A Weekend in Minneapolis: Fun, food and beer in less than 48 hours

A Weekend in Minneapolis: Fun, food and beer in less than 48 hours

My husband recently had to go to Minneapolis for a business trip and seeing that I have a major case of FOMO (fear of missing out) and I am trying to visit all 50 states before I am 50, I flew up and met him after his meetings on a Friday evening. We only had until Sunday to see what the city had to offer but if you know me, that fact wasn’t going to stop me from seeing everything on my to do list, which when I travel is usually beer, food, and anything I can take a picture with. Sure I may miss out on some of the so called must sees but I always have fun and Minneapolis was no exception, in fact it was one of the best weekends we have had in a long time.

First stop : Beer. I was thirsty after traveling and we needed to come up with a game plan, we were staying downtown and there was a bar called The Local (931 Nicollet Mall) that was close by and served craft beer, sold. We stopped in here for an appetizer and a few pints. They had a decent beer selection as well as a full bar. It’s an Irish Pub and the food while decent was nothing to write home about but we met some locals and talked to the bartender, they were all friendly and gave us some suggestions on what to do and see while we were there.

I had googled and locals had suggested Butcher and The Boar, so we knew this had to be on our list and that we may need a reservation, we called from The Local and the only time we could get in was in about an hour. No problem we are nothing if not adaptable when we travel, time for a quick change and a brisk walk and a picture with the Mary Tyler Moore statue.

A Weekend in Minneapolis: Fun, food and beer in less than 48 hours

Luckily our table was not quite ready when we got there, this gave us a chance to check out their Beer Garden out back.

A Weekend in Minneapolis: Fun, food and beer in less than 48 hours. Butcher and the Boar Beer Garden

 We had a local beer while waiting for our table, they also serve house made sausages if you need a bite. We waited for the real thing inside and I am glad we did, the menu is divine and the food is awesome. We ordered way too much, but loved all of it. Some highlights were the Beef Long Rib, House Pickle Plate, Homemade Braunschweiger, Blackened Cauliflower, oh and anything on the menu.

Butcher and The Boar Minneapolis, Beef Long RibIButcher and the Boar House Pickle Plate and Smoked Olives

With our bellies full of beer and food we walked back towards our hotel and checked out the sights. We had big plans of maybe going somewhere else but we were tired and did I mention full, so we decided to get some sleep and get an early start on tomorrow.

We woke up and headed down to the local Mill City Farmer’s Market. I think this is always a great way to get to know a new city and this was no exception. Quirky food trucks, local produce and flea market finds, I even got a cool vintage apron for only $10. The nice thing about this market is that it is right outside the Mill City Museum and has views of the Mississippi.

A Weekend in Minneapolis: Fun, food and beer in less than 48 hoursA Weekend in Minneapolis: Fun, food and beer in less than 48 hours: Mill City Farmers MarketA Weekend in Minneapolis: Fun, food and beer in less than 48 hours: Mill City Museum A Weekend in Minneapolis: Fun, food and beer in less than 48 hours

From there we walked along the Mississippi, across the Stone Arch Bridge and down Main Street. Great sites, relaxing parks, and lots of history. Again now we are thirsty and what is a girl to do? Find a local Brewery. The closest one according to our map app was Dangerous Man Brewing, it was a bit of a hike but it was a beautiful day so we did it and it made our liquid reward that much sweeter or should I say hoppy. There was a line to get in when we arrived so we knew we mad a good choice. We tried several different brews and they were all great and the staff and atmosphere was friendly and inviting.

Dangerous Man Brewing MinneapolisA Weekend in Minneapolis: Fun, food and beer in less than 48 hours: Dangerous Man BrewingA Weekend in Minneapolis: Fun, food and beer in less than 48 hours

Guess what, I’m hungry again, big surprise. So we are off to try the legendary Jucy Lucy. We decide on Matt’s Bar, their are local disputes on who invented it or who has the best one. Well I am not sure if this is the best one because it is the only one I tried but I can tell you that it is delicious. So simple, yet so good. Who knew just putting the cheese inside the hamburger would change it into a must have before you die food. This place is cash only and small so if you go right at a meal time be prepared to wait. Also please heed the warnings of letting your Jucy Lucy cool before biting into it, yes it is torture, but will save your mouth from 3rd degree burns.

A Weekend in Minneapolis: Fun, food and beer in less than 48 hours: Matt's BarA Weekend in Minneapolis: Fun, food and beer in less than 48 hours: Matt's BarA Weekend in Minneapolis: Fun, food and beer in less than 48 hours:Matt's Barr Home of the Jucy Lucy

Ok now I have to admit my biggest disappointment with Minneapolis is that there is no Prince Museum or Purple Rain Park, no purple motorcycle tours, or no Morris Day and the Time Grill. Being a child of the 80’s and from Florida my only images of Minneapolis are from that movie. So my only opportunity to recreate some “Doves Crying” magic is to check out First Avenue (your downtown danceteria since 1970). So we get down there and of course the show is sold out which happened to be Tina and the B-sides, so I didn’t get to go in but did get to see it and all the stars on the wall with the bands that have played there which is a most impressive list. Bonus, I found the one of my favorite band ever and there is a bar right next door.

A Weekend in Minneapolis: Fun, food and beer in less than 48 hours: First AvenueA Weekend in Minneapolis: Fun, food and beer in less than 48 hours: First AvenueA Weekend in Minneapolis: Fun, food and beer in less than 48 hours: First Avenue

So now the only place left is Nye’s Polonaise, I will admit we had actually been here earlier in the day and had a great discussion with our bartender, I instantly fell in love. This place was opened in 1950 and hasn’t changed one bit. The decor, the people, the piano bar are all amazing. I knew I had to come back that evening when they were serving food, had the polka band that dresses up like Kiss playing and the sing along piano bar was full of locals crooning out the hits. I was expecting greatness and I got it, it was everything I had ever hoped for. It was like stepping back in time, well except for the college aged hipsters in fedoras, but even they seemed to work in this atmosphere. Also while your there, try the Polish Sampler Platter, great homemade food including locally made sausages. This is a national treasure and should not be missed.

Nye's Polonaise:A Weekend in Minneapolis: Fun, food and beer in less than 48 hours

A Weekend in Minneapolis: Fun, food and beer in less than 48 hours: Nye's PolonaiseA Weekend in Minneapolis: Fun, food and beer in less than 48 hours: Nye's Polonaise

A Weekend in Minneapolis: Fun, food and beer in less than 48 hours: Nye's Polonaise, Polish Sampler A Weekend in Minneapolis: Fun, food and beer in less than 48 hours: Nye's Polonaise

We stopped at another couple of bars before calling it a night, there was great karaoke at Otter ‘s Saloon and a sign that beckons, You Otter Stop Inn.

We had to leave early the next morning to catch our flight so we just grabbed breakfast at the hotel. Now I know we probably missed tons of cool places, in fact we didn’t even get to see everything on our list but I have to say that Minneapolis was a great time and I think we utilized all of our time wisely. Now I dare you to have more fun than that in less than 48 hours, good luck and have fun trying.

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Lebanese Please: My New Favorite Food

Lebanese Please:Herb Tossed Salad with Lemon Coriander Dressing and Fried Potatoes with Lemon, Red Pepper and Cilantro

 

On a recent trip to London I was amazed by all the great food. It is not just the land of Fish and Chips and Bangers and Mash. They are utilizing fresh, local, and seasonal ingredients creatively. Also there are many ethnic restaurants that span the globe. I was intrigued by the amount of Lebanese restaurants we found around Kensington. So being the foodie I am we had to try one. After reading about the 5 freshly squeezed lemonades on the menu I was hooked and had to try Comptoir Libanais. I think it might have even been a chain restaurant but it still was delicious. My friend and I shared a Falafel Wrap and Salad, Baba Ghanouj, and a dish called Lebanese Fries. I also had the fresh squeezed Apple, Ginger, and Mint Lemonade. (It is the glass full of green stuff) It was all delicious and so fresh and tasty. The potatoes and the salad were my favorite, though the pickled turnip on the falafel wrap was pretty darn good too. So I came back inspired and wanted my husband to be able to get a hint at the taste and feel of the food.

Comptoir Libanais in South Kensington

I gave it a try and even if it was totally wrong it had the same fresh feel with the emphasis on fresh herbs and citrus which is what I was looking for. Perfect for Summer, I will be making these again and again.

Lebanese Style Fried Potatoes with Lemon, Red Pepper and Cilantro

4-5 cups diced potatoes, I used Yukon Gold

1/2 stick butter

1 lemon juiced

1 t red pepper flakes

2 T fresh cilantro chopped

1 t salt

Melt butter in a large pan over med high heat. Add potatoes and cover and cook for 15 minutes. Uncover and stir and cook 15 minutes more or until golden and crunchy on the outside.

Fried Potatoes with Lemon, Red Pepper and Cilantro

 

Add lemon juice and red pepper flakes and toss to coat, cook about 5 minutes more over med heat. Then toss with cilantro and serve.

Fried Potatoes with Lemon, Red Pepper and Cilantro

 

Tossed Salad with Herbs and Lemon Coriander Dressing

Lemon Coriander Dressing

2 T lemon Juice

1 T olive oil

1 t ground coriander

1/4 t black pepper

1/4 t salt

Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl, serve over salad.

Tossed Salad with Herbs

4-6 cups of fresh crisp torn greens ( I used hearts of romaine and spring mix)

1/2 c thinly sliced radishes ( Soak the radishes in ice water after slicing that will remove some of the bitterness and make them crisp)

1/2 c grape tomatoes

1 cucumber peeled and sliced

2 T chopped fresh parsley

2 T chopped fresh mint

 

Toss the salad with the dressing and serve immediately, I topped with grilled chicken and served with warm pita bread.

Herb Tossed Salad with Lemon Coriander Dressing

Herb Tossed Salad with Lemon Coriander Dressing

Heading North to Get South: Finding Florida

The Floridian Restaurant St. Augustine

Florida is a unique state, it’s it the most Southern state geographically but probably the least Southern state in the South. In fact, in Florida, the further South you go the less southern charm there is, this leads us to a small identity crisis. We have lots of outside influences because many residents are from somewhere else, they came here on vacation and decided to stay. So we don’t have a lot of traditions or local delicacies, we are mostly chain restaurants and strip malls.

This past week my family and I headed North to St. Augustine, a city on the East Coast of Florida just South of Jacksonville. I had been there before and have to admit I was slightly disappointed. I thought it would be this great town with charm and history, real traditional Florida, and instead I found a tourist trap. It was complete with day glow t-shirts and cheesy attractions, just like most of Florida. Most of the restaurants there offered fried shrimp and hamburgers, all frozen from Sysco I am sure. There was beautiful architecture and beaches but it was all marred by neon signs and wax museums, not at all what I was looking for.

I am glad I gave it a second chance, this time I stayed away from St. George Street (the biggest neon offender) and hung out on the outskirts of Old Town and I was rewarded. Our first great find was a restaurant called The Floridian.They are doing what I thought was impossible in Florida, serving delicious traditional Southern recipes made from local, seasonal and sustainable food. Not only that, but the menu is full of options, you can make many of the dishes gluten-free or vegetarian. We started with some local beers, Red Brick’s Hoplanta (yes it’s from GA, but I had never had it and it’s close enough) and Intuition’s I-10 IPA. Intuition’s was more to my liking , more of a West Coast style IPA.

Red Brick's  Hoplanta and Intuition Ale Works  I-10 IPA

Then we had some appetizers, Fried Pickles, house made pickles spiced with the locally grown Datil pepper ( think a sweeter version of a habenaro) Served with buttermilk herb dressing.

Fried Pickles

and the  Oysters Floridian, broiled Oysters with  home-made pimento cheese ( a southern staple that is making a comeback) and pickled slaw.

Oysters Floridian Broiled Oyster with Pimento Cheese

For my main course I chose the N Grits with Shrimp ( other options besides the shrimp were blackened or grilled fresh catch or tofu.) The grits were actually polenta cakes topped with the shrimp in a creamy remoulade sauce with fresh strawberry salsa and local feta cheese.

N Grits with Shrimp

My husband and son also had great meals, Waffles with Pulled Pork, and a Fried Green Tomato Hoagie.

The next day my son and I tried another local eatery called Yard Bird Cafe. It is a cute cafe hidden in a plaza on King Street, it is only open for breakfast and lunch. I would call it southern favorites with a college twist. It is across the way from Flagler college and I imagine a lot of students and staff frequent this restaurant, large portions of hearty homemade food that is inexpensive and unique. Black eyed pea hummus, Peanut butter and banana french toast, Chicken with peach and fennel salsa to name a few.

I had the homemade Chicken and Biscuits, delicious, and they came with a side of collards, my favorite, made even better with the local datil hot sauce. Yes, there are biscuits under there. My son had a pulled pork cuban sandwich.

Yard Bird's Chicken and Biscuits

So this time instead of coming back from St. Augustine disappointed, I came back re-energized and inspired for my home state, I even made my own pimento cheese. We do have great local farms and dairies (and breweries), we do have traditions and local cuisine. We just need to seek it out, embrace it and make a name for ourselves. We may not be a true Southern state, but we may be something better if we try.

There is Craft Beer in Iceland

Ul Fur IPA Iceland

My husband and I went to Iceland last month for our 20th anniversary trip. I had seeing the Northern Lights on my bucket list and Iceland seemed way more romantic and fun than the other places we could see them. As the trip grew nearer I was getting more and more excited. Iceland seemed like such a cool country, every time I googled there was something new I wanted to see when we got there. There was one exception, the beer, in particular my hoppy IPA’s . I saw they had some european imports and some local breweries but where were my hops? I was worried I would find a lot of dark malty beers and Belgium style yeasty ales or worse American imports like Bud Light, after all beer has only been allowed in Iceland since 1989, they have a lot of catching up to do. At the first restaurant we went to, we asked for an IPA but none of the bartenders or servers seemed to know what that was, so we ordered a couple local beers on tap, Gull and Viking. Oh no it’s true, Bud copy cats. Both watery and not much flavor except fizz. They had Guinness in a bottle and I thought that was my fate for the next 3 days.

The next day we went sight seeing and ended up at Strokkur Geysir around lunch time. They had a cute cafe with a buffet of authentic Icelandic fare. It was cafeteria style and there were coolers of beer  and wine that you could go up and chose from, imagine my excitement when I saw India Pale Ale on one of the bottles. It was the UL Fur brewed right there in Iceland. Guess what it was delicious, nice and hoppy like an American IPA, hints of grapefruit which I love, very balanced and only 5.9% ABV (dare I say a sessionable IPA,why can’t we do that in the US).

Well now that we knew what we were doing, we found that most places carried this beer they just didn’t know what an IPA was, luckily we now knew what the label looked like and could point when we ordered. If they brewed IPA’s in Iceland though, someone somewhere must know about beer.  Its now day 2 of the trip, I have seen the Northern Lights, so my new bucket list item is find a craft beer bar in Iceland. Thank god for smart phones, my husband checked ratebeer.com and found a new highly rated beer bar called Micro Bar while we were walking around Reykjavik. As luck would have it we happened to be on the same street it was located on, and in the same block. Ok we even walked by it a couple of times until we realized it was in the lobby of The City Center Hotel.

Micro Bar, Reykjavik, Iceland

I believe there were about 8 taps and tons of bottled beer. They had an extensive Mikkeller selection as well as European and American Craft Beer Imports. Staff was very knowledgeable and friendly and matched us up perfectly to the right beers.

Micro Bar Beer List

We made it our go to spot for the rest of our trip. We even got these to go. Mikkeller’s 1000 IBU, a rare find. (Disappointing though, way to sweet and malty for my tastes)

Mikkelller 1000 IBU

So know before you go, there is good beer in Iceland you just have to know what to look for and where to find it. Oh and I did see the Northern Lights, they were fantastic as well.

Northern Lights, Iceland

Day Tripping With My Favorite Teen Age Botanist

I love to travel. Yes, I know everyone says that, but I really do. I love exotic trips full of adventure.  I love relaxing tropical vacations where I just plop my bottom down in foreign sand, but I also love a day trip to a rural town and a meal at a mom and pop restaurant just as much. Everything is an adventure to me, no matter how big or small, I just like to experience new things.

This week my kids had a day off of school and, as we usually do, my fourteen year old son and I went on a little day trip. He was once my constant companion, attached at my hip whether I liked it or not, now he is a teen, ready to start high school. I appreciate our time together more because I know we don’t have much time left. Not like this anyway. He’s not much into sports, cars, or shopping. He is a lover of nature, and always has been. Even during his terrible two’s and now his angsty teens, he is most calm and at peace on a nature trail or surrounded by trees. This is his zen. He calmly waits for bugs or squirrels to come to him,  he notices the differences in leaf shapes of various ferns, he walks quietly not to disturb the birds. We plan our trips accordingly.

This week we went to the Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, kind of a far drive from our home just to see plants, but this is what we do. We were not disappointed, the gardens were beautiful, the tower amazing.We saw the largest koi we had ever seen and a trail of just different species of ferns.

For fun, we stopped at  Spook Hill where your car is supposed to magically roll up the hill in neutral, but ours didn’t. Maybe because we had the top down so we could feel the wind in our hair, maybe because it’s a hoax. Either way the adventure was in trying and it gave us a chance to hypothesize on why it didn’t work for us.

Our next stop was a local candy factory in Dundee that makes it own chocolate and citrus candies and jellies. The sign said it was once featured on food network, how could we resist. This was my kind of place, I am a sucker for anything homegrown or made. We found a bag of candy for each of our family members, carefully decided based on their tastes. I got some jellies and local honey. This was a citrus town and they were proud of it. The lady at the counter was happy to answer all our questions, confirming all products were produced locally and even ran a catalog out to our car after we had left in case we wanted to place an order, “free shipping”, she assured us.

Time for the two hour ride home, my son ate his Fruit Pearls, another local Dundee, Fl product, I thought of different ways to use my newly purchased jellies. This is why I love to travel.