Sunday, August 26, 2012

Kitchen Commando: Pantry Challenge

We haven't had a weekend that's allowed for lazing around the house to work on insignificant but rewarding nesting projects in a long while.  We've had a great time playing with friends and visiting family over the summertime but when the cool air broke the heat the other week I bought a new throw for the couch and wanted to hunker down in my humble abode.

I was having such a relaxing afternoon that I couldn't imagine getting gussied up to head down the street to the grocery store, so I didn't.  I took an inventory of the contents of my kitchen (partial spice cabinet photos below).  After writing everything down I begun reassembling the varied ingredients into potentially delicious meals.

Here's what I had on hand:

chicken broth
beets (canned)
corn (canned)
green chiles (canned)
frozen vegetables, assorted
broccoli stocks
chipotles in adobo sauce
panko crumbs
lo mein noodles
ramen noodles
frozen pie crust
english muffins
lasagna noodles
corn tortillas
arborio rice
cannellini beans
garbanzo beans
nuts, assorted
spices, assorted
condiments, assorted
pantry staples (i.e. flour, sugar, chocolate chips, etc.)

I'll be posting recipes in the coming weeks starting with a delicious Sopa de Chorizo I made for Sunday dinner!

Help me avoid the grocery store and post ideas you might have too.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


After a full blown kitchen remodel -- I'm prepping a full follow-up post coming soon... I swear it!  Just a few more small finishing touches. -- Mr. S and I needed a seriously sweet reward.  We winded through the charming pathways, behind the bustle of the 50th and France intersection, to the new addition to our neighborhood, Pandolfi, for a cone of creamy too-rich gelato.  We made it just before closing time and tortured the worker behind the counter by tasting every flavor offered.  She was so gracious and happy to comply.  No matter your selection you can't go wrong, no matter your flavor choice. 

The owner did go astray with the decor and confusing merchandising.  The store includes a surprising array of cheaply made (not priced) little trinkets and bulk candy.  If it were my store I'd focus on the gelato.  Bulk candy isn't a bad idea either but the rest is just too distracting and a little unsophisticated for the central product offering (gelato, remember) and the location.  I digress...

So, what's the big deal?  Ice cream is delicious, custard is a creamy wonderful delight and there are any multitude of permutated concoctions that fall somewhere in between.  Why gelato?
Gelato sings to me. The colors, out-of-the-ordinary flavors and the eloquent little spoon they give you (begging the eater to slow down and savor) with which you scoop up the fluffy cloud of goodness, take a standard confectionery experience to the next level. There's something else I find fun about gelato. It feels far more classy than any of the 31 flavors or candy bar laden Blizzards.  By partaking you're indulging in what feels like a classically Italian tête-à-tête with your dessert.
And then there's the mouth feel of gelato.  What makes it so smooth.  For those of you who are scientifically inclined here's are the differences between all these sweet treats courtesy of the folks at the TLC network: 

  • Ice cream -- By United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) standards, a food labeled "ice cream" should have at least 20 percent milk solids and 10 percent milk fat by weight. Premium brands are fattier, typically 14 to 18 percent. Both milk and cream are used. Sweeteners account for another 15 percent or so.
  • Frozen custard -- A touch of egg yolk is what distinguishes frozen custard from commercial ice cream. Legally, custard only has to contain 1.4 percent egg yolk by weight, but some brands have more. The lecithin in the yolk is a natural emulsifier, imparting a richer, creamier texture.
  • Gelato -- Gelato hails from Italy, and its name is simply the Italian word for "frozen." Gelato traditionally is made using mostly or entirely milk. Having little or no cream reduces fat while intensifying flavors. Gelato's melt-in-the-mouth creaminess comes from sheer density: It's churned with relatively little added air.
  • Frozen yogurt -- Frozen yogurt blends yogurt (milk fermented with yogurt cultures) with an ice cream base of milk, cream and sweetener. The resulting dessert is both sweet and tangy, cold and creamy. If made with live cultures, frozen yogurt promotes digestive health by encouraging the growth of "friendly" bacteria in the intestinal tract.
  • I recommend you finish off this perfect Minnesota Summer afternoon with a cone of your favorite flavor.

    Grade: B+ for delicious gelato but distracting ambiance.

    3904 West 50th Street, Edina, MN
    (952) 928-3000
    Monday - Thursday 10am to 9pm
    Friday and Saturday 10am to 10pm
    Sunday Noon to 8pm

    Saturday, October 29, 2011

    Woody's Pet Food Deli

    Our cat Richard used to disagree with (if you know what I mean) his breakfast or dinner at least 3 times a week. We were seriously worried about our beloved pet. After doing some research we discovered many aging cats have trouble with manufactured dry food.  It's easy to forget that our current day domesticated house cat came from a line of feral cats, carnivores.   Their digestive systems are built to handle the unique proteins in meat, not rice, grains and vegetables. These mass produced, mostly affordable foods are our own simplistic solutions for feeding the family house pet.

    As our pets age their digestive systems have trouble breaking down anything but animal proteins.  Enter Woody's. They grind whole animals down to a mixture of white and dark meat, innards and bones (to keep animal teeth clean and sharp), giving cats and dogs what they would be getting in the wild, albeit a bit swankier. They sell their food raw or cooked for those tentative about salmonella.

    Richard loves the raw versions of the milder cornish game hen, chicken, rabbit and turkey. He doesn't do well with rich red meats (beef, bison, deer, duck, lamb, elk). He absolutely loves when I heat his meal in the microwave for 25 seconds.  Warm, not cooked.

    We switched to Woody's about 6 months ago and Richard hasn't had any digestive issues since. He loves mealtime and I could swear he's more svelte, active and energetic too. 

    The standard or free range choices come by the pint, quart and beyond. Pints, which we buy for Richard, range from $3.79-6.19 and feed him for about 4 days. They also have an interesting assortment of treats - think freeze dried mice.

    Woody's Pet Food Deli
    3008 West 50th Street, Minneapolis, MN 55410
    (612) 208-0335

    Monday, October 24, 2011

    Lotus To Go Go

    Mr. S and I came here a couple of days ago to feed Mr. S's hangover with what his good friend Larry has sworn is a sure cure.  Pho, a Vietnamese noodle soup with a rich broth, is supposedly the perfect answer to your post-party woes.  I've always gotten my pho at Quang but after combing through reviews on Yelp I decided to hit up Lotus and see if they could compete.

    Before we dug into the pho we ordered pork and shrimp fresh spring rolls.  They were pretty and delicious and came with a tasty peanuty dipping sauce.  These were totally different from my favorite rolls at Na's Thai Cafe, but tasty nonetheless.

    This pho was just as savory and delicious as Quang.  The broth was less greasy -- a big plus in my book -- but didn't have as much meat as I expected.  Not being a huge meat eater, I wasn't enormously bothered by it.  I made a note for next time to remind Mr. S to order double meat.

    Mr. S got an order of General Tso's chicken that sounded good at the time.  I asked what he thought (I didn't taste it; I get meat anxiety when things are breaded and fried) and all he said was 'forgettable'.

    I loved that they offer both a small and a large size pho. The large is usually the side of a tureen and I hate to leave any deliciousness behind. The small order suited me perfectly.  Brilliant!

    Grade: Solid B

    Lotus To Go Go
    113 West Grant Street, Minneapolis, MN 55403
    (612) 870-1218

    Saturday, October 22, 2011

    Pig and Fiddle

    I'm back and I've got a lot of food to write about! Here's the first installment...

    I was so excited to try the Pig & Fiddle, especially since it's within walking distance from my house. I was looking forward to grabbing a beer, eating some good pub food and watching football games at their bar.

    First the good... The beer list lives up to expectations. They have 36 brews on tap and I'm pumped to try every last one of them. I couldn't tell you what we had, but I don't think you can go wrong. For those of you who want a good ole Budweiser, they have that too.

    The service was wonderful. Our waitress had clearly been in the industry for some time and was both knowledgeable and passionate about the food and drink. She was there when you needed her and not a hovering when you didn't. Perfection.

    The interior has mostly charming attributes. Our table, and those of diners around us, was wobbly. Our server spent quite a bit of time trying to remedy the problem with coasters. When we arrived the dimmed lights were way too low. It was almost a little hard to see in there. I'm all for mood lighting, but this was a little much. On the flip side the column enclosed dining area, complete with fireplace was really relaxing and beautiful looking.

    And now the opportunities... I eat out A LOT. I have no problem paying for something special. This food, for one reason or another, was not special. I love the trend of honest European countryside dishes prepared with a bit of additive flair. I think the concepts at P & F are good but I do have a fear they may have come to the 50th and France intersection with an inaccurate perception of the type of people who would make up their client base. A lot of folks in the area may have extra disposable income to burn, but most of them have it because they're smart about getting a value. In that vain, I really do hope they choose to rightsize their portions relative to their prices.

    I didn't order any dinner since I'd overdone it at lunch but Mr. S has the Pig & Fiddle Burger ($10). To be clear, there is no 'pig' on the thing. Don't be fooled. Still, I have to hand it to them. The flavor on the burger was great, the fries were delicious and the price was right. I would order this again.

    My dad was along for the ride. We were headed to the Edina Film Festival afterward. He decided to order some Polish-Style Perogies ($14), real comfort food. Perogies are one of those foods that are so incredibly cheap and easy to prepare (a ravioli like pocket filled with mashed potatoes and cheese) that single men everywhere stock them in their freezers for quick heating with some butter in a fry pan. Sadly, P & F decided to skimp on what could be such a classically simple dish that satisfies. They delivered a beleaguered plate with five small perogies in the center with a little sour cream. This plate was not worth $14. You actually feel like you've been taken advantage of when you get something like this. You start to sweat and contemplate whether or not you want to be the customer that sends something back. That's not a good feeling to have at a restaurant. 

    We also tried a dessert ($5, I can't remember the name) touted by our waitress. She made it sound like a twist on an apple pie and my mouth was watering. When the dessert arrived I almost started to chuckle. The scoop of ice cream on top of a vanilla cake--baked with some streusel topping, candied green apples and pineapple--was about the size of a golf ball. It was a little absurd. It was also a bit dry. It could use some version of caramel sauce or just a more generous serving of ice cream to smooth out the texture. Not surprisingly, we ran out of ice cream before the cake was gone. It was as sad a moment as it sounds.

    I'm going to give the place a bit to get their food identity solidified and give them another shot. In the meantime I'll keep going for the beers!

    Rating: C, but could be an easy B with a few adjustments!

    Pig and Fiddle
    3808 W 50th Street, Minneapolis, MN 55410
    (952) 955-8385