St. Peter's Catholic Church, Delano.
Now that spring has arrived--as far as I can tell--it's time to think about eating outdoors. Recently for work, I've been spending a lot of time in the town of Delano, west of the Twin Cities metro. I've driven by this place dozens of times, but never at the right time to stop, until this week.
Peppermint Twist Drive-In, a local institution for over 30 years. With its bright pink color scheme and teddy bears everywhere, you really can't miss it.
Obviously it's a great place to take kids. Besides the uber-kid-friendly menu (exactly what you'd expect from a drive-in--burgers, chicken tenders, and ice cream), it has a big park out back, with a playhouse for the tots.
I went with the burger special of the day: a double cheeseburger with fried onions, fries and drink.
Nice soft bun, juicy burger, lots of pickles--just the way I like it. Don't worry, that raw onion is not a sign they screwed up my order; that was how my burger with its fried onions was marked as opposed to the burger with no onions that my brother ordered. Because he really doesn't know how to properly eat a burger. I mean, c'mon, if fried onions are offered...
I've heard that Peppermint Twist is known for its raspberry shakes. I meant to try one, but by the time I finished eating this sizable burger and most of my fries, there was no room. I guess that means I should go back. Because it would be a crime to not try the signature item, right?
Sometimes, in Minnesota in May, it's cold and dreary, and there's a desire for warm comfort food. Whether you want to make it yourself or have someone else prepare it, there's a fine place to visit: United Noodles.
I was in the mood for both cooking and being cooked for when I wandered over to this all-things-Asian market. Eating lunch first seemed like an excellent idea when I saw the cheerfully renovated deli.
Being cold and dreary, a bowl of ramen seemed to be in order. Specifically: pork tonkatsu ramen, with tea egg, served spicy, please. (You can get it non-spicy as well.)
Look how bright and attractive! Pork! Pickled cabbage! Spicy sauce! All atop a mountain of noodles that is not immediately apparent! And the tea egg:
Ahhhhhhh. Totally hit the spot. The portion is sizable, and I probably could have brought some home with me.
I did not do that. I consumed it all on the spot.
Lunch craving satisfied, it was time to shop. And there are so many fun things to examine:
Pretty decorated kettles.
All manner of Asian dishware.
You want rice? They got rice.
And spice for spiced food.
Fish, whole or just the head.
The item that initiated the trip, in order to make this recipe.
From left to right: eggplant, bitter melon, chayote, and Chinese okra.
Scallions? Nope. Chinese long beans. The ones I brought home were nearly two feet long, and sliced and stir-fried were delicious.
For Teen 2, who reports that the Hello Panda and Hello Kitty treats were yummy (despite his disdain for Hello Kitty). No word yet on the Shocking Popping Candy.
So: delicious ramen at United Noodles; delicious ramen made from ingredients purchased at United Noodles. That's what you call a win-win.
You guys. This book. Is adorable.
And I'm not generally wild about bugs.
But this book, which seems geared for around the 3rd-5th grade reach (or anyone interested in bugs and vivid photography), is adorable. It's a wonderful tool for getting kids outside. The book is broken into sections of different habitats (forest, backyard, pond, etc.) and details what kinds of bugs you might find there. There are basic facts (presented in a cheerful, interesting way) and there are cool facts (did you know that dragonflies can have as many as 48,000 single eyes in each of their compound eyes???). There are hints for how to look for bugs, and which bugs you might not want to touch. (Yes, I know some of you are going to say: All of them.)
Best of all is the photography. I can't imagine what photographer Bill Johnson had to go through to get some of these. Just look at this (admittedly poor reproduction) one:
This is an acorn weevil. Knitters, look closely--doesn't it look like it's wearing a cabled sweater?
In other words, if you know kids or people who like bugs, this is a must-have. Along with a magnifying glass, butterfly net, sunscreen, and bug spray. Go out and search for bugs!
My thanks to the Minnesota Historical Society Press for providing a review copy of this delightful book.
First, thanks for the many kind comments and emails about my last post. It's been a long few weeks, and I hugely appreciate the support.
But today, I have to chuckle. Oh, my, the outbursts on Twitter and Facebook last night and this morning! Snowmageddon! The world will end! It's Minnesota! And it's snowing!
I know, not everyone likes snow as much as I do (and yes, I am the chief shoveler in my household, so I get to experience the downside). But for all the dire predictions, a quick look at the 24-hour forecast showed that we'd get snow here in the Twin Cities--and it would promptly melt. That's exactly what's happened. Snow all night, sunshine and warmth today, and nearly all of it is gone from my yard. Didn't even have to shovel. Temps expected in the 60s and maybe even 70s by Saturday. Buck up, Minnesotans! Be stoic and Minnesota Nice about it!
In the meantime, here's why I like snow:
Things have been very quiet here at Flyover Land in recent weeks, and the following is the reason for that.
Oof-dah. Where to begin? I’m not sure what Mom would think about having her funeral on tax day. Maybe she’d just shrug and say, as she often did, “Whatever.”
When she died on April 9, Eudora Annette Beck Frickstad Crippen had lived a very full 82 years. There were things in life she wasn’t fond of, like the snake that wrapped itself around her ankle when she was out in the yard one day, or the hair curler that she picked up off the floor that turned out to be a live mouse. She claimed not to like Democrats, but if they liked her pie, she could be persuaded. She preferred to be called Dora rather than Eudora, but allowed a few people to call her Eldora. Even though she wasn’t fond of her name, she did enjoy traveling to several small towns in the southern U.S. that were called Eudora. Those towns returned her interest, and she got quite a kick out of being interviewed by the local newspaper in Eudora, AR.
There were many things she did love: homemade pie (although she disagreed with her husband on how to make pie crusts and noted that she’d been making pies 30 years longer than he had), lefse, Elvis Presley, taking road trips around the U.S. and a much-loved 25th anniversary trip to Hawaii. She loved her sewing machine and serger and for many years, sewed clothes for family members and eventually began quilting. She would get so caught up in her creations that other things, like potatoes boiling in a pan, would be forgotten, to the detriment of the potatoes and the pan.
Burned potatoes aside, she loved food and was well known as an excellent cook and baker who often kept pie crusts and pans of lasagna in the freezer for unexpected visitors. Nothing made her happier than to have friends show up on her doorstep, where they were certain to find the coffee already on (as it was from the moment she woke daily) and sit down for a good visit. Everyone in the family had their favorite food that she’d make for them.
Music was very important to her, and she spent many happy Saturdays ironing while listening to Judy Garland, Mario Lanza, Teresa Brewer, and Patti Page. The love of music is something she passed down to both her kids and shared with her husband, as they spent many happy years taking in concerts and musical plays.
Her career in banking gave her a close-knit circle of lifelong friends, with whom she shared many happy girlfriends’ lunches at the Keg & Cork in Bemidji.
She loved a good joke, and she loved sharing jokes with others. As one friend said, “When we invite Ernie to visit, we want him to bring Dora, so we’re sure to laugh.”
But most of all, Dora loved her family. Her parents Elvina and Louis Beck, siblings Wilbur, Eileen, and Milton, all of whom predeceased her. Her cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and in-laws, whom she loved to visit with during family reunions. She loved cooking for her family, and her family loved her cooking. In recent days, while reminiscing about Dora, we all remembered our favorites from her food repertoire. Grandson Steve Frickstad loved her twice-baked potatoes, while grandsons Mitchell and Michael Rea both chose sloppy Joes. Her son Mike Frickstad still salivates at the thought of her beef strips with rice, while daughter Amy Rea recreates Dora’s spaghetti with meat sauce on a regular basis. And then there’s Ernie “Mine Ern” Crippen, her husband of nearly 54 years, whom she loved even more than Mark Harmon on NCIS. After much deliberation, he narrowed his choice down to Dora’s pot roast.
Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease, robbing the inflicted of much, but right up to the end, when Ernie visited, she’d smile, and when he asked, “Would you like a kiss?” she puckered up. Sometimes almost scandalously so.
Although so much of what made Dora Dora disappeared in the last months of her life, the real Dora still popped out on occasion, such as when Mike asked her how she was. Her eyes popped open and she said, “Not bad for an old broad!”
Eudora Annette Beck Frickstad Crippen, 12/20/30-4/9/13.
This week's Friday Food comes courtesy of the folks at TC Daily Planet. See if this post doesn't set your mouth to watering. It definitely set off some cravings for me.
There's a useful distinction to be made here between exciting and memorable. I've had a few memorable dining experiences over the past year or so at places like the Bachelor Farmer, Saffron, and Borough. But those are all places where the entrees are $20 or more, which, for us, places them in the category of special occasion restaurants.
What's exciting about Rincón 38 is that the cuisine is really outstanding, and at prices that put it—at least for us—in the "too tired to cook" category: places we might go on a weeknight just because we feel like getting out of the house.
But it isn’t just, or even mainly, about the prices. I seem to have gotten bored with the entrée as a food category, chomping my way through bite after bite of a big chunk of meat or seafood with accompanying starch and vegetable. Tapas are the perfect cure for this kind of gastronomic ennui: appetizer plates that pack a lot of variety into a small portion. And at Rincón 38, it isn’t just the variation between different tapas that keeps things interesting; it’s the complexity of flavor and texture that goes into each dish.
A couple of the menu descriptions should suffice to give you the idea: the saffron-poached cauliflower with tossed with parsley and pimenton served with citrus aioli ($5) and the cardamom-crusted scallop served over trio squash risotto, piquillo sauce, fennel slaw, topped with micro greens ($10).
Most of the dishes are under $10, and generous enough that we found that ordering two tapas apiece was ample. They were also large enough to share, which meant that on our first visit, with a couple of friends, we each had the opportunity to sample eight different dishes. On a return visit, we tried several more dishes, plus a dessert.
There wasn’t a boring dish in the bunch (okay, the polenta crusted calamari was less exciting than the other plates)—all were beautifully presented, with flavors and textures that varied dramatically from dish to dish. Dishes that stand out as favorites include the tender steamed mussels in a seafood broth with shaved fennel ($9), the cardamom-crusted scallop over squash risotto, and the tuna-stuffed piquillo peppers with red onion, parsley, capers, piparra peppers, citron oil, and sea salt ($9).
This may not be an impartial opinion: I have been a fan of Ruiz’s cuisine since he opened El Meson more than 10 years ago, and on our first visit, Hector and Erin spotted me and Carol soon after we entered. Hector joined us at our table, and offered us some of his superb oak-aged tequila, distilled on his grandfather's farm in Morelos (not for sale at the restaurant).
I had heard some of the details before, but I was reminded of how remarkable Hector’s life story is. He was born in the U.S. but raised in Mexico, and returned to the U.S. by himself at the age of 13. At 17, he was sent to Minnesota to help open Tucci Bennuch at Mall of America, and soon wound up at the Cordon Bleu culinary program in Mendota Heights. This led to an apprenticeship with legendary French chef Alain Senderens at Lucas Carton, then a Michelin three-star restaurant in Paris (now called Senderens)—an opportunity and an honor that very few Americans receive. On his return, he worked at Prima, where he met Erin; together they opened El Meson (which closed last fall) and then Cafe Ena, their Latin fusion restaurant at 46th and Grand.
Rincón 38 is open nightly from 3 p.m. till midnight. Drinks include an interesting selection of old world wines, craft and imported (Mexican) beers, soft drinks, Jarritos, and homemade jamaica, horchata, and lemonade.