Category: seafood (Page 3 of 4)

HoDo Redemption

I just have to say we had a really nice meal at the Hodo Restaurant last weekend.

We go to the Hodo Lounge often enough, though I’ve often poo-poo’d it because I find the food inconsistent. I’ve eaten some of the best Fargo meals at the Hodo Lounge, as well some of the worst, which is why I was visibly annoyed that we ended up there for date night. Being 7:30 p.m. and having not eaten dinner also didn’t help my mood.

Even though we’ve eaten in the lounge/bar many times, we’ve only visited the restaurant once for appetizers, desserts, and beverages. The experience was fine enough, though I didn’t find the food particularly memorable. I do remember finding it memorable when someone in our party ordered a shot of absinthe and watching the server keep trying to light the sugar cube on fire. It never ignited (A quick Internet search reveals this is actually a common practice, though frowned upon by the Wormwood Society).

Our original plan that evening was to grab a burger. JL Beers was packed (per usual) and we didn’t feel like waiting for a seat in the also packed Hodo Lounge. Therefore, I followed Jake across the lobby to the Hodo Restaurant where we were seated immediately. I have to confess that I kept wondering that if we were going to spend that much money, maybe we should save it for a different occasion.

We ordered the cheese plate to share, $16, our own bowls of pan roasted mussels with fingerling potatoes, chills, black garlic harissa, and grilled bread, $12, and a side of wild mushrooms to share, $5.

I remained cranky until our server brought us an unexpected amuse bouche and bread basket with flat bread and rye which we covered with a butter that tasted like it contained a higher than average percentage of butter fat, and flavorful cheese spread.

The amuse bouche consisted of some type of pickle and seared piece of fish. It was wonderful. We lazily nibbled on the cheese plate as we waited for our mussels.

The chef included a thoughtful card listing the cheeses included. Our favorite was the Les Freres. The cheese plate came with more flat bread and its garnishes included spicy almonds, grapes, dried apricot, olives and capers, and reduced balsamic.

The wait between the cheese plate and mussels was curiously long. I wonder if the Hodo Restaurant and lounge share the same kitchen, because the restaurant was quiet during our entire dinner, save for a couple other parties who came and went. We weren’t in any hurry, though, and enjoyed taking the time to unwind after work.

I’ve tried mussels cooked in many types of broths and sauces. My favorites have always been cooked with white wine, butter, and garlic (our favorite, offered at Meritage). Often, I find other types of sauces for mussels too busy. It’s like they are distracting or overwhelming and I find myself just wishing I had a simple bowl of mussels.

The Hodo’s chili and black garlic harissa was definitely not simple.

The dark sauce was thick. It’s flavor didn’t strike me as tasting significantly of garlic, but tasted more like how it looked. Sweet and sour like tamarind. The spice level was lovely. At least for chili-heads like us. The spice wasn’t hot enough to knock our socks off but held our interest. I would have been happy mopping up a bowl of the sauce with the charred slices of bread.

All of the mussels in our bowls were opened. They tasted fresh, but were on the small side. For me, this bowl was more about the spicy black broth, anyway.

We also lazily grazed on the side of wild mushrooms. Deep and meaty, and varying in texture. They tasted like they were cooked in a lot of butter and gently perfumed with garlic. Best of all, they were perfectly salty.

Our meal ended with tiny pieces of chocolate.

This leaf tasted a little of mint and also of smoke. It melted in my mouth and disappeared as quickly as I placed it on my tongue.

All in all, a memorable meal at the Hodo Restaurant. Affordable beer, well-seasoned food, and unexpected flourishes like the amouse bouche, bread basket, and chocolate. All of which made this Friday dinner after a long work day feel much more special than what it was.

Highs and Lows at Basies

On date night, we got in a fight about Chili’s.

When I get hungry, I get mad. For as long as I can remember, anger and hunger have always walked hand in hand. The whole world splinters into obstacles that stand between me and food. And all I can think is “why are you preventing me from eating?”

This is why I stared at Jake with curiosity when he, not I, became angry-hungry. Normally, he is the even-keeled one, but on this evening, he became angry-hungry just short of a Hulk smash. Or tears.

We headed towards the West Acres mall with Jake fuming behind the wheel. As we drove past the  usual chain restaurants, we observed full parking lots and people waiting for tables on benches outside in the cold. I didn’t want to pick the restaurant until he started veering towards Chili’s. Then I started to care.

I really didn’t want to eat at Chili’s. I’ve only been there twice. The first time was bad while the second time was fine, albeit completely deep fried. I whined and pouted. I threatened to walk to a different restaurant. Jake was just hungry. He used to eat at Chili’s with his family growing up and thought I was entering food snob territory. Then, we both felt bad and he veered into Basies Restaurant and Lounge. I’m still now sure how we went from Chili’s to Basies, but at least we were seated immediately.

Basies is located in the Ramada Plaza Hotel. Jake once enjoyed a meal here with coworkers. At first glance, the restaurant’s appeared banquet hall-ish and a live band was performing a mix of country, blue grass and lounge music. The music was loud, but just short of drowning out conversation.

We don’t frequently dine at restaurants that sell food a la carte. This is why I agonized over my dinner selection and became stuck between an $8 salad or a $7 vegetable side. All I wanted was some protein and a small side of vegetables. There weren’t many options that combined both, besides pasta, a dinner salad or a three course meal that included a dessert I didn’t particularly want. I ordered the appetizer of bacon wrapped scallops, $15, with the side of asparagus and Hollandaise sauce, $7. Jake chose the three course dinner option, $48, that included his choice of a house salad, an entree of fillet mignon with asparagus and mashed potatoes, and his choice of dessert, creme brulee.

Jake ordered artichoke dip to start.

The large ramekin of dip was served with plenty of grilled bread. The flavor of the dip tasted well-balanced, even with the melted cheese, and we enjoyed it’s slight kick of heat.

Our server walked by with a bowl of creamed spinach. He said there was a kitchen mix-up and asked if we wanted it for free, adding he hated wasting food. We gladly accepted.  I’ve never eaten traditional steakhouse creamed spinach and this version seemed a little different. It was more like sauteed spinach in cream, rather than the thicker, casserole-like variety. I often saute spinach like this at home, so I enjoyed the dish. It was nicely seasoned and the cream tasted of garlic, though I could have done with less of the sauce. Still, it was free and generous of our server to offer it to us.

After the dip, our server brought us a bread basket. The warm rolls were crusty and came with honey butter. We didn’t dig too deeply into the basket so we could leave room for the entrees.

My scallops were large and tasted fresh. They were cooked nicely and free of grit. I scraped most of the mustard-caper sauce from the scallops. It didn’t taste bad, but struck me as heavy and I really just wanted to taste the scallops.

I also scraped most of the Hollandaise sauce from the asparagus. Again, it wasn’t that the sauce tasted bad, but it just seemed too rich. Between the artichoke dip, creamed spinach, and creamy sauce on the scallops, I had reached my threshold.  I yearned for some lemon. As lovely as our server was, we didn’t see him for a while after he brought the entrees.

The asparagus spears may have been steamed. The were a little dry, unseasoned, and the bottom of the stems were woody. On the other hand, Jake’s asparagus fared much better.

The asparagus spears accompanying his steak were seasoned, lightly grilled, and free of woody stems.

His steak was cooked to the requested medium rare. It was tender, nicely seasoned, and scented by the cedar plank on which it sat. We really enjoyed the garlicky mashed potatoes which struck a nice balance in texture and seasoning.

The creme brulee struck me as odd.

Our server asked if we would like the bottom of the creme brulee heated or cool. He also offered us a choice of plain, raspberry, lime, or blueberry-flavored sugars to be bruleed table side. We chose half plain and half raspberry.
After he bruleed the ramekin with a tiny torch, the sugar still glowed. I wasn’t sure if we were supposed to let the sugar continue to burn. I blew them out and extinguished the rest of the glowing embers with my finger tip. Unfortunately, the sugar didn’t exactly melt. One of the best parts of eating creme brulee is cracking the thin, glassy sheet of sugar that forms after it’s torched. The sugar on this creme brulee was too course to melt. It remained in crunchy, burnt granules. The custard didn’t taste bad, but its texture was firmer than I like.
In summary, the dinner ranged from hits to misses. The artichoke satisfied any guilty pleasure cravings, and Basies can clearly cook a steak.
The service was pleasant and the live music was fun. Between sets, the band sat down to enjoy dinner with who appeared to be their families. I wouldn’t turn down an invitation to return to Basies, especially on someone else’s dime, though I wouldn’t rush back for dinner. However, it could be a pleasant spot to enjoy live music, spend a happy hour, or share appetizers.

The Viking Cafe, Fergus Falls

On Friday morning, I drove to the Twin Cities to begin our wedding weekend.

My stomach churned with hunger an hour into the drive, so I stopped in Fergus Falls for an early lunch.

I was happy to stop in Fergus Falls even though I felt urgency to reach the cities.  Fergus Falls comforts me very much like a warm blanket.  The homes are well-kept and form cozy neighborhoods that are surrounded by mature trees.  The town was especially beautiful painted with fall colors.

Normally I’d stop at Cafe 116, but wanted to try something new.  I wasn’t so much in the mood for cafe food as I was for a blue plate special.

The Viking Cafe is like the antithesis of Cafe 116.  More like the old-fashioned neighborhood diner as seen in movies with wooden booths and pie.  Hence, the cafe’s name, it was lined with Viking-themed decorations.

I stood at the entrance for a few minutes trying to decipher the seating code.  Do I seat myself or wait to be seated?  The man at the cash register finally directed me to choose a seat.

I settled into a booth in the middle of the room and facing the door.  A server whizzed by and deposited a small glass of ice water and a menu.

After perusing the menu, I ordered coffee with cream and sugar, and a lunch special of fried fish, toast, tomato slices and potato salad.  She took my order and zoomed away as quickly as she had arrived.

The coffee was hot and arrived with my very own saucer of real cream.  I was thrilled.

My food arrived soon after.

The fish appeared to be of the pre-frozen variety, but it was piping hot, crispy and not greasy in the least.

I liked the potato salad’s tanginess, but its temperature which was warmer than I expected.  It tasted fine so I’m guessing it might have been recently prepared.

The tomatoes were ripe and the toast tasted like butter-flavored oil.

I can not eat fish without lemon, a personal quirk, and looked around to ask for some slices or wedges.  The servers raced around, hardly stopping at a table for more than a few seconds.  No one stopped by to check in and my attempts to make eye contact failed.  I found a server who paused at the table behind me and asked for lemon.  She told me they only had lemon juice packets.

I took what I could get.

Several of them appeared sticky with syrup so I let those be.

Overall, the meal was warm and adequate.  I appreciated that I could get in and out in less than a half hour and my final bill was less than $9, including tax.

I realize the cafe was busy, but I was slightly distracted by the smushed muffin by my foot and sticky salt and pepper shakers.

All things considered, I would return to The Viking Cafe.  A little sticky, possibly semi-homemade, and efficient, the sum of its parts was endearing.


A Mall Date & "Bachelorette" Party: Tucci Benucch & Amstardam Bar

Jake and I are getting married.

Not too long ago, we spontaneously picked a date and made it official.

In less than a week, we’re going to have a small ceremony with just our immediate family, with a reception later the spring.  What was supposed to be bare bones has become more complicated and large source of stress.  I can’t remember the last time I spent a whole weekend at our home in Fargo.  My weekends are spent driving to and from the Twin Cities after busy weeks of school, work, and writing.

Despite my most earnest intentions, I am wearing something white, shiny, and uncomfortable. I made the seamstress loosen my dress, twice, before I deemed it tolerable.  She commented, “But it’s your wedding. You won’t feel like eating much anyway, right?”  I wanted to punch her.

This weekend, I cracked into tears as we exited the car after our three and a half hour drive following a hectic workweek.  I felt dangerously close to a Jungian mental break.  Should this occur within the next six days, I hope I’ll at least have a Red Book to show.

Saturday afternoon, Jake and I grabbed some alone time.  The rare kind where we weren’t driving somewhere or watching 30 Rock on our couch.  Some may call this a date.  We completed errands at the Mall of America and had lunch at Tucci Benucch before our respective bachelor and bachelorette parties.  Before we moved to Fargo, we lived near to the Mall of America and occasionally went on mall dates.  We ate at Tucci Benucch a couple of times before they hired Asher Miller as their new Executive Chef (I’m not sure if he is still in this position).

Knowing that I did not plan to drink much that evening, I started with a mimosa, $6.99 while Jake ordered coffee which arrived freshly brewed, $2.99.

Our server brought us warm bread and garlic-flecked olive oil.

We ordered a starter of calamari, $9 to share.  For an entree, I ordered a half serving of Scottish salmon with lemon risotto and arugula salad, $13, while Jake ordered a half serving of spaghetti carbonara, $9. 

Upon delivery, the calamari smelled strongly of seafood but tasted fresh.
The texture of the calamari was very tender and was salted to the point of being almost too salty.  The breading remained on the seafood, though it seemed to have absorbed a little more oil than I would have found ideal.  Overall, we enjoyed nibbling at the calamari, but left some on the plate when the combination of the seafood and the aoli felt too oily.  

The half portion entrees were more than enough for lunch.  
The lemon risotto was, thankfully, subtly lemon-scented.  It was creamy and rich, though, it, like the calamari, bordered on almost too salty.  Since the small fillet was skinless, some of the salmon flesh was a little crispy-chewy where it was seared but the inside was moist.  The salmon, like the calamari, tasted fresh.  The arugula salad provided a needed bite and acidity.  I doused the dish with more lemon juice since the richness and saltiness of the risotto was making me dive for my mimosa. 
Jake’s carbonara was not what I had envisioned.  He said he enjoyed the dish. Even the runny egg yolk, which he has typically been wary of.  I liked the flavor of the rendered bacon chunks. While I didn’t feel the sauce tasted bad, I thought the dish was over-sauced and wondered what made it brown.  
Overall, we had decent meal, though the combination of the calamari and our entree selections were very rich.  Our server seemed overwhelmed with tables but was very pleasant.  
In the evening, the boys hit The Strip Club Meat & Fish while the girls met at Amsterdam Bar & Hall.

Jake raved about the meal and limoncello he shared at The Strip Club. 

We shared orders of Amsterdam Frites and dipped them in herb garlic mayo and curry ketchup. 
The skin-on fries were crispy and salted just right.  We enjoyed both dipping sauces, though the curry ketchup was my favorite.  I also enjoyed that the fries were topped with raw onion.  The others left most of the onions behind, while I awkwardly clamped bits of onion onto each bite of fry. 
I also ordered a small house salad with croutons, shaved Gouda, and house vinaigrette, $4, plus a petite dutch sandwich (broodje) with curried calamari and shrimp, $5.

All of the salad greens were pristine, the homemade croutons were full of umami, and the vinaigrette was lovely.  Tart in a well-balanced way, and flavorful.

The curried seafood sandwich was truly one of the best things I’ve eaten for a while.  It induced a moment where I just paused and reflect on how good it tasted. The bun was toasted and buttered. The calamari was tender, the shrimp were firm, and both tasted fresh. The creamy curry sauce was surprisingly spicy enough to induce a a sweat.  I couldn’t tell you what type of curry I tasted, my only clue being that the sauce was rosy-hued.  I used the bun to scrape every bit of sauce from the flimsy cardboard boat and am plotting a way. . . any way. . .to return for another sandwich, soon.

The rest of the evening matched my introverted style. Chill and conversation-centric.  In search of evening dessert, we bypassed Meritage’s hour long wait for Kincaid’s where a table of women applauded my bachelorette party hat.  I can’t describe the hat further than mentioning that the girls made me remove it when we inquired about tables at Meritage.  The evening ended over leftover smears of a fried waffle sundae and bread pudding with pear soaked in bourbon sauce.

Despite the stress, I remind myself as often as I can that our family and friends are doing everything they can to make this experience special.  It’s also hard to think my mom won’t be here, as she passed away in 2008.  For now, I’ll take one day at a time and enjoy the well wishes from friends and family.  

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?

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