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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, 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