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Sushi Noguchi

March 8, 2017

Last fall, when it was time for my quarterly get together with my high school girlfriends, one of my friends made a suggestion for a sushi restaurant located in our neighborhood.  Apparently, this restaurant was named in our local county newspaper as the best sushi restaurant in Orange County by the resident restaurant critic.  That’s high praise for Yorba Linda where eateries are few and far between, and those that do exist are generally chain restaurants.  After hearing the news that we may have this amazing sushi restaurant, Japanese food restaurant in our own backyard, we all agreed to meet there for dinner and give the restaurant our own stamp of approval.

Sushi Noguchi, located in an unassuming strip mall in Yorba Linda, is the life’s dream of Hiro and June Noguchi who opened up the restaurant and sushi bar in this location more than 6 years ago.  Serving high-end, high quality fresh fish, and an eclectic Japanese menu that reaches beyond sushi, the restaurant’s reputation has continued to grow.  Beautifully decorated in a minimalistic style with bright lights and clean lines, the open and airy dining area is anchored by a large and inviting sushi bar situated right in the middle of the restaurant.  Most known for their omakase menu, they actually offer two different omakase menus, one designed and chosen by Hiro Noguchi, the head sushi chef, and the other is a smaller fusion style omakase chosen by Hiro’s wife June.

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After looking over the menu, one of my friends decided to order June’s omakase menu option, while my other friend and I each decided to order a la carte items off the menu.  While I originally had planned to sample some of the sushi, I found so many amazing and varied options on the menu that I didn’t want to pass up that ultimately, I skipped the sushi for some more traditional Japanese food instead.  My starter was the agedashi tofu.  Agedashi tofu is cubes of tofu that are deep fried and served in a tempura sauce topped with green onions and nori.  Light and crispy, the tofu cubes are delicious.  Tofu itself generally doesn’t have much flavor of its own, so serving it with the tempura sauce allows the tempura sauce to soak into the tofu and infuse it with its light soy flavor.  The green onions and nori add flavor as well, the slight bite of the green onion and the saltiness of the nori balance out the sweetness of the tempura sauce as well as adding texture to the dish.  It’s amazing how filling these small tofu cubes can be.  This was a light, and vibrant starter dish and one that I enjoyed very much.

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For my next course, I couldn’t pass up ordering the grilled yellowtail collar.  I’ve had grilled yellowtail cheeks at other Japanese restaurants and have always enjoyed the very delicate, and sweet flavor of the meet in the collar of the fish.  Yellowtail is quite a delicate fish to begin with, grilling the collar brings out some of the sweetness of the meat and adds a beautiful char flavor.  It’s also amazing just how much meat is in the cheeks of the fish.  This is like an entree in and of itself rather than a small appetizer dish.  The beautiful grill marks bring out the wonderful natural flavors of the fish, it’s delicate flaky white meat carrying with it a sweet and tender flavor that’s easy to enjoy – or rather devour.  These grilled yellowtail collars were considerably larger than any other yellowtail collars I’ve ever seen before and I was pleasantly surprised.  Even with all this meat on the collar, it was still just as delicious and flavorful as I remember yellowtail collars being.  There’s a reason I can’t say no when yellowtail collars are on the menu.

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Finally, my other friend who didn’t order the omakase meal and I both opted to order the USDA prime beef tataki.  Made with USDA prime skirt steak which is seared, it’s served thinly sliced and topped with thin sliced red onion, finely diced tomatoes and finely julienned green onions with a special house ponzu sauce.  There’s also a small baby spinach salad served on the side also dressed with this special house ponzu sauce.  The beef tataki was perfectly cooked, seared on the outside, and a nice medium rare on the inside.  The grill flavor of the beef was prominent, but the inside was tender, flavorful and juicy.  The special house ponzu sauce was the perfect complement with a little bit of a citrus tang and bite, but also mixed in with some sweetness, so it was both tangy and sweet and cut through the richness of the beef.  The bite of the thin sliced red onions and the acidity of the tomatoes also combined to create a great combination of tangy, acidic, sweet and sour in one bite.  The nice side spinach salad was a terrific addition for something vibrant and bright, but with that same wonderful special house ponzu sauce that added the tanginess needed to cut through the spinach.  This was quite a filling meal, and since I didn’t realize that the grilled yellowtail collar would be as filling as it was, I was having a tough time finishing off my beef tataki entree.

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While we were all quite full from our individual meals, my friends and I decided we couldn’t pass up taking a peek at the dessert menu.  Ultimately, we decided to split a dessert between the three of us.  Our choice was the mille crepe, which June, the owner, who was also our waitress that night, explained to us was made daily by two chefs working together, one makes 25 crepes and layers one on top of the other, while the other chef spreads a thin layer of sweet cream on to of each layer of crepe before the next freshly made crepe is layered on top.  What you end up with is essentially a round, 25-layered cake that you cut out cake slices when a guest places an order.  The serving plate is prepared with a drizzle of homemade reduction of balsamic vinegar, honey and red wine.  The mille crepe is slotted atop this balsamic reduction and then the crepe cake is topped with some whipped cream.  The end result is a gorgeous slice of what looks exactly like an airy sponge cake, but is actually a very delicately constructed crepe cake made with 25 layers.  It’s like a work of art that you’re about to destroy by devouring it.  And it tastes just as delicate and fantastic as it looks.  When you take a forkful, you can taste each individual layer of crepe and sweet creme.  The cake is so delicate and delicious and surprisingly, not too sweet at all.  It’s amazing to think about how it was created.  But that homemade reduction of balsamic, honey and red wine is amazing, it was part sweet, part tangy all completely delicious.  The combination of the mille crepe and the balsamic reduction was heavenly, and though all three of us were full, we couldn’t get enough of this delicious dessert.  It’s almost worth coming to Sushi Noguchi just for a taste of this mille crepe.

My friends and I all enjoyed our meal at Sushi Noguchi.  Although one of my friends and I never tried any of the fresh sushi, it was clearly the most popular items on the menu amongst all the other diners in the restaurant.  My one friend who ordered June’s omakase really liked the selection of various sushi dishes brought to the table – there was a wide variety of different types of sushi and various kinds of fish being served.  Regardless, we all enjoyed our meals, whether traditional sushi or other types of Japanese cuisine.  The service we received from June herself was fantastic and everyone else at the restaurant was friendly and attentive.  The atmosphere was warm and inviting and was a perfect location for my friends and I to sit down and catch each other up on our lives after having not seen each other for a few months.  It was clear to see, all the way through our dessert course, why Sushi Noguchi has received such a terrific reputation for food, as they put care and thought and creativity into each and every dish that they present.  I came home and raved to my husband immediately about Sushi Noguchi.  You can bet that one day soon, I’m going to take him to dine here.

Poke Me

February 28, 2017

During the spring of 2014, my husband and I took our first trip to Hawaii together.  During that trip, we heard of poke for the first time.  On the Big Island, there was a restaurant, really a little storefront, located within the confines of a small hotel in Kailua-Kona that specialized in serving all different types of poke and was consistently ranked as the #1 restaurant on the island.  While we never had a chance to try out this restaurant ourselves, we certainly noticed that poke was on the menu of so many different restaurants we did dine at.  So of course, during that same trip, we got our first taste of poke and we both fell in love.  Fast forward a year, we started to notice that poke had made its way from Hawaii as an island specialty all the way to the Mainland.  Poke started showing up on more and more restaurant menus in Southern California, especially restaurants along the coastline.  Then, poke shops starting popping up all over the place and the poke craze had really hit all over Southern California.  Locally in our neighborhood near Westwood, a very popular poke shop arrived on to the scene and my husband and I decided to head over to try it out for ourselves.

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Poke Me is a small storefront located on Westwood Blvd. that is set up much like you’d see at Chipotle where guests have the ability to choose the ingredients and sauces that make up their individual poke bowls every step up the way.  As one of two locations, with a second store being in Los Angeles’ Miracle Mile, Poke Me is quite popular as a quick, delicious and easy grab-and-go lunch and dinner store.  For those who aren’t sure what poke, pronounced “po-kay”, is, it’s quite simply a raw fish salad.  Created in Hawaii, it originally started out as an appetizer dish, but can often be found these days in bigger portions and served as an entrée.  Quite literally meaning “section” or “to slice or cut” the word poke is actually a Hawaiian verb.  As the popularity of poke has grown, more and more tourists visiting the Hawaiian islands have had an opportunity to enjoy poke and have come home to the Mainland singing its praises.  Therefore, it’s no surprise that this so-called poke craze has finally reached Southern California as well.

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When you walk into Poke Me you’re met by a glass-fronted display case where all of the various raw fish cuts, toppings and sauces are displayed for you to pick and choose from.  On the wall behind the counter are several chalkboards that walk you through the process of how creating your own customized poke bowl works.  Follow the instructions on the board, choose the ingredients laid out before you, and boom, you have your very own individualized poke bowl.  The first step in the process is to choose whether or not you want a small, medium or large bowl.  And believe me, the sizes are quite generous.  The next decisions to make are to choose the base, choose a side, make a choice on protein, select the mix-in, select the sauce and then choose the toppings.  After these simple steps, your poke bowl is done and ready to be enjoyed.

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When my husband and I visited Poke Me, we both decided to choose a medium bowl to start with.  The next step is to choose a base.  The options are: white rice, brown rice, half & half, mixed salad and organic baby kale.  For my bowl, I chose the half and half, with half being steamed white rice and the other half being mixed salad.  Surprisingly, my husband actually chose the same base for his poke bowl as well.  It seemed the best of both worlds, half a salad and half a rice bowl.  After the base, the next decision is on the side.  The side options include:  seaweed salad, edamame, avocado, crab meat and spicy crab meat.  We each get two choices for sides.  I chose avocado and crab meat for my sides, my husband chose crab meat and seaweed salad.  It’s time to make a choice on protein.  For a small bowl, you get 2 scoops of the protein of your choice, for a medium bowl it’s 3 scoops and for a large bowl, it’s 4 scoops.  For my 3 scoops, I chose 2 scoops of yellowtail and 1 scoop of tuna.  My husband took two scoops of albacore and 1 scoop of yellowtail.  It’s nice that you can mix and match the protein choices to vary the flavors.  The protein options were: tuna, salmon, yellowtail, albacore, shrimp, scallop, octopus, spicy tuna, spicy albacore and tofu.  Lots of different options and lots of different flavors.

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Time to add the mix-ins.  Mix-in options include white onion, cucumber, cilantro, pineapple and masago.  The mix-ins, sauces and toppings are unlimited, so you can get as much or as little as you want.  For my mix-in, I chose white onion, cilantro and cucumber.  My husband’s mix-in choices included white onion, cilantro and pineapple.  Next up were sauces.  For sauce options, we could add sesame shoyu (spicy or mild), ponzu (spicy or mild), sweet ponzu, yuzu ponzu, yuzu wasabi, spicy chili, spicy mayo, truffle ponzu, and gochujang.  That’s a wide variety of sauce selections from salty to sweet, to tangy to spicy.  For my bowl, I chose the yuzu ponzu sauce.  For my husband he chose the sesame shoyu.  The last decision to make was to choose toppings for our bowls.  The topping choices included:  masago, green onion, jalapeño, ginger, crispy onion, bonito flake, corn, wasabi, roasted garlic, tamago, kizami nori, sea salt and tobiko.  For my bowl, I chose toppings of bonito, green onion, roasted garlic and sesame seeds.  For my husband’s bowl, he chose the toppings of green onion, sesame seeds, and roasted garlic.

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After everything is put together, a medium poke bowl is actually quite large.  Here is my bowl of half steamed white rice, half mixed green salad with a side of crab meat and avocado, topped with yellowtail and tuna mixed with white onion, cilantro and cucumber and yuzu ponzu sauce and finally topped with green ions, roasted garlic, sesame seeds and bonito flakes.  The fish for the poke was really tender and fresh and the ability to make a poke bowl using all of the ingredients of your own choices was really appealing.  Having a bowl made up of half salad and half white rice was like having the best of both worlds with the salad seemingly a healthier and lighter option than the rice.  But, honestly, I actually liked the white rice better.  I loved how all of the flavors blended together with the rice and mixed in adding their fresh and bright flavors to the rice.  The creamy avocado that I chose as a side was a perfect complement to the rich fish of the poke bowl.  The avocado really cuts through the fat and its creamy flavor helps to bring together all of the toppings.  The yuzu ponzu sauce was a little tangy and a little sour, which again was a good complement to the rich, fatty fish.  And of course, all of the flavors of the entire poke bowl were just perfect, of course, that is because I chose all of the flavors.  What I love is that the combinations are limitless.

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When I first learned about Poke Me and invited my husband to go and check it out, he was a bit more skeptical about how good a local poke shop could be.  He’s loved the poke we’ve enjoyed on our various trips to Hawaii, and he was concerned that getting local poke would ruin the experience of the memories of our Hawaiian poke.  But again, the idea of being able to make your own concoction with the flavors and ingredients of your choice convinced my husband to give Poke Me a try.  My husband’s medium poke bowl consisted of half white rice, half mixed salad with a side seaweed salad and crabmeat .  His fish choices were albacore and yellowtail mixed in with white onion, pineapple and cilantro, a sauce of sesame shoyu and topped with green onion, sesame seeds and roasted garlic.  After a few bites into his poke bowl, my husband was sold.  He enjoyed the freshness and tastiness of the fish.  He really thought that the pineapple that he added as a mix in really brought out the vibrant flavors of the fish and brought all of the toppings in and complemented everything really well.  It was a little sweet, a little sour and just the right touch for his taste.  He was really happy with the sesame shoyu sauce that he chose as it added a bit of nuttiness and sweetness to the poke.  He said he could have done without the crabmeat side, but he did like the seaweed salad side.  The white onions in the poke bowl added a bit of crunch and bite, and the sesame seeds reinforced the great nutty flavor of the sesame shoyu.  My husband was a fan of the make-your-own-poke-bowl idea and immediately suggested that we put this on our list of places we go back to in the future, especially since it’s literally in our own backyard.

After our first experience enjoying poke in Hawaii, my husband and I were hooked.  When good quality, delicious poke arrived in Southern California, we knew we were in for a treat.  No longer did we have to travel all the way to Hawaii just to get a fresh, and delicious bowl of this raw fish salad.  Add to the mix an operation such as Poke Me which essentially allows you to make-your-own-poke-bowl and it’s a win-win.  Choose your base, choose a side, choose your protein, mix-ins, sauces and toppings and you have the most amazing poke bowl, all made with flavors and sauces of your own choosing so you control what goes into your poke bowl and you control the flavor.  The fish was fresh and delicious and tasted amazing, add in the toppings and the sauces and the flavor profile was just fantastic.  While poke in Southern California isn’t quite like having poke in Hawaii, it’s certainly the next best thing without having to take a 5 hour plane ride.  This will certainly do for now until I can get back to Hawaii again.

Milo & Olive – Lunch

February 23, 2017

Not too long ago, we dined at Milo & Olive in Santa Monica for breakfast prior to heading to the airport for a quick weekend trip out of town.  We loved the food and the atmosphere and knew we needed to go back again in the future.  While breakfast was fantastic, they are also known for their lunch and dinner service, especially dishes made using their wood burning oven.  If we thought that the breakfast pizza was fantastic, their savory lunch and dinner pizzas are supposed to be just as good, if not better.  So, one Saturday morning, we opted to head out to Santa Monica in the late morning hour to see if we could grab a seat at the restaurant right at the beginning of lunch service.

Milo & Olive is always busy, no matter what time of morning, day or night you go.  As the seating is first come, first serve, it’s important to time your visit just right, or else you may be waiting for a while to get a seat.  Luckily, my husband and I arrived at Milo & Olive right at the end of breakfast service and the beginning of breakfast service.  The breakfast crowd was just leaving and the lunch crowd hadn’t yet arrived, so there were a few empty seats.  At the end of the counter separating the dining area from the open kitchen there were a couple of open seats, and the host asked if we would want to take counter seats.  We later discovered that these counter seats were, for us, the only seats we’d ever want when we come to Milo & Olive.  The seats are comfortable and provide you enough room and privacy, but you also get a front row seat to all the action in the kitchen.  You can watch all the different cooks at all the different stations preparing all the of the dishes as the orders come in.  Sitting right at the end of the counter, we were situated right in front of where the head chef for the day was stationed, so we were able to watch as she put the finishing touches on each and every single dish that was sent out to guests and as she controlled the ebb and flow of all the other sous chefs in the kitchen.  It was fascinating and entertaining.

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If you read this blog, then you know that I’m a huge fan of lattes.  Since we arrived in the late morning, I decided to order an iced vanilla latte to drink.  It was warm enough outside to justify an iced coffee drink, and late enough in the day that I didn’t want a hot vanilla latte.  This gorgeous drink was as tasty as it was pretty.  A shot of espresso over milk with some vanilla syrup in a glass full of ice, the perfect iced vanilla latte.  On a warm summer day, this drink was the perfect drink for a brunch or early lunch meal.

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We decided to start our meal with a bowl of soup to share.  Really, it was me who wanted the soup and my husband who said to order it as he’d share some with me.  However, in the end, I think he had one spoonful and I actually ate the whole bowl of soup on my own, but that was fine by me as it was absolutely delicious.  The soup was a Dwelley Farms sweet corn bisque finished off with basil oil and rustic croutons.  The sweet corn was so smooth and creamy with a brilliant corn flavor.  It just tasted fresh, like the corn just came from the farm.  The basil oil as a finisher was a terrific combination, the bright herbaceous flavor of the basil combined with the corn bisque.  At first I wasn’t quite sure about the basil as basil and corn don’t seem to be a winning combination, but it just worked in this case.  The flavors were complimentary and the basil helped to enhance the sweetness of the corn.  The rustic croutons were fabulous and added the crunch and crispiness that the soup needed with its smooth, creamy texture.  This corn soup has to rank as one of the best corn soups I’ve ever tasted.

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One of Milo & Olive’s specialties is the garlic knot.  This is the one item I really wanted to try the first time we came to Milo & Olive but wasn’t able to because we were there for breakfast, and the garlic knot isn’t served until after 11 am when the lunch menu becomes available.  The garlic knot is made in the wood burning oven and it’s cooked to order.  The fresh dough is stuffed with a handful of whole garlic cloves marinated in olive oil.  The dough is tied with some twine to form a bag of sorts and then baked in the wood burning oven.  When the dough is fully baked, it is transferred into a bowl with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil and topped with sea salt and then presented at the table.  When you crack open the knot, the hot aroma of roasted garlic cloves hits your nose.  The bread itself is amazing and tastes fabulous.  Golden brown and crunchy on the outside and yeasty on the inside, take a pinch of bread with a clove of garlic and this dish is magic.  For anyone who loves garlic, and my husband and I count in that crowd, this garlic knot is a “must”.img_6920

Again, since this is Milo & Olive, we had to take advantage of the wood burning oven to order a pizza.  This time, we opted for the roasted potato pizza topped with rosemary cream, caramelized onions and parmesan cheese.  We then had the pizza topped with prosciutto, which was just heavenly.  First off, you don’t even need to top the pizza off with any sort of meat or protein as the roasted potato pizza on its own would have been decadent and filling enough.  But, by adding the prosciutto, we added that slight hint of saltiness from the dry cured meat that just took the pizza to a whole new level of perfection.  The rosemary cream sauce for the pizza was delicious, it kept the pizza from tasting dry, and the woodsy flavor of the rosemary really shined through.  The caramelized onions and the roasted potatoes were plentiful, and also evenly spread out throughout the pizza so that with every bite you got a little taste of the onions and the potatoes.  I loved that the potatoes were tender and full of starchy flavor of their own, that combined well with the sweetness that caramelizing the onions brings out.  Top that with the salty prosciutto and you’ve got sweet, salty, savory and creamy all in one perfect pizza.  And you can’t discount the amazing dough and what the wood burning oven does to the dish.  The dough came out perfectly baked with golden brown and crispy edges that just spelled pizza perfection.

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Finally, also from the wood burning oven, we ordered the whole branzino.  And when they say whole, they really do mean whole.  Gutted and seasoned, the whole branding goes into the wood burning oven to roast until the meat is cooked and fork tender, but the outside skin is nice and crispy and a warm oven roasted brown.  The fish is served over a sautéed mixture of grains, caramelized fennel and then topped with fresh herbs and served with a couple of lemon wedges.  Squeeze the lemon wedges all over the branzino and dig in.  The first thing I notice is how crispy the skin is and how tasty and sweet the meat of the branzino was.  And as advertised this was a whole branzino, and we’re not talking about a small little fish, this was an extremely large fish that was just slightly bigger than this huge 10″ round dinner plate it was served on.  It was so large that when we couldn’t finish the fish for lunch, it was packed up in a pizza box for us to take home.  The meat was so incredibly fork tender and so amazingly delicious.  You could definitely taste the smoky flavor that only comes from the wood burning oven.  The contrast of the sweet and tender white fish and the crisp and crunchy skin was just magical.  And while the grains and caramelized fennel salad that it sat atop was a terrific complement to the fish, it was also completely unnecessary because all I cared about was the fish.  This may be my favorite branzino dish ever.  What we couldn’t finish while dining in at Milo & Olive, I completely devoured later that afternoon when we brought it home.

Lunch at Milo & Olive didn’t disappoint at all.  We already knew that the food would be fresh, and delicious and seasonal since we had dined there before for breakfast, but now after having had lunch at Milo & Olive, I think that perhaps my lunch is my favorite meal there.  Starting with the amazing sweet corn bisque to the ridiculously tasty garlic knot, the perfectly done roasted potato pizza and finishing it all off with the most amazing branzino ever, Milo & Olive is just spectacular.  I think our enjoyment was also heightened by our front row seats right at the counter watching the amazing work of the chefs as they prepared every single dish to order.  It was such a fun atmosphere for a Saturday morning, not to mention the delicious food that filled our bellies.  I can’t wait to go back to Milo & Olive again and try whatever new seasonal items might be on their menu.

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.