Rationalizing a Move to MN: An Attaboys Roundup

I have very few family members in MN. I think some of them should move here. Therefore, I'm compiling a somewhat objective roundup of rationale for making a move to MN/MPLS, in the form of a list of attaboys that might be appealing to my family members:

Brains and Know-How
  1. Minneapolis was named the third most literate city in the nation last year by the Center for Public Policy and Social Research
  2. Minneapolis is named one of the top ten smartest cities in America by the Daily Beast
Quality of Life
  1. Minneapolis was named the best city for finding employment by Forbes Magazine
  2. Minneapolis, St Paul has the best airport food, according to airfarwatchdog
  3. Minneapolis named top vacation spot by National Geographic Magazine
  4. Target Field was named the Sports Facility of the Year by Street & Smith's Sports Business Journal
  5. Minneapolis Named One of 18 'Coolest Cities' in America by Men's Journal
  6. Minnesota named 'Most Hipster State in the U.S.'
  7. Minneapolis has the best parks system, according to Live Science.
Health and Fitness
  1. Minneapolis-St. Paul named the healthiest, fittest metropolitan area in the United States by the American College of Sports Medicine
  2. Minneapolis named Bicycling's Top City by Bicycling.com
  3. Minnesota named by best trail state by American Trails (biking, equestrian cross-country skiing, off-highway vehicle, water, snowmobile trails, and several thousand hiking trails)
  4. Minneapolis is the fittest large city in the U.S., according to new rankings from MapMyFitness.
  5. Named one of the top ten cities for organic eaters to live by Organic Authority.
  1. Minneosta named one of the top 10 friendliest states for physicians by Modern Medicine.
  2. Rochester (just 1.5 hours away) named one of the 10 best cities of the next decade by Kiplinger
  3. Four Minnesota hospitals were named among best in nation by Thomson Reuters
Help me make the case. If I forgot a good one, comment below, yo.

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

It’s International Pickles Week!

It’s International Pickles Week! - Dara & Co. - May 2011 - Minnesota

It’s the third week in May! You know what that means? It’s International Pickles Week! Whether they’re slung aside a sandwich or perched atop a Chicago dog, pickles are an ever-present side dish, especially in Minnesota in the summer. Thus, I thought I’d devote some time to Minnesota’s pickling tradition.

Perhaps Minnesota’s greatest claim to pickle fame is Gedney pickles. In 1879 (before Ford sold his first automobile), Mathias Anderson Gedney moved to Minneapolis with pickles in mind. With a handful of recipes, he opened his first Gedney pickle plant in 1881 in Minneapolis at the corner of Lowry and Pacific. Gedney’s plant eventually relocated to Chaska, where it still operates today.
There is no shortage of pickles in Minnesota, whether you’re scanning jars at the State Fair, raiding your auntie’s root cellar, or a munchin' on a plate of potluck pickle roll-ups at Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge. Perhaps you want to go the extra mile in the name of pickles this week? The Strip Club Meat and Fish serves up a pickle small plate featuring vegetables that are pickled in-house and deep fried. Or you could try your own hand at frying some pickles using this Gedney recipe:

Gedney’s Deep Fried Pickles Recipe
Preparation time: 60 min. Serves: 8
· 24 dill pickle spears, chilled
· Egg wash, recipe follows
· Breading, recipe follows
· Canola oil, for frying

· 2 cups milk
· 2 eggs
· Pinch of lemon pepper
· Pinch of dill weed
· Pickle juice

· 2 1/2 cups cornmeal
· 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
· 1/2 cup lemon pepper
· 1/2 cup dill weed
· 4 tsp paprika
· 2 tsp garlic salt
· Pinch of cayenne pepper, or more to taste

For egg wash: In a baking dish, whisk all ingredients together, except pickle juice. Add pickle juice, to taste, and whisk to combine.

For breading: Combine all ingredients in a baking dish.

Using only very cold dill pickle spears, dip pickle into egg wash and then coat with breading. Repeat until no pickles remain, and arrange dipped pickles on a sheet pan lined with waxed paper. Chill for at least 30 minutes. In a deep fryer, heat oil to 375 degrees F. Alternatively, heat oil in a large, heavy pot suitable for deep-frying. Carefully add chilled pickle spears, in batches, to the hot oil and fry for about 3 1/2 minutes or until golden. Move to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

Do you have a favorite pickle in the cities? Know a great pickle recipe? Please share!

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

Sampling Masu Sushi & Robata

Sampling Masu Sushi & Robata - Dara & Co. - April 2011 - Minnesota

Sampling Masu Sushi & Robata

Last week, gerg and I grabbed a meal at Masu Sushi & Robata, a new sushi and robata restaurant in NE Minneapolis. I was particularly interested because James Beard Award-winning chef Tim McKee was involved in producing the menu, and because they’ve made a commitment to sourcing sustainable seafood.

They were busy on that Wednesday night, so we set up a reservation for 9:30 p.m. and took some time to decompress at our NE home before we headed out. Upon arriving, we were seated in a cozy booth under a painted pair of watchful eyes that spanned the full length of the back wall. The menu consisted of sake and other drinks, pub-style appetizers (izakaya), sushi, grilled items (robata), and noodles.

We split a glass of sweet sparkling rhubarb green tea from their non-alcoholic drink menu. Then we ordered the “Warrior” sake flight consisting of Minato Harbor Yamahai Nama Genshu, Yuki No Bosha Junmai Ginjo, and Eiko Fuji Ban Ryu. The $14.50 Warrior flight is an economical way to sample the Eiko Fuji Ban Ryu since it runs $89 by the bottle.

The ginger duck dumplings (gyoza) were an appetizing combination of rich duck meat and pungent ginger. The crispy bottoms of the dumplings balanced the unctuous texture of the duck. As we gobbled them up, my husband noted that he “could eat about nine more orders of those.”

Up next was a round of oyster shooters—a quail egg, an oyster, some flying fish roe (tobiko) and green shiso submerged in a 2 oz. shot of sake. It was high-five worthy. The combination of the sweetness from the sake, the saltiness of the oyster, and the richness of the quail egg made for a memorable and tasty shooter.

The sustainable seafood options are plentiful on the sushi menu. I opted for a bowl of the littleneck clam ramen with garlic, seaweed (wakame), and fish cake. The ramen wasn’t the slimy noodles from a cup that I experienced in college. The noodles were just past al dente, and as I plucked the clam meat from the tiny shells floating among the noodles, I slurped the broth and contemplated ordering another oyster shooter.

Masu also is serving up a selection of items prepared on a charcoal grill (robata), from Japanese mushrooms to glazed pork ribs. Speaking of the pork ribs, while they’ve made a commitment to sustainable seafood, they haven’t applied that same commitment to their other meats on the menu, according to our server.

The atmosphere is playful and upbeat, complete with a half dozen pachinko machines and Munny dolls. Robata, oyster shooters, and Pachinko? That’s a happy hour recipe worth repeating.

Masu Sushi & Robata
330 E Hennepin Ave., Mpls.

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

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

ATK Cookie by gergistheword
America's Test Kitchen's Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

My husband is a certified cookie monster, so we're always trying out new cookie recipes in our kitchen.

Now, the Toll House recipe has been my "tried and true" chocolate chip cookie recipe for years, but we discovered a "Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie" recipe from Cook's Illustrated, and with a name like that, we had to try it.

The ingredients are relatively similar to the Toll House recipe with minor variations. Possibly the most interesting and valuable piece of information in the recipe was related to the actual baking of the cookies. They warned against baking "in batches."

"Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving....Baking two trays at a time may be convenient, but it leads to uneven cooking. The cookies on the top tray are often browner around the edges than those on the bottom, even when rotated halfway through cooking."
I'm the kind of nutcase who hovers around the oven while my cookies are baking, so with a timer and some attentiveness I managed to rotate the trays as suggested. It made a RADICAL difference in the consistency of the cookies.

I've adopted this technique for other cookie recipes, and it works!