Monday, February 28, 2011

Minneapolis - Six New Restaurants In One Snowy Weekend

I just put Minneapolis on my map of great food cities. I grew up here and always knew it was a good food town but a recent trip to Heidi’s and several other new restaurants took Minneapolis to a whole new level for me. Isn’t it funny when you are surprised by your own hometown? Tells me I’ve probably been gone too long.

My family loves to eat. Blame it on my mother who was always planning her next meal even before she had finished the one she was eating.

Minneapolis is home to the some of the country’s most renowned chefs who make locally raised, free-pastured, grass-fed meat and dairy highlights on many restaurants' menus. Ask anyone who has come to this town to eat (like I did this past week) and they will tell you that you can’t keep up with the non-stop openings of new and remarkable restaurants.

Urban EateryCalhoun Beach Club - 2730 West Lake Street, Minneapolis

Urban Eatery is run by the same people as Crave, so my expectations were high-minded before I even walked in the door. We were there for happy hour and the $5 signature cocktails did not disappoint. I loved their take on the Margarita. We all agreed that the Avocado Pizza was the best of our appetizer selection.

Outside of the fact that the place was full of twenty and thirty somethings, it was a great place to hang out and people watch.

You could not hear the person next to you as the noise level was off the charts but who needs conversation when the happy hour drinks are this good? My advice: Go early.

I suspect that this place will be wonderful when the patio opens for the season and you’ll want to stay all night long.

Heidi’s - 2903 Lyndale Ave S. Minneapolis

We called late and lucked out by getting the last table in this tiny restaurant. The staff was so accommodating and the food was unquestionably the highlight of my trip to Minneapolis.

The glassed in kitchen was a great observation while we waited for our table and I counted at least 8 people inside when I snapped this photo. The staff was definitely having fun which is always a great sign of what is to come.

A staff of 3 waited on us and I have to tell you it was the best service that I have had in a very long time. In my book, service is almost as important as the food.

I loved everything we ate – from the Bennie – an Eggless Benedict with huitlacoche and truffle, to the Grilled shrimp spring roll served on ice with cilantro “pesto”, key lime and tomato…and that was just the appetizers.

We had an exceptional beet salad - Beets and feta, with carrot buttons and a pickled shallot sauce.

We split two main dishes ( I love to split – get to taste more of what is on the menu) - the Sautéed Barramundi and Maine lobster sauce over pickled eggplant and Moroccan black olives and the highlight: Anise scented lamb shank with cardamom scented jasmine rice and arugula sauce.

And this was a first: I didn’t have a single thing left over for dessert, normally my favorite course.

I loved the Lamb Shank so much I decided to make it at home and this recipe, adapted from Bon Appetit October 2010, recipe by Restaurant Saveur, Baileys Harbor, Wisconsin was really good. I know, it looks labor intensive but it is absolutely worth it.

I have to admit that my first time out of the gate with this recipe was a winner. There is very little I would do to change it up it was that good… and perfectly cooked in a 325 degree oven for 2 ½ hours.

I didn’t even miss that Anise which I noticed after I had decided to try this recipe.

Honey and Cinnamon Braised Lamb Shanks

6 lamb shanks (6 to 7 pounds)
2 T olive oil
2/3 c chopped peeled carrots
2/3 c chopped onion
2/3 c chopped celery
4 c chicken broth
4 c beef broth
3 c dry white wine
1 1/2 c chopped fresh tomatoes
1/4 c honey
5 garlic cloves, peeled & smashed
4 whole cloves
3 bay leaves
1 t ground cinnamon
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 T butter, room temperature
2 T flour
Chopped fresh italian parsley (for garnish)

Preheat oven to 325°F

Sprinkle lamb with salt and pepper; coat with flour. heat oil in large ovenproof pot over medium heat. working in batches, brown lamb on all sides, about 12 minutes. Transfer to large bowl.

Add carrots, onion, and celery to pot; sauté until light brown, about 12 minutes. add both broths and wine; stir, scraping up browned bits. Add tomatoes, honey, smashed garlic, cloves, bay leaves, cinnamon, thyme & parsley . Bring to simmer, cover tightly, and transfer to oven.

Braise lamb until very tender, about 2 1/2 hours.

Strain vegetables from sauce and discard. Pour sauce into a large measuring cup or bowl, cover and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. When sauce is chilled thoroughly, remove layer of solidified fat that has accumulated at the top of the sauce.

Boil juices until reduced to 2 1/2 cups, about 45 minutes.

In a bowl mix softened butter and flour together until well combined. Add flour and butter mixture to sauce in small bits, whisking well after each addition until sauce is slightly thickened. Adjust sauce for seasoning.

Return lamb to pot to rewarm.

Spoon some of sauce from pot over lamb and serve.

HubertsTarget Center/Metrodome, Minneapolis

We hit this place because it was cold and we didn’t have to go outside in the freezing cold weather. Besides that, everyone goes here so I for one was curious what the hype was all about.

I was expecting bar food – wings and things – and got instead a great plate of Tuna Sashimi over Asian Slaw.

This dish was not only well executed but was delicious and healthy. And who knew the super friendly bartender was another one of the reasons that this place is such a big hit.

Here are two recipes I tried this weekend and have to admit that they are pretty close to the dish we loved at Huberts.

Asian Slaw

4 cups shredded cabbage – half red and green
1 cup shredded Carrots
1 small onion, finelt chopped
Pinch of salt and pepper
1 ½ Tbsp. seasoned rice wine vinegar
½ cup fat free mayo
1 ½ tsp. Sesame Oil
½ tsp. Sriracha
¼ tsp. sugar
1 TBSP sesame seeds

Toss cabbage, carrots, onion, and salt in bowl. Season with pepper.

Whisk together vinegar, mayo, sesame oil, sriracha and sugar until smooth. Taste; add a pinch of salt if needed.

Pour dressing over shredded vegetables and toss to combine. Finish with sesame seeds.

Tuna Sashimi

I love this version of Japanese sashimi, or raw fish. Only use the highest-grade tuna for this recipe and remember, the key to a great result is the sauce and the garnishes.

You can put this seared tune over the Asian slaw above, or eat with a little pickled ginger and Wasabi.

I think that this recipe is almost as good as the Tuna Sashimi that is served at Shaw’s.

Serves 4-6 as an appetizer

1 lb sushi-grade tuna
2-inch piece of fresh peeled ginger
3 t. sake wine
1 1/2 T. mirin (sweet cooking sake)
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 1/2 T. tamari soy sauce
1/2 t. dashi granules (skip if you can’t find)


Add the mirin and the sake to a small pot and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and add the soy sauce, the tamari sauce and the dashi granules (these are dried bonito flakes). Mix well and let this come to room temperature.

Grate the ginger. Use the finest grater you have -- a microplane if you have one -- and grate the ginger, then mound it into little cone on your plate.

With your sharpest knife, slice the thin strips off the tuna with a very sharp knife.

Sear the tuna (my indoor grill was PERFECT for this) and serve.

BLVD Kitchen and Bar -  11544 Wayzata Blvd Hopkins

This was my second trip to the BLVD and I have to tell you that it is already one of my favorite spots in Minneapolis. It is cozy with great food and good service.

My brother and I had soup and ½ a club sandwich. What made the club sandwich so special besides the fried egg? My brother, of course!

Here is what was in the sandwich:

The BLVD Club Sandwich

Get the freshest and best quality ingredients:

Bread – toasted
Tomato – thinly sliced
Bacon – fried crisp and drained
Grilled Chicken Breast – flatten the breast and grill
Fried egg
Homemade Aioli


2 cloves of garlic (preferably fresh)
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 cup (250ml) extra-virgin olive oil

Crush the garlic cloves with the salt in a mortar or deep bowl until you have a smooth paste.
Add the egg yolk.
Using a fork or whisk, add the oil to the egg and garlic mixture starting very slowly, drop by drop. As the mayonnaise thickens continue to add the oil in a very thin stream until all the oil has been incorporated.
Taste, and add more of the garlic, if desired.

Spread Aioli on the toasted bread. Pile all ingredients on bread and dive in!

Q Fanatic - 180 Miller Road, Champlin

Only my family would drive 25 miles out of their way in a raging blizzard to eat where

Chef Charlie Johnson cooks high quality pork and begins the smoking process at somewhere around 2 AM. Got to love your job to keep those hours!

Their specialty – BBQ with an Italian twist - to die for Parmesan Potatoes Gratinee.

I had the luncheon special for $5.95 – a platter full of rib tips which I did not finish. Try the Pepper Vodka BBQ Sauce. I also loved the Chef’s take on cole slaw and baked beans.

No surprise that this place was recently featured on Diner’s, Drive Ins and Dives.

Surdyk’s Flights  - Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport

When I discovered this tiny gem in the Minneapolis airport it was shortly after my flight had been delayed for 2 hours. I had a plate of the best crostini and a glass of chardonnay to write home about.

Surdyk’s Liquor Store and Gourmet Cheese Shop, which has a retail store in Northeast Minneapolis, opened this restaurant about a year ago.

I loved the food and wine so much that I almost missed my flight.


For the roasted garlic:

4 heads garlic
1/4 cup olive oil

For the crostini:

12 slices of baguette or country-style Italian bread, sliced at a 45-degree angle about 1/2 inch thick
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Pureed garlic from 4 whole roasted heads of garlic (see above)

Assorted topping options:
Shaved Parmesan, dry jack or Gruyère cheese
Fresh, creamy goat cheese, at room temperature
Roasted red bell peppers, home-roasted or bottled, cut into thin strips
Prepared tapenade (black olive and anchovy paste)
Oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, cut into thin strips
Capers, drained
Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced, or halved, seeded, and diced
Fresh basil leaves, cut into fine julienne strips or left whole
Crushed red pepper flakes
Balsamic vinegar
Thinly sliced prosciutto
Anchovy fillets packed in olive oil, drained
Fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Put the garlic in a roasting pan and drizzle on the olive oil. Toss to coat thoroughly. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the garlic bulbs are very tender but not overly brown. Test by carefully giving a bulb a gentle squeeze while protecting your hand with a folded kitchen towel or an oven glove. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Using a sharp serrated knife, cut each head of garlic crosswise in half, midway between its leaf and root ends, to expose all the cloves inside. Their pulp will be golden brown and as soft as butter. You can squeeze it out of each half by hand or scoop it out with a small spoon or knife. Transfer the roasted garlic to a small bowl, pour in any olive oil from the baking dish, and stir and mash with a fork to form a smooth purée. You'll have 1/3 to 1/2 cup of purée, depending on the size of the garlic heads.

To make the Roasted Garlic Crostini, preheat the oven to 375° F. Brush the bread slices with the olive oil and arrange them on a baking sheet. Bake them until golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove them from the oven and let them cool to room temperature. Spread the puréed roasted garlic evenly on the tops of the crostini.

Top the crostini with any of the options listed above, or make an assortment.

Note: The possibilities for this dish are endless and I actually make it different every time. Tonight I used a really good homemade Fromage Blanc and did not want to take away from it so I topped with a few capers and olive oil.

Homemade Gingerbread

Hands down my all time favorite comfort food – Gingerbread straight out of the oven with berries.

Triple YUM!

Bon Appetit!

OXO Hand-Held Mandoline Slicer

Love what this little hand held Mandoline for under $20 at Williams-Sanoma made on it's first time out:

Homemade chips for our Oscar Party.

Bon Appetit!

Antioxidant Fruit Salad

I was told by the grocer at Whole Foods this past week that Pomegranates were not in season and I was disappointed because I wanted to make this salad. Later in the week, I walked into Fresh Market and was surprised to find fresh pomegranates. When is the season for Pomegranates anyway?

I love this healthy salad from Nigella Lawson. It is so easy and I learned a new trick. Nigella slices one pomegranate in half and beats it with a rolling pin. That’s what pops out the seeds. And to think that I use to pick them out by hand.

Bon Appetit!

Antioxidant Fruit Salad
1 Mango, sliced

1 cup blueberries

1 pomegranate

2 teaspoons lime juice

Cut the mango in half around the stone, and then criss-cross the flesh of the mango halves with a knife into 1/2-inch squares.

Push the diced mango flesh outwards and then slice off the squares from the skin into a bowl.

Tumble in the blueberries, then halve the pomegranate and bash out the seeds with a wooden spoon over the mango. Finally squeeze over the lime juice and serve.

Truffle Fries...Without All The Calories

After making a huge batch of French fries, I like to sprinkle a little truffle salt over the top.

You’ll be amazed at the taste and you don’t get all the calories like you do when you fry them in truffle oil.

Bon Appetit!

Mexican Folk Art

I have been a fan of Mexican Folk Art since I first discovered it in the village of Tonola years ago. I have a lot of really great pieces in my home. It’s colorful and puts a smile on my face because none of it takes itself too seriously.
Between trips to Mexico, I visit a little shop in Evanston at 817 Chicago Avenue (at Main Street) called Casita Azul.

You’ll find handicrafts from every corner of Mexico and they have a really wide selection of Day of the Dead art which is where I bought this beautiful piece last October.

Almond Brioche - Pastry Lesson #6

My pastry lesson today was one of my favorites and the results… amazing. This brioche is so rich that you want to save this recipe for a special occasions.

The great thing about this pastry is that you can enjoy it with coffee in the morning or a little square with some fresh fruit after dinner.

More about Brioche in the weeks to come.

Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Foods Worth The Cheat

Gone are my weekend cheats. Everything now is about focus and getting through the weekend without cheating…something I have not had to do for years.

I’ve stuck to it but I must confess - there are just some things worth cheating for.

I exercise portion control now and when I really want to cheat, I only eat one or two bites. That’s right. 6 months ago I would have wolfed down the entire thing. Now I take a bite or two and quit.

Where do I get all of this self control? When I acknowledged the fact that I needed to lose a few pounds, I committed myself to doing it. It was that simple. Like I’ve said before, there is no middle ground for me.

Is it easy? Absolutely not – I love sweets too much to deprive myself totally so that’s why I only do it sometimes. Trying to stick to a staunch routine will not work for me. In fact, that’s the first thing I think you need to do when you want to lose weight – figure out a routine that is realistic.

For instance, if I am going to cheat and eat a hamburger, I not going to eat an ordinary run of the mill burger. I’m going to have one worth cheating for.

So, in no particular order, here are some of the things that I think are worth cheating for…

1) Bacon Long John from Bennisons – 1000 Davis Street, Evanston
Thank goodness they make this cheat available only on the weekends…when I am usually NOT in Evanston.

2) Double Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Ganache from Wimsa – 24 East Scranton, Lake Bluff
Hands down, WIMSA’s takes the cake on this one and puts every other restaurant and bakery in the game of trying to play catch up.

This cake is for anybody who thinks too much chocolate is never enough!

I love this recipe because it is simple. It’s not as rich as WIMSA’S but I’ll work on that and keep you posted. Almost there…


1 1/2 cups sugar

5 tablespoons cocoa

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 cups flour

1 pinch salt


4 eggs

2 cups sour cream

Mix ingredients together.

Grease and flour a 9 x 13 pan.

Bake in 9 x 13 pan in a 350 degree oven for 45-50 minutes

When you make the Ganach, watch the ratio of cream to chocolate. It takes a little bit of practice to get it right but when you do, you’ll not use any other topping for a cake because this one contains only two ingredients – chocolate and cream and is twice as delicious as any other frostings I’ve had.


6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate

¾ - 1 cup heavy cream

Chop chocolate into small pieces, and place in a medium bowl.

Heat cream until bubbles begin to appear around the edges (scalding)

Pour over chocolate. Let stand 5 minutes, then stir until smooth.

Refrigerate until cold but not solid, stirring occasionally.

Note: Some people add a teaspoon of rum to this recipe.

3) Kimchi Burger from BopNGrill – 1903 Church Street, Evanston
Take one bite of this burger and you’ll swear their Triple Bypass Burger has got to be your second helping.

4) The “Killer Combination” from Etzos – 1571 Sherman Avenie, Evanston
Truffle Fries, An 8 ounce Tall Grass Fed Burger with bacon and cheese and a Maple Malt…just like when I was a kid except I weighed 70 pounds back then.

5) The Chardog from Michaels – 1879 Second Street, Highland Park
On any given Sunday, the line at Michaels in Highland Park is long…but totally worth the wait! This dog is one of the best in Chicago and doesn’t even bite back.

6) Point Reyes Blue Cheese
When did I suddenly find out that I can eat Blue Cheese on anything…including breakfast?

7) Duck Liver Pate
I lived on it in Paris and could absolutely do it again.

8) Truffle Butter
A sure sign that the cheat is serious.

Bon Appetit and make sure your cheat is worth it!

The Year Of The Rabbit: 2011 Chinese New Years

We just shared Chinese New Year’s holiday together. Did I tell you that I LOVE this holiday?

Amazing to me that I got two revelations this year – the way Chinese prepare fish and a little red envelope… stuffed full of cash.

An ancient custom which has a primary role in Chinese New Year is Hong Bao. This involves gifting small red envelopes filled with "lucky money". These envelopes are given to children and unmarried adults (that would be me) by the married couples. The red color is considered to bring good fortune, and the money inside the envelope is used to buy holiday treats. I haven’t spent mine yet but I’m on the hunt.

                    Photo: TJ Weber

The fish was the best I’ve had in a long time. It was fried and then dipped in a spicy thai pepper sauce that was so delicious that I wanted to go back to Joy Yee’s at 521 Davis Street, Evanston the next day to savor the taste again. Truth of the matter is, I could eat that sauce on just about anything.

             Photo: TJ Weber

Get a rack to stand the fish upright so everyone can pick at them and dip in the pepper sauce. Now I know why the Chinese are so close - sharing a meal this way really makes you feel like instant family.

This is the first fried fish recipe I tried and it was pretty good. I am determined to perfect this recipe because I know it will be a keeper.

Chinese Red Snapper With Thai Chili Sauce

1 tablespoon tamarind

2 tablespoons sugar

1 shallot

2 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons fish sauce

1 Red Snapper fish

1-2 chili peppers

3 sprigs cilantro


One pound of fish = 2 people.

Make sure you have your market clean and gut the fish.

The Fish: Score the fish at an angle all the way to the bones on both sides to help it cook faster and crispier.

Add oil to the pan. Fry the fisg on low heat, It should take 10 minutes on the first side. Don’t try to loosen the fish from the pan until it’s done otherwise you will have a mess.

When the first side is cooked, flip and fry the other dise. It should take about 5 minutes. Remove and place on a plate. You can increase the crispiness by putting it in a 350 oven until the sauce is ready.

The Sauce: Peel garlic and shallot. Remove seeds and stem from the chili peppers. Use orange habaneros and santa fe yellow peppers. Use one or two at the most. Chop garlic, shallot and pepper. Add a teaspoon of oil to the pan over medium heat. Add the chopped mixture and stir to release the fragrance. Add tamarind, fish sauce, sugar and a few teaspoons of water. Mix and let boil. Thin with water if needed. The sauce should be sweet, spicy and sour. Taste and adjust. Pour sauce over fish and garnish with cilantro.

Serve with steamed rice.
One of my favorite Chinese recipes is black pepper chicken. These were another first for me and they came out terrific. I especially love the additive oyster sauce – which by the way does not taste like oysters at all.

This is a recipe that I will play around with and possibly add a few more vegetables to make the texture more interesting.

Bon Appetit!

Black Pepper Chicken

1.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced

1/2 green bell pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces

1/2 red bell pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 carrot – sliced thin

1 small onion - chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

1/2 cup oyster sauce

2 tsp soy sauce

2 tsp black pepper, preferably freshly ground

1 tsp sugar

2-3 tbs peanut oil

Season the chicken with 1 tsp of soy sauce and allow it to marinate for a few minutes. Meanwhile combine the oyster sauce, 1 tsp soy sauce, black pepper, and sugar. Then set the sauce mixture aside. In a wok over a high flame add the oil. Then add the chicken and stir-fry until the chicken turns opaque. Then add the bell pepper, carrot, onion and garlic. Continue to stir-fry for a couple minutes. Then add the sauce. Cook for about 1 minute more. Serve with steamed rice.

Here is another Pepper Chicken recipe that is made the Vietnamese way and comes out a little caramelized.

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1/4 cup fish sauce

1/4 cup water

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger

1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper

2 fresh Thai chiles, halved, or dried red chiles

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 shallot, thinly sliced

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces

4 cilantro sprigs

In a small bowl, combine the sugar, fish sauce, water, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger, pepper and chiles.

Heat the oil in a large deep skillet. Add the shallot and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the fish sauce mixture and the chicken and simmer over high heat until the chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl, garnish with the cilantro and serve.

The Chinese New Year’s holiday is significant because of all the myths and traditions and is celebrated to wish "happiness", "wealth", and "longevity" on everyone you know.This will always be a holiday I will celebrate. And here are some of my much loved highlights from Chicago’s Chinatown.

Bon Appetit!

White...Is It A Color?

My son and I have had this discussion before because my favorite color is white. He says that white is not a color.

I agree with some scientists who say that White is the blending of all colors and is a color. Explanation: Light appears colorless or white. Sunlight is white light that is composed of all the colors of the spectrum. A rainbow is proof. You can't see the colors of sunlight except when atmospheric conditions bend the light rays and create a rainbow. You can also use a prism to demonstrate this. Fact: The sum of all the colors of light add up to white.

This is my self-assured color theory but I know it depends on who you ask. Fine artists, on the other hand, believe the complete reverse: white is the absence of color.

OK – so a white flag is universally recognized as a symbol of truce.

Here are some of the many reasons why I LOVE white!

White Chocolate Martini

The Ratio is 2:1
2 parts Vodka(nothing cheap,k?)
1 part Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur

"Star light, Star bright, the first Star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might, Have the wish I wish tonight."

Just like in Paris , there is nothing like getting into a pile of white sheets and a feather bed…and staying there for the entire winter.

You know it’s summer when you zip up your white jeans

Your REAL best friend – the white cat

My favorite indulgence…vanilla ice cream

The one thing that makes me feel dressed up…pearls

My favorite flower…Lilly of the Valley

Every good girl wears White Boots - me included!

A white hat …MM style
Photo from Marilyn Monroe Archives

Photo: Galin          The 2nd time around white dress

Seashells ….after all - my best moments have been at the beach.

Happy Almost Spring!