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Never in a million years did I think I’d say it, but we ate seaweed twice this weekend. On purpose.

It all started a few weeks ago when Brent and I watched a webinar on how eating well is essential to overall health. That’s no surprise, but we did learn a thing or two. Among the handful of application points we took away was a big thumbs up for the virtues of seaweed. Did you know that this sea vegetation can help curb appetite, and provide a tremendous amount of vitamins, minerals and protein? It can also aid digestion and promote other health benefits.

Most likely, that’s not enough to make you run out and indulge in a heaping bowl of seaweed. But we enjoy an occasional cooking adventure, so we decided to do a little research and give it a try.

Before we got that far, we actually ordered a seaweed dish when we stopped for lunch at Crave at the MOA on Friday. We shared their seaweed salad and it was delicious. Really!

If you’re not used to cooking with seaweed, your first question might be, “Where do you get it?” That’s what we wondered. We started off at a local Asian grocery store, but came up empty-handed. When in doubt, give Whole Foods a shot. And wouldn’t you know, they have a whole section full of the stuff.

After pulling ideas from a bunch of online recipes, here’s what I came up with. It’s much like a Miso soup. Honestly, I had very cautious expectations as I watched the hunks of green leaves simmer on the stove. But if Brent’s response is any indication, it turned out quite nice.

P.S.: If you’re a family member reading this, don’t worry, we don’t plan to bring this soup for the holidays, but if you give us a heads up, we’d love to make a bowl for you.

Seaweed Soup
Prep and Cook Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients
12 whole dried medium shiitake mushrooms
6 cups warm water
4 medium-sized pieces 
Kelp seaweed, cut to bite-size pieces
1 medium onion, quartered and sliced thinly
5 medium cloves garlic, minced
3 T minced fresh ginger
1 carrot, thinly sliced
4 T dry Veggie Base powder
4 T chopped dulse seaweed, cut to bite-size pieces
4 T Amino Acids or soy sauce
2 T rice vinegar
3 T green onions, thinly sliced, for garnish
1 tsp “Sea Seasonings” Kelp Granules (optional)

Rinse mushrooms, kelp and dulse and soak in 2 cups of warm water for about 10 minutes, or until soft. Save the water. Directions:

  1. Heat 3 tablespoons of the mushroom/seaweed water in medium soup pot. Add onion and healthy sauté over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic and ginger and continue to sauté for another minute.
  2. When mushrooms and kelp are soft, thinly slice the mushrooms and chop the seaweed into bite-sized pieces. Cut out the mushroom stems when slicing mushrooms and discard. Add to the soup pot along with the soaking water, and 4 more cups of water and Veggie Base. Add carrots. Bring to a boil on high heat.
  3. Once it returns to a boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes. Season with Amino Acids (or soy sauce), rice vinegar, salt, and pepper. Add green onion and serve.

Serves 6

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If you enjoy local history, culinary adventures, fun walks and meeting new people, we’ve got a great afternoon plan for you. We discovered this one when it showed up on “Crowd Cut,” an online service that offers deals around town. This deal provided 50% off “Twin Cities Food Tours.” One of the great things about these online services is that they’ve given us a way to try new things around town without spending a lot of money. We didn’t know anything about the tours, but figured that at 1/2 off, we’d give it a shot and we weren’t disappointed.

Laurie Rupe started Twin Cities Tours just over a year ago, but it was this spring that it really took off. She explained to us that she’s actually an engineer who works for a well-know local corporation, but her love for food and the Twin Cities set her off on this side business. While she gives a lot of credit to a class she completed in Chicago, Laurie is a smart young woman who has clearly put her good business intuition and creativity into this new venture.

We started off at “Local D’Lish” in the North Loop neighborhood on the edge of downtown Minneapolis. This establishment provides fresh, locally produced products and classes to inspire meals that use them. They served us fruits and veggies, urging us to recognize the difference between fresh product and the mass produced variety. We have also picked up a Crowd Cut D’Lish offer, so we’ll let you know about the class we end up taking.

We moved on to “Punch Pizza,” which is a personal favorite, making it a familiar but welcome stop. We enjoy the Northeast neighborhood of this particular location and toss around the idea of moving there one day. While eating at Punch this weekend, we joked that if we ever moved there, we imagined it would become our new Friday night pizza spot.

Next was a quick stop for Laurie to share some local history outside of the Art Godfrey house. One of our favorite parts of the tour experience was hearing the insights Laurie shared about each of the establishments. She gave a brief background on how the businesses started, something about the owners and one or two funny or interesting stories.

We crossed the street to Kramarczuk’s Deli and restaurant. Established in 1954, this family-run business offers delicious meat and Eastern European delicacies and we got to enjoy a few of them.

Completely new to us was Gorkha Palace, a Napali, Indian, Tibetan restaurant on 4th Street. We especially enjoyed the Vegetable Samosas, crispy patties stuffed with potatoes and peas seasoned with mild spices and served with mint/tamarind chutneys.

Our final stop and course featured dessert at the Gardens of Salonica. We agreed on this being a favorite on the tour. How can you miss with three samples of Baklavas? And it was clear that Anna (the owner) knows what she’s doing. She even does a little blog segment on her website, sharing recipes and interesting tidbits on the food and restaurant.

We had a great three hours tasting wonderful food, learning about new restaurants and some local history and stories. And because this was a walking tour, we didn’t feel too guilty indulging a bit. Always glad to support local businesses we enjoy, we highly recommend Twin Cities Food Tours. However, unless you’re fortunate enough to get a spot on a tour by the end of October, you may have to look forward to taking in the fun next spring when Laurie starts up the new season. Enjoy!

Twin Cities Food Tours

When: Saturdays, March 30-October 31
Time: 11a.m. & 3p.m.
How Long: 3 hours
How Much: $42
Facebook>> 

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Lisa and I have discovered a small jewel that we think is worth mentioning, especially if you’re looking for a nice “date night”. The place is Urban Olive and Vine in Hudson, Wisconsin. Hudsonis a small bedroom community on the east side of the St. Croix River, but only a short drive from the

Kay Timm has transformed an historic store front into a delightful shop

Friends joined us for Limoncello Marscapone Cake!

Twin Cities. Situated right off Interstate 94, it’s easy to get there and get home without difficulty.

Scattered along the main street of Hudson are several bar and grilles, cafés,  boutiques and art galleries [Art Festival will be in late September]. Running parallel to main street is the water front with marinas and a park with ample picnic areas and beaches.

We think you’ll like Urban Olive & Vine [like their Facebook page here] because the food is terrific and affordable. The ambiance is a mixture of original brownstone merchant store [painted white] in the front and a modern decor in the back. The owner is Kay Timm. She left her corporate job after several decades to pursue her passion and open her own shop. She offers a variety of tea, coffee, custom picnic baskets for a special afternoon stroll near the river, unique treats, several pairings of wine that complement fresh cheese, breads, olive oils and balsamic vinegars. Her menu is deliciously thoughtful and made from scratch. You’ll find surprising specials that are complemented with fresh home grown herbs and served by an attentive staff.

The Antipasta Plate and a local micro-brew

Date night at the UO&V is made special on Friday and Saturday evenings with local, live jazz from 7-10pm. Cleverly billed as “Hudson Unplugged”, it’s a fresh twist when compared to the typical boisterous, blue collar crowds gathering at Pier 500 or the other college-aged venues like Dibbos (yeah, Dibbos is still there.)

Back in our day, the drinking age in Minnesota was 19, but in Wisconsin it was 18. So Wisconsin drew a lot of 18 year olds from Minnesota to drive east. But now that most of us [hopefully] have outgrown venues like Dibbos, the UO&V offers us a new reason to make the trip across the river and rediscover Hudson all over again.

Peach & Strawberry Sangria w/ fresh mint!

Thank you Kay for your creativity and bravery at starting a new business. We hope to be back often!

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At the old flour mill waterfall.

So the stay-cation hasn’t exactly been what we were envisioning. Still it was good to have a week break from the office to do some relaxing and accomplish a few home projects. The less-than-desirable weather made sure of that. In some ways, the timing may have been just what the doctor ordered. Literally. Brent ended up in the cardiac unit of Urgent Care which led to an atypical number of naps and a few doctor’s visits. So, when Thursday came along with its long-awaited beautiful weather, we were more than ready to do something more “vacation-like.”

I ran across an article in last Sunday’s “Dakota County” section of the paper. It named the Hastings bike loop “one of the best-kept secrets in the Twin Cities.” After hitting this trail on Thursday, we agree.

One of the things we enjoyed most about the loop was the variety it offered. We rode through neighborhoods, countryside, nature parks and the small historic town of Hastings itself.  And we saw horse farms, fish jumping left and right in the Vermillion River, a lock and dam at the Mississippi, several bald eagles and a roaring waterfall at an old flour mill. We had no idea this bike gem existed until a week ago.

We parked at Jaycees Park along Lake Rebecca and headed west along the trail, circling the city for a 12-mile ride. With gradual inclines and very few steep hills, it makes for a nice leisurely pace. A fun ride with a fair amount of exercise without threatening to put either one of us into the hospital. We’re glad to recommend this biking option and it looks like there are plans underway to connect it up to the regional system.

Our only real disappointment was in hoping to find a cute little lunch spot. We drove around town with no luck. We’re weren’t overly impressed with the options unfortunately. We went so far as to make it to Prescott, Wisconsin. If you’ve got recommendations, we’d love to hear them since we came up empty handed. Lunch turned into a dinner of brats on the grill at home. Not a bad option after all.

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Tonight Lisa and I decided to check out the latest arrival to the Burnsville restaurant scene: Morgan’s New World Tavern just off Nicollet and County Road 42. It is the renovated space that was once the Dakota County Steakhouse attached to the old Holiday Inn, now being renovated floor, by floor to the tune of $3M+ and calling itself the Nicollet Inn. The hotel has sat vacant for the last few years so the renovation is a welcome addition to the business scene along the busy strip. Sitting up on the hillside between the 35 split, the hotel has a commanding southern view that takes in all the hub-bub of Burnsville and peers toward Buck Hill.

Morgan's Tavern

The front entrance to Morgan's Tavern

Rigatoni with 3 meat bolognese sauce

Morgan’s is being touted as a “gastropub” – a British pub that sells higher priced food. The menu itself is clearly pitted to compete with Porter Creek Hardwood Grill just across 35W and west about 1/2 mile. Lisa went for the double thick Jameson pork chop and I tried the rigatoni with 3-meat bolognese sauce. We started with a plate of calamari, a glass of Argentine merlot and a full mug of Morgan’s micro-brew. I decided to opt for the pasta and save a steak for a future visit. We will be back. Our server, Richard, was terrific.

Richard explained the menu, the history and the plans to expand menu selections and try different options as the word spreads and they get feedback. Having a weekend or Sunday brunch is definitely in mind. They don’t have a license yet for outdoor seating, but there is space to extend out the front door on either side.

Double thick pork chop

Double thick Jameson pork chop with squash

The visit to Morgan’s was a Crowd-Cut coupon treat to ourselves as Lisa and I are taking our “stay-cation”, like other Americans we’re staying home for a week. We’re mixing some work and some fun into our week off as we climb toward Memorial Day and the official start of the Minnesota summer. Today we washed all the winter grime off the windows in the house. Except I took a small nap about half way through the project. My excuse is the new blood pressure medication I’m on. Just a side note: be sure to monitor your BP regularly. I have hypertension, so last Friday I screened my BP to make sure my medication was working and sure enough, I was bordering on stroke material. I registered 172/111. Not good. Normal is 120/80. I’ll spare you the details of the cardiac unit at the local Park Nicollet Urgent Care clinic, but I will say that they were very, very good over there. But the new medicine I’m on is making me feel tired. I apologized to Lisa for needing to lie down in the middle of our project.

One thing to be thankful about: the new med’s don’t prohibit sampling the hearty Morgan’s microbrew with dinner!!

Morgan's full mug of micro-brew

By the way, we think you’ll enjoy the renovated interior of the restaurant. The booths have the new car smell. The bar is open with a mix of booths, high tops, and bar seating. The remainder of the restaurant has a mix of nice window seating, booths and relaxed tables including some surrounding a 3 sided fireplace.

Let us know if you’ve had a chance to visit Morgan’s and what you think. We’re looking forward to going back and seeing how they continue to expand on what appears to be a great start. Even though they don’t have the extensive outdoor seating potential as the competition, if the food quality stays high, we think it will pay-off for south of the river residents in terms of choices and keeping prices in check.

Spacious bar seating and updated fixtures

By the way, we asked if we could sample a couple of soups. Richard accommodated us and brought us two! A sample of their french onion and their beer cheese with popcorn. The french onion was really good. It had a very silky taste, the broth was just right without overpowering your palette. The beer cheese soup was that perfect balance of salty cheesy-ness that took me back to the batches my mom would make. If you have a chance to sample something, please let us know.

We hope you enjoy your visit. We arrived about 6pm and by 7 there were about 6 other tables seated. Other than the Crowd-cut coupon, they haven’t really done any advertising. The hotel isn’t open yet, but as soon as it does, we expect that the tables will fill up fast. By the way, the Nicollet Inn will be one of the Best Western Premier class, so the restaurant should complement it quite well as it caters to the hotel’s food needs.

Our bill was $60+, it included appetizer, two drinks, salad and entree. Our Crowd-Cut coupon was $40 value for $20. So the final bill with the coupon was $20. So we ended up with a 30% savings. Not a bad deal at all.

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Lisa and I wanted to follow up yesterday’s post by paying respect to our hosts, volunteers and supporters of the Slow Food MN event “Where the Wild Things Are.”

A list of those who made the Slow Food MN kickoff event a success.

In case you missed Sunday’s post, the “Slow Food” organization focuses on the disappearance of local food traditions, our culture’s declining interest in the food we eat and where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world.

Our host was introduced prior to the delicious supper

The event took place at the Ralph Lentz Farm outside of Lake City, MN. Mr. Lentz has been working with state conservationists to actively manage his grass fed beef farm. His beef products are sold and distributed locally. If you’ve shopped one of the co-ops and purchased beef, you’ve probably benefited from the Lentz farm.

We wish we could name everyone of the host of volunteers that provided several learning opportunities for both adults and kids. In the photo to the right, you’ll see a list of businesses and folks that contributed.

Several events led the day. There was an ecology tour that featured the identification of wild edibles used in the creation of our supper led by Larry Gates. There was a world of insects tour that many of the kids and their parents enjoyed together. Mr. Lentz took everyone on a farm and cattle tour. Anna Gerenday provided a solid introduction and discussion to wild mushrooms. And an origami artist taught a workshop on creating mushroom origami table decorations. The eco-tour was particularly interesting. As the wild edibles were pointed out, Larry explained the transformation of grazing ideology over the last 2 to 3 decades and the effects of the changes in land management on a host of things that included: the land itself – soil quality, plant diversity, insect variety, the trout stream that flows through the property, the animals that graze there and the people that live on and around the farm. The take-away was that two and a half decades ago, the land was managed with a more static structure approach. Historically, the land was in an active management cycle, going back thousands of years. The gradual transformation back to this active management approach has restored value to the local economy in ways that a static approach cannot achieve.

Mobile brick oven

Jennifer prepares the snack tray!

A snack tray with with a variety of fresh breads, cheeses and hazelnuts from Hazelnut Valley Farm (contact hazelnutsource@gmail.com and write to Norm Erickson) and wines from Crofut Family Winery and beers from Flat Earth Brewing Co. We really liked the Frontenac variety wine and the Cygnus X-1 Porter beer! We hope you find a chance to try them out.

Finally, the meal itself was prepared using a giant mobile brick oven. Our chefs were led by Molly and Thomas Broder and their expert staff from Broder’s Pasta Bar and Cucina Italiana. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves:

Roasted pork loin and sausage on a giant BBQ

Thomas Broder preps the bread!

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We’re getting home late from a long, wonderful day that felt like the first real taste of summer in central Minnesota. In order to do justice to our adventure, we’ll have to  insert some follow-ups to this initial post.

The adventure began with an email from Lisa’s friend, Peggy, a couple of weeks ago. Paraphrased, the email simply said, “I saw this and thought of the two of you. This seems like something you both would like.” Lisa started describing it and at first I wasn’t sure I understood what it was about. The bottom line is it was an open invitation for members and non-members to this year’s first Slow Food Minnesota event.

Focccacia bread fire baked with herbs and wild flowers!

What is Slow Food Minnesota? Good Question!

Slow Food MN is the local chapter of Slow Food International – [Slow Food USA Facebook]. In short, Slow Food was created as a protest against the ubiquitous nature of fast-food. The idea is predicated on how our accelerated lifestyles of western culture have separated us from our roots; our choice to live fast has severed cultural connections to land, nature, agriculture and the traditions derived from our local environment. Eating processed food and fast food while demanding it in our grocery stores has further disconnected us from where our food comes from; and it has changed our taste buds so that we don’t recognize what real, honest whole foods from our own environment taste like. Consequently, our demand for packaged and branded tastes not only affects our health, but affects our personal economy, knowledge and  appreciation for the people who grow food locally. This means that our choice to eat fast affects not only local growers, but the whole world. Slow Food is a grassroots effort to bring attention to these ideas and build a network to regain what we’ve lost, retrain our taste buds to accept, appreciate and enjoy local, sustainable, small-scale production of choice edibles. It’s a way of living and eating that seeks to build commitment to communities and the environment.

Samples of the wild edibles served at the meal including: Morels!

Let us whet your appetite for the follow up’s to this post by telling you that the meal we had was prepared by the owners of Broder’s Cucina Italiana and

Slow Food Minnesota Style!

Pasta Bar in Minneapolis. [Broder’s Facebook]. All ingredients for this fabulous meal were locally obtained. The meal featured a pig from Pastures A Plenty, foraged greens, flowers and mushrooms (fiddleheads, asparagus, garlic mustard, nettles, morels, violets, cress and other tender greens, depending on what’s in season). Shortbread dessert was included, as was local beers from Flat Earth Brewing Co., wines including the Frontenac variety.

In the follow ups, we’ll tell you about the wild mushroom discussions, farm tours and eco-tours of the land prior to the meal.

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