Falafel Two Ways and PUMPKINS

I’ve tried falafel at two Minneapolis restaurants in the last few weeks.

The first was at the Uptown classic, Falafel King.

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At the corner of Lake and Lyndale, Falafel King is right in the center of Uptown buzz and makes for a convenient lunch/snack/dinner stop.

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It’s a simple restaurant with limited seating and a basic Mediterranean menu: falafel, gyro, chicken, hummus, and tzatziki mixed together in various combinations. I ordered a greek salad with falafel and my friend got the basic falafel sandwich:

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Yum! The falafel was super crispy and flavorful. I liked the salad but would probably go for a wrap next time just to get more tzatziki mixed in.

The second place I ate falafel was Vitali’s Bistro Cafe.

Vitali’s opened fairly recently, and, due to the recent closer of Little Tel Aviv in Calhoun Commons, is now the only kosher restaurant in the Minneapolis area. Fun fact: Little Tel Aviv is being replaced by another Falafel King. whomp whomp

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Vitali’s is in St. Louis Park at the former location of Bean Good Cafe. Service is at a walk up counter, but there is plenty of table space to sit.

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They offer a full espresso menu as well as some baked goods, smoothies, ice cream, and shakes. For food, it’s a broad menu with blintzes, omelets, sandwiches, sushi, salads, soup, and bagels. I got the falafel plate which came with falafel, pita, hummus, tzatziki, and Israeli salad:

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The primary difference between the falafel at Falafel King and Vitali’s is that the former is fried and the latter is baked. The flavor in Vitali’s falafel seemed a little strong in an ‘off’ way (maybe too much cumin?). If I went back, I would order something different from the menu – there were plenty of other items that looked appealing!

Enough about falafel….

Since we are squarely in the fall season now, you may have noticed a sudden spike in the ubiquity of pumpkins. We can eat it, drink it, decorate with it, and – best of all – carve it!

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My pumpkin was a big old thing that we got at Malt Tees, and Noah had a smaller pie pumpkin. We scooped out the insides and set to work on internet-inspired designs.

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The final products came out pretty great if I say so myself.

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In the daylight they are not too scary…

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…but get them in the dark and you’re in for a spook!

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If you haven’t carved a pumpkin yet this season, GET TO IT! 🙂

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Ciao Chow

Italian food is. so. good. Here’s a synopsis of two Italian(ish) eating experiences I’ve had in the recent past.

The first was at Scusi in St Paul.

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I went to Scusi with a group of co-workers early in the week. I haven’t been to nearly as many St. Paul restaurants as Minneapolis ones, and I love being reminded that there’s a whole other city of good grub waiting to be discovered just across the river. Scusi’s menu is fairly traditionally Italian (although I was disappointed to find that they don’t make many homemade pastas). The table started with some appetizers of fried artichokes, bruschetta, arancini (crispy risotto balls), and beet/blue cheese salad:

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The meal also came with some nice looking bread:

the lighting was bad, so most of the pictures are dark!

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For my meal, I ordered the eggplant parmesan with gnocchi instead of pasta (the gnocchi is homemade):

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Others ordered pizza and gnocchi with a san marzano sauce:

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The meal was great! After the meal, the table also ordered some desserts including an ice cream sundae and a particularly impressive dish of sugared donut holes with caramel sauce.

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This was an extravagant meal and not for the faint of heart. If you are looking for a celebratory restaurant and like Italian food, this might be a good location.

My second encounter with Italian food was at Pizzeria Lola

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Pizzeria Lola is a wood-fired pizza place in southwest Minneapolis. It’s not your traditional pizza joint though. First, it is exceptionally delicious. Second, it has a unique fusion menu created by its Korean owner (and the restaurant is named after her dog, Lola).

The place was packed (generally an indication that the food is good), so we took a seat at the bar to avoid a long wait. The bar seating turned out to be great because we had a top-notch view of the kitchen and pizza oven:

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We started off with one of the vegetable specials: a kale salad with watermelon radish and feta:

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We ordered two pizzas. Le Creme which came with Italian red sauce, shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano, cream, olive oil and basil:

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And the Korean BBQ which was beef short ribs, mozzarella, scallions, arugula, sesame and soy-chili vinaigrette:

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Wow! The Korean BBQ pizza was amazing. It was super filling because of the meat, but it the sesame/soy sauce made it very flavorful.

More than just a pizza place, Lola’s is also acclaimed for their soft serve frozen yogurt (not what you would expect, right?). After the meal, we shared the dessert special: a swirl of Crispin apple cider sorbet and vanilla frozen yogurt topped with caramel sauce:

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If you like pizza, go here now! The only thing to note is that Pizzeria Lola doesn’t have any pizza by the slice options, and if you want a table at a normal meal time, you need to be prepared to wait. If you want a quick slice, you could check out Hello Pizza near 40th and France, Lola’s sister restaurant from the same owner.

Oh, and the trip to Lola’s was especially fun since our waiter turned out to be from Vermont and went to same college as us! Small world.

Marathon Volunteering and Yum

Last weekend was the Twin Cities Marathon. The TC Marathon is hosted by Medtronic and is the self-proclaimed most beautiful urban marathon in America. As far as large city marathons go, TC is moderately sized (about 12,000 runners compared to 27,000 at Boston). The past couple years I’ve volunteered on race day in the elite athlete tent, and I decided to shake it up a bit this year by volunteering for set up. We set up on Friday for the Sunday race, and it was interesting to see the whole finish line and expo area in the process of coming together:

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I was stationed at the finish line, helping to attach sponsor signs to street barricades:

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SO MANY SIGNS TO ATTACH:

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By the end, I never wanted to see another zip tie:

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In other news, this past week on Monday and Tuesday I had a conference for work. We all went out for lunch together on Tuesday to a restaurant in St. Louis Park called Yum.

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Yum is a bakery and cafe that is pretty much adorable in every way. The menu is a combination of standard comfort food (mac and cheese, egg salad, fish and chips) as well as some untraditional options (ahi tuna burger and amablu crusted filet!).

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The bakery section shines with a tempting display of cupcakes and the signature chocolate cake with buttercream frosting called the Patti Cake (the owner’s name is Patti):

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In addition to food, Yum also sells a variety of knick knacks for all your random gifting needs:

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I ordered the salad sampler which came with one scoop each of egg salad, tuna salad and chicken salad, but I asked for two tuna and one egg:

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Several people at the table ordered fish and chips:

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Everything was delicious! Yum also sells an assortment of breads for purchase, including a nice looking challah!

 

 

Eat Street and Baked Breakfast Sweet Potatoes

In Minneapolis, ‘Eat Street’ refers to 17 blocks on Nicollet that house some of the most unique, authentic, and delicious ethnic food you will ever have. In the past few weeks, I’ve visited two notable Eat Street locations.

The first is Evergreen, which is generally considered one of the best Asian restaurants in the Twin Cities. It has this reputation for a reason.

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The menu is comprised of authentic Asian dishes, so don’t come looking for deep fried lemon chicken. Everything is cooked to order by the chefs (and most likely a family member of the owner if not the owner himself). As soon as we were seated, we were served tea along with our water:

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After perusing the menu, we decided to order steamed vegetable  dumplings, orange chicken, and chow fun noodles. The prune juice was hard to pass up though.

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If you like Asian food, this is must-visit.

The second place along Eat Street I’ve visited in the recent past is Icehouse. Icehouse has been on my list to try since I saw its veggie burger featured in Mpls/St Paul Magazine over the summer. Icehouse is a bit more upscale, and their dinner menu is a bit on the pricey side. The chef was super nice though and offered to make us the veggie burgers (usually offered only at lunch time) for dinner anyway.

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It is no wonder this veggie burger has gotten rave reviews. I’m not sure of all the ingredients but there were mushrooms, spinach, cheese, deliciousness. The fries were top notch too. I would highly recommend both of these eat street restaurants!

And last but not least…here’s a recipe for baked breakfast sweet potatoes! *full recipe below

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet, add one chopped onion, and saute for about five minutes, seasoning with garlic, basil, allspice, and cumin:

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Meanwhile, chop two sweet potatoes.

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Once the onions have begun to softer, combine with the sweet potatoes and add to a 9×9 pan:

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Cover and cook for approximately 30 minutes at 350° or until potatoes are cooked through:

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Baked Breakfast Sweet Potatoes
Ingredients
 - 2 medium sweet potatoes
 - 1 large onion
 - 1 tbsp butter
 - 1 tsp basil
 - 1 tsp minced garlic
 - 1/4 tsp allspice
 - 1/2 tsp cumin
Method
1. Melt butter in a skillet and add onions and spices
2. Cook for 5 minutes or until onions start to soften
3. Chop sweet potatoes and combine with chopped onions
4. Distribute mixture into a 9x9 pan, cover with foil, and 
bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until potatoes are soft

MaltTees

A few weeks ago, I posted about my affinity for online deals. This may be becoming more of a problem as my enthusiasm for such deals begins to border on fanatical.

But, I did hear that the people who get the most pleasure out of spending their money are those who spend money on experiences rather than things. According to that logic, my Groupon fanaticism will make me a happier person in the end. Fine by me. 🙂

The latest deal I purchased was for a place in Richfield called MaltTees Mini Golf and Malt Shop. This deal was clearly not to be passed up given that drinking milkshakes and playing mini golf are two of Noah’s and my favorite pastimes. The deal was almost too good to be true! For $20, you get two rounds of mini golf, a surrey rental, $5 credit towards the malt shop, and two pumpkins. Whaaaaaat a deal, right?!

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MaltTees is located within Victory Memorial Park, and we enjoyed a thirty minute bike ride to get there. After arriving, it was straight to the mini golf course:

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Since we were keeping score, things got pretty serious:

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Noah took home the win this time due to some mental lapses on my part….to be avenged another day!

By the end of the round, we were ready for a snack. Due in part, I’m sure, to some not-so-subtle product placement within the course:

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The malt shop offered a basic menu of concessions-style food as well as several malt/shake varieties:

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Although tempted by the pumpkin flavored malt…

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…we settled on oreo and m&m:

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After the shakes, it was on to the pumpkin patch:

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As you can tell from the bouncy houses in the background, we were a bit older than the average consumer of this deal. #kid.at.heart

Although we were entitled to two pumpkins with our deal, we realized that we only had my bike bag to transport things home in, so we were limited to one small-ish pumpkin. We found the best one in the whole patch:

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and then nestled it cutely into the bike bag:

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All in all, this was a great activity and we had a lot of fun. If anything, we would have liked more time to walk around the park, but we had to get home for other things.

More of It

I once heard that a way to remember which one is desert:

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and which one is dessert:

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is by simply remembering that dessert is the one with two s’s because you want more of it. Um, yes, I usually would like more dessert. How did you know?!

In the recent past I’ve had the pleasure of visiting two Twin Cities dessert joints.

The first was Lynden’s Soda Fountain in St. Paul. 

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Lynden’s is an old-fashioned joint, offering sodas, ice cream, and candies in the style of a true 1950s soda shop.

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I went with a friend, and we both ordered sundaes. I ordered zoreo ice cream (dark chocolate zanzibar ice cream mixed with marshmallow swirls and oreo pieces) topped with hot fudge, and my friend ordered yippie skippie ice cream (peanut butter ice cream with chocolate covered pretzels) topped with peanut butter drizzle and oreos:

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Yum!

The second dessert joint I visited was Glam Doll Donuts

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Glam Doll is in Minneapolis on Nicollet and 26th, and is far from your average donut shop. It’s flirty, a little bit risque, and designed in the vintage style. And you will find much more than old fashioned with glaze. The donuts come in both classic and inventive varieties (peanut butter and sriracha, anyone?), and the selection changes slightly each day.

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I went with a friend and split two: a starlet with chocolate icing and sprinkles (who can resist a classic?) and the bombshell (spiced mexican chocolate and cayenne pepper):

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The donuts were very good, but donuts have never been a favorite for me, so I don’t think I will be rushing back here any time soon. For any donut enthusiasts though, this is a must-visit.