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Pistachios

While I don't remember the price, I do remember getting unsalted pistachios without shells (sometimes called "pistachio meats") at Trader Joe's last year and it was by far the best value I could find anywhere at the time. Not USDA organic, but oh well. No guarantees they still carry them, but worth checking if that's what you're looking for. They're great for pistachio ice cream, toasting for salads, or using in non-traditional-style pesto. Enjoy!

Best local raw honey

Another Ames fan here, especially for slightly unusual single-source varieties. I really enjoyed the honeydew honey they had this year.

Also, the University of Minnesota entomology graduate students sell local honey every year just before the holidays in early December. The 5lb jugs are a pretty great deal. It's usually a mix of wildflower and basswood, though they had some separate buckwheat this year too. It is as minimally processed as possible (basically just spun out of the frames and filtered to remove any bee body parts). They may still sell some 12oz bears of honey at other times of the year if you try contacting them. Here is their info: http://frenatae.umn.edu/products-sale/

Cafe 99?

I went last week for lunch. I thought it was good, though not the best asian food I've had in St. Paul. The staff were exceptionally pleasant and helpful however, and it was a fine place to go with a group. As pointed out above, the menu is somewhat Szechuan-leaning Chinese with a few random non-Chinese items thrown in. I had the "shredded fish with Szechuan garlic sauce," which was listed as one of the high spice-level items on the lunch menu. I would call it closer to Minnesota-medium and not terribly garlicky, so if you want something more spicy it may be good to ask. Everything tasted freshly prepared, just not particularly bold. Some of the people I was with were really enthusiastic about their food though.

I want to go back and just ask for the chef or server to recommend something that they or their Chinese customers like. Maybe the regular dinner menu is a bit more adventurous tasting too. With the number of Chinese affiliated with the University living in the area and Shanghai Market next door, I'm hoping they can break away from the temptation to lean towards a standard pan-Asian-American format. That said, the crab rangoon were pretty great if you're into that kind of thing, as they actually tasted like something beyond just cream cheese. Very clean and simple interior which I liked. Also, there is a large round table with a lazy susan that is great for groups.

Finally, I saw a Yelp reviewer was disappointed with their Pad Thai there, which is a great example of why I have a hard time taking Yelp too seriously.

Good quality rib roast. Where to buy.

The dry aged at Byerlys' butcher counter in Roseville today is nicely cut and trimmed, and seems like a great deal for the quality. Some of the fatty cap has been removed though. Their $9.99 "royal" rib roast is pre-seasoned with some kind of herb-salt-pepper rub and also looks nice. It is less trimmed up, so if anyone's looking for more of a fatty outer crust, this might be a better option.

Also, Target has their "Sutton and Dodge" label bone-in rib roast for $7.99/lb right now. Pre-cut only (most about 4-7 pounds), and like most of their beef, "improved" with some kind of solution. Definitely budget friendly, and probably a bit idiot-proofed with that mystery solution if any first-timer is concerned about investing so much cash into a single piece of meat. *Bonus: today you get 10% off your total bill at the checkout as part of their "sorry we gave away your credit card information" campaign.

kimchi tofu house

I was last there almost 6 months ago and am overdue for a return. There was a laminated 1-page menu then as well as a list on the wall, but I don't have any pictures. The sundubu was really delicious, and after trying several other things in a large group once, think it's the way to go. It was $8 or $9 then, with several options like beef, beef and dumpling, seafood, etc. Considering the quality, and quantity, it was a heck of a deal. I think there also was some kind of combo deal that would be good for sharing. Bi bim bop was not the hot kind that I've had before, but still tasted decent; bulgolgi was nothing special and more expensive; banchan were all quite tasty and complimentary; red chili sauce was completely addictive.

skin-on pork belly?

Como Meat in Hmongtown International Marketplace (towards the back of the building on the right as you enter) should have it, and their products usually seem quite fresh. They've been very friendly and helpful any time I've interacted with them. Pick up some sausages while you're there.

Low-activity facebook site, but the basic info is there:
https://www.facebook.com/ComoMeat

Dry Ice?

D & L Food and Gas, on the corner of Dale and Larpenteur up near Roseville. Call ahead though because sometimes they run out (should be open on the weekend): 651-488-9066

A Quest for Burger Greatness

I really enjoyed the burger at Victory 44 recently, and they have a 1/2-off deal if you order between 5:00 and 5:44 on a weekday. I don't know if it's necessarily the "perfect" burger, but it is good.

http://www.victory-44.com/current.php...

Jo Jo Potatoes?

I haven't had them at 5-8, but your description reminds me of the jojo's I've had at places with "Broaster Chicken" (which is great by the way. For locations or info about what the heck "broasted" means: http://www.broaster.com/). Thick, crusty, highly seasoned, dangerously hot, pillowy wedges of potatoes. I don't think those are battered. They happen by way of pressure-frying, which unfortunately, is probably not a good thing to experiment with at home . . .

I don't know if this place is any good, but there are a couple in the bottom-right of the picture for comparison:
http://www.joeandstans.com/wp-content...

Anyone else have better info, intel or ideas?

Ginger Beer

Unfortunately no, but I'll be sure to ask next time I go (hopefully soon - hehe). I believe cane sugar, tamarind, ginger, and lime are at least the primary players though.

Ginger Beer

I think the "ginger runner" that Tilia makes is awesome. A server described how they prep the mix to me once - lots of ginger and lime involved, plus some tamarind and other stuff. My personal favorite.

As for stuff in a bottle, Goose Island makes a decent one (I've seen it at Byerly's). Also, if you can find it, Glewwe Castle makes some great ginger beer as well as ginger ale. Definitely satisfying if you're craving really intense ginger flavor. They're friendly folks, and you can either set up a visit of their operation in Prior Lake or look for them at some farmer's markets: http://www.glewwe-castle.com/sales/in...

Good luck!

Horseradish

I second (third?) Silver Spring. Note that the "fresh ground" (my favorite) is different from any of the "creamed" or "prepared" offerings. It comes in a cylindrical jar, and the white label is more papery with red print. I've never tried the "extra-hot prepared."

Pho - Dish of the Month Minneapolis-St. Paul (Oct 2012)

Pho Ca Dao on University is another option that's come up on here before. Their menu consists of several pho options, plus egg rolls and beverages. Cash only, very limited atmosphere, very limited service, but really clean tasting broth with solid ingredients. Great value. Some yelp reviews bring up cleanliness, but that has never been an issue when I've been there. That side of University is torn up right now, though it's easy to get there from Arundel since they're right on the corner.

Great new restaurant that's not noisy??

I've recently gotten on to The Bachelor Farmer, (as another fan of both BLG and Tilia). While probably not the *quietest,* it is much quieter than those two. Great service, very comfortable, delicious food, and still easy enough to hold a conversation in. There was some low volume music on last time, but the kitchen and bar are both separated from the dining room. I think they've been around for about a year.