Archive for October, 2007

St. Paul Farmer’s Market

I know I’ve written about the market before, but this time I’m dedicating an entire post to my favorite farmers market. Located in the lowertown part of downtown St. Paul, I find the market much more manageable, with much better products, than the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market. The unique thing about the SPFM, is that anything sold there, must be grown or made within 50 miles (I can’t find anywhere that states this, but it’s well known. If you can prove it, please leave a comment). That means in May, the produce selection is slim, but in October the tables are loaded with everthing from second round lettuce, to canning tomatoes, to brightly colored squash.

I met J there yesterday, as she was on a quest to find a Jarrahdale pumpkin. We found them at one of the stands, and learned (to our relief) that the flesh is bright yellow, and not the gray-green on the outside. We didn’t want to image a gray-green pumpkin soup. But I did pick up a couple of baking pumpkins for pumpkin soup.

I also picked up a huge head of cauliflower, for only $2. I could have gone larger, but where would I store it? Still no basil, or I should say, no basil again, for the season. I’ll have to depend on the weak plants in my garden for the winter supply of pesto. But I did pick up a bunch of cilantro to try out a cilantro pesto. I’m not sure how the flavor will differ, but I’m sure it won’t be bad.

I’m looking forward to the witner market, that’s starting on November 3. Produce will obviously be limited, but there will still be meat, cheese and eggs available. My weekly trips will probably turn into biweekly trips. I’m just glad they’re open year-round.

PS: Check out the size of these cabbages. Now, that’s a lot of cole slaw!!


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Seasonal Ingredient: Figs

(A new thing here at The Write Ingredients; We’re going to try to post on a seasonal ingredient once a week. We’ll provide information you don’t need to know, but will like.)

In New York a week ago, I passed a street vendor who was selling pints of fresh figs for $2. Two dollars I asked him, in a high-pitched, shrieking voice. Just last fall I paid about a dollar a piece at my neighborhood Lund’s. But I couldn’t buy them. Our hotel didnt have a refrigerator, and try to explain a pint of figs to the TSA agents at JFK. Okay, yes, I brought Thai Eggplants to Denver in my carry-on, but that doesn’t seem quite so strange. Eggplants must be harmless. Regardless, I walked about from the vendor without the figs, or the durian fruit, or the fresh basil that was just so beautiful. But since then, I’ve been thinking about those figs, and wondering, really, what is the deal with the little fruit. (Is it even a fruit?)

So I turned to Google.

The first listing brought me to a site listing the health benefits of Figs. They’re full of fiber. Who knew?

And they grow on a Ficus tree. Huh. And, they’re not truly considered a fruit, but instead the flower of the fig (ficus) tree.

So last year when I bought the figs at Lund’s, I only bought half the amount the recipe called for. It was for a salad of baby greens and other good stuff. So instead of cutting them in half, I cut them in quarters, and my dinner guests were none the wiser. What I love about figs is the unexpected taste. The idea of figs reminds me of my grandfather and his obsession with Fig Newtons. I think I ate one once, expecting a sweet cookie, while instead this strange flavor came through. That was a long time ago, and while I still avoid Fig Newtons, I adore fresh figs. The flavor is fresh and fruity, yet earthy at the same time.

I’ve linked here to a couple recipes, that I have yet to try. If you get a chance, let me know what you think:

Crostini with Honey, Gorgonzola, and Figs

prosciutto and brie sandwiches with rosemary fig confit

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So, there’s this new cafe in town with real bagels.

And this morning they were featured on MPR.

It’s the Common Roots Cafe. I’ve been meaning to get there, it’s just that it’s in a crowded part of town that’s not really on my way in (or out of town, for that matter.) In addition to creating real bagels, they offer food from local farmers and space for community groups to meet. I just need a community group now and a few extra minutes in the morning to swing by there.

PS: The photo is from the MPR site.

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Sea Salt does it again.

One of our favorite restaurants, Sea Salt Eatery, is closing for the season in just two more weeks. It’s a sad day when they lock their doors. Not only does it mean summer/fall is over, but the best seafood restaurant in the area is n longer serving their scrumptious crab cakes, loaded po’boys or crispy calamari. It’s very sad.

So we had a date night Friday night and walked over to Minnehaha Park, where the owners set up shop in the park pavilion.

There was no line, and we were able to step back and really look over the menu. Because we’ve been there so often, I always take a look at the specials. There were a slew of them on Friday, so we ordered two of them, along with the standby’s: A Crab Cake and order of Calamari. The Specials we ordered were the Garlic-roasted Mussels with Tomato and Olive Bruschetta, and the Yucatan Shrimp Platter. loaded with black beans, corn relish and rice. Needless to say, everything was delicious. Along with a bottle of wine, our evening was splendid. I’m glad the place wasn’t crowded, because neither of us came up for air until all four plates were spotless.

Again the Calamari, is not the rubbering kind usually found in the midwest, but meating thick pieces coated in a thin batter. The Crab Cake contains crab and really not much else. But that’s what Crab Cake shouldnt be, right? The mussels were tasting, without being too garlicy, and bruschetta was even better when I rubbed the roasted garlic on top of its’ toasted crust. The shrimp were large, tasted like the sea and were coated in a subtle adobo sauce.

Sea Salt’s dessert menu is limited to Sebastian Joe’s Ice Cream, but I’ve never ordered it after a meal because, really, there’s just no room.

We have two weeks to make it back there. Keep your fingers crossed.

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We’re both fans of Bravo’s show, Top Chef. Or at least I am, and Husband watches with me because it’s on. So our trip to New York wouldn’t have been complete with at least trying to get into Harold Dieterle’s new restaurant. Harold, as you all should know, was the season one winner of Top Chef.

I called to make a reservation our first night, and the only opening was 11:15pm. Hello. I’m asleep by then. Even in New York. Guess I’m getting old. And it was already 7pm, so I’m not quite sure what I was thinking. But the next day, as we wandered through the Village, we spied Jones Street and took a left. Jones street is only one block long and a single lane. Toward the north end, on the left, was a tiny storefront (remember, space is tight in NYC), with the number 9 on the awning.

They were serving Brunch, which didn’t suit our cravings, but we were able to get in at 530 that same day. I was only 1230, so we had 5 hours to kill before dinner. So we went shopping.

But five hours later, with our feet properly sore, we sank into a warm, inviting atmosphere. The tables are a beautiful natural looking wood (sorry, I’m not a wood expert), with strong vertical lines. The walls are a mellow shade of tan and the whole environment was cheery, without being obnoxious. There are two large, curved booths in the center of the room, which were regal, and truly the place to be seated. Personally, I enjoyed our table toward the back because I could smell everything that was happening in the kitchen.

Service got off to a slow start, but once we ordered everything was prompt and nicely timed. I don’t normally drink hard liquor, but the signature cocktail (9 jones street), with a mix of vodka, mint, ginger and lemon, converted me. And it was good. The ginger and mint combined nicely together with just a hint of bubbles.

We weren’t too hungry when we walked in, primarily because we had grabbed lunch at Bar Pitti just hours earlier, but somehow we made room for a full meal.

Husband started with the Peekytoe Crab Salad avocado, mango & ginger dressing. It was light and clean, with a hint of avocado and citrus.

I started with the signature Spicy Duck Meatballs with okinawa yam gnocchi, water spinach, quail egg. The meatballs were tender and packed full of flavor. The egg cooked in the warm broth, just like the chefs on TV promise they will.

Moving on, Husband chose the dish we’d both been thinking of all day: Black Truffle Ravioli. I could smell the truffles from the kitchen as they prepared his dish. It was rich, but not heavy. And was obviously a favorite, because nearly every plate coming out of the kitchen contained it.

I, not being hungry, ordered the Blackened Grouper served with sweet potatoes, purple yams and black bean puree. I found the fish to be a bit tough, but well prepared. The puree was loaded with flavor, and when a bite contained all the elements of the dish, the combination really couldn’t be beat.

And then we were full. Until our waiter brought the dessert menu. Honestly, I had no intention of ordering anything. But the first item listed, was a Dark Chocolate Caramel Tart with candied dates & peppermint ice cream. It’s hard to say no to that. So we didn’t. I ordered it with two spoons and a glass of wine. Husband ordered another Belvedere Martini (we weren’t driving, were we?).

A few minutes later, heaven swept out of the kitchen and landed on our table. The dish was beautiful. But not enough to keep me away from it. The tart had a perfect, uniform crust. The dark chocolate cake was smooth and there was liquid caramel hiding beneath its surface. The ice cream was the real deal. Nothing like the green peppermint ice cream we grew up with, this contained real mint. probably from a plant on someone’s deck upstairs. We fought over the last bite and were finally, in a strange way, full.

I would go back. I’d order something with truffles, or maybe just a few desserts. Next time I’m in New York…..

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There’s nothing like eating in New York City.

Yep, I went traveling again. This time I headed east, following Husband to NYC for a business meeting. We only went for a few days, but that’s still plenty of time to eat, drink and walk throughout the town. There are over 000000 restaurants in New York City, and everyone I know had a recommendation of a place WE HAD to try. Which is tough, because really, there are only three meals in a day. Unless of course, you eat lunch twice, which I found myself doing on my third day.

But first, we had to get there, cab it in from JFK and wait in a slower-than-molasses check in line with the Princess Cruise Lines guests. Their shuttle bus pulled up just moments before our cab, and we were paying the price. Eventually we were able to check our bags (For $3 a pop) and wander the four blocks toward Central Park. But first we had to stop for lunch. We wandered a bit and found a lively place just two blocks south of the park called Rue 57. Once seated, I felt very crowded (I would learn that space in New York is tight, so tables are tight, as our bathrooms, and in general, personal space.) At least we had one wall, so we weren’t floating in an island of diners.

I had been craving tuna. and not the stuff from a can. So we started with the tuna tartare. It was just what I was looking for. There was the subtle hint of wasabi and a mild sweetness neither of us could identify. I chose the beet salad for my entree, which is not my usual thing, but when it arrived in front of the woman next to me (and I mean right next to me) I knew I had no ohter choice. The beets were thinly sliced and arranged flat on the plat. And there were grilled pears and toasted goat cheese surrounding a nice clump of frisee. The beets were sweet and full of flavor, and the goat cheese, while it would take a miracle to ruin goat cheese. And the wine. Strange, but our waiter was from South St. Paul. He recommended a wine from Connecticut, and I chuckled, saying, “If we can make wine in Minnesota, they can make wine in Connecticut.” He laughed back and asked where in Minnesota they make wine. He’s obviously been gone awhile, what with all the vineyards in the area and put out remarkably good wine. As was the one from Connecticut. I’ll promise to find the name of it, somewhere. And sorry there are no photos, but we were squished and sometimes its just hard to whip out the camera and tell your place to “Smile!”

I’ve been to New York twice, and both times spent time in Central Park. Husband had only been there on business and has rarely left Midtown. After our lovely and lively lunch, we headed north and wandered the wild hills of Manhattan. There were families and people everywhere, and to me, I think it would be weird to have to pack up the family to step foot on some grass. I live in South Minneapolis, but I’m just feet from the parkway and the river and an endless field of grass and trees. We wound our way by the zoo and found ourselves at the Metropolitan Museum.
They don’t allow food in the galleries, so there’s little to report there. But after the museum, we grabbed an ice cream treat from a street car and wandered our way back south through the park.
We stopped and watched the remote control boats and a small boy hit each ball his mother/nanny threw to him. Nicely done.

Later that night, sushi and an Irish pub.

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