Black Garlic Smashed Taters

The kind folks at Marx Foods sent me some amazing black garlic to sample awhile back. There's something about garlic and smashed potatoes that makes me happy, so I thought to myself, "how about black garlic smashed taters?"

Black garlic is amazing. It's got a sweet, umami flavor that packs a lighter punch than conventional garlic. It is, in fact, conventional garlic, but it has been fermented at a high temperature for a month, resulting in softened, sweetened, and blackened cloves. Read all about it black garlic here.

Here's how to make the black garlic spuds:

* 3 pounds waxy potatoes, quartered and boiled until tender
* 2 cups half and half
* 3 tbsp butter
* 6 cloves black garlic mashed into bits
* 5 ounces Cheddar
* salt and pepper


Boil potatoes until tender. Drain the pot. Leave spuds in pot.

While that boils, smash up your black garlic.

In a saucepan, warm half and half and butter to a light simmer. When it gets to simmering, turn off the pot and pour it over the spuds. Mash together. Fold in cheese, garlic, salt and pepper to taste.

I served mine up with pork tenderloin and green beans.

Welcome, Gabriella!

Thanksgiving this year was all about the baby.

We finally had a chance to meet our new niece, Gabriella.

She is healthy and feeling fine at 6 weeks.

  • I fed her twice and she didn't puke on me.
  • She likes to cuddle up close, which is adorable.
  • She like to sleep and eat, which works well on Thanksgiving.
  • She rocks Packer fan attire.
  • She smiled when gerg held her.
Welcome to the world, Gabriella!

[where: Minnesota, Food, Minneapolis, Twin Cities, 55418]

Wanna help me win $150? Vote for my photo!

One of my photos was selected for a photography contest.
The winner receives a $150 gift card.
One of the contenders already has a lot of votes, but I'd like to win!

If you'd like to vote for my photo, you can go here to vote:
The poll closes on Wednesday, November 25, 2009 at 5PM PST.

Thanks for your support (if you actually vote for my photo)!

[where: Minnesota, Food, Minneapolis, Twin Cities, 55418]

The St. Crispin Autumn Velvet

Earlier this month Heavy Table hosted a Crispin Cider Autumn Cocktail Contest.

I submitted my entry, which is based on a mix of the traditional black velvet cocktail and the Kir Royale.

I learned today that I won. Hooray!

The St. Crispin Autumn Velvet

One part original Crispin Cider
One part Vouvray -or- Rosé Côtes-du-rhône
A splash of black currant juice

[where: Minnesota, Food, Minneapolis, Twin Cities, 55418]

New House, New Mural

You might remember the sweet robot mural we painted in the kitchen at our former abode. If you don't remember, we painted a giant robot on an orange wall in our kitchen. I was down with it in a major way.

We loved that mural, so when we put the ol' house on the market, we risked NOT painting over it. Fortunately, the buyer liked it, and said he intended to keep it. Smiles.

It didn't take long before I started clamoring for a new mural at our new house. Gerg agreed that a mural would enhance our hanging out. Fortunately, Sarah, the artist who painted the robot mural, was more than willing to develop a new mural for the new crib.

My homies know I go big when it comes to aesthetics, from hair to heels. A wall near the front entry revealed itself as the perfect mural wall. Sarah and I investigated big designs. Liz offered to share her overhead projector.

We were able to source all of the paint from our garage, which made this project hella cost-effective. The previous owners of our new house left behinds scads of paint, and we brought our collection from the old house with us. Sarah mixed some colors to achieve some hues. Liz and Sarah worked out the design. I assisted with painting and had a few homework assignments.

We dig the new mural. It's got pizazz.

My Oktoberfest Birthday Bash

This year we celebrated my birthday with our 2nd Annual Oktoberfest Birthday Blitz.

Folks gathered at our house for sausages, snuff, kraut, beer, pretzels, oom-pah music, and cabbage.

After that warm-up, we headed to Gasthof zur Gemütlichkeits for the polka band and lots of revelry. Costumes made the whole night way more hilarious.

Birthday highlights included:
- An amazing German chocolate cake prepared by Shortcake of Shortcake Bakes
- All the killer Oktoberfest outfits
- A bento box lunch with pals
- The Pearson's giant stein and killer sundaes
- Snuff donated by Jana
- That mustard dip
- A romantic dinner at Om
- A pre-party celebration with scarlet at Psycho Suzis
- A cocktail waitress at Gastofs gave me her number; I didn't ask for it.
- Gifts! Wine, bouquets, sequin pants, a vase, earrings, purple dingo boots, a platter, a cupcake, fragrant candles...

View more photos from the night here.

A Name and A Photo

This is gerg's great great grandfather.

I've been told his last name was Gould and he was a mayor in England.

I'm trying to learn more about him.

Any history buffs out there?

What's with the cloak and hat? How about the item behind him bearing some resemblance to the English crown?

Our Home has a Medallion!

Medallion Home
Originally uploaded by gergistheword
On a random Friday afternoon, one of our new neighbors rang our doorbell to invite us over for some steaks. I explained that gerg was still at work, so I grabbed a pencil and paper to get the neighbor's phone number so I could call him once gerg got home. While I was rummaging through the drawer grabbing a pencil, I hear him say something.

Steak neighbor: "Oh! I see you live in a Medallion Home."

Me: "Pardon? A what?"

The steak neighbor pointed to the tarnished medallion on the front of our house under the house number, explaining: "A Medallion Home. These medallions were awarded to certain houses for how they were wired back in the 50s and 60s."

Me: "Really? I had no idea."

Steak neighbor: "Yep. Anyway, let us know if you want steaks."

Me: "Can do, and thanks!"

I never even noticed the medallion, so I looked it up. This is what it looks like without tarnish:

In October 1957, LBE launched the "Medallion Homes" campaign, which sought to sell 20,000 all-electric homes nationwide by 1958, 100,000 by 1960 and 970,000 by 1970.

To earn a gold medallion--a decal affixed to a home's entryway and considered the apex of modern, all-electric living--a home had to have an electric clothes washer and dryer, waste disposal, refrigerator and all-electric heating.

The Medallion Homes campaign was a huge success. By some estimates, the nationwide goal of about 1 million all-electric homes was achieved, according to the Edison Electric Institute, although data on the actual number built is unavailable.


Our house was retro-fitted with gas at some point, and we hope to alter it even further with off-the-grid power, but it's neat to learn wacky stuff about our house from neighbors who stop by to offer steak.

Black Sea: A Random Spot that was Worth Visiting

It was Friday night at the Flanagan house.

Me: "Wanna catch some dinner before we head to Big V's?"
Gerg: "Yessir! What are you thinking?"
Me: "I'm thinking gyros. Something close to Big V's. Wanna find something while I get ready?"
Gerg: "I'm on it!"
Me: "You da best!"

After 3 outfit changes due to suspiciously cold August weather in Minneapolis, I was finally ready. We hopped in the car. A starving Gerg informed me that he had selected a Turkish joint called Black Sea, near Snelling and Minnehaha. "Do they have good gyros?" I wondered, as we headed out. He knew little to nothing about Black Sea, and neither did I.

Parking was a breeze once we arrived. We hopped out of the car and wandered into a hole-in-the-wall restaurant dripping with Turkish decor, such as Kil carpets and copper pots and plates, on the walls. Beaded curtains separated the tables.

At 9:15 on a Friday, there were only a few other guests. I knew I wanted to try the staples: gyro, hummus, and falafel, so I didn't spend too much time going over the menu.

Our server recommended the hummus appetizer and the "Black Sea Combination" for an entree, to which she would add some falafel for us. We both agreed to the suggestion, and sat back to enjoy our drinks: Oralet(Turkish orange tea) and Turkish Iced Tea. Turkish tea, called çay, is a form of black tea.

Our hummus appetizer came shortly after our drinks. The hummus was freshly made, thick, drizzled with olive oil, dotted with paprika, and served with pita, feta, fresh tomato slices, and olives.

We hadn't quite finished our hummus when our entree arrived. The combination platter was served, and I gasped. It was a HUGE portion. Enough for 4 adults. That's a standard-sized butter knife in the photo. That plate was roughly 16" in diameter.

Served on top of about 3 cups of basmati rice was chicken gyro meat, beef and lamb gyro meat, marinated chicken kebob, beef shish kebob, 2 meatball kebob, and 2 balls of falafel (we asked for the falafel). Pita bread, fresh greens, onion, green pepper, and fresh tomatoes were served on the side. The meat was juicy, tender, and spiced generously. We smiled. Gerg's favorite was the chicken kebob. If I had to pick, I'd pick the meatball kebob.

There is no indication as to where they source their food. Although, based on the freshness of the tomato, I'd say they were from around the block.

I'm not dying to return, but I would like to stop back to try their cabbage rolls and lentil soup someday.

Looking for a random spot worth visiting?
Black Sea Restaurant
737 N Snelling Ave.
Saint Paul, 55104 Minnesota
(651) 917 8832

[where: Minnesota, Food, Minneapolis, Twin Cities, 55418]

2nd Annual Flanagan Double Dash Pinewood Derby Party

To celebrate gerg's birthday and welcome people to our new house, we held the 2nd Annual Flanagan Double Dash pinewood derby party last weekend.

We invite friends and family to come on over. We purchase car making kits, decals, paint, and give them access to gerg's workshop. They have 2-3 hours to design and build their cars. As they build their cars, gerg assists in the shop, I prepare nosh, and food is consumed during and after the races. The double-elimination style race is fun for everyone.

It's a pretty big party project, but it's worth it to see a bunch of 20 and 30-year-olds acting like they're 12 again.

Oh, and the kids like it too.

Check out more photos from the party here.

[where: Minnesota, Food, Minneapolis, Twin Cities, 55418]

Wearing Seal Pelts

Now you can wear a seal pelt for just $400.

It's not what you think.

It might be better.
It might be worse.

[where: Minnesota, Food, Minneapolis, Twin Cities, 55418]

Made In Minnesota Database

Now that we've moved, decorating is totally underway.

We're reducing and reusing where we can, and we're trying to spend locally, as possible.

We've found some gems on craigslist, including this sweet mid century credenza from a great craigslist seller. We also found some nifty napkins on Etsy made by an architecture student here in MPLS.

We're fans of the ReUse Center and the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Both offer stuff yanked out of other people's houses at rock-bottom prices - great for counter tops, doors, and even used appliances.

If we have to buy new, we're trying to buy local, and Midwest Home has made that somewhat easier for us by creating their Made in Minnesota database.

So sayeth they: "From aspen saunas in Cokato and air-jet bathtubs in Minneapolis to white cedar shingles in Duluth and reclaimed wood flooring in Hugo, the Land of 10,000 Lakes makes it all. Why build local? It’s good for our collective bottomline—and we’re talking more than eco-friendliness. Buying from locally owned stores returns at least 68 cents of every dollar back to the Minnesota economy—even more if products are manufactured here."

[where: Minnesota, Minneapolis, Twin Cities, 55418]

Kicking it in Waite Park, MPLS

Gerg and I now live in Waite Park in NE Minneapolis!

I'm excited to be living in NE...we are closer to our friends in NE MPLS, Surdyk's, many restaurants, and the NE Minneapolis Arts District. I will miss living in Longfellow though...we were close to our friends in South MPLS, the Seward Co-op, the light rail station, Town Talk Diner, the Craftsman, the Green Way, the Birchwood, and Welna Hardware.

What does living in Waite Park mean for me? More interior and exterior space for living, working, making, breaking, and relaxing.

I know this much:
I'm excited to scope out some more sweet spots in Waite Park and NE.

Live in or near Waite Park? Got any sweet spots for me to check out? Hollar at me!

[where: Minnesota, Food, Minneapolis, Twin Cities, 55418]

Now Accepting Moving Advice: Show Me Your Tips!

While I was finishing up my master's program this spring, gerg and I thought out loud, "You know, if we could sell this house, it would be a great time to buy a new one."

Shortly after I graduated in May, we put our Longfellow house on the market. It sold in 3.5 weeks, which gladdened us. Thus commenced our search: good neighborhood, nearby park, rambler/California ranch, 3bed/2bath, big garage and/or basement. We found that house in NE Minneapolis, and hence, we must begin packing.

Now we're in moving mode.

I've moved a half dozen times in my life, so I know how to move, but I figure some of you have moved a lot... Like, enough to have some really good tips. Packing tips? Unpacking tips? Cleaning tips? Surviving the move tips?

Show me your tips!

[where: Minnesota, Food, Minneapolis, Twin Cities, 55406]

John Mayer Plays "Human Nature" and I Pause

I'm not a John Mayer fan, but this tribute made a lot of sense to me.

Listening to "Human Nature" being performed without Michael Jackson's voice was a poignant reminder of the uniqueness of his talent, and the might of its impact.

Cuckoo Clocks that Rock

I'm not sure when I started liking cuckoo clocks. I know my grandma had one when I was a kid, and I always got a charge out of it.

In case you weren't aware, cuckoo clocks have come a long way, baby.

I'm particularly fond of The Kalimero design by Barbero Design of Italy:

The cuckoo and clockface are confined behind plexiglass, and walnut-finished back gives a nod to the tradition of wooden cuckoo clocks.

Check out this blog post of some of the most boss interpretations of cuckoo clocks.

[where: Minnesota, Food, Minneapolis, Twin Cities, 55406]

Punch n' Surly

Surly is now on tap at Punch Pizza.

Get a free Surly pint at Punch Pizza, with coupon!

Offer expires June 18!

[where: Minnesota, Food, Minneapolis, Twin Cities, 55406]

Let's Measure Some Native Big Trees

Do you have a giant tree in your yard?
The DNR in Minnesota wants to know all about it!

Everyone is invited to join the search for Minnesota's native champion big trees.

Minnesota's Native Big Tree registry is a listing of Minnesota's 52 native trees judged to be the largest in the state.

A nominee is judged on three measurements:

1. Circumference, in inches, of its trunk at 4 ½ feet above the ground.
2. Its height in feet.
3. One-quarter of its crown spread in feet.

The total of these measurements is the points awarded to a particular tree. A champion tree has accumulated the most points.
How does one go about measuring a giant tree? A hypsometer, of course. But just in case you don't own one, here's how.

We've got a huge ash tree in the back yard that might be giant tree worthy. It's giant, I tell you, GIANT.

[where: Minnesota, Food, Minneapolis, big trees, Twin Cities, 55406]

Mayslack's: A Veritable Agglomeration of Beef and Jus

Have you ever eaten at Mayslack's Music Lounge in North East?

I hadn't until this past weekend.

In fact, I wasn't even aware of their legendary roast beef sandwich or their motto: "Nobody beats Mayslack's meats! Nobody beats Mayslack's meats!"

Here's what I learned:

Back in 1955, the former pro-wrestler, Stan Myslajek started making gigantic roast beef sandwiches at Mayslack's. Today, Mayslack's is still serving gigantic roast beef sandwiches, While they offer other items like wings, pizza, and salads, the roast beef sandwich is their most popular menu item, according to our server. They even cater their famous roast beef sandwich for $14/lb.

Here's how they describe the Orignial Mayslack's roast beef sandwich on their menu:
The storied sandwich that only Stan Mayslack could make popular. A sandwich piled so high with roast beef. Slow roasted for 8 hours in garlic & other juices so the beef just melts in your mouth. Served with onions, banana peppers, coleslaw & some of that awesome au jus.
Mayslack's offers variations of the classic, including an Italian Beef, a Cheese Steak, and a French Dip, etc.

No matter which you order, a loaf is sliced down the middle, and then it's piled high with tender, sliced roast beef that has been soaking in garlicky jus. You might be able to pick it up and eat one bite, but be prepared for a veritable agglomeration of beef and jus. Soon, the sandwich on your big, ceramic plate will cease to exist, and you'll have a close encounter with a heap of roast beef and jus-soaked bread. You might need to seek out a fork, napkins, and eventually a take-home container.

It's a dimly-lit dive bar, but outdoor seating is available.

The portions were mighty (split portions of The Original are available for $2 extra). Gerg aptly reminded me, "Well, the whole thing was started by a pro-wrestler."


Au jus!


1428 4th St
NE Minneapolis, MN 55413
(612) 789-9862

PS - Here is a bad photo of our sandwiches at Mayslack's, which I took on my phone.

[where: Minnesota, Food, Minneapolis, Twin Cities, 55406]

The 3/50 Project

A colleague shared some information with me about a new project.
It's called the 3/50 Project, and its grassroots campaign designed to "save" independent businesses.

Participation is really simple. Choose your three favorite locally owned businesses, and at those three shops combined, commit to spending $50 a month.
If half of the U.S. population did this, we would generate more than $42 trillion in revenue. For every $100 spent in locally owned independent stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures. If you spend that in a national chain, only $43 stays local.
With Seward Co-op, CorAzoN, and Mezzanine Salon all located within walking distance, spending money on locally owned businesses is a treat in my neighborhood.

The list below represents the participants and supporters who have signed up in Minneapolis (this doesn't mean that these are the only locally owned places where you should shop):

Auntie Em's
Birch Clothing
Birchbark Books & Native Arts
Brown & Greene Floral Market
Caffe Amore
Castle Building & Remodeling
Cayenne Company
Clancey's Meats
Electric Fetus Co.
Favorable Treats
Freewheel Bike
Hang It
I Like You
Indulge & Bloom
Industrial and Residential Lighting Inc.
Ingebretsen's Scandinavian Gifts and Foods
Inizio Gifts
Kitchen Window
Lights On Broadway
Linden Hills Co-op & Natural Home
Linden Hills Florist
Local D'Lish
Mother Earth Gardens
Needlework Unlimited
Nielsen Framing Studio
Nokomis Shoe Shop
Olive Salon
Rewind Vintage
Ribnick Fur & Leather
Robot Love
Rosenthal Contemporary Furniture
Sacred Rearrangements Shop & Healing Center
Sigh Yoga + Boutique
Soderberg's Floral & Gift
Steamworks Coffee & Tea
Tangletown Gardens
The Green Goober
The Lounge
The Warren-An Artist Habitat
The Wellness Center
Thyme to Entertain
Twin Cities Green
Vern Carver & Beard Art Galleries
Wilde Roast Cafe

[where: Minnesota, Food, Minneapolis, Twin Cities, 55406]

Homemade Pasta is No Longer Mine Enemy

We have a couple of attachments for our Kitchenaid mixer that allow us to make different types of pasta from scratch. We've been experimenting for about 6 months or so, and are finally feeling somewhat confident in our pasta-making skilz.

The above KitchenAid attachment presses the dough through an extruder. This dough was made with 2.5 cups of organic semolina flour, 3 organic eggs from Larry Schultz's farm, a pinch of salt, and 2 tbsp of water. This attachment works well for tube shaped pastas and round pastas, such as spaghetti, penne, mostaccioli, and rigatoni.

The other attachment rolls the pasta, and cuts it if you want. It's ideal for flat pastas such as lasagna, ravioli, and fettuccine. The recipe we used for our lasagna dough used: 4 cups organic semolina flour, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. basil, ½ tsp. oregano, ½ tsp. salt, and 1 ½ cups warm water. The key to rolling pasta out was to let it rest before rolling it.

Cooking the fresh pasta requires a pot of boiling water with a pinch of salt. As soon as the pasta was added, we did a quick stir to avoid any clumping,. Within 5 minutes or so, the pasta can be drained and eaten. We made that batch of spaghetti above in about 30 minutes, from dough to plate. Gerg and I agreed that it was tasty.

[where: home made pasta, kitchenaid pasta dough, 55406]

On Graduating from Grad School

Dear Grad School,

It was pretty cool getting to know you over the past 5 years.

Remember that one summer when I always came to class in velour warmup suits? Yeah, I was really into the Notorious B.I.G. that summer.

Anyway, I'm sure we'll stay in touch. I've still got piles of your books at our house, and I've already applied for a fellowship.

Check ya later,

[where: Minnesota, Food, Minneapolis, Twin Cities, 55406]

Wearing The Hair Of The Dog. Portraits Of People In Clothes Made From Their Pets' Fur.

I hope THIS doesn't give my husband any crazy ideas.
For the record, I don't want to wear it. Eek!

[where: Minnesota, Dog Hair Clothes, Minneapolis, Twin Cities, 55406]

Mark Your Calendar: Northern Woods Exhibition

Got an itch to see some art before Art-A-Whirl?

This weekend the Minnesota Woodworkers Guild is holding its annual Northern Woods Exhibition at Southdale Mall.

"The show provides an opportunity for Guild members (and non-guild members) to present and discuss the best in high quality woodworking design and construction with fellow woodworkers and the general public. The pieces on display are more than furniture. They are works of art."

Check out these photos of some of the award-winning pieces from last year's exhibition. This is seriously amazing woodwork.

I'm still sizzling over Scott McGlasson's credenza from the 2007 show:

Start Time: Thursday, April 23, 2009 at 10:00am
End Time: Sunday, April 26, 2009 at 6:00pm
Location: Southdale Center Mall

[where: Minnesota, Woodworking, Minneapolis, Twin Cities, 55406]

27th Annual Mpls/St.Paul International Film Festival

Just a friendly reminder...

The 27th annual Mpls/St.Paul International Film Festival is taking place over the next two weeks (April 16th-30th).

Here's a link to the Film Festival Catalog. In case you don't want to rummage through the ads looking for the actual schedule, you can find it on pages 16-17 of the catalog.

Tickets and Passes are available online at or at the box office on the night of the screening. Discounted tickets (Members/Students/ Seniors) are available at the box office if you've got the right ID.

Get your international film on!

[where: Minnesota, International, Film, Minneapolis, Twin Cities, 55406]

Saving Seeds: Supporting Garden Biodiversity


April is upon us! That means it's almost time to start our gardens, whether we're in the city and growing in pots, or heaving loads of compost out in the burbs.

I'm big into planting heirloom varieties in my garden, and finding those varieties can be tricky - especially if you're someone who might grab a veggie plant at Home Depot. Go to You Are Where You Eat to read a bit about why heirloom varieties are important to me, and where you can go in the Twin Cities to find them.

[where: Minnesota, Food, Minneapolis, Twin Cities, 55406]

Reetsy Reviews: Just Truffles

Because my husband is awesome, I was recently treated to a box of truffles from Just Truffles in St. Paul.

Just Truffles carries about 30 regular flavors of truffles in addition to some seasonal flavors.

In order from left to right, top to bottom:
  1. Chocolate Malted: malt powder blended with heavy whipping cream folded into a milk chocolate ganache, dipped in milk chocolate
  2. Peanut Butter: creamy peanut butter in a white chocolate ganache, dipped in dark chocolate and sprinkled with crushed peanuts
  3. Passion Fruit: milk chocolate ganache blended with passion fruit puree, dipped in milk chocolate
  4. Just Chocolate: dark chocolate ganache, dipped and decorated in dark chocolate
  5. Key Lime: key lime juice from the Florida Keys and white chocolate ganache dipped in white chocolate
  6. Bailey's: Bailey's Irish Cream blended with a combination of white and milk chocolate ganache, dipped in milk chocolate
  7. Grand Marnier: orange rind and Grand Marnier in dark chocolate ganache, dipped in dark chocolate
  8. Raspberry: tart raspberries, raspberry liquor and dark bittersweet chocolate ganache, dipped in white chocolate
Just Truffle's fluffy centers aren't dense or fudge-like at all. The centers are light and creamy, and the coating cracks as you bite into the truffle. Also, they're large - 3 or 4 bites per truffle.

I liked the Just Chocolate truffle - dark chocolate ganache dipped and decorated in dark chocolate. The intense shell snapped open cleanly, revealing a milder smooth ganache inside.

Owner and candy-maker Kathleen O’Hehir-Johnson uses all natural ingredients and makes each truffle by hand. They last about 3 days at room temperature, or 30 days in the refrigerator.

I'm a sucker for the 99% truffles at Legacy Chocolates, and I really appreciate Legacy's efforts regarding sustainability. But Just Truffles has a lot of fun flavors, and the bigger size makes does make their truffles a perfect size for sharing.

Evidently, during a performance at the St Paul Civic Center, Luciano Pavarotti was seen wearing a tuxedo accessorized with a gold stretch bow from a box from Just Truffles. Supposedly, he insisted, "I wore it for you," to O'Hehir Johnson, as he kissed her hand. She created the "Tenor's Temptation," a rum-coconut truffle, in his honor.

Sweets made by star-kissed hands!
Just Truffles
1363 Grand Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55105

[where: Just Truffles, St. Paul, Minneapolis, Twin Cities, Minnesota]

Reetsy Reviews: Abu Nader Deli

I drive past Abu Nader Deli several times per week, and I finally decided to stop at it last week to pick up a late lunch for gerg and I.

It might be easy to drive right past it because Abu Nader Deli isn't big on appearances. The deli and small market is situated on the corner of a somewhat busy intersection, but it keeps a low profile, inside and out.

Everything at Abu Nader Deli, from yogurt to the pocket bread, is made from scratch; even the chickpeas for the hummus are freshly ground.

If there's one reason to stop at Abu Nader Deli, it's the Shawarma. Shawarma is commonly made by placing strips of beef and lamb (or other meats) on a spit. Traditionally, an onion or tomato are placed at the end of the spit.

The rotisserie combination of beef and lamb at Abu Nader is cooked until a slight char forms on the outside, and then shaved off in chunky pieces. They take those tender, charred pieces, stuff a lot of them inside a whole piece of their homemade pocket bread, and then top it off with tomato, onion, and a generous helping of cucumber sauce. They wrap it up in wax paper and foil and send you on your way, with a load of Shawarma under your arm.

The home made pocket bread holds most of the cucumber sauce inside the sandwich, rather than allowing the sauce to spill all over the place. Still, these types of sandwiches are notoriously messy, and Abu Nader's definitely delivers in that department.

The falafel at Abu Nader Deli is different than the falafel at Mim's, just up the road. Abu Nader's falafel is dense with chickpeas and generously seasoned with cumin, parsley, red pepper flakes, and other spices.

The hummus at Abu Nader is available for purchase at their deli. It's made fresh and served topped with a generous amount of virgin olive oil and paprika. The deli also also carries homemade yogurt, tabuleh, spinach pies, and meat pies.

Despite its proximity to the State Fair grounds, business doesn't slow at Abu Nader during the State Fair, it increases, according to their website. I guess that's not surprising. Afterall, isn't tender and juicy charred beef and lamb on a rotisserie just a giant piece of meat on a stick?

Eat Giant Shawarma Sammiches
Abu Nader Deli
2095 Como Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55108
(651) 647-5391

[where: Minnesota, Food, St Paul, Shawarma, 55406]

Casper & Runyon’s Shamrock's: The Nookie Challenge

March is a strange time of year in Minnesota.
Mostly, it's just plain soggy.

So on a day off in March, a proposition like this might be interesting: "Wanna come to Shamrocks's and watch some guys take the Nookie Challenge?"

Yes, I did. So I pulled on my boots, grabbed my bag, and headed to Casper & Runyon’s Shamrocks in St Paul.

Shamrocks is the sister restaurant to The Nook in St. Paul. The Nook is widely recognized for its Juicy Lucys, served two ways. Their Juicy Nookie burger is a burger stuffed with runny American cheese. Their Paul Moliter Burger is a burger stuffed with pepper cheese. They serve up hand-cut fries with their burgers, and they source their buns from P.J. Murphy’s on Randolph Ave. Shamrocks offers a similar menu to that of The Nook, and definitely carries the famous cheese-stuffed burgers.

I arrived at Shamrocks and ordered a Smithwick's. I was hopeful that my husband would split a Juicy Nookie with me. [He did. The Juicy Nookie was nicely charred, but slightly overcooked.]

Soon, the challengers arrived. They were seated at their reserved table, and presented with the challenge. The challenge was simple enough in theory: it required that one eat two Nookie Supreme burgers with fries.

photo swiped from Challenger John's Facebook page

One Nookie Supreme is two 1/3 cheeseburgers and special sauce on a bun with a heap of fries on the side. So the challenge was to eat 2 of these giant double cheeseburgers and two orders of fries. Yep, that's about a pound and a third of beef with all the fixings and fries.

4 men attempted the challenge. Two conquered it. All 4 of the men consumed both of their giant cheeseburgers, but only 2 of the 4 consumed all of their fries along with their burgers. According to the challengers, the fries became cold and unappetizing as the burgers were consumed.

All agreed it was a lot of food, and the two that completed the challenge were definitely feeling the pains of overeating.

The prize? A T-shirt that reads, "Have you had your Nookie Today? I did!" and, of course, bragging rights.

Eat giant burgers; get a shirt!
Casper & Runyon’s Shamrock's
995 Seventh St W
St Paul, MN 55102
(651) 228-9925

PS - I forgot to take my camera, but I managed to capture a couple of shots with my phone. Mea Culpa.

[where: Minnesota, Food, St Paul, Nookie Challenge, 55406]

Maple Syruping in Minnesota

Making maple syrup is a harbinger of spring in Minnesota, and a fun way to produce something tasty in your own back yard. We recently attended the "Maple Syrup Madness" event at Wargo Nature Center to get the skinny on making our own maple syrup.

Visit to read more about our trip to the Wargo Nature Center and to see some photos of hot maple syruping action.

[where: Minnesota, Food, Minneapolis, DIY Maple Syrup, 55406]

Housemade Sausages at the Black Forest Inn

German migration to Minnesota peaked during the decades of the 1860s and 1870s. The historical German opposition to prohibition in Minnesota is reflected in a strong beer making tradition throughout Minnesota, and we have a fair share of German restaurants, to boot.

The Black Forest Inn has been around a long, long time in Minneapolis - 41 years, to be exact. I figured it was about time for me to stop in and try their sausages because it's no secret that I *heart* housemade sausages.

Erich Christ's reasons for making sausage from scratch make sense to me: "At a time when other restaurants were buying more and more of their products finished and pre-packaged we were trying to stay in the same price point, and make our food better, fresher and more interesting."

For our lunch, I sampled three sausages (from left to right): the polish sausage, the bratwurst, and the chicken curry sausage. The links were served with their German potato salad and some rye bread.

From left to right: The polish sausage was a bit dry, and the flavor was slightly barny. The bratwurst was lean, moist, and lightly seasoned; the ground meat was finer than a typical bratwurst. The curry chicken sausage was seasoned with a light hand as well and was lean and moist. The sausages were cooked properly - with casings that were clear and crisp. Overall, I would have preferred a slightly heavier hand when it came to seasoning the sausages.

The German potato salad was prepared with sliced potatoes, bacon, onion and cider vinegar. The bacon was cooked properly, and the cider vinegar added the appropriate level of tart acidity that I appreciated. The rye bread was light in texture, color, and flavor.

The rathskeller-style dining room and bar make for a fun atmosphere, perfectly suited to flights of German beer.

Interesting sausages made fresh in Minnesota definitely peak my interest. It would be great to see them take "home made" one step farther by sourcing local meats for the sausage they make.

[where: Black Forest Inn, Sausages, Minneapolis 55406]

The Blue Door Pub: Burgers with Fans

Rave reviews and lines extending out the door made Blue Door Pub too tempting for us. On a sunny weekend in March we simply had to stop in. The truth is, we'd tried stopping before, but the line around the block was too long for our growling stomachs. We picked 2pm on a Saturday afternoon, and headed to St Paul.

A short line of about 6 people was gathered right inside the door. 9 tables, a bar, and a window bar seat roughly 35-45 people.

Among other pub fare, the Blue Door Pub serves Juicy Blucys. Here's how they describe them: "Our twist on a culinary and cultural phenomenon! We pay homage to our brethren across the River with an incredible line-up of original Juicys - a Twin Cities favorite burger in which the cheese is stuffed inside the fresh ground beef patty."

It's also worth mentioning that they serve some decent beer, Spam bites (Spam, cream cheese, and pickle breaded and deep fried), a Jiffy burger (a burger topped with peanut butter, pepper jack, and bacon), and deep fried pickle spears. They also offer veggie burgers and grilled cheese - for the veg heads out there.

We waited about ten minutes for 2 seats to open up at the bar. I ordered a Dirty Farm Girl (Belgian-influenced ale) from Left Bridge Brewery in Stillwater. Gerg ordered a Coca Cola. Then we reviewed the menu. After a lot of deliberation, we selected two Blucys.

Gerg ordered a Blue Door Pub daily special: the Merriam Park Blucy. This was a burger stuffed with bleu cheese, garlic, and bacon, and topped off with red currant jelly. I was sure the garlic and bleu cheese would be too powerful, but overall, based on the bite that I had, the flavor was well balanced. I couldn't really taste the red currant jelly in my bite, so I tried a bit on my fork. It was slightly tart, and sweet. The fried tater tots were fried until crisp.

I ordered the Blue Door Pub Bacon Blucy: a burger stuffed with American cheese and thick cut bacon, with pickle slices. I ordered mine with grilled onions because I like burgers with bacon, cheese, onion, and pickles. The burger was charred, tender, and juicy. The thick-cut bacon was cooked to a crisp before it was stuffed inside the burger. The bun was soft and unsubstantial, which meant napkins were definitely required. I had fried green beans on the side, and they were crispy and served with ranch dressing.

Blue Door Pub offers 10 variations of their Juicy Blucys. After you've enjoyed all 10 of their Blucys you receive a complementary t-shirt. We saw a guy receive one while we were there. He was pretty pumped about it.

As we ate at the bar, the line continued to grow, and was out the door by the time we left. Good timing on our part, but probably just luck. We had a line of people standing next to us, either with their arms folded over their chests - or sipping a decent beer. They were trying not to drool as they watched the burgers being served and devoured, and I got the impression that people just can't get enough of these burgers.

"Was it better than a Juicy Lucy at Matt's?" I asked gerg after we finished eating.

"It's hard to say because they're different. Matt's burgers crisp and well-charred, and more puckish. These are thicker and less charred," explained gerg.

I guess it's not about who makes the best stuffed cheeseburger, for gerg. It's more about appreciating all the variations and enjoying a well made burger, and I totally feel that.

I bet you'll find a burger you appreciate at Blue Door Pub.

The Blue Door Pub
1811 Selby Ave
St. Paul, MN 55104
(651) 493-1865

Post Script: For the record, my favorite burger is still the King Burger at King's Place in Miesville.

[where: Blue Door Pub, Juicy Lucy, Minneapolis Burger, 55406]

Groundbreaking HIV/AIDS Prevention Research Discovered at the University of Minnesota.

"Researchers have identified a compound that, applied vaginally, can prevent transmission of the primate version of HIV. While its not a cure and the compound still must go through human clinical trials before it used to prevent HIV the research is a huge step toward prevention of the devastating disease that impacts 33 million people around the globe. More here."

D'Amico Cucina is Celebrating Restaurant Week All Month Long!

(Click on the image for better resolution)

That's right, D'Amico Cucina is offering a restaurant week menu all month long!!

3 courses for $30 throughout the month of March!

[where: 55406]

Restaurant Week 2009!

It's the best tasting week of the year, and we're all invited!

Until Thursday, participating restaurants will be hitting us with specially priced meals that define and distinguish their culinary offerings in the Twin Cities.

Last year, we were blown away by Campiello's porketta style pork shoulder and apple pecan cake during restaurant week.

This year, we're definitely hitting Masa for dinner, as the D'Amico restaurants seem to be offering smoking hot deals.

Masa's menu for restaurant week (for $30):

Choice of Starter:

Guacamole Picado
Mashed avocado with white onion, tomato, chile Serrano, cilantro, and lime; served with raw vegetables and tortilla chips
Ensalada Verde
Mixed baby leaf lettuces, cherry tomatoes, red onion, and cilantro-lime vinaigrette
Queso Fundido con Camarones
Melted Oaxacan cheese served with poblano chilies, chipotle, onions, roasted garlic and Florida gulf shrimp
Ensalada de Jicama y Mango
Fresh mango and jicama salad, cilantro, lime vinaigrette and cotija cheese

Choice of Entrée:

Pollo con Mole Colorado
Half chicken cooked in authentic mole Colorado; served with fried plantains, rice and warm tortillas
Puerco Veracruzana
Roasted pork shoulder marinated with lime, garlic and chile ancho; cooked in banana leaf, served with broiled pineapple in adobo sauce and black bean puree
Bistek con Chipotle Ancho Marinado
Grilled 10-ounce Black Angus hanger steak with chile and ancho-chipotle butter; served with frijoles charros, grilled onions and pico de gallo
Enchiladas con Jaibas
Two traditional light corn tortillas filled with king crab, Chihuahua cheese; served with lettuce, pickled onions, salsa verde, cotija and crema

Choice of Dessert:

Pastel de Tres Leches
Three milk cake
Flan de Coco
Coconut flan
Crepes con Cajeta
Buttered crepes with goat’s milk caramel and candied pecans

The Red Stag Supperclub is also looking good to us (for $30):

Choice of Starter:

Bowl of Squash Soup
Pear Chop Salad

Choice of Entrée:

Pork Chop
Top Sirloin
Linguini and Clams

Dessert: Chocolate chiffon cake with milk chocolate mousse and toasted hazelnut ice cream

For a list of participating restaurants and their menus, click here.

[where: 55406]

I Was a Bahama Mama

Two weeks ago, we headed to the Bahamas with Monica and Brad. We shared a big condo on Grand Bahama Island near Port Lucaya, and spent the week chillaxing. It was a belated honeymoon and a winter vacation all rolled into one.

Highlights included: snorkeling around a small coral reef, kayaking through the mangroves, dining on the beach at a place called Off the Reef Conch Shack, and drinking lots of Bahama Mamas.

Does it look like we had a good time? In case you can't tell by the photo, we had a blast in the Bahamas.

We consumed COPIOUS amounts of Bahama Mamas.

Bahama Mama Recipe
1 oz. Coconut Rum
1 1/4 oz. Gold Rum
1 1/2 oz. Nassau Royale Liqueur
2 oz's. Orange Juice
2 oz's. Pineapple Juice
Dash of Angostura Bitters (optional)
1/6 oz Grenadine
1 Cherry and/or Slice of Orange

We learned how to spear lobster and went snorkeling on a reef with a local guy. Later on, he danced with us to a steel drum band and took that photo of the four of us. He was a solid dude. I spotted a sweet flounder fish while I was snorkeling, which totally reminded me of the Little Mermaid. Thus, I had Little Mermaid songs in my head the whole week.

We ate several meals at this place called "Off the Reef Conch Shack." They treated us to grilled conch, conch cakes, conch fritters, and the best red snapper I've ever tasted. They also fixed us cocktails and played Bahamian music. It was a great spot for a meal. We had a great time eating, talking smart, and almost playing dominoes at this shack.

We kayaked in the mangroves through Port Lucaya National Park, which was pretty awesome. On our tour of the park, we spotted Parrotfish, an Osprey, poisonwood, mahogany trees, papaya trees, spider lilies, and raccoons.

We were treated to a fancy meal at Luciano's in Port Lucaya.

Our Menu
Cassolette d'Escargots
Steamed Mussels
Scampi Flambé Luciano's
Filet Mignon au Roquefort
New York Strip Steak with vegetables and Béarnaise
2 bottles of Soave Classico, Massi

Most of all we spent a lot of time sunbathing, swimming in the ocean, and taking walks along the beach.

Check out the rest of our photos on our flickr site.

[where: 55406]

Britney's Better with Bacon

Everything's better with bacon, right?

So every time I hear this song, which is probably more often than I should admit, I sing my own bacon lyrics because singing about bacon is fun.

Where you from, how's it going?
I know you,
gotta clue, what you're doing?
You can play brand new to all the sammies out here,
But I know what you are, what you are, baby.

Look at you
gettin' more than just a re-up.
Baby, you
got all the puppets with their strings up.
Frontin’ like a good one, but I call 'em like I see 'em.
I know what you are, what you are, baby.

Baconizer, Baconizer!
You're a baconizer!
Oh baconizer, Oh you're a baconizer, baby!
You, you, you are
You, you, you are
Baconizer, baconizer, baconizer!

Hey, don't try to front
I, I know just-just what you are, are, are (x2)

(You) You got me going!
(You) You're oh so charming!
(You) But I can't do it!
(You) Baconizer!

Hey, don't try to front
I, I know just-just what you are, are, are (x2)

(You) You say I'm crazy!
(You) I got you crazy!
(You) Your nothing but a
(You) baconizer!

you got the swagger of a champion.
Too bad for you
just can't find the right companion.
I guess when you have one too many, makes it hard.
It could be easy, who you are, that's just who you are baby.

must mistake me as a sucker.
To think that I
would be a vegetarian.
Say it, play it how you wanna
But no way I'm ever gonna pass on you, never you, baby.

Baconizer, Baconizer!
You're a baconizer,
Oh baconizer, Oh you're a baconizer, baby!
You, you, you are
You, you, you are
Baconizer, baconizer, baconizer!

Hey, don't try to front
I, I know just-just what you are, are, are (x2)

(You) You got me going!
(You) You're oh so charming!
(You) But I can't do it!
(You) Baconizer!

Hey, don't try to front
I, I know just-just what you are, are, are (x2)

(You) You say I'm crazy!
(You) I got you crazy!
(You) Your nothing but a
(You) Baconizer!

Maybe if we both lived in a different world
it would be all good, and maybe I’d resist you.

But I can't 'cause we don't.

Baconizer, Baconizer!
You're a baconizer,
Oh baconizer, Oh you're a baconizer, baby!
You, you, you are
You, you, you are
Baconizer, baconizer, baconizer!

Hey, don't try to front
I, I know just-just what you are, are, are (x2)

(You) You got me going!
(You) You're oh so charming!
(You) But I can't do it!
(You) Baconizer!

Hey, don't try to front
I, I know just-just what you are, are, are (x2)

(You) You say I'm crazy!
(You) I got you crazy!
(You) Your nothing but a
(You) Baconizer!

Boy, don't try to front
I, I know just-just what you are, are, are (x2)
Baconizer, Baconizer
You're a baconizer,
Oh baconizer, Oh you're a baconizer, baby!

Best Poster Ever of the Weekend

Goby's Grille and Pub in St Paul has much to offer, including taps of Michelob Golden Light and a jukebox.

But, by far, their best overall contribution to their female patrons is the awesome MGD poster in the bathroom, which I felt compelled to share. The poster is mounted directly opposite the throne, which means all ladies alike can gaze upon its majesty while doing their biznaz.

Get on the road to someplace cool!
Goby's Grille and Pub
472 Snelling Ave S
St Paul, MN

[where: St Paul, Goby's 55406]

Suspicious Norovirus Activity

I'm pretty sure the NOROVIRUS has hit my office building in St. Paul, MN.

I "witnessed" something disgusting while I was in the bathroom washing my hands this morning, and then later in the afternoon, I had to walk around a pile of vomit on the sidewalk outside.

Please wash your hands.


If you dare to come to my house or my office while afflicted, I will make your life even more miserable.

[where: 55406]

The Willis: A Journey to Late Night with Jimmy Fallon

photo borrowed from doubleplusgood

Today I heard from a handsome gentleman, who also happens to be a member of my favorite band in hibernation, and I gotta tell you, I'm picking up good vibrations.

The Willis is coming out of hibernation to fly to New York and play on a live taping (not to be broadcast) of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on Thursday, Feb 26th.

Are you thinking what I was thinking?

Me: "What does 'not to be broadcast' mean?", I begged.

He: "It means they're 'not going to broadcast it,'" explained the handsome guy. "Broadcast episodes, I guess, start on March 2nd. It's a show that prepares the staff, etc. Should be good fun, though..."

Me: "I hope this means you're going to get around to more gigging soon!"

He: "We'll see...Just finishing my book/dissertation, so I might have more time."

[where: The Willis, 55406]

Shanty Confessionals

Last Saturday, we pulled on long underwear, wrapped ourselves from head to toe, grabbed some coffee, and headed out to check out the Art Shanty Projects 2009 installation on Medicine Lake.

It was a perfect day for it: frigidly cold and windy with sunshine and blue skies.

My favorite art shanty was the Art Shanty Confessional. Sure, I was raised Catholic, but I've only been to confession once. This confession shanty was more fun than the confessional of my childhood.

People wrote their confessions on slips of paper that read: "Welcome. It's our pleasure to save you. Remember, two things: 1) Good penmanship is next to Godliness, 2) No last names, please. Confess something here: " The shanty folks then stapled the written confessions to the outer wall of the shanty. I grabbed a few snapshots of some of the confessions that made me laugh (No one told me to stop, so I don't think I broke any rules. If I did, let me know please):

click on any of the images to see a larger version

The shanties are open to the public every Saturday and Sunday on Medicine Lake, 11am - 4pm, through February 14.

You can check out our whole set of photos from the Art Shanty Project 2009 here.

[where: 55406]