Enjoy these food-related odds and ends from my winter break.

Jake’s grandma passed away this weekend so we will head to the Twin Cities for the memorial service next weekend. When we return, winter break will end and classes will resume.

Ole and Lena’s Pizzeria, Westacres Mall, Fargo, ND
A blog reader recommended the original Ole and Lena’s in Rothsay, MN, about a half hour away on I-94 towards Minneapolis. There is a smaller version at the mall’s food court.

I enjoyed a piece of plain, cheese pizza. The crust had nice texture. Firm where it was supposed to be firm, chewy where it mattered, and floppy in all the right places. It also tasted a little sweet.

The slice was large and was topped with high quality cheese. Perfect for when I’m craving Cosetta’s-style pizza.

Citizen Cafe, Minneapolis, MN
During Christmas week, I met a friend for dinner at Citizen. She mentioned Citizen Cafe’s commitment to locally sourcing ingredients.

I arrived a little early and the staff was more than happy to let me pause at a table and sip a glass of wine until she arrived.

Our server brought a complimentary bread basket. The bread was served warm and accompanied by soft, whipped butter and a mysterious, vegetal/nutty spread.

We both ordered the portabella sandwich which was a steal at $9 (add .75 for goat cheese). The mushroom, onion, roasted red pepper, and squash were cooked nicely and the balsamic provided tang. The ciabatta was toasted and tender. Following the large holiday meals I had recently eaten, I ordered the sandwich without goat cheese, which I immediately regretted.

Sandwiches come with fruit, coleslaw or homemade potato chips. I ordered the chips and they were thin, unseasoned waffle crisps.

Overall, the restaurant had a weird vibe. Not unfriendly, but maybe reserved or curious? Our actual server had a warmer demeanor than the woman who seated me.

Nelson Bros., Clearwater Travel Plaza, Clearwater, MN

On our drive back to the Twin Cities, we wanted to grab a non-fast food lunch. A blog reader once recommended the deli sandwiches at the Clearwater Travel Plaza. I stopped for a caramel roll earlier this year and wasn’t impressed because it didn’t taste of butter.

I found the sandwich counter next to the bakery. The ordering system initially struck me as slightly overwhelming. I think I expected to order from a larger menu of set sandwich combinations, but the deli encouraged customers to pick their own bread, meat, cheese and sauce. Sort of like Subway. Eventually, I noticed a small sign advertising sandwich combination.

I ordered chicken salad but discovered I got tuna in the car. Fortunately, I like both equally.

The tuna salad was a little wet, but tasted fine. The vegetables tasted fresh and there were many to choose from. I liked the spicy mustard sauce and the bread was notably fresh. I ordered Jake a creation involving roast beef and horseradish sauce and he was pleased.

All in all, the deli serves very large sandwich for about $6. Ideal for those who like to customize, but putzier for those who are in a hurry or don’t feel like making a lot of decisions that moment.

Cafe 21, Fargo, ND
A fellow Fargo food blogger, FMFare, discovered a new Asian restaurant serving a fusion of Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese foods. Cafe 21 seems to have replaced Yuki-Hana, a Japanese/Korean restaurant. They serve pho and might be the only restaurant who makes bahn mi. The Asian and American Market sells bahn mi from the Twin Cities in their refrigerated section. I tried one once, and thought the freshness got lost in transit.

We enjoyed spring rolls, spicy ramen with vegetables and egg, eel sushi, beef pho, and flan. Fresh and affordable. Friendly service. Would not hesitate to return.

My only suggestion: Do something about the microwave prominently displayed by a large window facing the parking lot.

But more on this dinner later.

A New Knife Set
Jake’s uncle is active and successful in the Minneapolis-St. Paul restaurant business. He generously gifted me with this metal suitcase O’ Wustoff knives. He said someone had done the same for him when he began his culinary career. 

Carrying the suitcase makes me feel like an assassin.

I just bought a diamond steel so I can try to maintain them. There are two layers of knives and cooking tools such as a zester, channel knife, melon baller, and sewing needles. There are even a couple keys to lock the whole thing up.

We bought Dexter Sani Safe knife sets for class. The handles may be safe, but not particularly sanitary. They are indented with tiny grooves that may prevent slippage but trap debris. In class, it’s not uncommon for students to grab knives from cutting boards while the owner’s back is turned. Knives and other tools are borrowed, never returned, and run through the dishwasher.

These will never see the light of class.

An Ice Cream Maker
Our good friend gave us her ice cream maker. She had only used it once and just never got into it. I am excited to give it a whirl.

As always, your dining suggestions are always appreciated!