Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Dinner at Osetra in San Diego

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to attend the BlogHer conference in sunny San Diego through work. I took in two days of good learnings and great networking opportunities, alongside some fun sights in the Gaslamp Quarter. On the last night there, we ate at Osetra Fish House, located in the heart of Gaslamp.

It was a beautiful night (heck, every moment of every day in San Diego seems to be beautiful), so we dined outside, right along the bustling street under the bright lights of the hopping entertainment district. While we didn't go inside, we did glimpse the bartender swinging through the air to fetch bottles of wine from the restaurant's three-story wine tower (something the restaurant is known for).

I'm powerless to a good wedge salad, so it should come as no real surprise that I'd order one at an upscale restaurant. And this one certainly didn't disappoint. Iceberg lettuce, cherry tomatoes, crumbled maytag bleu cheese dressing and crispy bacon (those of you who remember my New Year's Eve tapas post will recall that I used maytag bleu cheese for my cheese-stuffed, bacon-wrapped dates...still one of the best cheeses I've ever purchased).

For my entree, I chose the lobster ravioli: house-made ravioli stuffed with Maine lobster and ricotta cheese in a creamy tomato vodka sauce. And it was simply delightful. The sauce was rich and creamy, the pasta was well-crafted and abundantly filled, and it all came together with a nice presentation and a filling serving size.

Osetra was a great restaurant to enjoy in a city that far exceeded my expectations. I'm already thinking about how I can go back for a vacation.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Snail Mail: An Introspective

Things you learn when going through the mail for the first time in more than two months:
  • Your subscription to Vogue ran out because you sent in the renewal notice but never got around to actually sending in the check,
  • Your last DVD from Netflix came in late June (are you sure you really need to keep that delivery by mail option with the impending price hike?),
  • Your complimentary Newsweek subscription (thank you public radio membership) comes weekly and you have yet to read your first issue,
  • Sometimes good things come (like birthday rewards certificates) but they also come with expiration dates,
  • And somewhere around 80 percent of all mail received is junk mail (perhaps that's why you choose never to open it?).
Anyone have smart, easy tips for managing the ever-growing mail stack? Is going through it diligently each day truly the only way?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

10 Things To Do Yet This Summer

I can't quite believe it's August already. Before we know it, it's going to be winter in Minnesota. I feel like the best way for me to savor what's left of summer, is to write out exactly what I want to do before it's over.

Don't get me wrong, I've had a FABULOUS summer so far. Amazing concerts (Kanye West and Usher at ESSENCE Music Festival in New Orleans (for a client event), Ray LaMontagne and Amos Lee at the Basilica Block Party). Great dining (Pizzeria Lola, Fogo de Chao, The Green Room, Al Vento, It's Greek to Me, Buster's, etc.). Fun road trips (Duluth for a wedding, Glenwood for the infamous Waterama, Iowa border for a cheesy casino adventure...err...chance to meet up with a friend). And cool experiences (tubing down the St. Croix River, seeing the final Harry Potter movie, meeting Wes Johnson at the Timberwolves draft party). Not to mention just great times with family and friends all around.

But, I want to squeeze in a bit more. That's not so bad, is it? So, here are the 10 things I want to do before the official end of summer.

1. Take a trip to the Pizza Farm in Stockholm, Wis., on a Tuesday night.

2. Attend at least one showing of Walker Art Center's Summer Music and Movies 2011.

3. Enjoy an afternoon filled with delicious French Meadow Bakery and fun around the lakes (courtesy of a Groupon and Living Social deal).

4. Take in a happy hour on the new Crave rooftop patio in downtown Minneapolis.

5. Treat my grandma to a Twins game and her first trip to Target Field for her birthday (this might be in September, so it's not so hot).

6. Rent a bike and explore parts of the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway.

7. Attend my first Third Thursday at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts: Art Perchance.

8. Read an entire book at the beach (no, I haven't forgotten my ambitious goal of 26 this year, and yes, I am still on No. 4).

9. Hit up the Great Minnesota Get-Together. I can only handle the state fair once every couple of years. I think I'm up for the challenge again in 2011.

10. Mark my triumphant return to yoga by the end of summer. Yes, I went off yoga for the summer knowing it's a busy (and more expensive) time of year, but I'm going through serious CorePower withdrawals.

So, there you have it. The good news is that by doing all of these things, I'll also have fun new stuff to blog about :)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Dinner at The Green Room

Last week found me with exciting dinner plans: the chance to check out The Green Room in Stillwater, a new-ish, well-reviewed restaurant whose co-owner and chef happens to be the brother of one of my dearest friends.

I intentionally try to find excuses not to stray too far from the city, but even I have a hard time thinking of reasons not to go to Stillwater. It's one of those great little cities filled with beautiful historic architecture, breathtaking views and quaint shopping.

The Green Room itself is in a historic building. Its simplistic decor - unadorned brick walls, simple neon sign, high ceilings and open space - pulled me in from the start. There was also a steady, but not overwhelming, easy-going crowd, which made the experience even more enjoyable (plus, we scored a private, secluded table in the back - it pays to dine out with the chef's sister!).

To start, we were brought out an adorable mini loaf of bread with a buttery spread even a butter hater can't ignore. The bread was fresh and tasty. Both soft and hearty.

We then shared the Homemade Hummus and Babba Ganoush appetizer, which certainly qualifies as one of the most interesting and delightful presentations I've ever seen. It was also very good (especially considering you'd have to be a fool to not love hummus).

For the main course, I went with a half salad (Blue Cheese and Romaine)...

And a half portion of the Ricotta and Spinach Gnocchi (server recommendation when I couldn't decide between the gnocchi and chicken rigatoni...main selling point: it's handmade).

I really liked both. More accurately, I loved the salad and really liked the pasta. The salad, with its shredded romaine, bacon, tomato, red onion, blue cheese, pine nuts and blue cheese dressing was fantastic. So much blue cheese that I actually had a little left over at the end rather than wishing for more, and a perfect crunchy addition was made with the pine nuts.

I have to admit I was a little apprehensive when the pasta first came out, simply because it looked so soupy. But my reservations were quickly relieved when I took the first bite of the gnocchi. It was SO good. The prosciutto was much thicker than I expected and the white wine garlic sauce was very flavorful. Perhaps too flavorful. My only gripe (and it's a small one as a garlic lover), is that I was still tasting that garlic two days later. Of course, I realized near the end of my meal, that I probably could have avoided some of the garlic overload, simply by pushing some of the slices off to the side.

Overall, I was very impressed with The Green Room. Great food. Good service. Neat space. I look forward to returning on a weekend when I can wander aimlessly around Stillwater (and remind myself why it's good to venture out of Minneapolis-Saint Paul proper on occasion).