Favourite Dishes Eaten in the Twin Cities Metro: July 1-September 30, 2022


I travelled a fair bit this summer—to Los Angeles and Hawaii with the family and then to Ireland with a colleague for work. But we still managed to eat out at our usual clip in the Twin Cities. Our restaurant outings covered the gamut from casual to fine dining, from new(er) to more established, from affordable to more expensive. At the more expensive end of the spectrum were two meals each at Alma and Tenant; all the way over at the affordable end was a meal put together from the counters at Mercado Central. We didn’t enjoy every meal we ate out equally—and one or two not very much—but since the pandemic began my practice with this series of quarterly roundups has been to only emphasize the positives at each meal. For my fuller critiques you can read the more detailed individual reviews that are linked from the list below. Continue reading

October’s Recipes: A Poll


Last month’s recipes were very baingan/eggplant heavy, with three out of four centered on various eggplant varieties I grew in my community garden plot this year (though not quite as heavy as September 2021 when all the recipes were eggplant-focused). The first killing frost hit us earlier this week. I did cover my eggplant and hot pepper plants and so they’ll be featured in my cooking in October as well. But you will have some deliverance from it on the blog: there’s only eggplant recipe on this month’s poll and it was the fifth place finisher in last month’s poll. Also on the poll are the other three recipes that didn’t make the cut in September and four new ones. You can vote for up to four of the eight that you’re most interested in and the four highest vote getters will be posted here every Thursday. The poll will be open through Monday. Continue reading

Baingan with Malvani Masala


Here to close out September in cooking is my third eggplant recipe of the month. (The first was for Baingan-Zeera Masala and the second for Baingan “Bharta”.) Today I have for you a recipe for a simple preparation with Bedekar’s Malvani Masala. If you follow my recipe posts this may strike a chord in your memory. Back in July—when the eggplant from my garden had just begun to come in—I’d posted another recipe that used Bedekar’s Malvani Masala. Malvani cuisine is one of the cuisines of the southwestern coast of India. It’s not very well represented in the US (or the UK, I’d imagine). Indeed, it’s not even until relatively recently that packets of Malvani masala began to appear in desi groceries in the Twin Cities metro and they’re still not consistently or widely available here. Bedekar’s is the brand I’ve seen and bought but any brand of Malvani masala should be close. And if you can’t find it in a desi store near you, you can find it online. I can tell you it’s become one my go-to all-purpose masalas for quick cooking. I’ve added it to various eggplant dishes, to chicken curries and also to beef curries. It’s an easy route to big flavour. Continue reading

Restaurant Alma, Fall 2022 (Minneapolis)


We somehow managed to go four and a half years between  dinner at Alma in the fall of 2017 and our dinner there this past April; but now we’ve already eaten three dinners there this year and I think that makes us even. Yes, we went back this weekend for a second dinner in two months. And no, it wasn’t to eat once again the menu we’d liked so much in August. Social media is to blame. The restaurant posted a lovely picture on Instagram of locally foraged mushrooms that they said were on the current menu and I went to look at what else was on there and a few minutes later we had a reservation. What can I say? I am very impressionable. Anyway, I am very glad we did make the reservation because this was one of our best dinners there (I know I say this after every meal at Alma) and one of the best dinners we’ve eaten anywhere recently. Herewith the details. Continue reading

Ha Tien Super Market (St. Paul)

 
It’s been a while since I’ve posted a look at a market in the Twin Cities metro—I think the last one was this look at the El Burrito Mercado market in St. Paul. Today I have a look at another St. Paul market and another that’s Mexican restaurant-adjacent. Well, the Ha Tien Supermarket on Suburban Ave. is not physically connected to the flagship Los Ocampo restaurant and nor is it right next to it, but it is close by. And so since we needed to re-up on some crucial groceries available only at Asian market, after our lunch at Los Ocampo a couple of weeks ago, we drove half a mile or so on Suburban to Ha Tien. Continue reading

Smiley’s Local Grinds (Kauai)


Okay, it’s time to start the Kauai meal reports back up before I forget about them completely. So far I’ve put up brief reports of a couple of Chinese/Thai lunches in Princeville (eaten outdoors at Lotus Garden) and a Hawaiian lunch in Lihue (taken away from Mark’s Place and eaten in a park). This report is also of a Hawaiian lunch in Lihue. We ate it the day following our Mark’s Place meal. The plan had been for us all to spend a part of the morning at the Kauai museum in Lihue, then drop my mother-in-law back at our rental to relax while the rest of us hit a beach. But thanks to some car trouble and Budget Car Rental the morning didn’t go quite according to plan. I know you’re dying to get the details on this—there’s nothing more fascinating than reading about other people’s vacation drama. Don’t worry I’m going to tell you what happened in great detail. Continue reading

Slow-Cooked Mutton Curry


The first two recipes I posted this month were both for baingan/eggplant (Baingan “Bharta” and Baingan-Zeera Masala). And there’s one more to come still. But let’s take a break this week and do the one non-eggplant recipe to crack this month’s poll. This is a recipe for mutton—as we Indians refer to goat meat. If you don’t have easy—or any—access to mutton/goat meat you can make it with lamb shanks or even with beef. You want to make it with enough bones in there though. I last made this with a hind leg from the goat friends and I split at the end of last year and there were quite a few marrow/shank bones in there. I cooked it not in the pressure cooker—as I often do with my mutton curries—but long and slow on the stovetop. It is basically a first cousin, twice removed of the classic Bengali mutton dish known as kosha mangsho. The first step is to marinate the mutton overnight in yogurt and a bunch of spices (you can watch a Reel of the process here). You then saute some whole garam masala and some onions, dump in the meat with all its marinade, add some tomato, cook it down till the oil separates, then add some water, cover and cook over low heat till the meat is almost done. Then you add some halved potatoes and cook till they and the meat are done. All that’s left do is garnish with some dhania and eat it with rice, chapatis or parathas. Continue reading

Terzo (Minneapolis)


Those of you who are misguided enough to follow this blog closely know that this year the missus and I began taking the boys out to an adult dinner with us once a month or so. Our ports of call so far have included Luci Ancora, Bar La Grassa, Myriel, 112 Eatery and Mucci’s. Those who also know these restaurants can also tell that with the exception of Myriel they have in common either a full-on Italian focus or—in the case of 112 Eatery—a menu that features a number of pastas and grilled meats. These, you see, are the best bets for dining out with our boys—they’re probably more adventurous as eaters than most of their peers but we’re not paying for them to spurn 75% of what’s on their plates at places like Alma or Tenant or Spoon & Stable. But Italian food is easy. Accordingly, we’re in the process of doing a slow-motion tour of the more popular/better-regarded Italian places in the Twin Cities. This month saw us make a stop at Terzo, the most formal of the outposts of the Broders mini-empire at the intersection of 50th St. and Penn Ave. in South Minneapolis. Herewith, the details. Continue reading

Baingan “Bharta”


Almost exactly a month ago I was reeling under the onslaught of eggplant from my plot at the community garden and trying to come up with new ways/variations to cook it all. On this particular occasion I started out to make a variation on baingan bharta but things went off track fast. First, I was feeling too lazy to roast the eggplant. So I figured I’d make a version of the recipe I posted last week, for baingan-zeera masala. As I started to make the masala though I kept adding things willy nilly, almost a bit deliriously. These kinds of experiments can often end badly but wouldn’t you know it, this came out rather well: rich texture and big, bold flavour. The only problem was what to call it. Since I’d started out to make baingan bharta, and since the texture of the finished dish was not a million miles from that of bharta, I figured I’d call it that. But as it’s so far away from the canonical versions of the dish I normally think of as baingan bharta, I’ve put bharta in quotes here. If even that seems wrong to you, you can call it what you like. But do make it. I am pretty sure that if you like baingan/eggplant you will agree that it’s very good. Continue reading

Los Ocampo Restaurant and Bar, Suburban Ave. (St. Paul, MN)


As I’ve said before, when we first arrived in Minnesota 15 years ago, Los Ocampo’s outposts—first at their counter in the Midtown Global Market and then at Taqueria Los Ocampo across the street on Lake St.—were among our Mexican mainstays. We also ate occasionally at the Taqueria Los Ocampo location on Arcade St. in St. Paul. All of these locations are casual, counter-service places. Somehow, however, we never ended up visiting their more formal restaurant and bar which opened on Suburban Ave. in St. Paul in 2011 (they’ve since opened another sit-down restaurant on University Ave. in St. Paul). That finally changed this past weekend when we descended on the Suburban Ave. location with a couple of friends we dine out with often. Here is what we found. Continue reading

Dim Sum at J. Zhou (Los Angeles, June 2022)


Here, finally, is my last restaurant report from our time in Los Angeles in June. It is of our last meal eaten out, which coincidentally bookended the beginning of our eating out on that trip quite well. As you have doubtless memorized, our first meal was at 101 Dim Sum/Dim Sum 101 in Lomita. And this last also featured dim sum, at J Zhou in Tustin. Dim sum aside, the two restaurants are quite far apart in ambience and style. You could fit several 101 Dim Sums inside J Zhou and where the small restaurant is done up in a hipper, more contemporary style, J Zhou’s decor is in a more maximalist banquet restaurant style (unlike 101 Dim Sum, J Zhou becomes a Cantonese seafood restaurant in the evenings). Their menu too is much larger than 101 Dim Sum’s and contains a lot more than just the greatest hits/standards. But did it all add up to a better meal for us? Read on. Continue reading

Baingan-Zeera Masala


I started growing eggplant in earnest last summer. And I had such a monstrous bounty that even after giving at least half of it away we almost had more than we could cope with at home. Thankfully, eggplant is a very versatile vegetable and can be cooked in all kinds of ways and so we never tired of it. Though my readers may have, as all my recipes last September involved eggplant. And as I planted a lot of eggplant again in my community garden plot this year I find myself in a similar situation, both in our kitchen and on this blog. Four of the recipes on the poll for this month involved eggplant and it’s by a hair that we missed having another all-eggplant September: only three out of four recipes this month will feature eggplant—what a relief! Where to begin? Well, maybe with the one I made first back in August. It featured not just single garden eggplant but single plant eggplant: all of it came from one Chinese String plant in my garden. Chinese String, as the name might indicate, is a varietal that produces long thin fruit. I’d never grown or encountered it before but certainly hope I’ll be able to find it again next year as we really enjoyed it, in this preparation and others. You don’t need that specific varietal, of course—any long eggplant will do. Continue reading

Dosa (Bloomington, MN)


Dosa opened on Lyndale Avenue in Bloomington about five months ago and is one of the latest manifestations of the ongoing phenomenon of South Indian restaurant openings in the Twin Cities metro. I have not yet been able to confirm or quantify this with numbers from the latest census, but my observations indicate that the Indian population of the area continues to grow and that this growing population is not just largely South Indian but likely dominated by people from Andhra Pradesh/Telangana. Unlike many of the other relatively recently opened South Indian restaurants, however, Dosa is not—as far as I know—part of a franchise. At least, their website makes no note of any affiliation. So in this they are closer to Kabob’s Indian Grill (also in Bloomington) than to Kumar’s in Apple Valley or Godavari in Eden Prairie. We had a very nice meal there this past weekend with good friends and I am happy to be able to recommend them to anyone looking for good Indian food in the area. Continue reading

September’s Recipes: A Poll


In case you’re new to reading this blog, I post recipes every Thursday (usually) and at the start of the month I post a poll of the possible candidates and have you vote for up to four of the ones you’re most interested in. As was the case late last summer, my community garden plot is overflowing with eggplant and so this month I have a lot of eggplant-centered possibilities (all vegan). But there’s more than eggplant in the poll below. In fact, there are two shrimp possibilities as well for you to consider, one in which the shrimp is optional and one in which it’s central. And there are also the two holdovers from August’s poll which feature pork and mutton (goat) respectively. Yes, it’s a larger poll than usual which should make for a tighter race. Let’s see how it goes. I will leave the poll up through the weekend but don’t leave it too late to make your picks. Continue reading

Tenant VIII (Minneapolis)


This is my second review this month of a meal at Tenant but it’s not my second review of a meal eaten at Tenant this month. Try saying that three times fast. No, my previous review was of an outing to Tenant in early July. This meal, on the other hand, is of a meal eaten this past Saturday and represents my attempt to become current with at least my Minnesota meal reviews. It took some doing to get to this meal. We were originally supposed to eat there on the Friday of the prior week. But it transpired that the menu had not yet turned over since our dinner in July and so they very kindly got us in a week later. And then the ongoing reconstruction of Bryant Ave. led to an issue with water mains and they had to close at short notice on Friday. Thankfully, they managed to squeeze us in the very next day and so here I am with a report on possibly the best meal we’ve had at Tenant in a year. Herewith the details. Continue reading

Mark’s Place (Kauai, Summer 2022)


Back to Kauai (I wish). We spent the morning of this day doing a lovely hike on the Kuilau Ridge Trail. Some problems with our rental car’s keyless entry system then required a trip to the rental counter at the airport in Lihue. Casting around for places to eat we landed on Mark’s Place, a restaurant that got lots of positive reviews online for their Hawaiian fare. As with many other places on Kauai and the Big Island, they were not open for dine-in in June/July. Unlike Hana Hou, however, they were not even letting people in to order or allowing them to eat at their outdoor tables. We lined up outside the front door to order and once our food was ready we could either eat in our car or take it away. We opted to drive to a park in the vicinity and had a nice lunch on a picnic bench there. Continue reading

A Farewell to Kiriko (Los Angeles, June 2022)


My penultimate meal report from our Los Angeles trip in June is of what was probably my favourite meal of the trip, and definitely the most melancholy. Favourite because, well, sushi and particularly the lunch sushi omakase at Kiriko has always been excellent (see here and here). Melancholy because a few minutes after finishing and pledging to once again start eating regularly at Kiriko on our Los Angeles trips we discovered that they were only two weeks away from closing for good. We kicked ourselves for our years of neglect—though I should add they did not close due to lack of business; rather, due to exhaustion borne out of the stresses of the pandemic. Well, as sad as we are to see Kiriko go and to know we won’t be able to eat there again, it was a wonderful last meal. That’s something. Continue reading

Spiced Chicken Liver Mousse


Until early this year we were purchasing all our eggs and chicken from a small farm about 15 miles away from us. Eventually, coordinating times and places to meet for exchange of money and goods became a bit too much of a hassle for both parties and we stopped. But not before I acquired large amounts of various non-standard parts of chicken (from the American grocery point of view). I still have a very large bag of chicken feet in the chest freezer, for example. And I also went through a large bag of hearts and gizzards in the spring (they cooked up very nicely with onions, cauliflower and spices and tasted very good rolled in tortillas). In the spring I also made a spiced mousse with a large bag of livers and served it on bread at a potluck with some friends. It was quite popular, even among some who are not usually very liver-positive. I’ve been trying to get it on the blog since May but it’s only now that it has finally (and I must admit, improbably) made the cut. There are a few people, online and off, who have been asking for a recipe and this goes out first and foremost to them. Remember, kids: don’t let go of your dreams—they’ll come true someday. Continue reading