Archive for the ‘local establishments’ Category

Target Field

March 21, 2010

We interrupt the Vegas trip recap with a preview of Target Field. Tim and I were lucky enough to score tickets to an open house, and the new stadium brought tears of joy to our eyes. (Oh, and if you think we weren’t already excited for the upcoming season, the Twins signed Joe Mauer to an 8-year extension the next day.)

For pictures, go to my Flickr page.

We parked in the Target Center ramp and got excited when we could see the stadium from the elevator banks. They have signs up directing people to the stadium, which is helpful because we could see where we needed to go, but weren’t quite sure how to get there.

We entered at Gate 29 on the first level by right field. I love how all the gates are named after the retired numbers (3 Killebrew, 6 Oliva, 14 Hrbek, 29 Carew, 34 Puckett). They’ve done a great job integrating the Twins history with the new ballpark.

We took a few minutes just to soak everything in. We were pinching ourselves that we weren’t in another city visiting their stadium. This was ours!

We glanced over the food options, which met our approval. We overheard several people echoing our thoughts that it was nice to have more variety. At the Dome, it seemed that all the food offerings were the same (Dome dogs, pizza, pre-wrapped burgers, with the occasional Famous Dave’s barbecue stand). I’m hoping it will take several games for me to eat my way through the different menu items. There are four different varieties of hot dogs, a Cuban sandwich named after Tony Oliva, Italian food at Frankie V’s, State Fair classics (including pork chops on a stick, ribs, pork sandwiches, kabobs, and cheese curds), Senor Smoke’s (featuring nachos, tacos, and burritos and other south-of-the-border favorites), Halsey’s Sausage Haus, and several others. I’m especially happy to see the local options such as the Murray’s steak sandwich (which I had to sample… delicious) and the Vincent burger (stuffed with smoked gouda, which I’ve had at their restaurant and would highly recommend).

In addition to the various stands, they have several restaurants. One is Hrbek’s, behind home plate, with a focus on beer and bar food. Another is the Town Ball Tavern near left field, which has more bar food and drinks, with a Target Field Juicy Lucy.

We were able to explore several areas we wouldn’t be able to access during a regular season. We went down by the dugout, and we took a peek at the fancy seats behind home plate (padded, with high backs). We sat in the seats we’d have for our upcoming games (one on the lower level in section 109, and one on the upper level in section 318). We were relieved that the seats in the upper deck didn’t seem too steep, and we felt closer to the field than we thought we’d be. The seats in the outfield (right field) seemed steep, even though they were lower than the seats in the upper deck.

We loved the open concourses and the novelty of being able to follow the game even if you had to get up for refreshments.
The design was intuitive and it was easy to find your way around without running into a dead end. (This obviously was not designed by the same people who did The Crystals in Vegas.) It felt cozy and intimate without feeling cramped; it felt like the perfect size. It was slightly chilly, but not uncomfortable (and quite pleasant when you were sitting in the sun).

We enjoyed our time on the Legends Club level. They had several indoor seating areas, including atriums named after Kirby Puckett and Rod Carew. Each atrium had a buffet at one end and a huge wooden mural of the player at the other end. Even though we were indoors, there was plenty of natural light and it felt open. There was also a bar with Harmon Killebrew’s signature and a small seating area, with a few places for outdoor seating. The Metropolitan Club was quite swanky (and a place I won’t be seeing again). It was on the right field side, and also had a lot of windows for more natural light.

Also on the Legends Club level were the pressbox (named for legendary broadcaster Herb Carneal), a model of Target Field, pictures of all the other major league stadiums, and several suites. The suites each had pictures of a Minnesota player (like Terry Steinbach), honoring the locals. Each suite had a coat closet, its own bathroom, several tables with barstools, a kitchen area with a bar and stainless steel refrigerator, and an outdoor area to view the games.

We’re even more excited for baseball season to start now. This felt like a ballpark we’d travel to see in another city. We’ve seen the parks for the Baltimore Orioles, the San Francisco Giants, the San Diego Padres, and the Kansas City Royals, and this stands up to the best of them. I’m still pinching myself that this park is in our city and we get to see outdoor baseball.

Sea Change, Minneapolis

March 13, 2010

Kristen and I initially went to Sea Change for Restaurant Week in the first week of March, but we couldn’t overcome the temptation of ordering off the regular menu.

We arrived a few minutes before the restaurant officially opened, so we started with cocktails at the bar. I had a drink made with Bombay Sapphire, lavender-infused simple syrup, and lemon. It was light and delicious. A few sips later, and our table was ready, so I brought the drink along.

For an appetizer, I had the salad with warm roasted beets, pancetta, walnuts, and bleu cheese. It had the sweet/salty thing going on that I love so much. It was rich, but not overpowering. I ordered the ocean trout for the main course; it was served with spicy lobster sauce, pickled burdock, braised butter lettuce, and nori. Our waiter had mentioned that it was very healthy and filled with lots of amino acids, and it tasted like salmon but the flavor was not as overpowering.

I ordered another cocktail off their specialty menu. This time I chose the ginger-infused Makers Mark with apple-ginger foam on top. It was a great transition from the main course to dessert, and it looked like a cream pie in a martini glass, but it was more subtle and not overpoweringly sweet.

For dessert, I was pleased to see a pumpkin item on the menu even though it was March, so I indulged in the pumpkin ice cream sandwich. It was like three desserts in one: pumpkin ice cream between two slices of crisp gingerbread, little cubes of pumpkin/ginger cake, and poached pear with pumpkin seed brittle. Underneath it all was a layer of vanilla sauce with something herbal in it (possibly lavender again).

My fabulous dining companion Kristen had the oysters (accompanied with three sauces), the sea scallops (with potato/ dill crème fraîche/ oyster mushroom/ onion), and the banana cheesecake (topped with a hard meringue and passionfruit ice cream, and served with a tasty sauce and caramel corn on the side).

The room was a great place to have a conversation. I was expecting it to be louder than it was, but the noise levels were quite manageable. The windows offered a view of the Mississippi River and the Stone Arch Bridge.

The service was outstanding; everyone we encountered made us feel welcome. Our waiter paced the courses appropriately and knew the menu well enough to make recommendations (and I probably wouldn’t have tried the trout otherwise). The food was not inexpensive, but it’s well worth splurging for a special occasion, because the courses were delicious. The dishes had several layers of flavor to them, and every bite was a new adventure. The food was rich, but not heavy, and the portions were the perfect size; I left feeling full and satisfied, but not stuffed. I was also impressed with the cocktails, with interesting infusions and unique variations on standard drinks. From beginning to end, we had an outstanding experience and hope to return soon.

Social Commentary at Walgreens

January 26, 2010

In the interests of warming my car in subzero wind chills (and replenishing our dwindling supply of toilet paper before we had to reenact the “can you spare a square” bit through the laundry chute), I drove to our local Walgreens.

I was feeling a little salty because I not only had to brush snow off the outside of my car, but I got to scrape frost off the inside of the windows as well. (I know, waaaah. But it’s still messed up.)

As I rounded the corner, Charmin squeezed in my hand, I saw this:
Really?

And this:
Sad.

(The shirt on the right is supposed to say “My Dad Rocks” in a ripoff AC/DC font.)

Any kid whose parents buy these also need to look for the shirt that says, “My parents have low self-esteem.”

I don’t have a problem with the Grandma shirt, and I don’t have that much of a problem with the dad shirt, although I find them really cheesy. But “My mom is hot”? Really? Is this the companion garment to the “I’m with the MILF” tank we saw on a guy at the State Fair?

Town Talk Diner

December 24, 2009

Tim’s inaugural visit to Town Talk Diner in early December was a tremendous success. We had some amazing food and beverages, felt extremely welcome, and we can’t wait to return.

As we drove towards Minneapolis, I took a few pictures of the sunset (as seen from 35W driving south):
Sunset over Downtown Minneapolis

We sat at the bar, in seats close to the grill but away from the door, which occasionally let in the chill from outside.

Tim started with the Planters Punch, which contains dark rum, fruit juices, homemade bitters, and nutmeg. For a full list of ingredients, refer to their drink menu.
Planters Punch at Town Talk Diner

I began with the Hair of the Lion, which contains rum, egg white, and homemade bitters.
Hair of the Lion at Town Talk Diner

Because of their homemade bitters and their careful attention to mixology, it’s no surprise that several bartenders have worked at both Town Talk and Bradstreet.

For his next drink, Tim had the popular Jackson Pollock (Bombay Sapphire, grapefruit-lime sour, sparkling wine, basil oil). It’s as beautiful as it is delicious.
Jackson Pollock at Town Talk Diner

And I ordered The Green Fairy, which won third place in a national cocktail contest in Vegas. The Green Fairy contains Bombay Sapphire, green tea liqueur, absinthe, lemon, sugar, and egg white.
The Green Fairy at Town Talk Diner

Our food was amazing. It was comfort food, but it was rich and flavorful. Tim ordered the Philly Cheesesteak.
Philly Cheesesteak at Town Talk Diner

I had the Tomato Mac ‘n’ Cheese with grape tomatoes, grilled onion, and of course, bacon.
Macaroni and Cheese at Town Talk Diner

The staff was very friendly, and the bartender offered us some chocolate malt samples for dessert.

Everything felt familiar, as comfort food should, but it also felt new, like this was the simple dish taken up a notch. We’ve each been craving our entrees ever since, and I have a feeling we’ll be fighting January cabin fever with another Town Talk visit.

Kings Wine Bar

October 15, 2009

Kings Wine Bar is a small restaurant in the Kingfield neighborhood of Minneapolis (hence the name). I’d been meaning to try it since it’s been open, but my dinner partner Dave and I weren’t able to coordinate our schedules until a couple weeks ago.

The space is well-decorated. It’s modern, but cozy, and the staff makes you feel extremely welcome. The room just has a great vibe, and I can’t wait to go there again.

Dave and I were in a wine mood (and it is a wine bar, although they have a good beer selection as well), so we split a bottle of shiraz. We were debating between two bottles priced at $18 and $33 each, but the bartender steered us toward the less expensive bottle. It was priced that way because they got a great deal on it, not because of the quality, and we were extremely pleased with the wine.

Instead of ordering entrees, we ordered three appetizers: the Beet Napoleon, the Goat Cheese Fritter, and the Seared Sea Scallops. The napoleon was beautifully presented and tasty. The fritter was a ball of soft, creamy goat cheese with a flaky outside, and it melted in my mouth.

The scallops really deserve their own paragraph. We each took a bite of the scallops and immediately exclaimed, “Wow!” I found out from the bartender that they are flown in from Coastal Seafoods daily (so get there early before they run out). I’ve had scallops on the coast before, and I didn’t think that I’d ever have fresher, more tasty scallops, but this dish proved me wrong. They were perfectly seared and bursting with flavor. If you want a dish that will change your life (assuming you like seafood, of course), order the scallops. I’m still salivating as I think about them.

For dessert, the bartender (who had been a great food/drink guide for the evening) recommended the cream puffs. They were light and delicious, and a perfect way to end the meal.

Novel Handbags

September 27, 2009

Shoes are the gateway drug of the accessory world, at least for me. I love shoes, and always will, but I’m starting to branch out into jewelry, scarves (to Tim’s chagrin), and handbags.

Feeding my addiction is my friend Beth’s awesome store, Novel Handbags. She generously gave me two sample bags (which I’ll be modeling at Podcast-a-Palooza and all over Vegas in October). Not only are they beautifully crafted, but they fit my personality and style. The handbags are made out of books and coordinated with fabrics and handles.

(In addition to being extremely talented, Beth is an all-around good person and I honestly don’t know how I would have made it through the last four and a half years at work without her.)

The first bag is from a book called Meat. The book is red and features a set of gold-embossed carving tools on the front cover. The handles are a fantastic retro tortoiseshell, and the fabric inside is a colorful pattern of drink glasses, olives, and cheeses. To give you an idea of its size, the book is 8 1/2 inches long, 5 1/2 inches tall, and 1 1/4 inches wide.

Outside of Meat Handbag

Inside of Meat Handbag

The second bag is from a book called Cocktails and After Dinner Drinks (35 classy cocktail recipes from vodka to champagne to tipsy desserts). The cover is black, with shades of red, teal, magenta, and gold, so it goes with pretty much everything I own. It has a fun dotted print on the inside and black bamboo handles. The book is 7 1/2 inches long, 5 inches tall, and 2 inches wide.

Outside of Cocktails Handbag

Inside of Cocktails Handbag

Besides being the perfect topics, the fabric from the Meat book is from England (Beth found a great deal on eBay), and the Cocktails book is also from there (the price on the back is £9.99).

I absolutely adore these bags and I am happy every time I look at them. Beth has several bags for sale on her site, but if you have a particular book in mind, she also takes custom orders. If you are browsing in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, her handbags are available for sale at Truly in White Bear Lake and at Patina in St. Paul.

Having a Shocker

September 16, 2009

Snow Patrol

State Theater, Minneapolis, 9/10/2009

As lead singer Gary Lightbody explained during one of the night’s many sound snafus, “having a shocker” is when you have good intentions but things turn out badly. For example, you’re approaching the girl of your dreams and suddenly you forget how to speak. to him and the rest of the band, the night was “having a shocker” but I still had a lot of fun.

The show was originally scheduled for Myth, the nightclub in Maplewood, but it was moved to the State due to Myth being closed because of ownership shenanigans. We (actually Tim) had exchanged our general admission tickets and ended up in row E on the right side of the stage.

We got to the theater a little after 7:30, but decided to grab a quick drink at Hell’s Kitchen because the opening act was the Plain White T’s and I have a restraining order against “Hey There Delilah.” I heard from some people in our row that they were actually pretty good.

Side note on Hell’s Kitchen: I love it as a brunch or dinner spot, but it really isn’t my go-to bar for a quick drink anymore. This was Tim’s first visit there since it had changed over from Rossi’s, and he was not impressed. I believe the phrase he used was “hipster Applebee’s.” While their menu is much more adventurous than your average chain, the vibe is completely different from the previous space. Rossi’s was much more refined– it was dark and subdued, the servers wore white coats, and I never saw anyone under 21 there. HK is much brighter in decor, the servers wear t-shirts (or pajamas on weekends) and have many more piercings, and it has more of a family vibe. We did get some free scotch samples from a guy working for The Naked Grouse, so that was nice.

We went back to the theater and took our seats about 15 minutes before the band started. Gary’s guitar went a bit wonky and they had to switch the set around for songs that didn’t require his guitar. The band was a little rattled but they handled it well, making jokes as they tried to keep the set moving. They were very complimentary to their guitar techs and sound crew, making sure to point out that the crew was trying hard to make the show go on, when it would have been really easy to blame someone. The adversity and the band’s good attitude made the crowd pull for the band even more. I only hope they got all the kinks worked out before they opened for U2 in two days.

The set was a nice mixture of classics and songs from the new album “A Hundred Million Suns.” The set didn’t have a lot of momentum because the band had to stop songs or take long pauses between songs due to the technical difficulties, but it was still an enjoyable evening. When they were in the midst of each song, and everything worked, and there were no distractions, there were some great moments.

Bradstreet Crafthouse Restaurant

August 31, 2009

Kristen and I hadn’t met up in far too long, and we wanted to try a new venue, so we chose Bradstreet in the Graves 601 Hotel in downtown Minneapolis.

There were three seating areas. One was a row of tables and booths in the restaurant area, one was around the kitchen, and one was at the bar. We chose the bar, because we wanted to learn more about the way the drinks were made.

I had heard that they take their mixology very seriously, and do they ever. They had a row of medicine droppers and vials along the back of the bar, and the vials contained specially blended bitters. The row of bottles was unlike any other I’d seen. I recognized a few familiar names (Bombay Sapphire, Tanqueray), and many uncommon ones that I would soon come to love (hello, St. Germain liqueur).

I started with a Pimm’s Cup (Pimms #1, Lime, Tanqueray Gin, Mint, Cucumber, Strawberry), while Kristen opted for the Juliet & Romeo (Plymouth, Lime, Mint, Cucumber, Rose Water).  The drinks were fresh and aromatic. To drink at Bradstreet is an experience, from the way the bartenders mix the cocktails, to the visually pleasing presentation, to the unique smells and tastes of the cocktails. They have elevated mixology to an art form.

They are generous with the samples, too. One of the bartenders was creating a new drink for fall, and we tested it for him. It was delicious and whiskey-based — smoky and spicy with a creamy finish, even though there was no cream in the drink. Kristen said it tasted like the smell of the air when people are burning leaves.

For our next round, Kristen got the Black Walnut Old Fashioned (Bulleit Bourbon, Demerara Syrup, Nux Alpina Black Walnut Liqueur, House Orange Bitters), while I had the Son of a Preacher (a bunch of tasty stuff topped with absinthe). Both drinks were served in old fashioned glasses, with a giant sphere of ice in the middle. The large piece of ice serves two purposes: 1. For us to spin really fast while the bartenders finish making the rest of the drinks and 2. It melts more slowly, so it keeps the drink cool without watering it down.

For food, we had the Spicy Marcona Almonds with paprika, the crab cakes with honey fillo, and the spicy lamb sliders. Everything was delicately prepared and delicious. The almonds were a great starter and very flavorful. The crab cakes were seared to form the slightest crispy crust on the outside, and the honey fillo complemented the crab perfectly. The lamb sliders were incredible, and so were the fries and house-made ketchup.

We finished with dessert drinks. I was all set to order the Cooper’s Union (made with my new favorite St. Germain liqueur, which tastes like lychee), when the bartender stopped me and said he’d make me something else. The result was one of the most amazing drinks I’ve ever had in my life. He called it the Girls Can Tell (after an album by Spoon), and it contained strawberry, grapefruit, St. Germain, bitters, special bitters, and club soda. It was fresh and complex and herby and fruity and wonderful. And the cool thing is, if he were to make it again, it would turn out slightly different, so it was like lightning in a bottle (only much more tasty and less life-threatening).

We chatted briefly with a woman from Chicago. She ordered Amstel Lights because she had a presentation to give in the morning. We asked the bartenders if anyone ever came in and ordered rum and Coke. They said people did, but often they hear it’s the best rum and Coke the customer has ever had. They use small bottles of Coke, which tastes different (and better) than Coke from a can or gun.

The evening went far too quickly, even though we were there for five and a half hours. This is my new favorite bar and I can’t wait to return (especially if Ethan and Birk are working).

Smashburger

August 23, 2009

About a month ago, I picked up a copy of Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine’s burger issue. They had several different burger categories, but Smashburger won the “Thin Burger” category and had the highest overall score.

Smashburger opened a store in Roseville in Har Mar Mall on August 19th, and because it was only a five-minute drive from our house, Tim and I thought we’d investigate. And are we ever glad we did.

We went around 4:15, and there was no line. By the time we left, the line stretched halfway through the restaurant. We ordered at the register. They gave us our beer and a number, and we found a booth to sit in. Our food was delivered a few minutes later. I took pictures to capture the moment, then we dove in and experienced meat ecstasy.

I ordered the Smashburger 1/3 Pound Burger and Smash Fries:

Smashburger 1/3 Pound Burger and Smash Fries

Tim ordered the Twin Cities Smashburger and Smash Fries:

Twin Cities Smashburger and Smash Fries

Things I love about Smashburger:

  • The burgers are delicious. I just tried to eat my monitor as I was uploading the photos. They are juicy, but not greasy. I’m not sure what’s in the smash sauce on the 1/3 pound burger, but I want more of it. The burger is a little messy, but not enough to be bothersome, and the bun is sturdy enough to make it through most of the meal. The vegetable toppings are fresh and crisp.
  • The fries are phenomenal. They are flavored with rosemary, olive oil, garlic, and herbs. I could not stop eating them even though I was slightly full from the burger.
  • The booths are long, so you can fit at least three people on each side.
  • The burgers come in 1/3 lb. and 1/2 lb. choices, depending on the amount of meat you want.
  • The prices are very reasonable ($4.99 for a burger, $1.79 for fries, and $2.99 for beer). I’ve paid much more for burgers that weren’t half as flavorful.
  • The service was friendly.
  • They serve beer, and I was very pleased to see that they had Summit represented.

Things I do not love about Smashburger:

I need to increase the amount of time I’m working out because I’m going to be stopping here often. While their milkshakes did not bring me to their yard, they looked extremely tempting.

Donny Dirk’s Zombie Den

August 18, 2009

Last night, Tim called out from the other room, “Have you heard of the new zombie bar?” The Star Tribune had an article about Donny Dirk’s Zombie Den, and I eagerly devoured every word like brains. A repeating theme, in addition to zombies, was the Vegasy vibe.

I had to check this place out. As luck would have it, I had planned to get together with a couple friends at another establishment, but after e-mailing them with a list of reasons, we changed the venue (and a need for the diehard Vikings fan in our group to drown her sorrows over The Favre Incident).

I got lost on the way (note: do not confuse 2nd St NE with 2nd St N), but after a minor detour, I arrived at the bar. It was dimly lit, except when the outside door would open and occasionally splash everyone with sunshine. It smelled of fresh paint and carpet, and it looked fabulous. A mirrored disco ball pattern lined the wall, and the floor was covered in a tiger carpet pattern.

Donny Dirk's Zombie Den

I ordered the Donny Dirk, which is like a Brandy Alexander with chocolate ($6).

Donny Dirk from Donny Dirk's Zombie Den

I also tried a cherry champagne cocktail ($5).

Champagne Cocktail from Donny Dirk's Zombie Den

The champagne cocktails come in other flavors, including peach, aromatic, and rhubarb (which I also got to sample, and it was quite refreshing).

Donny Dirk’s does not serve food (although they have a fine snack mix available in ashtray-sized portions), but you can use a red phone to order from the menu at Psycho Suzi’s nearby.

The drinks were reasonably priced and tasty. They had a huge selection of beer, wine, and liquor. One option is to mix your own beverage (for $9), and they’ll keep it on file for you. I was tempted to pull out some Diamond Lounge favorites, but not without a layer of food to absorb it first.

The service was outstanding. We sat in a booth, and our waitress was very attentive and pleasant. She reminded me (both in dress and in the high quality of service) of the waitresses at the Peppermill in Vegas.

One of my friends, who is a major zombie aficionado, suggested that they add more zombie items to the decor, like a Winchester over the bar. We did notice a glass-encased chainsaw on the way out (“break glass in case of zombie attack”), and the bartenders were dressed like Shaun of the Dead, and they had zombie movies (with boobs!) playing on the flat-screen TVs at each end of the bar.

A fun place, and I hope to visit again soon.