn’t make much sense for me to make lunch runs on a regular basis when I have everything at my fingertips. I usually reheat leftovers, make a quesadilla, or chop some veggies for tuna salad. It’s best to keep it simple so I can remain focused on my tasks for the day.

Today I decided to switch things up a bit and meet some friends for lunch in downtown Minneapolis at Lyon’s Pub. We had a wonderful lunch full of chatting and food (to be covered on Twin Cities Food Finds) and it got me out of the house for a little bit.

Afterwards, I wandered down to see how the new food truck, World Street Kitchen, was doing on 5th and Nicollet. Last time I was in Saffron, Saed (the co-owner with brother, Chef Sameh Wadi) gave me a little preview of what the food truck was going to offer, so it was really exciting to see a line five people deep waiting for Banh Mi sandwiches, lamb tortas, and the newest Yum Yum Rice Bowl.

Chef Sameh working the crowd
I know I came for the food, but I was really excited about the stickers!

If you’ve ever seen my planner, you know I love to collect stickers. Each year it’s like a mini statement piece, representing places I’ve traveled to or things I’ve done, so I was really excited when Saed told me to take more than 2 stickers. Score!

Since I already ate lunch, I went for dessert: the salted caramel ice cream sandwich.

Yum! The chocolate cookie was soft and the ice cream was firm, a sign of a fresh ice cream sandwich.  While I’m not one for chocolate (maybe a coffee cookie next year?), I do enjoy salted caramel, especially in ice cream form. The dessert was easy to eat which was nice since I ran into some Twitter friends and didn't want ice cream dribbling down my shirt mid-sentence.

If you catch yourself in downtown around lunch time, check out the street food along Nicollet Mall and Hennepin Avenue. Heavy Table has a great guide here. You’ll be sure to find some good eats and in my case, some good company too.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Surdyk's Flights - Now Open at MSP

Although I haven’t been on an airplane since April, I did hang out at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport last night to celebrate the opening of Surdyk’s Flights Wine Market & Bar.

I have to admit, it was pretty cool to go to the airport for a grand opening party and pass through special security. All the same rules applied (remove shoes, bag liquids, etc.), but since the airport was virtually empty, I sailed through security in record time. Finding my car afterwards…now that’s another story.

When I used to travel a lot, I always longed for better airport food options. I try to pack my own food to bring on the plane, but that doesn’t always happen. I remember how excited I was when French Meadow Bakery first opened at the airport – I’d actually pick up a healthy dinner on my way back into town so Ryan and I didn’t have to fuss with dinner after a long flight. Now I have another option with some of my favorites – wine and cheese!

Great wine selection!

Surdyk’s gourmet sandwiches are quite good too. Last night we were able to try quite a few of their offerings, both hot and cold.

The Ultimate Grilled Cheese & Surdyk's Panini

All food items are available to-go and I’m especially excited about the cheese platter. For $9, you get fresh fruit, baguette slices, 3 kinds of cheese and some nuts, all packaged in a little container for easy enjoyment.  Forget those "snack packs" they sell on the plane full of processed junk!

Fresh items available for breakfast - yum!

I’m also quite excited about the local wine offerings. I scoured the shelves until I spotted it. They would make great gifts for out-of-towners.

I hope I can go on a trip soon because I know I'll be stopping here.  I might even try getting to the airport early (rare for me) and hunker down on their patio to enjoy a glass of wine.  Now I just need that plane ticket...

Disclaimer:  I attended a media party where the food and beverages were free.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Black Garlic Shrimp

So, football season has started. Our Sundays are planned around the Vikings game (usually smack dab in the middle of the day) and I lose my husband to 3 hours of indecipherable noises, table pounding, and smack talk. As tempting as it is to join him (and I say that sarcastically), I prefer to do other things during that time like napping (seriously, napping to football is awesome), crafting (as long as the table isn’t pounded too hard) and considering I keep mistakenly typing “foodball” instead of “football”, cooking is also something that will occupy my time while the game is on.

Although I may have had a breakdown or two over football season starting (and us losing our Sundays), I have emerged on the other side, seeing just how productive I’m going to be on Sundays. What a perfect time to brainstorm on using black garlic, right?

When I announced on Twitter that I had a bunch of black garlic, a website called Black Garlic Love encouraged me to check out their recipes. I just bought some shrimp* from Coastal Seafoods, so the Black Garlic Shrimp recipe seemed quite appropriate.

I made a few changes to the original recipe and served it over steamed green beans (from the Des Moines farmers market) instead of salad. Let me tell you, this recipe is an awesome use of black garlic! It reminded me of a black bean sauce: spicy, thick, and filled with umami. This sauce would also be great served over roasted tofu or as a vinaigrette (both of which I will be trying).

Black Garlic Shrimp with Steamed Green Beans
Adapted from Kavon William Langley for Black Garlic
Yields: 2 Portions

10 cloves black garlic
½ cup mirin (Japanese cooking wine)
1 tsp salt and pepper
1 tbsp fresh chopped ginger
1 tsp sriracha sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
10 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
½ lb fresh green beans, trimmed

In a food processor, blend the black garlic, mirin, salt and pepper, ginger, sriracha sauce and olive oil. Reserve 2 tablespoons of dressing in a small bowl for later use.

Place the shrimp in a zip-top bag or reusable container and pour black garlic dressing over the top. Marinate for 1 hour before removing shrimp to a plate to drain.

In a saucepan fitted with a steamer tray, boil water. Add green beans and cover; steam for 6 minutes or until beans are tender.

Meanwhile, preheat a grill pan over medium heat. Add shrimp and cook 2 minutes per side or until cooked.

Arrange green beans on a platter and top with cooked shrimp. Drizzle reserved sauce over top and serve.

*I know that shrimp are not vegetarian at all, but we have been introducing a little more fish and seafood into our diets, so vegetarian readers feel free to turn the page ;)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Ingredient: Black Garlic

What an overwhelming response on my last post from wonderful Des Moines residents! Just goes to show that not only do they have a fun city, but it is filled with great people as well. Visit Des Moines!

After tomorrow night’s dinner, my birthday celebration will be officially over, but until then, I’ll keep talking about it :) In addition to a bunch of CDs (Rodrigo y Gabriela, DJ Nu-Mark, Phoenix, Florence + The Machine and The White Stripes), I received a couple food gifts, one of them being black garlic.

I’ve been curious about black garlic every since my friend, Kate, used it in a breakfast dish. It is a pretty unique ingredient; whole bulbs of garlic are heat fermented for a month or two resulting in a soft and slightly gummy black garlic clove.

Not only is black garlic good for you (it has twice the antioxidants of regular garlic), but it tastes good too. Ryan and I split a clove and found that it is sweet, slightly molasses-like with a hint of licorice. While it does have a little garlic flavor, it is nowhere near as pungent as regular garlic.

I have already started to brainstorm on ways to use black garlic, both in sweet and savory applications, which I’ll share here on the blog as I make them. I’m also open to suggestions. Have you used black garlic before? What do you suggest I use it for? I have 7 bulbs, so it should last me awhile – bring on the ideas!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Our Des Moines Getaway

Des Moines is not often thought of as a great getaway destination, but trust me, it is.

Years ago, I was selected to work on a project to hire airport security screeners (the TSA) around the country. I was pretty excited for the project, but had one request: Don’t send me to North Dakota, South Dakota, Idaho, Wisconsin or Iowa. To my disappointment, I was sent to Des Moines, Iowa, but ended up having a blast. Despite working 80 hours a week, our team had fun exploring and getting to know the city. It was a home away from home.

So, as my birthday approached, Ryan and I considered our drivable options and determined that Des Moines would be the best place to spend my birthday weekend being that it was only 3 ½ hours away, it was affordable, and we already knew plenty of things to keep us busy.

We checked into our hotel (the Renaissance Savery in downtown Des Moines) and got our weekend started by heading to The Continental for drinks, specifically Pisco Sours, my favorite drink there.

Look at all those lemons -yes!
After a couple drinks (only $5 a piece!), we headed to Proof for dinner. Proof is only open for lunch, but on Friday evenings, they offer a 3-course farm fresh dinner using local ingredients. The entire meal was wonderful and surprisingly filling, but our favorites had to be the salad topped with peaches and the eggplant goat cheese bisque.

Mixed greens, toasted almonds, gorgonzola & peaches.

Roasted eggplant pureed with carrots, onion, celery and drizzled with goat cheese cream.
After dinner, we wandered through the sculpture garden right outside the restaurant and watched crazy college students hoot and holler for no good reason. Maybe they were actually excited about school starting?

On Saturday morning we woke up early to do yoga at Gray’s Lake. It was my first time doing an outdoor yoga class and I loved it. The instructor was great and there was even a flutist to really set an earthy vibe.

Last time we were in Des Moines (almost a year ago) we were amazed at how much the farmers market had grown. Back in 2002, it was pretty small with only a few farmers, some jelly producers and a couple crafters. Now, it’s a sprawling market with food vendors, activities, and many farmers from all over the state.

Ryan and I grabbed a freshly grilled mozzarella and basil sandwich, a beet-apple-blueberry smoothie, and stocked up on ingredients like mushrooms, squash, apples, pears and green beans for meals back home.

Grilled sandwiches, green bean "fries" and grilled sweet corn.
Fresh made juices and smoothies made at the market.
Chicken mushrooms.
Since we split everything at the market and it was already time for lunch, we parked ourselves at Court Avenue Brewery for beer, bloody marys and my favorite salad at Court Avenue, the Colossus Salad.

Falafel, pita, hummus, feta, olives & mixed greens.
After a lengthy nap, we found ourselves back at The Continental. This time our main objective this time was food – fried goat cheese, tapenade, tacos and crostini, but of course I ordered a couple more Pisco Sours and tried their flavored mojitos too. Yum!

I didn’t get pictures of everything (hey, I was on vacation!), but we did eat at a few more places like Fong’s Pizza (think Chinese food, but on a pizza), Gateway Market & Café (like our co-ops + a café with an array of sandwiches, salads, and entrees), Ritual Café (Horchata latte was the best!) and our new discovery: Django. If you are ever in Des Moines, you must try this place. They have a pretty extensive menu, but the mussels in blue cheese cream sauce really caught my eye and did not disappoint. They were the freshest mussels we have ever had and the blue cheese cream sauce was to die for. We also split a cheese flight (triple cream brie, creamy gorgonzola & marigold infused gouda) and got so full that we couldn’t finish it. They offered me a birthday dessert and I sadly had to decline!

We ended our trip at the High Life Lounge, a kitschy tribute to all things retro. Wood paneling, shag carpet and Miller High Life decorations all over the place; they don’t serve any beers made after the 1970’s.

High Life everything!

Ryan and I holed up in a booth, put quarters in the jukebox, and sipped on Tangermeisters. Yep, Tang + Jagermeister. It’s surprisingly good and while meant as a shot, I prefer to sip it.

As you can see Des Moines IS a great getaway destination, especially if you like to eat and drink (like we do!) and it is quite affordable and easy to navigate; a great break from the Twin Cities.

Have you ever been to Des Moines? What are your favorite things to do while on vacation?
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