Breaksea Upcycle's Awesome Mittens

I saw some totally awesome mittens at No Coast Craft-o-rama this month. I didn't buy them because I just got a new pair of gloves, but now I can't stop thinking about them.

Breaksea Upcycle
's makes mittens locally using recylced pants, and so the mittens have a handy pocket! The pair I tried on were all cozy and fleecy on the inside, and I was like "OH SNAP! These are some awesome mittens!" I tried them on, took them off, walked away, walked back, tried them on again, looked at them longingly, and then walked away again.

If you're like me and saw them, and still want them, you can buy them on their website, or locally at I Like You, The Wedge, and Seward Co-op.

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

Cheese Underground Sponsors Cheese Limerick Contest

Cheese Underground Sponsors Cheese Limerick-Writing Contest:
From Cheese Underground:

Writing about cheese is fun and I think more of you should try it.

That's why I'm sponsoring a Cheese Limerick Contest. The winner gets an autographed copy (by all 12 cheesemakers) of the 2011 Portrait of a Wisconsin Artisan Cheesemaker. If that's not enough to inspire you, then this cheese limerick by Christine Perfetti should:

There once was a woman from Oregon,
who really liked eating her parmesan.
She said with much glee,
"I'm in love with my cheese."
And her friends thought,"oh what a moron."

Here are the rules:

1. Write a cheese limerick.
2. Email it to me with your mailing address before 5 p.m. on Dec. 16.
3. A bunch of my friends will sit around my dining room table, eating cheese, drinking the leftover sake in my fridge from my cheese festival, and pick the winner.
4. I will then mail the winner the super cool autographed calendar, but probably wait until the next morning when I'm sober so I don't send it to Siberia.

See, wasn't that easy?

Oh yeah, the winning entry will also be published on this blog. So send me some good cheese limericks, people!
Visit Cheese Underground Blog for Cheese Limerick-Writing Contest!

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

Wood from Your Hood - a Great Gift

image from BuyLocal, MN

For our first wedding anniversary, my husband presented me with a portrait from our wedding.

What made the gift extra-special, in addition to his adorable face, was the frame he selected.
The frame was from Wood from the Hood .

What is Wood from the Hood? Here in the Twin Cities, Cindy Siewert, her husband Rick, and Jonathan Buck, collect and mill lumber from local trees that would otherwise be turned into mulch or firewood. That lumber comes from trees that have fallen naturally, cut down because of disease, or removed for new construction.

The Wood From the Hood frame that gerg gave me even had a zipcode stamped on it: 55406. It was the zipcode from the neighborhood where we lived when we were first married. SO SWEET.

So you're probably doing some shopping right about now, what with the holidays upon us. Consider a Wood from the Hood product: a photo frame, cutting board, coaster set, or cribbage board. The craftsmanship is lovely, the sentiment is charming, and your gift supports a locally operated business that is doing something really special with trees from our own neighborhoods.

Retailers include:
Mill City Museum
Bibelot Shops
The Wedge
Mother Earth Gardens
Linden Hills Natural Hom
Seward Co-op
Brown & Greene
Interior Motive

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

Fighting the Cold—with Punch!

Fighting the Cold—with Punch - Dara & Co. - December 2010 - Minnesota

Earlier this week, the cold and the snow had me feeling a bit grumpy. I looked to my icon and fighting guru Bruce Lee for a better way to deal with this nonsense, and I remembered this valuable quote, “Take things as they are. Punch when you have to punch.”

I’m ready to strike against the cold creeping up my fingers, but my punches are coming from the kitchen—in the form of hot toddies and fun punches. *POW*

Although we first started calling punch by its name in 1632, there are countless variations of the drink that keep it relevant today. Whether it’s served up as an apéritif in porcelain or featured as the main event at a house party, punch is practical, group-friendly, and fun to make. *BAM*

Why not take the opportunity to feature the juice of the season, apple cider, in a warm, satisfying punch? I’ve even whipped up a recipe for you. *BANG*

*WHAM* Wassail

(i.e. Punch when you have to punch)

Serves 6

7 cups apple cider
4 cinnamon sticks
6-8 whole star anise
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch of allspice
1.5 cups Cointreau®

In a large dutch oven, bring all of the ingredients (except the Cointreau) to a low boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for an hour. Serve hot; spike with Cointreau. Garnish with whole cinnamon sticks and star anise.

Not prepared to make your own hot toddy at home? I know a place where they’ll fight the cold for you: Head to W.A Frost. There, you can warm your fingers with their amazing Star Anise Hot Toddy, which features their star anise and clove house-infused brandy.

Star anise not your thing? No problem. Try a cup of their Hot Buttered Pumpkin, Mulled Wine, Wassail Bowl, Hot Apple Pie, or Irish Coffee instead. And just in case your fighting form needs a break from the booze, they’ve got more than a dozen hot tea offerings and several varieties of USDA Organic and Fair Trade Certified coffees. *BOOM*

Are you ready to fight back against winter’s chill? What’s your secret punch recipe? Who’s serving up a butt-kicking hot toddy in your neighborhood?

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

Notes From the Shop: Vise Restoration

Gerg had a nasty rust-coated Wilton vise. It had mad potential, but the beast was coated in thick rust.

He used electrolysis (which involved a battery charger and some super washing soda) to remove the rust and then I gave it a fresh coat of paint.

Looks and works great now!


Documentary: The Minneapolis Wrestling Club

Yo, you got 17 minutes?

You'll need 17 minutes to watch this dope documentary about wrasslin' in Minneapolis.

If you know me, you know homegirl's a bit scrappy. For a two-month in my late teens, I considered taking up professional wrestling. My wrestling name was Luscious EsQuefunka. I had big plans for a purple satin cape with sequins. Needless to say, the following documentary has a lot of appeal for a bruiser like me.

The Minneapolis Wrestling Club from Site-Specific Documentary on Vimeo.

The Minneapolis Wrestling Club is a 16mm documentary film about four old-school, Midwestern professional wrestlers. With roots in vaudeville and the carnival sideshow, early professional wrestlers were a rare combination of athlete, circus performer and thug.

Featuring: Joe Snyder, "The Texas Midget", Sodbuster Kenny Jay, Stan "Krusher" Kowalski, and Eddie Sharkey.

Directed by John Lightfoot

Copyright Site-Specific Documentary, 1998

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

Mad SICK Wig

Yo! Check out this SICK wig.

I really wanted a Marie Antoinette-style wig for this party we were hosting, so I went online and found my gal at Sweet Hayseed's Wearable Wonders! I contacted her with my dreams and my budget and she came up with a brilliant wig.

Seriously, I love it. I might start wearing it around the house. It makes me smile. It also makes my sister smile, apparently.

She designs all kinds of wacky wigs and other hair accessories. She's legit. For real. She's even done some work for Prince Poppycock.

I think it's gonna be my new thing. Outrageous wigs. Word.

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

A Little Love Letter from the New Owners at Former Pop!! NE Location

A note has been posted on the window of the former Pop!! location in NE Minneapolis. I noted it a couple weeks ago, but finally grabbed a snapshot of it on Saturday morning while sipping a dirty chai from Coffee Shop NE .
Dear Neighbors and Future Customers,

We're thrilled to be the new owners of this restaurant. We're giving it a new name, look, and menu.

Our family has been in the business for decades and you can expect great food, reasonable prices, and outstanding service.

Thank you for your patience while we perform some small construction. We will open as soon as possible and we're very excited to bring our experience and tradition to the Audobon Park neighborhood.

Adam and Amber(?)Andrew(?)

Five Meals with Fischer Family Farms Pork

Gerg enjoys a slice of Fischer Family Farms Pulled Pork Pizza

Gerg and I purchased a 6lb Fischer Family Farms Pork shoulder roast. Such good news.

Before we proceeded, we realized this piece of meat would likely sustain us for almost a week (with some non-pork meals in between), so we planned a to get about 5-6 meals worth out of one roast. I suppose could easily freeze the pulled pork after preparing it if you didn't want to eat pulled pork all week. We managed to eat pulled pork all week and not get bored.

Cooking the Roast

We used a simple preparation to cook the meat, since we wanted it to be adaptable to several recipes:
  • Fischer Farms pork shoulder roast, about 6 pounds
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 bottle (24 ounces) of New Glarus Enigma
  • salt
  • pepper
Place half of the thinly sliced onions in bottom of slow cooker; add pork, water, and 12 oz of beer. Top with remaining onion slices. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook on LOW for 8 to 10 hours. Remove the roast, shred the pork into pieces in a separate container. Drink the other 12 oz of beer. Word!

Preparing the Meals

Meal One:

Kansas City-style BBQ pulled Pork Sandwich

Scoop up 8oz of the prepared pulled pork, place it on a whole grain roll, top it with Kansas City style sauce and old fashioned coleslaw.

We served ours with roasted brussels sprouts on the side, which are the bomb-diggity.

Roasted brussels sprouts:
Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in upper third.

Cut brussel sprouts in half, lengthwise. Toss brussels sprouts with olive oil, truffle salt, and pepper. Arrange, cut sides down, in a 17- by 12-inch shallow baking pan. Roast, without turning, until outer leaves are tender and very dark brown, 40 to 45 minutes.

Meal Two: (fast lunch for two)
BBQ pulled pork open-faced sandwich with SweeTango apple slices.

Warm 8oz of the leftover pulled pork, place it on a piece of whole grain toast, and top it with BBQ sauce. Slice up some SweeTangos for a sweet and snappy side dish.

Meal Three:
Pulled Pork Gyozas (potstickers) with Steamed Vegetables
  • 16 oz. pulled pork
  • 1 bunch of green onions
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro
  • 1 thumb-size piece of ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbs. dark sesame oil
  • 1 pack of gyoza skins (24 skins in each pack)
  • 1 cup shredded cabbage (we left it out since we had coleslaw and brussels sprouts the day before)
Finely chop the green onions. Grate the ginger and garlic cloves. Mix all the ingredients (except for the gyoza skins and oil for frying) in a bowl. Let the meat marinate for about an hour, if possible. There are many methods for cooking gyoza. I like this one:

We served our gyoza with steamed sugar snap peas, carrots, and broccoli. Serve with unfiltered sake FTW.

Meal Four:
Pulled Pork Pizza (makes 2 10" pizzas)

Prepare a crust or buy some pizza dough.

Our basic pizza dough:
1 cup warm water
1/4 ounce yeast (about 2 tsp)
1 tsp honey
2 tsp truffle olive oil
1 tsp truffle salt
3 tbsp corn meal

Place the yeast and honey into the warm water. Stir other ingredients together. Pour the yeast mixture into the flour mixture. Stir until combined. Form into a dough ball. Let the dough rise in a covered bowl until it doubles. Beat it down. Roll it out. Sprinkle your pizza pan with cornmeal. Place the rolled out crust on the pan (slightly prebake the crust before adding toppings if you want a super crunchy crust).

Top the crust in the following order with pulled pork, sliced red peppers, sliced crimini mushrooms, diced cipollini onions, fresh grated garlic, fresh sliced mozzarella cheese, and grated Parmesan. Serve with your favorite sauce on the side, dude. We made our sauce with rosemary and basil, and it was boss.

We served our pizza with basil vodka lemonades.

Meal Five: Leftover pizza (fast lunch for two)

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

Sweet! A Heritage Festival for Bohemians like Me!

Growing up Bohemian meant a few things for me: my grandma swearing under her breath in a foreign language, delicious pastries with strange names that were unknown to my grade school pals, and everybody making gypsy jokes.

We certainly didn't have a festival in my small town, so I was pretty excited when I read about this upcoming event. Perhaps they'll have apricot and/or poppyseed kolaches like my grandma used to make...

Sokol Minnesota’s annual Czech and Slovak Festival returns to the Highland Park Pavilion, 1200 Montreal Avenue, Saint Paul, Sunday, September 19 from 11 a.m to 5 p.m. This colorful festival features Czech and Slovak food, costumed dancers, the Sokol Singers, as well as the Zuhrah Shrine Band!

The Food

This year’s menu features a wonderful selection of tasty authentic Czech and Slovak recipes including Slovak halušky s kapustou (dumplings with sauerkraut) and holubky (cabbage rolls); potato or cheese pirohy (dumplings), Czech žebírka (pork ribs), kurací paprikáš s knedlíkem (chicken paprika with dumplings), and Bohemian jitrnice (sausage). This year’s version of this wonderful pork sausage comes from Montgomery, Minnesota, where it is made with pearl barley. Not to be missed are oblozené chlebícky (open-faced sandwiches) made-to-order with cold cuts, eggs, cheese, or mayonnaise-based salads such as ham, pea, or potato. Booya is back! Made from the time-tested Sokol Camp (Pine City) recipe, the booya is for sale in individual servings or in bulk. The Sweet Shop has a wonderful selection of kolache (pastries), potica (a Slovak walnut and poppy seed delicacy), cookies, and other treats. Beverage selections include wine, beer, and specially brewed root beer.

The Program

The festival program reflects centuries of Czech and Slovak traditions. The Festival opens with recordings of beautiful folksongs brought over from the old country, including many sung by our own Sokol Minnesota Senior Singers. Under the direction of Georgiana Dolejsi, they share not only beautiful melodies, but also use the correct pronunciation of the mother-tongues and offer the true spirit of all the songs.

The theme of folk music will run through the program, 11:30 a.m. through 4:30 p.m. with concertinas and the Zuhrah Shrine Band. Musical selections of middle European marches follow the presentation of the national flags and our American, Czech, and Slovak anthems. Musicians are invited to bring accordions or concertinas . Everyone can enjoy a beer and lend their voices to the singing.

After a welcome from Sokol Minnesota President Joe Landsberger, the program highlights Sokol's message of a healthy mind in a healthy body. The adult exercise group performs a prostna that it performed last year in Fort Worth, Texas, and again this summer in Spillville, Iowa. A prostna is a callisthenic drill performed at slets (literally, gatherings of Sokols, or falcons). The first slet in Prague in 1882 celebrated the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Sokol organization; slets continue to this day through out the world.

What is music without dance? Our Sokol Minnesota children’s groups, under the direction of Louise Wessinger, perform in three age groups. The Mlada Skupina (young group) love to sing and dance. The grade-school-age children, Taneční Mládež (Dancing Youth) tackle dances with more difficult steps and sequences, and the Taneční Teens enjoy dances that challenge their abilities. This year the boys created a dance using stilts, and the girls countered with a dance using haying rakes (rabe) from Bohemia.

The St. Paul Czech and Slovak Folk Dancers are looking forward to their 50th Anniversary in 2012 with a project called 50 for 50, as in 50 dances for 50 years. They perform a trio of dances presented earlier this year at the Festival of Nations demonstrating the Czech passion for music and dance. Miss Czech-Slovak Minnesota 2010, Debbie Jindra of Montgomery, Minnesota, performs a Moravian folkdance used in her competition.

Vendors and Exhibits

Craft vendor booths include Sokol Minnesota’s Krásné Dárky (Beautiful gifts) gift shop with special items, t-shirts, and books, including the Sokol Minnesota Cookbook, and Sokol Minnesota Sings songbooks, CDs, and tapes, with Sokol marching, folk, and patriotic songs in Czech, Slovak, and English. Anita Smisek, an avid singer and collector of Bohemian, Moravian, and Slovak folksongs and music will sell her CDs and sheet music. Anita says that if you want to know a culture, you must experience its music.

Informational community kiosks will include the Czech-Slovak Genealogical Society International and a Healthy West 7th display by United Family Medicine’s community clinic program.

Join Czech and Slovak Sokol Minnesota to celebrate 150 years of Czech and Slovak presence in the West End of Saint Paul. The Highland Park Pavilion seats 200, giving protection from rain and sun, as well as wide-open views to the park. Additional outdoor seating and a children’s play area are nearby. For more information call 651-297-9000 or email

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

A Greener Visit to the MN State Fair

A Greener Visit to the MN State Fair - Dara & Co. - August 2010 - Minnesota (cross post)

The Minnesota State Fair is almost underway, and once again has a lot to offer in terms edible and educational opportunities in 2010. This year at the fair you can learn more about how we can reduce our impact on the environment by how we maintain our diets, homes, and communities. Below I've put together a list of events and food items that can give your annual fair experience a new, greener twist.

Attend Minnesota Cooks on Tuesday, August 31
Minnesota Cooks is an annual local food event that shares information about local farmers, local food, and local chefs. The program, which runs 9 a.m.-5 p.m., is broken into hour-long segments. Each hour, two local chefs are paired with a local farmer and local ingredients. The chefs create dishes to feed celebrity tasters and provide samples to hungry audience members. They share information and field questions from the audience. I've attended the past three years and have learned a lot about local foods in Minnesota. Stop by Carosel Park and learn more about food made in our state.

Stop by the Eco-Experience
Presented by the Minnesota State Fair and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the Eco-Experience showcases renewable energy and exhibits on air, water, land, green buildings, organic agriculture, and renewable energy. Check out the Sustainability Stage schedule for daily events.

Visit the Minnesota Grown Booth
The Minnesota Grown booth educates fair-goers about the diversity of Minnesota products and where people can find them. It's located in the ag/hort building.

Sample Locally Produced Food:

  • Wild rice burgers, wild rice sausage, waffle fries, and wild rice corndogs at Minnesota Wild Rice Specialties
  • Minnesota wild rice sausages with beef or pork and jalapeno cheese at Sausage by Cynthia
  • Buffalo kabobs at Minnekabob
  • Minnesota wine, ice cream, and sausage made with Minnesota wine at MN Wine Country
  • Bison jerky and meat sticks from the MN Buffalo Association
  • Elk meat cookbooks, elk jerky, elk snack sticks, and elk summer sausage from MN Elk Breeders
  • Minnesota apples, apple cider, apple sauce, and frozen cider pop from MN Apples
  • Honey (liquid, spun, creamed, comb, whipped) in glass and plastic containers, honey jams, honey jellies, honey candy, cookies, ice cream, honey nut fudge ice cream, and honey nut frozen yogurt from MN Honey Producers Association

Consider Public Transportation
Free parking with free bus service to the fairgrounds is available at various locations within a short distance of the fairgrounds. Park & Ride operated, 8 a.m.-midnight, daily.

Consider Biking

This bike map shows the location of the State Fair bike corrals and recommends routes.

[where: Sustainable Food, St. Paul, Minneapolis, Twin Cities, Minnesota]

I *Heart* my Penguin

I'll admit it. I have a thing for sparkling water. However, my passion for sparkling water was beginning to conflict with my passions for reducing waste and saving moo-la.

Therefore, as a yuletide gift in December, gerg lovingly bestowed upon me a SodaStream Penguin.

I was a touch overwhelmed when I opened the box because it was so mysterious and different. I was all like, "It doesn't use electricity, it uses carbonators. What the hell is a carbonator? Is that what's in the Guinness can?"

Well, it was easier than pie to assemble, and we've been using it regularly for months now, and for the following reasons, we like it:
  • We can make as much sparkling water we want, on demand, baby.
  • We can use tap water.
  • It arrived with 2 attractive glass carafes for storage and use. Perfect for the fridge and for table settings.
  • Our friends and family like learning how to use it - instant party favor.
  • The carbonators last a long time. My first one just ran out after 8 months of use. It ships with 2 carbonators, so we're set for awhile.
  • It's shaped like a penguin, and it honks at you when the carafe is properly carbonated.
  • It's kind of like a robot, and I dig robots.
  • After a year's worth of use, it will have paid for itself.
Now that the first carbonator is empty, we'll need to exchange it sometime soon. We know we can do it through the SodaStream website, but if you know of a local option for exchanging the carbonators, please holler at me.

FYI, the thing in the Guinness can is a patented widget: "The purpose of the widget is to release the CO2 from some of the beer in the can to create the head. The widget is a plastic, nitrogen-filled sphere with a tiny hole in it."

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

We Need so Damn Many Things To Keep our Dazed Lives Going

Walking around Uptown, I heard a AC unit wigging out, and it reminded me of the first few bars of the Stereolab track below. Upon re-listening, I remembered that Stereolab is totally boss. I dig jazzy math rock beats. SERIOUSLY.

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

Why I Love Cooking With Dog

When I was a kid, I watched the Frugal Gourmet and Yan Can Cook on Saturday mornings instead of cartoons. (I actually wrote a letter to Jeff Smith asking him why he used granite instead of marble for his pastry board - I'll find it and post it).

I wasn't allowed to cook much, but I was always underfoot in the kitchen observing. As my mom and dad lugged their instruments out of the house to head to band practice, I plotted and raided the kitchen, fixing silly recipes based on what my mom had in the pantry and refrigerator.

When my best friend's mom married a chef I was so pumped...until I learned that by the time he got home, he was burned out, and kept to cooking simple recipes. Still, I learned a lot from him about the magic of tomato paste.

Finally, in 2nd grade, I decided I was going to be a chef.

This decision was firm until my junior year of high school, when I met a chef who gave me some advice, "If you want a family, and you want to live a normal life, save cooking for a hobby. I work every night, every weekend, every holiday. I never see my kid." My stomach knotted. Yes, I loved cooking, but was I willing to sacrifice my other dreams to become a chef?

I talked it over with my mom, and we agreed that I would pursue my other interest - writing. That worked out, in the long run. I write for a living, and most of what I write about is related to agriculture and food. I consider that a win.

My enthusiasm for cooking remains. My kitchen is my other refuge, and I have a real passion for learning about ingredients, from who grew this tomato to how a handle bone-in short rib.

And while I watch cooking programs, I still mainly watch the PBS programs - America's Test Kitchen, Mexico - One Plate at a Time, and Avec Eric are among my favorites.

I was recently introduced to this YouTube cooking program, which reminds me of the shows I watched as a kid on PBS. It's simple, straight-forward, and focuses on showing a home cook how to prepare something special.

Plus, the dog is hilarious.

[where: Sustainable Food, St. Paul, Minneapolis, Twin Cities, Minnesota]

Sweet Cover! Wicked Game (Chris Isaak 8-bit cover)

I dig this cover immensely. Perhaps more than the original.
We spent a good amount of time doing impressions of Chris Isaak when we were kids.
There's just something about those crazy slides he does...

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

Tami Chynn & Tifa - Certified Diva (Official Video)

Yes, I am obsessed with this masterpiece.

[where: Sustainable Food, St. Paul, Minneapolis, Twin Cities, Minnesota]

Can you sing? Do you know what I mean?

A gal pal of mine just moved to the Twin Cities and has been hitting Craigslist looking for jobs in hospitality, mainly serving or bar tending.

We stumbled upon an ad looking for a waitress immediately in a lounge-style atmosphere in St Paul - it included a phone number for "Jeff". Now, we've had mostly very positive experiences with Craiglist, so I wasn't particularly concerned with the brief nature of the ad.

She called. I sat next to her on the sofa reading "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," and sipping iced tea, but mostly I eavesdropped on her call.

Here's what went down, in a nutshell:

She: I saw your posting for a waitress job on Craigslist.
He: Right, yes. How old are you?
She, with puzzled look on her face: Um, 32....
He: Where are you from?
She : ...the Midwest.
He: Can you sing?
She: Can I sing?
He: Yeah, can you sing?
She: Well, I can, but not very well. Where are you located?
He: I don't need you to sing well, but I can't have you be shy. Do you know what I mean??
She: .........
He: Basically, you'll be entertaining guests in their rooms. Do you know what I mean??
She: Um, ok.
He: Meet me at ____ hotel in Little Canada.
She: Not likely.

She hangs up.
We're still laughing about it.

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

French Expressions 101: Quelle bonne idée!

Back when I was obtaining my liberal arts undergraduate education, I studied French for 4 semesters, which means that I memorized a bunch of french, took tests, and retained a bit of it.

For the record, my French skillz eventually proved valuable when we were in Ireland and attempting to determine the dress code for one of the links courses there (golf), and the only golfers we ran into were French and drunk at a pub.

One thing I remember in particular from my 4 semesters of French, was Dr. Yvette Guillemin-Young's, lesson on the following french gesture:

When someone tells you something that's complete hogwash, this is an appropriate gesture while saying, "Mon œil!" or "As if!" or "Whatever dude!" or "Pfft" or "Yeah right!" or "BS!"

You've always wanted to know all about French gestures and how to use them. N'est-ce pas?


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

Dining Out for Life Tonight

Don't forget to stop at your favorite local restaurant for Dining Out for Life tonight.

From Dining Out for Life:
This year, over 155 participating restaurants
in the Twin Cities, Duluth, Red Wing and Rochester
have agreed to donate a portion of their proceeds
to The Aliveness Project, a local nonprofit organization
that provides on-site meals, food shelf
& other supportive services
for individuals living with HIV/AIDS and their families.

Last year's Dining Out for Life raised $127,000 in donations from restaurants, sponsors and individual diners!
This year, our goal is $130,000!
For a complete list of restaurants in our area, click here:

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

Black Sheep Pizza

We finally had a weekday off in early April, and the first thought that crossed my mind (besides sleeping in) was having lunch at Black Sheep Pizza. Gerg was all for that, as a pizza lover.

Black Sheep makes their pizza in a coal-fired oven, and they're burning Anthracite coal, which burns relatively cleanly with little soot, making it ideal for their purpose. They're making their sausage and meatballs in house. They source their cheese from Wisconsin. Black Sheep founder Jordan Smith was quoted in a piece by Heavy Table:
“I try to buy local ingredients where it’s applicable, and do business with local vendors so that the dollars stay in our local economy. Sometimes it gets overlooked how critical that piece is, in the buy-local movement. I’m not going to get olive oil from Minnesota. But I can buy my olive oil from a local company as opposed to a multinational company like US Foodservice or Sysco.
That's the kind of philosophy I like to support. It makes me wonder if they're aware of Valli dell'Etna Olive Oil, a family-run olive oil business with distribution in Minneapolis?

I digress. Back to the pizza.

We'd heard that the wait can be long at Black Sheep, so we thought a weekday lunch would be the best option. When we arrived at 1:30pm on a Monday, there were two tables of couples enjoying pizza, and a couple of people at the bar. "Huzzah!" thought I, "This plan is going splendidly."

After looking over the menu, recalling recommendations from friends, Heavy Table, and a couple other reviews, we settled on a starter of roasted vegetables.

The roasted vegetables were mighty in flavor. The onions melted in my mouth. The mushrooms were packed with tangy, garlicky flavor. They were served with a surprise dollop of goat cheese. We ordered them with a side of their savory and zesty marinara.

As for our entree, we selected the 12" fennel sausage, hot salami, onion and cracked green olives pizza.
The flavorful crust was chewy and a bit crunchy and handled the ingredients with aplomb. Green olives and hot salami are bold in flavor, but the star of the pizza show was the house made fennel sausage, which brought a balance to the other salty ingredients. With their zesty marinara doing its thing in the middle, we had a winning combination on our hands and in our bellies.

Find your winning combination!
Black Sheep Pizza
600 Washington Ave N
Minneapolis, Minnesota
(612) 342-2625

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

A New Gig

After a few phone conversations and a handful of emails with Minnesota Monthly's dining critic and senior editor Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl, Elizabeth Dehn, Jason DeRusha, Stephanie Meyer, and I have teamed up with her to write Minnesota Monthly's Dara&Co blog.

My team role: MNMO's sustainable food correspondent.

I'm looking forward to my role, which involves writing about interesting local producers and products and sustainable practices.

You can read my first blog post here:

I intend to continue blogging here in addition to my day job and the work I'll be doing for Minnesota Monthly. So it seems that all of my days and many of my nights will be devoted to reading, researching, and writing about sustainable agriculture and sustainable foods, and I'm definitely not complaining about that.

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

Truffle Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

The kind folks at Marx Foods sent me some Selezione Tartufi, Natural Black Truffle Salt.

This salt blend is made by blending Italian sea salt with black winter truffles from Abruzzo that have been fast-dehydrated instead of dried. Marx Foods says dehydrating the truffles preserves the truffle's flavor and aroma far better than drying. The sea salt is harvested from the salt caves of Emilia Romagna . 5% black summer truffles from Abruzzo comprise the finished salt blend. The salt is fine ground and, as I understand, contains no anti-clumping agents.

The salt has been a great addition to our kitchen, and most recently made its way into a roasted potato dish.

Truffle Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

10 Norland Red potatoes
3 tbsp black truffle oil
2 tsp Selezione Natural Black Truffle Salt
2 tsp rosemary
2 tsp black pepper

Cut the potatoes into bite-size pieces.

Toss the pieces with 3 tbsp black truffle oil, 2 tsp Selezione Natural Black Truffle Salt, 2 tsp rosemary, and 2 tsp black pepper.

Spread on a baking sheet in a single layer. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400.

Once the oven is preheated, bake the potatoes for 30 minutes at 400. After 15 minutes has lapsed, stir the potatoes, and re-spread in a single layer. Finish baking for the remaining 15 minutes.

Broil on high for the last 3 minutes.

Sprinkle with additional Selezione Natural Black Truffle Salt (to taste).

We served our taters with grilled salmon and asparagus, and received high fives and thumbs up.

Not all truffle oils are created equally. Sabatino Tartufi manufactures theirs using real truffles. Read more about synthetically manufactured truffle oils here:

Order some Selezione Tartufi, Natural Black Truffle Salt from Marx Foods:

Hook's 15-Year Cheddar: Worth It

Remember back when I wrote about how excited I was for Hook's 15-year cheddar to make its way to Minneapolis?

In case you don't remember, I was excited:

Well, it made its way to Surdyk's Liquor Store and Gourmet Cheese Shop, and thus I made my way to Surdyk's twice since then to procure some.

While some aged cheddars take on an extremely bitter quality, most likely brought on by the temperature being raised during the aging process, the marginal bitterness of the Hook's 15-year is balanced with sourness and saltiness expected in cheddar cheese. Like so many aged cheeses that I enjoy, the lactic acid has crystallized in the Hook's 15-year forming a few crunchy bits of calcium lactate, the crystals ranging in color from darkish yellow to almost white. Overall, the cheese has a balanced, intense, cheddar flavor. It's only slightly crumbly.

It's $60 per lb, so I budgeted for it, forsaking other indulgences. It was worth it. It's good cheese, dude.

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

Amici Pizza and Bistro Open in NE MPLS

The week before we moved to our new NE neighborhood, Snap Pizza closed, which kind of bummed us out. We're anxious to learn more about Amici Pizza and Bistro, which is opening today at 4:30 in the former Snap location in NE MPLS.

While stopping for coffees at Audubon, we hopped across the street to check out the menu posted in the window this morning.

I'll likely write more about Amici latron this spring.

Brussels sprouts are being served with the roasted chicken entree (hooray!)
Izzy's ice cream is on the dessert menu
Anchovies and prosciutto are two of the pizza topping options
A kid's menu
No beer or wine yet

Amici Pizza and Bistro
2851 Johnson St. NE

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

NY Times' Totally Decent Explanation of the Complex World of Ice Skating Deductions.

Check out the NY Times' totally decent explanation of the complex world ice skating deductions.

Figure skating isn't my favorite Winter Olympic sport to watch, but I started watching figure skating with my materfamilias as a youth, so there's some nostalgia associated with it for me.

I remember being totally shocked about the Kerrigan/Harding scandal; screaming in the living room for Kristi Yamaguchi, standing by as Brian Boitano's thighs got huge over the span of his career; noting my brother getting hot and bothered over Nicole Bobek; smiling at Surya Bonaly's flips; and debating with moms over Debbie Thomas's costume decisions.

Like most of y'all, I couldn't figure out how someone who fell on their butt could beat out a skater who landed all of his/her jumps. This NY Times article elucidates some of the deductions that are difficult for the TV viewing audience to notice.

Check out some of the other interactive graphics developed by the NY Times to help us better understand the complexities of some of these Olympic events.

Go team USA!!

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

From Medicine Cabinet to Concealed Jewelry Cabinet!!

In the last issue of This Old House Magazine, they converted an old medicine cabinet into a message center.

Since we had just redecorated our bedroom and hadn't devised a solution for storing jewelry, we converted an old bathroom medicine cabinet to a jewelry cabinet concealed behind a piece of art.

This Old House hung the cabinet on the wall instead of recessing it into the wall, but the idea of a hidden jewelry compartment appealed to us.

See our photo set of the project here:

Read This Old House's plan here:,,20339190,00.html

I *heart* the Olympics

As with every other Olympics, I am pumped for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

I used to print out these insane spreadsheets that had the times and dates of the events, so I wouldn't miss my favorite athletes or events. I'd keep it in my purse, in the event that I needed to tune in outside of my house. This year, however, I have an iPhone, and thus, I have the NBC Olympics iPhone App.

So says PR News: "The application lets you view all the events with live real-time updates. The latest news stories, medal counts, schedules, and a lot more are included for your Olympics fix."

I've already got my favorites locked in, so I won't miss a thing over the next 16 days...except when I'm working, sleeping, or bathing.

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

Dude. Man. Cheese.

Hear ye! Hear ye! The next batch of 15 year-old, super-aged cheddar from Hook's Cheese Co. in Mineral Point, WI will be available on February 22, 2010!

It will sell for $60 per pound.

FYI, the Hooks sold their first 1,200-pound batch of olden cheddar in fewer than 10 days this year for $50 to $60 a pound locally.


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

Swiss Colony Strikes Again. I. Die.

SRSLY. I *heart* Swiss Colony.

"Certain to put a smile on your sweetheart's face...each smiling tyke is a fudge- or Swiss creme-enrobed morsel, with a scrumptious toffee filling...."

And that's only the beginning. They have, like, a bazillion more Valentine-y options on their site.

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

2009: A Few of My Favorite Edible Things

Although it's past the time when "best of" lists are released for the previous year, I'm releasing my list of food highlights of 2009 NOW because NOW is the time when I wrote it.

This year marked the end of my graduate school career and a move to NE MPLS. Many meals were grabbed in haste between writing for capstone and driving to Wisconsin for class. Many meals were eaten standing over a box with paint on my hands, hair, and/or clothes.
The repayment of student loans and an increased mortgage payment made the budget tighter.

However, I ate some tasty food last year, and I choose to commemorate it here (in no particular order):
  • My favorite: while honeymooning last February, we became fond of the red snapper, beans and rice, and potato salad at Off the Reef Conch Shack on Grand Bahama Island (pictured above). I liked ordering food and then combing the beach for seashells while we waited.
  • Last March, we bade farewell to Fugaise with final supper of monkfish with parsnip, portobello mushroom, and bacon; mussels; rabbit meatball with wild mushroom polenta, roasted belgian endive, and apples; and pork loin with potato rosti, braised escarole, and morel cream.
  • Lunch was in order during a Saturday afternoon shopping trip to United Noodles. I had the Taiwanese Soy Bean Paste Noodles. Nothing fancy, just noodles simply topped with highly seasoned crumbled bean curd, sliced cucumber, and bean sprouts.
  • W.A. Frost was offering 1000 points for booking a reservation through Open Table, which was a Friday night bonus. That evening, I enjoyed the Sweet English Pea Risotto served with macadamia nut-yogurt froth, pea tendrils, and black olive oil.
  • Bar Lurcat offered good deals during restaurant week. On a recommendation, I enjoyed a piece of tender and flaky halibut in prosciutto butter with roasted tomatoes and scallions.
  • Ngon Vietnamese Bistro has the passion and commitment for fresh, local ingredients I've come to appreciate in a restaurant. I crave their Phở Bò Viên: this version of their rice noodle soup is made with homemade meatballs using all natural 100% grass fed beef.
  • On a cool afternoon in June, gerg and I decided a big bowl of noodle soup would hit the spot. We headed to Tanpopo Noodle Shop and I had the Nabeyaki Udon Noodles. The noodles float in traditional Japanese soup stock with shrimp tempura, chicken, shiitake mushrooms, fish cake (meh), Japanese omelet, green onion, and wakame.
  • During restaurant week, I had the Puerco Veracruzana at Masa: 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.
  • Seward Co-op's cheese stuffed bratwurst made tailgating and backyard cookouts tasty last summer. They rotate about 15 different varieties of sausages at Seward.
  • My job gave me the opportunity to spend some time with Xe Susane Moua of City Backyard Farming. She grows food "locally, organically, and affordably" in Twin Cities' front yards, side yards, backyards, and school yards. At a table beside one of her gardens, she treated me to some fresh post partum chicken soup she had made using a traditional Hmong recipe and herbs she had grown in her garden.
  • I drive past Abu Nader Deli on my commute to work, and I finally decided to stop to pick up a late lunch for gerg and myself. I like their fresh Shwarma. They take those tender, charred pieces of beef and lamb, 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.
  • On a trip to Seattle, I stayed at the Hyatt at Olive 8 and dined at Urbane, where Chef Martin selects the ingredients from local Seattle resources. I enjoyed a plate of tasty cheddar from Beecher's cheese; some lardo, salumi salami, and other meats from Salumi Artesian Cured Meats; chicken liver pate; and caramelized onion grilled flat bread.
  • On my birthday, a couple of pals treated me to a bento box lunch at Obento-ya. The tara black cod bento fillet was naturally seasoned and marinated with an original japanese sake-lees sauce. It was served with steamed white rice, spring greens with house dressing, japanese creamy potato salad, and miso soup. It was my first visit there, but certainly not my last.

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

“Inspire” A Tribute to Michael Jackson

I don't know much about the 7-8 ladies who presented the “Inspire” A Tribute to Michael Jackson performance last night at Bryant Lake Bowl.

I do know they had a lot of heart, and paid tribute to Michael Jackson with humor and respect.
The dancing was inspired and authentic, and a couple of the routines, especially Dirty Diana, were totally solid.

There's another performance tonight:

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