Category: lake

Northern California Adventures: Two Days In Tahoe

The waters of Lake Tahoe are crystal clear and the sun beats over the mountains like a flaming, angry saucer.

Early in the morning, the sun rises over Lake Tahoe; it seems to rise much earlier than it does in the Midwest. Before seven a.m., the lake radiated so fiercely with white light that I had to look away.

For two Midwestern kids, the drive to Lake Tahoe felt nerve-wracking. We’re used to driving long, flat distances through corn fields on auto-drive, only pausing it to pass semis. You can’t do that here. The highway winds up through the mountains and around sharp curves hugging drop-offs that make your palms sweat.

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Two Things I Like: Bread & Pickle Popcorn, Ward 6

Our weekends in the Twin Cities feel bittersweet.

On the plus side, we’ve gotten to see our families more than ever since we moved to Fargo, ND. We’ve caught up and reconnected with old friends. We’ve tried new restaurants in the Twin Cities and returned to our favorites.

As minuses, we loathe packing and unpacking our bags multiple times each week and not having a steady home base. This will all change soon and we hope this was one of our last weekends in transit.

This past weekend, I worked my last shift at the food truck. I’m happy to get my weekend evenings back, but I enjoyed working with my family and enjoy a job that allows me to move around.
My past two jobs have introduced me to the world of serving. It’s incredibly challenging. Unless your server is deliberately acting rudely, do your best to be gracious and don’t be hesitant to be direct. There’s so much that is out of their control. The servers I’ve had the pleasure of working with genuinely want to make their customers happy and are more so motivated by this than tips. That’s all I’m gonna say about this for now. . .

Here are two things I enjoyed this weekend:

Popcorn At Bread & Pickle, Lake Harriet
I’ve always loved Lake Harriet. Growing up, we walked around the lake as a family and attended free bandshell concerts. My first apartment after college was located within walking distance to the lake and my mother’s ashes are interned at Lakewood Cemetery, nearby.

My grand parents and great grandparents also spent time the lake. I just learned that my great grandfather, Christian Bossen, was the superintendent of the Minneapolis parks system from 1935-1945. When we were little, our parents pointed out Roberts Bird Sanctuary. Christian designated this land for the sanctuary and chose to have his ashes scattered there. There is also a Bossen Lane that leads through the bird sanctuary and Bossen Field Park in south Minneapolis near Richfield.

I’ll always feel rooted in the beautiful Twin Cities parks.

Things have sure changed at the bandshell concession stand since my last visit. I attended the Capri Big Band concert, in which my friend performed. People filled the bandshell benches and sipped coffee beverages and beer from Bread & Pickle.

After the show, we shared a giant bag of popcorn ($5). This was no ordinary movie-theater style popcorn. It was salted and drizzled with enough real butter to satisfy even the likes of me. Some of the butter drizzles appeared to be browned. Whether or not this was intentional, it was an added bonus.

Ward 6
After one visit, I’m nuts about Ward 6.

Jake grew up in East Saint Paul and so did his parents. In fact, much of his immediate family still resides there.

Ward 6 is a restaurant and bar located along Payne Avenue near Bymore Taqueria and East Side Thai Restaurant. East Saint Paul offers a huge variety of eating and drinking establishments, but there’s nothing else like Ward 6. From what I hear, it’s one of the busiest places in the neighborhood with long waits for tables. On Sunday evening, we quickly found two seats at the bar.

Ward 6 offers thoughtful, homemade food, local beer, cocktails, and espresso beverages. It cultivates a hospitable atmosphere and serves a wide range of customers. Plus, they have a magical soft-serve machine.

The bartender poured us dirty martinis that ended up costing only $6 each at full price. Jake and I also enjoyed their Radler that combined Patersbier with Mexican grapefruit soda. I can’t stand sweet beers like Summer Shandy or Schell Shock but this was not at all cloying.

Everything you hear about their Reuben is true. The house-cured corned beef is meltingly tender, the sauce is a little sweet and it puts all those lunchmeat Reubens to shame.

The fish & chips is one of the best versions I’ve tried. The flaky fish was coated in a light & crispy batter and accompanied by equally well-prepared fries and addicting garlic mayonnaise. I found malt vinegar at the bar. The fish and fries are fried in beef tallow. No wonder they’re so good. For someone who’s never eaten something fried in beef fat, I didn’t find it to lend a strong flavor.

We hadn’t eaten all day, so we also shared the veggie black bean burger. I wasn’t crazy about its texture which I found mushy, but Jake really enjoyed it. The patty was well-seasoned. A little spicy a little sweet.

The bartender offered us the option of substituting fresh fruit or salad greens for fries in any or all of the dishes and we weren’t even charged extra for the swaps. We liked both the vinaigrettes.

For dessert, we shared a piece of warm blueberry-rhubarb pie. The crust was flaky and tasted of butter and the filling was clearly homemade. None of that viscous canned crap here. Plus, it came with a little dish of soft serve.

Our bill was surprisingly affordable. Ward 6 is a fun addition to the neighborhood and it’s exciting to see that block of Payne Ave, hopping.  We’re already planning a return visit.

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 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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