Saturday, June 23, 2007

Gay Pride Party? Time for big thick juicy hot dogs?

It's GLBT Pride weekend in the Twin Cities and our neighborhood is host to the Uptown Pride Block Party sponsored by the Bryant Lake Bowl. Since the party is less than a block away, we invited 4 of our man-friends over (a very hot set we made roaming the party, I must say) for a little pre-gathering of grilled hot dogs, burgers and beer.

I went to the store looking for the thickest, juiciest, longest hot dogs I could find as that seemed to be appropriate fare for a group of hungry gay boys on Pride weekend. I found these Klement's Chicago Brand Beef Hot Dogs. They weren't as big as the mega dogs you find at the stadiums, but they were very satisfying and grilled up quite nicely.

I enjoy "slaw dogs" which I believe is a very southern treatment for hot dogs - just give me ketchup, spicy mustard and some creamy deli-made cole slaw and I'm happy. If we happened to also have some chili to put under that layer of slaw, I would have been in hog heaven - so to speak. We served these with some deli-made "picnic" style creamy potato salad, grilled zucchini and for the extra meat-hungry boys, some grilled Angus burgers for "dessert". Paired with a case of Summit IPA beer, we were well oiled for the sounds of Bob Mould and Tina Schlieske (of Tina and the B-Sides).

Monday, June 4, 2007

Art, Azia and a very stiff drink

Some friends of ours live at the semi-exclusive Minneapolis address of 801 Washington Ave, which is a massive loft conversion that was at the forefront of the conversion madness in that part of town that now has run amok. Nevertheless, the space is fabulous, the lofts gargantuan and the public areas are used as a gallery to display art. Once a quarter they host an art opening there for the public called, "Art at 801" so that the residents can show off the building to the community of envious gawkers and the art-i-nistas. After a couple of hours of people watching, it was after 10pm and we were peckish enough to brave Azia - a rather over-the-top pan-asian fusion place on "Eat Street" in Minneapolis.

We went with a happy-hour order of cranberry wontons and some fried calamari off the main menu. Calamari begs for salt - I don't know why, but anytime I've been disappointed with calamari, it was due to a lack of salt - this was no exception. The most interesting part of the dish was the sweet basil dipping sauce that I tried to capture in a photo. The color was akin to lime sherbet and looked terribly unnatural, but was quite tasty. They have a version of the calamari sauted with a sweet chili sauce so we'll try that next time.

The Cranberry wontons were $5 or $6 on the happy hour menu and made up for the calamari disappointment - they were crispy fried and stuffed with cream cheese. They made for the perfect companion for the Lychee-tini - a 14.5oz knock-your-socks-off monster of a cocktail made with lots of 3 vodka (it's apparently distilled from soy) and lychee-fruit puree. Be sure to hit this drink up at happy hour when it is 1/2 price - it's $14 during regular business hours. Given previous trips to Azia, I knew one of these would make me happy, two would create a personal disturbance. I stopped at one and was home watching TV by midnight.

Leading me back to Lucia's

Reading another local food blog recently, I was reminded of Lucia's Wine Bar/Restaurant/Cafe and whatever else they have over there under that name. Saturday afternoon, the BF and I wanted to break out of our rut of going to the same places and hit up something off our regular circuit, so we decided to walk over to Lucia's to grab lunch.

Although our friends and every reputable food critic in the know extols the virtues of Lucia's fresh approach to local ingredients, our experience dining there a couple of times several years ago was underwhelming. While the food was expertly prepared and of very high quality, our Southern-tilting palates had a difficult time understanding what all the fuss was about. We figured after five years in Minnesota, the hot sauce and butter-fried remnants of our years in Atlanta have faded, so we figured it was time to give Lucia's another try.

The BF was disappointed that Lucia's was serving brunch, not lunch, but I didn't mind repeating breakfast. It was once my favorite meal until I started adhering to a standard breakfast of Fiber One Raisin Bran and scrambled Egg Beaters on the weekends (kinda takes the wind out of your sails on breakfast). I ordered up a Bloody Mary and their French-style omelet stuffed with slices of mild chorizo sausage and topped with guacamole (so much for leaving the southern palate behind). Like before, the food was expertly prepared and deliciously fresh, but not that flavorful.

I was debating whether or not to try again for dinner in the restaurant sometime earlier today when I got a gift of a $100 gift certificate to where else - Lucia's - from the head of my division at work as a "thank-you" gift. All the signs are pointing me back to Lucia's.