Category: detroit lakes

Jeni Goes Outside and Wiener Schnitzel In Paul Bunyan Country

I’m not sure at what point in my life I became a fussy house cat.  This occurred on me this weekend, after the following occurred:

A:  Jake’s cousin offered to gradually reintroduce us to the great outdoors.
B: The realization, “People really do spend the whole day outside,” ran through my head after sitting outside for three hours. 

Jake and I grew up in families that didn’t camp or own cabins.  My family spent a total of one evening camping and I didn’t step onto another camp ground until my senior year of college.  I was invited to join some outdoorsy friends for an evening of camping and proudly contributed a large tent that I hauled from my parents’ basement.  When we arrived at the campground, we began to set up the tent.  Someone paused to ask me about the whereabouts of the poles. 
“What poles?” I asked. 
My friends were kind enough to let me stay, and all six of us crammed into a tiny tent, tilted onto our left sides, and lined up like sardines. 
The summers of my childhood were spent swimming in Lake Wappogasset at church camp and leaping from our cousins’ pontoon boat when we visited them in Texas.  Somewhere between The Backstreet Boys and Dawson’s Creek, my fearlessness disappeared.    



Despite my debilitating fear of bugs and squeamishness of lake water, the weekend at the lake cabin was a gentle reintroduction back to the outdoors.  The waters of Long Lake were translucent and I waded through lily pads while others pursued bass with fishing poles.  

We ate, drank, grilled, and baked, just enjoying each other’s company.     

Some of Jake’s younger cousins were able to join us.  I’m always interested to learn about what’s trending in the tween and preteen world.  In sixth grade, I flaunted my new Tamagotchi virtual pet in school.  Now, I feel old as sixth graders teach me how to play Fruit Nina on an iPad 2.

Someday, if and when I have children, I’m going to intentionally provide them with opportunities to submerge themselves in lake water and frolic in mud.  May my future offspring grow-up to be more comfortable roughing it than their mother and never forget that tents need poles.
A highlight of our weekend was the journey to and from Remer.  Detroit Lakes is the best, beachy escape, closest to Fargo.  But if you wander too far from the lakes, its urban sprawl looks like Fargo . . . with a lake.  Just minutes east of Detroit Lakes, conifers begin to punctuate the landscape.  Tall, glorious conifers.  Dark forests of looming conifers, beckoning lakes, and sleepy pastures.  

When I lived in Minnesota, I didn’t dwell on my constant proximity to water.  Now, I miss the lakes and forests, fiercely, in a way that convinces me they have become part of my identity.
On the way home, Jake and I stopped for lunch at Brauhaus German Restaurant and Lounge, a cozy German restaurant located in Akeley, MN.  Google says the The Brauhaus is the closest German restaurant to Fargo-Moorhead, despite its two hour distance (however, we did notice signs for Schwarzwald Inn in Park Rapids, MN).  On Friday evening, the restaurant was surrounded by cars.  On Sunday afternoon, the scene was quieter as we arrived around noon, soon after the doors opened.
The interior was dark and kitschy.  We were warmly greeted and our server provided ice water.  As we surveyed the menu, she also brought us a generous dish of pate with crackers.

It was creamy like butter and tasted subtly like liver, sweet with onion and flecked with fresh parsley.  We spread the pate in thick layers onto crackers that tasted a little bit like caraway and rye. It was a beautiful and complimentary treat. 
Jake’s been crazy about jagerschnitzel since he tried this saucy dish at Black Forest Inn, Minneapolis, MN.  I prefer my schnitzel naked.  Crispy-crunchy and spritzed with lemon.  We ordered these dishes along with sides of spaetzle, red cabbage, and slices of this heavy sourdough bread. 

The schnitzels were pounded thin and crispy.  Jake enjoyed his jagerschnitzel, $17.95, though we felt the gravy lacked the depth and richness of Black Forest’s.  In contrast, The Brauhaus’s schnitzels were larger and of better flavor and texture. 

The thick, noodle-like spaetzel were light and scented with nutmeg.  They were topped with gravy, which I might have left off, if given a choice.  The silky, red cabbage’s bright acidity offset the dish’s richness.  Other than the fact that the gravy covered part of my Weiner Schnitzel, $16.95, I was satisfied with my meal.

We miss German food in Fargo.  Dining at this rural, German restaurant was too unique of an opportunity to miss on our drive back to North Dakota.  If it wasn’t so early, we might have indulged in Brauhaus’s selection of German beers.  Brauhaus’s website mentions their meats are locally sourced and hand-cut.  Based-upon the pate and schnitzels, it is obvious they put a lot of care into preparing their meats. 
And we paid our tally at the bar, a lovely woman with a German accent chatted with us about the sweltering weather.  The restaurant accepts cash only.  If you are without, a cash machine sits near the entrance. 
Then, we said our goodbyes to Paul Bunyan country and all of its conifers.  
Maybe, just maybe, I’ll stay put for a couple of weekends.  

Our Detroit Lakes Weekend Part II: Hotel Shoreham & Fireside Restaurant

After spending a lazy morning lounging around The Lodge on Lake Detroit, I shook Jake from his video game trance and summoned him to lunch.

I chose Hotel Shoreham, a small restaurant mostly known for its pizza, located on Lake Sallie.  Still feeling “za’d” out from the previous evening at Zorbaz, we opted for nothing that included a “Z.”

Jake ordered a fruity beverage that ended up costing $9 and I ordered a bottle of St. Pauli Girl, $4.75, having no clue that it did not contain any alcohol.  My beer connoisseur fiance laughed at me.

We started with a basket of beer batter fried shrimp, $9.95, which arrived scalding hot and nearly grease-free.

Salads came with our entrees.  The greens were fresh and crisp and I dipped them in the house dill dressing, that reminded me of that bread bowl party dip.

The $11 crab cake was about the size of my palm.  It’s crispy exterior was drizzled with a garlicky mayonnaise sauce.  The interior revealed some breading, flakes of crab along, and a few small lumps of meat.  Overall, we enjoyed its flavor, but felt it was pricey considering its size.  Oceanaire may charge about $15 per crab cake, but they are larger and made exclusively with jumbo lumps bound together with little more than sorcery.  Not quite the case at Hotel Shoreham, but not bad.

We split the walleye sandwich, $11.95

The fish fillet’s batter was crispy and greaseless, and the flesh was delicate and sweet.  We rejoiced at the toasted bun.

After lunch, we drove around Lake Sallie, hoping to find some sort of beach or dock from which we could dangle our feet.  We chased deceptive signs that pointed us towards nonexistent beaches.  We circled around luxurious lake homes and wooded lots sheltering what we imaged were the cabins of kings.  Lake Sallie must be an exclusive lake, as we could not find even a strip of publicly accessible land.  Finally, we finally found a public dock that reached into water covered in green matter so thick that birds traveled across it by foot.  We passed.

When we returned to The Lodge, I took a nap and slept off that St. Pauli Girl.

For dinner, we chose the Fireside Restaurant located a few blocks from The Lodge.  By 8 p.m., it calmly buzzed with customers and we sat on the screened porch overlooking the lake.  We felt like we’d been transported to a sleepy veranda on the deep south.  Diners leaned into their chairs and lingered over their dinners as servers gracefully allowed everyone to bask in the sunset.

I ordered a mojito for $6.50.

Despite the mojito’s whimsical swizzle sticks, it tasted a little off. Jake fared better with a glass of red wine.

We snacked on a complimentary plate of “no-frills” vegetables and dip.

And picked out the buttery garlic toasts from the breadbasket (also complimentary).

For an entree, I ordered a Caesar salad with anchovies, $6, and the Surf &Turf Skewers appetizer, $11, that consisted of bacon-wrapped beef and scallops in a “tangy honey-mustard sauce.”  Jake ordered the 10 oz. prime rib special. $23, offered with his choice of two sides.  He selected grilled asparagus and garlic mashed potatoes.

The Caesar salad greens were fresh and dotted with croutons coated in something cheesy and a little bit spicy.  Kudos for offering anchovies.

I began to feel full and gingerly tasted the skewers.

The beef was cooked to about medium and was tender.  Although the large scallops were fresh and buttery, mine contained some grit.  Jake ate the second and deemed it grit-free, pushing aside the soggy bacon which I happily ate.  He prefers bacon cooked ultra crispy while I like mine with some give.  I’d hardly describe the sauce as tasting like honey mustard.  Its sweetness tasted much more subtle and melded with the grilled meats.

Jake delicately carved bites of his prime rib and dunked them in au jus and horseradish sauce.  The meat was tender and cooked medium rare as requested.

The side of asparagus was carefully grilled (ends trimmed) and garnished with a hollandaise-like sauce and lemon wedge.

Since it was the end of our vacation, we split creme brulee.

At first glance, I was disappointed the sugar topping wasn’t more caramelized.  But after I dug below the surface, I was too hooked to care.  The smooth chocolate custard tasted exactly like the essence of a chocolate brownie.  Jake began to reminisce about the brownies his late, Norwegian Grandma used to make.

We were stunned when our bill was almost equivalent to our lunch at the Shoreham Hotel.  Fireside is known as the pricier option in Detroit Lakes, but served a better-than-average meal for lower prices than what we’d find in Fargo-Moorhead and the Twin Cities.

I really appreciate the juxtaposition of Fireside’s stunning lake view and unpretentious service/atmosphere.  While the staff is down to earth, occasional customers may be more high maintenance.  I laughed as I overheard a conversation that mirrored this Portlandia sketch.  We had practically finished two courses by the time they placed their order.

Hopefully, we’ll return to Detroit Lakes this summer.  Where do you like to eat and do you have a favorite dive-bar?

Our Detroit Lakes Weekend Part I: Eggbake Heaven & “Za” from Zorbaz

My idea of heaven is waking-up to someone else’s eggbake.

Such was the case during our weekend stay at The Lodge On Lake Detroit.

Our room’s balcony overlooked the grassy lawn and clear waters of Lake Detroit.  On our first evening, we giggled as adults polka’d around a campfire on the beach.  During the day, friends gossiped over beer while children built sandcastles.

The view from our balcony

The lodge was immaculately clean and it’s vibe was tranquil.  Obviously, not a prime choice for rowdy party-goers.  We unwound and enjoyed the complimentary wi-fi and watermelon water from the lobby.  Jake swam in the indoor pool while I sat on a beach chair and daydreamed.

My favorite part of our stay was slicing off wedges of the lodge’s eggbake featured at the complimentary breakfast.  This eggbake was no ordinary eggbake.  In fact, it may even be better than your mother’s.  Each morning, the staff gingerly replaced small pans of eggbake made with vegetables, meat, gooey cheese, and fluffy cubes of bread.  On the first morning, I found fresh broccoli, and on the second, rosemary.  While some gravitated toward “make-your-own waffles” or the strange, automated pancake machine, I lined-up for eggbake, dousing it with a selection of hot sauces.

The Lodge also provided three varieties of hot coffee, plus flavored syrups.  Definitely my thing, not Jake’s.

A small bar in the lobby opens at five p.m. and serves bottles of craft beer, wine, cocktails, and a selection of treats such as $3 cheese plates and flat breads.

Overall, we have no complaints about The Lodge.  The staff members were lovely and we returned to Fargo breathing a little easier.

Before we left for Detroit Lakes, we had asked friends and coworkers for dining recommendations.  Nearly everyone pointed us towards Zorbaz.  So, on Friday evening we made the obligatory stop at Zorbaz for our first meal in Detroit Lakes.   We easily located the illuminated “Z” and sat on the patio beneath a neon palm tree.

Zorbaz offers an eclectic “please all” menu of pizza, Mexican-inspired food, and spaghetti.  Jake ordered the “Hot Hawg” pizza that was generously topped with green chili sauce, Canadian bacon, pepperoni, andouille sausage, bacon, and jalapenos.  He seemed satisfied and enjoyed the rest as leftovers.  I didn’t consider it particularly spicy, except for the jalapenos.

I don’t often crave Americanized-Mexican food, but was surprised at how much I enjoyed Zorbaz’s chicken enchiladas.

The chicken was plentiful and moist and the enchilada sauce packed more flavor than Mexican Village could muster.  I noticed the sauce contained rough cuts of fresh vegetables and I appreciated the garnishes of jalapeno and fresh, red onion.

The wristbands were annoying, the atmosphere was fun, and Jake was happy with the surprisingly large tap beer list.  Portion sizes were large considering the prices.  My enchilada plate, alone, contained enough food for three Jeni-sized meals.

We felt the food was tasty, though nothing earth-shattering.  With its relaxed atmosphere and proximity to the main beach, I can see why families look forward to making summer pilgrimages to Zorbaz.

Sidenote: I once dated a man from Philadelphia.  He asked me why Minnesotan’s called pizza, “za.”  I had no idea what he was talking about.  I believe I had my first encounter with “za” at Zorbaz.  When you “za,” do you know?  


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