May 30, 2017

Purple Grapes, Purple Graaapes....

I only wanted to see you drinking all the purple grapes, purple grapes, purple grapes…. Drinking purple grapes? Yeah, you know, fermented grapes, wine, vino and while I’m not a wine guy myself, the ladies in my life (my mums and wifey) sure are. There also happens to be a place that my mom and dad thoroughly enjoy going to that has plenty of vino for your enjoyment as well as some delicious food. That purple grape consuming world is called Vino in the Valley.

Located just east of Ellsworth, WI sits a beautiful property with amazing scenery to gaze at while you’re enjoying a plethora of wine options, some amazing Italian cuisine and beer for those who aren’t in to the grape thing, like me. With something for everyone, this is a place even the family can enjoy. Plenty of space for blankets and family time and letting the kiddos run, bag toss, yard yahtzee, 2 fire pits going, cheese and crackers, live acoustic music, rides on the tractor down to Brush Creek to learn some history about the property, walking trails and more.
My parents finally got us to join them and it was well worth it for our first visit and definitely not the last. While we waited for our table, we enjoyed some beverages and took in some of the offerings previously mentioned. Our little guy was having a blast, us adults were enjoying ourselves and before you know it, your table is ready.

We enjoyed some simple, but delicious bread and olive oil with parmesan cheese blend, reviewed the menu and continued to enjoy the scenery and company. My mom decided on the Portabella Mushroom Ravioli, my dad went for the Garlic Shrimp Linguini, my sweetie was eyeing up the Pesto Caprese, I couldn’t say no to the Spicy Shrimp and Andouille Linguini and our little guy was all about the pizza.

Let’s get my little guys pizza out of the way. Pretty much the best tasting little’s pizza your youngster will ever enjoy and they don’t even know it, yet. It tasted freshly made, because it was with quality ingredients. Our little guys’ pizza was a pepperoni and even I wanted to eat it.

On to the selections by the ‘rents. While I didn’t taste these plates, they smelled good and definitely looked enjoyable. My mom’s Ravioli, prepared with leeks, mushrooms, dried cherries and spinach in a vodka cream sauce, then finished with white truffle oil. Mmmm, truffle oil! My dad’s linguini, prepared with sautéed shrimp in a garlic white butter sauce with mushrooms, peppers, spinach, onions, tomatoes and topped with parmesan cheese. I mentioned to my dad, that it looked like a lighter healthier meal plate than the rest of us and it was gone!
As for those meals of ours… My sweeties caprese, prepared with rotini pasta, sun dried tomatoes and fresh ‘mozz, tossed with a basil pesto and drizzled with a balsamic reduction. You can add a protein for a few bucks more and my sweetie went for some shrimp. I did taste this one and while not the biggest fan of pesto, I would have ordered this plate – awesome! And finally, my linguini, prepared with spicy shrimp and andouille sausage, then tossed in a spicy garlic tomato cream sauce. It definitely had a spicy kick to it, probably at a level most people may not be able to handle. However, for those who enjoy some fire, you will indeed enjoy it. I certainly did, I left nothing on my plate!
I never meant to cause you any hunger pains while reading this, but if you’re looking to reach out for something new, yes you, then look at taking a little day trip out to Vino in the Valley. You will enjoy yourself and you might even get to see the owner get the whole crowd singing a little That’s Amore. Sorry, no group singing of a Prince classic!

Vino in the Valley
W3826 450th Ave
Maiden Rock, Wisconsin


May 10, 2017

May The Schwietz Be With You!

"A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..." a young man named Thomas has a dream to build the perfect neighborhood bar with his princess Molly.... Ok, so maybe it wasn't a long time ago and in some other galaxy, but it was definitely a dream (which indeed came true), Thomas and Molly are two real people and the food and beverage is outstanding! 

This dream come true I'm referring to is Brunson's Pub, located in the Railroad Island neighborhood of St. Paul on Payne Ave. A beautiful old school brownstone that has been refurbished was formerly known as Schwietz's Saloon and a staple in the community for many years. Thomas and his wife wanted to bring another staple back to the neighborhood and I think they nailed it with Brunson's. 

I happen to be great friends with Thomas' cousin, Erik, who had been bugging me to check Brunson's out and I sure am glad I finally made it. It's not a very large menu (actually the perfect size), which will change with the season and created by their culinary mastermind, Chef Beavers. It's the burgers on the menu that I want to talk about and it's the burgers that will keep you going back for more and more. 

My wife went for their Classic Double, 2 CAB patties, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, fancy sauce on a milk bun. Sounds like a typical burger you can find anywhere, right!? On the contrary! This perfectly prepared burger, was just that - perfection! Perfectly seasoned, perfectly prepared, morsels of meat falling off and a perfectly grilled bun. I want another one now, just sitting here writing about it! 

The burger I decided to go with was just as insanely amazing and perfect! The Schwietz Burger, 1 beef patty, 1 sausage patty, Swiss cheese, onion, kraut, ale mustard on a pretzel bun. I asked for the kraut to be on the side and added just enough for flavor and again, just a perfectly made and prepared burger. I hate kraut and I devoured my burger. Wait, you didn't think I was going to forget about the meat combo, did you? That's right, 1 beef patty and 1 sausage patty were used in the creation of the Schwietz and if you don't get this burger, you're simply missing out! 

One of the best things that I love about places like Brunson's, is when a chef knows how to use their creativity and create things in house that you can't buy from a store. Their ketchup and sauces are exactly that - custom creations that others just can't complete with and man was that ketchup good. 

We can't forget about our little guy. He wanted Mac n' Cheese and this was no box made Mac found almost EVERYWHERE. No, this was house made Mac that this dad was enjoying just as much as his little buddy was, if not a little more. Our little buddy wanted to eat more of mommy's burger because of how delish it was. 

I've had so many burgers from all over Minnesota and this was easily my new favorite place to get two of the most amazing burgers. If you want see how they ranked in my Top 10 T.C. Burgers, head over to - I'm A Meateater! (Best T.C. Burgers). Can't wait to go back to enjoy some more delicious food, made by one very talented chef and his team! George Lucas would love this place! 

956 Payne Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55130