Greeting Text

Following twenty years of farmer's markets selling locally grown vegetables, native fruits, and local honey Linda created Marianne's Kitchen in Shoreview, MN, an oasis of good food, conversation and laughter in a suburban food desert. Operating from 2011-2017 the cafe offered home made soups, fresh bread baked daily, great sandwiches and treats and a complete line of gluten-free soups, pickled products, jams, jellies, salsas and locally sourced soups, honey and grains.

The Marianne's Kitchen of sharing, conversation, and learning continues with ongoing commentary, food reviews and food finds as we grow, cook and eat our food and sample local restaurants.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

You are in or you are out

Heidi Klum "In or Out"
Small business, especially the family-owned, small restaurant business brings to mind Heidi Klum's oft-repeated line on "Project Runway" are either IN or you are OUT.

In:  China Express
We've mentioned them previously, just after they opened in Arden HIlls.  But they've changed a little already to adapt to customer needs.  The $1 a scoop buffet is now during the day, with menu service after 5:30 PM(I think it's 3 PM on Sundays).  The $1 scoop concept is great...especially for lunch.   Sometimes you want a little, sometimes a little more.  At $1, you can tailor your lunch to your appetite.

But I've found a new favorite on the menu....egg foo young.  Now it's hard to beat the absolutely delicious egg foo young at Pink Flower in Mounds View.  It's my personal favorite, along with the Asian chow mein and about 10 other dishes.  At China Express, the egg foo young is served like a stack of pancakes....with rice and gravy on the side.   Tasty, tasty, tasty.  Totally different than Pink Flower's but just as fabulous in its own way.  This would be a meal for 2 people, so leftovers came home for tomorrow.  This is not food for everyday most Chinese food, it's fried. so have your cholesterol checked after eating a healthy portion with gravy.  But as an occasional treat, I highly recommend it.  The Hunan Chicken, served with pork-fried rice and egg roll was nicely spiced, just hot-enough and complimented with pea pods, broccoli, water chestnuts and baby carrots.  The owners are very friendly and attentive.  

Closed: Dauber's
Out:   Dauber's Cafe
This breakfast & lunch place in Little Canada (near the bingo hall) lasted a few years.  Okay food, and I appreciated getting an occasional doughnut.  Another family trying hard to make it, serving food to the bingo players next door.  But now they are 'out'.

Coming Soon to the Dauber's Cafe location:  El Sombrero
We're looking forward to seeing the menu at Dauber's replacement, El Sombrero.  It's not open yet, but it looks like they're making good progress in redecorating.  It would be nice to have some decent Mexican food in the area since there are really no decent choices close by.  We'll hope for the best.  Of course we'll be there soon to check it out.

So... small family restaurants in the area that are out of the game (Golden Quince, Cafe Zia, Cajun Potluck, Green Ginger, Dauber's) plus bigger places (Kozlak's, Blue Fox, Asia's Finest [forced out by a big corporate player--Noodles and Company] Roman Anthony's, etc.).  Those still in the game:  Bistro La Roux, Mansetti's (a franchise), Jade House, and the ever-popular Marianne's Kitchen : )

So, when you're going out, stop a local family-owned restaurant so that we can continue to have some non-corporate food choices in the area.  Keep the locally-owned dining options in the game.

"Don't say anything"

John's mother used to say "if you can't say anything good, don't say anything at all."  He thought that was pretty unique and thoughtful. Obviously many mothers have said this.  The only thing left to debate is whether they said it to their smart-mouthed sons, smart-mouthed daughters, or both.  

Friday evening marked the end of a long week in the cafe and there was still Saturday which starts immediately after Friday's work is done.  We debated food options and agreed that it needed to be close, simple and fast.  Pizza was the conclusion, not a meal that's high on our list.

  • Our pizza took 30 minutes to arrive.  Other tables received theirs in 10-15 minutes.
  • Other pizzas arrived too hot to eat.  Ours was cold.
  • The service blew.
Following John's mother's advice we're just not going to say anything (else).

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Move Over Poutine...You've been replaced

Shepard's Pie

Saturday night in Shoreview....oh, no, that ain't is not happenin'.

The proverbial question:  "Where should we go?    Where can we find some actual food?"

After thinking about all kinds of great places to go, we remembered last night's traffic on the way to Uptown.  So, we decided to stay closer to home.  What adventure could we have on short notice?

Success!   We decided to check out Paddy Shack at the Half Time Rec.   What a great way to spend a Saturday night (thanks especially to the St. Paul Jazz Pigs rugby team who was having a party---not for the faint of heart or children [John Comment:  Linda does not understand rugby.  It was a totally appropriate post rugby match socializing.  You get hot playing.  You need to lower your body core with cool beverages and reduce swelling of broken limbs]).

This is a great Irish Pub menu.  It reminds me of a trip to Portland OR with the juvenile justice team from Dakota
Corned Beef & Cabbage Fries
County and the West St. Paul police a few years ago.  After working all day on juvenile justice issues, we'd hop on the light rail and hit some of the fabulous food spots around Portland (the only place I remember being able to have edamame for lunch at the shopping mall).  We hit a great Irish bar there one night...memorable bangers and mash and great brews.

So, here we are at the Paddy Shack in St. Paul....bangers and mash or one of the other fun choices on the menu.  We decided (John will say I decided [John Comment: "The only thing I was allowed to select was my own beverage, a Surly Hell."]) to do an eclectic mix from the whole menu to get the 'flavor' of the place.   That was our second excellent decision of the evening.

We chose:  corned beef and cabbage fries, soup of the day (carrot with tons of ginger), the Cork dog, and shepherd's pie.   This was a flavor tour from first bite to last.

First, move over have definitely been replaced.  The corned beef and cabbage fries were creative,
Carrot Soup
crunchy, creamy....delicious.  We didn't really get the horseradish cheddar flavor (we prefer our own sandwiches with the horseradish cheddar where you really get the horseradish kick), but overall the whole concept of corned beef and cabbage fries was fabulous.   These could have been a meal for the two of us.

On to the soup.  As I said, a little too gingery for me, but John loved it.  It was served with very tasty brown bread and, of course, the oh so fatty fatty fatty Kerrygold butter (could I have more please????).  So John ate the soup and .... I don't know what happened to that bread and butter : ) [John Comment: "I only was able to sample the soup because someone else did not care for it.  When I was handed the plate there was no bread or butter in sight."]

Ah, the Cork dog.   A big fat grilled dog with a crispy exterior and great flavor.  This baby was topped with beer mac and cheese, chili pesto, a healthy dose of mustard, and popcorn...served with some crispy kettle chips.   The beer flavor came through if you didn't get a bite of the pesto at the same time.  I loved the beer essence in the mac and cheese--I may have to have a whole serving of that next time.  The pesto was straight peppers!   No foolin' around, no some hot, some not--just clean straight pepper
Cork Hot Dog
flavor.  The perfect bite here was a little bit of everything on your fork at the same time...some dog, some bun, & all of the toppings in one big bite.  The was a little side trip on the whole flavor tour.  Outstanding.

In spite of the fact that we should have stopped eating 20 minutes earlier, we plowed on to the shepherd's pie.  Oh, I wish I could have eaten more than 2 bites.  Deep rich flavor and wonderful spicing.  These guys know their way around the herb and spice world.  Flavor, flavor, and more flavor.  I'm already looking forward to the leftover (and yes, we brought home the Kerrygold for tomorrow).

St. Paul Jazz Pigs Rugby Team
Then, there was the 'ambiance'.   Dive bar....complete with a whole rugby team (some with no shirts, some with
no shirt and a sport coat, some with lederhosen and no shirt, you get the
idea....but all with matching hats).  This part of the evening is not appropriate for children.  But it was hard not to enjoy what a great time they were having [John Comment: "It was all fine, nothing inappropriate.  Everyone was wearing pants of some sort.  I go to a lot of restaurants where shirts are optional."].

So, if that wasn't enough of a great evening, our chef came out of the kitchen.  Looked familiar.  We had a nice
Chef Aaron at the Paddy Shack
chat about the great food.  He said he used to work in Vadnais Heights.   It took me a few minutes (hey, I'm old...cut me some slack here) to figure out that the last time I saw this guy, I was complementing him on the fact that he had actually made decent fajita veggies at Chipotle (one of the few things I eat at Chipotle - which would have saved me during the recent salmonella 'event' - I guess I'm smart like that!!!).  They were actually prepared with some knife skills (which I understand, but am sorely lacking in talent for doing myself).  Aaron actually remembered that conversation from 2 years ago...I remember at the time that he said I made his day.  Well, he made our night 
tonight with the great execution on preparing the great menu options.  Thanks Aaron for putting out wonderful food that we'll be back for (and we saw the spotlessly clean of those things we notice...and don't see very often).

So all in all, a delightful night out.  A dive bar, a crazy rugby team (oxymoron?), and great food prepared by Aaron that was a flavor dance.  Outstanding all around!

Paddy Shack Half Time Rec

Friday, September 18, 2015

Uptown Diner in Minneapolis on a rainy Friday night...

Carnita Benedict
Umm, breakfast for dinner.   That's what we wanted on this rainy Friday night.  So we headed to my old stomping grounds - Uptown Minneapolis.  When I was one of the three partners in Caardvark stores, my favorite location was our Uptown store.  That was back in the day, so when people walked in with Henna hair or piercings or my favorite--the Saturday morning cross-dressers still wearing their Friday night knock-out evening wear (even if their cleavage was a little Robin Williams 'furry'), I knew I wasn't in St. Paul : )   But these were some of the most talented, creative people I've ever met.  What a fun place.   I loved my coworker from my previous gig at elements - around the corner.  She made fashion accessories out of various auto parts.  Tracy Jo - where are you ??????  Tracy showed up at one of our parties wearing only a long t-shirt and seven or eight long v-belts from an auto parts store (John remembers this clearly).

Tonight we decided to try the Uptown Diner.   Good choice. John had the Cajun benedict; I had the carnita benedict.  Mine was better : )

Cajun Benedict
John's meal had great spicy andouille sausage, with a terrific herbie flavor, too.  But my carnita benedict had layers of flavor.  Poached egg with hollandaise topped with pico de gallo atop a bed of spicy black beans and carnitas.   Delicious.  Both meals were served with hash browns--a little greasy but nicely tender in the middle. 

Good service, too.  Our waiter had a great smile and easy-going manner; the food arrived quickly.  What's not to like about that?

All in all, a nice diversion on a rainy evening.  We were starting our gawking tour of the homes around Lake of the Isles when Anne called to say she forgot her key to her old house and people were there to buy furniture.  So we cut short our tour and some more furniture has found a new home.  We'll post photos of the remaining staging furniture items on Facebook so you can see if there's anything that piques your interest.  

We may have to hit some more Uptown spots over the next few weeks.....a little nostalgia tour for me.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Head to the Capital...Mama's Pizza

Small Deluxe Sampler
Small Stuffed Shells
Eight-thirty on a Friday night; it's time to eat.  We run through a list of places we know the food will be just fine.  It's been a long week in the cafe business and time for some comfort food that we don't make ourselves (although today's Banh Mi salad and haricots verts salad were outstanding).

Mama's Pizza on Rice and Front, just north of University Avenue in St. Paul offers absolutely wonderful, traditional pasta dishes and pizza.  We had the Deluxe Sampler comprised of mostaccioli, ravioli, sausage and onions and also the stuffed shells with sausage.  Neither are ever a disappointment and the sausage is lean and remarkably flavorful.  Most dishes come in a small and large version.  Both of ours were the small versions and we left with a 'take home' container for another meal.

The dining room is fairly small, usually full, almost always with repeat customers having a great time.  The wait staff is always attentive and friendly.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Loop in St. Louis Park

Monday evening we had a bit of a family send-off as our son and daughter-in-law move to London.  Following three years in Aarhus, Denmark, a country somewhat narrow in cuisine, they've enjoyed their month here partaking of the Twin Cities Dining options.  

Blackened Chicken, Vegetable & Quinoa Salad
The Loop in St. Louis Park, just off HW 100 & 394, was a convenient location to meet.  As a point of history this was the land occupied by the Lincoln Del and the Cooper Theater.  My wife and I ate at the Lincoln Dell on our first date which must have been in 1974 or 1975.  At that meal we had a pastrami sandwich, a Reuben and shared a very large piece of chocolate whipped cream cake.  As I recall I'd borrowed a sport coat from one of my room mates.  The meal took all the money I had.

So...It was a bit like eating on hallowed ground.  I had the blackened chicken with roasted vegetables quinoa salad.  The chicken was fine and for $11.95 it was more, actually far more food than I anticipated.  It was a bit sparse on roasted vegetables and the quinoa a bit overdone, but overall quite satisfying.

My better half had the flank steak salad which was fine.  

For whatever reason I paid little attention to the future Londoner's meals.  I'm going to miss them

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Lisu's Thai Taste...

John:    "Do you want to get a disappointing burger somewhere?"
Linda:   "Sure.  That's OK."
John:    "I have to stop at the hardware store."
Linda:   "What for?"
John:    "Some stuff I need.  Maybe we can find something near the cafe (MK)."
Linda:   "There's nothing near the cafe.  Do you just want to eat there?"
John:    "Maybe.  I'd like some of the Moroccan soup."
Linda:   "Too late.  It's gone.  Do you want to try that Thai place that Shirley                  recommended?"
John:    (sullen) "Sure."

Just north of Rosedale at 2575 North Fairview behind the Play It Again is Lisu's Thai Taste.  We stopped in tonight about 8:15 PM.  They've been here about seven months replacing an Asian restaurant that was totally unremarkable.  Tonight we were pleasantly surprised.  The pork egg rolls were tasty with a nice crusty exterior, the filling a bit sweet and served with a pleasant fish sauce.  We shared #59 (I've forgotten the menu name) which was drunken noodles with vegetables and tofu seasoned "mild" and it was absolutely wonderful.  Unfortunately we ate most of it before considering capturing a photo.  Definitely this was a 4.5 star venture.