Category Archives: Going Out

Saturday Date: Hmong Village St. Paul

Like, three months ago, Marcus and I set-up a double date with some friends to go to the Science Museum and see the SPACE exhibit and the Hubble Omni show.  Last week, we decided that we all probably needed to eat beforehand and so I suggested visiting the Hmong Village in St. Paul because I had never been before, and I had heard that it was a delicious place to eat and I have been meaning to go for too long now.

Hmong Village

Karen agreed and said that while her husband had been before and loved it, he had not taken her!  How perfect that we were all going on this adventure then, right?

For those of you who do not know who the Hmong people are, they are an ethnic group (per Wikipedia) from the mountainous regions of China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand.  St. Paul, MN is home to the largest Hmong-American community in the United States, which is pretty cool.

The Hmong Village is an indoor market in St. Paul where you can purchase a variety of things including traditional costumes and jewelry, groceries, electronics, and of course there is this huge food court with a number of different vendors.

When we arrived at the destination, Karen texted Marcus to let us know that she and her husband were actually at the Hmongtown Marketplace  and based on the amount of time that we all had to eat before the show, we agreed to eat separately (and essentially have the same date in different places) and meet up at the Science Museum.  Related/unrelated: Marcus and I now have a goal to visit the Hmongtown Marketplace.

Before visiting the Hmong Village, I did a bit of reading about the different sorts of food on offer so that we would know what to expect.  There were so many vendors selling so many similar dishes (roasted pork belly, sausages, forbidden rice, papaya salad, spring rolls, etc.) that ultimately, we made our decisions based on two factors: which stall had the longest line, and which stall would make the papaya salad from scratch in front of you.

First up: Mai’s Deli Mais Deli

I stopped by this stall because first and foremost, they made papaya salad to order in front of you.  After placing your order, specifying the style (Thai v. Regular) and heat level, a woman would begin adding ingredients to her mortar and pestle and start the blending process right in the ordering window.  After the papaya was added and stirred in, I was offered a taste to ensure that the heat level was appropriate, which it absolutely was.  She then piled the papaya salad into a container that probably could have fed four people, all for $6.  This right here is just a small scoop of it.

Papaya Salad

I also ordered a mangonada, which was $4.

Mangonada 2I tried to get a snap of Marcus too, but I later realized his eyes were either half-shut or closed in both of them, so…oops.

I am still not entirely clear on what a mangonada is, but my understanding is that it is a blended fresh mango drink (like a slush) with a swirl of spice and salt.  It was awesome.  It also came with this exciting straw that was wrapped in some sort of candy that was unidentifiable at that particular moment in time, but I later learned was tamarind.  How excellent!

Second Stop: Mai’s Kitchen

Mais Kitchen

This stall had a rockin’ line so Marcus got right in that.  Here, we ordered pork belly, Laos sausage, forbidden rice, and egg rolls for a grand total of $19.

Pork Belly and Sausage

Forbidden rice is a black rice that is incredibly sticky.  Marcus had wondered if there would be a specific flavor to the rice, and while I would not necessarily say that it had a unique flavor, it did have a great texture.  After doing a little bit of research on this after the fact, it sounds like black rice is exceptionally nutritious compared to other varieties of rice!  Who knew?

While we were given forks for our meals, I saw many people eating meat and rice with their hands before we sat down, so we discarded the forks and did likewise.  The egg rolls, not shockingly, were the most basic part of our meal.  The sausage had a very coarse grind and Marcus preferred that to the pork belly.  I on the other hand, really enjoyed the pork belly which was an 11/10 combination of tender and crisp bits.  All of it got dipped into a sauce filled with hot pepper flakes.  Marcus found it to be too spicy, I found it to be the perfect amount of spicy.

Even though we missed out on eating with our friends, it was just an incredible meal, and we will be bringing more people back for another visit soon!

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Just a bit about my weekend.

Happy Sunday, kittens.

We “moved” back into our house on Friday night and that was really lovely.  Even though I slept super-well while we were staying at my in-laws’ place, it was so so so good to be able to reunite with my bed.

For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you know that on Saturday, I spent 30 minutes meeting with and breaking up with a travel agent from a business we’ve worked with before and then I spent the next hour at home booking all of our Italy hotels.  Confrontation is never fun, but it is important to say NO when you have been clear about your budget and someone is trying to talk you into spending an additional $1000.  As it stands now, the only thing we have left to do is book tickets to and from La Spezia/Cinque Terre.  Once that’s finished I can settle the rest of our sightseeing itinerary and start hunting for restaurant ideas on Trip Advisor.

Our Saturday night was a little bit more laid-back.  We went grocery shopping and I was fascinated by how the clientele of ALDI, Trader Joe’s and Cub changes with the setting of the sun.  Marcus and I cooked dinner.  We watched Gravity (which has been on our DVR for probably three months now) and drank cocktails.  On Friday, Marcus gifted me a set of those ice cube molds that freeze into baseball-sized spheres, so I was extremely excited to give that a try.  Verdict: My cocktails look fancy now.

I did get out and about to do a few fun things.

On Friday night, Linds, Katie and I headed over to Spoon and Stable for dinner.  I made the reservation probably three months ago and we ended up being able to eat at the Chef’s Table which was super cool.  They cooked while we watched them place edible flowers and whatnot on things with tweezers.  Gavin Kaysen actually brought us food and talked to us and all I could say was “hi.”  Twice.  Truly, I was astonished.

Spoon and Stable 1

For dinner I had the squash soup, the bison tartare and the crispy potatoes.

Spoon and Stable 2Spoon and Stable 3Spoon and Stable 4

For dessert, the lemon mousse.  And some cotton candy.

Spoon and Stable 5

On Sunday morning, Lis and I went to The Copper Hen Cakery & Kitchen.  I have wanted to go there for a year now and finally it happened.  It’s actually owned by a guy I met in my Freshman writing seminar workshop group and his wife.  Brunch was spectacular so it is a given that I’ll be back for that.  My next goal is to get back there for their burger because I hear that it is a treat!

Copper Hen

The real reason I wanted to post this snap is because the french toast was just beyond.  I am not a french toast order-er ever, but the pecan loaf and the whipped butter are possibly something I will have dreams about.  It also compels me to expand my repertoire from Chocolate Chip Banana Bread to Maple Pecan Bread as well.  More is more, right?

I don’t want to say that I’m looking forward to Monday because an endless weekend would be quite nice, but what a lovely one this was.

The Great Food Truck Race (or, Happy Birthday Mom!)

Today is Mom’s birthday.

And for her birthday celebration, we ended up taking her out for the Mother’s Day lunch that she didn’t get to have this year.  You see, for Mother’s Day, Mom wanted to do Food Truck food and since she and Dad were at the cabin that weekend we have been operating on a bit of a delay.

Yesterday, it came to my attention that the Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race was filming what I believe is Season 4 in the Twin Cities all weekend.  Which meant that not only would out-of-town trucks be here, but also that the local trucks would be out in full force.

More is more where food trucks are concerned, because why would you visit one when you could visit three?

So when Tikka Tikka Taco announced that they would be setting up court at the Mississippi Market in St. Paul, we grabbed our jackets, threw some umbrellas into the trunk and then started driving that direction.

Our first stop upon arrival was Hibachi Daruma.

Hibachi Daruma

That is literally the only good picture we got before the torrential downpour began.

We grabbed a few containers of their stir-fried wonders to share and then dragged them under the awning to avoid the rain as we feasted.  Marcus and I split the Beef and Shrimp.

Hibachi Daruma 2I didn’t know how I would feel about Hibachi from a truck because isn’t that basically stir-fry?  Answer: Yes.

But the flavor was really clean, none of it was Too Greasy and the amount of food you received for $12 was incredible.

Next stop: Tikka Tikka Taco.

Tikka Tikka Taco

We definitely signed releases – there’s a good chance that Dad will get a full-on moment in the sun placing our order and I am positive that we will be in some of the crowd shots (look for the maroon and gold U of M umbrella!).

The five of us split a container of their Tikka Tikka Tacos and the Naanchos.

Tikka Tikka Taco 2 Tikka Tikka Taco 3

Honest verdict?  All of it was extremely underwhelming and incredibly overpriced (we paid $40 for all of it).  The Chicken Tikka Masala I ate the night before the Paris Marathon had more flavor and the spinach leaves in the naanchos were a mess (pro tip: wilt them).

That being said, I am definitely into the idea that Indian is getting its shot at Asian Fusion since we’ve already barreled through Chinese-Vietnamese-Korean-Thai fusion.  And it was great encouragement for me to try assembling this meal at home – I think that Chicken Tikka Masala Tacos could be wonderful, especially with that crockpot recipe we action from time to time.

Our last stop and the last truck at the market was the B52 Slider Squad.

Mississippi Market

B52s

If you are selling quarter pound burgers, calling them “sliders” is probably a bit of a stretch.  But they were good burgers, well-priced ($6 for a burger and fries), and the buttered buns were truly incredible.  Marcus ended up having a bit more of the burger (though he was sure to leave the pickle for me!) and I had a few more of the fries, and we all left with full stomachs.

I am informed that on some occasions they have corn fritters and after our jaunt through the south a few weeks ago, it would be wonderful to try their interpretation sometime.

By the time we had to pile back into the car, we were all varying degrees of soaked and just a little bit (or, more than a little bit exhausted) from our time in the rain.

Happy birthday, Mom!  Now that we’re done with our Mother’s Day celebrations, we can finally get onto plotting and planning your birthday celebration.  😉

Prost!

Happy Beer Week, party kittens!

While some members of our group are busy exercising their culinary prowess, some of us are bringing you home with us for the day.

While it’s no secret that Oktoberfest in Munich is an unrivaled celebration, we in the Twin Cities make our pilgrimage to Gasthof’s in NE Minneapolis.  I don’t even know how long they’ve been observing Oktoberfest for, but it’s somewhat of an institution ’round these parts.

If you were here in the fall, I’d definitely call you up on a Saturday afternoon so that we could figure out what time we would be meeting that night.  Because while I love a good Oktoberfest celebration, for Marcus it’s non-negotiable.

Late September rolls around and the tents go up.

Go in the afternoon and you’ll see families and strollers.  Head over past 8:00 PM and you’ll find a lot packed shoulder to shoulder with twenty and thirty somethings.

How fun for everyone.

Let’s not forget the polka band.  What is Oktoberfest for, if not to dance the dances of our ancestors?  Or to keep it folksy.

Bring your cash, exchange it for tokens, purchase a mug (or bring your own!) and fill it.  Because an empty mug is about as useful as a train with square wheels.

What’s on tap: All manner of German beer.  Oktoberfests, Dunkels, Hefeweizens and Pilsners.  Outsiders aren’t welcome here.  Some may consider mixed drinks, but if your mug is filled with a cocktail, I probably don’t know you.

And just like that, all the mugs are full.

Drink, chat, repeat.

It’s the easiest way to ease into the cooler weather.  Those Germans, they were onto something. 😉

Do you have any Oktoberfest celebrations in your city?

What else to look for: Madeline’s Pumpkin Beer Bread, Kirsten’s 5 Minutes with a Home Brewer and Jeanne’s Dark Chocolate Espresso Stout Cake with Caramel & Kahlua Whipped Cream.

This Weekend

What did I do this weekend?

Friday: Drove Up North to the cabin.  Had Zorbaz’ Mexican Pizza for dinner and a couple of fantastic beers.  Slept eight hours straight.  It was a revelation.

Saturday: Ran.  Ate leftover pizza for breakfast.  Happiest morning.  Had a phenomenal slice of Coconut Cream Pie for lunch.  Walked around in the bitter cold wearing a swimsuit and a sweatshirt while we took the dock out.  Drove back to the cities.  Went to a birthday party tailgate.  Dropped by Gasthof’s for Oktoberfest.  Dined and drank at the Bulldog.

-scene-

Today, besides a bike ride, The Plan was to go shopping with Jenna to finalize her outfits/accessories for her Bat Mitzvah in two weeks.

Since Michelle and Jacki took her to Eden Prairie Center the first time, this go-round we set off for the Mall of America.

Despite the fact that the MOA is in our great state of 10,000 lakes, I (and most Minnesotans) go years between trips there.  Yes, you can buy everything there, but since we have indoor malls everywhere with the same general assortment of stores, there really isn’t a reason to go there, ever.

Unless, of course, you need all of the stores AT ONCE.

Or you want to do some serious people watching while trying to find parking spots in ramps where everyone else has abandoned any driving skills they may have once had, in addition to all reason.

But what I’m going to tell you about isn’t the fact that we bought clothes and shoes and all manner of lady-things.  Or that someone with a Baby On Board sticker in the back of their minivan tried to run us off the road as we were exiting The Scene.

No no.

It’s about Chipotle.

See, after making the executive decision that we should hold off on lunch eating until jeans-buying was done (probably the most inspired move of the day) we had to figure out where we wanted to eat (ideally fresh, not too processed, inexpensive, fast).

And when I suggested Chipotle, Jenna chirped, I have never been there before!

What…WHAT?!

Finding someone in 2012 who has never eaten at a Chipotle before is not entirely unlike finding A Lost Tribe.

So when we finally got to the hallowed, corrugated metal shrine to Americanized Mexican food, I had to do some documenting.

Jacki, Michelle and Jenna.

I skipped the rice all together this time and didn’t miss it, really.  See also: Today was my graduation day to The Really Spicy Salsa.

And the lady of the moment, with her meal.

Can’t go wrong when you get a Chicken Burrito with Guacamole, right?

What’s your go-to order at Chipotle?

Excellent Adventures

Last night = Another Excellent Adventure.

Molly, her fiance Bryan, Marcus and I actioned our own personal Friday Night Twin Cities Craft Beer Tour.

Our first stop?  The Four Firkins to participate in the free tasting they host every Friday from 6-8 PM.

This week’s offering…

Unfortunately Lucky for us, they added another beer (Ovila Belgian-style Golden Ale…a Sierra Nevada collaboration) after I snapped this and I am apparently terrible at label-reading today, so I can’t even begin to tell you what we all drank besides that.  But they were all delicious and when we left, we were all a few beers heavier.  Just try walking into that store without walking out with something.

I dare you.

Next stop: Steel Toe Brewing for a tour and tasting.

I sampled everything  (Provider, Rainmaker, Sommer-Vice?  And the not-Lunker Barley Wine) except for the Size 7, which was a personal failing on my part.

Our Tour Leader was Brewer Jason.  He told us all about the hard time he did out at breweries in Oregon and Montana, explained his brewing system design (from my understanding he personally created his system) and had us tasting the different varieties of toasted malt.  The malt tasting was most definitely a first for all of us.  It was fascinating stuff and different from any other tour we have ever been on.

That’s saying a lot, considering that one time where we watched a brewer in Milwaukee dump a bunch of ingredients into a fondue pot to simmer.

Steel Toe has been open for very literally a year now, and is looking to open their tap room in the next few months.  We’re excited about this development, obviously, and look forward to celebrating it in the same way that we have the rest!  With drinks.

Since we never stop moving, our next visit was to Fulton.  The food truck they were allegedly hosting was nowhere to be seen (you win some, you lose some) so we did a quick in-and-out with a few pints of Sweet Child of Vine (it really does taste better at the brewery) before hightailing it out for…

…Some quality time at El Taco Riendo.  Why?  Because chorizo, barbacoa, pollo verde and elote soothe my soul.  Because Bryan’s rugby pitch is apparently a mile away from the place so he will never be able to tear himself away (oops!).  Because if you’re going on a beer adventure, the grand finale should probably be  as strong as the opening.

What’s your favorite taco filling?

Double-dates: What’s your go-to?

A Perfect Day

The view off my deck.  7:30 PM.

I’ve been spending a lot of time on the deck lately.  I’m not sure if that’s because I need the sun and haven’t been running outside or if it’s because I happen to like listening to The Angry Red-Winged Blackbird scream while looking over the pond.

Put a popsicle in my hand and my happiness knows no bounds.

Today.  Was a perfect day.  Despite the fact that it was a Tuesday and the fact that it’s pretty hard to beat yesterday.  Or our trip to Texas.

Both also perfect.

I used to hoard them.  Perfect Days.  They would come once in a blue moon.  And I would remember each of them, distinctly.  When I needed to.

But if I may be so honest, over the past few weeks I’ve been overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude for how truly full my life is.  There are things that we’re able to control and so many that we’re not.

I’m not sure if it’s optimism, a bit of insanity or both, but every day I ask myself the question, How could I not love this?

Why would I even attempt moderation when my kitchen smells like ripe peaches (in the basket on the counter) and the corn hasn’t even come in yet.

Perfect days are not a zero sum game.

So.  The tail end of my perfect day.

Tonight, Eli and I headed out to Bradstreet Craftshouse to catch-up and celebrate Minneapolis Restaurant Week.

Where we sipped fancy things like cocktails called The Professor mixed with gin, lime and ginger syrup.

I don’t even drink gin but it tasted like a spicy-sweet ginger slurry with just a bit of heat to linger at the end.

How interesting.

And we noshed on plates like bruschetta with burrata, salad with chartreuse-lemon vinaigrette.  She had The Elvis which involved french toast, seared pork belly, honey peanut butter and bruleed banana.  Are you sold yet?  Me too.  I had the beer braised lamb ribs with pickled onions.  As a grand finale, there was summer sweet corn tapioca with coconut sorbet and mango.

It was wonderful and fascinating and different.

Why no pictures you ask?  Because it was one of those swanky places that thrives on dark lighting and extremely modern stuff.  Where it probably doesn’t matter what you wear because once you make it past the threshold, no one is going to be able to see it anyway.

It was just wild.

And all of this on a Tuesday.

At which point I returned home to that lovely view, a sweet potato baking in the oven for tomorrow’s lunch and an episode of The Newsroom.

Not nearly as glamorous, but perfect just the same.

What are perfect day-makers for you?