October 28, 2012

Take Me To The River...

"...Drop me in the water." Wait - wait - wait! I would prefer to not be dropped in the water, but I would like to be dropped off at a front door and not just any front door, the front door of a place called Copper River Fish & Chop House. Oh, and it's a pretty nice front door too!

Settled in the heart of the vast expanding Lakeville, MN lies one of the most uniquely designed restaurants I've had the privilege of visiting and the food they're serving is just as unique. I'm all about the food, but I have to mention how amazing this place looked first, because it's not too often that a restaurant actually takes the time to make their establishment look as amazing as Copper River's was. Beautiful wood walls, wood structural beams, wall of windows leading out to an enormous patio with fire pit and simply gorgeous!

On to the food... We started our evening with an order of Crab & Bacon Hush Puppies that are served with a jalapeno, honey and a hint of cilantro aioli sauce that was easily the best I've ever had and our server Jessica was kind enough to send some home with my wife and I. Yep, it was that good! I asked her what they served with their fish items and she replied, "a standard tarted sauce" and my response... "Throw it away and use this instead!"

Copper River's menu has plenty to offer all walks of life, but two stood out to my wife and I the most. My wife went with a Pumpkin Seed Crusted Sockeye Salmon with Butternut Squash Bisque and Granny Smith Apple Slaw. WOW! Easily one of the best meals either of us have ever had, period. I even made the comment that it compared to some of the outstanding food creations we've had traveling to resorts out of the country and my wife said, "It's better!" and I would have to agree.  I'm not big on slaw, but this was some awesome slaw and the same can be said for butternut squash. I tend to stay away from it, but the combination of the entire dish was ridiculous and thankfully it's not a crime to have food this good.

I decided to go with the Lobster Pot Pie that also included; bacon, onions, celery, carrot, peas with lobster cream and puffed pastry. This thing measured about 6 to 7 inches wide by about 4 inches high and man was this pot pie delicious! Perfect golden brown pastry crust with an amazing tasty filling that you have to try. Think I finished it? If your answer was yes, you'd be right!

Copper River Fish & Chop House is doing it right and my wife and I will be adding this to our list of favorites and will definitely be stopping back for some more. You need to plan to make a trip to Copper River, trust me, you'll thank me when you're finished with your meal. Copper River priced themselves to please pretty much everyone and I as the old saying goes, "You get what you pay for." So if you wanna make plans to go to Red Lobster for a "good meal", well...... I think you get my drift! :)

Did I get that annoying dancing fish song stuck in your head now? Well, you can thank the Talking Heads and As Seen On TV for that mistake of a song. There's just one last thing you need to do and that's to grab that dancing fish you wasted your money on, throw it in the garbage and head down to Copper River Fish & Chop House and spend your money the right way. Take Me To The River! :)

Copper River Fish & Chop House
17516 Dodd Blvd.
Lakeville, Minnesota 55044

October 21, 2012

Grease is in the heart, Ah-ah-ah-ah

"... No I wouldn't ask for another - I,I,I,I,I,I, No I wouldn't ask for another..." Oh Dee-Lite... while you might be enjoyable to listen to and having people busting out their dancing shoes, Dugarel's Burger's & Wings wasn't much of a delight and man was the food greasy.

Granted, this place is a sports bar and you should expect just that, but your food shouldn't be swimming in grease! While my wife and I have been to what is better known as Duggie's for beers and apps with friends and family before, this was our first time actually sitting down to have one of their actual entree's.

My wife decided to tackle their Baked Ziti with the typical ingredients of onions, peppers, marinara, mozz and sausage than baked. Sounds good and it wasn't half bad, however we both agreed that is was a little greasy for pasta. I decided to go with their Philly and when it arrived, it actually looked like it was going to be really enjoyable and then I picked up a half. What did I find? A sandwich that had been swimming in grease and although I ate my sandwich because the meat actually was pretty tasty, I could hear myself getting fatter and ready for the gym.

Sometimes I feel like sports bars just don't care about serving quality food and it's not that hard, you just have to find quality ingredients and learn how to actually cook properly. I'll even help you out... you don't have to use large quantities of fatty oils and butter with everything you plan on cooking on a flat top or in a pan and sometimes a little can go a long way. Screw it, I'll give you another helpful tip... If you're using a deep frier, let the food sit in the basket and let all that oil drip off before just plopping whatever it is into a basket. I want to taste the food, not the grease!

Not everything is terrible at Duggie's... They actually have some pretty good tasting wings and their onion rings are a nice sweet onion with a light batter, but again need to sit in the basket a little longer. If you want to see more about those items, visit my Flying Buffalo's? blog. No "I wouldn't ask for another" entree at Dugarel's and definitely had "Satisfaction when we were done...". Better bring your favorite heartburn and indigestion medicine with you if you plan on stopping by for a grease pie!

I Love You Woolley's Wo-Wo-Woolley's!

Make it, serve it Woolley's Woolley's... Don't stop cookin' 'cause I feel alright now... Wait a second, how did Billy Idol get involved with food? Well, the answer my friends is because I'm just that clever and I thank this 80's rock star for his catchy tune and inspiration.

Please don't stop cookin', because it's places like these that I tell everyone they need to try at least once in their lifetime. What is that exactly? A fine dining restaurant, that yes is on the expensive side, but worth it. You're actually getting what you're paying for and that's some of the finest, well made and elegantly presented food that you won't find at some chain restaurant made by a line cook, but rather an experienced chef. In fact, I would even say some chefs need to be reeducated on how to make food after going to places like Crave, which also has a higher priced menu, but nothing like Woolley's!

So what would I recommend? That's simple... EVERYTHING! No I didn't try everything on the menu, but the few things that my wife and I did were amazing and I have no doubt the rest of the menu would follow suit. This was our first time at Woolley's and it's definitely a place that we would return to for a special occasion or anniversary. Lets face it, we're just a modest living couple and unfortunately, we're unable to eat out at these excellent places all the time, but when we do, we go all in!

Okey okey, I'll get to the food... :) My wife went with the Woolley's Filet which she Oscared and included your choice of potato(she went with fingerlings) and asparagus. If you can use a fork to cut through you filet like it was butter and it melts in your mouth just the same, than you have yourself one amazing cut of beef. To make things that much better, their creamy crab Oscar was the "icing on the ca... - beef".

I decide to go with their Top Sirloin and chose their scalloped potatoes which were very creamy with just the right amount of crispy edges. Not quite as tender as a fillet, I could still cut this thing like it was and their onion and mushroom medley topping that came with my steak was the perfect combination. Lucky for me, it was also lobster tail night and of course I had to add a tail on to my dinner and it was cooked exactly how it should be, flaky and delicious, not rubbery and fishy!

We're not done yet! You have to try their salad bar... Really, the salad bar? Yes, the salad bar! But they're all the same... No, no they're not! Too many places have disgusting looking lettuce that's brown and looks like it had been out all day and the bar itself looks like a bomb went off and a complete mess. A lot of places also provide some kind of bland and boring cold pasta of some kind as well... Not here! Everything looked fresh and well maintained the way it should be and while I would have added a little more seasoning to their minestrone, it was still really good. The thing that surprised me the most was their potato salad. I've had so many variations of potato salad with plenty of them needing to be thrown away that after tasting Woolley's creation, I had to ask the server if I could get the recipe. There was just something about it that my wife and I couldn't figure out, but damn was it good and I even told my wife it was easily my favorite.

We finished the night off with their Berry Crisp that was a combination of fresh berries, ice cream and their homemade whip which was of course was creamy and yummy. I'm not big on dishes like these, but my wife is and she sure liked it and yes, I did have a few bites and I would recommend it for sure. Woolley's isn't going to have you "feel like a pony", but they may have you "feeling alright" and singing ... Hey, hey what do ya' say, I got STUFFED! :)

Woolley's Steakhouse & American Eatery
(Inside Embassy Suites)
7901 34th Ave. So.
Bloomington, MN 55425

October 14, 2012

Che - e - e-e-e-e-ry Berry!

Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons didn't sing those lyrics... Wait did they? No, no they didn't, but I enjoy changing song lyrics for my food blogging pleasure. So what is Frankie helping me with? It's Cherry Berry, the new yogurt bar craze and they're popping up all over the Twin Cities.

It all starts when you walk through the front door and you see a wall of yogurt machines like a row of tap handles behind your favorite local drinking hole, but this liquid won't inebriate you and require a sober cab to get home. Instead, you'll be enjoying some delicious yogurt with the majority of their flavors being fat-free or low-fat with some others being reduces fat.

With well over 30 flavors to choose from and changing periodically, there are plenty of choices, it's just a matter of what you're in the mood for. It was mine and my wife's first visit and we went with a combination of flavors and toppings reaching over 30 different options as well. I went with chilly vanilly, chocolate and cookie monster and added one of my favorite toppings, Reece's peanut butter cup. My wife went with sea salt carmel pretzel and cookie monster and her toppings were assorted nuts, Butterfingers and these things called strawberry popping bobas which are little balls of flavor explosion popping in your mouth and they're really good.

So you're all done picking your flavors and choosing your options, time to enjoy. First you have to pay for your yogurt creation and that's where it gets interesting... You simply pay per oz. and at the Eagan location, that's $0.45/oz. and you can easily fill your cup for around $4.00 - $4.50 and I'd say that's a pretty inexpensive and healthy option.

So kids, as Frankie would say, "You-oo-ooh better ask your mama..." and "Tell her everything is all right..." because you're asking for a healthy snack this time and not some junk food she wished you never found! :)

Visit Cherry Berry Yogurt Bar to find a location near you.

Casper is a friendly ghost, but...

Casper might be the "friendliest ghost you know", but I think he may have an evil twin lurking around the Lone Oak Grill that isn't as friendly, unless of course you enjoy setting your insides on fire for fun. We'll get to that in a moment, but first as you may have figured out, the Lone Oak Grill is quickly becoming my go-to place for great food, beer choices and some of the best service you'll ever experience.

After my wife and I stopped by the first time and loving every last bite and enjoying the awesome service, we knew we wanted to go back to try some more items on the menu and of course, we did! In fact we stopped back twice since our last experience so there's plenty to share with you and explain why Casper has anything to do with eating delicious food.

As I mentioned we made a couple of visits, so lets start with trip number two. My wife and I ordered their Custom Mac N' Cheese and added in their house smoked chicken and onions along with the Slider Flight that included their smoked chicken, pulled pork and brisket. We also had some adult beverages to accompany our dinner and tried a new brew blend of New Belgium Tart Lychee and Angry Orchard Cider... D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S!

So how was the mac and sliders? Amazing! The mac was cheesy and loaded with flavor from the smoked chicken and the onions were a nice and mild sweet flavor. Add a little salt and pepper and it was an awesome dish and worth trying. You also have other options for your mac creation like; crab, bacon, pulled pork, brisket, lobster, house made chili, wild mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, asparagus, roasted red peppers and jalapenos. If you're willing to go for it ask your server for the money mac (not on the menu), but is their Custom Mac N' Cheese with EVERYTHING added... Yes please!

On to the sliders... Although not marketed as a BBQ pit, their smoked meats could easily take down some of those BBQ establishments around town with ease. The meat has some great flavor and very moist and tender, something even some BBQ pits have a hard time mastering and that's just wrong. Best part of visit number two, our food was delivered by one of the head chefs and he was very thankful for the kind words my wife and I had for their staff our first visit, What's your favorite tree?.

Visit number three came just a day later when my wife and I met up with some friends and their family after finishing a cancer walk for the National Kidney Foundation. Quick background for you, our friend we were meeting received a kidney from his amazing brother so he could continue living his life to the fullest. Yep, truly amazing! Everyone in our group was asking what to order and we of course shared our favorites. Not one person was unhappy and a couple of them were hooked themselves and looking forward to making another trip back to try something else on the menu.

Here's where Casper decided to show his unfriendly side. One of our guests decided he was going to attempt to take down the Ghost Pepper Juicy and knew nothing about one of the worlds hottest peppers that can hit 1 million units on the Scoville scale. As the waitress drops it off, she says, "who's the brave one attempting this thing?" You had to be there to see his face and response, "Is there something I need to know before eating this thing?", while he's already starting to take bites and the sweat starts to bead on his forehead. After explaining to him what he has just ordered, he continued with caution and only taking down half his juicy. "Well, now you know!" I said as everyone continues to laugh... :)

I thought lunch was over... NOPE! "Hey Nick, you should try it so you can blog about it." A smart person would have said no, server, please take this thing away... Not this guy! "Yeah, sure, why not!" So I was an idiot and took a nice big bite and I gotta say, a ghost peppers raw flavor is actually really good like a lot of other peppers that don't cause harm to your insides. However, the enjoyment of flavor only lasts a couple of seconds before Casper rears his ugly face, stops playing with kids and sets your lips, mouth and internal organs on fire. MILK PLEASE! Then, out of no where, my wife takes a stab at it which surprised me and like me, went for the milk immediately.

Thanks Casper for being so nice to kids all these years, but did you really have to possess a pepper? If you're brave enough, take a stab at it, the flavor before the heat like I mention earlier is actual really good and I think a glass of milk should come with every order, just in case... Think that's the hottest thing out there? You're wrong and hopefully the talented chefs at Lone Oak don't get their hands on the Trinidad Scorpion chili pepper which can reach 2 million units on the Scoville scale. There are actually people who enjoy the heat and if that's not hot enough for you, the new police issued defense spray hits the Scoville scale at a whopping 5.3 million units...I dare you to put something so close to pure capsaicin on your food, but I think I'll pass!

To wrap things up, the Lone Oak Grill is doing things right even with it's resident ghost. Keep an eye out for their new menu set to be released next month with a couple of new items on it and a couple taken off. One that caught my attention, a ground-pulled pork juicy... I mean really, doesn't that just sound delicious? I think so too! :)

Lone Oak Grill
3010 Eagandale Place
Eagan, MN 55121

October 12, 2012

Me encanta papas fritas francés!

A Spanish title.... it has to be about Mexican food.... You're on to me! Question now is, have you Google Translated the title yet? It’s true, I love French fries (you Google searcher) and my point is, should a Mexican restaurant have French fries on their menu? I say no! That would be like your favorite sports bar serving empanadas instead of fries, chips or the new trend in sides, tots.

While running errands, my wife and I decided to use one of our Metro Dining Club Cards and take a stab at a new Mexican restaurant, Las Tortillas located in Rosemount which opened its doors in May of 2011 and priding themselves in serving fresh house-made tortillas, seasonal Mexican fair and true classics. This was our first time stopping by and while waiting to be sat, we were told by a couple at the bar, “Don’t get the nachos!” Not the best way to start our new dining experience…

Curious, we asked if this was their first time and they replied with a quick, “YES!” and continued with, “We’ve been spoiled by one of our favorite places near our camping grounds in Waseca, El Molino’s.” Looking at the plate, I was thinking they looked pretty good, but then spotted the ultimate no-no when making a great restaurant quality nacho… You NEVER use nacho cheese from your favorite sporting event dispenser – PERIOD! You’re a Mexican restaurant with chiwawa or queso cheese and you’re using the dispenser style nacho cheese? No thanks!

For such a small place, we didn’t have to wait long at all and enjoyed a beverage while we waited as well, you kind of have to…  Once we were sat, we were greeted with chips and salsa and the salsa was pretty darn good and my wife pointed out a nice corn flavor that hits you at first bite and I really liked it and the chips were pretty good as well, but not our favorite. En las comidas!

I decided to go with the jumbo burrito filled with; cilantro lime rice (which had very little lime and not a lot of cilantro), black beans, sour cream (didn’t really taste it), Pico de Gallo and Oaxaca cheese with your option of dispenser nacho cheese or queso cheese melted on the top… Really? Of course I went with queso! It was quite large and pretty good, but más sabor por favor! My wife decided to go with the taco trio combo that included one of each; braised chicken, carnita pork and beef pastor. Her meal also came with cilantro lime rice or Mexican rice (she chose cilantro lime rice), refried or black beans (she chose refried) and all the usual taco fixings. The rice again had zero lime and cilantro flavor and the beef pastor was not the greatest and neither of us really wanted to eat it. The chicken and pork on the other hand had pretty good flavor, but the house made tortillas were nothing to brag about.