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Enter the Subway Breakfast

Ever since I received a circular touting the new Subway breakfast menu I’ve been curious.  For starters, I have no bones about saying that I liked making fun of the fact that it opens at 9am.  (Which made me wonder who gets up that early for a sandwich fix.  I was sure Jared never rolled off of his piles of Scrooge McDuck-ian money to obtain a Spicy BLT past 11:30.)

However as it was also being touted as “healthy” and that it “used egg whites” I felt that it was my duty to test what was surely attempting to become the Jack LaLanne competitor of fast food breakfast.  Take THAT, Sausage McMuffin with Egg!  (Don’t we still crave those after an evening of Sapphire Martini’s though?  Just me?  Okay.  Carry on)  As my work schedule prohibited me from obtaining one during the week day, and weekends are usually resolved for Hippolyta and I to make one of our patented “big breakfasts” * I waited until she was out of town before I was able to strike an unsuspecting Subway as an undercover reviewer.  (My previous attempt was thwarted, as I learned that even if I sneak out at 8am on a Saturday they don’t even open until 9am on the weekends)

I made it my morning goal yesterday (yes, my purpose for actually becoming ambulatory was the acquisition of this sammy.  As opposed to trudging downstairs for a mimosa, trudging back to bed, and thinking about what was wrong with my life) and I walked into the corner NE Mpls Subway for my boon at approximately 9:15am.  Important because I waited until after they opened for a few minutes so that I didn’t wait outside like a puppy hoping that it’d get picked, and because it was close.

Being #1 doesn’t always have perks.  I learned this when I used to work retail at a tuxedo rental shop.  In fact, unless you are made of stronger stuff than I am (Which means adamantium) you are immediately ingrained with a hostility and resentment for the following two type of customers- Those who get there as SOON as you open and the ones who seem to slink in just as you’re ready to lock the door and turn on the alarm system…usually 10-15 minutes before you actually close b/c it’s been dead the previous 5 hours.   How they know how to time it like this, I’ll never know.

The employee had an immediate disdain for me, evidenced by the way they set there soda down by the register and slowly made their way back to wash their hands, taking there time to make a deal out of washing, drying, then coming up to me with a look that reads “What?”

“May I please have a Southwest breakfast sandwich?” (I reigned in my usual chipperness.  I understand that type of energy to those who haven’t quite shook off the sleepies can be jarring.)  My question was responded to with blinks.

“Meatball sub?”

“Nope.  Southwest breakfast sandwich with egg whites, please”.  (At this point, I was wondering if I was slurring my words too.  There was country music playing overhead, and in my hurry to get down here I hadn’t brushed my teeth or had any coffee.  I may have sounded like a recent stroke patient for all I know.  Judging by the way I was being stared at…hair all akimbo under a hastily donned ballcap, D.A.R.E t-shirt…probably smelling of the previous evenings Pinot Grigio, I must have struck them as a hobo)

They then rolled their eyes.  At this point, I knew I was in for a treat.

The following sandwich artistry can only be called a comedy of errors.   They pulled out the wheat muffin and hastily slapped some cheese and ham on it.  I was curious as to why they didn’t toast the muffin first and judging by the confused expression on their face as they repeatedly followed the crib sheet posted over the ingredients (Hey.  It’s a new sandwich.  If it was me and they announced “SUBWAY PRESENTS- A SLICE OF CHEESE!” I’d still need a cheat sheet.  It isn’t easy being a tortured sandwich artist) they didn’t either.

My dual curiousity was how they’d handle the issue of the eggs?  I know that McD’s has a frozen, circular egg-shaped egg-patty that they simply need to heat up, but I didn’t see any hot plate or small skillet which would indicate it was prepared “on the spot” or that I was the lucky customer who was 1st in line for the sandwich, therefore getting the freshest one of the day.  No.  It was in one of the black covered containers looking a like white folded styrofoam picnic plate next to the ones that were looking like yellow folded styrofoam picnic plates…next to the sweet onion chicken teryaki.  Pre-made in muffin size.

It was all hastily stacked with the question “Pepper and onion?” (which is advertised as part of the sandwich.  And while I appreciate they asking, I thought it was kind of part of the deal from the get go.  If I order the sweet onion chicken teryaki, sans sauce, I might as well be getting the grilled chicken sub and they should re-name the breakfast sandwich the “Egg and Cheese on an English muffin w/fixin’s!” sandwich)

“Yes, please”  I responded.

All told, the damage was $2.16.  I scampered out to sample my purchase to the tune of “Your cheatin’ heart.”  What I was cheating on, I don’t know.

What you see above is what I unwrapped.  It went down in about 5 minutes with pieces of onion and pepper falling haphazardly into my lap.   The judges ruling- Meh.   This is a sandwich that I feel is a safe and healthy alternative for foodies/ova-lacto vegetarians trying to get something on the road that is (A) cheap and (B) Not laden with sodium/fat/calories.  It won’t be enough to keep you satisfied for a day, but at least you won’t feel like you have a slowly digesting gut-bomb in your belly.  Save that for the day-after an all-nighter.

Grade:  C+ for presentation/taste

Grade:  A- for cost/health

*If it hasn’t been posted before, here is a healthy alternative to all your McMuffin needs.  Please note, it isn’t pure veg/vegan, but it is tasty.  Also note, we make ours with Morningstar veggie sausage patties but there isn’t anything to say you can’t use the same type of veggie sausage in the tube or another brand.

Breakfast Buddy Sandwiches

Needed- Whole wheat English Muffins, Egg Beaters (or all egg-white Egg Beaters), Morningstar veggie sausage patties, a slice of Soy Cheese or Rice Cheese, butter or margarine.

Start the patties first as they’re frozen and will take the longest.  (Cook longer on lower heat for best results.  Start to heat the pan for the eggs at the same time. )  When the patties are sizzling and softening to the touch (careful!) and the egg pan is good and hot add the Egg Beaters.   If making two and using a larger pan, when the egg sets slice it down the middle with your spatula.  (Keep turning those patties!) Once the egg is set enough to fold in on itself to approximately English Muffin size, drop your muffin’s in the toaster.  Once they’ re done, butter each side.   Add one slice of cheese, then egg, then the sausage.   Top with the other half and enjoy.  (Be warned.  These suckers are hot)

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It’s the day of the race, y’all…

We’re up, it’s early, and we’re running!  That’s right, today we embark on our first foot race, the Get in Gear 10K (getingear10k.com)  So if you’re out and about Minnehaha Falls or the surrounding 8 or 9 Kilometers, come on and cheer us on!   We’ll hopefully post results/pictures at  a later date, meanwhile we’re carbed up and ready to go!

Goooo Fitness!


(And it’s raining?  Of coooourse it’s raining)

New restaurants and sprouting green

Hi ho!

We crossed a couple restaurants off the ol’ bullet list this weekend.  Our thoughts on Crave and OM can be found here.  We also wandered into Louann’s Diner for the first time, an innocuous little truck-stop-esque diner in NE Minneapolis, handily located between the gym and home.  They’ve got killer buttermilk pancakes, which they serve all day.  Good enough for me.  We crawled in on our bellies after an 8-mile run at the gym on Saturday morning, and were promptly nourished with some good home-cookin’.

In other exciting news, our seeds have begun to sprout!  I planted 50 peat pods with various seeds–catnip, thyme, three varieties of tomato, two varieties of broccoli, and bell pepper.  I went to Mother Earth Gardens in S. Mpls for the supplies–organic seed-starting soil mix, peat pods, trays, and plastic domes.  $20 later, I was ready to go.  I spent a sunny afternoon on the porch last Thursday, beer in garden gloved-hand, nestling the little seeds into the rich, dark soil.

Per the helpful ladies’ instructions at the gardening store, I placed the tray on top of the radiator and watered the planted pods, covered them with the dome to emulate a greenhouse-like environment, and let Mother Nature take her course.  According to my seed packets, some of them would take 5-10 days to germinate, others longer.  But lo and behold, a mere 3 days after planting, a good third of the pods have sprouted!

I’m going to have to thin the seedlings at some point.  This is my first time starting veggies and herbs from seed, so it’s a learning process for me.  Anyone know anything about this seedling-thinning thing?  I need halp!  Soon I will take the whole tray to my office, where it can sit happily under the florescent light on the underside of my cubicle overhang for 6-8 weeks until it’s time to transfer them to the garden!  I’m preparing myself to lose some of them in this process, and I fully anticipate still having to buy transplants from the farmers’ market.  But if even a few of the plants I started from seed end up feeding us this summer, I will consider this experiment a grand success!

That’s all for now, buttons!

Springing into action/In memorium

Wow.  I sort of epically failed by not posting anything last week about the “Fork the Fire” benefit for the owner of the Blackbird Cafe’.  (My humblest apologies to the foodies out there who deserved to know about it.  Future events such as these will be posted more promptly)

Long story short, many of you readers may have heard about how a fire gutted the popular Blackbird in SW Minneapolis.  Several restaurants and bistro’s  decided to hold a fundraiser on 3/14 by diverting a portion of your bill to the cause.  For our part, we met buddies at Cafe’ Maude for brunch.  I feel like we’ve posted a formal review of Maude in the past so I’ll try to keep it brief- Brunch at Maude was delicious, per normal.  I learned what “harissa” is and it’s hot.  (It’s in their hash) Their French Fries are delicious, and truffled thank you very much.  And the best part has to be their fresh squeezed orange juice which filled me with love…and vitamin C.   Hippolyta and I have placed Maude on our bullet list for dinner one of these nights (we’ve only noshed on apps late at night) so expect a more formal review in the future.

So yes, it was good food for a good cause and you just can’t beat that.  And buddy-time is not that bad either.

(Blackbird UPDATEhttp://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/taste/87709397.html?elr=KArksLckD8EQDUoaEyqyP4O:DW3ckUiD3aPc:_Yyc:aUUsZ )

In other news, I was just informed that LeeAnn Chin has passed away:  (Source:  http://blogs.mspmag.com/foodiefile/2010/03/leeann-chin-passes-away.html)  For many Minnesotan’s, Chins is a staple in the easily accessible Chinese family fare category.  At one point in my teens my closest buddies all were employed at the Brooklyn Center location (Now home of “Taste of India”)  Many a night were spent loitering after hours and I’d usually wind up with a few bags of Peking Chicken or the Chicken Salads to take home for free.

I confess that I haven’t patronized a Chin’s in a while, but I do have some fond memories of the establishment.

La Belle Vie

La Belle Vie is consistently rated as one of the nicest, if not the nicest restaurant in Minneapolis.  I’ve long fantasized about dining there, but it’s never been in the budget.  This week, however, is a little something called Restaurant Week.  It’s when some of the nicest restaurants in town offer tasting menus for lunch and dinner at a fixed cost of $15 or $30 per person (depending on the restaurant and the time of day).  La Belle Vie is participating, and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to sample their wares.

We made a reservation for Monday night and got all gussied up.  The Restaurant Week menu was being served only in the Lounge, which was pleasantly populated without being crowded.  We got a comfy table for two near a window, where we could watch the blustery evening agitate the trees.  We took a look at both the Restaurant Week fixed menu, and the A-la-carte options on the regular Lounge menu.  We wanted to get one of the tasting menu series (a tomato compote, black olive tortellini, and braised rib eye) and supplement it with some things from the a-la-carte menu, but our server informed us that wasn’t an option; in order to do one of the tasting menus (there are 3), everyone at the table must choose the same one.  Bummer.

So we decided to go the a-la-carte route.  First, though, we had to choose from among their impressive cocktail list.  I went with the White Lotus, a concoction of gin, cava, a raspberry, and other surprising ingredients I can’t remember (their online cocktail menu doesn’t seem to be up to date).

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Mike got a glorified margarita, with unusual flavors and lots of kick:

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The cocktails were inventive and splashy, but weren’t priced far beyond your standard martini or mojito at any decent TC restaurant, which was nice.  They were fun and creative, but probably not something you’d want to have more than one of (both because of their strength and the quirkiness of the flavor combinations).

For our three a-la-carte choices, we went with the flatbread with porcini mushrooms and carmelized onions, the king crab and artichoke fazzoletti with saffron and dried tomato, and the sautéed sea scallops with carmelized eggplant, asparagus, and prosciutto.  The flatbread came out first:

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Something about this dish didn’t work for me.  The flavors of the mushrooms, onions, and cheese all melded nicely, but the texture of the flatbread itself was rubbery and tough.  We managed to eat the whole thing, but only because we were famished.  This is not something I’d order again.

Next up was the fazzoletti.  Fazzoletti is a thin, flat, paper-like pasta.  This dish was better, but I still felt somewhat disappointed.  It was nice–but I kept hoping for a bite that would make me close my eyes and savor each passing sensation of flavor and texture on my tongue, and that bite never came.

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When you get sampling-sized portions at entree dish prices, you really want each bite to blow you away.  You’re paying for the quality, not the quantity.  There was nothing wrong with this dish–it just left me a little cold.

So we were naturally doubling down on the scallops–this was going to make it or break it.  They came darn close to saving the day.  To be fair, I’ve never met a sea scallop I didn’t like.  And in true sea scallop fashion, this dish was delicious:

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I even forgot my rule about not eating pig and savored the crispy morsels of prosciutto atop the scallops.

As good as the entree was, though, I have to give the overall experience a B-.  Maybe it was all the hype I carried into the meal with me–all the things I’d heard and read about how exquisite this restaurant is.  Maybe it was the fact that we chose a-la-carte dishes instead of the restaurant week tasting menu.  Or maybe it’s just not as amazing as everyone says it is.  When I last ate at a restaurant of similar quality and prestige (D’Amico Cucina, before it closed, RIP), the food literally made me moan.  I was hoping for a similar experience at La Belle Vie and didn’t find it.  But now I know!  I got my fix, fulfilled my fantasy of eating there, and now I can stop gazing at it longingly every time I drive by Hennepin/Lyndale.  And I call that a success.

Reap what you sow

The harvest has begun.  Right now it’s still a trickle, but it will kick into high gear soon enough.  A zucchini or two here, a head of broccoli there, a banana pepper, some zucchini flowers…and the garlic!

This was our first attempt at garlic growing.  I’m proud to say it went off without a hitch, and we’ve now got six beautiful bulbs curing in the garage.  I’ll walk you through the whole process.

Last fall, around October, I ordered some German White Garlic planting stock from thegarlicstore.com.  It was $9.95 plus shipping and handling, and it arrived in a brown paper bag.  It was just three bulbs of garlic.  Why did I have to order them specially instead of just grabbing some bulbs from the grocery store?  Most commercial producers of garlic that ends up in the produce section of the grocery store cover their bulbs in anti-sprouting solutions that inhibit the cloves from doing what they need to do to reproduce themselves into more bulbs (in addition to whatever pesticides and other chemicals they use).  You want a nice, clean, organic, heirloom variety, specifically chosen for your region.  I chose the German White because it was described as loving harsh northern winters.  Done and done.

We didn’t want to plant all 3 bulbs’ worth of garlic, so we used 2 in the kitchen and broke up just one of them for planting.  I figured six plants would be a reasonable start.  After mixing last summer’s compost into the garden’s soil, I separated and peeled six cloves and put them in the garden (pointy side up) around mid-October, gave them some water, mulched the area with leaves raked up from the yard, and let them be.  You want to give them just a bit of a head start to begin sprouting and rooting before the snow and freezing temps set in.  All winter long, I thought about my tender little cloves underground, wondering how they could possibly survive until spring.

But survive they did.  This lovely sight greeted me in the final week of March:

Yes, March!  A full six weeks before I could even begin thinking of planting anything else in the garden, the garlic was already pushing its way toward the sun, out of the still chilly earth.  I kept watering them and cooing to them over the next few months as they grew and grew.  Here they are on June 3rd:

By the 15th of June they had produced scapes:

We had to snip those off to allow the plant’s energy to be diverted back to bulb development, rather than the blossom the scape would have become.  Once the scapes were snipped, the bottom leaves of the plant started to slowly yellow and wither.  All the websites and gardening books I read said that knowing when to harvest your garlic is a sketchy, intuitive knowledge that comes with practice, but the general guideline is that when the bottom 3 or 4 leaves have withered and browned, you’re good to go.  The window for that seems to be mid-July all the way through to mid-August.  Harvest too soon and the bulbs will be under-formed.  Wait too long, and they will start to get mushy and rot through their papers.

So I kept nervously checking the plants every day, watching the progress of the withering leaves, hoping the perfect harvesting moment would make itself clear.  Eventually the suspense got to be too much, and I decided to go for it–I dug one up.  And it was lovely.  The bulb wasn’t humongous, but it was beautifully formed, with slightly wisping outside papers, firmly intact, and smelling like an amazing mixture of pungent garlic and wet, dank earth.  I waited a couple more days, then dug up the rest in a fit of excitement and sensuality and pride.

Next came a kind of tricky part.  Apparently garlic has to be cured for 2-3 weeks to allow it to be stored and gradually used over the rest of the year.  It also gives the bulbs time to draw nutrients and sugars from the rest of the plant.  To cure the garlic, you need to hang it in a darkish (out of direct sunlight) place with good air circulation and shelter from rain.  We didn’t have enough for multiple bundles, so we just got creative with some twine and a couple hangers:

Then hung them in Mike’s garage, where they will dangle for a few weeks:

And there we have it folks.  I can’t wait to try the first aromatic bite of garlic I grew right in the backyard.  And of course we’ll have to set aside one of the bulbs for fall planting, so we can repeat the whole glorious adventure next year.

Hurrah!

Hidey ho!

Hello there!  Welcome to our blog, where we will regale you with tales of our vegetable garden, our trips to the bounteous Twin Cities farmers markets, recipes we try at home and restaurants we try around the metro area!

We’re just a couple of burgeoning foodies who get ridiculously excited about growing food, talking about food, looking at food, reading about food, and most of all, eating food.  Rather than continue to bore our friends and family with our latest culinary adventures via e-mail and phone call, we thought we’d create a blog where we can dump our food-related rants and raves for folks to peruse at their leisure.  We hope to provide our readers with some tasty recipes and restaurant reviews, farmers market tips and updates, and general enthusiasm for yumminess.

Welcome aboard!