Category: Fargo (Page 1 of 9)

Winter Road Trip To Fargo-Moorhead

They say you can’t go back.

Sometimes you can.

For Jake, this was his first trip back to Fargo since we lived there eight years ago. I’ve returned a couple of times since. Fargo was our home for two years, the first of several job transfers and first time away from home. Well, home-home. Our original home.

At first, I hated living in Fargo. Everything was different and felt smaller. There was that little toll bridge I kept finding at and train tracks that criss-crossed the city. By the end of our two years, we made good friends and found our favorite places. Leaving felt bittersweet.

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24 Hours in Fargo

Fargo is cool.

Everyone who’s been to Fargo already knows this. Everyone else doesn’t always believe me.

When I think of Fargo-Moorhead, I think of hanging out on our friends’ big front porches and drinking wine. I think of tromping down main street in a snow storm, popping in and out of bars ordering pickled eggs and Chuck Norris shots.

I think of the troll lounge at the Sons of Norway building, cheese plates with slices of cheeses fanned out as opulently as a peacock’s tail feathers at Mezzaluna (half-price at happy hour!), and knoephla soup. I think of overflowing molcajete and ridiculously cheap beer at Mango’s and buttermilk pie at Josie’s.

I think of blowing up Peking ducks with air compressors in M State culinary school and the madness that was German Sausage Chowder day in the Sanford hospital cafeteria.

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My Knoephla Soup Recipe: A Taste Of North Dakota In Iowa

I felt a little North Dakotan so I made some knoephla soup.

This past weekend, I enjoyed following Beth of Rhubarb & Venison, Tracie of Basin Electric, and Sarah of Home With The Lost Italian as they explored Fargo as part of the ND Bloggers & Writers Workshop hosted by the Department of Commerce. I’m happy I could meet them at last summer’s workshop before we moved to Iowa.

I’m finding many favorite places in North Iowa, but I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic as they visited some of our favorite Fargo places like Pinch & Pour, Unglued, The Hodo, Sarello’s and Atomic Coffee. Then, I found myself craving knoephla soup.

I’ve never found knoephla soup outside of North Dakota. Sure, I’ve eaten chicken and dumplings in entrée and soup form before but learned that in North Dakota, it goes by knoephla. This soup comes from the food traditions of the German-Russians who settled in North Dakota and I can’t think of any Fargo restaurant that does not serve it regularly.

My favorite knoephla soups came from Home Plate Cafe in Fredonia and Josie’s Coffee Corner in Fargo. Knoephla soup often appeared on our culinary school lunch menu and I was thrilled when I was assigned to prepare it one morning.

Knoephla collage.jpg

I giggled this winter when I ordered a cup of chicken and dumpling soup at the local sports bar Papa’s and it tasted exactly like knoephla soup. It was a really good cup, too, and would have held it’s own in North Dakota.

In culinary school I made soup so often that I could make it in my sleep. I build soups by sight, feel and taste instead of measuring ingredients. If you’d like a more exact recipe, scroll down to the recipe at the end of this post I wrote for Simple, Good & Tasty about Quantity Lab in Culinary School.

Here’s what I whipped together last night, though I might have made too much soup. Our pot was big enough to serve a large family so I froze the extra. Actually, I take that back. You can’t have too much knoephla. Especially if you live outside of North Dakota.

Cooks Notes:

IMG_2070These homemade dumplings are denser and chewier than frozen knoephla dumplings. They remind me more of spaetzle. Frozen dumplings are widely available in North Dakotan grocery stores. The raw dumplings will expand during cooking so don’t cut them too big. 

Make as little or as much soup as you’d like. I add a lot of vegetables and gently cream the soup. This means preparing it with chicken broth and adding just enough cream to provide a butterfat shimmer but not make too heavy. I prefer my soup thinner but you can add more roux for a thicker texture. Extra roux can be saved in the refrigerator for later use thickening soups or sauces. 

Use chicken stock or water with chicken base added to it. I typically buy the highest quality chicken base I can find  because it’s less expensive than purchasing boxes of broth. You can even find organic chicken bases. The higher quality bases will contain chicken and require that you store them in the refrigerator after opening. Of course, if you make your own broth, then use that. 


Good bowls have a butterfat shimmer.


1 stick of butter
1/2 cup flour

Knoephla Dough
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold water
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Olive oil or butter
Carrots, about three medium, diced
Celery, about three ribs, diced
1 small onion, diced
Waxy red or yellow potatoes, diced (about two cups)
Chicken broth or water + high quality chicken base
Cooked chicken, two-three cups
Black pepper
White pepper
Garlic powder (or a little fresh garlic)
Sugar, a couple pinches


  1. First, make the roux which will thicken the soup. Melt a stick of butter in a saute pan. Slowly whisk in the flour until it resembles the texture of wet sand (you might not need the entire 1/2 cup flour). Cook briefly until the flour is no longer raw but is not brown. Remove from heat and cool.
  2. In a large pot, saute the carrots, celery and onion in a little butter or olive oil until softened. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Cover with stock or water and add potatoes.
  4. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. In the meantime, make the knoephla dough.
  5. To make the knoephla dough: Whisk together the eggs, baking powder, salt and water. Slowly stir in the flour with a fork until the dough forms a ball. Incorporate flour by hand until the dough resembles dough that is softer than bread dough and slightly stickier. Cover and rest for about 15 minutes. Roll into ropes and cut into small dumplings. Spread the dumplings onto a sheet pan and dust with flour so they don’t stick together.
  6. When the potatoes are tender, add the cooked chicken.
  7. Gradually whisk in spoonfuls of the roux. Be patient and allow the soup to come back to a simmer. The roux will thicken as the soup heats. If you add too much roux too quickly, your soup might be overly thick.
  8. When you like the thickness of the soup, add as much cream as you’d like.
  9. Continue to taste your soup and check for seasoning. Add more salt, pepper, garlic, chicken base if using water, and sugar to taste.
  10. Drop in the dumplings. They’ll float to the surface when they are cooked.

Favorites From 2013: Foods, Beverages & More

2013 was a big year. We lived in Fargo, North Dakota and Mason City, Iowa. We got married, bought our first house, and adopted a dog. I embarked on a lot of solo road trips and completed a whole year of full-time culinary school at Minnesota State Community and Technical College.

Here are my favorite tastes from the past year:

Favorite Overall Dish: Prosciutto Wrapped Shrimp With Marscapone Polenta at Mezzaluna

Mezzaluna offered our favorite happy hour in Fargo with hospitable service and skillfully crafted cocktails. This is the dish we ordered the most frequently during the year. No trip to Mezzaluna was complete if one (or both) of us did not order this.  It’s only $7 during happy hour.

I don’t have a decent photo since we dined when the light was especially dim, but there’s a photo on Mezzaluna’s slide show on their homepage

Favorite Sushi Roll: White Boy Sushi Roll from Bangkok Corner (formerly Cafe 21), Fargo, ND
Yes. I, too, was surprised my favorite sushi roll came from Fargo, ND.

This sushi roll’s name is strange. I liked its pleasing balance of sweet and savory. The mango sauce surprised me because it tasted like a fresh puree and wasn’t cloyingly sweet. The fish was fresh and silky and the portion size was generous for $12.99. Hopefully this is still the case.

Red Curry Scallops, Sarello’s, Moorhead, MN
I met Sarah, the author of the blog Home With The Lost Italian at the North Dakota Blogger and Writer Conference in Bismarck, ND. We were the only Fargo-Moorhead attendees to participate in first evening’s food crawl with Marilyn Hagerty. Jake called me about the Iowa transfer during this conference and so we made a point to visit Sarello’s before we moved.

We spent one of our last evenings in Fargo surrounded by good friends at Sarello’s who gave us the perfect send-off. Our favorite dish was their Red Curry Scallops. The menu features a lot of Italian food, so I was surprised when their curry was spicier and more flavorful than any I’d tasted at a Thai restaurant.

Favorite Salads: 1910 Grille at the Historic Park Inn, Mason City, IA
The only surviving Frank Lloyd Wright hotel 
We’ve visited the Historic Park Inn several times to dine at their restaurant and lounge. Their menus are concise and don’t get too crazy, but everything we’ve ordered has been nicely seasoned and thoughtfully prepared.

Their salads are outstanding. For $9-10 per salad, I’d expect the greens to be free of any blemishes and the dressings to be scratch-made and balanced. These certainly are.

We love the calamari here. One the two occasions we ordered it, the squid was tender, tasted fresh, and fried nicely without being greasy. I was also pleasantly surprised when our gin martinis were only $7 each. 

Fish and Chips from Ward 6, East Saint Paul, MN
This is the dish that keeps me from branching out. It’s fried in beef tallow. “Nuff said.”

More reasons why I love Ward 6.

Favorite Beverages

Absinthe from Meritage, Saint Paul, MN
I’ve written about Meritage so many times. It’s one of our favorite special occasion restaurant in the Twin Cities. They offer many varieties of absinthe that they pour from their fancy absinthe fountain.

They allow one serving per guest, per visit and it’s all for good reason. 
Chai Tea from Verdant Tea in Minneapolis, MN and Coffee Cat, Mason City, IA
Homemade chai tea lattes are the best. Both Verdant Tea and Coffee Cat offer versions made from their own blend of ground spices. 

Tea from Verdant

Verdant’s is automatically made with almond milk unless one requests otherwise and Coffee Cat stocks soy milk and sweetens theirs with honey. You won’t find any sweet powdery mixes or syrups at these places.

Favorite Sandwiches

Signature Sandwich Box Lunches from Starboard MarketWhen I first moved to Mason City, people sang the praises of Starboard Market. I stopped by for takeout lunches while we were in the midst of a miserable hotel week before we could move into our house.

These sandwiches brightened our day. First timers beware: There are so many different types of creative sandwich combinations that it may take you a long time to choose your first one.

The full Signature Sandwich Box Lunches aren’t cheap at $10.25, but our Reuban and Regatta (smoked turkey, mango chutney, havarti cheese) were stacked tall with freshly sliced meat. The boxes also come with a pickle spear, chips, freshly baked cookie and a tiny cup of your choice of salad.

The Cleveland Panini from Cafe 116
We drove between Fargo and Minneapolis-St. Paul countless times. My favorite city to stop was Fergus Falls and I always visited Cafe 116 for their Cleveland Panini and espresso.

Fergus Falls is a beautiful city with a cozy feel. I felt at ease at Cafe 116, so I would often pause to enjoy my meal on my way to the Twin Cities.

The cafe pulls wonderfully rich espresso and serves scratch-made foods made from local producers. I always ordered my favorite Cleveland Panini filled with prosciutto, mozzarella, red onion and sliced apple with a side of fresh vegetables. All sandwiches can be ordered by the half or whole.

I don’t miss making the three and a half hour drive between Fargo and the Twin Cities, especially in the winter, but I will miss my visits to Cafe 116.

Most Surprisingly Good Foods

Shrimp Cocktail at Dempsey’s Public House
Who orders the shrimp cocktail at a dive bar in Fargo?

Dempsey’s is a dim dive bar on the main drag through downtown Fargo. It serves an eclectic crowd and offers surprisingly decent food like Bertrosa’s beer cheese soup.

We’ve been burned by shrimp cocktails such as the $1 version at the MN State Fair so we were wary when our friend ordered it. We were surprised when shrimp were huge and the cocktail sauce made our noses burn with horseradish. In fact, it was just as good than the version at a hotel down the street. It costs $9.75 for five large shrimp and is Dempsey’s offers it for less during certain happy hours. Who knew?

Breakfast Sandwich at Polly’s Coffee Cove, East Saint Paul, MN
This little coffee shop is tucked into a block on Payne Ave. within walking distance to my in-laws house. One morning I ventured over in search of breakfast. I asked the woman at the counter if Polly’s offered breakfast sandwiches and she offered to whip one up for a few dollars.

The sandwich she created wasn’t fancy or gourmet. But somehow, squishy croissants, eggs, swiss cheese and cubed deli turkey meat never tasted so compelling.

Favorite Sweet Things

Green Market, Orange Tart and Corn Cake, Fargo, ND
Alas, the Green Market is no more and is truly missed. 

Green Market was one of a kind in Fargo because they sourced local and organic ingredients and offered a rotating menu every night. Chef Andrea Baumgartener and staff were stellar so we cheer for them as they embark on new adventures. I was thrilled to see Chef Andrea and Amy Thielen prepare Icelandic pancakes on the first episode of Heartland Table.

Pictured above is a buttery tart filled with tangy orange custard and passion fruit glaze and a corn cake with burnt caramel syrup.

Buttermilk Pie, Josie’s Corner Cafe & Bake Shop, Fargo, ND
I hadn’t even heard of buttermilk pie until I worked at Josie’s.

It became my favorite pie and I still think about it from Iowa. Flaky crust and a filling that’s slightly tangy and caramelized on top. It’s already affordable, but on Mondays and Fridays, you can get a slice of pie and freshly-brewed house coffee for a few bucks.

If you’re not in the mood for sweet, their knoephla soup and chicken pot pie soups are some of my favorites. Plus, they make a mean veggie panini.  

Strawberry parfait, Decker House Bed & Breakfast
We spent our first week in Mason City at the Decker House this summer. Jake had to start his new position within weeks and since lodging options here were limited, we thought the Decker House would provide a safe place to land while we considered our long-term options.

One morning, the owner started breakfast with this yogurt parfait made with local strawberries she and her staff picked. It was a bright spot in the midst of a stressful situation.

Read more about our week at the Decker House here

Rhubarb Soup, Pirogue Grille, Bismarck, ND
As I mentioned, the ND Bloggers and Writers Conference food crawl through downtown Bismarck led by Marilyn Hagerty was completely epic. In fact, it has to be one of my favorite memories of my entire life. I’m not even joking.

On our first stop, Chef Stuart Tracy and Cheryl served this cold rhubarb soup in which a ball of ice cream coated in crunchy nougat floated in the middle. It tasted like magic.

It was also surreal to eat lunch with and learn from freelance writer Margie Goldsmith and Mark Orwoll, the International Editor of Travel + Leisure. Thanks to the ND Department of Commerce for coordinating the workshop. 

Favorite Culinary School Tastes

Last year, I completed my first full-time year of culinary school at Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Moorhead, MN. I loved culinary school and was crushed when we found out about our transfer to Iowa last summer. I had just begun working at the bakery and looked forward to completing my second (and final) year where we got to butcher animals, supervise first year students, and plan the school’s cafeteria menus.

Nevertheless, I am grateful for this experience, the friends I made, and the learning opportunities our instructors provided. Here are a couple highlights:

Peking Ducks
Our teacher taught us how to make Peking ducks in our meat unit. We stitched them full of marinade, blew them up with a air compressor, hung them to dry, blanched them in honey water, and roasted them until their skin was crispy.

I’m not even going to try to be humble, here. This experience was awesome.You can read a detailed post as part of my Culinary Chronicles series at Simple, Good & Tasty.

The Seafood Unit
This collage doesn’t quite do our seafood unit justice, but it provides an impression of all the things we tasted.

We learned how to scale and fillet whole salmon and halibut and boil lobsters. We shucked and ate raw oysters, cooked clams and mussels, and ate bacon-wrapped scallops. We boiled lobsters and ate them drenched in lots of butter and learned how to distinguish between different qualities of shrimp.

Read more about our seafood unit here

Spiciest Food

Dhamaka Balti, India Palace, Fargo, ND
Finally, a curry that really gave us heat stroke. We ordered it with lamb and enjoyed every bite.

This particular curry came with a hilarious disclaimer that’s been since removed. It said: *Very HOT! Prepare for an explosion in your mouth.  

Either way, we loved that India Palace actually delivered on their promise of heat. The rest of the dining experience was pleasant as well. Now, if only they’d set up shop in North Iowa.

Favorite Acquired Taste

The Everything Grinder from The Red Pepper, Fargo, ND
Boy, did I hate The Red Pepper when they first opened their location into the strip mall next to our apartment complex.

I whined about the long lines and lengthy wait times and I whined about how the parking lot was now busy with traffic. When I finally got my first taste of Red Pepper, I didn’t hate it, but just didn’t understand how it could have created such a frenzy.

The cheese tostada was just plain weird and the grinder was made from squishy bread stuffed with slimy deli meats and taco meat. We didn’t return between our first visit and move to Iowa. But then everything changed when I had to make solo road trips from Mason City to Fargo to coordinate our move.

By the time I arrived at our old apartment, I was completely exhausted and found the only thing I wanted to eat was an Everything Grinder from The Red Pepper.

I remember wearily trudging across the parking to Red Pepper to collect my sandwich and then to Happy Harry’s for a bottle of beer. It became a ritual that I will miss.

Favorite Food Television Moment

One of my favorite food television moments occurred during season two of Rachel vs. Guy: Celebrity Food Cook-Off.
On the first episode, the contestants seemed determined to win and loved cooking even if they weren’t trained chefs. And then there was Gilbert Gottfried
It became very clear he had no idea what he was doing as he struggled to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. This was all made all the amusing by the fact that Rachel Ray was so earnestly trying to coach Gilbert as if this situation wasn’t hilarious. 
Obviously, he lost that challenge and moved on to compete in a second elimination challenge. When he started preparing a peanut butter and banana sandwich, Jake and I just lost it.
Was he being serious? Was he trolling the Food Network? I mean, for goodness sake, look at his answers to the following interview questions on his contestant profile:

What’s your signature party dish?
GG: I don’t use my dishes during parties. I bring out the paper plates. 
What’s the most surprising thing we’d find in your fridge?
GG: Jimmy Hoffa
Maybe we’ll never know, but I want to thank Gilbert Gottfried from the bottom of my heart for whatever the heck this refreshing moment was in an era where the Food Network feels compelled to produce more and more shows hosted by Guy Fieri and add Farmhouse Rules to its line-up.
Final Thank You’s
Thank you for reading. Blogging has been a dream come true and I am grateful for your support every day. Also, thank you to everyone who made our Fargo journey memorable, our family and friends, and new friends who’ve helped to ease our transition into Iowa. 
I also want to add a thank you to the friends and family that welcomed us into their homes and fed us homecooked meals while we had to live in a hotel. 

When Family Dentistry Gets Weird

When I say I loved living in Fargo-Moorhead during the past two years, I mean it with all sincerity.

I have no regrets about moving from Minneapolis-St. Paul, though I can’t say I enjoy the moving process.

Moving Woes: Finding New Everything
Starting over is a hassle. Even though we’ve lived in Fargo for two years, I feel like I just got a new drivers license and license plates and found a hair salon. Now, I have to find these things all over again in Iowa.

One thing I was surprised by in Fargo was dentistry.

It might not be fair to say “dentistry in Fargo.” Dentistry may be following the same trend, everywhere. When I lived in the Twin Cities, I visited the same dentist since I was two, so what do I know about dental trends, anyway?

Before we got married, Jake and I had different health insurance plans through our employers. I followed my friend’s referral to a small practice that reminded me of home while Jake found a dentist after his front tooth unexpectedly chipped one evening.

After frantically calling dental offices the next morning, one offered him a cancellation spot that day, while others couldn’t fit him in for days to weeks. When we got married, I switched to his dental office for insurance reasons.

Sex Appeal & Swag Bags
Upon arrival, I noticed how the waiting room was spacious, tastefully decorated, and outfitted with a refreshment bar.

A dental hygienist led me to my examination room and adjusted a flat screen television in front of my face. She handed me a remote control and earphones and instructed me to change the channel. It felt awkward and I didn’t really want to watch television. The headphones had a short, so I mindlessly flipped through channels. The staff kept asking me questions, anyway, which made me think this whole set-up wasn’t entirely practical. Would you want to watch television during a physical?

If I had a dental office phobia, I’d rather they pump me with a hefty dose of laughing gas and just get it over with.

The staff conducted a battery of tests since I was new. One hygienist operated a little instrument that beeped each time she held against one of my teeth. She called out numbers while another recorded them.

Each time she announced a number, I wondered, “Are higher lowers better than lower numbers? Is a four better than a two? What’s with that five? What the heck is going on?!”

The staff sent me home with a dental travel kit, a $50 gift certificate to the mall, a shiny folder stuffed with promo materials, and a metal travel mug etched with the dental office’s logo. It was wrapped in a gift bag complete with tissue paper and ribbons.

In addition to the slick marketing, all of the employees were strikingly beautiful young women dressed to the nines.

“That was strange,” I reflected, as I I juggled multiple swag bags out to my car.

Marketing Madness
Later, we received countless envelopes of direct mail encouraging us to sign up for their lifetime teeth whitening and referral clubs, plus email advertisements.

I lost it when the dental office sent me a text message this summer, reminding me to floss.

When I shared my experience with a friend who had also recently moved from the Twin Cities, she laughed and related a story of her own. She visited a different dental office and experienced a similar initial examination, except that hers was intensified by multiple staff who dramatically hollered out numbers as they examined her teeth. They told her she had an ungodly number of cavities (something like 11) and afterwards, the dentist, herself, called and offered to send her flowers.

She declined them and never returned.

Flowers are nice, but they’re no $50 to the mall. By the way, if I refer someone to the dentist, I get another $25.

You look like you could use a new dentist. . .

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