Macy’s Culinary Council: Michelle Bernstein

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. ImageImageImageImage

Publican

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.

publican lights pig

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Charcuterie Plate

 

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Duck hearts

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grilled quail

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Bouchot Mussels

 

sea urchin

Live Sea Urchin, Sea Salt, & Oyster Crackers

 

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Oysters – Chef’s selection

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spicy pork rinds

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pork chop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Publican on Urbanspoon

Wally’s Roast Beef

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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.

Wally’s Roast Beef on Urbanspoon

Eden Vietnamese Restaurant

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IMG_6877Eden 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!

Eden Family Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sushi Fix Wayzata

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sushi fix

sushi plate

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.

Sushi Fix on Urbanspoon

Searzall

Since purchasing a sous vide I have discovered and already backed this amazing Searzall kickstarter project. The biggest issue I have found with the sous vide is that while it creates the most moist and juicy food everything looks pale and unappetizing. Cooking in a pan to sear works for some foods like steaks and chops. Other foods like fish and chicken that don’t have completely flat sides won’t sear evenly. In the past people would use blow torches but the problem is the torch taste. So far the famous chefs that have already backed the Searzall are:

  • David Chang and his team at Momofuku
  • Wylie Dufresne of WD-50 and Alder
  • Nathan Myhrvold and the Modernist Gang
  • Paul Adams Online and Food Editor from Popular Science
  • Nils Noren from Red Rooster
  • Mark Ladner from Del Posto
  • Michael Natkin, popular vegetarian cookbook author
  • Daisuke Nakazawa of Nakazawa Sushi
  • Micheal Anthony of Gramercy Tavern

The following is the Searzall team’s description of their product and its uses. The Searzall is an attachment that turns a blow torch into a hand-held supercharged instant-power broiler. Sears fish, sous-vide, pizza, cheese, foie gras, and everything else. searzall 1 saerzall 2 The backbone of the modern culinary revolution is sous-vide and low temperature cooking. By using very accurate cooking equipment like the immersion circulator you can now cook a product all the way through with flawless consistency. The problem is, sous-vide leaves the surface of food pale and crustless. Professional chefs have long known that the best way to get a really good crusty-cooked surface on a piece of succulent sous-vide meat is by using fire –very hot fire. Unfortunately, that sort of heat isn’t available to most people –especially at home. Booker and Dax founder Dave Arnold thought long and hard about this problem during the years he spent teaching sous-vide and low-temperature cooking to thousands of students at the French Culinary Institute. The Searzall was his answer. While sous-vide / low temperature cooking was the original impetus for Dave’s invention, it’s not the only reason to use one. The Searzall’s power is instant and portable. Carry it to a picnic, a catering event, or your mom’s house at the holidays and be searing in seconds. Whether you are cooking a fish at the beach, toasting the cheese on a burger at a cookout, fixing up the holiday roast, or finishing off that 6 hour sous-vide rib-steak, the Searzall will be your buddy. The Searzall team has already nearly doubled their original pledge goal of $80,000 dollars. There are still 15 days to go so if you want to get the best possible deal on a Searzall this is your last chance.

Haute Dish New Winter Menu

Landon Schoenefeld is a fantastic chef and Haute Dish is an awesome restaurant in Minneapolis that everyone should check out. They have just released their new Winter Menu which look delicious. I just noticed Monday thru Friday they are now offering their DELICIOUS Flavor Country Burger with a beer from 4-6 for $10 dollars. Remember that burger comes with everything no substitutions no temp changes ever. Trust me, it doesn’t need any.
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HauteDish on Urbanspoon

Umami by Travail

The hyper talented chefs of Travail and Pig Ate My Pizza recently opened a dim sum inspired pop up restaurant that has been extremely popular. If you follow this blog at all you know I LOVE asian food. Dim Sum is one of my all time favorite meals. So when I heard that the Travail guys were opening up this spot I got extremely excited. We ended up getting very lucky and got tickets for an all you can eat meal. We literally tried everything on the menu and I am going to break down each dish individually.

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We started off with this dish of “Chinese” roast pork and fried pork skin. The pork was juicy and well seasoned but the texture of the pork skin was chewy and not light and crisp.

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These chicken wings were killer. I could eat 100 of these. No complaints. Juicy and extremely flavorful.

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This steamed bao with all sorts of garnishes was dry and not good.

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This bulgogi beef was too salty and dry. I did like the small fresh garnishes but wouldn’t order again.

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I found the flavor of this baby bok choy very traditional and delicious. The only thing I would say is that the fat chunks of pork were unnecessary.

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I love runny eggs and avocado but this dish was under seasoned and just didn’t make sense.

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The kimchi was standard. Not bad but nothing special. I did appreciate something fresh tasting with all of the heavy dishes.

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I really enjoyed the simplicity of this kombu and cucumber salad.

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The rice sausage with curry sauce was okay. The sausage was dry and the sauce had a slightly weird texture.

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The ramen was VERY PORKY. As it should be. However it had too much of a ham flavor for my liking. It was also extremely salty.

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The ham hock dumplings which were injected with some sort of fish sauce were greasy, too salty and one dimensional.

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These shrimp dumplings were okay again the flavor seemed very one dimensional.

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I enjoyed the chinese broccoli but it seemed a little repetitive with the baby bok choy.

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This hamachi dish took our server about 10 minutes to plate and was nothing to write home about. By the time we got to eat the raw fish it was warm which was off putting. I found all of the sauces to be unnecessary and overkill.

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I thought these chicken dumplings were delicious and different. I really enjoyed the sauce that accompanied it. Great dish.

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The takoyaki was okay. The texture was a little weird.

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I am not a huge dessert person and I really enjoyed this build your own mini waffle cone.

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inside umami

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Umamai’s all you can eat menu

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in the kitchen

I want to start off by saying that I REALLY wanted to like this place and still think this place has the potential to be a knockout restaurant. As an avid at home cook who often gets over my head with trying to do too much I know how much work was put into making this meal. The amount of blood, sweat and tears is unquestioned. At the end of the meal when I got into my car I asked myself if I enjoyed the meal and for the most part I would have to say no. I LOVE pork but I think that they went a little too far with the idea that pork makes everything taste better. A lot of the dishes I feel were trying too hard to be different just for the sake of being different. I was really impressed by the fact that the food came out fast and the servers were knowledgeable, friendly and fun. I also think it’s awesome that there is no sign and it’s behind a Little Caesar’s in North Minneapolis. The top guns at Travail are not going anywhere and I anticipate that this restaurant will get the kinks figured out and will be a huge hit.

Umami by Travail on Urbanspoon

Bar Masa Vegas

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plate sushi on ice sushi role

I never got around to writing this post so I figured I would give credit where credit is due. Before this meal there was no question that the best sushi meal of my life was at Sushi Yasuda in New York City. I was always extremely curious how good Masa in NYC could really be. Only problem is I didn’t have $1300.00 or whatever crazy amount it is to find out. So when I was headed to Vegas I was excited to see that Masa had a more “affordable” option and it happened to be in the hotel we were staying in. When we got there they had a quite large menu outside of sushi which I found kind of weird. However, I knew why I was there so we started out by getting 2 orders of the chef’s choice. I will say that it was knockout. It completely lived up to the hype. We also got a roll with sea urchin which was extremely delicious. The dining room was gorgeous but felt kind of cold and I did not like how there was no sushi bar. The sushi came out of the kitchen which felt kind of weird. The meal was very expensive but it was good. After the meal I did not have a hard time deciding what was the best sushi I ever ate. It was definitely at Sushi Yasuda. Not only did the fish taste better but I feel like when your spending that kind of money you want the sushi made in front of you. I am by no means an expert on Japanese food in Vegas and for all I know there is just as good or better sushi far cheaper.  But if you are an out-of-towner and want a sure thing, you will not be disappointed with this sushi.

Bar Masa on Urbanspoon

Giftcard Giveaway: Chipotle Mexican Grill Donates 50 Percent Of Proceeds To Toys For Tots Twin Cities

IMG_7728 IMG_7729 IMG_7730Could there be a better fast/casual restaurants out there? Not only is Chipotle creating the healthiest/affordable food for the masses but they also care about their communities. I am excited to announce that Chipotle has given me the opportunity to give a Gift Card for a free meal of your choice away! All you have to do to be entered to win is follow my blog by typing your email address on the right hand side of the page and confirming your email.

On Tuesday, December 10, all Chipotle restaurants in Minnesota will donate up to $35,000 to the charity’s Twin Cities chapter

Chipotle Mexican Grill, the chain of burrito restaurants committed to serving food made from sustainably raised ingredients; Toys for Tots Twin Cities, a program run by the United States Marine Corps Reserve which distributes toys to children whose parents cannot afford to buy them gifts for Christmas.On Tuesday, December 10, all Minnesota Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants will donate 50 percent of the day’s proceeds to the Toys for Tots Twin Cities in an effort to give needy children in Minnesota a proper holiday. Customers must mention Toys for Tots on December 10 from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. at any Minnesota Chipotle restaurant for the contribution to be made.

As part of its ongoing community efforts in the Minneapolis and St. Paul region, Chipotle will give back to the Twin Cities charity this holiday season. To date in 2013, Chipotle Mexican Grill has donated $341,881 to local Minnesota organizations with $170,941 going back into the community.