Category: Wedding

A Few Tastes: Los Paisanos Taqueria, Sun Street Breads & A Sysco Food Show

This past weekend, Jake and I headed to the Twin Cities for the wedding reception we never had. We had said our vows in October at a small ceremony and were finally able to extend the celebration to family and friends.

Neither Jake or I enjoy planning party details such as color schemes and table decorations, so our family turned the reception into a beautiful, food-filled surprise at the Embassy Suites near the airport where Jake’s uncle manages the food services. Bites from the evening included Rustica’s bittersweet chocolate cookies, absinthe cocktails, crab salad served in tiny, edible spoons, and rosy roast beef with my favorite creamy horseradish sauce. I’ll share more as we collect photos from friends. We are continually humbled by the kindness and generosity of our family and friends and extend our gratitude to everyone who planned and participated in the reception.

We stayed with both of our families, who spoiled with home cooked foods. We also managed to grab a few meals out. Here are a few tastes from the past week:

Los Paisanos Taqueria, East St. Paul, MN
Tortas are essentially impossible to purchase in Fargo-Moorhead, so I always find one whenever we stay with my husbands folks in East St. Paul. A while back, I wrote about a torta I ordered from By More Taqueria. Afterwards, a reader recommended Los Paisanos Taqueria, noting that it’s his favorite place to grab a torta in East St. Paul. This was my second visit since he left the comment.

The restaurant is located down the road from the Rainbow Foods on Arcade. It’s painted in bright colors and looks a little worn. Those who are concerned about sanitation might notice the current ServSafe Food Handler certification prominently displayed near the register. My typical order of a small horchata and beef milenesa torta costs about $10.

The sandwich is the size of my face. The bottom bun is spread with re-fried beans while the top covers layers of avocado, cheese, shredded lettuce, mayonnaise, and pickled jalapenos. My favorite part is the thin beef cutlet and its crisp breading that’s heated on the griddle. Don’t hesitate to ask for a small cup of the spicy red salsa to dip the sandwich in if it’s not included in your take-out bag. There are tables for customers who want to dine-in, but I find the restaurant smells strongly of fruity air freshener. Service has always been friendly. 
Sun Street Breads, South Minneapolis, MN
My husband’s found a friend in Sun Street Bread’s breakfast biscuit sandwiches. He remembered enjoying one earlier this winter and wanted to return for our first post-reception meal. You know it’s good when Andrew Zimmern continues to mention Sun Street as one of his favorite bakeries. He even specifically mentioned the egg biscuit sandwich on his list of “personal bests.” 
On this visit, Jake ordered the Southern Fried Biscuit ($7.50) to soak up the beverages from the previous evening. 
A tender, toasted biscuit, runny fried egg, bacon, fried chicken and gravy laden with chunks of sausage. I feel my arteries constrict just looking at this photo. My goodness, it was really good. Especially that peppery country gravy.
I’m not sure this side of fruit ($3.50) offset all of the Southern fried, but it was generously portioned and of high quality. I ordered from Sun Street’s lunch menu and tried the Steak & Swiss ($9.75), their version of a cheese steak. Ironically, I wasn’t crazy about the bread because its texture reminded me of Olive Garden breadsticks (thought it was certainly acceptable), but liked the other components. Especially the flavorful beef, spicy pickled banana peppers, and swiss cheese sauce. 
Each lunch sandwich comes with one’s choice of fries, salad, fruit or soup ($1 upcharge). I was pleasantly surprised by the large size of my accompanying salad and its freshness. A scoop of beans was a welcome gift of randomness. They tasted of smoked paprika. 
Sun Street is very busy during weekend brunches, but during the past few times I’ve dined, there I’ve never had trouble finding a table. 
Sysco Food Show

As culinary students, we’re invited to attend Fargo-Moorhead’s food service shows for free. Last semester, we visited US Food’s sprawling show held in the Fargo Dome and this week, we attended Sysco’s show at Scheel’s Arena. I have a mixed feelings about Sysco. Obviously, they make purchasing convenient for restaurants, but also seem to be making efforts in purchasing meats from distributors who raise their animals humanely, supporting sustainable seafood practices, and increasing partnerships with local distributors. On the other hand, I wish more restaurants would more intentionally seek food from local suppliers and farms and make their own foods from scratch instead of relying on pre-made convenience products. But what kind of fool turns down free food? Albeit, most of the food is frozen, canned, jarred, of a mix, or pre-baked, but it’s fun, nevertheless. 
Most of the food vendors at these shows are gracious to the roaming pack of hungry students and provide engaging interactions. Some are a little less thrilled. On this visit, I tried to restrain myself to a walleye finger, lemonade, iced tea, a few nachos with self-serve cheese sauce, and a dinner mint. One can certainly go overboard sampling from the platters of most any fried food imaginable, cheeses, and desserts.

As the token Korean, I took it upon myself to try a Korean empanada, a new product from one of Sysco’s internationally-themed lines. I found that it tasted surprisingly. . . Korean. Nicely done. My classmates seemed content to end their tours with ice cream cones dispensed by the Blue Bunny cart. 

Wedding Weekend: Heartland, Saint Paul Hotel, & Amsterdam Bar (again)

One week ago, on a sunny fall afternoon, Jake and I were married amongst the company of a small group of family and friends at Central Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, MN.

Because we decided to get married with relative spontaneity, we kept the ceremony simple.  We look forward to hosting a wider reception in the spring so we can celebrate with many more of our family and friends.  We are humbled by the generosity and kindness of all who have assisted us and wished us well as we continue to share life together.

After the ceremony, we enjoyed dinner at Heartland Restaurant in St. Paul, MN.  The moment we arrived, I leaped out of my wedding dress.  It was beautiful and painstakingly altered.  And even with half the boning removed, it was still uncomfortable, so I changed into something that would allow me to enjoy dinner.

Photo by Pat Carney, The Carney Group, Minneapolis, MN

Upon arrival, I enjoyed sneaking bites of bread and cheeses and giggled as I watched some of the children discover their love for whole grain mustard and pickled watermelon rind. The chefs provided plump burgers for the children who preferred one.

Green salad with sweet vinaigrette, spiced nuts, and roasted cauliflower, crispy-skinned white fish with pickled onions on top of creamy beans, and apple tart with whipped cream and candied nuts.

As I said my goodbyes that evening, I used my fingers to swipe tastes of whipped cream and tender slices of fruit from my tart.  Then, we headed to the St. Paul Hotel for our one-day honeymoon where we were greeted by a man in a top hat.

This was our first stay at the Saint Paul Hotel and it felt like old-school luxury.  My favorite perks included access to the workout facility on the top floor and wi-fi for no additional fees. The service was polished and professional, though much involved tipping.  If you stay here, remember to keep some cash on hand. In the morning, we treated ourselves to a room service breakfast, a first for both of us.

Growing up, when we traveled as a family, we only stayed at hotels that included free breakfast. My parents outfitted us in fluorescent fanny packs in which we kept our lunches. I remember how we sat on the steps of the Lincoln memorial, and ate sandwiches and carrot sticks together.

We ordered a large pot of coffee and omelets filled with ham, green pepper, onion, and cheddar. Each came with hash browns and toast.  In addition, we ordered a fruit plate, having no idea each portion would be so large.

Although the price of this breakfast was astronomical (delivery fee & automatic gratuity, plus an extra tip because we weren’t sure if we were supposed to tip on an automatic gratuity?), the meal was made with care. The breakfast cart was covered in a white tablecloth. The omelet platters were not only huge, but satisfying. I was most impressed with the hashbrowns’ crispiness.  The fruit platter included yogurt and sweetbread and the assortment of fruit avoided being one of those crappy versions that mostly includes under-ripe melon.  We enjoyed choosing from the variety of condiments such as cream, butter, peanut butter, tiny jars of jam, ketchup, and Tabasco.

As critiques, the room did not include a coffee maker with complimentary coffee, although I may have been some in the lobby.  Our large pot of coffee, as overpriced as it was, tasted strong and freshly brewed.  Our room included a mini fridge, but it was only equipped to carry snacks for sale. We actually managed to eat most of our food, so I did not have to beg the hotel to ask the kitchen to store our leftovers, and we were full until the evening.

We spent the afternoon wandering around downtown St. Paul, stopping at Cossetta’s for a snack of small cannolis.  Then headed to the Amsterdam Bar And Hall for dinner.

The food was as good as it was when we dined there for my bachelorette outing.  We decompressed over drinks.  Jake was enjoyed ordering Trappist ale on tap and I sipped a tart cocktail made with lemon and apricot brandy.

We dipped the crisp fries in mustard and curry mayo and shared small boodje sandwiches on toasted buns.  I returned for the spicy calamari and shrimp salad while Jake chose smoked pork and spicy shrimp.  Surprisingly, our favorite sandwich was the most simple.  It was made with warm, herby cheese and a meaty tomato slice that tasted marinaded or roasted.

I’m not sure how I felt about the Dutch gin sampler.  It’s not that the sampler was bad, but more that I’m not sure I enjoy sipping straight gin.  Spicy curry + gin = burning.

We ordered creme brulee for dessert and ate it in bed.  I bypassed the room service delivery charge by ordering it from the Saint Paul Grill’s bartender.  Somehow, the kitchen managed to pack a creme brulee into a take-out container, crispy sugar crust and all.

Wedding, over.  Fall break, over.  It’s back to the grind.  Salad lab ends, baking lab begins and my five a.m. wake-up call resumes. . .

Special thanks to our family and friends, Central Lutheran Church, Heartland Restaurant, The Carney Group, and Elsa at The Wedding Shoppe on Grand Ave. 

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.  

Simple Sauteed Cabbage With Balsamic Vinegar

This week, we have enjoyed this simple non-recipe recipe for sauteed cabbage that follows below.  I received this handmade bowl when I attended The Fargo-Moorhead League’s Politics On The Plains event where I participated in a conversation with other community members and young politicians running for office.

My beautiful square bowl was created by The Fargo Project Team that is giving the community an opportunity to provide feedback about how to use Rabanus Park, formerly designed as a storm water detention basin.  I heard that Ethnobotonist, Linda Different Cloud has a vision of planting medicinal herbs for the community to gather.  Then, I got really excited.

A workshop will be held Sunday, April 29th at 12:30 PM at Rabanus Park.

Simplest Sauteed Cabbage Drizzled With Balsamic Vinegar

Ingredients:

Cabbage
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper

Optional: Miso, hot pepper

Instructions

  1. Reduce some balsamic vinegar in a small pot over medium heat.  When the vinegar bubbles, turn down the heat to gently reduce into a thick, sweet syrup, stirring occasionally.
  2. Shred green cabbage.
  3. Preheat a pan with olive oil and/or butter over medium-high heat. When the oil sizzles, add the cabbage.
  4. Season with some miso paste, black pepper, and your choice of hot pepper.
  5. Quickly saute the cabbage edges are frizzled, but the vegetable still retains a textural bite.
  6. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
  7. Drizzle the reduced balsamic vinegar onto the cabbage and serve.

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