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, December 30, 2017

12/24/2017 Cook, Payne Avenue, St. Paul

We were meeting Anne for breakfast and decided on Cook St. Paul on Payne Avenue.   Here, we lucked out on timing, too.  We entered and immediately were able to choose among 4 empty tables.   Within 5 minutes, the place filled with people.

Now John and I don't have a good history with Cook.  On our last visit a year or so ago, we waited for what seemed like eternity to get our breakfasts.  When they arrived, mine was dried out and cold and John's---well, we attempted several times to chisel through the cheese that was burnt/broiled/microwaved? onto the side of the bowl so that we could reach the rest of the 'food', but were unable to do so (and trust me, we carry tools for eating....we really, really tried to break through this cheese 'cement').   On that visit, unfortunately, we returned the food to a somewhat rude server and left hungry.   That was a very poor expe

rience, especially given the somewhat glowing reviews that the place has received from local food writers.

But we always try to give food places multiple tries.  Having been in the 'food biz' for 7 years (and Anne a lot longer) we know that some days just don't work out in terms of the customer experience that you want to provide.

So, here we go on 'Try 2' for Cook.

Since it was late morning and you could order breakfast or lunch, we started with the appetizer Korean fries to share.  

Hmmmmm.....there just seems to be some lack of 'customer-view' in some of the serving style here.   The fries were topped with serrano peppers, sour cream, kimchi, scallions, and cheese sauce.   OK---so I expected a plate of fries topped with the rest of the goodies.  I didn't expect them in a basket just like the ones we used to serve sandwiches, lined with a piece of paper.   The kimchi and cheesy sauce had combined to make a half inch deep 'lake' barely held in by the paper basket liner.  The effect was unappetizing,  and 'soggified' what might have been good fries.   To make things worse, the server handed us 2 plates from which to eat this.  But there were 3 of us.....I guess one of us was supposed to eat from the basket.  Well, make that 2 of us because one of the plates was covered with someone else's leftover food.

Between the soggy 'lake' and the overwhelming (really overwhelming) number of rings of serrano peppers, the dish became quickly 'unapproachable'.  If it had been served in a more appealing way, with a reasonable number of chiles, it would have been quite a serviceable appetizer.   But promise and presentation were the model for inconsistency here.

Update:  we looked on-line at photos of the presentation of this dish at Cook.   It is normally served on a plate.   I guess they were out of both plates to hold the appetizer and plates for customers to dine from on this particular morning.  Really, out of plates.....or just didn't feel like having to wash plates on this day???

Anne has an extensive repetoire in 'Mexican American' foods, so decided to check out the Korean spin on the breakfast nachos.  Served on a base of Koritos (like Korean doritos????), these are topped with cheese sauce, guajillo peppers, pinto beans, cheddar, serrano chiles, scrambled eggs, scallions, and cilantro.  Here, the role of consistency, not really in a good way, came into play again.  So you are serving a big batch of Korean spiced nacho chips with beans and cheese sauce and more....and the vessel you choose for presentation to your customers is a sandwich basket lined with paper.   Combine that with the 'consistency' of ingredients between the two dishes we've seen so far, and you begin to wonder if there is any 'stretch' in this restaurant's range with regard to Korean food.   Frankly, we had some difficulty distinguishing the taste differences between the appetizer fries and the breakfast nachos (except for the scrambled egg on the nachos).  The flavor screamed 2 things:   a Korean sauce and overwhelming serrano peppers.   And the other common denominator:   foods that should have been on a plate shoved into a too-small paper-lined basket.

Update:   Yup, we looked on line and this dish is also normally served in a large bowl, with the 'sides' served in little stainless steel portion cups.   But not on the day of our visit.  Again, did they just NOT want to wash any dishes?????

Many restaurants currently seem to offer the 'flavor' of hot peppers.  Overwhelming heat without some accompanying interesting flavor profile is just...uninteresting.  And the presentation on both of these dishes was 'off-putting' at the very least.  Anne almost missed some of the ingredients because they were buried in the bottom of the basket stuck on the paper.....she said she would have enjoyed the dish a lot more if she had found these before she was essentially finished with the dish.   Disappointing.  And I like serrano peppers....but nobody needs that many serranos.

John chose the Bi Bim Bop...a Korean fried sesame rice ball with several banchan (accompaniments) with a poached egg and short rib (a good chance to contrast the short rib with what was served at Augustine's in the short rib taco).  The best way to eat this is to  pair a bite of the rice ball with one of the accompaniments because the rice ball itself is relatively flavorless (the sesame didn't really come through here).  I sampled the accompaniments and liked one with a red pepper sauce on veggies.  There were also:  a Korean pickle, a pickled slaw similar to what you'd find on a Banh Mi, bean sprouts & the short rib cubes.  None of these stood out in flavor or texture contrast.   I had 1 short rib was fatty and cold.  John described them as cold and tough.  Also, if you look at the photo from their website, John's quantity of accompaniments was far, far smaller than represented in the photo.  Overall, John rated this a  'meh'.

Finally, I chose the Mac and Chi (as in macaroni and Kimchi).  I imagined the kimchi livening up the somewhat heavy consistency of the mac and cheese.  The kimchi is 'butter-fried' and it's cheddar on cavatappi.   Oops...did I get the kid's meal mac and cheese?    Cavatappi means corkscrew... a noodle  with many twists and turns in it....the kind that hold the sauce for your enjoyment.    My bowl had flimsy elbow macaroni (that's what they serve for the kid's meal) with some, at least, chopped kimchi.  The flavor of the cheddar noodles was good, but these certainly weren't cavatappi and the kimchi flavor was hard to detect.   The good part--both John and I received our food in actual bowls : )   I'd have to say that the noodle switch alone in this dish were grounds for disappointment.  Combine that with John's meal that didn't look any more like the picture than a Subway sandwich handed to you in the plastic bag looks like the subs overflowing with ingredients on their menu boards and ads, and I'd have to say.....their substance doesn't match their corporate food image & promise.

At Cook, I'd say the service was somewhat attentive (but disconnected) and the food was delivered much more quickly than on our last visit.  And, this time, we actually were able to taste the food.  But it seems like the attraction of Cook is supposed to be the Korean 'spin' on dishes....but the spin appears to be heavily tilted toward a Korean sauce and tons of least on this day.  Perhaps they were out of other foods as well, so just piled serranos on everything.   I believe that this could be so much more than what appeared on our table....both in terms of variety of flavors and presentation in something from which you can, well, actually eat.  

So I guess I don't know how to describe the 'consistency' here....inconsistent serving 'dishes'....nice bowls for the mac & chi and the Bi Bim Bop,  while the other items were served in less than optimal paper lined baskets that were too small to accommodate what filled them.  The consistency was that the Korean 'spin' was a sauce and serranos....and kimchi placed here and there to 'Koreanize' some American dishes.   Potential--yes; reached---I don't think so.

We'd give them an 'average at best' for service today (since we couldn't even get a plate from which to eat) and probably a C- for execution.  Again, the are consistently inconsistent.

Final update:  we emailed Cook St. Paul to describe our experience so that they were aware of the 'shortcomings'.   Since we've heard nothing from them, I guess the quality of our experience (really experiences) is unimportant to them.   Let me just say, if you spend $60 for breakfast for 3, you should at least be able to get a plate.  Cook St. Paul couldn't even do that.   Conclusion: your money....they don't care about your meal.

12/23/2017 Augustine, 1668 Selby AV, St. Paul

At this busy time of year, eating out sometimes begins to dominate what little free time we have.  So it was in the 2 days before Christmas.

I'll start by saying, the one good thing about Christmas Day falling on Monday meant that apparently almost no one was dining out on Saturday night.  I think we could have hit any one of many popular spots, found parking at the door, and been seated instantly.

Such was the case at Augustine's on Selby Avenue.

The concept of a bakery and bar had me imagining dunking croissants in a beer.....actually, not a very pleasing food image.  Luckily, there's some variety at Augustine's.

First off, I love the interior of the space.  Tons of windows, tall booths or tables with mismatched chairs, dark wood and tile floors, high ceilings, great light fixtures, plants dangling down into the booths.....what's not to love about this place?   It was dark out, so we saw cars going by and a quietness because there were only 2 other parties in the place on this Saturday night before Christmas.  But I can imagine it's a beautiful space in the morning, with sun streaming through the east windows and traffic humming by on Selby.  I'll have to experience that sometime soon (along with the pastries and coffee).

But tonight, it was a (somewhat) quick dinner, trying out a couple of the menu items to see what Augustine's had to offer.

The lack of business on this quiet night had upsides and downsides.  Instant seating, maybe not quite so instant service, and a chance to enjoy the atmosphere.....    But this lack of food turnover may have had some detrimental effects on a couple of the menu offerings.

We started with the harissa tomato soup.   Since harissa can be a fiery condiment, we inquired about the level of heat in the soup.  Our server said it was not very hot at all, but just a little heat at the end of the bite so you know you had some harissa.  We gave it a try.  The soup had some potential, but we fear that it had been on the burner too long.   It had an overcooked taste and any of the 'harissa heat/flavor' had cooked out of it earlier in the evening.  The croutons floating on top were flavorful.  The accompanying bread had good texture, but not much flavor to recommend it (disappointing in a bar/bakery).  There was a slight bitterness to the soup....all clues that it would have been better several hours before we arrived.

John decided to try a short rib taco as his first course.   Again, I think timing is everything, and the timing on this taco was sometime earlier in the evening.   The short rib was cold and the whole taco was a dripping mess.   It's hard when your plate gets so covered with liquid that there's no place left to set your taco without making the outside of the taco just as 'drippy' as the inside.   This one missed the mark---and at $6 for one taco, was disappointing.

So, we had a bit of trepidation as we waited for the main course that we planned to share.   Fortunately, the food tide changed for the better as this dish arrived.

We ordered the squash risotto with arugula and parmesan salad.   Excellent!!!!   The risotto was cheesy and still had a little 'tooth' in the grain.   The squash was cut into small dice, which was the perfect size for risotto.   But the absolute highlight (and John raved about it all the way home) was the arugula salad with parmesan that was perched atop this risotto.  The kitchen nicely divided the dish into two bowls for us, and each was beautifully adorned with arugula salad.   Neither of us could eat our 'half' order of risotto (it's waiting for us in the refrigerator for later) but there wasn't even a tiny shred of that glorious salad left in either of our bowls.  Nicely dressed, with good cheese....a perfect foil for the arugula.   Well done.

So, a pleasant visit marked by inconsistency in the quality of the food. 

Our conclusion, give Augustine's a try.   It's not cheap ($6 taco), but they are offering 25 tap beers, attractive pastries (I hope they taste good, too...we'll test that in the future) and a really pleasant dining environment.  We hope the inconsistency in our dining experience on this evening was due to the holiday 'slow-down'.  A future visit will help us figure it out.

Monday, December 25, 2017

12/21/2017 Eating At Home ... Curry on Rice

Ah, cooking at home.

I'm making a batch of cauliflower was one of our most popular 'soups' at Marianne's (really, a meal in a bowl).

But I NEVER had a bowl at Marianne's because it always sold out too soon.

So, tonight it's mine (well, I have to share with John). But I'm hiding half the rice for me because John has a weakness for anything served on rice, with rice, in the same room with rice.

Nope, tonight I'm getting both parts of the meal....heh heh heh heh heh ; )

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Smashburger...Tonight's Winner in the Burger (and salad) Wars 12/20/17

It's 7:20 on a Wednesday evening with much going on so we decide to step out for a quick bite.  The debate...actually the question is where to go.  Running through places that are quick with reasonably good food left is heading to Minneapolis or the SE metro and for that, time was lacking.

John's suggestion was to split a veggie omelette but that, too, left the destination in question.

OK, check the coupons.  The Groupon and Living Social options are also afar.  What about Smashburger who seems to be giving food away in light of the burger competition and in consideration of consumer's move away from burgers to more healthy fare.  That's also a good comment on what to name your business when you start a new one.  We knew that Marianne's was going to be a food adventure, an exploration of food from food afar.  Marianne's Burgers, Marianne's Pizza, Marianne's Sandwich & Soup were limiting.  We settled on Marianne's Kitchen.  Along with broad food exploration it's the place in everyone's home where people gravitate, to cook together, talk, laugh, open the recent new cookbook and explore and be friends.

There were no current Smashburger coupons but they do have very reasonable and regularly acceptable salads.  Visiting the HarMar location we decided to share a Classic Smash and an Original Cobb Salad.

The Cobb Salad, by default, comes with Ranch Dressing.  We need to talk about that.  It's been America's favorite dressing, not ours, since 1992 and has been around since the early 1950s.  Starting with a mayonnaise base it's components include buttermilk, onion, paprika, garlic, chives, black pepper, parsley, dill, mustard seed, yogurt and sour cream.  We should have ordered the salad with the dressing on the side.

Mixed greens with an egg...this is Linda's frequent request for a breakfast salad.  The bacon and goat cheese were present in limited quantity but flavorful.  A bit of grated cheddar seems to appear in every salad which in this case was topped with a fried egg.  Served in a large contemporary bowl of unique design it was plenty for two.

The salads have been inconsistent in the past.  The Spinach, Goat Cheese and Cucumber Salad has been known to arrive sans craisins.

Despite the table placards claim to a 'artisan bun' John thought it tasted of preservatives (very likely) although the effort to bring oat and other mixed grains to the table is appreciated.  Smashburger has been challenged to produce a non-pink burger.  Pink ground beef is not safe unless it's reached 160 degress.  Tonight it was just fine.  Our only complaint is that the burgers are served in a rectangular metal basket with minimalist tray liners and of course the real silverware that appeared when Smashburger opened has now been replaced by fastfood plastic knives and forks.

The bill for the salad, the burger and one coke came to about $16 which was very reasonable and tonight the young man taking our order was very pleasant and a positive representation of a company in a tough, tough competitive burger-war market.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Shore 96 12/18/17

A group of mountaineers from Colorado drove around Minnesota looking for it's highest peak (it's a large hill  on the North Shore which does not really stand out if you are used to the Rocky Mountains).  They never found Eagle Mountain.

Last summer two customers wandered into Marianne's Kitchen.  Looking a bit weary they said they'd been driving around for quite a while looking for downtown Shoreview.  There is no Downtown Shoreview.  The Shoreview Mall on the NE corner of Lexington and Highway 96, one of the older retail centers, is often thought to be 'downtown.'  On Monday, December 18th, downtow Shoreview was our destination for lunch at the Shore 96 restaurant/bar.

Featured on the lunch special menu were wraps, pork sliders, burgers and several pasta dishes.  We opted for the California burger which was correctly done (American ground beef that is pink is not safe to eat unless the internal temperature has reached 160 degrees) and appointed with a lettuce mix, finely sliced onions, pepperjack cheese and served on a nicely grilled bun.  The half-size portion chicken alfredo was just right for lunch and showed care in preparation and presentation.  Alfredo not served in an Italian restaurant can be a gamble.  Shore 96 did just fine today.  Each of our choices were about $8.50, very reasonable

The full menu is available at lunch.  The service was attentive and prompt.  The atmosphere is well-worn, like the mall, but certainly worth a visit.  It's close by.

Monday, December 18, 2017

La Alborada

Sunday, December 10, 2017

12/7/2017 Sunrise Cafe in Lino Lakes

Here we are at Orange Street & Lake Drive in Lino.
We've passed this place so many times---usually in the evening when they're closed. 

Today--breakfast time!!!!

This is another well-worn diner serving breakfast & lunch.
(Now eating this kind of food 2 days in a row will probably kill us--or at a minimum give us a head start on advanced fatty liver disease ( which is rampant across America)....but hey, you gotta take advantage of that OPEN sign).
We ordered the 2 eggs, pancakes & bacon and, to compare to Henry's, the loaded hash browns topped with cheese & eggs (a true death wish).

So, 1st let me say---this is the small town diner experience--probably even more than Henry's was yesterday.

Family-owned for more than 8 years by this family, the food was solid diner breakfast fare. And, you get to experience what our dear neighbor at the lake Ray fondly called 'pipey water' (we miss you Ray & Kathy). That's well water with a high iron content----red water. It was just like being up north.

We'll have to say, the food exceeded our expectations. The pancake was better than the neighborhood chain pancake place---tender, light, with good flavor. And, their cook knows how to make an egg--2 over easy & 2 over medium.
The highlight was the Italian sausage hash browns. The sausage had just the right amount of red pepper kick to brighten up what is usually a pretty heavy dish. Perfectly fried, lots of veggies & sausage...well done!!!

So, we'd say: venture up Lake Drive early enough in the day (they close at 2) to give the Sunrise Cafe a try. Another family making a living in America!


Saturday, December 9, 2017

12/8/2017 The Howe Daily Kitchen & Bar

 A great way to end the day

After a relatively sad food day Friday, with chunks of veggie skins in my food and bad coffee at a classic St. Paul restaurant, we set out for a late dinner somewhere....anywhere.

We started in St. Paul and then crossed the river to see if Minneapolis could bring us out of our food funk.  We landed on Minnehaha quite a few blocks south of Lake Street.  We passed The Howe Daily Kitchen & Bar.   John drove about a block more and we decided to circle the block and see if we could find a parking spot.  Yup, our decision had come down to 'where can we find a place to park'.

Not 1 but 2 parking places emerged.  Okay...decision made.

We wandered in and even though there was quite a full house, were seated immediately (I think the restaurant seating gods were on our side...a couple moved from a table to a booth they'd been waiting we lucked out and were seated at their table).

Instantly, glasses of water appeared at our table, along with food and drink menus - even though we were the geezers in the room (we'll say more about that in some future post--let's just say, at least geezers know how to use a fork and napkin ; o

Yes, a menu with some real non-bar food choices.   Even several tasty vegan options.   We selected an appetizer of two kinds of hummus with several kinds of veggies and pita bread.   Then we decided to split the Korean BBQ short rib made with short rib from the Herbivorous Butcher.  Then I threw in a small salad with honey mustard dressing to compensate for two days in a row of eating loaded hash browns (my liver applauded!).

The food arrived within just a couple of minutes.  Beautiful.

The hummus plate had hummus and curry hummus with veggies and pita arranged beautifully.  This was a great opener.  The small salad was standard baby greens, but they had clearly taken a giant red onion and sliced it into the finest tiny rings I've ever seen.  You could cut it into tiny pieces so that you could add just enough onion to each bite.  The honey mustard dressing was delightful.

John and I split the Korean BBQ short rib sandwich (and let me just say, split doesn't mean half and half!).  The bites I was able to acquire were fabulous.  (we were comparing to our disappointing visit to J Selby...they also use 'meat' from the Herbivorous Butcher...but their presentation was a hot mess (actually a lukewarm mess).  So this was a good comparison.   The 'meat' was tasty with great texture.  The chipotle sauce added just enough 'kick' to balance the sweetness of the slaw topping.   I'm always disappointed in the factory white bread buns (this one kinda disintegrated quickly, too) but the ingredients in the sandwich made it easy to overlook the flawed bun.   We included a side of fries.....coated for a nice crisp finish...tasty enough to make you eat a few too many.

This was a very positive way to finish the day.  Our server was efficient and we spent a few minutes talking about other food places...sharing recommendations.   She also asked us if we might be coming back in the future, and gave us a frequent diner card that gives a 5% discount most of the time and 10% on Thursday.   The Howe is in the restaurant group that includes Stanley's NE Party Room across from our regular favorite place---the Marina Grill and Deli on Lowry and University in Northeast (don't confuse this with the Big Marina Grill and Deli; that's another story).

So, did I enjoy our visit to The Howe......and how!!!

Friday, December 8, 2017

August 7, 2017 J. Selby's on Selby in St. Paul

We were finally able to get a table at J Selby @ 8 tonight.
They seem to still be struggling to have food. When they start by telling you they're out of 5 menu items (& they have 2 hours of service left), it's disappointing.
The facility is beautiful (when we had a retail store at Grand & Victoria, we often drove past this bldg which was poorly used for years). It's nice to see it's getting a new lease on life.
The food was average (hard to say that when there's not much to compare it to). But the fries were bad, my sandwich was a mess (& gee, it's a vegan place---could I get a whole slice of tomato?), John's spicy slaw was red cabbage with chipotle mayo & they left off 1/2 of his ingredients.
I get the sense that they are still having trouble prepping adequate amounts of food for their dinner service--so they left some stuff off our plates.
I think we'll try then earlier in the day next time - like maybe weekend breakfast - and report back on their progress.
They have big crowds. Hopefully that will bode well for their future.

August 17, 2017 El Burrito Mercado

Oh yeah---pupusa night at El Burrito Mercado; John has the huarache platter....time to dig in!!