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.

Monday, April 29, 2019

The Coop---Every Community Needs One

The Coop south St. PaulThe Coop: Every Community Needs One!

Growing up in the 60s, there were lots of local places where you could get chicken, a simple burger, hot dogs, maybe ribs...with fries, coleslaw, and other assorted side items.  There were a few places to grab a Coney Island, each with a slight variation of what you found on top.    The Twin Cities weren't into Chicago dogs in those days and there weren't gourmet burgers either containing interesting mixture of ingredients or topped with hundreds of kinds of 'fixin's'.

Most of these places have gone to their final rest...replaced by 'newer concepts'.

The Coop south St. Paul But, then there's the Coop.   Going back to 1963, this place has written its own history.....and longevity.   And you need to make your annual pilgrimage to South St. Paul, both to experience the foods that were all treats for us in the '60s and the great personalities of the staff of the Coop.

The Coop Staff:  Fun & Efficient

The Coop south St. Paul We were greeted by Chelsea.....quick enough to play along (and maybe outsmart) John in his 'cleverness.'  She took our order with a big smile and bigger personality...all underplaying her superior abilities to skillfully deliver our orders flawlessly, with a great sense of humor...and the ability to 'one-up' each of John's 'one-ups'--the most most fun-loving approach.  What a gem she is.

Anna efficiently made order after order of fries, while switching places with Chelsea taking orders, and they each juggled an array of customers and items, eat-in, take-out, humor the 'difficult' ones (would that include John--not for me to judge!!!), and then teamed the delivery of food and utensils to our tables....all with the kind of cheerful demeanor that are so often missing in food establishments, but that add tremendously to the experience.
The Coop south St. Paul

The Coop south St. Paul We took a brief tour of the menu and went with two combo baskets.  John opted for the BBQ chicken sandwich with fries and selected slaw as his option.   I opted for a Coney, made their way, with fries and a Coke.  We grabbed a table near the window (this place is mostly take-out, so only a few tables inside), where we opted to skip playing the tic tac toe wooden game on the table in favor or perusing the magazine rack...which inspired me to
The Coop south St. Paul
think about new food spins.  The Reinhardt food service magazine was in the rack....looking pretty I decided to crack the spine and take a look.   It was page after colorful page of spins on traditional 'Mexican' food.  There were beef cheeks and new flavors of tortillas and page after page of drool-worthy photos.  So, in a few minutes, when our meals arrived, I was ready to chow down.

Bottom Line on The Coop Food:  Yeah!!

Giant baskets overflowing with fries...each with an 'entree' nestled in the basket.  Plus, John's had a portion cup of creamy slaw to fill out his basket space...which was generous, to say the least.

The Coop south St. Paul The fries (from a pretty standard frozen bag) were perfectly fried.  They arrived hot, very lightly salted (I watched Anna salt a couple of batches in a stainless tray)...crispy on the outside and hot and tender on the inside.   If you're going to eat 'old-style' fries (and they should probably exist only as part of an annual pilgrimage), these will fill the bill.  And, of course, the Coop has red squeeze bottles of ketchup, to use to fill any corner you can find in your overfilled basket, with a big puddle of ketchup that looks perfect against the backdrop of the black and white checked basket liner.

The Coop south St. Paul I loved my Coney.   The meat on top reminded me of things I ate in the last century...well, maybe a ways back in the last century.   The creamy textured 'sloppy joe' meat was just as I remember it...kind of a thick paste of ground meat that holds together (think of a loose meat sandwich that isn't 'loose'..but held together in a finely chopped meat 'slurry') crowning your chopped onion and mustard topped dog on a soft as a cloud hot dog bun.   Yup, a really fun Coney.

The Coop south St. PaulThe Coop south St. Paul John's BBQ chicken was a breaded fried chicken patty smeared with a slightly sweet BBQ sauce on a traditional burger bun.   He was skeptical.   But he was quickly convinced that this was also fun food (not 'fan food'--he worked at the DQ as a kid---what exactly is 'fan food' other than a marketing slogan for 3 week old chili????) with pretty darn good flavor...the flavors of our childhoods.  The piece of chicken was perfectly cooked, with great texture, just enough BBQ sauce to come through but not overpower, on a fresh bun that held together for the duration.  

The slaw was creamy and had a pretty traditional creamy slaw texture and flavor.

The Coop south St. Paul This was a really fun stop.   The staff made this 'an experience'....delightful, but grounded in traditional, great-quality service....finely honed over years as a family business, we think.   The food was a throw back to decades of menu items that used to be common but are now a little harder to find.  The prices are downright cheap (a $3 hamburger!).  The 'atmosphere' was perfect.
The Coop south St. Paul
And, thanks Chelsea for playing along...I'm sure you can 'make Renee remember John'  even after all these years (of never having met him).

The Coop in South St. Paul: Truly a memorable fun at it's best!


Directions:  Google Map 

Monday, April 22, 2019

Hagberg's Meats in Lake Elmo for Lunch and More

Thanks to the tip from S L Hodges, we have 'discovered' a new fun place for lunch.

Several times we've headed to Lake Elmo and turned on the 'main drag' to grab a cup of coffee and a quick bite at Lake Elmo Coffee.   Since we always turn, we missed a great place  just a little past the Twin Points Tavern.
Hagbergs Meats Lake Elmo MN


The Meat Place

On a really rainy lunch hour this week, three of us took the little adventure drive to Hagberg's Meats, a country market, gas station, meat market, and lunch counter.   What a gem!

Hagberg's Meats:  Everything...Great!

Hagbergs Meats Lake Elmo MN

Hagbergs Meats Lake Elmo MNHagbergs Meats Lake Elmo MN The meat counter alone was worth the drive...stuffed chicken breasts, jalapeno cheeseburger patties and bacon cheese patties ready for the grill, stuffed beef roasts, sausages and more sausages, lots and lots of drool-worthy temptations.   Turn around, and there's a whole cooler full of bags of dog bones!   This place must sell A LOT of meat.

The assortment of BBQ sauces was impressive, with many really good brands of sauce.   The grocery shelves had great products, too...a carefully crafted selection of high quality goods.

Hagbergs Meats Lake Elmo MN A prepared food cooler drew me in immediately with trays of mac & cheese, mashed potatoes, and main dishes to take home for 'heat and eat'.   My hand kept reaching for a tray of mac & cheese...I resisted temptation...this time.....another reason to return in the not too distant future.

Hagbergs Meats Lake Elmo MNHagbergs Meats Lake Elmo MN Bushel baskets of veggies in the front of the store....butternut squash, several kinds of onions, veggies, like lettuces, in the cooler.   It felt like a country store....but with great quality grocery complement the tremendous meat selection.   Additionally, a tempting array of breads and other locally baked good in attractive bags with cello windows added additional reasons to come back for 'groceries'.

Hagberg's Meats...How Lunch Works

But let's get to the food.   There are daily there were 3 of them.   Smokehouse pork, taco boat, and chicken wild rice soup.   There was a separate menu of 'every day' items plus a menu of 3 choices of Nordic Waffle.  (Mr. Hodges failed to mention the enticing Nordic Waffles in his hint).   The specials rotate on about a weekly basis....we'll have to go back on Cubano day (Friday this month) and give one a try.
Hagbergs Meats Lake Elmo MN

Hagbergs Meats Lake Elmo MNHagbergs Meats Lake Elmo MN There's also a deli case with great selections like:  broccoli salad, their great combo of baked beans that includes gigante beans--wow!, potato salad, .....

So, we decided to go for a range of options for our first visit.    One person went for the special of the day:  smokehouse pork plus a cup of the wild rice soup,  one Nordic Waffle--the breakfast version with egg, cheese, and bacon (this was a difficult decision..they all sounded great), and an assortment of goodies from the deli case including the broccoli salad and the gigante bean baked beans (4 or 5 kinds of beans....I could tell you more but someone was hoarding!!!!).


 Hagberg's Meats: Well...How Was Lunch?

Hagbergs Meats Lake Elmo MNLet's start with the smokehouse pork.  A giant sandwich loaded with BBQ pork, crispy fried onions, and slaw on a giant bun.   This required a fork....I mean really, really required a fork.   You could eat for half an hour before you set down your fork and tried to pick this baby up.    It was a meal for many.....let's just say that eating the whole sandwich AND some wild rice soup....too much for our whole table...and probably for most people.  The sandwich was YUGE....and don't  forget...tasty.

Hagbergs Meats Lake Elmo MN I've only had one other Nordic Waffle (at the coffee shop in downtown Columbia Heights (name???)).   These are very popular at the State Fair, too.   The one I had in Columbia Heights was good....but not all that memorable.   The one at Hagberg's had an unforgettable ingredient.....really, really meaty tasty bacon.   I would rate this bacon an A.   A good egg, lots of cheddar, wonderful bacon...on a folded soft but firm slightly sweet Nordic was hard to put it down (and yes, I shared the bacon with others....a little reluctantly 😟).   Delightful!

Hagbergs Meats Lake Elmo MN Our 'deli selection' lunch companion was somewhat quiet.   Then I noticed why.  The broccoli salad had disappeared and I had to reach very, very carefully for a bite of the baked beans in order to maintain the integrity of my digits.    They were fantastic.  The 'selection' person also decided on the cutest mini carrot cake with cream cheese icing (yes, I was
Hagbergs Meats Lake Elmo MN
allowed a small bite....but between my Nordic Waffle and 'helping' with the pork sandwich and soup, a small bite was all I could handle.   Hagberg's had monkey bread and one or two other selections left in the bakery case.....I think the morning crowd had raided it pretty effectively.

Just as we were wrapping up our lunchtime, an older gentleman sat down at the next table....with a basket containing a smokehouse pork.   He was baffled.   Finally, he said out are you supposed to eat this?   We laughed and said to start with a fork.....and eat a LOT of it with the fork before trying to lift it.   He TOTALLY AGREED and set off to find a fork, chuckling all the way.  He's probably still working on that thing today!

Hagberg's Meats:  We're Definitely Headed Back

Hagbergs Meats Lake Elmo MNWhat a great experience....the essence of a traditional small town grocery and meat market...but with high quality baked goods, grocery items, lunch and deli selections, and bushel baskets of veggies.   We plan to return to try some of the take home items
Hagbergs Meats Lake Elmo MN
(like the mac and cheese), some meat choices--maybe we'll start at one end and just work our way across the case over the course of a few months...well, maybe many months.   The bakery items in the cello window bags will be on the list, too.

Hagberg's-The Meat Place...the total package! 

 I'd call it the meat, deli, bakery, take home, make your dog happy place.  But I suppose that won't fit on the sign.
Directions:  Google Maps 
Menu:         Lunch 

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Sante Fe Coffee and the El Pariente Food Truck on a Friday Night

El Pariente Food Truck & Sante Fe Coffee on a Friday Night in St. Paul

Finally, a beautiful Spring evening in Minnesota.   Time for a short drive and maybe a few treats.

We started out trying to find a new coffee shop on Payne Avenue that John had read about recently.   But on the way, we passed the food truck by Johnson High School - and I thought - oh food truck--maybe 'orange sauce'!     

We like the food truck in the Mexican bakery parking lot by Johnson, but we also really like the El Pariente food truck that parks at Hillcrest.  So we make a quick left turn on Maryland and go in search of my favorite sauce.

An interesting find, though...a new place is taking over on the corner of Payne and Maryland in the Mr. Pete's location (someone rammed a car or truck into Mr. Pete's a while back....that looked like it was pretty much the end for them.  John liked eating there....reminded him of a couple of places in Chicago that served a wide assortment of pretty fast food).  So, we'll check out the new taco place when they open the doors.

El Pariente Food Truck is Awesome

El Pariente Food Truck Sauce Meanwhile, back to my quest for sauce.   Yes, oh yes!!!!

The El Pariente truck is sitting in the empty lot that used to be Hafner's  and they are OPEN!   Our favorite employee is taking orders....that usually means great service, really quick.

El Pariente Quesadilla I am here for sauce, so it doesn't matter which of the great items I order....I just need a platform for my sauce(s), pico, and sour cream.   So, it's the cheese quesadilla for me.....I don't think I've found a more buttery cheese anywhere than the cheese on this quesadilla at El Pariente.

El Pariente Food Truck burrito

John went for a burrito.  First of all the tortilla was very tasty and tightly wrapped.  The image is a partial image of the 8-9" delight.  Often burritos are overloaded with filler (rice and beans).  The El Pariente carnitas burrito was primarily hot flavorful carnitas.  The beans were great.  Pico de gallo, as fresh as can be and a little rice wrapped up the burrito package.  John ate about a third for dinner, ate another third for breakfast Saturday and the final third for dinner Saturday evening, claiming with each third that it was the best burrito ever..

A bottle of Mexican Coke from the cooler....enough real sugar for us to share.

Oh yeah....everything I could possibly want inside the box.   A big cheesy quesadilla cut into four giant wedges (2 for now....2 for sometime tomorrow when I really, really need a break from doing more work)..and a portion cup of tomatillo salsa, a cup of pico, a cup of sour cream......and my favorite friend---the hot 'orange' sauce.   And, it's my lucky day...John is not eating 'hot' stuff this week, so all of his salsas are mine, too (I guess there is a reward for making dozens and dozens of cookies and cookie plates for everyone).

I am sooooo happy right now.   Buttery cheesy perfectly browned quesadilla with alternating bites of pico, sour cream, green salsa, and my delightful 'orange' salsa.     I'll finish writing this in a little while...I'm kinda busy right now 🙂🙃😊

 Ah, what a perfect evening.    Warm, sunny's Friday, and I've finished most of the cookies for tomorrow.....and a dinner full of favorite things.

What should we do now?  El Pariente Food Truck sets a High Standard

Hey, let's see if we can find that Mexican coffee shop that John was talking about.

Linda: "John, what's the name?"

John:  "I don't remember."

Linda:  "Where's it located?"

John:  "On the corner just north of the old Ward 6."

Linda:  "That can't be. Marquez is on that corner, they're still in business." (because they have really good food).

John:  "I don't know.  Let's go look."

Yup, Marquez still in the same place.   We drive about 3 more blocks and try to figure out what he's talking about.  Circle some blocks.   Wait, maybe that's the place you're thinking of...a Mexican bakery....we've never been there.  Let's check it out.  

Bakery Stop:  San Miguel Pastelerilla

San Miguel Pastelerilla Bakery 1We wander into San Miguel Pastelerilla.   John is saying something, but I'm not paying attention because there are soooooo many baked goods I've already worked my way past the first case and am perusing the second case....with a long was to go before I'm done.

Apparently, this isn't the place.  John says the place he's thinking of has espresso drinks and fruit drinks, and serves breakfast or lunch....... 

San Miguel Pastelerilla Bakery 2
San Miguel Pastelerilla
Fine.  But I'm not leaving without some of these goodies.  We grab a big round tray and a giant's hard to not fill the tray to overflowing (if you know the size of Mexican baked goods.....a couple of items pretty much take up the whole tray).  But 4 is enough...for now.   I may need to keep up my strength while we wander in circles trying to figure out if there really is this mysterious coffee shop somewhere on Payne Avenue.

Maybe it's on Arcade.  So, we drift over to Arcade and drive north, then turn around and drive south.  Nope, no such place here.  I've now opened the bag of goodies and am taking a bite off a pastry that I would describe as a big Mexican cannoli, with a rich, creamy filling plus a sugared exterior.  I hope we find this place...I could use some coffee about now!

Let's start over at Payne and Maryland and work our way has to be somewhere.

We finally find the coffee shop:  Sante Fe Coffee

Sante Fe Coffee Shop About 3 blocks into this adventure, I say, "John, is it the Santa Fe Coffee Shop?"

John keeps driving and then finally says..."Oh, yeah, that might be it."  So, around the block and fortunately, a parking place right in front.

At this point, it doesn't matter if this is THE PLACE or NOT....I'm getting coffee!

A charming young woman comes out of the back of the cafe and takes my order for an iced mocha (that will go well with anything in the bag of goodies from the pastelerilla).

John then peruses the place and says "I'm not sure this is the place"... followed by "Wait, that menu board looks like the one I saw on-line---maybe this is the place."

Sante Fe Coffee Shop I ask the nice young woman how long they've been open at this location.   A little over 2 months.   BINGO!!!   This place was not a figment of John's all too creative but sometimes questionable imagination.

Very good iced mocha....and looking over the menu, I think we'll be back for a meal some day soon.

All in all, a great little Friday night adventure.   Food as good as we expected at the food truck, stumbled upon a bakery with a selection so big we could barely take it all in, and a new coffee place that has some interesting menu items that beckon us back for a future visit.

A great way to end the day.

Bark and Bite on Marshall in St. Paul ... NOT a 5-Star Experience

Bark and Bite St. Paul Marshall Street  Bark and Bite on Marshall in St. Paul

Ok, let's just say it and move on.....we had a great string of food over the last month....until we went to the Bark and Bite today.   So, I'll keep this simple.

Of the items we chose, the only that seemed to have redeeming value were the collard greens with turkey and the Vodka chile bbq sauce.   The rest of the meal was, unfortunately, throw away.

We each ordered a regular sandwich and side; John decided to go mostly veggie-based, so he had the vegan BBQ Jackalope with a side of collards, and I opted for the shredded turkey with arugula potato salad.

Bark and Bite Problem #1

Bark and Bite St. Paul Marshall Street Order
Ordering at Bark and Bite
The problems started almost immediately.  John inquired about a side of the cider vinegar slaw...$1.99 on the menu of 'sides'.  The cashier, who already had a bit of an 'attitude' said it wouldn't be a side like the kind that came with the 'sandwich and side' (are you confused already) but it would be a full side for $3.99.  But the menu clearly says 'SIDES'  with a list of sides from $1.99 to $4.99.   We couldn't seem to communicate that John wanted the side listed on the menu.   So, we finally gave up and skipped it.

The place was about 1/4 full, a little after 12:30 on Saturday afternoon.   So the wait wasn't very long...less than 10 minutes. They call your name...which is a little dangerous when you're with someone named 'John'.  So they called John and 3/4 of our order was correct....luckily the cook/owner caught the mistake and the right food was placed on the trays.

I will start positively by saying the presentation is a lot tidier than Old Southern BBQ.    Same idea...a piece of paper on a small sheet pan.   Here, the paper is an actual basket liner (red and white check) and the messy foods are placed in paper baskets.  (At Old Southern, too many things end up as a messy wet pile on the torn brown paper lining the basket....drippy!).  
Bark and Bite Collard Greens St. Paul Marshall Street
Bark and Bite Collard Greens

We tried the collards first, and they were decent.   They contained pieces of turkey and had some spice.   They were perhaps the best thing in the assortment of items we ordered.

Bark and Bite Problems ... A Few More

Bark and Bite Shredded Turkey St. Paul Marshall Street
Bark and Bite Shredded Turkey
It went downhill from there.   The Vodka Chile BBQ sauce on my turkey had a bit of heat and the flavor was fine.  I appreciated that it was thicker than the sauces at Old Southern, which I find way too runny.   The problem on my sandwich was that the sauce was the best part.   The turkey itself was pretty flavorless (I expected a nice smoky flavor....Ferndale's smoked turkey has outstanding
Mighty Dry Turkey
flavor without doing a thing to it, except slicing up a nice thick piece to enjoy).   This turkey was extremely dry...after I used up my sauce on the first 3 bites, I started dipping my turkey in John's sauce to try to get
Bark and Bite very dry bun
Very Dry Bun
enough moisture into it to make it edible.   I tried eating it as a sandwich, but the bun was so dry that it immediately cracked and fell apart in my hands (oh what a mess!).
Bark and Bite Arugula Potato Salad
Bark and Bite Arugula Potato Salad
I had high hopes for the arugula potato salad.   But, it was overdressed with a flavorless dressing.  The spice came from the arugula, but they included the stems that were so chewy that I personally couldn't bite through them.   The red potatoes were a good idea....they just didn't finish cooking them before they went into the salad (I always use the Barefoot Contessa method for preparing potatoes for potato's nearly foolproof).   So, here was a
Way Over Dressed
good idea for a side, but the execution failed.  If they had put the extra 2 minutes into the potatoes, trimmed the arugula stems, dressed it with half as much dressing...and maybe used any spicing (a pinch of salt would have been acceptable), they could have pulled this one off.  But today they didn't.

Bark and Bite Vegan BBQ Jackalope Sammie
Bark and Bite Vegan BBQ Jackalope Sammie
Let's turn to John's vegan meat.  This is always an iffy proposition.  We learned that early on with 'meat' from the Herbivorous Butcher served at 2 different restaurants.   We had a vegan Philly at the Howe...and it was a fantastic Philly....of any Philly we've had...with meat or 'meat'.   Then we had the same thing at J. Selby.  That was a disaster.   The difference....the cook at The Howe knew what to do with the 'meat'.   It arrived with a nice 'sear' on it, giving it the texture of a Philly with beef.  The Howe served an excellent 'meat' sandwich.

At Bark and Bite, the 'meat' was in the J Selby's fashion....jiggly like think of a bite of custard with okay BBQ sauce on it.   I tried a diced piece and a piece that looked like it had 'pulled texture'....but the texture was the same in both.   Too jiggly, even for 'meat'.   The 'Cherry Bourbon BBQ Sauce' was too reminiscent of now you're at custard with a ketchup-like sauce.   Yeah, John couldn't eat it either.

Luckily, that left a lot of 'sauce', so I used it to try to moisten my dried turkey.   I just couldn't cut or eat the larger pieces...a fork wouldn't go through them.

Conclusion:  This Visit to Bark and Bite was a Disappointment 

Jiggly 'meat', really dry buns and really dry turkey, over-dressed under-cooked potato salad that cried---please, a pinch of salt, and one okay sauce and one that was not as good.    The staff, including the owner, apparently didn't know their prices, either.    A woman and child were at the next table with a half rack of ribs.   The woman was struggling to bite the meat off the bones and the little boy couldn't seem to get any meat...only a messy face...the meat seemed not ready for prime time...too chewy for both of them.

Feedback to the Bark and Bite Owner

I spoke with the owner because a server asked how the food was as John was already out the door and I was pretty close behind him.   He didn't 'get' my comment about the price of the slaw...obviously neither he nor his 'cashier' knew the price (my guess....they hit a square on the screen and it rings in automatically--so his lack of knowledge made him mislead John about pricing' losing a couple of bucks off our check and off his own tip).   I described the texture of the 'meat'...and it was clear it was all too much information for him--he nodded and said, 'oh, ok'.   He did offer to pick up the tab.   I declined and said that I would prefer he focus on the food instead.

I hope this place improves.   Their food truck was apparently successful, and the space is quite workable (it's the old Heirloom kitchen).   But, part of having a restaurant is actually running it.   So, the people in the open kitchen shouldn't be eating then working on customer's food.   Open drinks, lack of all know those are my pet peeves.    This place needs a bit of work on 'operations'.   Cooking the potatoes in the salad; not overcooking the turkey until it's too dry to swallow, knowing the menu.....all part of the bigger program.     The menu had some interesting the kitchen just has to learn to execute on their vision.

Twitter: @BarkandtheBite