Nye’s Polonaise Room — “Best bar in America”

Decor inside Nye's bar
Decor inside Nye’s bar

Nye’s Polonaise Room, located on Hennepin Avenue in “Nordeast” Minneapolis and voted best bar in America by Esquire magazine, is probably the most exciting and fun place Jane and I have been to in the Twin Cities thus far. Nye’s is not Polynesian, but rather Polonaise — the French word for Polish. Nye’s features authentic, imported Polish beer, great food, and fantastic live music from the “World’s Most Dangerous Polka Band.”

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Whole Foods’ Assorted Entertainment Crackers

Close-up of the crackers
Close-up of the crackers

This isn’t the sort of review you would normally find on our gourmet extravaganza blog. We mainly review restaurants we have been to and dishes we have made. However, when I opened up this box of crackers I recently purchased at Whole Foods on Fairview and Grand in St. Paul, I knew that I had to write a review.

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Cafe Latté on Grand Avenue

Cafe Latté store front
Cafe Latté store front

A trip to Cafe Latté is a must for anybody living in or visiting the Twin Cities. Located on St. Paul’s famous Grand Ave., Cafe Latté has what is arguably the best cake to be found in the Twin Cities area. In addition cake, they also offer several different types of soups, salads, and sandwiches, which vary from day to day and season to season.

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Steamy ham and cheese grits

Steamy ham and cheese grits

What can we say about grits other than, “they’re pretty ‘grit’ “? Many moons ago, before this long and cold winter came and overstayed its welcome (it’s still here!), Jane and I were reading recipes online and somehow got on the topic of grits. “What are these crazy ‘grit’ things, and how do they taste?”, we wondered. Being the “good northerners” that we were, we proceeded to mock them and spread nasty rumors about how we’ve heard that they’re something like oatmeal. Boy, were we ever wrong.

Grits, my friends, are an amazing and versatile dish made from crushed, dried corn kernels that can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They can also be mixed with cheese, meat, and vegetables to contend as a main dish in their own right, guaranteed to stick to your ribs and provide you with that good ole “southern comfort” feeling. After making and eating grits, we repented of our ignorant northerner ways, and invited grits into our home as a family recipe. Since that time, we have begun to experiment by using grits as a base for amazing main dishes, such as this recipe here.

To make our delicious steamy ham and cheese grits, you will need the list of ingredients below, an 8″x4″ meatloaf pan (nonstick works best), and an oven preheated to 350 degrees. You may find that an 8″x4″ pan does not make nearly enough of these delicious grits (we never have leftovers with this size). In that case, you can double the recipe for an 8″x8″ pan (this also fits well in a 9″x9″), or triple the recipe for a 9″x13″ pan of these steamy grits.

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Delicious BBQ turkey chickpea chili

Delicious BBQ turkey chickpea chili

This BBQ turkey chili recipe is one of my most famous discoveries, and it is an honor to be able to share it on this blog. Jane and I really love this delicious turkey chili dish on rice, and are thrilled to “gobble” down the leftovers each time we make it.

This legendary recipe was discovered in the dead of a Minnesota winter when it was too cold to brave the outdoors and risk our lives to buy fresh groceries at the store. We scoured the freezer and pantry in our famished state for any sort of items we could use to make a hearty dish of satisfying sustenance. Ever since that fateful moment, this dish has been a legend, and has been enjoyed by us many a time in both times of few and times of plenty.

In order to make this mouth-watering, savory, and delicious BBQ turkey chickpea chili on rice, you will need the following list of ingredients, a large frying pan, and a crockpot (optional).

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Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis

Midtown Global Market store front
Midtown Global Market store front

Among all the places in the Twin Cities, there are few to none which can be compared with Minneapolis’ Midtown Global Market. Located on East Lake Street in south Minneapolis, Midtown Global Market offers a vast array of foods ranging all the way from Hispanic to Caribbean to African to Middle Eastern to Asian and back. In addition to hot and prepared food, there are many small shops and stalls which sell spices, normally hard to find ingredients, canned goods, frozen goods, baked goods, cheeses, and handmade crafts. On occasion, musicians add their own “spice” to the market by performing at the center. A visit to the market is a must for anyone living in the Twin Cities.

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Noodles & Company @ Mall of America

Indonesian peanut sauté from Noodles & Company
Indonesian peanut sauté from Noodles & Company

Last Thursday, Jane and I visited the Noodles & Company at the Mall of America for a bite to eat. Noodles & Company is a quick and casual dining experience with over 20 locations in the Twin Cities, and many more across the country. They serve soups, salads, some sandwiches and many noodle dishes inspired by Asian, Mediterranean, and traditional American recipes. My personal favorite dish from Noodles & Company is the Indonesian peanut sauté — a dish consisting of rice noodles in a peanut sauce with stir-fried broccoli, carrots, bean sprouts, cilantro, and lime. This time I elected for the $7.75 “make it a trio” option, adding meatballs and a coconut-hinted Thai curry soup. Jane also decided to “make it a trio” with her Chinese chop salad and go with the grilled chicken breast and the tomato basil bisque soup. The Chinese chop salad Jane decided on is billed as having sesame-soy tossed mixed greens, bean sprouts, cabbage, red pepper, cucumbers, carrots, and fried wontons.

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Bona – Vietnamese cuisine

Bona - Vietnamese cuisine
Bona – Vietnamese cuisine

Last Thursday, Jane and I went to one of our favorite restaurants in the Stadium Village neighborhood of Minneapolis near the U of M — Bona. Bona is a Vietnamese restaurant that serves phở (pronounced similar to “fun” without the ‘n’) and other delicious Vietnamese dishes as well as several Chinese-inspired dishes that you’d typically find at a Chinese restaurant in the United States or Canada. Pho is a hot soup consisting of rice noodles, green onion, and meat in a savory beef broth, and makes for an excellent meal on a cold Minnesota winter day (i.e. anytime between November and April), which is one reason we love Bona so much.

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Vodka sauce and meatballs on rice

Vodka sauce and meatballs on rice

Oh, boy. This is one FANTASTIC meal. It is, and we’re not even kidding. When I first moved to the Twin Cities, I began shopping at my local Cub and Rainbow for groceries. Every time I passed through the aisle with spaghetti sauces, I somehow managed to notice a jar from Classico labeled “Vodka Sauce”. I began to wonder what such a sauce would taste like, so I went home and threw a shot of vodka into some marinara sauce. It was horrifying. After that point, I began to wonder who in their right mind would even like such a crazy sauce.

Then, one day, I was brave and thought, “Well, you know, I must have just screwed that one up, and I bet Classico could do a better job.” At this point, I searched online for what vodka sauce really was to discover that it was a tomato sauce mixed with cream and vodka. I forgot to add the cream (and probably other things too) when I foolishly tried to create such an amazing sauce. So I ran to the store and picked up a jar of the wonderful bliss called vodka sauce.

The recipe described here is amazing, yet also very simple. It was discovered as a result of thinking “what if we were to mix…” etc. We created a recipe for a sauce that can be served with meatballs and rice. In fact, it’s not a necessity to use meatballs, as this recipe goes quite well with stir-fried pork meat on rice or even pierogies.

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Pumpkin and sausage lasagna (recipe review)

Pumpkin and sausage lasagna
Pumpkin and sausage lasagna

This is an item from last November, when it was much warmer and more pleasant in the Twin Cities than it is now. Jane and I came across a fall-inspired lasagna over at Pithy and Cleaver, which we laughed at and ridiculed to nearly no end due to the strange sounding recipe and “odd” ingredients. Well, we eventually stopped laughing and decided to try our hand at the recipe, and we were shocked at the result.

This pumpkin lasagna was amazing. It was very delicious with salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese sprinkled on top, accompanied by a sprig of thyme and a sage leaf on the side. A nice glass of wine increased the intensity of the flavors, leading to something akin of a perfect meal.

As is the case with any lasagna, the flavors of this one became more intense and improved as it aged a day or two. It made for several great meals of leftovers without any sort of regret or angst. Overall, it was an excellent dish, which we highly recommend and will probably make sometime again in the future.