restaurant gossip

busy schedules, life and asian chicken

I’m back, after a much necessary break. Life happens, and so does the reality of busy schedules!  In early April, my family visited my sister Whitney, in Austin, Texas! Left Minneapolis at 6 am and drove straight through to Austin. 19+ hours in the car, all 6 of us! We had a blast! Lots of road food and convenience store snacks on the way down, but lots of amazing food in Austin – Shipley’s Donuts (a donut shop way too close to my sister’s place), Kebabalicious (an amazing food truck serving falafel, chicken shawarma, etc.), Chuy’s (a Mexican restaurant), Moonshine (a great night out with my sisters and husband), and many others. The end of April marked the beginning of summer sports, and three colliding schedules. Oh, and a coaching husband. April and May were pretty much a blur.

In June, I visited my sister Kortney in California for a shopping, eating and dining trip. We indulged in amazing foie gras just weeks before a state-wide ban for restaurants. So fortunate to have been one of the last to have this and other amazing dishes at a quaint, French restaurant on Balboa Island in Newport Beach called Basilic. We also visited Palm Springs for a day/evening during Restaurant Week. Amazing place. Must go back with my husband! We had amazing Mexican food and margaritas at a place called Las Casuelas Terraza. Dinner at a place called Zin American Bistro – yum. And, brunch at the Ace Hotel / King’s Highway. Great food and gorgeous drinks. Kortney and her boyfriend visited Minneapolis the following weekend, and we cooked at home and dined at a local place called the Little River Inn and Bar. We also celebrated my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding in June. Busy and fun times!

In late June and early July we traveled back to Bismarck, ND for my husband’s 20 year class reunion and a week’s vacation over the Fourth of July. And, in August, celebrated a family reunion with amazing cousins from California, Kansas, Texas, North Dakota and Minnesota. It’s been a great summer spending time with family and friends, hanging out in the backyard with amazing neighbors, enjoying my patio heirloom tomatoes and fresh herbs, and creating wonderful meals at home.

September means back to school month, and a search for quick fix, easy dinner ideas…

Here’s a great healthy, Asian recipe I adapted from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food General Tso’s Chicken. A hit for us and the kids too! Love the light (almost non-existent) batter of the pan-fried chicken, combined with chopped veggies and tossed in a slightly sweet, touch of heat sauce. We added red and green pepper, sugar snap peas and green onions.

Asian Chicken / Healthy General Tso’s Chicken
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food
Serves 4

1 1/4 cups long-grain brown or jasmine rice – (We made our own fried rice.)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 pound snow peas, trimmed and halved crosswise
1/4 red pepper, chopped
1/4 green pepper, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated and peeled
3 tablespoons light-brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
2 large egg whites
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, such as safflower (we used canola oil)

Cook rice according to package instructions. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, stir together 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1/2 cup cold water until smooth. Add vegetables, garlic, ginger, sugar, soy sauce, and red-pepper flakes; toss to combine, and set aside.

In another bowl, whisk together egg whites, remaining 3 tablespoons cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add chicken, and toss to coat.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Lift half the chicken from egg-white mixture (shaking off excess), and add to skillet. Cook, turning occasionally, until golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate; repeat with remaining oil and chicken, and set aside (reserve skillet).

Add vegetable mixture to skillet. Cover; cook until snow peas are tender and sauce has thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Return chicken to skillet (with any juices); toss to coat. Serve with rice.


bar la grassa with old friends

Good times are meant to be shared with good friends.  We recently had dinner with some old friends and had a great night out on the town.  We had a birthday and an anniversary between the four of us, so a good time to celebrate and better yet, at a restaurant whose chef just won the 2011 Best Chef James Beard Foundation award… Bar La Grassa.

I tried to take pictures of our fabulous dishes, but the lighting was poor and we were hungry, so you’ll just have to imagine them for the most part.  Sorry.

We ordered the soft eggs and lobster bruschetta as a first course – a recommended pick from our waiter.  Very rich and divine.  One bite was really all I needed.  It was like a savory version of a sweet, chocolate truffle.  One bite.  Done.

For our main course, we split a few dishes among the four of us… bucatini with bolognese (yum), crab ravioli (good), gnocchi with cauliflower and orange (another recommended dish – just grand), and mushroom and tallegio agnolotti (my personal favorite).  We ordered the broccolini in prosciutto brodo for our side course.

Everything was really good.  Only down side was the restaurant lost power twice in the couple of hours we dined.  We found ourselves eating in a dark, smoky haze part of the night, and our waiter seemed to be lost, but we still had a fabulous time.   And we finished off the night with many more great memories.


>review: travail kitchen and amusements

>Oh my gosh… if I had my own restaurant, it would have a striking resemblance to Travail… it would be quaint and narrow. A “touch your neighbor’s elbow kind of place,” with a chalkboard wall menu, reclaimed wood bar and rugged floors. Who needs lots of tables, with lots of overhead? Customers will wait if you deliver on food and service.

Travail Kitchen and Amusements – Robbinsdale, MN

Jeff and I had the most amazing 10 course menu for two, with wine and local Surly tap. We sat at the bar to avoid the two hour wait (already at 5:00 pm on a Saturday.) This place had everything polished – from music to coffee to wine to ambience to entrees and accompaniments… Each course was like a miniature work of art, worthy of a picture in a gourmet food publication, and to top it off, they all tasted divine, each course outdone by the next.

Something to be savored for sure.

We had a tasting menu of beet salad, foie gras, chicken, quail eggs, butternut squash soup, steak tartare, agnolotti, charcuterie, scallops, pork belly, octopus, and more. While everything was worthy of smacking my lips, my ultimate favorites were the agnolotti pasta and the butternut squash soup.


I can’t wait to go back and maybe even try to recreate some of the dishes myself. Cheers!