Archive for April, 2007

We have broken ground.

It’s May now, and about time that we’ve stuck our hands in soil. Saturday was in the 70’s and the yard was calling our names. We have a lot of ambitious plans this spring for the yard, and we have a perfect Saturday to get ourselves started. We have a minimum of four gardens planned for the summer.

First, there’s the vegetable garden. That’s an obvious one. This will be my fifth summer planting one, with a one year hiatus taken because of possible construction (the garden moved, the construction didn’t happen). I’ve always done a combination of herbs, tomatoes and peppers. But each year I try something new, which usually ends up in heartache and a pile of leaves.

This year I wasn’t planning to do anything too exciting, but then I went to our neighborhood nursery. Minnehaha Falls Nursery. I ran over there to pick up a few lettuce plants, and in addition to Bibb, Red Leaf, Grand Rapids (not sure what this is) and Romaine plants, somehow Kohlrabi and Cauliflower plants made their way into my basket. With some research, I learned that Kohlrabi is a hearty plant that takes little maintenance, but the Cauliflower can be quite finicky. I threw them both into the west third of the garden, and have little hope that I will see any cauliflower land on my plate. The kohlrabi will be a nice surprise.

The second garden we’re planning is a rain garden. I’ve been to two rain garden workshops through Metro Blooms and have ordered a package of native plants. We started to prep the area for them, but I won’t pick them up until May 19th. Until then, we’ll just prep the bed and count the days until we can start to block the view to our neighbors.

Gardens three and four remain only in our imagination. On the south side of the front yard, lining the fence we hope to plant native grasses and fill the area with rock. In the front yard we want to extend the circle below the large pine and fill it with shade-loving hearty ground cover. I have a few options to choose from, but since timing isn’t crucial for these, we’ll get to them when we can.

I have to say it was nice to be working in the yard after the long winter. We cleared the leaves off the north side fence and I could almost hear the hosta breathe a sigh of relief at the fresh air and sun they were finally able to see. When I uncovered them they were barely out of the earth. A day later I can already see their progress, and now in their third year with us, I hope they can grow to their potential.

The rest of the week is supposed to be warm (60s and 70s) with rain on Monday, so we’ll water the lettuces and coax the hosta along. Until next weekend, when we’ll hit the Metro Blooms Day and take the next step to creating a gardener’s paradise.

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Go Directly to Sea Salt

Yep, it’s still only April, but we hit our favorite summer restaurant, Sea Salt. It’s located in the Minnehaha Park Pavilion, and while hot dogs and popcorn is what’s expected, you’ll be surprised with the amazing selection of seafood these guys offer.

The story I’ve heard and/or read is that they guys that started this little gem were a part of Coastal Seafoods in a past life. Because of this relationship, they are able to get the freshest seafood available in our little landlocked town.

We walk over there with the In-Laws. The restaurant opened on April 1, so it’s been hard to wait this long, but we made it. The thermometer hits 80 degrees today, so we are worried the lines will be long and the wait will be unbearable, but, even though the park was full, the line to order is short.

Sea Salt is not a sit down restaurant. And that’s part of its charm. The menu is written on a large chalkboard behind the counter. It features fresh oysters, a variety of fish tacos, huge, satisfying Po’Boys, and specialties like crab sakes and a soft shell crab sandwich. They offer wine, beer and a variety of soft drinks. The ordering line moves slowly, but the wait for the food is short.

The atmosphere is definitely relaxed. The restaurant is in a park pavilion, and sits above one of the Twin Cities favorite landmarks, Minnahaha Falls. Bikers can wear their spandex. Dogs can sit between your feet at your table. And anything more than casual shorts and tank tops would be considered unnecessary. The servers exit the pavilion calling out names, looking for tables to set down their trays full of food. We chat over a decent bottle of South African chardonnay, while we wait for her to call our name. When we hear it, we wave her over and make room for the platters of food.

Three of us order the shrimp po’boy, while Husband orders the shrimp tacos. We also have an order of calamari and the crab cakes to share (although one of the gigantic crab cakes makes the journey back to our house to be served for dinner). The calamari is succulent and lightly fried, nothing like the thick-coated chewy bites we’re used to from local bars. The crab cakes are mostly crab, and not full of the other stuff other restaurants use to give their cakes substance. The shrimp po’boy barely fits in the basket in which it’s served. The bun is long and soft, the fried shrimp scattered with a hot sauce. I look around and realize we are all struggling with the contents of the sandwich, and are grateful there’s a fork to scoop up the slipping contents. The Husband’s shrimp tacos were loaded with cilantro, grilled shrimp, onions and tomatoes with a touch of spice, wrapped in two layers of flour tortillas.

We push ourselves from the table, and try to finish the last of the wine. Husband finishes my plastic cup of chardonnay and I run inside to get a box to bring home the remaining crab cake. Around us there are families enjoying fish baskets and young couples sharing platters of oysters. Bikes and dogs walk by the courtyard gazing at the baskets of food. A group of teenagers walks out of the pavilion with ice cream cones dripping from the mid-afternoon heat. We’re all a bit shocked by our good fortune. Days like this are plentiful in the middle of July, but in April, we’re used to dodging rain and staying warm. It’s a freebie day, is what I say. So get outside and enjoy it. There could be snow next week, and temperatures in the 90’s two weeks after that. A sunny day in the low 80’s is hard to come by. So, really nothing better to do then enjoy some great food, outside at a beautiful park with some of your favorite people.

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I was called home…

Among our adventures in Washington, DC last week, we spent a good chunk of time in a store I had never had the pleasure to visit. Dean and Deluca.

We walked in and immediately, Sister said, “The mothership has called Jenn home.”

I walked down the first aisle and realized I would need a basket. But really, there were really only two aisles, one on either side of the store. The center of the store was taken up by a huge deli area, where there were abundant cheeses, meats, paté’s, etc. We strolled around a bit before deciding we must stock up for a mid-afternoon snack in the Holiday Inn. (Yep, we were staying at a Holiday Inn, but at least we were on the 12th floor and faced the Potomac River and Georgetown.)

A few cheeses found there way into my basket. There was a lovely soft goats milk cheese, as well as a paté of turkey and pork tenderloin with truffle. (We later discovered that none of us could actually detect the scent or flavor of truffles, but maybe it was the plastic knifes or the lack of plates.)

Some crackers found their way into the basket and then I saw the wall of herbs and spices.

I added a few more goodies, chocolate specifically, and had a sample of their cocount tea. There were an endless amount of sauces, and spreads that would have jumped into my basket if I would have brought another suitcase. I kept telling myself that the internet is a wonderful thing, and I’m sure the mothership has a site.

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Another April Fools Joke: Snow!

Above is a picture of the super cool rain gauge we bought last weekend. Notice that the water it’s measuring is not in the liquid form, but some sort of solid form. That’s right, it’s snow. Just a little bit. But it still hasn’t warmed up. My tulips, or at least the top few inches, seem to be holding on, but it’s downright depressing to see my neighbors beautiful garden draped in blue tarps. I just hope his delicate daffodils are able to hang on another week, because we won’t be seeing warm temperatures until Friday. At the In-Laws this morning, Husband saw a flock of geese come in for a landing on a pond, only to slid across the thin layer of fresh ice before slowing down and breaking through. Ka-thunk.

So, it’s been cold, and I’ve gone back to cooking comfort food instead of playing with the new spring flavors. We did the classic spaghetti and meatballs, homemade pizzas wtih plenty of mushrooms, and a new recipe from CL called Pork Tenderloin wtih Caribbean Nut Sauce. Reminesant of Pad Thai, but with plenty of sweated red onion. There’s fresh asparagus in the grocery stores, and I gave in and bought some to serve with a steak tomorrow. As for growing anything around here, though, we’ll stick with the pine trees.

The forecast for the next few days includes more of the same. Snow on Tuesday again. At least the sun has been out.

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Everything outside is turning green. At least the grass. The tulips are peeking through the dirt, and the buds are forming on the trees. But it’s April Fools Day, so they say its going to snow tomorrow. Or maybe the next day. Now, that’s a mean joke. Highs will be in the 30’s most of the week. It will be raining and/or snowing. That means mud, and lots of cold mud.
The garden is a mess, soaking up the rain. But it’s not keeping me from thinking about what I’ll plant this year. In the next week I’ll look at my notes from last summer and draw up a plan for this summer. And then maybe, someday, it will be warm enough to plant.

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