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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.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

At Home $5 Dinner better than Lunch Out

mariannes kitchen st paul foodie eat at mariannesAt Home from Marianne's Kitchen

Brats & Salad

Tonight we had something like the lunch we had hoped for....heavy on the veggies and/or fruit.

Big salads with mixed greens, strawberries & blueberries, drizzled with a vinaigrette of mustard, J Leeper Beekeeper honey, some pear balsamic, & a grind of mixed peppercorns.

mariannes kitchen eat at mariannes st paul foodie It was accompanied by a small sandwich (economically using my day-old ‘high quality’ bun bargain that’s now another day older but grilled in Irish butter) with a grilled sausage sliced in half to fit the hamburger bun format.

So, heavy on the greens & fruit dressed with a freshly mixed vinaigrette, with a locally made sausage, split & grilled, in a bun grilled in excellent
mariannes kitchen eat  at marianne st paul foodie
butter....topped with a drop of grainy mustard.
Total cost for our dinner for two—-less than $5 ($2.50 each). 

mariannes kitchen eat a mariannesAnd we saved room to try that blueberry cream cheese tart with a good cup of coffee later (my batch of cold brew that's been steeping in the refrig should be ready just in time to go with a tart!). It’s easy to eat well (& tasty) on a budget—using high quality ingredients, like local meats and fresh berries...& to splurge on a little treat.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

First Look - Oliver's in Shoreview

Olivers in Shoreview Mariannes KitchenFirst look—-Oliver’s in Shoreview

Oliver's Shoreview has opened, so we did our first 'check it out' visit.

Our take:  ....Oliver's is not ready yet.....some kinks to be worked out.

First impression: We found the menu burger and pizza heavy, so we had to lean on the appetizers and sides to try lunch.

What we ordered at Oliver's

I opted for the bourbon glazed squash and the gnocchi. John went for the lettuce wraps...with chicken.

Food Code & Food Preparation

You know I'm nuts about food code right off the bat I was grossed out watching the open kitchen. The guy making the food was wearing a hooded sweatshirt with the hood strings hanging over the food. As he prepared the 3 dishes (the place was pretty empty, so we were the 'meals' being made at the time), I watched him open multiple plastic storage containers and reach in bare-handed (a food code NO NO) and sprinkle toppings on our plates of food. This is usually when I walk out. But they're have to try to give them a chance.
I chatted with one of the managers. I was disappointed that after she came back from the kitchen she told me that the cook claimed to have used tongs. I know we're in the Trump era where we're not supposed to believe the evidence of our own eyes....but come on. I was watching, he wasn't making anyone else's food....he had his bare hands in multiple containers.

To her credit, she went and had a discussion with the kitchen staff and then acknowledged that perhaps he had 'handled' the food. So credit for dealing with the issue! We discussed his drink (which was covered, as code requires) sitting on the counter where you would be sitting to 'enjoy' watching the activities in the open kitchen. We agreed it just looked tacky.

And, interestingly, I didn't mention the sweatshirt...but a few minutes later he was wearing a short sleeved shirt and apron, wearing some gloves. So, they're working the kinks out.....if you go, call them on issues right that over time they can evolve into a place you want to dine often.

Gnocchi at Oliver's in Shoreview

Olivers in Shoreview Mariannes KitchenThe gnocchi was room temp on the edges and warm in the middle of the plate. The real drawback...there were some charred/burnt pieces in the if one of those attached itself to your gnocchi bite, it was bitter and burnt-tasting. A little more care was needed in prepping this dish. 

Bourbon Glazed Squash at Oliver's in Shoreivew

Olivers in Shoreview Mariannes KitchenThe bourbon glazed squash was also uneven. There were pieces of diced squash (small), some spaghetti squash, and then very large pieces of parsnip(?) that couldn't be cut...think undercooked from the fat end of the parsnip...necessary to obtain a hacksaw to cut through it. So part overcooked, part very undercooked....and the bourbon glaze seemed to all end up in one spot on the plate....none around the edges...then a jolt of bourbon on the spaghetti squash.

Lettuce Wrap at Oliver's in Shoreview

Olivers in Shoreview Mariannes KitchenThe lettuce wrap appetizer also was inconsistent. John expected lettuce wraps with pieces of chicken. The plate arrived with a bowl of something that might be described as ground chicken chili with a slightly Asian essence (but not the hoisin noted on the menu). The rice strips seem to be house-made and were light and crispy. There were rings of raw hot pepper, some green onion, and some very salty pickled carrots atop the 'chili'. The accompanying sauce had an unpleasant bitterness, so we didn't apply any to the wraps.

Overall impressions: mixed, on this visit. 
  • Each dish had potential but was unevenly executed. 
  •  From my years serving food to the people of Shoreview and surrounding area, the menu seems too meat-heavy with all the veggie options as sides. 
  • And if a side is $8.99, you probably aren't going to order 2 or 3 of them. Perhaps a veggie sampler side would be a good addition for the many people who are now foregoing big meat dishes.

I am thrilled that there is a breakfast takeout/coffee counter. This is for early breakfast stops...6 to 8 am and then menu breakfast is 8-11 in the restaurant. 

On-site barista and COLD PRESS (close to my house!!!!). 

The breakfast menu is about 8 items..croque madame (?), benedict, chilequiles (but having talked to staff, these are really deconstucted nachos, not either baked or stovetop real chilequiles), a scramble, eggs with meat and hash (no one could tell me yet what Oliver's hash is), etc.

Olivers in Shoreview Mariannes KitchenFinally, take out pastries and little pies. We tried the lemon almond scone (it was a little overworked, so moist but not terrific texture). We still have a blueberry cream cheese pastry...we'll hit that later tonight!

Prices at Oliver's in Shoreview

The take-out breakfast prices, pastry prices, and coffee prices were very reasonable, while we felt the dining-in prices were a tad high (average of $12 - $13 per entree). Adding a lunch menu with a limited selection and slightly lower prices might guarantee some regular lunch business.

Oliver's Featured Item

Finally, we didn't try what appears to be their featured item....pot roast with mashed potatoes and carrots. If it's their signature, we'll have to give it a try on a future visit.

Conclusion: Oliver's in Shoreview isn't quite ready for prime time. 

  • If you go soon, expect a few kinks...these will work themselves out over time. 
  • The staff with whom we spoke had excellent experience from other venues, so will bring that to play as they get in their rhythm as a dining venue. 
  • Looking forward to pastry and cold press in the neighborhood and watching the evolution of this food venue.

Location:            Google Maps

Monday, February 10, 2020

El Cubano in West St. Paul is Very Good!!

El Cubano West Side West St. PaulEl Cubano, West  Side / West St. Paul

Another great new place to eat in St. Paul--hooray!!!

El Cubano West Side West St. Paul Our second visit to El Cubano at Annapolis and Dodd Road on the West Side was equally as good as our first visit about 2 weeks ago.  Fantastic...and tremendous service and conversation from mom and dad and this family-owned restaurant.

El Cubano Visit #1

El Cubano West Side West St. PaulOn our first visit we enjoyed a Cuban and a Dominican (the Dominican is like a Cubano, but topped with shredded lettuce and tomato).  We also had plantains (Plantano Maduros), Arroz Con Leche (rice pudding) and flan.

El Cubano Visit #2

El Cubano West Side West St. PaulTonight we tasted more menu selections...the Bistek del Pollo platter (chicken platter), Bistec Encelbollado (Cuban flank steak with onions), another Cubano (you can never have too many), Ajiaco Sancocho (pork stew), empanadas, yuca frites, and flan.
El Cubano West Side West St. Paul

Everything, on both visits to El Cubano, was delish!

El Cubano West Side West St. Paul The Cubano is on a traditional roll, with generous meat and mustard.   Anne is our meat expert and she announced it to be very tasty meat indeed.  It was pressed (but not as much as the Meet Market...which I find a bit 'too pressed') and was good-sized, served with its own frites.

The Dominican turned out to be just as enjoyable...maybe even a little more so if you like some crispy shredded lettuce and tomato on your hot sandwich.  It was really a toss-up with the Cubano---equally good, each in its own way.


El Cubano West Side West St. Paul The sauces were great, too.   The garlic and orange sauce added another layer of flavor wherever you chose to put it.  A little dunk of the Cubano in the sauce gave it another dimension.  The pink sauce had ketchup, garlic and onion.   The green sauce had some kick (it reminded me of our own Salsa Vivaldo with tomatillos and garlic...we added little chunks of queso fresco) and great tomatillo essence that came through in each bite.   Fresh limes for squeezing, too.

El Cubano West Side West St. Paul The food is part Dominican and part reflect parental heritages.   That's reflected in the decor, too...with a great mural disguising the cooler which transports you to a different part of the world.

El Cubano West Side West St. Paul Tonight's steak and chicken platters were fantastic, too.  The meats were juicy and well-grilled, and served with rice and black beans and plantains and shredded lettuce and tomato.    And, big enough that parts of them are currently residing in multiple family's refrigerators.   I'm a big plantain fan....luckily some people were willing to share with me.....they were perfectly prepared.   Love, love, loved 'em.

El Cubano West Side West St. Paul We also shared a big bowl of the pork, beef, chicken and corn stew (Ajiaco Sancocho)....the corn flavor in the base really comes through...and the big pieces of corn...on the cob....are a delightful treat.    The stewed meat is moist and knife or fork needed...a spoon will do.  Lots of meat plus oodles of veggies, thickened with squash.   It's
El Cubano West Side West St. Paul
served with a bowl of sticky-esh rice which accopanies the stew perfectly.  The bowl is big enough for two people to share...easily!

El Cubano West Side West St. Paul The flan is delicious (one of the few things mom lets her daughter make.....yeah, we know that story) and so is the arroz con leche.   I've gobbled down quite a bit of these two items during and after my two in, take out, take some home for later.....all great options in my opinion!

Tonight we also all enjoyed at least one
El Cubano West Side West St. Paul
glass of passion fruit juice.   Oh my, my---that was a bright glass of goodness during a pretty hefty meal.   Some people at our table took another glass for the road.....yum.

El Cubano West Side West St. Paul El Cubano.....what can we say....we all loved it!   The family is super-nice, the service is attentive and thoughtful, and conversation is fun. 

El Cubano West Side West St. Paul Plus, the place is spotless...squeaky clean everywhere.  Two dining areas, so don't be put off if you look in the window and the room where you order is full (as it was tonight).  There's a whole other room to accommodate you and your family.

El Cubano West Side West St. Paul We highly recommend El Cubano.

Location:         Google Maps

El Cubano West Side West St. Paul

El Cubano West Side West St. Paul