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Archive for February, 2009

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Happy Belated Valentine’s Day, everyone. For the past few years we’ve been staying home to make Lobster or Crab Legs, but this year we decided to go out. We chose the French restaurant, Meritage, in downtown St. Paul. We’ve been there before and I loved it, so we thought we’d try it again. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite as amazing as last time. (I know you’ll be disapointed, but I did not take photos. I thought I’d have a meal without the flash and distraction of the camera.)

And that’s a bummer, because, like on Iron Chef, there would have been more points for plating than for taste. But I don’t want to sound harsh. The food was good, even above average, but overall it was all a little disappointing, especially the service. Anyway, we chose the tasting menu, so I’ll walk you through the courses.

First, a tease, Husband had the Oyster-Bloody-Mary Shooter and I had a taste of the Lobster Bisque. Both were pretty good. The first of the five courses was a crab, grapefruit and avocado salad. I thought this was the best course of the night, Husband thought there was too much Avocado. I loved that it was fresh and light and reminded me that Spring will one day come. The second course was a Scallop dish, and they chef was kind enough to substitute Cod because of my past history with Scallops. It was served with braised celery and a blood orange sauce and marcona almonds. It could have used more sauce, quite a bit more, but it was perfectly prepared.

The next course, a beef dish, was also beautifully plated and quite delicious. It included short ribs, a New York Strip, Pomme Dauphine, Carrots and Foie Gras sauce. Again, the dish needed more sauce, the short ribs were good, not great, but the New York Strip was tender and full of flavor and should have been twice the size.

All of the dishes to this point were really good, maybe just a little bland, but overall I was quite happy. And then we were forgotten. Next up was the cheese plate and while we munched on the chunks of cheese and two raspberries thrown together on the plates, we waited for Husbands accompanying wine to show up. It never did. Until we were done and our plates were cleared. At this point we’d already been there for two hours and I was fading fast. She brought us his wine and we requested our fifth and final course so we could get moving. The last course was a Marquise au Chocolate, which was a light slice of Chocolate Mouse, served with strawberries, pistachios and gold leaf. It was nice, not too dense, not too sweet, but again missed the kick that we were looking for.

Overall the food was good and beautiful. The service was slow and unpredictable. But the company was what mattered and I couldn’t have had more fun. Happy V-day, Babe!

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TwinCities.com posted this fabulous Interactive Guide to Local Chocolate. How delicious is that?

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Tracy’s Cheesy Potatoes

Anyone who knows my friend Tracy, knows about her famous cheesy potatoes. It seems like at every shower or gathering someone requests she make them. And once you try them, you’ll know why. They’re so, so, so, good. This is not one of those recipes we could consider light, but then again, did you think they were from the title? Here is her recipe, with a couple of notes. Someday I’ll try a lighter version, but I’m in no rush. These are so good they way they are I’d hate to ruin them

• 1 lb. hashbrown potatoes (I use frozen Ore Ida’s – if I have a bigger crowd, I’ve used as much as 1.5 lbs of hashbrowns without changing the other measurements of ingredients.)
• 1/2 c. chopped onion
• 1 can cream of chicken soup
• 1 c. milk
• 1 c. sour cream
• 2 c. grated cheddar cheese
• 1 tsp. salt
• 1/4 tsp. pepper

Mix all above ingredients together and put in 9×13 baking dish. Cover the top of potatoes with slightly crushed cornflakes. The recipe calls for 1/2 c. melted butter to pour on top of the cornflakes prior to baking. Sometimes I use the butter, sometimes less butter and sometimes not at all, depending on my mood. They taste equally as good without the butter, in my opinion. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 50 minutes.
Thanks for sharing Tracy!!

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I rarely make the recipes I see on TV, especially Rachel Ray’s. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing wrong with Rachel, in fact, I’m very proud of what she’s accomplished, but her dishes seem a little naive and simple for my tastes. But anyway, I saw her make these subs a few days before the Superbowl and I thought they sounded like a great idea for game time. They’re called Chicken Parm Meatball Subs and while we substituted ground turkey for the chicken, they were really, pretty tasty.

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Basically, you make the meatballs and bake ’em. Meanwhile there’s a tomato sauce simmering. Combine it all, load it with cheese and broil them. The recipe calls for sauteeing garlic in the oil and then removing the garlic, but to me that’s a waste of garlic. Just chop it up and keep it in there. Everyone will be happier.

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An Easy, and Tasty, Pasta

I finally found a really easy pasta dish that took just minutes to prep, had just a few ingredients and tasted really good. It is called Rigatoni with Red Peppers, Wild Mushrooms and Fontina, from epicurious, and it’s a keeper. To make it I sauted a red onion (it called for 2) in a bit of olive oil until they were browned and sweet, then added a pound of mushrooms (I chose shitake and baby bellas, but anything would do) and a sliced red pepper. After adding some marjoram and some of the cooking liquid fromthe pasta it turned into a thick ragout-style sauce. I threw in a pile of rigatoni and a cup of cheese (it called for fontina, i sued a combination of mild cheddar and mozzerella) and mixed up the whole mess. The warm pasta melted the cheese and it all came together beautifully. With a generous sprinkle of crushed red pepper, dinner was served. Couldn’t be easier. Unless, of course, someone made it for me.

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I had the pleasure of going out to dinner with the girls the other night. And we couldn’t have chosen a better place to enjoy each other’s company. Cafe Maude has been a favorite since it opened. For brunch. For dinner. For happy hour. It’s perfect for nearly any occasion. The food is consistently inventive and delicious. The atmosphere is warm and inviting. The prices are very manageable.

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We started with their magnificent fries with Bearnaise sauce and the cheese plate. Both were awesome and we munched on them through the whole meal. I couldn’t turn down a cup of the carrot soup with ginger. And believe it or not, it actually tasted like carrots (I love it when food tastes like what it should). There were fried bits of fresh ginger on the top of the soup that really brought out the flavors, of both the ginger and the carrots. That would be one recipe I would love ot have. For the rest of the meal I went with the duck breast. It was listed on the menu under the Small Plates, which was good, because after the fries, cheese and the soup there was little room left. The duck was prepared beautifully and served with brussel sprouts and Parmesan puree. It was unique but homey at the same time. A perfect meal.

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L ordered the scallops (above), Jen ordered the salmon and T ordered the beet salad (yum, so good, so earthy) and the corn chowder. Everyone was happy, the wine flowed freely and we could barely resist dessert. Then again, T had a freezer full of cupcakes from the Bulldog from her birthday the previous week, plus the batch of Sea Salt Caramels we made for her birthday, so we didn’t go empty handed.

On a side note, Cafe Maude has expanded to include the Armatage Room. It’s a great concept, check it out.

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It was below zero again last week and I was craving something that would warm me up. We settled on Thai. Actually, True Thai. We’ve been ordering their food to go at least every few months since they opened, but we rarely eat in. So when we got there, we were surprised to see that they expanded. And not just a little bit, but they at least doubled their space. And the place was still packed. Cool! No economic crisis at True Thai!

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I chose the Red Shrimp Curry with Kabocha Squash. It was perfect. Warm and creamy and full of good things. And the squash was great. It wasn’t too sweet, more like Pumpkin than Butternut.

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Jen went with the Tom Yum soup, which is her favorite and I finally tried it. Wow. Next time you’re looking to warm up (which is often in these parts) this will do the trick. It was citrusy and full of vegetables and tofu. Yum.

Husband ordered the salmon, which unfortunately was overcooked and not even pretty enough to photograph. It’s rare that we’re disapponted with anything at True Thai, so that was a bummer.

Writing about it again has me craving it. I think the high today was about 3 degrees above zero. Sure could use some curry.

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