Soft Shell Crab like many ingredients in the spring time are delicious and very short-lived. I am addicted to soft shell crab. I will take it any way I can get it and will always order it when I see it on a menu. I picked some up last week from Coastal Seafoods and was having some friends over so I wanted to make something delicious and fast. I started off by heating up some oil to 350 degrees. I then took the crabs and seasoned them liberally with salt and pepper. I then dipped them into flour. From the flour they went into a mixture of buttermilk, hot sauce and eggs. Finally, I dropped them into some panko breadcrumbs. I needed a sauce. I figured why not some Kewpie? Kewpie mayonnaise is from Japan and has an eggier flavor. It is also loaded with MSG which gives it a little more oomph. I love MSG and I am not interested in trying to go off on a tangent about how MSG isn’t this horrible thing that everyone has made it out to be. It comes from seaweed and makes things taste delicious. Besides the Kewpie I had to have something spicy so why not a little Sriracha. Now normally I would mix them together but I decided by just putting them directly next to each other people could decide how spicy they wanted to go. Finally, the day before I made some “quickles” or quick pickles. Which is one of the easiest things to make and great for saving old vegetables from going bad. You simple cut up vegetables however you’d like. In this case I used turnips, chilies and green garlic. I cut them thin on a mandolin and heated up a pot with 1 cup of rice vinegar 1 cup of water, 1/2 cup of sugar and about a tablespoon of salt. You bring these ingredients to a boil and drop in your vegetables for a minute. Take the heat off and let them cool down. That’s it. That’s how you make QUICKLES.
So I have to start off by saying a while back I made a post calling Krungthep Thai one of the best Thai restaurants in the Twin Cities. Well I still think its great BUT I found a place I like more. It’s in Northeast Minneapolis and its called Karta Thai. Ironically it’s across the street from another good Thai restaurant called Sen Yai Sen Lek. I used to love going to Sen Yai Sen Lek and I still think it’s a good Thai restaurant. More importantly Sen Yai Sen Lek uses local organic ingredients which is awesome. That being said as much as I’ve always wanted to like it there was something always a little off. So one of my friends told me about Karta Thai and I cannot get over how good it is. When I walked in I was greeted by very friendly Thai women cooking in the kitchen which is always a good sign. We then started to look at the menu and were very excited to see there is a section saying “If you are Thai or know Thai food just let us know what you would like us to make and if we have the ingredients we will make it for you.” Generally when you see this at a Thai restaurant this is a good sign. We started off with a handful of appetizers which were unique and flavorful. I really appreciated that all of the sauces served with the appetizers were scratch made. I’ve had enough bottled sweet chili sauce for one lifetime. The red curry was one of the best I’ve ever had and the Pad Thai was fantastic. I know – Pad Thai? authentic? My girlfriend LOVES Pad Thai and she insisted we try it. Coming from someone who dislikes Pad Thai purely out of principle I will admit it was good. The green papaya salad is hands down the best I’ve had in town. The portions are huge and the service was spot on. Bottom line if you like Thai food you have to check this place out.
So when I was in Chicago I had a phenomenal meal at Publican. As many good restaurants do they labeled where each protein came from. One of my favorite local farms in Au Bon Canard. They are famous for their Foie Gras. I very rarely buy it from my favorite butcher shop Clancey’s because it is too expensive. This being said their duck legs, breasts and other goodies are also fantastic. So when we were having the meal at Publican I noticed they had a grilled duck heart dish using hearts from Au Bon Canard farms. I had never had duck hearts before but I’m always up to try something new. I was so blown away with the mild duck flavor and very approachable texture I decided I had to buy some and cook them myself when I got back. When I got them from Clancey’s I simply trimmed away any fatty bits and seasoned them with salt and pepper. Then I seared them a couple of minutes on each side until they were medium rare. They were perfectly tender just like a delicious duck breast and about a 1/4 the price. I know a lot of people are going to think I’m crazy cooking duck heart but I’m telling you they were more tender than any duck breast I’ve ever had.
After being a Top Chef fan for years I have been really excited to eat at Stephanie Izzard’s flagship restaurant Girl and the Goat. For the last couple of years if you ask anyone where to eat in Chicago this seems to be one of the places that keeps popping up on everyone’s list. The first thing I noticed when I walked in the door was the Notorious B.I.G. blaring from the speakers. For a lot of a people this might be a turn off but for me it felt like I was right at home. Physically the restaurant was very nice looking and it gave off an “IT” place to be vibe. We were seated very promptly from the hostess where we were greeted by our extremely professional waiter. I was impressed by the beer selection and the menu was almost overwhelmingly in the sense that everything sounded fantastic. I appreciated the waiters decisiveness when we asked questions about the menu. We started off with some oysters, hamachi crudo and goat carpaccio. All three hit on all cylinders. Fresh, rich, creamy, acidic, salty, crunchy, spicy, savory and sweet. We then moved on to the main courses which consisted of a crispy fish in a coconut broth which was phenomenal. Then we had some lamb ribs which were also perfectly succulent and tender. The sauce which was loaded with marcona almonds was divine. Finally, we had to try their signature dish which is aptly named: “wood oven roasted pig face” which consisted of a sunny side up egg, roasted pig face, cilantro, tamarind, a red wine maple syrup sauce and potato sticks. The dish was good but I think a lot of people are getting sold on the name. It was one of my least memorable dishes of everything we tried. After dinner I found myself asking: was the hype real? I will say that the food was great. The restaurant definitely has a “cool” aura about it. The dishes were creative and innovative for sure. If i were coming back to Chicago I would go again. This all being said, I had a more memorable meal at Publican. Bottom line. If I put these two restaurants together Publican wins every time.
When I first heard there was a sustainable sushi restaurant in Minneapolis I was very excited to check it out. I’ve ended up coming back to Kyatchi several times since. The food is not what the average Minnesotan sushi eater is used to. It’s unique and something you’re not going to find anywhere else in town. The service has been consistently great and it has a cool neighborhood restaurant feel to it. Kyatchi has good rice and uses superior quality nori (seaweed). So far I have sampled a decent amount of the menu and I can tell you the highlights include: seaweed salad with several different types of seaweed I’ve never seen before and the dressing is flavorful. Any of the sushi is great, I especially liked the vegetable/pickled sushi. I think the thing that I have appreciated the most about Kyatchi is realizing how good sushi can be without fish. That being said, the Chef’s selection which is fish dominant has been terrific every time. One of the things I have found on the menu that I had never seen in the twin cities before was the “pressed sushi” which was delicious. I had a hard time justifying the $15 price tag for the small of amount of fish but it was something great that I have never seen in Minnesota. The most admirable thing I have noticed so far has been the fact that they don’t serve tempura sushi rolls with spicy mayo, and unagi like all of the other “Americanized” sushi restaurants around town. There have been a couple of inconsistencies with the non sushi dishes including the hotdog with curried cabbage which was overcooked and dry and the cabbage was bland. On the next visit the hot dog was cooked perfectly but I was still wanting something else with it in addition to the curried cabbage. The ramen had the potential to be fantastic but I found it to be under seasoned. This all being said this is a great sushi restaurant to check out if you are looking for a healthier and different sushi option.
Macy’s Culinary Council invited me to an event in Minneapolis to checkout acclaimed chef Michelle Bernstein cooking with coffee. Michelle and Macy’s were promoting a new expresso maker made by Nespresso. I will be the first to admit that I am not a huge coffee person and was a little skeptical when I heard all the dishes Michelle would be making involved coffee. That being said everything was delicious. We started off with a chicken taco with a coffee mole sauce. The coffee was pronounced in the dish and it really worked well with the chocolate. It was fun to hear Michelle promote lard and even say that chicken fat was her favorite oil to cook with. She also told us how she has a Minnesota connection. Her father grew up on the north side of Minneapolis and her Mother-in-law is from St. Paul. She said she comes to Minnesota several times a year and is always calling her buddy Andrew Zimmern for restaurant recommendations. I personally think Michelle would be fantastic on a cooking tv show. I know she has been a judge on Top Chef before but she really has a firecracker personality and knows how to speak her mind. I appreciated that she didn’t dumb down any of the dishes for the crowd. Her second dish was a French inspired chocolate custard with lots of fantastic toppings. Traditionally the custard was finished with butter but she decided to mix it up and use rendered down chorizo fat. She told us how she wishes someone would start bottling the stuff because it tastes good on everything. This is one of the coolest ideas I’ve heard in a long time. She told the audience that she originally came up with this dish when she was cooking with Thomas Keller and some other famous chefs. She said she REALLY wanted to impress them. She told great stories and made terrific food. I had a great time and would like to thank Macy’s and Michelle for a great time. All of the photos were taken by Adam Bettcher for Macy’s.
Chef Paul Kahan has really put his mark on the Chicago food scene. It all started with the acclaimed Blackbird. Now he has a handful of extremely successful restaurants: Avec (wine bar), Big Star (taco and tequila bar), and Publican (beer driven). The newest is Publican which specializes in quality meats. Publican is now the butcher shop that supplies all of the other restaurants and is making world class charcuterie. I was recently in Chicago and I knew that there was one place I HAD to go to and that was Publican. Like most serious restauranteurs these days Kahan is focused on keeping things small using local farms with ingredients as organic as possible. From the bread to the beer list EVERYTHING was fantastic. I loved the actual room and I still can’t get over the fantastic pig paintings on the walls. Some of the most notable dishes included: the mussels with homemade bread, the charcuterie plate, and the grilled duck hearts from Au Bon Canard farms in Caledonia, Minnesota. I may add they were amazing and so was just about everything else I ate. The service was also impeccable. I really wish this place was in Minnesota. I recommend it to anyone who is going to Chicago.
I first discovered Wally’s Roast Beef in high school when one of my friends claimed it was the best roast beef sandwich he’d ever eaten. When we’re talking roast beef sandwiches I’m not talking fancy, fussy, gourmet. I’m talking old school american roast beef. Think a scratch made version of Arby’s. Super soft white bun, a mountain of tender roast beef, swiss, a cup of hot jus and horseradish. When I used to go here it was in a different location in a strip mall in Bloomington. Now it is in an office building. If you are ever craving old school roast beef sandwich this place really does hit the spot.
Eden Restaurant is tucked away in the industrial area of Eden Prairie. I found out about this place from a co-worker. Apparently it has been around for quite some time. They have a large fan base of people who work in the area and are in the know. Eden has no website and no way of knowing about it other than the tiny sign that is stuck in the ground from the main road when you drive by or word of mouth. Their 2 most popular dishes are the hot and spicy ginger chicken and the beef and potatoes. There are other dishes that people like but generally this is what people order with their delicious egg rolls. This place is not using local, organic ingredients and it’s not particularly healthy. This all being said, it’s REALLY GOOD. If you are a fan of Vietnamese style beef and potatoes these are DELICIOUS . Their version is made with freshly house fried crispy potatoes and thinly sliced tender beef in a rich gravy like sauce with caramelized onions. The egg rolls are Vietnamese style with a little cup of watered down fish sauce. This is old school comfort food at its best. They give you a huge portion for around $8 and they are FAST. The food is served cafeteria style. They are only open for lunch and only serve the beef and potatoes on certain days. If you work in Eden Prairie and feel like something different and like divey asian joints check it out!
I have heard about Sushi Fix for a while now with some people calling it the best sushi restaurant in town. I have eaten at some truly amazing sushi restaurants all over the world so I never have the bar set too high because we do live in Minnesota. That being said in my opinion there are 2 types of sushi. There are the “Jiro” sushi restaurants where there are 12 seats, the fish was caught 10 minutes ago, reservations take 3 months and you are going to need to take out a second mortgage. Then there are the “American” sushi restaurants. I love both. I love sushi rolls with shrimp tempura, spicy mayo and avocado and other fun americanized ingredients. Before eating at Sushi Fix as far as I was concerned Masu in Northeast was the spot to go for sushi in Minnesota. After trying out Sushi Fix I’m very conflicted. I went into this meal very skeptical. Wayzata Minnesota with great sushi? I stand corrected. The service was great. The sashimi was no question better than Masu’s. Thick, luscious, perfect temperature and cut perfectly for tenderness. It tasted extremely fresh. However, Sushi Fix is more expensive and their menu outside of sushi does not compare to Masu’s. At the end of the day if you are strictly craving sushi I think you have to go to Sushi Fix. If you are craving ramen, robata, steamed buns and other Japanese deliciousness you should go to Masu.