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Angry Trout Cafe

February 15, 2017

One of the reasons we went to Minnesota over the summer, besides to visit my husband’s family, was to take a day trip over to Isle Royale National Park.  2016 was, after all, the 100th birthday of the national park service, and what better way to celebrate than to visit one of the most difficult to reach, and least visited national parks.  A day ferry transports passengers in and out of Grand Portage, Minnesota for a scenic cruise out to Windigo Station where guests are given 4 hours to hike around the various trails and paths around the area or participate in a Ranger led walk or participate in a Ranger talk.  During our time on the island, we were one of the few in our group to have been able to see one of Isle Royale’s most famous residents, some of the more than 1,300 moose that occupy the island.  One of the items that makes Isle Royale so fascinating is the relationship between the wolves and moose that occupy the island.  To have traveled all the way out there and seen the moose was spectacular and amazing and made the journey to get there worth it.  At the end of the all-day excursion to get out to the island, we were starving by the time we made it back to Grand Portage.  We agreed to drive back down to Grand Marais and see if we could grab a late lunch.

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I really wanted to dine at a specific restaurant we had seen the day before when we drove through Grand Marais.  I’d never been to this particular restaurant before, heck, I’d only ever stepped foot in Grand Marais the evening before, but I’d heard of this restaurant time and time again from my sister-in-law who comes here often and calls this place her favorite restaurant.  Located in an old fishing shanty at the end of Grand Marais Harbor, this seasonal restaurant, which is only open from May through October offers diners indoor and outdoor seating with a gorgeous view of Grand Maria Harbor and the North Shore of Lake Superior just beyond that. Specializing in the finest and freshest local ingredients, the Angry Trout proudly serves local Lake Superior fish which I was just dying to taste.  After a morning spent out on Lake Superior and hiking around an island in the middle of nowhere, a plate of fresh, local seafood sounded perfectly divine.

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As you walk into the restaurant, a colorful chalkboard right out front announces the days fresh fish, soups and special dessert offerings.  Serving local, fresh fish caught daily by the local fisherman, the Angry Trout Cafe strives to operate under the concept of sustainability, purchasing and serving locally caught fish, organically grown and local produce from local farmers and hand-harvested local wild rice.  Once we entered the restaurant, we opted for a seat at a table inside, just next to the window so we could get a great view of the harbor outside and the late afternoon sun shining down on the water.

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By the time we sat down, my husband and I were both pretty famished.  We each decided to start by ordering some drinks to quench our thirst.  The Angry Trout Cafe offers up a few homemade sodas, which we decided to try out.  I ordered the strawberry-lime soda, while my husband decided to go with the cherry-vanilla soda.  Truthfully, I think my husband originally wanted the strawberry-lime soda, but once I decided to order that, he decided he wanted to try something different.  I loved the strawberry-lime soda, it was absolutely refreshing, a little sweet, and a little tart.  The addition of the lime twist was the kicker to the soda that gave it that refreshing flavor that kept me going back for more.  On a warm summer day, this was the perfect drink.  For my husband, he really enjoyed the cherry vanilla soda.  He said he could taste both the cherry and the vanilla in each sip of the drink and it was a terrific combination, slightly sweet and slightly fruity.  Again, this was a refreshing drink that hit the spot.

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After looking through the menu, my husband and I both decided to order the fish of the day.  If this was The Angry Trout Cafe’s speciality, we might as well give it a spin.  Today’s fish choices were whitefish and herring, we both went with the whitefish option.  For my meal, I chose to have the whitefish grilled.  The whitefish fillets are skinless, boneless and based with a simple sauce of olive oil, fresh lime and tarragon.  The meal comes with a fresh side salad and a choice of sides, for which I chose waffle fries.  Let’s start with the side salad, it was so fresh and delicious from the cheese to the julienned carrots to the beets (which I generally hate), even down to the cherry tomatoes.  For some reason, the salad was like a breath of fresh air, the ingredients were so fresh, it literally tasted like it was just picked from the garden that morning.  The fresh local strawberries on the plate were a pleasant surprise and the grilled asparagus was a fantastic touch too.  Everything just tasted so clean and fresh.  The waffle fries were amazing.  They were perfectly crispy on the outside and tender and hot on the inside.  The fries were lightly salted and just perfect.  But, let’s get to the grilled whitefish.  I honestly don’t think I’ve ever had more delicious fish in my life.  The fish was perfectly grilled with beautiful grill marks on the fillet.  The flavor of the olive oil, fresh lime and tarragon was a perfect complement to the flaky white fish.  It was plain to see, and taste, that this fish of the day was extremely fresh and even tastier.  I walked away from The Angry Trout Cafe singing the praises of the food and jealous of my sister-in-law who gets to dine there all the time, it’s no wonder it’s her favorite restaurant.

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While I took the grilled fish of the day, my husband decided to order the deep-fried preparation of the whitefish.  Described as a favorite way to prepare this local specialty, the whitefish is lightly breaded and fried to a crispy golden brown.  Again, much like with my meal, my husband also decided to choose waffle fries for his side dish for his meal.  With each meal, we’re also given a bottle of homemade tartar sauce for the fish, ketchup for the fries, and homemade salad dressing for our side salad – in this case, we both chose the balsamic vinaigrette.  For my husband, I think he was as in love with the food as I was.  When our plates arrived at our table, we basically devoured our food without saying a word to each other.  My husband loved his deep-fried whitefish just as much as I loved my grilled version of the same fish.  The whitefish was perfectly fried and crispy, the breading wasn’t too thick, but yet stayed on the fillet perfectly without falling apart.  The seasonings were perfect and light and really brought out the amazing flavor of the fish itself.  Much like my plate, my husband completely cleaned off his plate.  This food hit the spot and was exactly what we were both looking for.

The Angry Trout Cafe lived up to all of the high praise my sister-in-law sang for years before my husband and I got a chance to try it for ourselves.  The setting on the harbor, the view, the service, and the food were all incredible.  The meal we had at The Angry Trout was some of the best food I’ve ever tasted, so fresh and delicious.  Months later, I still think about how amazing good the whitefish I dined on was, and wishing that somehow, someway, I could transport The Angry Trout Cafe closer to home.  The restaurant isn’t just a star in Grand Marais, but for any fish lover, it’d be a star no matter where you loved or where you came from.

Sven & Ole’s Pizza

February 7, 2017

Our trip to Minnesota was only in part to visit my husband’s family.  We also wanted to take the time to visit one of the National Park Service’s least visited national parks.  In 2016, the centennial year of the national park service, we wanted to make time to savor the beauty of these American treasures, so we planned a day trip out to Isle Royale National Park.  While technically part of the state of Michigan, Isle Royal is actually a series of tiny islands situated out in the vast body of water known as Lake Superior.  Only designated as part of Michigan when it was discovered because Minnesota was not yet a state, Isle Royale is actually closer to Canada and the arrowhead of Minnesota than it is to Michigan.  To get to Isle Royale on a day trip, it’s easiest to take a 2-hour ferry ride from Grand Portage, Minnesota, which is essentially the northern most town right on the arrowhead of Minnesota before you cross over into Canada.  Since Grand Portage is quite a distance away, and we needed to be on the ferry early in the morning, we decided to spend a night in Tofte, at a small chalet right along the banks of Lake Superior.  During our daytime explorations of the North Shore of Lake Superior, we stopped in the small town Grand Marais to grab a bit of dinner to bring back to our hotel room and enjoy while we watched the sun set over the lake.

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Growing up in Northern Minnesota, my husband, as a kid had often heard of this particular eatery located in Grand Marais, but had never been to it himself.  So, when we found ourselves in Grand Marais and we spotted this restaurant, he suggested we pick up some food to go and bring it back with us to our hotel.  Sven & Ole’s Pizza is a well-known, and well-loved Northern Minnesota institution, and arguably the best known eatery in Grand Marais.  Started in 1981 by two brothers home from school during summer break who wanted to open a small food stand, Sven & Ole’s was only open for a brief few summer months that first year.  However, in 1982, once the doors opened at the beginning of June, they never closed again, and more than 35 years later, Sven & Ole’s Pizza has grown from a 200 square foot space to more than 3,500 square feet and over 50 employees.  Sven & Ole’s continues to be family operated by one of the original brothers’ sons, though both brothers are still involved in promotion and advertising of the restaurant.  The name and theme of the restaurant and menu items is a bit of an homage to the area’s local Scandinavian population who immigrated to Northern Minnesota generations ago and whose descendants still continue to impart their Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish culture and traditions to the area and to the people.

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When we strolled into Sven & Ole’s Pizza, it was packed to the brim.  The dining room was filled to capacity and there were people wandering all over looking for a space to sit.  The idea is to order your food at the counter, take your number, and then go and find yourself a place to sit in the dining room.  Hopefully, in the 15-20 minutes it takes to make your pizza, you’ve been able to locate a table.  Luckily for us, we only wanted take out so that we could go back to our hotel room and enjoy the view of the setting sun over the lake while we munched on pizza for dinner.  After placing our order, we walked around town for 20 minutes enjoying the scenery before we came back, picked up our order and headed back to the resort we were staying at.

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We wanted more than just pizza for dinner, so we decided to get an order of garlic bread with cheese, served with a side of marinara sauce to start.  The garlic bread was nice and thick, just the way I personally like it.  It was toasted to perfection so that it was crispy and crunchy on the outside and piping hot and tender on the inside.  Sven & Ole’s loaded up the garlic bread with tons of melted cheese on top, which was bubbly and golden brown.  An order of garlic bread got us six incredibly, big slices.  But it was so good, and so delicious that we didn’t have any trouble finishing off the bread.  The garlic bread was loaded with terrific garlic butter flavor, the bread was crunchy, and the cheese was stringy and gooey bit with a subtle enough flavor that you could taste the garlic and the butter and all that goodness.  Definitely one of the better garlic breads I’ve had in a long time.

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For our pizza selection, we ordered the Havaiian BBQ Shicken.  Notice the spelling and pronunciation of the name of the pizza.  Again, remember, this is an homage to the area’s proud and longstanding Scandinavian heritage.  The Havaiian BBQ Shicken pizza is made with grilled chicken, crispy bacon, bbq sauce, onions, pineapple and mozzarella cheese.  The pizza was enormous and loaded with toppings.  The crust was perfect baked so that it was crunchy and crispy on the outside, and slightly yeasty on the inside.  The toppings were piled high on the pizza, and what I loved is that they actually chopped up all of the toppings into small morsels so that they were actually bite-sized and you didn’t have to take enormous bites of pizza just to fit the toppings in your mouth.  The flavor combination of the grilled chicken and the crispy bacon were amazing.  You could taste the char on the chicken, and I liked that again, the pieces of the chicken were chopped small enough.  There was an even distribution of the chicken, and the bacon and the onions and the pineapple distributed all throughout the pizza.  The bbq sauce was amazing as well, with a terrific bbq flavor that combined well with all of the ingredients, but wasn’t so overpowering that you couldn’t taste anything else on the pizza.  The mild flavor of the sauce was perfect, to bring out the sweetness in the pineapple and the flavors of the onions and chicken and bacon.  This was an incredibly well done “Havaiian” pizza.  After our first bite of pizza, my husband and I turned to each other and nodded in approval of our selection of pizza.  This pizza hit the spot in so many ways.

It’s no wonder that Sven & Ole’s Pizza has the reputation throughout Northern Minnesota that it does.  If I lived any closer, I’m sure I’d visit Sven & Ole’s time and time again.  This was, hands down, the best pizza and garlic bread meal I’ve had in a long, long time.  The flavors, the combination, the cooked-to-perfection goodness just put an exclamation point on a terrific day.  Enjoying this great food while sitting at the dining room table in our hotel room looking out over the wide expanse of Lake Superior as the colors of the sky turned from blue to orange to pink to purple and then to black was fantastic.  This is one of those experiences that everyone should have at least once.  If I could get my hands on some Sven & Ole’s pizza right now, it’d be heaven.

The Finnish Bistro

February 1, 2017

Prior to leaving Saint Paul, my husband and I had time to grab a quick lunch with my sister-in-law before we headed out of town to our next destination for a couple of days.  After having stopped at Just Truffles to pick up a few goodies for the road, my husband asked his sister what options there were in the vicinity where we could grab a quick, no-frills meal.  After thinking about it for a few minutes, my sister-in-law mentioned the name of a place she hadn’t been to in a while, but was something different and perhaps unexpected that my husband might be interested in.  As soon as my his sister mentioned the name of this eatery, my husband was all over it and wouldn’t be deterred from going to this place to see what they had.

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The Finnish Bistro, located in a nice, trendy Saint Paul neighborhood is a casual dining cafe featuring Finnish and European fare. As my husband and his sister both come from a Finnish background and grew up in a community that celebrated its rich Finnish, and Scandinavian history, my husband was intrigued by the chance to order up a traditional Finnish dish or two.  The Finnish Bistro, though having changed ownership in 2013, actually opened its doors in 2004 under the guidance of original owner Soile Anderson.  Having moved from Finland over 30 years ago, Ms. Anderson started a catering company, which had the pleasure of serving President Barack Obama in 2014, and opening the doors to a store known as the Taste of Scandinavia Bakery & Cafe, showcasing Finnish, Scandinavian and European flavors.  In 2004, the store was renamed the Finnish Bistro and specialized in good, healthy Finnish and European cuisine as well as some local flavors.  Under the new ownership of Sandra Weise, this traditional continues today and makes The Finnish Bistro a terrific neighborhood gathering spot.

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We arrived at The Finnish Bistro in the late morning hours during that period of time where you could either be enjoying a late breakfast or brunch or an early lunch.  As The Finnish Bistro serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, we really had a wide ranging selection of items we could order, plus a whole display case of fresh baked pastries, cookies and other goodies we could choose from as well.  The Finnish Bistro, sharing a roof and an indoor space with Dunn Brothers Coffee located next door meant that I stepped over to the coffee house to order myself a caramelized banana ice latte to go with my meal.  You don’t think I could see a coffee flavor with the name banana in it and not order it, do you?  While I’m not sure that I actually tasted caramelized banana, there definitely was a subtle banana flavor underlying the iced latte coffee flavor that added just the right touch of sweetness to the drink.  I approve.  My husband ordered a bottle of Main Root blueberry soda to go with his meal.  The soda definitely tasted like blueberries with just a touch of carbonation to add some bubbly.   However, my husband thought it to be just a touch overly sweet and while he’s glad he tried it, he probably would go for something different next time.

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After perusing the menu, I knew I would be ordering lunch rather than breakfast as I knew we were about to hit the road and who knew what and when we’d be eating again, so I wanted something filling and hearty to eat.  My choice was the salmon burger made with a fresh salmon patty seasoned with special herbs and seasonings and topped with homemade creamy coleslaw and served on a  toasted honey wheat roll.  The salmon burger was served with a small salad as well as a side of homemade cucumber dill sauce which could be used for the burger or the salad.  This salmon burger was a bit outside of my comfort zone for several reasons.  I’m not sure I’ve ever ordered a salmon burger before because the idea of a frozen salmon patty and how dry it would be just never sounded appealing and also for the fact that I absolutely hate coleslaw.  Whenever a meal is served with coleslaw, I can’t get rid of it fast enough and generally won’t touch it.  So, why I even ordered this salmon burger is beyond me, other than having read the description in the menu that this was a fresh salmon patty.  Therefore, when the salmon burger was cooked to order and brought to the table, I was completely blown away by just how much I really liked my lunch.  The salmon patty was fresh, and flavorful and delicious and not at all dry and falling apart.  The salmon was still juicy and the patty held together really well and was just full of flavor and richness and texture that actually complemented the coleslaw really well.  The coleslaw was chunky and thick and while creamy, the mayo in the coleslaw didn’t overtake the shredded cabbage and the julienned carrots.  The coleslaw still had a lot of crunch and bite to it and had obviously been made fresh.  The cool contrast in temperature between the coleslaw and the hot grilled salmon patty created a nice combination.  And that amazing cucumber dill sauce which I slathered onto the terrific honey wheat roll was the perfect compliment to bring the whole burger together.  Instead of using tartar sauce, this cucumber dill sauce complemented the flavors of the salmon patty perfectly and mellowed some of the sweetness off of the honey wheat roll.  I’ve honestly never had a better salmon burger in my life, and I shocked myself by finishing the whole thing.

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My husband and his sister, in an obvious sign that they are family, both decided to order the same item off of the lunch menu.  Their choice was the salmon lefse filled with salmon, spinach, red pepper and onions served with the house cucumber dill sauce.  They were both so excited about ordering this dish as I believe it reminded both of them of their childhood and it was a bit of a reminiscing type of moment.  Being the non-Scandinavian in the group, I’d never heard of lefse before and was completely clueless as to what a lefse was.  I soon learned the lefse was basically a Norwegian form of a crepe, almost.  What makes it different from a normal crepe is that lefse is made with potato, flour, butter and either milk or cream.  Growing up in Northern Minnesota, in an area heavily populated with families that are descendants of immigrants from Norway, Sweden, and Finland, Scandinavian favorites such as lefse were common place items.  At the Finnish Bistro, a fresh made lefse is grilled on their flattop and filled with a combination of salmon, spinach, red peppers and onions and served hot off the grill to customers.  As soon as my husband took his first bite, he loved it.  He told me I had to give it a try because he knew I would like it.  And he was right!  I loved the flavors of the lefse, but then again, I’m a huge potato fan.  It makes the lefse feel a bit more fluffy than a crepe and a bit more delicate as well.  But the flavoring of the salmon, spinach and onions filling was just so fantastic.  There were so many different levels of flavor, all of which combined perfectly with the lefse.  Had I know that the dish was this amazing, I would have ordered a lefse for myself.  The cucumber dill sauce was also a perfect accompaniment for the lefse.  The dill was a great compliment to the salmon and the airiness and lightness of the sauce, almost more like the body of sour cream, was a perfect match for the lefse so that it wasn’t too heavy or too runny.  I can certainly understand why my husband and his sister both decided right away that they wanted to order the salmon lefse.  The taste was so fantastic, my husband was like a kid in a candy store.

It turns out that my sister-in-law’s suggestion to grab a quick bite at The Finnish Bistro was a perfect selection.  The Finnish Bistro was homey, and casual and delicious and apparently brought back childhood memories for my husband and his sister.  The various menu items at The Finnish Bistro were so reminiscent of items that my husband and his sister grew up around in their own communities and in surrounding areas.  But it wasn’t just that the food was familiar, it was that the food that we ordered was delicious and absolutely hit the spot for what we were looking at. Food to fuel us over the next few hours while we took a road trip north, the Finnish Bistro filled our bellies and livened up our taste buds.  I would definitely dine at The Finnish Bistro again next time we return to Minnesota.

Just Truffles

January 26, 2017

For over a year, I had heard my sister-in-law talk about a truffle shop in her neighborhood that she absolutely loved.  Following her on social media, I saw pictures of these amazing truffles in so many incredible flavors that it would make my mouth water.  My sister-in-law and her husband would often buy each other gift boxes of truffles for special occasions, and I told my sister-in-law that the next time I was in Saint Paul, I wanted her to take me to this truffle place because I had to get my fingers on some of them.  Who can say no to chocolate truffles?  When it comes to chocolate, I would never say no.  So, when we finally made it to Saint Paul, I told my sister-in-law that we really had to have some truffles.

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Just Truffles, often referred to as the best piece of chocolate you’ll ever bite into, today operates out of a wonderful Victorian house located on Saint Paul’s prestigious Grand Avenue.  The house is not just the storefront for the truffles, but the kitchen where the truffles are produced daily and hand dipped and decorated.  The truffles are made in small batches without the use of fancy equipment, just skilled chocolatiers using a recipe perfected by owners Roger and Kathleen Johnson.  When you walk in the front door, you an often see chocolatiers in the back kitchen hand decorating and crafting the amazing truffles that are then brought fresh to the display case in the storefront.  Just Truffles produces more than 25 different inventive and creative flavors of chocolate truffles which include truffles made with fruits, liqueurs and other creative sweet treats.  After having served many a celebrity chocolate truffles out of their small shop inside the lobby of the Saint Paul Hotel, the decision was made to expand the chocolate truffles into their own full blown business with this brand new location on Grand Avenue.  Today, people come from near and far in the Twin Cities area just to get their hands on some of these amazing truffle creations.

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When you step into the store, you’re overwhelmed with the display cases in front of you packed with amazing looking handmade truffles.  There are so many different flavors to choose from, that come decorated in all different colors and designs and textures, it’s hard to know where to start.  There are truffles mixed with nuts, with fruits, with different kinds of chocolates, with liqueurs, they are all so tempting.  Not to mention the fact that the minute you step through the door, it all smells so amazing, as the aroma of the chocolate from the kitchen just bombards your senses as you can watch the chocolatiers making fresh truffles by hand in the kitchen.

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So, let’s explore some of the different truffle flavors available on the day I visited Just Truffles with my husband and my sister-in-law.  For those that like their truffles to be a little boozy, Just Truffles is right up your alley as they have a whole line of truffles mixed with various liqueurs.  The frangelico truffle is made with a combination of frangelico liqueur, crushed hazelnuts, and milk chocolate blended together and then covered with milk chocolate and more crushed hazelnuts.  One of my sister-in-law’s favorite flavors is the kirsch truffle made with cherries, cherry liqueur and dark chocolate ganache all dipped in dark chocolate.  Plum wine truffles are made with milk chocolate combined with Japanese plum wine and then covered in bittersweet chocolate which is then decorated with a beautiful swirl of pink chocolate design.  The bubbly taste of the champagne truffle is quite popular as it combines the flavors of Brut champagne with white chocolate, all of it is covered in more white chocolate with a design accent of bittersweet chocolate.  A very interesting truffle was the stout ale truffle made with dark chocolate ganache mixed with a stout lager and then rolled in crushed pretzels.  There’s the intriguing White Russian made with white chocolate ganache combined with vodka and Kahlua and then covered in white chocolate.  The apricot brandy truffle is made with ground apricots with the addition of apricot liqueur all whipped into dark chocolate ganache and then covered in dark chocolate.  Kahlua truffles are made by combining coffee liqueur with milk chocolate ganache and then covered in dark chocolate and topped with an espresso bean.  If you want a combination of white and milk chocolate, try the Bailey’s Irish Cream truffle where the liqueur is combined with the two chocolates and then covered in milk chocolate.  Other liqueur flavors included Irish Coffee made with coffee and Irish Whiskey, Amaretto made with crushed almonds, Pears William combining pear liqueur with white and dark chocolates, and Rum with Bacardi rum and dark chocolate.  Then there’s the signature truffle made in honor of tenor Luciano Pavarotti who loved Just Truffles when he sampled them on a visit to Minnesota.  Combining some of his favorite flavors, the Tenor’s Temptation truffle was created with milk chocolate, cream of coconut and Malibu rum all covered in milk chocolate.

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If liqueur flavored truffles are not to your liking, there’s a whole selection of nut-inspired and fruit infused truffles.  Tart raspberries and raspberry flavoring is mixed with bittersweet chocolate and then covered with white chocolate produces the Raspberry truffle.  Lemon Cheesecake truffle is made with lemon juice, lemon rinds and cream cheese all combined with white chocolate and then rolled in crushed graham crackers.  Similarly, Strawberry Cheesecake truffle is made using cream cheese mixed with bittersweet chocolate and strawberry flavoring covered in bittersweet chocolate and also rolled in crushed graham crackers.  Continuing with the graham cracker theme, there’s the S’mores truffle made with a combination of chocolate, marshmallow creme and crushed graham crackers.  If you’re looking for something a little spicy, there’s the “Hot” Chocolate truffle made with dark, bittersweet chocolate infused with spicy habanero peppers and then covered in dark chocolate and decorated with a pepper-shaped accent.  Too spicy?  What about a Pecan Turtle truffle made with milk chocolate caramel truffle covering a piece of chewy caramel and pecan all dipped in dark chocolate.  A Carmel truffle is made with caramel fudge sauce mixed with milk chocolate ganache and covered with milk chocolate.  There’s the Maple Nut truffle made with milk chocolate mixed with crushed walnuts and maple syrup covered in dark chocolate and rolled in more crushed walnuts.  Creamy Peanut Butter truffles are made by combining white chocolate ganache and creamy peanut butter all dipped in dark chocolate and covered in crushed peanuts.  The Chocolate Malted truffle is made with malt powder mixed with heavy gourmet whipping cream folded into a milk chocolate center and covered with milk chocolate.  And what about a pick-me-up with the Espresso truffle made with dark chocolate ganache mixed with heavy rich espresso flavor finished with dark chocolate.

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After looking through all of the flavors, my husband and I chose to order a box of 8 truffles.  We decided that we’d each choose 4 flavors of our own.  After we made our choices, the lady behind the counter boxed up our 8 truffles into this beautiful, stylish box. As all of the truffles are handmade daily and without preservatives and without wax, this means that the truffles won’t hold too long and should be eaten fresh and at room temperature.

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For my husband’s four truffle choices, he decided to order two of the liqueur infused truffles; Grand Marnier and Creme de Menthe.  My husband loved the mint flavor of the Creme de Menthe.  His first remark was that the Creme de Menthe tasted just like an Andes candy with that lovely mix of mint flavor and chocolate combined together.  The Creme de Menthe is made with dark chocolate truffle laced with creme de menthe and enrobed in dark chocolate.  With the Grand Marnier, Just Truffles makes theirs with orange rind and grand mariner combined together in a dark chocolate ganache and then covered in dark chocolate.  For my husband, he really liked the combination of the orange and the liqueur together, but he’s always been a fan of the subtle orange flavor.  Ultimately, he said he liked the Grand Marnier truffle more than he liked the Creme de Menthe truffle.

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Two of my four truffle choices included the Cookies and Cream truffle and the Cafe Au Lait.  The Cookies and Cream is made by combining cream and chocolate cookie pieces together with white chocolate and then rolling it in chocolate cookie crumbles.  This particular truffle was extremely sweet due to the combination of the cream and the white chocolate, two incredibly sweet ingredients combined together.  The crunchy texture from the chocolate cookie crumble was a good balance in texture to the sweet filling of the truffle.  This literally tasted like I was eating an Oreo cookie in truffle form.  Just Truffles says that the Cafe Au Lait truffle was the winner of the best truffle sold in the Twin Cities award.  It is made with coffee and cream whipped into a combination of white and milk chocolate and then covered in milk chocolate.  It certainly tasted like taking a shot of creamy coffee in a one bite truffle.  It was creamy and silky and smooth, much the way that chocolate silk as a pie filling feels like.  One bite into the truffle and you could really taste the smooth coffee flavor.  I enjoyed the Cafe Au Lait more than the Cookies and Cream.

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My husband’s other two truffle choices were the Key Lime and the English Toffee.  The Key Lime truffle is made with key lime juice direct from the Florida Keys mixed with white chocolate.  My husband really enjoyed this truffle because it was a little sour and a little tart, exactly the way it should be.  The fact that Just Truffles actually used key lime juice rather than just picking up local limes and juicing them made all the difference in the world in the flavor of the truffle.  The truffle just tasted authentic and refreshing.  The English Toffee truffle is made using a mixture of chocolate, almonds and rich buttery toffee combined together and then rolled in crushed almonds.  Out of the four truffles that my husband chose, he said that this one, which he expected to be the most plain was actually the truffle he enjoyed the most because the taste was just so unexpectedly good.  The truffle was rich and creamy and ultra luxurious.  The flavor of the buttery toffee really shined through and the combination with the crunch of the crushed almonds was a perfect mixture.  His comment was that he’d go back to Just Truffles just to get a box of English Toffee truffle.

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My final two truffles were the Bananas Foster and the Just Chocolate.  The Just Chocolate truffle is Just Truffles signature and most popular truffle.  Made with dark chocolate ganache, dipped and decorated in dark chocolate, this truffle is the ultimate bittersweet chocolate truffle, as they describe it.  If you are a chocolate fan, and who isn’t one if you’re shopping at Just Truffles, then the Just Chocolate is a must try item as its dark chocolate on to of dark chocolate mixed with even more dark chocolate, essentially a chocolate lover’s dream.  The truffle tasted exactly as advertised.  The rich bittersweet chocolate flavor was amazing and explosive the minute you bite into the truffle.  It’s obvious why the Just Chocolate is Just Truffles’ most popular flavor.  I would definitely go back for more of this particular truffle.  But out of all of the truffles I tasted, by far and away, the one that was the most amazing was the Bananas Foster truffle.  Made with bananas and rum combined with milk and dark chocolate and dipped in dark chocolate, this truffle was out-of-this-world and completely off-the-charts.  The caramelized banana flavor that is distinctive of bananas foster, that creamy, luxurious banana flavor really came through in the truffle.  For a banana lover like me, this truffle was money.  I’ve never tasted a better truffle in my life.  If this was the only truffle I’d ever have again in my life, I’d want it to be this bananas foster truffle.

After having sampled some of Just Truffles many truffle flavors, I see now why it has the reputation that it does.  It’s one thing to make creative, and inventive, truffle flavors, it’s an entirely different thing to make those truffles mouthwateringly good.  This is definitely a feat that Just Truffles has been able to create.  Both my husband and I found truffle flavors that blew us away by just how good they were.  If I lived in Saint Paul, I could see myself making an excuse to stop by all the time to pick up a few truffles.  It’s probably a good thing I don’t live that close by, now I have something to look forward to next time we’re in Saint Paul.

Izzy’s Ice Cream

January 18, 2017

My sister-in-law has long known that I love ice cream.  I don’t care the time of year, the day of the week, the time of day or even the weather outside.  If you’re going to offer up ice cream to me, I’ll never say no.  There’s almost no such thing as bad ice cream.  Although, there is a difference between your run-of-the-mill ice cream, and great ice cream.  Prior to arriving in Minnesota, my sister-in-law and I had discussed a couple of times visiting a local ice cream parlor when I was in town so that I could try some of the Twin Cities finest ice cream.  I don’t care that we just had a big, filling, delicious dinner, as soon as I walked out of the restaurant, I was game when my sister-in-law asked if I wanted some ice cream.  After taking it over with her husband and trying to decide which of the local ice cream parlors we should go to, they decided to take my husband and I to one of Saint Paul’s most famous ice cream parlors, at the store that started it all.

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Izzy’s Ice Cream, now with a location in both Saint Paul and Minneapolis, opened its doors more than a decade and a half ago in 2000.  Owned and operated by a husband and wife team that met while in college in Saint Paul decided somewhere along the lines of their successful careers that they wanted to be entrepreneurial and own their own business.  Somehow, ice cream was chosen, and the owners immersed themselves in the art of ice cream and gelato making, how to make the best, most flavorful ice cream, how to use the best, and freshest ingredients in season, and how to use modern technology to become more environmentally friendly in their process of making ice cream and operating their stores.  Today, Izzy’s ice cream offers up more than 150 different homemade, small batch ice cream flavors.  In 2005, they were named Reader’s Digest Best Ice Cream Shop in America.  In 2006, they were featured on an episode of Food Network’s Throwdown with Bobby Flay.

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When we arrived at Izzy’s on a Thursday evening, we were surprised to find that there was a line that snaked around inside the store and all the way out to the front door.  I guess I shouldn’t have been a surprise because Izzy’s wouldn’t be as well known and highly acclaimed as it is if it didn’t live up to its billing and therefore attracting crowds no matter the day and time.  As we walked through the front door and joined the line, we were greeted by the wafting scent of fresh baked waffle cones that permeated the air.  And there the waffle cones were stacked in containers right near the front door – chocolate waffle cones or waffle cones with chocolate and nuts.  I was sold as soon as I smelled it, and saw it!

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As you wait in line to step up to the ice cream counter and order, you pass several refrigerators full of pre-packed and pre-made goodies featuring Izzy’s ice cream.  Those ice cream cakes looked mighty tasty.  If I lived in Saint Paul or the surrounding area, I might have to make my husband order me one of those cakes for my birthday.  There were pre-packed pints of many of Izzy’s Ice Creams most popular flavors, including pre-packed cups of dog ice cream.  You could even get Izzy’s ice cream sandwiches, which came in regular and mini size or even something called and Izzy pop, which looked just like a cake pop, but I imagine it’s filled with Izzy’s ice cream inside.

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But, I wasn’t about to be distracted.  I came for the ice cream and I was going to leave with ice cream in hand.  While Izzy’s has over 150 different flavors they make, they serve 32 different flavors in-store at any one time.  As you’re waiting in line, you can consult their flavor board for the current in-store flavor selections.  This flavor board is part of Izzy’s inventive Flavor Up! system. This system updates the flavor board inside the store every 3 minutes with exactly what flavors are being offered at that very minute.  As Izzy’s creates ice cream in small batches, it could be that a flavor that was up on the board when you walked into the store could be sold out and replaced by another flavor by the time its your turn to order.  That’s how popular some of their flavors are.  Additionally, Izzy’s has a system where you can tell them what your favorite of their 150 flavors are and you’ll get sent an email the minute that flavor goes on sale and is available in-store.  But, don’t wait too long to head to Izzy’s after you receive that notification that your flavor is available or it could be long gone by the time you arrive.

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As Izzy’s ice cream flavors are often created using only fresh, seasonal ingredients, you can’t always find the flavor you crave.  But what you are guaranteed to find is the fresh possible ice cream made using ingredients that are current in season and found locally.  This combination of factors can lead to some very different, and creative ice cream flavors that are produced.  The day I visited, there were options such as Norwegian chai made with Wuolett Bakery’s cardamom toast and Teasource’s togo chai tea.  Non-dairy lime sorbet and mango sorbet were on offer.  There was cinnamon, another bold flavor.  More non-dairy sorbets such as blackberry and passion fruit.  And then there were some familiar, but well down choices such as Cookies n’ cream using real Oreo cookies and mint chocolate chip.

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You can’t really offer ice cream without offering some of the standards such as vanilla bean and vanilla.  Or chocolate and milk chocolate.  What about chocolate mint?  A little twist on the traditional mint chocolate chip.  One flavor that seemed to intrigue both my husband and his sister was mini donut crunch.  There was honey and there was salted caramel.  Peanut was an option, which was different as I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a peanut ice cream, only peanut butter.  Sugar cookie was a different flavor option.  I liked the sound of Coffee Break, which is different than just saying your ice cream flavor is coffee.  There was also Irish Moxie which contained Jameson’s Irish Whiskey and almonds.  I think my sister-in-law grabbed the last small scoop of that flavor.  Bubble gum was another flavor that seemed to be popular with kids.  Combine the mint with the Oreo cookies and you get Peppermint Oreo.  Cotton candy was another flavor that was a hit with the kids.  There was your standard strawberry, but there was also green apple.  There was maple nut and nougat nut.  And there were a couple of candy-flavored ice cream flavors; M and M and Candy Bar.

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I forgot to mention that one of the things that distinguishes Izzy’s from any other ice cream shop is their trademarked Izzy’s Scoop.  Essentially, atop any ice cream order at Izzy’s you get an Izzy’s Scoop, which is a small 3/4 ounce soup of ice cream.  You can choose any flavor you want to be your Izzy’s Scoop, and when you get your ice cream cone or cup, you see this cute, adorable tiny scoop of ice cream sitting atop the scoop of ice cream you ordered.  It’s almost like getting a little extra with scoop you’re already buying.  In a sense, you get an extra little taste, or an extra little sample of a completely different ice cream flavor.  It gives you the freedom to try different flavors, or feel like you’re getting two different flavors even though you only ordered one flavor.  So when it was my husband’s turn to order, he opted for a chocolate dipped waffle cone with a scoop of mini donut crunch with his Izzy Scoop being church elderberry.  It turns out that while the mini donut batter crunch was delicious and different, after a whole scoop of it, it may have been a little too much sweetness.  Apparently, the ice cream on first blush was really creamy and sweet with crunchy little bits of donut batter.  The bits of donut batter added a great texture contrast to the creamy vanilla ice cream base.  However, as the scoop of ice cream was consumed, the sweetness of the donut batter crunch was just a little to cloyingly sweet and a bit over the top.  Luckily, the chocolate from the chocolate dipped waffle cone helped to break up the sweet vanilla and cinnamon flavor from the donut batter.  We also, as a surprise discovered that at the bottom of each of the chocolate dipped waffle cones sat a chocolate malt ball.  The malt ball had two purposes, it plugged up the hole at the bottom of the waffle cone that is created when you roll the flat waffle into a cone shape.  Secondly, the chocolate malt ball is just a surprise, a delicious one to find at the bottom of the waffle cone, one that you’d never guess was there.  However, my in contrast to the too sweet mini donut batter crunch ice cream, my husband loved his Izzy Scoop of church elderberry.  He actually wished that he had gotten the ice creams in reverse and made Church Elderberry his main ice cream scoop as it was just so full of rich berry flavor without being overly sweet.

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For my dessert choice, I asked for a chocolate dipped waffle cone as well with a scoop of latte ice cream and my Izzy Scoop being M and M, all of that topped with whipped cream.  Talk about a decadent dessert, chocolate dipped waffle cone and homemade whipped cream on top of all of it.  Unfortunately, the whipped cream covered up my M & M Izzy Scoop, so I could taste it, but I couldn’t see it.  First off, the M & M Izzy Scoop was delicious.  It used a vanilla ice cream base, but was packed with tons of  chocolate M & M’s which were smashed to tiny bits and then swirled into the vanilla ice cream. This created, not only a colorful ice cream full of the signature red, green, brown, yellow M & M’s, but full of terrific chocolate flavor and some crunch from the crunchy chocolate shell of the M & M candy.  The ice cream was sweet, but since I got it as an Izzy Scoop, it was just the perfect amount of sweetness.  The latte ice cream was incredible.  I went back and forth as to whether or not to order coffee break or latte, but I realized, that when I normally order coffee drinks, I get lattes because I like punch of the espresso flavor that’s then tamed by the sweet frothy milk.  At Izzy’s the latte is made with a mild coffee based ice cream mixed with a latte macchiato paste that they import from Italy.  The latte ice cream was incredible. It wasn’t too strong, but definitely had that coffee flavor, which I love and it had a sweetness to it from the latte macchiato paste.  It was the perfect combination of strong coffee flavor with just a hint of sweetness.  The ice cream went down so smoothly and easily, and of course, the added crunch of the chocolate dipped waffle cone and the surprise of the chocolate malt ball at the bottom of the waffle cone was just fantastic.

It’s no wonder that Izzy’s Ice Cream has become the success that it has.  The quality of the ice cream shines through, and the creativity of the flavors is obvious.  I’m so glad that my sister-in-law knew what I would like and brought me here to give Izzy’s Ice Cream a try.  This was the perfect ending to a terrific day of eating local Saint Paul favorite foods.  Who wouldn’t love to end their day with some sweet, delicious and creamy ice cream?  This girl would never turn it down.

 

Supatra’s Thai

January 10, 2017

After a big hearty breakfast at Keys Restaurant, we weren’t hungry at all through most of the rest of the day.  So, we took some time to explore a little bit of Saint Paul instead and found ourselves walking around the Mall of America for a couple of hours in the afternoon.  In the early evening, we met up with my husband’s sister and her husband and decided to go out and catch a bite to eat.  Earlier in the day, my sister-in-law told her brother that it was our choice where we would go for dinner, so after some searching online, my husband suggested to me a Thai restaurant in the neighborhood that got pretty good reviews.  The minute he mentioned the name of the restaurant, I instantly recognized it as it’s a place I’ve heard my sister-in-law talk about and I know that she and her husband enjoy, so we decided that Thai food was what was on the menu for dinner.

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Supatra’s Thai is a local Saint Paul restaurant owned by chef Supatra Johnson who is also the author of a Thai cook book in addition to teaching Thai cooking classes out of the restaurant’s kitchen.  When we arrived on a Thursday night, the place was busy and almost every table was filled, not to mention the fact that the restaurant obviously did a good take out business.  This was a good sign and my husband and I were really looking forward to this meal.  The inside was light and bright and the walls were adorned with tasteful Thai artwork and design.

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There’s no way my husband and I can go to a Thai restaurant and not order Thai iced coffee to drink.  I know most people go to Thai restaurants and the drink of choice is Thai iced tea, but neither my husband nor I are a fan of Thai iced tea, but put a glass of Thai iced coffee in front of us, and neither of us would turn it down.  The wonderful sweet, and strong flavor of Thai iced coffee is just so refreshing.  The ultra strong brewed coffee mixed with half & half gives it that lighter, sweeter taste that is just so addictive.

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We decided to start off by ordering a variety of different appetizers for the table.  I really wanted to try the tofu puffs, and though I think my brother-in-law thought it was kind of weird, he actually gave one a try as well when it came to the table. Tofu puffs are made from firm tofu cubes that deep-fried and served with a sweet peanut sauce.  As my husband as learned over the years, tofu on its own is pretty tasteless.  It has texture, but doesn’t really have a flavor of its own, therefore, it’s the perfect item to infuse flavor in, for example, by putting it in soup where it can soak up the flavor of the broth.  Or, deep frying tofu also gives it this incredibly light and airy texture, and in this case, the sweet peanut sauce is what gives the tofu puffs the flavor.  The flavor of the sweet peanut sauce is really all you taste and the tofu is really just a vessel for serving the sauce.  The tofu puffs were actually pretty good, and the crunch and crispiness of deep-frying the tofu adds to the texture and flavor of the overall dish.

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Coconut shrimp was also another dish we ordered.  The shrimp is rolled in a sweet coconut tempura batter and deep-fried until golden brown.  The coconut shrimp are then served with a sweet and sour sauce mixed with sriracha chili sauce to give it a bit of added heat and a little kick.  The shrimp were a really nice size and so tasty and juicy. I really liked the coconut shrimp dish.  The coconut tempura batter was delicious and crunchy without being too sweet from the coconut.  The shrimp were perfectly cooked and tasted amazing.  My husband and his sister and her husband really enjoyed the sweet and sour sauce with the sriracha chili sauce.  For them, the dipping sauce had amazing flavor with just that little added heat to it.  In fact, the sauce was so good they used it as the dipping sauce for some of the items in our next appetizer as well.

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Finally, we also ordered Supatra’s appetizer combo plate.  The combo plate comes with 1 Supatra’s egg roll, 1 fresh spring roll, 3 chicken satay skewers and 3 cream cheese wontons and each item had its own accompanying dipping sauce as well.  The chicken satay skewers came with a peanut dipping sauce as well as a cucumber salad accompaniment.  The peanut sauce was well done and had great flavor.  The chicken skewers had a light charcoal flavor to them which was perfect and the cucumber salad was slightly sweet and slightly sour, just as it’s meant to be.  I liked that there were both egg rolls and fresh spring rolls.  The deep fried egg rolls came with a sweet and sour dipping sauce.  The fresh spring rolls came with a chopped peanut chili sauce which was both sweet with a slight touch of heat.  This was my favorite dipping sauce.  The fresh spring rolls were perfectly prepared and filled with tons of fresh herbs and greens as well as a nice sweet shrimp.  The egg rolls were nice and crispy and crunchy and perfectly deep fried.  The cream cheese wonton is certainly a nod to east-west fusion as cream cheese is something that would never be found in Thailand.  But wontons were perfectly fried to a nice crispy texture mixed with the creamy, soft cream cheese, which makes for a perfect juxtaposition.

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My husband wanted to order one of his favorite Thai dishes, tom yum soup.  According to the menu, this is described as a famous Thai soup featuring lemongrass, galangal and lime leaves in a sour, spicy and sweet broth.  Traditionally, tom yum soup is served with prawns or shrimp, but I’ve also seen it served with chicken before.  But, my husband likes the shrimp version, and that’s what Supatra’s served as well, so he asked for a whole big bowl of the soup.  The flavors were perfect, or at least the way we like it. At Supatra’s you can specify the level of spiciness that you want the dishes to be.  In this case, since my husband knows that I don’t like spicy food at all, he asked for this to be mild.  The soup itself is generally made to be quite spicy, so mild spice should be ok for me.  It’s because the soup also has hints of sweetness and sourness that balance out the spice and make this soup as incredible as it is.  It was so packed full of button mushrooms, which my husband likes.  They are so flavorful because all of the flavors of the broth are soaked up into the mushrooms.  The soup also had a good number of large prawns which were juicy and sweet.  This was such a comforting soup dish on a cool evening.

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After looking through the menu, my sister-in-law and brother-in-law decided on two dishes that they’d share with one another.  The first dish was called holy basil supreme.  This was Supatra’s version of a very popular Thai dish which is a stir-fry with Thai holy basil, onions, bell peppers and mushrooms, serve with your choice of protein, for which they chose shrimp.  Normally, in Thailand, this dish is made with ground chicken, most commonly, and generally doesn’t have the onions and bell peppers.  But what makes the dish is the Thai basil, which this version at Supatra’s featured.  It’s the Thai basil that gives this dish its distinct flavor.  Again, the dish was packed full of prawns and bell peppers and was well more than one person could finish on their own.  A little bit of steamed white rice to go with the dish, and again, a warm and flavorful Thai dish.

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One of the dishes that Supatra’s is well known for, and the name of the chef and owner’s cook book is her crying tiger dish. Crying tiger is a popular and classic northeast Thai dish made with tender beef sliced thin and grilled.  At Supatra’s it’s served with wok-fried lettuce and Supatra’s special dipping sauce with a side of sticky rice.  Like most Thai cooking the dipping sauce combines the flavors of sweet, sour and spicy so that every taste gives you a bit of all of the flavors rolled into one.  The tender grilled beef dipped in the dipping sauce full of spice and sweet and a hint of sour eaten in combination with sticky rice is exactly what northeast Thai cuisine is all about, simple ingredients packed full of flavors that are as simple in their presentation and preparation as they are to enjoy.  Sticky rice, in fact, is meant to be eaten with your fingers, it’s as much of a textural experience as it is a food experience for your tastebuds.  The slight sweetness of the marinade on the tender beef is only heightened when the beef is grilled to perfection.  The fresh lettuce salad and cilantro and other greens and herbs are there to add the cooling effect to the slightly spicy sauce and added crunch and freshness to a beef-rich dish.

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For my dish, I decided to order the goy see mee, which was described as Supatra’s Thai style chow mien featuring thin egg noodles that are cooked two ways; half are stir fried with vegetables and sauce and the rest are deep-fried to give a crunchy texture to this delightful unique dish with shrimp.  Something about crispy, crunchy noodles just sounded so appealing.  It’s very similar to a dish my parents used to make at home using glass noodles instead of egg noodles, but deep-frying noodles and then pouring over a stir fry with gravy over the noodles just creates such a comforting creation of crispy noodles contrasted with delicious and flavorful vegetables and sauce.  In this case, the vegetables included baby corn, snow peas, julienned carrots, green onions and celery.  Combine the vegetables with the wonderful shrimp and gravy sauce and it was out of this world.  Using this sauce over egg noodles that are stir fried are incredible as the noodles soak up all the delicious gravy, but pouring them over deep-fried egg noodles are even better as it the crispy noodles are just amazing, they add flavor, but more importantly texture.  And because they are deep-fried they are able to stand up to the gravy and don’t become soggy immediately upon having the stir-fried vegetables poured atop them.  This was just fantastic.  It’s such an easy dish to make at home, and yet so delicious and comforting.

I’m so glad my husband suggesting dining at Supatra’s Thai for dinner, and I’m glad that my sister-in-law agreed to it.  Dinner was a great time for the four of us to just catch up and do so while dining on delicious, filling food.  Everything we ordered at Supatra’s Thai was flavorful and all of us enjoyed it, it was so easy to see why the restaurant was not only busy, but so highly rated as well.  This is the type of restaurant that my husband and I could see ourselves becoming regulars at, if only the restaurant was located near us in Southern California.

 

Keys Restaurant

January 3, 2017

I think I’ve mentioned before that my husband is originally from Minnesota and while he’s left home, the majority of his family still remains in Minnesota.  We try and see see his family once a year, whether that be his family coming out to California to visit us, or us going to Minnesota to visit them.  In 2016, my husband decided it was time for us to fly to Minnesota to visit his family.  This was going to be a quick, long weekend stop to the Land of 10,000 Lakes where we’d catch up with my husband’s parents, his sister and her husband, and even his aunt, uncle and cousins.  After flying in from LA and arriving in the early morning hours of the day Central time, we had just enough time to lay our heads down in a hotel room for a couple of hours before being picked up for breakfast the next day.  My husband’s aunt and uncle were preparing to head out of town on the day we arrived into town and we figured that the only possible way we’d be able to meet up with them would be if we could catch up over a hearty breakfast.

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My husband’s aunt, who was born and raised in Saint Paul, and still lives in the suburbs, decided to take us out for breakfast at a classic Saint Paul institution nearby the University of Minnesota campus.  This particular restaurant was chosen as it’s one that my husband’s aunt, who grew up in Saint Paul remembers going to while she was in her college years.  Keys Restaurant opened its doors in this particular location in Saint Paul back in 1973 by Barbara Hunn who owned, operated and perfected the restaurant’s famous made-from-scratch recipes for breakfast, lunch dinner, and of course dessert.  Ten years later, the second Keys Cafe & Bakery opened and has now expanded to included 9 different restaurants and cafes through Minnesota and Wisconsin.

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The interior decor was like walking into an old mom & pop cafe.  There was an old fashioned cash register right at the front of the restaurant, there was a bar seating along one side of the restaurant, much as you’d find in an old diner set up, and then the rest of the dining room opened up to large scarred wooden tables, almost all of which were filled with groups of people there to enjoy a nice hearty morning breakfast.

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My husband surprised me and ordered the Key’s complete veggie scrambler served with a side of toast and homemade jam.  Now, neither my husband and I are vegetarians and we both enjoy our meat, so I was surprised that my husband chose an all-vegetable dish.  The veggie scrambler comes with eggs scrambled in mixed vegetables and topped with hash browns and cheese.  It’s like a complete breakfast, minus the meat, all rolled into one dish.  The veggies included mushrooms, broccoli, and red and green peppers.  First off, the plate was huge!  This literally could have been breakfast for 4 people rather than for 1 person.  But the dish was tasty and hearty.  My husband really enjoyed the scrambler, even minus the meat.  All the veggies were well cooked and had great flavor and the addition of the hash browns and the cheese topping it all off were the key to making the meal incredibly hearty, a stick-to-your-ribs kind of breakfast.  Surprisingly, regardless of the fact that the plate was huge, my husband actually finished his meal!  What more could you want out of breakfast?

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I needed some meat with my breakfast so I decided to do the create your own omelet, which said it came with two eggs.  In reality, it seemed more like it was about 10 eggs rather than two.  I chose as a filling for my omelets cheese, ham, onion, bacon and potatoes.  Again, talk about hearty.  This omelet was about the size of my head, and the filling was literally that, filling.  The eggs were cooked, and then more like French omelet style, the filling was put into the middle of the egg and the eggs were wrapped around it.  And when they said bacon, they literally meant there were strips of bacon in the omelet, these weren’t bacon bits or pieces that were chopped up and mixed in with the eggs, no, they were full on strips of bacon.  And potatoes?  It wasn’t just diced potatoes put into the omelet, the hash browns that my husband had piled on top of his scrambler?  Well, I had those same hash browns stuffed inside my omelet.  Then there was still the cheese and the ham, big huge pieces of diced ham, and then finally the onions.  The omelet was delicious and very well done, just the way I like it.  But the filling was overflowing and was more than a meal on its own that there was going to be no way that I was ever going to finish this omelet.  Though, I too must have been quite hungry, as I finished over half of it, which was at least 25% more than I thought I would.

The great thing about having a filling breakfast to start the day was that my husband and I weren’t hungry for lunch at all.  Instead, we were still quite full from our amazing breakfast from Keys Restaurant.  It was so great to spend some time with my husband’s aunt and uncle and just catch up with them over a great meal.  And at the same time, we got to experience a little Saint Paul food history.  After all, for a restaurant to still be around more than 40 years after it opened its doors, well it must be doing something right that people keep coming back over and over again.  I’ll just remember that if I ever find myself at a Keys Restaurant or Cafe again that I should share a meal rather than try to finish a meal on my own as their portion sizes are out of this world.