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.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Giliberto's in Blaine ... A Game-Changer

giliberto's in blaine Giliberto's in Blaine is a 'taco search' Game-Changer!!

Thanks to a friend of Marianne's Kitchen...John G...who clued us in about Giliberto's in Blaine (near the soccer fields).

Giliberto's Take-Aways

  • Fantastic
  • Huge portions (sorry John...we slipped up didn't follow your advice...ordering 2 items we had enough food for 4 people!  )
  • Friendly staff
  • Many, many choices
  • Lots of interesting condiments and sauces
  • Great Food!

giliberto's in blaine

Giliberto's ... Details from a late-night visit

giliberto's in blaine Once we heard about Giliberto's, we just had to get there.   We're always eating at odd hours...always.  If we're going out, we say...'gee, what's still open'.  Usually a fast food drive-thru.

Not anymore!  Giliberto's is open 24x7, you can dine in AND they have a drive-thru window.

giliberto's in blaine

Giliberto's opened about 4 months ago in Blaine.  This is their seventh location.....but the others are in places like SoDak or Wilmar.  Blaine is a lot more convenient!

Giliberto's Menu

The menu is extensive...with many meat choices, breakfast options (yes, even huevos rancheros), burritos, tacos, quesadillas.....many, many menu choices.

giliberto's in blaine burrito platter We started with the '2 smaller burrito' platter (so, with rice and beans).   Ha, we knew we were in trouble when that showed up.  Yes, a small burrito is not as big as the 'baby thigh' size at Chipotle, but it's a good sized burrito--certainly one is enough for a meal.  We should have followed John G's advice and just shared this one menu choice.   We ordered a green chile pork burrito and a carnitas burrito.  We never even got to the carnitas burrito (we think one of our grandchildren has already eaten it...we dropped off some of the 'extras' at their house on the way home).    The
giliberto's in blaine
green chile pork burrito was excellent....spicy, meaty, wrapped in a fabulous tortilla.   The rice and beans on the platter were also excellent---and in such a huge portion that half of that went in the to-go box, too.  A whole large meal as a 'leftover' after 2 of us tried to tackle the other 'half'.

We also chose a marinated chicken quesadilla
giliberto's in blaine quesadilla
This was messy----and nobody cared!   This was the most delicious marinated chicken I can remember at any Mexican restaurant anywhere.   And the tortilla
giliberto's in blaine quesadilla
was beautifully thin, and grilled to a crispy edge with those delightful brown marks - as you'd expect on a well-grilled quesadilla.  It was joined on the overflowing plate with HUGE sides of guac, sour cream, and nicely chopped ripe tomatoes.   There were so many goodies, that the condiment bar seemed almost unnecessary.....but that didn't stop us.

giliberto's in blaine The condiment bar could be a meal.  I love, love, loved the pickled carrots...just the right texture.   The cabbage was salty and delicious.  The pico (heavy on the onion) was fresh and addicting.  Four sauces...I'll call them 'hot red', 'hot orange with bits', 'green', and 'creamy green'....a range of flavors and textures.  My favorite was the hot orange with bits....a little bit thin, with tiny veggie pieces, and great 'warmth', followed by the 'green'.  John's favorite was the 'creamy green', followed by the 'green'.  

giliberto's in blaine Everything was so flavorful that you hardly needed any sauces.  I reserved them for accompanying the crispy edges of the tortilla from the quesadilla, and for that first bite of burrito where there's a lot of tortilla in proportion to ingredients.   Those also serve as a good neutral backdrop so you get the complete flavor of the sauce.

Giliberto's also has a variety of bottled sauces if the selection on the condiment bar isn't big enough for your appetite!

giliberto's in blaine John G was absolutely right.  This place is fantastic and the portions are enough to feed your whole family with just a couple of selections.  It will take you many visits to work your way through the whole menu.   But based on how many people were eating in and taking out after 8 p.m. on a Friday night, we'd suggest you start your journey soon.  We think the place will be packed once everyone finds out about it.     So get there now before the lines start to form!

Location:  Google Maps

Up Coffee ... A Weekday Favorite Delivers!!

Up Coffee: Our Lunch Reward
up coffee minneapolis mariannes kitchen

We've been working really hard lately.  John has worked on the barn, dug sumps as the climate crisis dumps more and more rain per rain event, and generally tried to get things ready for the first snowfall.   I've had canning, baking, catering, and packaging (endless, endless packaging), products for all the various retail outlets that want goodies every week or so.

So after today's 'early' deliveries...we finished by 1:30 or was time to stop, breathe, have some lunch.

UP Coffee is one of John's favorite we headed from Annona Gourmet over the hill and down to UP.

This was an excellent plan.

up coffee minneapolis mariannes kitchen

What a wonderful lunch....including a really creative sandwich and two excellent salads.

Up Coffee:  Our Food

up coffee minneapolis fall sammie mariannes kitchenI went for the Fall Sammie....roasted squash, greens, tomatoes, creamy sauce (sorry, I was so busy enjoying it that I forgot to read the description) on nicely toasted bread.   I opted for the 'side' of salad...oh my, my...that could have been a whole meal.  Beautiful greens with the fruit and nut mix (cranberries, golden raisins, currants, walnuts....just so yummy) with red onion and
delicately sliced tomatoes...with just the right amount of balsamic.   I made my way through 1/2 of
the sandwich (with John's help) and 1/2 of the salad before filling a to-go box with another meal the same size.

up coffee minneapolis spicy thai peanut salad mariannes kitchen John had the fantastic, Spicy Thai Peanut Salad.   Fresh greens, cabbage, orzo, crispy noodles dressed with spicy was so big we both thought it would overflow the bowl.  I had a few bites to 'help' him clean his plate.

Of course John saved room for a cookie (I frankly had a little trouble looking at one more cookie today....and the rest of the holiday season looms in front of me).  He selected the Reese's peanut butter chip cookie.  I took a little piece 'just to taste' 😊   It was thick, with a nice soft middle and crispy edge...that cookie could have been a meal, too.

We had an UP and down history with UP.  Our first visit...years ago...was disappointing.   But we always try to make multiple visits because everyone has a bad day now and then.   Today was the best day ever, but we've had delicious quiche, sage pesto sandwiches, things with onion jam, great baked goods with interesting streusels or loaded with fruit or moist and satisfying with a cup of their great coffee. 

up coffee minneapolis fall sammie mariannes kitchenBut my sandwich and our salads hit a new peak.   A veggie sandwich outside the box--enthusiastically welcomed by my taste buds.   Two salads that each had their own character, but were also equally interesting, fresh, and delish.

up coffee minneapolis mariannes kitchenWe like UP because they don't have extensive equipment (like Marianne's) so are doing a lot more than you'd think possible with the available equipment.  That's why we like the CoffeeShop NE, too.....using their bare bones equipment to make really tasty items....that are creative and stretch the possibilities of what you can make without a grease hood and deep fryer.  That was always our goal at Marianne's.....use our measly
up coffee minneapolis spicy thai peanut salad mariannes kitchen
equipment to go way outside the bounds of what a franchised place would do with the same equipment.

UP Coffee excelled today at creating a lunch that was outstanding.   Kudos!

Twitter:     @UPCoffeeRoaster
Location:   Google Maps

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Hope Breakfast Bar

hope breakfast bar st. paul exteriorWe finally made it to Hope Breakfast Bar

After several tries, we finally made it!   Hope Breakfast Bar on a late Sunday afternoon.  No crowd, able to park (well, on the 3rd try) right in front.  Time to give it a try.

The Hope Breakfast Bar's mission: 

Bringing people together for the most important meal, no matter what time of day...starting your day with optimism

Ambiance of Hope Breakfast Bar

hope breakfast bar st. paul exteriorGreat atmosphere, with tall firehouse ceilings, painted black.   Gold vases on each table, adorned with fern tableware, too.  Egg-shaped salt and pepper shakers seem appropriate for a breakfast place, standing in a tidy holder.

hope breakfast bar st. paul Attentive service right away...but disappointment within minutes.   John wanted a Pink Raspberry Passion Lemonade , but they were totally out of lemonade, so he settled for water.

The lack of lemonade was only a slight letdown but John was whiny and made it into a really big disappointment.  Whatever.  Everything else was excellent.

Our choices at Hope Breakfast Bar

hope breakfast bar st. paul cheesy gritsWe ordered the Cheesy Grits as a starter.   They were delish...creamy, not grainy, with plenty of cheese.   My drip coffee was also my side of the table was a winner....wonderful grits accompanied by full-bodied, flavorful coffee, without a hint of bitterness. 
hope breakfast bar st. paul
It was served in a deep cup with an interesting decorative edge....a very enjoyable coffee, including refills.

Many intriguing choices on the menu, so we just needed to pick our starting place today.     A salad and an egg dish were our first test of the food.   How did they do?

hope breakfast bar st. paul brunch salad The Brunch Salad was terrific.   One of our favorite meals a few years ago was at the Fig Cafe in California.  Everything there was California fresh and wonderfully composed.   This salad could have easily been presented to us there.   Mixed, greens, brown rice, lightly 'pickled' sweet peppers and red onion....chopped in thin and interesting
hope breakfast bar st. paul brunch salad
fashion...both colorful and delightful in texture, and, for once, adequate amounts of quinoa throughout.   Nothing is worse that ordering a salad that should have quinoa or wild rice or farro...only to have to search to find the 3 or 4 bits of grain that you're looking for.   Here, the balance was perfect, the slicing was beautiful, the flavor was light and not overdressed.....served in a beautiful deep white bowl that made it easy to fill your fork with your desired selection of ingredients for each bite.   Simply wonderful.

hope breakfast bar st. paul farm grazer John chose the The Farm Grazer.    This hearty bowl of ingredients was overflowing with perfectly prepared heirloom fingerlings....all blue, red, some that looked like LaRatte...not sure...but absolutely perfectly prepared.   There was 'crisped' spinach....John didn't quite like the had been crisped but now was somewhat more 'wilty' in texture.  I thought it was a good texture contrast to the potatoes and egg.   John had
hope breakfast bar st. paul farm grazer
expected over-easy eggs, but they arrived a bit too browned and clearly over-medium.   John said he would have enjoyed a few more root veggies in proportion to the number of potatoes.   I'll have to agree that a few more veggies would have added color, texture, and flavor.   We found the root veggie part a bit overcooked.    But I thoroughly enjoyed the wonderfully prepared fingerlings...I made sure to have one of each color!!

Overall Impression of Hope Breakfast Bar

Overall, we would describe our meal as excellent.   The Cheesy Grits were on par with the grits at Breaking Bread in North Minneapolis (which unfortunately least temporarily in July----we'll watch to see when/if they re-open).  So if you
hope breakfast bar st. paul
want excellent cheesy grits, Hope Breakfast Bar is your best best right now.  The Brunch Salad was fantastic...among the best salads I've ever eaten.   The Farm Grazer was excellent in fell just a bit short in execution.   A better root veggie/potato ratio would make it more desirable, matching the over-easy eggs to what is listed in the menu is necessary, and the root veggies should be cooked as appropriately as the potatoes...they were just a little beyond what was acceptable in texture.

But we'd say, give Hope Breakfast Bar a try.  John had the disappointments of the day, with no lemonade and an unbalanced dish....that needs a bit of tweaking.  I was the winner, with full-bodied delicious hot coffee, a truly wonderful salad that was easy on the eyes and wonderful on the taste buds, plus my share of the well-prepared cheesy grits.   My only challenge was parking the car (plus watching the 'parking enforcement' officer out the front window...trying to figure out if we were, for sure, in a legal parking zone).  Thankfully we were, because having to get out of that parking spot and squeeze into another spot would have been a definite downer to my dining experience).  Fortunately he checked some cars and moved along.

Our server was excellent and we shared a few stories at closing time that made the experience even more memorable.   An excellent meal all around.

hope breakfast bar st. paul
Location:  Google Maps 

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

All Taco on Central ... Great Lunch

All Taco on Central in Columbia Heights

While shopping at Annona Gourmet in St. Anthony Village, Jean the owner asked "Where are you going for lunch?"  John's standard response is "Somewhere with good tacos."  Jean recommended the All Taco truck on Central in Columbia Heights in the AutoZone parking lot.  

The little yellow All Taco truck lunch was great.

Our Lunch at All Taco

Our lunch was available in less than five minutes and reasonably priced at $9 for the burrito and $2.50 each for the tacos.

Carnitas Burrito

The carnitas burrito was the highlight.  Often large burritos end up with ingredients localized within the tortilla.  The carnitas, corn, lettuce, beans and sour cream were well proportioned throughout the flavorful tortilla.  Two salsas accompanied the burrito along with one roasted pepper that was delicious, combing wonderful roasted pepper flavor with a memorable level of heat.  We considered the burrito a value at $9, and even when shared was filling.

 Two Tacos:  Marinated Pork & Chicken

The marinated pork taco and the chicken taco were well constructed and flavorful, with the pork taco being our favorite.  The tacos were accompanied with radishes, lime and a rich and flavorful red salsa.   The roasted pepper made the chicken taco come alive.

 If you are in the neighborhood do give All Taco a try...they also have quesadillas and bowls.

Location:  Google Maps - AutoZone Parking Lot

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Kale and Veggie Dinner from Costa Farms CSA Box

Costa Farms CSA Box becomes Kale & Veggie Dinner

A quick & tasty veggie meal using lots of kale from this week’s CSA box.....

Kale pesto with fresh lemon juice, toasted almonds, Parmesan, garlic, evoo, & a grind or two of black pepper...used to coat some ditalini... and then topped with fresh veggies sautéed in a bit of oil and finished with a splash of tasty balsamic.

The balsamic in the veggies contrasted with the rich, cheesy creaminess of the kale pesto for a great overall balance....satisfying, but not too ‘heavy’.

Sauteing some fresh veggies...some of the kale, red onion, green beans, green pepper...and a little pasta water to make sure the kale becomes tender.....

A splash of balsamic for a little sweetness, a little tartness....

Ditalini in the colander....

kale pesto in the food processor....very creamy, with lots of kale flavor

Pasta and pesto meeting one another.....

The balsamic gives the veggies a nice color and fragrant aroma....     

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Due Focacceria on Fairview...awkward

The New 'Due Focacceria' on Fairview

Due Focacceria exterior

Had to check out the new Due the previous Neighborhood Coffeeshop across from the Caribou that put it out of business, on Fairview near St. Catherine's. (I do hold a grudge against Caribou for their corporate strategy of locating across from locally owned coffee shops in order to put them out of business...way too many great places are gone because of it).

Intriguing reviews on Yelp, obtuse thing to do is show up in person at Due Focacceria and figure out what it's all about.

Due Focacceria Ambience

Exterior: The exterior is an improvement over the previous coffee shop look, which became a bit shabby over time....more of a clean, sleek look.  The parking lot is just as awful as ever...but we persisted and parked near a planter of grasses.

Interior: The interior could be described as unfinished industrial or roughened Italian or '20th century trying to be 21st century modern meets 200 year old building' look.   Eclectic combo of sleek and roughly finished to look unfinished...that's the best I can do to bring you into the space.

Seating: The seating seems inadequate/non-functional.  The whole food prep side of the building had tabletop along all the windows not comfortable for any more than 2 people together since there was no way to converse.  It seems like there was adequate space for cafe tables that might have served diners in a more comfortable way.  

In the booze and espresso room there were a couple of counter height long tables...that would have worked for a larger group...but were partially filled by groups of 2-3 people.  There was also a long bench with 2 cafe tables, but no chairs...where it appeared that you might wait for your espresso.   We found it an odd configuration of seating arrangements.  There are about 30 seats (the same as Marianne's) but we found none of the options very welcoming.  Awkward.

No WaitStaff at Due Focacceria:  The staff is a terminal

Placing your order at Due Focacceria
Ordering is Painful're really on your own at a screen...and don't be slow because if your credit card isn't ready when you've completed your order, your entire order will disappear and you'll have to start again.  We'd recommend having your card in hand when you begin entering your order.  No cash or human contact.

What we ordered at Due Focacceriea...

As always, we tried to select from 2 different menu categories, so we chose a focaccia and a salad.   Since sorrel isn't yet a very common ingredient on many local menus (and since I just created a kale pesto recently), we opted for the sorrel pesto focaccia.....essentially with a base of sorrel pesto as the bottom layer of the sandwich.   The pesto was topped with prosciutto and sorrel leaves.    We chose the caponata salad with farro, greens, and perfectly-made veggies (eggplant, celery and carrots--all perfectly tender with a hint of celery crispness).

Immediate Reaction to Due Focacceria...

Within a few minutes of being there, I announced to John that Due Focacceria was not a very welcoming place.  Is that too strong?   Maybe...I'll mull my initial response over the next few days.  John responded with "That's pretty harsh...but I've found nothing to like."

First, the seating was unappealing.....there were a few people in the restaurant, but with even those few, the seating options were....non-existent.   We ended up along the window in the 'single' seats.  Okay for two of us...glad we didn't bring anyone else along for conversation.

Then there was the ordering.  If it's dark outside
Due Focacceria Interior
and you want the customers to do the McDonald's kiosk routine, give us some light.   You're trying to read the small menu in poor lighting, then key into the screen...then it tells you to swipe your card....except in the dark, you can't see the dark-colored card reader--kind of a shot in the dark approach.   If you want a drink or a receipt to show that you really did manage to order, you have to go to the drink counter and tell the person you're waiting for your receipt.  Awkward.   If you want to order alcohol, you do this at the same counter, although there are people sitting at the counter having conversations......  Again, awkward.

So on the second try, I managed to get the order in, swipe our card in the dark, and get a receipt (the girl's team won this round!!).   John had given up....he ordered, then tried to get his cc from his the meantime, our whole order disappeared because he 'timed out' on the screen.   He was now an unhappy camper (John: "I was ready to walk after the terminal ordering labyrinth...and I'm quite techie!").

We retreated to our seats (John: "Weird seats.") and grabbed some water from the cute 'outside
Due Focacceria water station
faucet'...the kind you use to attach your garden hose to the outside of your house.  It was a rustic touch.....but turning the handle on and off for each glass was, well, awkward as well.   The glass glasses were so small, that people were all taking larger disposable glasses for their indoor dining...which seemed a little wasteful when providing slightly larger re-usable glasses would have been an easy fix.

What we tried to drink at Due Focacceria...

We had ordered a chai, so were hoping it would appear immediately since it was such a windy, chilly evening.  Not only didn't it arrive right never arrived.   

I looked at the food 'pick up' counter...where a woman was grabbing her food while running her sleeves through everyone else's food that had yet to be picked up.  Not there.  I finally went to see if there was a 'drink pick-up' counter, too.  Nope.  But the guy who had handed me my receipt said 'oh, I didn't see your ticket....I'll make it right away'.   After a couple of minutes I went back and then he said he'd bring it to our table when it when it was ready.  

A few minutes later a young woman 'awkwardly' brought it to the table....hardly able to keep the chai in the cup...and then didn't really know how to give it to us--she looked really uncomfortable and expressed her indecision in how to deliver the filled to the top cup...because we were sitting along the window, facing away from her....where exactly would you place the cup and saucer?   I turned and gently took it from her hands (in my best Marianne's Kitchen balancing style)...for which she seemed grateful.   The problem now....if I returned for another meal...where DO you pick up a drink?  I have no idea.

The 'awkward' food pick-up stand at Due Focacceria...

Similarly, after a few more minutes, I looked for our food at the 'pick-up' stand.  There were many food items there....all chillin' and waiting for someone to give them some attention.   But, there were 2
Due Focacceria food pickup location
Where you pick up your food...
customers standing in the way...the guy with the sweater with his arm on the counter where the food was sitting...ewwwwww, so no real way to see what food was there waiting.   (This is the location of a second ordering kiosk...which you could not have used, because these two were standing in front of the kiosk for ten minutes waiting for their order, with the guy leaning on the food counter).  You had to be able to read the ticket to see whose food it was....again, not an easy feat...since the plates and tickets were inaccessible past this guy.   Luckily, our food came up just then and a young woman who tried so hard to be helpful all evening grabbed it and brought it over to our seats.  Again, I took the salad dish from her hand and turned to put it on the 'table' and grabbed the sandwich which was partially wrapped, but with no plate.  She offered to grab a plate for us, which we gratefully accepted.

Due Focacceria: Finally...the food

The food:   our conclusion is that the ingredients were high quality, and the person at the 'sandwich station' or 'salad station' who seemed to be prepping the food was doing a very careful, diligent job (there were 4 other people at a back counter ....they seemed to be putting food in plastic containers which were later dumped into bins at the front station that was manned by just the one person.  Their exact roles were fairly unclear to us).   

Focacceria Due Focacceria
The sandwich was tidy....although there were almost no ingredients in the first third of the really not all that large sandwich.   Once John removed 1/3 of the foccacia, the rest of the sandwich was tasty, with really good prosciutto...but not much else that stood out in a flavor profile.  The sorrel was there...but in appearance only.  The foccacia itself was quite good....the right thickness, with a chewy texture.   It was a serviceable sandwich...but somewhat expensive for the amount of ingredients....$14 for what we'd call an average sized sandwich, somewhat under-filled.

The salad was tasty, although unevenly dressed. 
Due Focacceria Farro Salad
Farro Salad $10
  The farro was perfectly cooked, as were the veggies.   But the bites varied in flavor quite a bit.   The serving size was adequate...but many people would walk away hungry if they didn't add dessert to their salad lunch....and it certainly wouldn't be a dinner course, even though the price is $10.  It was a fine salad...not an outstanding salad and not a great value.

We returned the chai at Due Focacceria...

The chai was,well, returned to the maker.   It was bitter and watery.....and we found it undrinkable.  The person who carried it out to us asked us to describe what we found unpleasant, and then explained that they steeped their tea for 4-6 hours.   John and I both expected a rich, aromatic drink...and that isn't what this drink was.   The barista thought he might have improved it if he had steamed the milk a bit longer...but he had already forgotten to make the perhaps the pressure was on.   They did cheerfully exchange it for a cold brew to we took our drink for the road.

Observing the staff, the kitchen, food handling, health codes, operations, etc.

We always observe the kitchen, health code, organization and staff on our restaurant visits.   We came to the conclusion that our description tonight would be 'slow motion confusion'.   There were people in street clothes with backpacks walking through the kitchen and grabbing drinks or standing and talking to later appearing as staff...a bit-um, awkward?  The people working all seemed a little dazed.  Everything was just like molasses......sort of a slow motion flow that wouldn't end up in disaster if you, as the customer, paid attention and were diligent in finding your order in the various places it might show up. 

Many, many employees...maybe 7 or 8...for about a dozen customers.   On a busy night, this could have turned into massive disaster.   No one appeared to be in charge of how things flowed....the one person doing final food prep would set the food on the 'pick-up' station...usually with an accompanying ticket to identify it.   Then it just sort of sat there.   No apparent order....should the customer pick it up, is someone going to bring it out to a table......again, awkward.

Due Focacceria: Overall Rating

We'd rate our experience for the evening about a 3 or 4 on a 10 point scale.  John might say that was too high.  Ordering was painful, seating was odd, the chai didn't appear even after 2 inquiries....and when it arrived, it just wasn't a very good chai.   The food appeared at our table due to the diligence of one person...she was the best asset they have.   The sandwich was good quality, but missing ingredients on one third of the focaccia...unacceptable for $14.   The salad was tasty and the woman prepping worked hard to stack it into a nice pyramid on the plate..but it was uneven in taste and a little light on value at $10.   

Everything just seemed like slow motion confusion.

The best word we could find to describe the Due Focacceria experience overall:  awkward.

Location:       Google Maps
Social Media: Facebook

Due Focacceria Menu