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VolleyBall Trip - In Charge of Team Family Dinners - Suggestions?

We're in town for five nights (Arrive Monday, leave Saturday).
We're only doing two team dinners where we would like to go out as I've suggested in my question. One other night, we'll likely use the hotel option mentioned above and cater in pizza or something local. The other two nights, we're going to let people do their own thing so the families can have a bit of their own vacation too. I'm sure those nights, you'll have people going everywhere and doing everything.

Apr 15, 2015
Db Cooper in New Orleans

VolleyBall Trip - In Charge of Team Family Dinners - Suggestions?

Thank you to everyone who has responded so far. I really appreciate it. I'll be compiling all of these into a list and researching them further. Please keep them coming if you're reading and think of something that hasn't been mentioned yet.

Apr 15, 2015
Db Cooper in New Orleans

VolleyBall Trip - In Charge of Team Family Dinners - Suggestions?

Our team from Minnesota is coming to New Orleans the week of June 22nd for a volleyball tournament that is taking place at the convention center. I've been put in charge of a couple of team dinners. One on Wednesday and one on Friday for sure. Here's what we have:

-Ten girls ages 13 & 14
-Fifteen to twenty parents and coaches.
-We are playing at and staying near the convention center.
-We are not very mobile as no one is planning on renting vehicles as we're within walking distance of the convention center. I could rent a bus I guess, but would prefer not to if I have options via foot.
-Would like to keep it around $20pp not including alcohol if possible.

I'm wondering if there are any restaurants in the area that would take a reservation or have/hold a private room for a dinner? I know about the fancy places, but some on this team are operating on a shoestring budget which eliminates the higher end options. I would like to try to hit something unique to New Orleans and not the usual Applebee's or Chilli's disasters we normally end up at. The group is open to most types of cuisine, but something more unique to your fine city would be fun because we already have Masters Degrees in pizza.

I know it is still two months away, but I want to work ahead on this a bit and see what options I have. Thank you all for your help and advice. If what I'm asking for doesn't exist, I understand that answer too. Grazi

Apr 14, 2015
Db Cooper in New Orleans

Chicken Fried Steak

Magnolia's on Payne Avenue has it for $9.95 on their menu. I have never been so can't attest to its quality.

The Four Inns in the Downtown St. Paul sometimes has it as a lunch special. You'd have to call the restaurant to see when it is coming next.

Andrew Zimmern - Spoon & Stable

So what about the food I wrote above.

I don't have disdain for Andrew either. I do have disdain for the way he endorses this restaurant while keeping his financial interest under wraps. I would have disdain for anyone doing that, famous or not. If you own a piece of something, I expect you to endorse and advertise it. But when you are trying to keep it under wraps and act as a neutral observer ... to me that is a different can or worms.

And my axe to grind with the place is they gave me a crappy experience on my anniversary. Honestly, one of the worst restaurant experiences I've had in the past five years dining.

All style, no substance. Maybe that's what S&S secretly means.

Andrew Zimmern - Spoon & Stable

No doubt a restaurant open for a month was one of the best restaurants to open in the US last year. No way that could possibly be off reputation whatsoever.

It does deserve to win for design or be in the conversation for that category. Shea did a great job.

But to say it belongs in best new resto overall. If that's the case, 2014 was a disaster nationwide.

Andrew Zimmern - Spoon & Stable

-Hot Food served Cool. Lukewarm Foie Sausage isn't exactly appetizing.
-Wildly over or under-seasoned. Two items so salty barely edible. And I'm not one to usually ever complain about salt, I almost always want more.
-20 minute wait to find a bottle of wine never found. Suggested second bottle to replace original order at double the price. Maybe they would have served that to me at the price of the original order, but the server didn't indicate it. Also, no offer of something else to drink while we waited.
-Pasta w/sauce that tasted like a can of Spaghetti-O's. Maybe that is what they are going for, but I somehow doubt it.
-Reservation made w/notes about it being an anniversary. No mention of it by anyone, all night. Not a big deal in my book, I don't need a parade. But still a thank you for celebrating w/us seems appropriate. Most other special events seemed to get a special dish. But I didn't care about that (it looked like cotton candy), a thank you would have sufficed.

They tried their best to apologize and brought free desserts. And the GM on site (no owners that night which may have been part of the problem) owned up to all the mistakes. But it was pretty much a lost cause from start to finish from a food/service standpoint. And when you blow a special event, it's even worse. I'll give em another chance someday, but it'll definitely be at the bar where it seems there are more options anyway.

If that's a can't miss night, I'd like to see what one that does go wrong looks like. If' that's also the "best restaurant in the upper midwest", I'm putting in for relocation at the office.

Andrew Zimmern - Spoon & Stable

Anyone else noticed that Rick Nelson/Star Tribune STILL haven't reviewed this place? Biggest opening in town in years and still nothing from the local paper of record.

Interesting. I remember reading somewhere that absence from the pages means something isn't going as expected & writers/editors are waiting for it to work out the kinks. But that may have been MSP Magazine, I can't recall.

It's been 4 months.

Andrew Zimmern - Spoon & Stable

Well, I did. Went way wrong.
So explain to me how that happened.

Andrew Zimmern - Spoon & Stable

Isn't the purpose of this board to write about what your experience are and what you thought? Yes, in my mind I am correct about my experience at Spoon & Stable. 100% correct about it. Everyone doesn't have to listen or even agree with me overall about S&S, but you clearly are because you are responding to my posts.

The food wasn't that good. I'm not going to say it was bad, but each dish had something that was clearly missing or way, way off. Temperatures were off on one of the entrees. Several had been hammered with salt to the point they weren't edible. One pasta tasted similar to a can of Spaghetti-O's though maybe that is what they were going for, who knows. At the end of the day, I believe you can get a lot better food at the price points they are charging at the restaurants I listed above.

I have no problem with success or self promotion. Most of us here must be successful in order to have the disposable income to eat at restaurants like this. And I understand self promotion. What I find distasteful are those who self promote w/o disclosing their skin in the game. Others can have a different opinion, this is mine. And it has nothing to do with hate or envy. It has to do with context and clarity.

Andrew Zimmern - Spoon & Stable

Go look at AZ's Twitter feed. He's consistently pimping it out as "killing it" and recommending it to out-of-town visitors looking for a meal.

I'm not going to pile on the uneven reviews that the restaurant has received around town and from other trusted diners in my little food community. Dara pretty much nailed it here:
If you want my play by play review JFood style, email me at I'm not going to get into the specifics of a dish by dish or service here.

I'll just say this: The restaurant has no idea what it is trying to do or be. I think a restaurant needs a vision, an idea of what it is trying to accomplish and this one right now is schizophrenia. It veers between fine-dining and casual dining at fine-dining price points. The menu is written in an Italian style (Soup/Salads, Chilled Items, Pasta, Land/Sea). But none of the entrees are Italian by any means. Not with that many ingredients and not with that many techniques going into each ingredient. Italian food is simple, these are anything but. Bar & dinner menu is available at the bar, but only the dinner menu in the dining room. So you have more options if you DON'T have a reservation. And at the prices they are charging and with only 19 menu items, there shouldn't be misses. Especially in basic things like proper seasoning and temperature. And maybe, just maybe, one of your owners should be in the room. I get nights off and all. But surprising to see neither Bill or Gavin.

Maybe in this town all you need is a name chef and some celebrity chefs/investors telling everyone how great it is and that's enough to get you on the best of the best lists. But right now, Spoon & Stable isn't even the 3rd best restaurant in the North Loop. For the talent that's assembled there, that is a surprise and really a tragedy.

Andrew Zimmern - Spoon & Stable

This is a note to those considering dining at Spoon & Stable based on recommendations from Andrew who is the popular Travel Channel Host who lives here in the Twin Cities. Well, lives here when he's not filming, off doing celebrity junkets, or charity work which I support. In other words, he's here about half the time or slightly more.

Andrew owns a percentage of this restaurant. Please be aware that his recommendation also impacts his bottom line. Thomas Keller & Daniel Boulud also are investors. Don't let that cloud your judgement. Just because their money is invested doesn't mean their level of quality is being met.

If you look at the reviews for Spoon & Stable, you will see they are mixed. Very mixed with even the best ones having doubts. Simply put, the place is getting hype for the name of the chef. The actual quality of food and service isn't matching the pedigree. Which is why you see the wide variety of reviews. The restaurant is trying to be all things to all people which is a nice way of saying it has no vision, has no soul.

If you really only have one meal in town, there are restaurants that have better track records and are consistently putting out better food:

-Restaurant Alma
-La Belle Vie
-112 Eatery
-Bar La Grassa
-Tongue in Cheek

I realize that many visitors want to follow the advice of the Travel Channel expert. I can't speak to Andrew's true intentions as to why he continues to tout Spoon & Stable versus other places in town outside of my own impression which is his friendship with Gavin Kaysen and his own financial interests. Andrew seems an honest man, but he's lying (or oblivious to the facts to the point of disbelief) if he thinks S&S is on the level of the places I mention above. Or he's trying to cash in on his celebrity at the expense of your enjoyment. Don't play the fool

Greater MN Gems [small towns]

My personal favorite is The Brass Rail in Grandy, MN (about 5 miles north of Cambridge) on Highway 65. It remains the gold standard for chicken in this eater's playbook. Perfectly crispy skin and incredibly juicy which comes from the broasting process (frying under pressure). You will not find better chicken in MN.

Oct 16, 2014
Db Cooper in Great Lakes

35W - What are your can't miss gems?

It's all the same to me, but focusing more on the 35 between the Twin Cities thru Duluth if possible. I was hoping for more hidden gems like you find along Highway 52, 65, 169. But it appears that no one really seems to have the passion that you hear for places like House of Coates (Highway 52) or the Brass Rail (65) or Suzette's (169). But that's Ok. I do appreciate the heads up on the places above.

Sorrel veloute recipe?

Here's a base for you. A veloute is really just a cream based soup that you are blending and then straining through a chinois to get a velvety texture. You can even skip the straining part. I do for most of my veloutes and you really can't tell the difference.

You may want to Google cream of spinach soup as you'll be using the sorrel leaves instead of spinach. Just use the same amount of sorrel leaves in place of the spinach. That should get you the sauce and consistency you need:

Oct 03, 2014
Db Cooper in Home Cooking

Seafood Newburg

You can, but in all honesty I wouldn't do it. Cream based sauces never seem to come back the way you want them too. That's just my experience. If you did, I'd use 3/4 of the sauce and then when reheating, add in the remaining 1/4 to help it regain smooth liquid consistency. And make sure you are warming it up on the stove. You'll get glue or separated liquids and solids in the microwave/oven.

Oct 03, 2014
Db Cooper in Home Cooking

Won't be returning to Per Se

It's hard to say. Unlike the stereotype, I'm not ashamed to admit I'm lazy. And if the host doesn't know who the OP is, that let down call could be difficult. To the OP who eats at restaurants like Per Se regularly, maybe not so much. To others, maybe it's a major heartbreak.

Oct 02, 2014
Db Cooper in Manhattan

Won't be returning to Per Se

The more I think about that suggestion I wrote, the more I wonder if that is truly the best option for a restaurant like Per Se.

Again, this may be me from MN, but let me give you some insight as to why. I can tell you there are people from MN who would have flown to NYC that day to take that reservation. There are people here who plan entire trips around reservations like Per Se or Le Bernardin or Alinea in Chicago or French Laundry. I mean, Gavin Kaysen moved back here to open a restaurant and he can't go stop to grab a breakfast sandwich at Burger King w/o Eater or one of the other food rags posting about it. So to the dining community outside of NYC, a chance to eat at Per Se would pretty much be the top of the proverbial mountain. Because it is definitely still in the discussion as to the best we have in the US. It may not be the best, but it is in the discussion.

I guess what I'm saying is that I know that two-top was getting filled. You know that two-top was getting filled. Per Se knows that two-top was getting filled. I think the OP wise enough to know that two-top was getting filled based on their posting history here at CH. And everyone who pretty much knows anything about the restaurant world knows the two-top was getting filled. The OP may have been nice about it, but the request was really asking the restaurant to sacrifice financially to meet her needs. What the OP is basing that expectation on, only the OP can answer. Who the OP is or perceives themselves to be, that the OP will write about it here or on other food forums, past expenditures at Per Se, the right of the solo diner, another chance to get an EMP plug in? I can only speculate and CH will edit it anyway so no need.

So let me ask then, why even bother getting the OP's hopes up that it might not go filled when we all know it's about 1,000,000 to 1 that it won't? Why create the extra work for the host (making a let you down call to the OP)? Why not just be honest and say No, the table is for 2 and if you are interested in dining solo, the Salon is available.

Oct 02, 2014
Db Cooper in Manhattan

Won't be returning to Per Se

I've been following this from afar. I come to NYC once or twice a year for conferences and often find myself dining out alone. So for what it is worth, here's my two cents:

-I get the frustration of not getting the table as s solo diner, but I also don't blame the restaurant for taking the "gamble" that they are going to fill the table with two people recognizing the additional profit. Especially when the gamble can be $500-$1000 or even more for the person in that extra chair. At the best restaurants in any city, I never hold it against them wanting to wait until the last minute to try and fill those extra chairs. Per Se's error here was not saying something to the tune of, "We want to wait until 5pm to fill the table. If no one takes it by 5pm, it is yours." A better way to handle it and one I'd bet they may look at more in the future.

-What I don't understand is some of Ellen's comments as this has gone along. At one point, there is a comment that Ellen is tired of solo diner being treated as "second class citizens." I've gone back and read her Per Se reviews that I could find. I will admit I may have missed one or two. But for the most part, they don't match up. And after the number of lunch/dinners she's had and for which I could find no complaints, she's going to let this ensure she never returns to the restaurant? If she's getting second class, I'd really like to know what first class is up to these days. Seems, I don't know, a little over the top but maybe that's me being a MN guy versus an East Coaster.

-Has everyone met their monthly quota of EMP drops so you can get your chocolates and granola?

At the end of the day, I'm not sure why some of you wouldn't just go to EMP every night? Clearly, they reward people who frequent their establishment and write about it food forums. And obviously, some of you lavish in that attention and have come to expect it as the norm when you go out. When another restaurant doesn't live up to exactly how EMP would do things, you write negative posts vowing never to return again. Even though the things you're expecting are our of the norm and in this case, a potential loss of revenue for the restaurant. So why not just go to EMP to start with? It would save everyone the trouble.

My final thought: This wasn't so much about Per Se not giving the solo diner a two-top table. This was about Per Se (or the host specifically) not recognizing the VIP (whether real or self-perceived, I can't say as we've never met) on the phone asking.

35W - What are your can't miss gems?

Many Twin Cities folks drive in to the Cities on 35W from the far northern suburbs and beyond. I find myself heading up that way more often for business, whether it is for conferences at the casino in Hinckley or meetings in Duluth. I was wondering if anyone had any can't miss stops off the freeway or within a mile or two of it? I'm talking more under the radar spots as we all know Gordy's Hi Hat, Tobies, and the fast food joints. Any thoughts or ideas are always welcome.

Last Visit Coming up to Chicago

That's because Garrett's was sued by a Twin Cities candy/popcorn shop called Candyland which has been around forever. Apparently, Candyland had the trademark for "Chicago Mix" which Garrett's was technically violating. It's a weird story, but that is why you see the name change on the mix you describe at Garrett's.

Sep 24, 2014
Db Cooper in Chicago Area


And that's why you also see City Pages is advertising for a new food writer.

JFood's take is pretty much on with what I've heard from everyone who's gone. The food can be great, but there are some consistency issues likely due to the number of plates they are trying to turn out per night. Service is friendly, but can be spotty and not up to fine dining standards.

I'm on the Brasserie Zentral bandwagon right now on the Mpls side of the river. Some really good stuff going on in that kitchen. But it's downtown, not Uptown so not sure if that fits your criteria.

Best New Must Dine Digs?

I don't but the version with Foie is $52 by itself. $55 seems to good to be true with wine, but I can't say for sure. Even if it doesn't have it, their chicken is still noteworthy and worth a try.

Favorite chicken broth no longer available in MSP!

My wife has recently been buying the "Better than Bullion" brand chicken and beef bases. I think she gets them at Costco, but it may be Cub. I lose track.
You basically use 1 teaspoon of base for every 8oz of water. One jar goes a long, long way and it is as good as any store bought variety of broths that I've had the chance to try and way more effective than bullion cubes.
If you want a stronger flavor, you can add a whole tablespoon.
Another option if you want to save some $$$ without sacrificing flavor.

Best Reuben you've had in the Twin Cities?

I love Ward 6's over on Payne Avenue. Not sure it meets all the authenticity tests that have been posed here, but it's one damn fine sandwich.

Best New Must Dine Digs?

Zentral is the best dinner I've had in the Twin Cities this year. Nothing else comes close. Their chicken for 2 is the dish of the year in my book. Lots of great openings, but nobody else is stuffing chicken with brioche and foie gras.

Best New Must Dine Digs?

It's not on the level of some of the more upscale breakfast joints in town, but I don't think they are trying to be either. It's a neighborhood joint first and foremost, similar to what Serlin's was for all those years. Maybe some of the other entree options aren't hitting the mark and the fact there is no booze turns off the Brunch crowd. But I can advocate very positively on the Eggs Benedict.

Best New Must Dine Digs?

When you go to Ward 6, my strong recommendations are the Reuben or the Fish and Chips. Believe me, they are about as good as it gets.

I'm trying Zentral on Thursday for the first time. I don't go downtown very often anymore, but we have tickets to Book of Mormon so why not. The reviews have all been positive so I really looking forward to it.

Best New Must Dine Digs?

"I've heard Cook St. Paul is off the mark"

I've been to Cook St. Paul several times. I always get the Eggs Benedict with Short Ribs. It's one of my favorite breakfasts in the city.
I've always gone on a Sunday morning. The restaurant is small (I think about 10 tables at the most), but I've never had to wait.
Service has always been friendly. They've also sped up recently which makes sense as they've been open longer now too.

I can't speak to everything on the menu and I'm not going to advocate driving across town for it. But if you are in the area and craving a more traditional breakfast option, it's a solid bet.

BTW: Is Brasserie Zentral already in the rear view mirror? I think that was about the most anticipated opening of the summer.

Milwaukee Trip Report – Bacchus, Rocket Baby Bakery, Maxie’s, Smyth, Odd Duck

I've had the chance to eat at Bosley a couple of times. It's excellent and I really like their shrimp & grits. They are going for a Key West/Florida Coast type of theme with most of their food. You can't go wrong with any of the seafood/fish dishes.

They also are trying to be a great wine restaurant and it seems, at least to me, that the servers are being tasked with constantly trying to upsell more expensive options. That really got annoying on one visit as the guy was almost overbearing. The wines are not cheap either. They are good choices and well selected, but not much for value.

It's definitely one of Milwaukee's Top 25 restaurants IMO. Though the atmosphere is more laid back and casual than some of the other fine dining restaurants in town.

Aug 25, 2014
Db Cooper in Great Lakes