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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

Tanqueray gin

Morelli's in St Paul usually has the best prices on booze in this town. Be aware of their policy on cash or check only. Their refusal to take credit cards plus their volume usually results in savings of 5-10% over other retailers

Parents 50th anniversary

Restaurant Alma

Parents 50th anniversary

The Kozlak's started the Royal Oak but hadn't owned it in years. Yes that restaurant is no longer in business but they weren't involved in it for years.

Parents 50th anniversary

I've found the more traditional places work well for these type of events. For my money, nobody does these better than Jax. The Kozlaks provide top notch service. Mid-August will be perfect patio weather. The food is always solid and the fun in catching your own trout for those who prefer fish. And they'll add in little touches including personalized match books to mark the event.

Your Top 5 Restaurants in Town

I'll choose these on where I'm usually apt to go myself instead of the usual suspects:

Ward 6
Tongue in Cheek
Restaurant Alma

Dinner suggestions for pre & post-3Day 60-mile walk

Edina - Try Ciao Bella. It's off France and 494. It's Italian which will work for the carb-loading for the walk. Solid cocktail list and veg options abound. About 1/2 mile from your hotel.

Big Bowl Rest./@Galleria Edina: WHAT A RIP OFF!!!!

Im sorry but you deserve everything you got. You are on a low carb diet and chose a resto that is 95% rice/noodles? Ever thought of reading a menu before you went?

I'm no giant fan of Big Bowl, but there is no way they could have made you happy. You picked the wrong restaurant, chose a menu item where you couldn't, by your choice, eat 90% of, and then expected them to fix it at no cost to you. I'm sorry but the bad experience is pretty much all your fault, at least from what I'm reading above

St. Paul's Grand Ave.

Is Grand Ave a must? I think it's about as generic and uninteresting as most suburbs. You are far better off going a couple blocks North to Selby or across town to Payne Ave. I know that 5 years ago, that would have been a preposterous statement. But with Ward 6, Tongue in Cheek, and Cook St Paul, Payne Ave has 3 options that easily outclass anything on Grand these days.

Looking for the Soul of Chicago

So of them all, which one did you prefer? I'm a Mr. Beef guy. I think because of them all, it tastes most like beef. The extras don't overpower the beef, simply compliment them.

Glad to hear your trip was a success based on your posts here and good on you for reporting back. So many don't so thanks for taking the time.

Jun 06, 2014
Db Cooper in Chicago Area

Go to place for fine dinning????

I love Alma, but I don't consider a restaurant that doesn't serve liquor "fine dining". That and the interior reminds me of a Caribou/Dunn Brothers. The food is great, but to me it isn't fine dining.

It's LBV in Minneapolis and Meritage in St Paul for me. I need to try Joan's in the Park

Potatoes Minneapolis

Use your judgement depending on size/type of potato. 10 minutes is an average. Goal is to cook halfway to 2/3, then shred, then fry. All your great hash browns/home fries use this method. You can par boil too if you don't have a steamer. I'd only go 5-7 mins on that.

Potatoes Minneapolis

Steam the potatoes whole before shredding for 10 minutes or so. This will ensure they are soft on the inside and crispy on the outside.