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, October 31, 2015

Manana Restaurant y Pupuseria

Marianne's Kitchen Manana
Another day, another search for non-corporate food.   Off to St. Paul.....

Anne said the pupusas at Manana are pretty good.  Haven't had a pupusa since the place that is now Catrina's was still in business.  So off to Swede Hollow to give it a try.

This food of El Salvador is best described as a filled pancake, I guess.  Manana has pupusas, tacos, burritos, sopes, tortas, and more.

We circled the block on East Seventh seeking a parking place.  We came around the corner by the beauty supply store and there was one right in front....yippee!!!

When we went in, there were three other parties....two seated in the dining area and one picking up take-out. 
Marianne's Kitchen Manana
The facility itself makes Marianne's look like a's well worn in quite an old building.  It has colorful art on the walls.  There were 4 people working, so clearly that had been busier earlier in the evening.

We picked up a couple of menus and tried to decide which of the many choices to try.  Papusas for sure, but I also tried a taco...John is always in search of a good taco.  I ordered the veggie papusa, while John order the 3 papusas with beans and cheese served with rice and beans.  All turned out to be great choices.

The taco (al pastor) was a common double taco, but with a crispy grilled edge that added great texture.  It was topped with loads of onions and cilantro.

The pupusas were served with curtido (cabbage slaw that is slightly pickled with a little bit of heat) and a mild tomato vinegar sauce.  The pupusas were delicious and the curtido added a necessary crunch and enough spice to make everything extra interesting.  My pupusa was filled with cheese and loroco (a Central American herb/veggie.....I'd describe the flavor as close to cooked squash) and John's was stuffed full of beans and cheese.  His serving was so big that he couldn't finish the whole thing (trust me, I can always help with that).

We had a great chat with the owner, who would like to stay open later, but the street is just too dark.  If the City of St. Paul would like to help all the local businesses in the area, some brighter street lighting would be a giant plus.  The neighborhood is full of great places to the Cabana (family-run) and Taqueria Los Paisanos (both across the street) and the new bakery that we haven't had a chance to try yet.  Los Ocampo is just up around the corner on Arcade. 

Everything was delicious.  It was well worth the trip to enjoy the great food and warm, friendly service.  We had many great laughs...sharing stories about the foibles of running a cafe.

If you haven't been there, make a detour from corporate food and try something interesting and real. 

Marianne's Kitchen Manana

Hamburguesas El Gordo

Hamburguesas El Gordo

 "Hey, have you tried the new restaurant with the very limited food selection?

Front: Chicken Rear: Fat Man Burger
No, not that chicken place, but Hamburguesas El Gordo.

Step out of your suburban blahs, and take a chance.

Located in Plaza del Sol at 990 Payne Avenue in St. Paul (across the street from Tongue in Cheek), this newly established family-run place serves 2 things (hey, twice as much as the new local limited selection place)--a hamburger or a grilled chicken sandwich.

That's where any resemblance to a typical burger or chicken breast sandwich ends.   These sandwiches come with everything (ask for extra, extra napkins)....bacon, cheese, serrano peppers, onions, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, the list goes on.  Gigantic would be an understatement (hence the name....fat burger or fat man burger).

We tried to figure out how to tackle these gigantawiches, each wrapped in a deli paper and served in a basket with grilled onions and a serrano pepper on the side.  I did better (no, really).  We shared, but by the time John handed me the chicken one, there was only a little bit of bun left....nowhere to get a grip.  I'll give him a break because there were 2 big pieces of grilled chicken on his sandwich, so they were sliding around a little when he took a bite.  I did better in keeping mine together, but juicy burger doesn't really capture the whole range of what juicy can mean.

This was really fun.  A cross-section of people, with lots of cute kids
 running around & playing with balloons (and
saying a sincere, 'I'm sorry' when their balloon floated on to our table), in a little mall with food stands.  The next stand (Frutilandia, I think) sold lots of interesting looking drinks with lists and lists of options.  And, it was nice to see parents buying their kids bananas to eat instead of french fries.

We love to support small local places, and this is certainly on the list of places we'll visit again.  The young woman who called our order was very sweet and so proud of her establishment.  Drop some dollars in the tip jar so that this family can earn a living and have a chance for this business to become established.  I'm not too worried, because they already have a pretty big following.  I'm glad we had a chance to get there before the lines are too long !

Donut Wars

In 1966, the Shrade family took over Tobie's in Hinckley from Mr. and Mrs. 'Tobie' Lackner, moving the cafe from downtown Hinckley to the current location on Interstate 35.  They added a gas station, took over the fast food across the street, and sold thousands of 'carmel rolls' plus oodles of other bakery.  Some of their recipes are from our friend Jim's family--including his family's world famous fruit cake, cardamom bread, and more.

Kwik Trip
In 1965, Kwik Trip opened their first store in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.   Since then, they have grown to 475 stores in WI, MN, and IA.  They sell gas, have a convenience store model, and sell vast quantities of baked goods at bargain prices.  Last week they opened a store in Hinckley, MN, a block east of Tobie's.

We believe that donut wars have begun.

The world is changing.  Family-owned businesses have to grow and adapt in a world of big box stores.  Both of these companies are family-owned businesses.  One stayed in Hinckley.  The other built stores across 3 states.  Both make many of their own products.

Now, they are going to start a head-to-head competition for that category that has all but disappeared.....bakery.  Most family-owned bakeries are gone.   They fell victim to grocery stores who first expanded their in-store bakeries and then outsourced most of that baking or brought in frozen products from other corporations and thawed and baked them at the store (like all of those cheap pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving).  People started buying their bread and treats while picking up their hamburger and milk at the grocery store....even if the quality wasn't as good.  A small family bakery is a rare business today.

How will this play out?
Tobie's advantages--they serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  They bake items that aren't available at Kwik Trip--like Jim's family's fruitcake, they have a huge bakery display case where you can pick and choose.  They ship 'carmel rolls'. 

Tobie's disadvantages--their bakery products are more expensive, their staff has not received quality/customer service training, they don't have a system for who's next in line at the bakery.  They don't have self-service coffee or any grab-and-go bakery items.

Kwik Trip's advantages--they have lots of 'pick up and run' food items (like breakfast sandwiches and hamburgers (2 for $1 this week)--you can grab these plus basic food items (cheap eggs and butter, bananas, bacon....), get gas at the same location, and have mounds of really inexpensive baked goods pre-packaged and ready to go.  The staff has clearly been trained on customer service.  They have lots of self-service coffee and drink choices.

Kwik Trip's disadvantages--this is not the place you'd go for a sit down meal.  The bakery items are created elsewhere in a Kwik Trip baking facility.  There are fewer bakery item choices (Tobie's has the advantage for sure on breads).  The grab and go food is pretty standard, much like you'd find at Holiday, SA, PDQ, etc.

Both have nice bathrooms (something you think about when you're on the road).  Both have good locations.  Tobie's has the high-visibility location next to the north-bound exit. Kwik-Trip can be seen from the top of the exit and it's a bit closer to the casino.  

Kwik Trip states that they follow a low mark-up model; Tobie's follows a traditional pricing model.  Qwik Trip glazed donuts are $2.99 for a box of six.  During the grand opening they were priced at $4.99 for two boxes of six.  The Kwik Trip website has numerous in-store and coupon bakery (and food) specials.  Donuts at Tobie's are $1.75 each.  The Tobie's website has been updated and contains many appealing photos of their in-house bakery items.

We'll be watching with interest how this change in the' Hinckley doughnut economy' plays out.  As a statistician and researcher, I believe there will be a lot of 'indicators' from this doughnut war that will have predictive value.  To phrase it as I would have when I was still a research nerd, "the salient factors attracting retail customers, affecting pricing models, and providing competitive advantage will emerge through this natural experiment". 

In other words, we'll see what happens--and maybe learn from it : )

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Serial Food Disappointment on a Saturday Night

Uh boy.....why is it so hard to find any food on a  Saturday night??????

After our several recent taco disappointments, we thought we'd just head out for a quick taco at Catrina's in Oakdale.   On the way, John suggested we try the Market Grill at the HyVee since we didn't give it a try last time.  

It was just around the corner from Catrina's, so we thought, 'why not'?   Well, this is why not:

Strike #1
We walked in to a restaurant that was 3/4 empty.  We thought...great, not crowded....piece of cake.  Then we saw the hostess hand a beeper to the couple in front of us, and we smelled trouble.   But, since we haven't eaten there before, we thought....oh, this must be how they seat people here.  So we signed up and were told that we'd be seated in about 10 minutes.

Wrong again.  We watched as 2 tables were seated in the twenty minutes we waited, with servers standing around everywhere, leaning on tables, and clearly having nothing to do.  We saw 2 plates come out of the kitchen.  

Our 'we should leave now' radar started to kick in.  The manager came up to the hostess stand to take a call where we heard him apologizing profusely and offering a gift card.   So, when he finished his call, we corned him.  Good move on our part.

Apparently, they were lacking 'chefs' in the kitchen.  He said the hostess was supposed to inform the customers of this.  She didn't.  

So we made a hasty exit.  We named the 'place of our first disappointment' because: 1) they're a giant corporation so our opinion won't affect their biz a single iota, and 2) we'll probably give it a try again after they've worked the kinks out of their kitchen issues.

Off to Catrina's.....
Strike #2
Oh, if we'd only stopped here first.  Now it was 8:05 and Catrina's closes at 8 p.m.  If we had skipped the HyVee disappointment, we would have been chowing down on some Catrina food with a couple of interesting salsas.  But, it was not to be.

Strike #3
So, great memory that I have, I suggested the 'other' taco place that Jessica Fleming reviewed for the Pioneer Press.  I actually remembered the name and the general vicinity.  With the help of our electronic friend, the iphone, we drove up and, yes, they were open.  

We entered the colorful and interesting space.  Nice ambiance.  We were seated relatively quickly...the place was mostly empty.  But then we waited for a server.....and waited.   Then the hostess came and took our drink order and brought some chips and salsa.

The chips were tasty, warm, and salty.  The fresh tomatillo salsa tasted fresh....but mostly like raw tomatillos from a blender.  It was a poor contrast to the salty chips....we kept thinking we needed to add salt to the salsa.  Just a bad pairing.

The hostess then came back for our dinner order.  After I ordered, she proceeded to tell me they were out of 2 of the items.   Okay, back to the drawing board.  I chose some pork posole and a carne asada taco.  John had the alambre al pastor.

Well, JessFlem this is strike 3 for your recommendations.  Our rating on a 5 star system is 2.

The posole lacked salt and the pork was fatty, fatty, fatty.  Three quarters of that bowl just stayed on the table after we left.  No need for a 'to go' container.  The carne asada taco was nice on top, but with the classic soggy bottom.  Some of the meat was burnt and hard, interspersed with gristle.  So much for my second choices.

John's alambre had good flavor, but suffered from having burnt meat on one half and sogginess on the other half.  Some of the meat was a rock : (  The salsa rojas was pretty good, and the tomatillo salsa that came with his dish was the classic tomatillo with a little heat and not the raw stuff that came with the chips.  The hostess asked if he wanted a to go box, but we waited so long for it that we picked a few more pieces off the plate and left it and the to go box on the table.

Many staff, but mediocre service....only 4 parties in the restaurant...and probably the same number of servers.  Many of the staff were in the kitchen drinking sodas.   We heard the guy at the next table ask his waiter to take something off his bill....I guess he had some disappointment, too.

So, again we won't name this place because we can't say we'd recommend it.  But I've come to the conclusion that I'm right and should not follow the recommendations of the food critics (we don't put much stock in most food reviews unless they're based on a number of visits and don't seem to have some ax to grind).

So the taco search continues......

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Taco War #1...not a good experience

Sorry, JessFlem, that's 2 strikes
Add caption

It's seldom that I put much credence in food reviews, so they don't often guide our dining choices.

But, Jessica Fleming of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, said this place was really good (we won't name it because that's not what we do).  And,  John is always in search of the elusive great taco.  Sorry, Jess, but we respectfully disagree.

First, as you probably know, food safety is number one with me.  Most people don't pay much attention....until they are infected with salmonella (many, many people in a recent Twin Cities outbreak) or worse, listeria.  Then, when they're violently ill, they review where they've been.

Last time I followed one of Jess's recommendations, we sat in a downtown restaurant and I watched an employee handle raw eggs and then without washing his hands (he didn't wear the required gloves), put potato chips on a plate.  Unfortunately, it was the plate of a kid's meal....which means he exposed this little child to a potential food-borne illness through his carelessness.  Inexcusable.

So, tonight's visit was a disappointment from food safety to food tasty.  I'll give the place a break because when you're mentioned in a food column, you often get slammed with customers.  It wasn't really that busy when we went in.  So we ordered, based on some of the recommendations in the food review, and sat down.   

Twenty minutes into our wait, I was bored, so decided to watch the kitchen staff.  Big mistake.  One with a glove on, then his glove was off.  Then a guy walked in from the street, reached over, picked up some food (for himself?) and walked to the back of the kitchen.  Then he came back and prepared gloves, scratching his back between platings and, my favorite, rubbing his belly before patting down someone's lettuce.   Oh yummy!

The food itself was a big sloppy mess.   When you have messy food, don't serve it on a piece of paper.  Paper is not tasty and generally ends up as part of a forkful within a couple of minutes.

John:  "Linda told me to write add something to this review but my mother always told me that if you don't have anything good to say don't say anything at all."

Friday, October 23, 2015

Taco War #2 (it might be #3) Tavial Grill

We always say, try a place a number of times to see if it's consistent.  That was our experience with the Tavial Grill.

Visit #1 - OCT 16
Tavial Grill Carnitas Plate & Quesonga
So, undaunted by our not so great experience on our visit to Jess Fleming's recommended taco place, we again went in search of the perfect taco (or decent Mexican food).  This time we ventured to West Seventh Street to Tavial Grill.   We think this is in a former pizza place (can't remember what was there before).  We found the place to be in decent condition (better than we expected based on being another re-used facility) and it was VERY clean.  

This place turned out to be the opposite of that other taco place.  The guy at the cash register was clueless!  Too much texting seems to have challenged the upcoming generation.

Following the challenge of order things went smoothly.  We sat where I could gaze into the kitchen during food prep (that drives John crazy--but really, I don't tell him if his food hits the floor before it comes out, so I don't know why he gets his undies in a bunch over this).  I watched the cook skillfully use 2 spatulas to grill the food and carefully move it from grill to plate.  He was crisply dressed with an impeccable haircut....the kind of guy you want making your food because he's meticulous.

John had the carnitas plate and I had the quesonga or quesohonga (it was spelled differently on each wall)....but basically a cheese and mushroom grill with onions.  

Our number was called within 5 minutes and the food was attractively arranged on the plates, with steaming hot tortillas in aluminum foil.  John's carnitas was hot and juicy.   He didn't share any of the rest of his plate, so it must have been just as good.  He actually said the beans were delicious and he's not a big refried bean fan.

My dish was delish, but I wouldn't describe it as Mexican food.  Gooey cheese, lots of mushrooms, and lots of onions....all melted together into a helping of comfort food  (I kept thinking this would be a great Sunday brunch item).  I enjoyed every bite....a little Mexican flavor would have enhanced the experience, but it was tasty. The helping of grilled heaven was worth the cholesterol bump.

All in all a very satisfying experience.  We think this is a family-owned we like to give 'em some support.  Other than the need to knock the cashier in the head and wake him up, everything else was well-executed.  We know we could go back tomorrow and find another delicious dish from the menu that had many choices.  A nice way to end the week.

Visit #2 - OCT 23

Tavial Grill Chilequiles
Tavial Grill Choriqueso
Our first experience there was 5 star...excellent all around.  The guy making the food was nicely groomed, and followed food safety procedures.  The food was well-prepared.  This also resulted in a wonderful meal.

So we tried 'em again.  This time, not so good.

We order the chilequiles with beef and the choriqueso.   We noticed that the guy making food tonight was not quite so good.  Bare hands in the food bins.  Not so well-groomed.  Maybe not so good at food prep.

Our food rating was about 2 on a scale of 1 to 5; John said his choriqueso was about a 1.5.  If this were our first rating, we'd give it 2 stars and say it was overpriced for the quantity and the value.  The tortillas were the best part of the meal.....

So, our advice is the same.  Try a place several times to see if it's consistent.  Might be consistently good, consistently bad....or the worst....consistently inconsistent.  Then you never know what to expect.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Oakdale Adventure #2 - HyVee

HyVee Oakdale
We thought the huge crowds had probably subsided, so it was time to venture out to the new HyVee in Oakdale (of course John grew up in Albert Lea, so his family talked about getting 'three things' from the hot food section of HyVee for years).   Well, things have changed at HyVee since then!

Now, onto the main event.....the tour of HyVee. 

It's a little overwhelming from the minute you walk in.  A series of food stations on the left, with produce, bulk foods, and charcuterie sort of straight ahead.  John wanted to go left.  So we checked out all of the food stations, except we didn't go into the grille.  Asian hot foods and sushi, pizza, "American" like meatloaf and mashed potatoes (the HyVee of John's memory), plus a chef's creation station.

After strolling the whole row twice, we thought the Asian selection looked the freshest and most appealing.  The chef section was chaotic and was next to the 'prepared food case' where everything always tastes like the prepared food case : (  The ready to eat pizzas didn't look that appealing (but Minnesotans eat such lousy 'pizza' - it didn't look much different than the national chains).  The take and bake pizza and flatbreads actually looked a lot more interesting and maybe worth a try. 

Then we wandered to bulk foods.  DeLizious Food Communications said it was overwhelming....and it was.  I think they have everything that Bergin Fruit and Nut (a St. Paul institution) carries (if you haven't been there, check out Bergin's outlet room).   Chocolate nuts, dried fruits, mixes, and would take a while to look at everything.  I appreciated that they had a staff person working there who could 1) answer questions and 2) keep people's hands out of the bins (a pet peeve).  May have to check out this section in more detail on my next visit.

Then we wandered to the regular grocery and frozen/refrig aisles.  This became a much more typical grocery store experience.  They have a nice section of frozen organic and gluten free.  But we noticed that most people had carts filled with typical corporate products--stuff we don't eat (we don't have a death wish).   So it will be interesting to see if the more unique selections remain over time or if the assortment starts to look like any other corporate grocery dump.

We found the meat counter interesting...nice looking kabobs and some more unique selections.  The staff was pretty knowledgeable.  The cheese selection was interesting, too, and the person admitted she was in training, but did her best to help us find the Sartori Montemore and looked up the Milton Prairie Breeze to verify they stocked it, though none of us could actually find it in the cheese display.  But she was very helpful.   I'll be back there to check out other selections.

But, now, my favorite.  The charcuterie counter.  I died and went to heaven (not from the corporate food described earlier).  This counter had the largest, most beautiful selection of LaQuercia products I have ever seen in one place.  I was drooling on the counter (okay, I kept my drool to myself).  The staff member in charge could tell me about the different products based on the pig (Berkshire, Tamworth, etc) and what the pigs were fed...a veritable shopping dream experience.  LaQuercia pork is raised by family farmers without the use of non-therapeutic antibiotics, hormones, etc, don't use CAFO animals, and don't use animals who are fed other animals' body parts.  I just wanted to buy a little of everything.  Oh the beautiful pork.......

Many delightful products at this counter from other providers,, samples of soppressata and bacon...quite delish.  I'll be back here just to gawk at the case.

A final tour of the bakery area (way too much of the same junky bakery you find at every grocery store) with a few interesting looking items in the display case.  No time to try them on this trip--we'll give 'em a taste next time.

All in all, worth the trip.  The Asian food station looked a lot better than the local corporate option (although we're big fans of the small local China Express and of course, our all-time north suburban fave---Pink Flower).   The charcuterie case was a dream.  The fact that you could eat a quick meal before or after shopping, with a range of dining choices is a plus.  Eat first, spend less as you shop : )

...and, this was not John's mom's HyVee.  Lots to see and try.  We thought there were some hits and some misses.  But we own a business and we have our own hits and misses.  Overall, a fun little evening excursion.  I love food....eating it, looking at it, talking about

Oakdale Adventure #1 - Dining

We were off to check out Oakdale's new HyVee store which is getting rave reviews.  But first, we needed dinner to keep up our strength for our shopping/gawking adventure.  Sounded like Catrina's was worth a try. 

Great choice.  It was like Chipotle, only with flavor and without the heavily oiled white rice and pico de gallo from precut bagged tomatoes (how many ways can you say 'food safety risk'?).  Already Catrina's had a head start.   Then they posted on the plexi shield notices to keep your hands (and body fluids) on your side of the plexiglass.  Take note Chipotle...please!   I won't eat Chipotle because:  1)  no flavor, 2) they don't know what their own salsas are, 3) ewwww...who puts their hands on the filthy rail in front of the plexi (like everyone....ewwwwww), and 4) they never stop anyone who is either spitting or putting their hands over the shield.  Too gross an experience for such suburban pseudo-Mexican food.  Oh yuck.  Just my opinion.  But I digress.

Back to Catrina's.  Choose your own options (burrito, tacos, bowl, quesadilla) plus torta--only with interesting flavorful ingredients and lots more protein choices.  John chose a bowl and I picked a veggie quesadilla with a number of salsa choices.   The first thing John noticed was the white rice wasn't soaked in oil.   That cut the calories by 2/3 immediately and let the flavor of the other ingredients come through.   I tasted the spiciness of the fajita veggies-very flavorful.  Good start.

Salsa selections--here's where they shine (besides the fact that they obviously are all trained in food safety and know what they're serving).  I chose arbol and guajillo (based on 2 of my favorite peppers) and John chose tomatillo (his favorite).   Try saying the word 'tomatillo' at Chipotle and wait for the dumb looks---predictably laughable!!!!   I think I should have tasted the pineapple habanero and the ghost pepper, too.  But more about that later.

Complex flavors.  Layers of flavor in the arbol and in the guajillo.   Guajillo was definitely my favorite.  As we were finishing our meal, we had a nice chat with Caleb, who's working his way up to management.  Great spokesperson for the company.  I asked if these were the standard salsa choices and he said they had these plus they whipped up some other ones a couple of times a week to keep things interesting.  I say, 'keep it up'.   He noted that on the ghost pepper salsa, they did what none of the corporate (jump on the ghost pepper bandwagon) places seem to be able to accomplish.....give you some flavor....not just the heat of the ghost pepper.  By combining other flavors with the ghost peppers, Catrina's created a taste combo that doesn't just burn your tongue because it seems many people think heat = flavor.  Wrong!  Flavor comes from a great combo of ingredients.  Kudos to Catrina's on this.

So, Catrina's delivers on flavor and customer service (plus food safety, which for me can be a deal-breaker at many places where you can often witness 10 food safety violations in the first 5 minutes).  John loved the decor, based on Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead)...with the admonition to live life to the fullest each day.  Great staff.  Very willing to answer questions.  We hope they're a big success (especially since we picked up a punch card!) and since we've eaten at the last 2 or 3 places that were in this location and have gone away.

One of the more interesting adventures to Oakdale in my life experience.  Catrina's was worth the stop, if just for the guajillo salsa.  They had a great beer selection, too...Modelo and other Mexican beers plus Surly and other options.  

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Opening Today---Raising Cane's

Opening Today---Raising Cane's
 It was nice to meet the new managers of Raising Cane's today at lunch.  We
seem to have all the managers of new local businesses come and dine with us....thanks so much.  We appreciate the support for our little family business!  Great group of women....glad to meet all of you : )

Raising Cane's serves chicken fingers and fries.  So, I'll be there at least for my once a year deep-fried chicken fix.  Once a year is about my limit.....too much of the "tan food" makes me cranky and sluggish....and well, we have stuff to make and do every day.  But it's nice to have another option in Shoreview....last year when I wanted my one chicken finger/tender I had to wander to try to find one.  Maybe if I walk there and walk back to the cafe, I can have TWO chicken fingers.   We hope the slaw is good....we make a lot of slaw (usually vinegar with some cayenne)....but it would be nice to have someone else make it once in a while.  It's hard to find good slaw.  We'll be givin' everything a try.

I asked the staff if they were ready for the big rush tomorrow and they had a great upbeat attitude...."we hope so, but if not, we're still gonna sell some chicken!"   We love enthusiasm : )

So welcome to Shoreview Raising Cane's.  North suburban residents....give the Texans a little Minnesota love!

Of course, you probably all know that we have a fondness for foods of color--green, orange, yellow, pink--the colors of food not generally available in modern America (aside from ketchup, pizza sauce, and artificially 'fresh' bagged, sulfited iceberg lettuce).

For example, today we had 2 beet salads....beets (red) with quinoa (white) and arugula (green) and beets (red) with grapefruit (pink and white) and oranges (orange).   We like to see color on a plate (or in our case, in a bowl in a basket).   We also had 5 bean salad---many colors there, too.  

We don't eat much tan all tastes like what it is....breaded deep fried carbs or bad tasteless commercial hamburger buns.  Colored foods have a variety of flavors and textures and, since we eat with our eyes first, make you want to give each and every one of them a try.

More food options close by.  We like that.   While we usually eatatmariannes, it's nice to have some choices - veggie or not - for a quick dinner or a change of menu.  

Friday, October 2, 2015

Organic Grain: Tasteful As Can Be

Our continual search for tasteful, healthy food is not limited to our visits to local cafes and restaurants.  We also look for products we can use at Marianne's Kitchen, sell in our pantry section and yes, we do eat at home once in a while.

Lonesome Stone Milling of Lone Rock, WI has been a great find.  Gilbert William's focus on organic, local production of the finest grains possible has been an inspiration and we are very happy to carry his products.

It's easy to just open a box or bag of cereal or pancake mix, do the normal preparation and start eating.  That's what we do, too, but it seems appropriate to do a quick primer on what goes into that process.

Organic farmer's are committed to growing with no chemicals, natural fertilizers, crop rotation and minimal soil disturbance.  We all grew up watching tractors turning the soil with deep-bottom plows followed by discing and planting.  That plowing technique is pretty much unchanged since the prairies were turned by the first settlers.  Unfortunately wind and water erosion take their toll and working the fields repeatedly is high in equipment and fuel costs.  Progressive and environmentally conscious farming now uses a 'no-till' approach, avoiding aggressive plowing and soil disruption.

Heirloom grains tend to be more easily tolerated by people with wheat sensitivities and tend to be higher in protein than modern hybrid grains.  Being an heirloom grain does not inherently mean it's organic.  Hybrid grains are not inherently bad and we'd encourage learning about the work of Iowa native, Norman Borlaug.

One of our favorite Lonesome Stone products is the Blue Corn & Rye Pancake Mix, perhaps the greatest end product pancake mix we know ofIt's not simple to get to that delicious pancake.
Rye Seed

The process starts with an organic rye seed planted with a grain drill, which as the name implies, drills the seed into the ground. 

Grain Drill
Rye and certain other crops can be planted in the fall and harvested the next summer.  Harvesting of the rye is done with a combine.  The word 'combine' is short for 'combination' of three unique components of harvesting.  Modern combines reap (cutting the grain crop), thresh (remove the grain chaff from the straw) and winnow (separate grain from the chaff). 

Mature Rye

Modern Combine

1947 Grain Cleaner
Lonesome Stone Milling purchased this 1947 seed cleaner at a farm auction in 2009, beginning a small business of clean seeds for local farmers.  Historically farmers would save seed from each crop for the next planting.  The grain cleaner does the final cleaning and preparation of that seed for planing.

In the far past grain was ground at mills typically located where there was running water.  The moving water would turn a water wheel which through a series of gears, shafts and pulleys would turn the mill stones.  Seeds were feed between the stones and finely ground seeds, now 'flour' was produced. As in many industries, water power was replaced by electrical power. Lonestone Stone Milling purchased their own electric mill in 2010 to meet the demand of using locally produced grains for flour, cereal and mix production.  The producing farmer's name is printed on each bag.  How cool is that?

Bottom Millstone
Grain Mill

 Small business has always been a defining character and value of the U.S. economy. The challenge is always scale.  Small businesses compete with very large corporate organizations.  Large companies push prices down, competing with each other.  The small business faces the challenge of producing products more unique than those of mass production or simply producing much better products.  In our searches we look for real people starting and running small businesses, people with character and a commitment to what's good for not just them but their customers.

This Sunday we're looking forward to  Lonesome Stone Milling Blue Corn & Rye pancakes for breakfast...and perhaps lunch and dinner.

Taco Search...Payne Avenue...St. Paul

Bymore Taqueria
The bad news.....then the good news

Another long day at work, so an evening sojourn in search of food (that we didn't make ourselves). 

Ah, we thought, the taco truck across from Johnson High School in St. Paul.  Excellent quesadillas, terrific tacos.  Okay, that will work.  NOT!


An empty parking lot.   Two sad faces.  What to do?????

Well, we're already in St. Paul. There are other Mexican food options in St. Paul.   Let's not despair just yet.

As we continued down Arcade, we thought "well, maybe Los Ocampo".  But we'd been there recently and another option might be nice.

But, the clock was ticking.  Already after 8 p.m.   How dangerously should we live?

Okay, let's try it. 

YES, YES, YES....Abierto the blinking sign in the window said.   YES, YES, YES.  Taqueria Marquez was OPEN.   Whoopee!

This little family run place (across from the Bymore Market on Payne Avenue, near Ward 6) is a dependable choice.  We were not disappointed.

John had the chiliquiles, topped with pastor (pork) and a delicious verde salsa.   I had Huevos Rancheros.   Excellent choices on our part.

The chiliquiles were absolutely, totally delish!   Great texture, great flavor....and a portion so big that John couldn't finish it.  The huevos...well, just yum.  Two eggs topped with tons of veggies in a not overpowering sauce, with rice and beans.  Great flavor and pretty to look at, too.   All reasonably priced and prepared by the owner.

We love little family-owned restaurants with great food.  Taqueria Marquez is one of them!