Tag: Cocktail (page 1 of 2)

How To Make Rhubarb Syrup For Cocktails & Spritzers

Growing-up in Minnesota, I took rhubarb for granted.

My folks weren’t really into it. Rhubarb was this mysterious, sour pink stalky plant we dared each other to eat as kids. Jake remembers dipping it into sugar. As a young adult, I remember catering an event where the people ate all of the other summer pies except the rhubarb. The rhubarb slices came back to the kitchen where we happily enjoyed them.

I realized they were fools.

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Meet Me At These Three St. Paul Restaurants For A Cocktail (and Food)

I swore I’d always remain loyal to Minneapolis. Back when I was a new college grad, I lived in Uptown and rarely crossed the river. Now, I work in Minneapolis and live in St. Paul. I love my Twin Cities. Here are a few places where I recently enjoyed and excellent cocktail (or two) that also serve really good food:

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Doughscuits and Broccoli Bites: Six Favorite Food Experiences

One week at a time, we’re settling into our new life in St. Paul, Minnesota.

New house, new jobs, a job search, and yard work; it’s all a little much.  I’m finding myself considering things I’ve never considered before, like grocery delivery and those meal kit things.  Just the other day, someone left me a comment indicating that she thought I still lived in Iowa. I wanted to mock her for not knowing where I lived until I remembered that I can’t always remember either.

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St. Louis Is Delicious: Seven Favorite Tastes

St. Louis is a delicious city, that’s for sure. When I haven’t been drinking ranch dressing-flavored soda or making pizza hot dish in the crock pot, I’m doing one of many things: Trying to stay cool (It’s so hot here!), job searching, completing Microsoft Excel tutorials, learning about coding on CodeCademy, walking the dog, or eating things.

You can find most any type of food you could possibly wish for in St. Louis. While I used to write posts on most of our restaurant experiences, I share more of these snapshots on my Instagram feed. Here are some of my favorite and most interesting tastes from the past month.

Guerilla Street Food at #FoodTruckFridaySTL
I attended my first Food Truck Friday, a recurring event sponsored by Sauce Magazine. On Friday, the food trucks convened at Tower Grove Park. I’ve seen a lot of posts about and from Food Trucks in my social media feeds and look forward to visiting my first one. In an attempt to avoid long lines, I arrived at the park around 4 p.m.

Street Food Fest

Guerilla Street Food was the truck I was most curious about trying and it was surrounded by the most people. It serves Filipino-inspired food and just opened a brick and mortar store. I placed my order and didn’t have to wait more than seven minutes for my name to be called.

I didn’t read the menu descriptions too closely and found the Fresh Lumpia a surprising take on the Filipino egg roll. It was a crepe wrapped around cabbage-veggie filling, a lettuce leaf, and served with sweet chili sauce. What we enjoyed the most was the Wandering Pig Bowl (also available inburrito). The pulled pork was tender and succulent and the combination of hoisin, Filipino lime, sriracha, scallions and fried garlic made for a very flavorful and umumai-filled combination. It was a hefty portion for only $6. I’ve always wanted to try Filipino food and want to return to try some more dishes.

GS Bowl

I read that attendees can purchase a Food Truck Friday speed pass for $10 (or 3 for $25), which can be redeemed to bypass the line at one food truck. These passes seem like an expensive way to enjoy the event. If you can go when the lines aren’t too long, it’s a lovely way to spend a Friday evening. There were many other food trucks serving everything from gyros to beer to cupcakes. People sat together on park picnic tables and picnic blankets with their families and their dogs.

One friendly tip from me to you is to wear closed toed shoes walking through Tower Grove Park, or follow the paved path. To take a short cut back to my car, I tromped through the grassy field covered in lawn mowing clippings and stepped on a bee.

House of India
One weekend we ordered take-out from House of India, as recommended by several people. It was exactly what we were looking for. The sauces were wonderfully complex and addicting and totally “hot” as requested. House of India distinguishes the terms spicy from hot and the person who took my order politely corrected me over the phone when I asked for “extra spicy.”

House of India Collage

The vindaloo wasn’t our favorite of the three entrees, but the bhindi masala and paneer makhni (reminded us of paneer tikka masala) were some of the best we’ve ever tried from anywhere. When we lived in the Twin Cities, we loved ordering bhindi masala from Surabhi who made it in a similar style. Some restaurants make a saucier version that includes other vegetables like tomato or green pepper. We prefer the dryer, more okra-centric version like this.

Chai Tea & Ham and Raspberry Jam Biscuit at Half and Half.
Half & Half is an often-mentioned breakfast/brunch/lunch cafe located nearby.The restaurant includes some communal tables, an open kitchen, and more mason jars than I could count. On two visits, what stood out is that the food is cooked with a lot of care. My family member’s fruit bowl side was not some wintermelon-filled afterthought and the crispy breakfast potatoes were lovingly sprinkled with finishing salt. I’m especially fond of their little biscuit filled with ham & raspberry jam. It’s the perfect, compact breakfast.

Half and Half Collage

Blueberry Cake Donut at Vincent Van Doughnut
When we first moved here, I spun into a donut frenzy. There weren’t many places that sold donuts that didn’t arrive at the store pre-packaged. And the one time I bought a package of donuts from the farmers market, they were so soaked in fishy-tasting grease that I threw them away.

There are many donut shops here! One of my favorite local bloggers Whiskey & Soba recommended Vincent Van Doughnut. When I had arrived on a weekday by 10 a.m., they had sold out of most of their donuts. Fortunately, I’m the most un-picky donut fan. This blueberry donut was my jam. The texture was similar to the cake donuts I’ve tried in the past, but with more bite and a crisp crust. The glaze was tart and naturally fruity, and its spicing almost reminded me of Chef Shack’s Indian-spiced mini donuts. I loved the donut’s delightful, state fair fried food essence.

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Jake said the flavor reminded him of his Norwegian grandmother’s donuts. He preferred their other style of raised donut that remind me of a beignet just as Whiskey & Soba described.

Fortune Teller Manhattan, Fortune Teller Bar
The Fortune Teller Bar caught my eye for several reasons: Recommendations from friends, tales of a roaming palm reader & mention that it served Lunchables. When we visited, we had just eaten dinner but noticed the bar has a full kitchen. I did not see a fortune-teller and wonder if he or she is present on certain nights or later at night than 7:30-8 p.m. Getting my palm read seemed like an amusing thing to do, but after reading about a blogger friend’s terrible palm reading experience I’m a little relieved & $20 richer.

Unless I’m dining at a Mexican restaurant or chain, I go for less sweet cocktails. This Fortune Teller Manhattan ($8) made with J.J. Neukomn whiskey, Byrrh Grand Quinquina, Angostura bitters and dark cherry was strong & delicious with the tiniest hint of sweetness.

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Sugarfire Pie Gooey Butter Cake. I’ve tried baking gooey butter cake twice with varying degrees of success. One was too dry and the other, too gooey. “My gooey butter cake is too gooey, ” is a St. Louis problem. Until I master the art of baking gooey butter cake, I’ll let someone else do the honors. We have many versions to try, but so far, our favorite is from Sugarfire PieI hear we need to try Russell’s on Macklind. 

Seafood City Supermarket, Fish Cake: There are many Asian restaurants and grocery stores along a street called Olive Blvd. Seafood City is probably the largest. I can’t tell if it’s part of the Seafood City Supermarket chain since its website does not list a St. Louis location. Seafood City is similar in size to United Noodle in Minneapolis. However, it has a large selection of fresh seafood, smaller produce section and no in-house deli or restaurant.

When I was paying for my purchase, I noticed plates of some type of still-warm food sealed in ziplock bags at the end of the register. I asked what was inside the packages, and an employee who described it as fish cake started offering samples to customers and employees, alike. It had a golden brown crust and savory flavor that wasn’t at all fishy. I did pass on purchasing the plate since it contained too much food for Jake and I, but would consider getting it again if we could serve it fresh to a small group.

At the end of this week, we’re hosting more family members who are coming to visit St. Louis for the first time. Our Missouri adventure continues. . . 

Trayse yawn

Trayse says, “Hello,” and “Why is it so hot here? I’m a Minnesota doggie.”

The Every Bar In Mason City Quest: Las Palmas & Sidewinder

Our most recent date night brought us queso sauce and a cherry blue cocktail. A taste of something familiar and a taste of something new.

We self-admittedly owe many North Iowa restaurants a visit, but crave Mexican food from Las Palmas on a regular basis. The staff always makes us feel welcome and very much at ease. Even after our first or second visit, the bartender recognized us and remembered what we ordered. How could this type of hospitality not foster loyalty? We felt like we were cheating on Las Palmas when we dined at a different Mexican restaurant in town.

Jake and I like spicy food. While the salsa at Las Palmas isn’t necessarily spicy, it’s got a little kick and a pleasant herbiness from what I’m guessing is Mexican oregano. Sometimes I order a blistered jalapeno on the side for extra heat.

One of my favorite dishes combines an interesting assortment of ingredients: Broccoli and cauliflower florets, shrimp, rice, and queso. This probably shouldn’t work, but somehow it just does. Seafood and cheese often freaks me out, but queso sauce might be an exception.

Shrimp Broccoli Dish WM
Most recently, I tried a quesadilla stuffed with shrimp and refried beans, and drizzled with queso sauce. This might be my new favorite dish. The shrimp had a snappy texture and I’d trade the typical quesadilla for one drizzled with this queso sauce most any day.

*There are plenty of dishes without queso at Las Palmas. We just keep gravitating towards the cheesier ones. 

Quesadilla shrimp wm

Jake rotates between burritos, fajitas, and a fajita-like dish that combines shrimp, beef and chicken. He commented on how he was especially happy with how well-seasoned the beef tasted last weekend.

After dinner, we headed to our fourth stop on our Every Bar in Mason City Quest, Sidewinder (Facebook page may contain NSFW language).

A few of my readers let me know that Sidewinder was closing after the last weekend in November. One individual took the time to email me about his memories of Sidewinder. He mentioned it used to be called Tommy’s and functioned as a popular neighborhood gathering spot where his dad watched sports games with friends.

Last Saturday evening, it was standing room only as many stopped by for their End of the World party. We overheard one woman reminisce about having her first drink at Sidewinder. Others mentioned they were going to stay until closing time on this last evening.

I ordered the bartender’s choice of a Jack & cola and we paused to watch the football game. Later, I noticed a bottle of cherry Mcgillicuddy’s and thought of a friend who had recommended I try it. Since I was in the mood for something sweet and something new (to me, at least), I asked the bartender if he could make a cherry cocktail with the liquor. He steered me towards Three Olives Cherry-flavored vodka and suggested this blue creation.

Sidewinder blue drink wm

When he mentioned it contained energy drink, I almost changed my order. I drink coffee and the very occasional diet Dew, but avoid energy drinks, mostly because I don’t like their liquid SweeTart taste or smell. This was a night to be adventurous and I was pleasantly surprised to find that I liked the cocktail, energy drink and all. Like Las Palmas’ shrimp, queso, broccoli & cauliflower combination, this cherry liquor and energy drink combo just worked.

In closing, we enjoyed our visit to Sidewinder. Everyone was friendly, from the bartender to the patrons, and we felt very welcome. We are sorry to learn they are closing and wish the owner and staff well. Based upon all of the stories people have shared, it’s evident that Sidewinder holds significant memories for many past and present Mason City residents. Hopefully they will find a great buyer.

Coming Up Next: A date night stop at Mason City Brewing & North Iowa Bloggers dinner at West Fork Wharf in Sheffield, Iowa.

Every Bar in Mason City Graphic

The Every Bar In Mason City Quest
Burke’s Bar & Grill
Candy Bar Nite Club
Homer’s Sports Bar & Grill
Kozy Korner
Mason City Brewing
Mulligan’s Bar & Grill (11/24/2014)
Mystic Lanes Bowling
Patrick’s Bar
Ransom’s
Sidewinder Bar (11/29/14)
Spike’s Tap & Grill
Sportsmans Lounge
VFW Post 733
Willow Run Lounge (11/01/2014)
Wise Guys Sports Pub (11/08/2014)

Restaurant/Hotel Bars
1910 Lounge
Chop Eleven
LD’s Filling Station
Loredo’s
Papa’s
Pastime Gardens
The Quarry Tapas Bar
Rib Crib
River City Bar & Grille at the Clarion Inn
Whiskey Creek
Wok ‘n Roll

Reader Suggested Bars Throughout North Iowa
Bernie’s Bar, Forest City
Elly’s Lakefront Tap, Clear Lake
Lake Time Brewery, Clear Lake
Signatures Sports Bar & Grill, Northwood
Tanks Bar & Grill, Rudd
West Fork Wharf, Sheffield

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