Monday, July 26, 2010

Cross Country Dining Adventures

My recent work travels have provided an opportunity for several new dining experiences...
In Kansas City's Power & Light district, I had my first bison burger at Ted's Montana Grill. It was also my first visit to a Ted's restaurant. I loved the eco/environmental, fresh, made from scratch focus of the restaurant and the savory, tender burger. Slathered in cheese, bacon, mushrooms and onions, it went way beyond my expectations.
In Orlando, I had 35 shrimp at Miller's Ale House, a fun, popular sports bar somewhere on/near Disney. That's right, 35 of them. And, I ate nearly all of them myself (never a very good idea to skip lunch). This meal also brought another first: my first hush puppies. I don't know how I made it this far in life without ever having a hush puppy, but now I can proudly say I've had deep-fried cornmeal batter.
Also at the Ale House, our server asked us to try a new dessert: sweet potato fries with vanilla ice cream and caramel. It was surprisingly tasty with a nice balance of salty and sweet. But, the texture was just a bit too weird for me, so I don't know that it's something I'd ever order for myself.
In New Orleans, I tried a couple of fun spots. The first of which was Mother's. Famously known for its po' boys and rich more than 70-year history in New Orleans, I loved its no-nonsense atmosphere and healthy mix of both locals and visitors.
I had an enormous side of pipin' hot fries to accompany my Famous Ferdi Special po' boy.
The Ferdi was the immediate recommendation from the police officer who greeted me just inside the door. Jam-packed with "Mother's Best Baked Ham," roast beef, debris and gravy, it was a carnivore's dream.
Also in New Orleans, I had dinner at Sun Ray Grill in the Warehouse District. To start, I ordered the portabella fries. YUM. Deep-fried mushrooms with creamy Caesar dressing dip.
And for dinner, I had the most giant, most delicious plate of chicken nachos. Best part? There were so many fixin's, I had to eat them with a fork. :)


In yesterday's post, I promised an update on my third visit to Loring Kitchen & Bar. I'm happy to report that last night's server was really good. She was attentive, friendly and efficient, making for a lovely, very enjoyable evening on their patio. Hopefully the third time was a charm.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Loring Kitchen & Bar: A Love-Hate Relationship

I'm writing this as I prepare for my third trip to the Loring Kitchen & Bar already this summer. Based on that sentence, you'd think it was the best food I've ever had in my life. ;)
Located in the heart of Loring Park, LK&B is a perfect fit in a great location. I fell in love with the space as soon as I first walked in. Beautifully decorated, the restaurant also has a lovely open breezeway of sorts that circles around the room and opens out onto the park. I sat in this section for both visits.
The first visit was with a group for a friend's birthday (there were about 10 of us). I had the Lemon Drop martini, which was fabulous. So much so that I quickly ordered a second.
We shared pizzas to start. The classic pepperoni was tasty and exactly what you'd expect.
I had the LK&B Chopped Cobb salad for dinner. Refreshing, colorful and chock full of nutritional goodness, I was very pleased. With a healthy dose of chicken, bacon and egg, it was well worth the $11.95.

So, while the food was great and the ambiance fantastic, I do have one major gripe from my first visit to the Loring Kitchen...

The service. I won't go as far as to say it was terrible, but it left much to be desired. Our server wasn't nice and didn't seem to like us from the get-go. We had quite the check debacle, which the server further exacerbated.

Adding insult to injury, I also noticed that my martinis rang through at 50 cents extra each. Since it was only one dollar total, I didn't think it appropriate to complain. However, another one of my friends also noticed that he was charged a dollar more for his cider than what was listed on the menu. Ugh.


My second visit was under much different circumstances - casual drinks and dinner with just two friends (both of whom were also part of the first visit).
This time I had a Belini and the Beer Can Chicken sandwich: beer marinated grilled chicken breast, bacon, pepper jack cheese (though I substituted cheddar), crispy onions and honey mustard on a toasted sesame bun, served with fries and a pickle. Both were wonderful, further confirming that I really enjoy Loring Kitchen's food.

While the service was much better this go-round - smiling and friendly - there still wasn't much to be said about their speed and efficiency. Granted, it was the end of a very busy weekend, but really that's never an excuse for slow service.

If LK&B could straighten out its service kinks, it would have all the trappings of a great restaurant in an area already known for good food. If not, there's no shortage of restaurants I love in the neighborhood.

I'll be sure to provide a quick recap of tonight's dining adventure in my next post.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

More Eat Street Fun: Pancho Villa

Eat Street (a stretch of Nicollet Avenue between Grant and 29th streets) is one of Minneapolis' top destinations for local foodies. A hub of ethnic and diverse restaurants - arguably some of the best in all of MSP - Eat Street is home to my favorite local Mexican establishment: Pancho Villa.
Always bustling, Pancho Villa offers patrons the best steal for Mexican cuisine around (read: overflowing plates of deliciousness for as little as $10), and - while nothing to write home about - the decor is authentic and even a bit charming. Some nights even offer live music from a mariachi band or karaoke.
And let's be honest, 2 for 1 margaritas are hard to beat (ALL DAY on some days, including Fridays!).
I had the chicken burrito and beef tostada with rice and pinto beans. I don't love beans, but I generally love or really enjoy everything else that I have at Pancho Villa. The bursting burrito and cheese and sour-creamed topped tostada were no exception.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Visit to the Sculpture Garden

Twilight in the sculpture garden
When we walk around the place
Look upon the beautiful secrets
That all the artists made.

Midnight in the sculpture garden
Underneath the cherry moon
We can make our own beautiful secret
We can join the fabled few.
- Semisonic, Sculpture Garden
Every summer, I make at least one visit to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden at the Walker Art Center. This year, a friend and I made it a day-date.

With more than 40 permanent works, it's one of the country's largest urban sculpture gardens and one of my absolute favorite places in all of MSP. Well-known Minneapolis band, Semisonic, has a song about the garden that I just love (two verses above beneath the iconic cherry and spoon).
Nestled smack dab in the middle of Minneapolis near Loring Park, the Sculpture Garden, with its awesome sculptures and pristine grounds, feels like a true urban retreat. That it's free and open daily from 6 a.m. - midnight is an added bonus.

Also on the grounds is the Cowles Conservatory, home to many beautiful plants and flowers.

During our visit, we also explored the Walker, courtesy of free passes from the library. We saw the 1964 exhibit, which runs through Oct. 24 and features several Andy Warhol pieces. And also the Benches & Binoculars exhibit, on display through Nov. 21. Both were fantastic, and I would place the B&B exhibit among the top of any I've seen at the Walker. How's that for good word-of-mouth? ;)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Home Cookin' in the Country

It's been a crazy last few weeks, and I clearly have a little catching up to do! I've been traveling for work over the last two weeks (look for food highlights in a subsequent entry), recently completed a move to a new apartment in a new neighborhood, celebrated the Fourth of July and even turned a year older.

Needless to say, with all that's been going on, I've become a little negligent in my blogging duties. So, expect me to spend some time playing catch up over the next couple of weeks :)

You may have noticed that I'm trying out a new design template for the blog - jazzing things up a bit. Let me know if you like it.

On to this entry...

A few weeks back, some friends and I decided to embark on a "fake camping" adventure in the country. We stayed at the home of one friend's parents and enjoyed a country feast.

Our friend's mom prepared deliciously tender ribs from the Crock-Pot, which we accompanied with a tasty summer salad from Kowalski's, garlic mashed potatoes, fresh steamed green beans and a fruit salad of pineapple, strawberries and blackberries.

To call this meal amazing would be an understatement. Sometimes you just can't beat the simplicity of country-style home cooking.
To complement our "authentic" camping experience, we microwaved Fudge Stripe cookies with marshmallows. Perfectly gooey.

The best part of the experience was staying up late playing cards in a mosquito-free zone and ending the night in a real bed. Clearly, I'm so outdoorsy ;)