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Gotta getaway…

A few weeks back, I invited “Up North” for a 50th birthday celebration and spa weekend; who would turn that down? Though cold, the weekend was filled with food, drinks, laughs, massages and fun! Here’s a recap.

We kicked off the trip with a few pits stops along the way to grab apps, beers and just take our time on the 2 and half hour trip; no rush at all. But our first “official” stop was at Rafferty’s in Nisswa, Minnesota. The building was rather unassuming and I am pretty sure the only reason we were able to eat was because the hostess was not sure what time they closed. We quickly ordered so they couldn’t send us on our way. A couple pitchers of beer and a few large pizzas were just right to fill the tum after a long day of work and a few hours in the car.

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With the whole weekend focused on relaxation, we headed to the Grandview Lodge for the rest of the night!

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The next morning we were so blessed to wake up to a huge breakfast at the main lodge followed by an amazing hour long massage! The Glacier spa at Grandview Lodge was to-die-for! Just amazing! The staff was spot on, ameneties just perfect and the massage was incredible!

We continued the relaxation theme with an afternoon full of naps and lounging. After freshening up we headed to Prairie Bay for dinner. None of us had been there previous to this visit so we were excited to see what all the buzz was about. This restaurant chose to play a mean trick on its hungry patrons, in that you are able to see the restaurant from the road but it was a maze to get to the building itself. Once again we were met with an unassuming building that could have previously housed a Baker’s Square. At that point… wasn’t sure what to expect.

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This portion of the menu was rather entertaining.

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Purusing the food menu was an adventure, the possibilities seemed endless and most certainly did not fit the building or the decor– but my curiousity was on the rise. After much deliberation I ordered the Sugar Seared Angus Beef Medallions with Toasted Almond Cauliflower Au gratin. I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

Boy was I surprised with this was set down in front of me…

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The meat was cooked to perfection and had a lightly sweet but extremely savory flavor and au gratin was absolute perfection. This steak might be in my top 7… best steaks ever. #mindblown

After dinner it was back to the resort for live music and after-dinner drinks; Up North Style!

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We munched on popcorn, people watched the “locals” and hit the hay! The weekend was just perfect and I would do it all over again (minus the snow)!!

Cheers!

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Killer Quiche

Saturday my boyfriend and I rose bright and early (everyone did that right?!) to hit the gym in Uptown. Following our visit and a quick haircut (his) at Floyd’s we hopped on over to Bluestem. Bluestem is an offshoot of French Meadow Bakery where you are able to sit down and receive table service.

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Many of the French Meadow items are found on the Bluestem menu. But inside of sitting on Lyndale you are tucked away in a beautifully lit and teal-tiled hideaway. I honestly have no idea what was in this space before. There is a large winding bar and a few booths along the side of the wall.

We were seated at a round booth in the bar area and had a very sweet, and shockingly red headed bartender as our server. We must have arrived just in time as the space started to fill up quickly. When looking at the menu, my eyes were immediately drawn to the Sprouted Bagel with Cream Cheese and Lox; much to my disappointment, this no longer on the menu and thus not availabe. With a quick re-visit of my options, I opted for the Deep Dish Quiche, and he went for his go-to Breakfast Burrito.

The quiche has to be the deepest quiche I have ever had! With layers of flakey pastry, egg, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, leeks and goat cheese, I was melting in quiche-heaven. The mixture of the veggies with the sweet creaminess of the cheese was an absolute homerun!

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Hope this made you hungry– be sure to check out Bluestem !!

Cheers!

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Smack down!!

My visit to Genuine Smack Shack Lobster was LONG over due. I fell in love with the Smack Shack offerings at the 1029 Bar years ago but was thrilled to try the brick and mortar location. On a date night back in May I was so excited to finally indulge in a larger menu– though my love of the Lobster Mac has not waivered. We had a reservation and arrived about 45 minutes early to have a few cocktails. Much to our surprise they were able to seat us right then. Don’t worry we still tried the cocktails!

The Smack Shack is situated on the corner of Washington and 6th in the North Loop. The bright neon sign is hard to miss and the valet ever-so-prompt. Once inside, the atmosphere is loud and bustling. It is very much an open concept with high ceilings, large beverage coolers that separate the entrance from the first bar area and which leads you to the hosted stand nestled nicely next to the second bar, lobster tank and massive boiler.

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We were seated at a comfortable 2-top in what I would consider the main dining area, near the kitchen. For libations, I opted for a Mass Mule (SS’s play on the Moscow Mule) and he ordered the Cucumber Cocktail. While the Mass Mule was nice and sweet, it was not my favorite; his on the other hand was light and clean and not too sweet. A great summer option and perfect pairing with seafood.

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The options on the menu were endless. He went with fish tacos and a wedge salad and I went with the Connecticut style po’ boy.

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The food was delicious; absolutely mouth-watering. But next time, I think that I am going all out and ordering the lobster! From those around me it looked like a can’t miss!! As I had predicted, I will most certainly be returning to eat again and again!

Genuine Smack Shack Lobster

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Grilled to Perfection

So, it is has been way too long but I am going to keep this one short and sweet. I promise I will make up for my absence. I am usually a fairly healthy eater but with my schedule the past few weeks this endeavor seems to have gone to the wayside. Nonetheless, I am back on the bandwagon and today all I could think about (no joke) was portobello mushrooms.

See, when I was in high school I worked at an Italian Restaurant in Clive, Iowa called Cosi Cucina. They had a great selection on their menu but one of my all time favorites was the Grilled Portobello appetizer. It was simple and clean; just the perfect combination of spices. So as I was day-dreaming about mushrooms at work, I figured I would give it a try at home tonight.

Keeping things simple, I prepped two large portobello mushroom caps by rinsing and letting them air dry. I then used a spoon to gently scrape the gills from the underside of the ‘shroom. With the now-gill-less side up I drizzled the cap with olive oil, sea salt, fresh ground pepper and minced garlic. I let the oil and spice soak in for about 10 minutes and then repeated this step again sans garlic. Once absorpbed, I ran outside to light the grill (about medium to high heat). Before putting the caps on the grill, I flipped the mushrooms over and lightly drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Once the grill was ready to go I conducted somewhat of an experiment. I wasn’t certain if it was best to put it right on the grate or if I should put it in a grill pan. So, I did one each way. Super simple to cook; 5 minutes each side and you are done! No joke, it is that simple!

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These turned out to be the perfect summer dinner! And I much preferred the mushroom that went straight on the grill. Savory but light and absolutely delicious! I will absolutely be having this for dinner again soon– thankfully I have two more in the fridge as we speak!!!

Cheers!

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Winter food… in May…ugh

Unfortunately yesterday was a chilly and blustery day. While those words are typically reserved for winter weather, I live in Minnesota so they can be used at any time. Due to the cold snap I felt the need for a comforting meal. So I stopped on by my “Feed Me-Soup & Salad” Pinterest board to see if I had “pinned” anything that looked appetizing.

One of the pins was for Anthony Bourdain’s mushroom soup. I always like to read the reviews, tips, and modifications that people often leave on a recipe post and from that I pulled some great ideas. Bourdain’s recipe is delightfully simple. (Mushroom Soup)

While I thought this sounded wonderful alongside a grilled cheese sandwich, my boyfriend had asked for a hearty soup (he must have been craving comfort food too). This is where my improvisation and those modifications came into play. I began with the mushrooms and instead of Bourdain’s way, I followed Pastor Ryan’s Pan Seared Mushroom recipe from the Pioneer Woman (Pan-Seared Mushrooms) My thought was that pan-searing the mushrooms would create a deep, rich flavor and really showcase the mushrooms.

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Slice the mushrooms about 1/4 inch thick…

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Next up I put a cast-iron skillet over high heat, on the stove. I added about a tablespoon of canola oil– though use whatever suits your fancy. Once the oil is hot, add a couple handfuls of mushrooms to the pan. SSSSSSSSSSSSSSSsssssiizzzllle.

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As the mushrooms begin to shrink from the heat, move them to the edges and add a little canola oil to the middle of the pan along with the remaining mushrooms. At this point, I added about 2.5 tablespoons of butter, and shallots as well as salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste.

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Now, I am no Pastor but these are DIVINE on their own. Anyway, once the mushrooms were done, I set them aside and started browning 2 lbs of Jimmy Dean Regular Pork Sausage in a large stock pot.

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Once browned I removed the sausage from the stock pot and drained in a strainer. Don’t worry about the sausage drippings in the bottom of the pan– it only makes it better. I then added the mushrooms, 10 cups chicken broth and 6-8 sprigs of chopped parsley to the stock pot.

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I brought the mixture to a boil. Once boiling I reduced the temp to a simmer and allowed the soup to bubble it’s way to decliciousness for the next hour. At the hour mark, I used an immersion blennder right in the pot. All of the mushrooms and parsley will turn to little bits, and the soup will go from clear to cloudy. I then spooned the sausage into the mixture, added about 2 ounces of red wine and brought the mixture back to a similar.

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In a separate pot, I begin boiling Buitoni Mixed Cheese Tortellini

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Once cooked, I drained the pasta and added it along with two handles of spinach to the stock pot.

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I let the soup cook just long enough for the spinach to wilt and then served a few ladlefuls with a traditional grilled cheese sandwich. YUM!!!

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The soup was rich and dancing with mushroom flavor. The tortellini was the perfect touch with it’s creamy filling and and tangoed so gently with the wilted spinach. At my house, this was a hit– actually a homerun… all the way out of the ballpark!

Cheers!

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O.b.s.e.s.s.i.o.n.

Time for another confession (uh-oh). Not sure how it has come to this but I have an obsession. It might not be considered a “healthy” obsession but it is mine nonetheless. I will own it. I am obessesed with…

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Yup… you read the correctly, (yo)gurt[lab] and with the recent rise in temps, this obession might be getting out of control. I just can’t help myself. All the flavors of ice cream, topping options; sweet, savory, salty… how is a girl to choose?

I am not sure sure how I go about finalizing my yogurt concoctions, as I am usually so excited some visits are a blur. But I do know the past 2 times I have visited this little gem, I have opted for Tahitian Vanilla yogurt topped with strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, kiwi and cheesecake bites. Yumm….cheesecake bites.

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Sorry I got a little distracted, that picture looks rather delish if you ask me. Anyway, if you have not been, you should go. I have found it helps to take a walk around Calhoun BEFORE having digging in– that way yogurt sans guilt!

Check out their website for location info and details!
http://www.yogurtlabs.com/

Cheers!!!

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Tequila! (Come on channel your inner Pee Wee)

Saturday night I ventured to Barrio in Edina for some pre-dinner drinks to celebrate my boyfriend’s little sister’s birthday (don’t worry she is of age). Even though there are 3 locations in the cities, I have only visited the Minneapolis watering hole.

The large open space echoes many of the aspects you find at the downtown location. Similar decor, energetic atmosphere, and the same awesome menu.

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Initially I was going to go the standard margarita route and order the Trinity. But then I spotted it, Enter the Dragon.

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Yup, you read that correctly. Passion fruit and Fresno peppers… yes, please!

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I am uncertain how to perfectly describe this drink. Honestly the first thing that came to mind was Hawaii. “This tastes like Hawaii in a glass”. But that does little good for you as a reader…

The front end of this drink has a smooth creaminess that you may come to expect of the passion fruit, while the back end provides the kick you would know is coming with a fresno pepper. This drink has perfect balance as there is just enough spice begging you to take another sip but not so much so that you want to slide it back to the bartender and ask for something else.

Honestly, the only thing that could have made this better would have been sitting on the patio, in the sun, wearing a dress, and wedges. Mother nature did not work in my favor but this drink was divine. I will be heading back for this drink and maybe some fresh made guac and chips!

Want check out Barrio?? Click below!
http://barriotequila.com/barrio/#!/CocinadelBarrio”>http://barriotequila.com/barrio/#!/CocinadelBarrio

Cheers!!

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Pistachio what?! Seriously? No Seriously!?

Having been under the weather with the flu all last week (yuck!) I was blessed with the delivery of one of my favorite treats of all time… CHEESECAKE! Only this cheesecake had a spin on it; pistachio cheesecake.
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This bright green little gem came from Eli’s Food & Cocktails in NE Minneapolis. It was packed with smooth cream cheese and punched a huge pistachio flavor. One of my favorite parts was the texture; not only did it have the traditional firmness but there were bits of crushed pistachio throughout. Additionally, the crust was absolute perfection with just the right amount of butter to hold the crumbs together and keep them moist. That’s not all… the raspberry sauce… oh the raspberry sauce; it was divine. Fresh and clean with just the right amount of tart to counterbalance the nutty cheesecake.
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This might have been the best delivery since chocolate milk! Anyway, I have been to Eli’s many times but have never let these green eyes grace the dessert menu– it’s all over now as I have already been craving this since my last bite! YIKES! Dig in!

( http://elisfoodandcocktails.com/ )

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Lox of Love

My first time… making Lox

When I was in L.A. my favorite tour guide took me to a killer breakfast place called The Griddle Cafe on Sunset Boulevard. Now, breakfast is my favorite meal of the day… no matter what time I am eating; needless to say, I was thrilled to try! The lengthy menu made it very difficult to make a decision but I ended up choosing the Deli and Eggs. This entailed “sliced lox, served with red onions, capers tomatoes, a bagel, cream cheese and two eggs”. When it was served it was beautiful and looked so delicious. I was so excited and then so quickly disappointed when I realized that my phone was dead, and there was no camera in my purse. Ugghhh…. REALLY?!?! Just my luck.

So, upon arriving home, I wanted to re-create this little gem at home. Since I try to limit my carb intake I made a few modifications and worked with what I already had at home– lacking eggs, onions, bagels and capers this was still a great treat thought next time I will have all the fixings.

I started with a thin layer of low fat Trader Joe’s cream cheese on Olive Oil and Pepper Triscuits

I then sliced up a home grown tomato from my garden

And put it on top of the triscuits

Next up… it was time for the Nova Salmon, also from Trader Joe’s. I purchased a fillet which was very sliceable and begging to be eaten…

While this was not the Deli and Eggs nor did I have the wonderful company I had at The Griddle Cafe, this simple snack did the trick and will have to suffice until next time.

Cheers!

Nom, Nom, Nom

My first time… at all of these restaurants/food joints 

While in Kauai a few weeks back we made sure to try out many of the local establishments; one of my favorite parts of traveling.  Here is a quick recap…


Drooling??

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