I’ve been on a bit of a blogging hiatus, since I got a really nasty cold from my little one and have been pretty well out of commission. I’ve been so sick in fact, that I didn’t even get my favorite cure-all, a bowl of Pho.
I’ve been told pho is best home-made, but I’ve not had the opportunity to verify this. My favorite variety of Pho is Pho Tai. My older daughters favorite version is something she made up that the folks at Mai Village call broccoli Pho.
It is exactly what is sounds like. Broth, noodles and broccoli. What I like about pho is that it’s a simple dish with really complex flavors. It is one of my favorite “on a budget” meals.
Obento-ya (warning: this site plays music, so if you’re trying to be stealthy, don’t click!)
There are a number of reasons for my choices above, it’s usually a combination of quality of food, price, although some are much more expensive than others, and overall experience when I’ve dined there. They are in no particular order, although I would have to say that True Thai does usually top my list.
I realized I’ve missed a few, these all deserve honorable mentions but didn’t make it on the current list of 10.
Punch – The one in Highland Park, none of the others
Adelita’s – recommended by a friend, simple but tasty and not spendy, which is always a plus.
This is sort of cheater post, since I’ve been sick and haven’t written much, so instead I’m just filling up the space with pretty pictures of sushi and other assorted Japanese fare. Don’t hold it against me. I promise I’ll have lots more to say after the antibiotics do their worst.
Among my favorite foods is Sushi. I wasn’t cool like many others, and it took me a little while to really develop a taste for it. (Even now I’m not a very big fan of the fishier fish in nigiri.) However, since I’m married to a man whose family is from Japan it was a pretty inevitable that I’d have plenty of opportunities to try sushi. In fact, my husband loves telling this story that on one of our first dates we went to Sakura, and he ordered for us, since I didn’t really know what I was doing. I think I’d eaten sushi once before that, and that was in 7th grade for our “cultural awareness”day. Anyway, the big plate of sushi comes and the typical pickled ginger and little mound of wasabi. In my very limited knowledge of Japanese cuisine I figured I was safe with a chunk of the green stuff, since everyone knows that green equals not spicy (not true, but I was like 18). I take this huge bite of wasabi as my husband is trying to warn me. Needless to say, I was completely shocked. I remember the sensation of my entire nose clearing and feeling an intense powerful whoosh of spice unlike anything I was used to. He burst out laughing as tears started streaming down my face, and I was trying not to laugh as well.
That was ten years ago and I’ve had a pretty healthy respect for wasabi since then. Sushi though, nigiri or sashimi specifically, I have really developed a taste for. I have a few favorites that I go in phases with. Lately I’ve been really in to hotate, raw scallop, which with a little lemon juice is just amazing. I also really like ika, squid, if it’s fresh and cut right it has this buttery, melt in your mouth flavor. Sake, salmon is always a favorite, and I like toro, the tuna. Sometimes I really like the super white albacore, but lately I’ve been less interested in that. My last and maybe all time favorite is the ama ebi, or sweet shrimp. The body and tail come raw and is sweet and buttery, then most restaurants deep fry the heads, sometimes they are lightly battered, and bring them out super hot. You eat the heads and shell and it’s salty and crispy. Delicious. Although without fail we always do get some strange looks when eating the heads.
Dim Sum in the Twin Cities seems harder and harder to come by. Mai Village recently stopped doing it as it is a huge staff and food effort, and let’s be honest, how many times a year do you go out for dim sum? Using my family as my measuring stick, we go out for dim sum maybe three times a year. For restaurant who subsist mainly on bringing in business for dim sum, that is sadly nowhere near enough. Especially considering how staff intensive it is to do it well. This has been clearly shown by the closings of Yummy’s, Mai Le Hoa, and again most recently Mai Village tossing in the towel on dim sum. (Mai Village is still serving their regular menu, so don’t panic.) I know a few other places in town do dim sum, but I haven’t been. That’s one of the reason’s I’ve titled this Dim Sum, part I plan to go to as many Dim Sum places as I can in the next few months and then write-up a more comprehensive review of who does it well, and what I’d like to see improved.
Additionally I’ve been thinking about how many times the average person goes to dim sum in a year. As I said earlier I think this is the reason that it’s hard to keep good dim sum in the Twin Cities, What do you think?
This is me at Buca. Yes, I was invited, which is why I’m there. Yes, this is typically what I look like when at the generic Americanized-Italian restaurants. No, I have no plans to return in the future until, inevitably, I’m invited again.
It really isn’t just the food, although that is a large part of it. (See I-talian Food part I for further explanation) It’s also the feel of the place, the whole ambiance, if one could call it that. Stereotypical mobster photos, faux vintage advertising posters and famous Italian actors/musicians plastered across every possible surface hardly constitutes decor in my book.
Ah, well. To each his own. I just stumbled across this photo and thought it was too good not to share.
In all honesty, I shouldn’t really pick on Italian restaurants. I’m sure part of the fun of owning a restaurant is decorating it, but I feel like there is a line between fun and garish. This makes me wonder if other “ethnic” restaurants annoy people of those cultures in the way that I’m annoyed by Olive Garden.
I just found out that Town Talk Diner closed today. I wish I could say I am surprised, but my impression was that the food was a bit out-of-place in that neighborhood. I’ve had some spotty meals, and it more money then I (and others, clearly) thought it was worth. That particular neighborhood also doesn’t strike me as the right fit. Denny’s across the street thrives while Manny’s Torta’s and Town Talk didn’t, so you do the math. I understand that in this case, like in most others, there were also other contributing factors to the closing, however I’m still saddened to hear it.
It is interesting to watch, from an outsider’s perspective, the real business of running a restaurant. It fascinates me to see which places survive and which don’t. My first rather naïve impression was if you run a good business you’ll keep your doors open and if you don’t, you won’t. However, it seems that it is much more complicated than that. I’ve seen some really great places close and some that range from mediocre to terrible manage to keep their doors open.
I don’t pretend to know the restaurant business, but the owners I know pour their heart and soul in to their businesses. I would imagine it’s very difficult to have to close and I don’t wish it on anyone.
PS. I hope the mastermind behind the adult malts finds another place to serve them, they were fantastic!
Update: Adam Platt has the best musings on Town Talk Closing in March 2011′s issue of Mpls/St Paul Magazine.
There is really no rational explanation for why I love oysters as much as I do. I mean if you really look at them, slimy and grey, usually cold, it doesn’t really appeal to most people’s palate. In fact if you were describing a food I’d never tasted that way, I doubt I’d want to try it after that description.
Rational or not, I am convinced I could probably eat half my weight in oysters if you let me. Yes, I admit it. I would commit a kumamoto genocide, because those little guys are tasty. I’ve had some really great oysters at Oceanaire, Sea Change and a handful of other places. Although, I’m pretty picky about where I’ll go, since oysters should be super fresh, obviously.
I now have even more reason to eat them as I recently read Oysters are an excellent source of vitamins A, B1(thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), C (ascorbic acid) and D (calciferol). (Read more)
Additionally, I’m learning more about what kinds of oysters I like. I tend to enjoy west coast oysters, although I like to throw in a few east coast varieties for the briny flavor. As mentioned above my favorite kind is Kumamoto oysters, they have a sweet, almost watermelon flavor to them. Delicious!
I remember as a small child one of the highlights of the Christmas holiday season was my father’s parents coming to town. When my grandfather was still alive he would go down to his local Italian grocery store in the morning before getting on the airplane and buy up all the fresh baked bread. He would fill an entire suitcase with Italian bread and check it with the rest of his baggage. One of my most treasured memories as a small child was watching him or my father open that suitcase in the middle of the dining room and you could almost hear the “awww” sound of cherubs singing when the suitcase was opened. I remember my father’s favorite was the round rolls with the sesame seeds covering the entire crust.
My favorite Italian Deli in New Jersey
My grandparents would come for two weeks during Christmas and during that time we would cook at least one big from scratch Italian meal. It ranged from eggplant parmesan, hand made gnocchi, bracciole (pronounced bra-zhole), meatballs or chicken cutlet. Most of my memories are of grandma directing myself and my parents as she was a bit older when I was little and enlisted my help as she couldn’t see as well as she used to be able to. She taught me how to make the gnocci from scratch and how to roll them out with my two little fingers to get them just the right shape. She showed me how to pound the garlic and the meat then roll them up for bracciole and how to cook them in the marinara sauce so they would soak up the flavors in the sauce.
It’s amazing to me that there is so much more to cooking than just the mechanics. Throughout my adult life I have tried to replicate the recipes that she taught me but no matter how I try it never tastes exactly the way grandma makes it.
My grandparents are in the middle
She passed away at 99 1/2 on January 10, 2010 and in thinking about this first anniversary of her death, I was thinking of all the memories of cooking with her. Those were my most favorite memories of my times with her, that and playing cards with her. She and my grandfather taught me how to play cards as a small child and I remember pestering them mercilessly when they were in town to teach me a new card game.
I digress, I still haven’t figured out the recipe thing. My sister and I were discussing this, as she was telling me she has had the same experience. She had theorized it may have something to do with the pots that grandma used, or a specific brand of tomatoes. It amazes me all the permutations that can cause the taste to vary slightly, thus making it nearly impossible to replicate completely.