Monday, September 6, 2010

Finally, Good Chinese in Uptown - Szechuan Spice

It took something monumental to get me out of my 6-month blogging drought - discovering a decent new Chinese restaurant in my neighborhood.

Since coming to Minnesota 8 years ago, the only Chinese place that has captured my attention is the Tea House. I'm always impressed with their food, if not the ambiance. While I always enjoy my meals there I've reached the point where in the summer, if I can't walk there, I'm not likely to eat there very often.

Hungry and bored, I by-chance did a Yelp search from my house last week and noticed that a new place called Szechuan Spice had recently taken over the former location of Zen Fusion (a place I only went to once with which I was bitterly disappointed) near the corner of Lyndale Ave and Lake Street. While I couldn't convince J the BF to go that evening (not in the mood) we committed to try it ASAP. After getting caught in a rain storm while walking around Lake Calhoun, we decided it was time for something spicy so we stalked the 10 blocks through the rain to check this place out. So glad we did.

We have been rocking the junk food all weekend so we thought we'd take it easy - if you call ordering three apps and an entree taking it easy. We started with 2 scallion pancakes - standard fare, but something we don't always see on the menu of other places. Take my word for it, you only need one pancake for 2 - 4 people. They were thicker than others I've had, but very crisp and tasty with the standard soy dipping sauce on the side.

Next came the Juicy Mini Crab Buns which were more of a soupy dumpling than a bun. These reminded us of the soup-dumplings we have when we do Dim Sum at Yak Sing in San Francisco. Each dumpling is placed on a Chinese soup spoon. You pierce the dumpling and sip out the flavorful juice and then sprinkle a vinegar sauce on top before slurping down the crab-stuffed yummy morsel. Very fun to eat and this alone could have been dinner for the two of us.

We rounded out the up-front with a bowl of meat stuffed dumplings in spicy sauce. The pile of treats were swimming in a mild sauce and topped with a sweet bean sauce. Very enjoyable, but not our favorite thing in the meal.

For our main, we tried one of the chef's recommendations (i.e. the stuff on page 1 of the menu) the Double Pepper Chicken. The dish had wok crisp strips of chicken lightly glazed with a light salty-spicy sauce and sauteed with an almost intimidating amount of red dried and fresh jalapeno chillies. The flavor was amazing, but the heat crept up on us by the end of dinner. We washed it down with some hot tea to help us forget about our wet socks and pants. All-in-all, a wonderful dining experience.

Szechuan Spice has only been open for about a month, but we hope our neighbors discover it soon and help them to thrive. They don't have an alcohol license yet, but that would be beside the point. The dining room needs some help to warm it up (maybe to break up the space) but overall, two thumbs up. We needed some new flavor in the 'hood.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Berries, Yogurt and a Flip Video Camera? The 1 Minute Smoothie

Fresh from vacation, I've been sent to a training to learn how to use the vast tools available to me as a marketing professional to leverage the speed of digital for learning and better branding. Today, our assignment was to create a video, upload it to YouTube and create a successful SEM campaign for it.

The campaign is slow going a few hours in, but here's the video for your pleasure. First and (maybe the last time) you see me on YouTube . . . intentionally.

The 1-Minute Smoothie

Be sure to add lots of honey to this recipe. It's pretty tart and not so tasty without it. A splash of tangerine or orange juice also goes a long way. If you come across my search ad on Google, please click on it - there's yet another iPod on the line.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Love and $10 cocktails - Early Valentine's Day at Bradstreet Crafthouse

I don't know what is says about us when we make a tradition of re-scheduling Valentine's Day to fit our schedules. This tradition started when I was in business school and J was managing a political campaign in Atlanta. We figured Valentine's Day is now one of the most commercially hyped observances out there, so we could celebrate it any day we wanted. I've been working 12+hour days 6 - 7 days a week since the winter holiday (thus the long gap in Bite&Chew posts) so the tradition continues.

Given 2/14 fell on a Sunday, and most of our favorite restaurants only had openings at 4pm or 9:30pm that night, we opted to move it to Friday 2/12 and go relatively casual at Bradstreet Crafthouse at the 601 Graves Hotel. We've found that their menu of small plates can be touch and go, but has much of the refinement and finish that we enjoy at the more splurge-and-spend Cosmos upstairs. Whatever you feel about the food, the massive list of artisan cocktails, all for $10 each, is what gets us frozen Minnesotans excited - read on.

We opted to sit at the bar overlooking the small but efficient open kitchen where we could observe and occasionally chat with the young and lanky cooks as they effortlessly grilled, sauced and garnished a tight array of platters, and trays. Amidst a gift exchange of a bacon watch for me to go with my infamous bacon wallet and a quirky Chumby One for J to satiate his hunger for wi-fi gadgets, we enjoyed two courses of nibbles and cocktails.

To start, we enjoyed a Mediterranean Platter of hummus, olives and marinated feta cheese as well as an order of the Polenta Fries with piquillo pepper sauce and gremolata. Both were beautifully presented. The cheese and hummus were the stars, but the combo of the gremolata and sauce with the crispy strips of polenta was a little underwhelming. That didn't stop us from chomping it all down. I also didn't go too harsh on the food as I enjoyed a tasty and tart Gin Cocktail they call "Three Doors Down" - Death’s Door, Lemon, Rothman & Winter Pear Liqueur, Regans’ Orange Bitters - whew! The bartenders at Bradstreet are some of the best in the Twin Cities, and it shows in every sip.

For the main nosh, we opted for three dishes: Grilled Scallops with what looked to be a relish of edamame, cherry tomatoes and herbs, a Duck Confit Quesadilla with Raclet Cheese and Apple Kimchi, and a plate of buttery rich braised lamb ribs glazed with a sesame soy glaze and a snappy mustard. The ribs were our favorite part of the meal - melt in your mouth flavorful and the mustard was a perfect condiment. J didn't quite "get" what looked like a cold rice thingy that was served on the side, but it helped to cut through the richness of the meat. I washed the food down with my current favorite on the Bradsteet cocktail menu, a Black Walnut Old Fashioned - Bulleit Bourbon, Demerara Syrup, Nux Alpina, Black Walnut Liqueur, House Orange Bitters all served over a slow-melting perfectly shaped single baseball-sized sphere of ice - put that in your pipe and smoke it!

Given I had been up since 4am and worked a 13 hour day, there was no dessert course, but we'll go back and catch that later.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Fried Organic Sweet Potato Pie with Ginger Ice Cream

Uh, yeah.

Eating this at Shaun's in Atlanta. It would have been better with my
recipe, but, had to try it.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Avoiding a drive to Wayzata - Bisquick Coconut Pancakes

Recently, I had a little knee surgery which took me off my feet for a few days. It was nothing serious and the recovery has been quick (thanks to lots of ice and some hard-core pain killers), but it kept me bound to the house for a few days. By day three of recovery, both JB and I were a little cabin crazy, so I hobbled into the car and we drove out to the Original Pancake House in Wayzata to treat ourselves to our favorite breakfast treat - a short stack of coconut pancakes. Not all locations of OPH have them on the menu - so we have to go out of our way to get our fix.

A week later, I was back on my feet and my pockets were much lighter after all the bills from surgeons, anesthesiologists, surgery centers and Wal-Greens (plus we had been eating take-out most days while I recovered) so it was time to get back into the kitchen. I still had those coconut pancakes on my mind. Given one of the businesses I manage in my professional life is known and loved by millions for their great pancakes (don't hate - I live and love my brands), I figured I should be able to come close with a home version.

I am still optimizing the recipe so the version I made was so rich, it was hard to get through the whole short-stack of 3 pancakes. I'm suggesting you dilute the coconut milk with regular milk to keep the final product from being perhaps too indulgent. I can't say we won't ever need to go back to the OPH, but now I have another way to scratch that coconut itch without driving out to Wayzata.

Bisquick Toasted Coconut Pancakes Recipe (for 2)
Makes 6 - 7 pancakes


1 Cup Original Bisquick mix
1 Tbsp Granulated sugar
1 tsp Baking powder
1/2 cup Sweetened flaked coconut
1 Egg
1/3 cup Light coconut milk
1/3 cup Skim milk* (more or less depending on how thick you like your batter)
1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
1/2 tsp Almond extract


1) Toast coconut flakes in medium skillet on medium-low heat - tossing often - until lightly browned. Set aside to cool. Reserve 2 Tbsp to sprinkle on finished pancakes.

2) Heat griddle pan to medium heat. Mix Bisquick, sugar, baking powder and most of the coconut flakes with a whisk in a medium bowl until blended.

3) Add coconut milk and egg to dry mixture and beat well until blended. Thin batter with skim milk until batter is still thick, but pourable. Stir in vanilla and almond extracts.

4) Grease heated pan. Pour pancakes on hot griddle in 1/4 cup spoonfuls (use an ice cream scoop if you have it) leaving a couple of inches between pancakes. When edges are dry and bubbles are appearing in the batter, turn pancakes over (about 3 minutes) Cook for 2 more minutes on other side until cooked through and golden.

5) Stack 3 - 4 pancakes per plate. Top with butter and syrup as desired. Sprinkle with reserved coconut and serve immediately.