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.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Pancheros in Arden Hills

Pancheros Arden Hills Exterior Pancheros is open in Arden Hills!

Snowy night....we'd thought we'd stop in and check out the new place in the neighborhood.

Our conclusion:   "So far, we like Pancheros!"

Pancheros has been open about 1 day...this might be Day 2.   Tonight there wasn't much of a crowd - we went late (after 8 p.m.) and it was snowing.   So we almost had the place to ourselves.

Pancheros Arden Hills This isn't any different from ordering at Chipotle, just a more limited selection of proteins (3 meats plus tofu) and a different array of salsa.  The available 'forms' are burrito, bowl, quesadilla, tacos.  You can get extra tortillas, additional portions of meat or guac or sour cream, etc for 50 cents to $1.25    Sides of chips, chips and guac, chips and know the rundown.

Pancheros Arden Hills Be's clear these folks are all new, so they're still working out the techniques for rolling a burrito and making an attractive bowl.  They were trying very, very hard...especially to place things in the bowl in an appetizing way.  Having observed, if you're in a hurry, grab the bowl....they were still struggling with filling and rolling the burritos...they took much longer than the bowls tonight.

Pancheros Arden Hills We decided to split a bowl (we had a great lunch at Brunson's today, so didn't need a big dinner).  Our choices tonight:  a smaller portion of rice, pintos, carnitas, veggies....more veggies(!),  cheese, corn salsa and the salsa verde (I couldn't get anyone to explain exactly what was in the salsa looked like green chiles and tomatillos...I'll check further on future visits).    I looked at the list...there's the verde which is medium heat; the tomatillo is dark colored/not green....and has about the highest heat level.   There's also pico, etc.

Pancheros Has Two Great Sauces: Greenade & Flavolcano

Pancheros Arden HillsIn addition to the choices on the line, there are two bottled sauces...Greenade or  Flavolcano.   The red volcano sauce (Flavolcano) is quite hotl---I had a few bites, then John tried it and coughed for a few minutes.  He lived! [John: "I liked it but it did overpower the other food flavors."]   If you don't like 'hot' skip this one.   I found it tasty after the heat subsided.  The Greenade was really, really good.   Jalapenos, tomatillos, habaneros and excellent assortment of goodies in the bottle (having tried to figure out what I was eating at Old Southern BBQ--they have unlabeled bottles--bad if you have any food allergies, I appreciate that the ingredients are on the sauce bottles at Pancheros).    
I'd would say both of these bottled sauces were tasty; I lean heavily toward the green---I found it delish!

Pancheros Bowl

Pancheros Arden HillsThe bowl itself:  we were disappointed that the temp of the meat, rice, and beans was, at best, lukewarm.   Having run a food biz for awhile, I'm pretty aware of safe food temps and am always suspicious of lukewarm  (our county food inspector had a name for lukewarm which, luckily escapes me right was not 'complimentary').   So I hope they work on their temps.  
The veggies looked a bit limp, but were really quite good--and we're glad we asked for extra---they were a tasty addition to the bowl.   John really enjoyed the roasted corn salsa.   I absolutely loved the salsa verde...very flavorful.  My only regret:  I should have asked for made the bowl better.

Pancheros: Much Better Than Chipotle

So, our initial reaction is that we like Pancheros.  We don't eat at Shoreview's rated among the worst Chipotle's in the Twin Cities and we've never had good experiences there.   
We're hoping that Pancheros can fill the gap for burritos and bowls that are tasty, fresh, and served attentively (read:  attractive, not 'slopped' [John: "I find the Chipotle big spoon heap/slop approach distatesful."]).   
Pancheros Arden Hills 
The tortillas looked good...we almost ordered one just to give 'em a try.   But we'll do that next a burrito and as a tortilla 'side'.   The sign says they're handmade, so each one, like a snowflake, is different.    We'll check that out and let you know.

Pancheros in Arden Hills --give 'em a try.

Pancheros Arden Hills


Monday, February 4, 2019

Poke House and Tea Bar

 In my quest for new retail/food space for sometime in the future, I've checked out quite a few buildings around the Twin Cities in recent months.   A month or so ago I saw construction going on in one of the spaces, so drove by recently to discover that a new eating place was opening....the Poke House and Tea Bar.   It's in a former bakery space on Randolph near Snelling.

Time to check it out.

Poke Bowls are the newest thing since sushi.   Here, you can get raw or cooked protein bowls...such as  salmon, tuna, yum yum shrimp and more fish and seafood poke bowls, plus a veggie option and a chicken option.   I have to be fairly careful in these places since I have a seafood allergy...but I specified that veggie was all I could have (John was having the chicken), so I rolled the dice.   They offer a number of milk teas, real fruit smoothies,  creamy slushies, and flavored teas.   In the main courses, you can get a poke bowl or a sushi burrito.

Poke House and Tea Bar - The Layout

Poke House and Tea Bar St. Paul Raymond Avenue
Poke House Seating
This is not a big was bigger when I looked at it, but they've added all of their equipment, coolers, ingredients stations and a counter in the front.   When it was the bakery, all the prep was done in the back, so there were bakery display cases and a counter, with quite a bit more room for seating.   So,
if you want to dine in, go when it's not busy...there are only 2 tables and a long window counter.  The good part...the window counter has heat running along the bottom on the windows, so not nearly as cold as everywhere else we've been this week!

Poke House - What we ate

There were only a couple of customers in the place, so we were able to order quickly and the food arrived in just a few minutes.  Since John was going for the Chicken Run bowl, I went with the veggie as a sushi burrito.   The bowl arrived with cubed chicken, shredded carrots, cucumbers, sesame seeds, shredded lettuce and 'spicy' mayo over a good sized quantity of sushi rice.  The veggie sushi burrito was sushi rice in a seaweed wrapper with carrots, sweet corn, greens, edamame, and a bit of avocado.   There was some soy sauce flavor in a few of the bites.

Let's dig in to the particulars of the meal.

First, we were surprised that the bowls and burritos were served in covered 7" microwave bowls.   The amount of waste generated is incredible!   For example, my burrito was wrapped in aluminum foil, then cut in half...the two halves were delivered to our table in the same covered microwave bowl---which was immaculate on the inside, so I brought it home to reuse it so I wouldn't feel such guilt before I recycled it.  I could see serving the bowl like this if it was a hot item that was steamy and had to handle the heat.   Not the case with a poke bowl.   I had a supply of these bowls at Marianne's for the purpose of sending hot chana or some other warm dish on a catering order or to go.   They hold in some heat, are pretty well sealed, and could be used to re-heat your lunch if you get to your destination and your lunch had to survive this week's MN weather.   But it just seems like overkill on the packaging for a poke bowl. 

The Food

Poke House and Tea Bar St. Paul Raymond Avenue Vegge Wrap
Veggie Wrap
Okay, enough about that.  Let's get to the food.   I thought my veggie sushi wrap was pretty good.  Now, if you haven't eaten a whole seaweed sheet, be aware that the aroma of the ocean is going to hit you before every bite.   I sometimes used seaweed products in some of the soups and stews at Marianne's....but I always used a relatively small quantity, julienned.....because this stuff does tend to make your aware of its presence in your food in a big way! 

Poke House Veggie Wrap

The burrito was well wrapped and not at all messy,
Poke House and Tea Bar St. Paul Raymond Avenue
with a nice layer of sushi rice throughout.  The seaweed made itself at home on the table....John, in his Norwegian way, surveyed the table trying to figure out the source of the 'aroma of the ocean' [John: "Sorry.  My Norwegian genes have not been on the ocean since 1911."].  Inside the layer of rice,the veggies were scattered about inside the wrap, so there was some variety in each bite.   The amount of edamame and corn was fine, but I would have enjoyed more carrot and more than the very thinly sliced avocado contained in the middle.   But, as a lunch, it would have been a fine option.   It was not quite enough for dinner.

Poke House Chicken Run Bowl

Poke House and Tea Bar St. Paul Raymond Avenue
Chicken Run Bowl
John had some disappointment with his Chicken Run Bowl.  A good layer of sushi rice covered the bottom of the bowl...but John thought there should have been a larger quantity of ingredients on top.  In the seven inch bowl, chicken cubes covered about half the surface of the rice.   There were 7-8 slices of cucumber, 2 tablespoons of shredded carrots, 1/3 cup of shredded lettuce (iceberg I think),  some sesame seeds, and was drizzled with the 'spicy' mayo.  He looked a bit distraught, so I traded dinners with him for a few minutes.  Here are what I believe were his sources of disappointment:   

The spicy mayo lacked spice.   Anne used to crank out a couple of versions of chipotle mayo, sriracha mayo, etc at Marianne's that were killer.   In fact, I described to a chef in a high quality restaurant kitchen how we made our chipotle mayo and he was shocked.   I listed the 8 or 10 ingredients--he was drooling by the end.  He said in their 'expensive' restaurant...they mixed some hot sauce from one jar into some mayo from another to make their version (they charged a lot more than we did, too).  The Poke House mayo really needed some kick...even the Norwegian in our dining duo wanted more heat[John: "Linda is being kind.  It was lame."].

Then there was the chicken.   Seven years of running a dining establishment means I've attended many, many, many food shows and have sampled everything available to restaurant kitchens.   Since the Poke House doesn't cook anything (well, except the rice), they're using prepared chicken.   I took the first bite and I'd bet a week's wages that it's Tyson frozen diced chicken.   The texture (or lack of it) always gives it away.  It's chicken that lost its texture in the barn of 1000s of six week chickens that have never seen the sun and have been cooped up together in a barn for their entire life, fed a diet designed to fatten them up on schedule for a mass slaughter at the end.   They've never run around, so things like muscle development just never happen.   The texture is that of a bird that never ran around and was fed a diet for quick growth--not developed poultry flavor.   There are other chicken products on the market available to restaurants, including some high quality chicken that is precooked.   Poke House would be well-served changing to something with a better taste and texture.   John came away hungry, feeling that there should be more ingredients in the bowl.  I would have liked more or two more 2 other veggies with different textures, for color and interest.

I wish that I could report on their more 'signature' the raw tuna poke bowl...but I rarely order any type of fish because of the oh so common cross-contamination with shellfish.  John isn't a big fish eater, so the chicken seemed like a good choice.  But I think I'd recommend the veggie over the chicken...or go for a more authentic fish or shrimp poke bowl which might be more satisfying.

Poke House Recommendation?

Our overall first impressions:   I love the way they've brightened up the space.   When it was a bakery, it was gold and orange and brown with fairly heavy light fixtures.   They've gone with a lot more white and some the space is nicely updated.  

I would recommend the Poke House for lunch.   For many people, the portions seem like they might not be adequate for dinner.  John was quite hungry when we arrived at finished off his poke with a slice of toast with organic pb and homemade jam.   Whatever! [John: "Whatever. Yes, I did have a PBJ...I also ate a few slices of cranberry salami."]

Poke House and Tea Bar Prices

I thought the prices were about what you'd expect compared to other interesting lunch places; John thought they were about $1 too high per item.   My burrito was $9, his chicken run bowl was around $10. [John: "My issue was that the portions were small. ]

Poke time

They seem to be off to a good start.  From looking at their reviews, most people find the portions to be adequate to good, complain that the sweet corn seems to be thawed out frozen corn, and say that the milk drinks aren't as good as those at competing places.   Next time I go, I'll try a smoothie or slushy and report back.   Others who've had the tuna, salmon, etc report that it's good and that the quantity of protein in their bowl is generous.    Beside the specialty drinks, there's a cooler with Coke, San Pellegrino water, Aquafina, and some there are less expensive drink choices available.

If you're in the market for a fun and interesting lunch, give the Poke House and Tea Bar a try.   There is parking behind the building, so don't despair if Randolph has no parking places available.  The owners are clearly trying very hard to make their new venture a success.   They're friendly and attentive.   I had a nice chat about the space and their efforts to 'lighten it up' and make it an inviting venue.   And, there were a couple of St. Paul Police officers I always check out the places the cops are eating!!!!