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My Review of ‘Tao Natural Foods Cafe’

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I’m somewhat embarrassed and ashamed to admit I’ve never stepped foot into Tao Foods even though I have lived in the neighborhood for longer than I care to share.  I’ve always been Tao curious but just never veered off Hennepin to check out the 40+ year old store where you can buy products that will do everything from helping you to align your chakras to getting your digestive track in order (naturally, of course) and everything in between.

It took Mr. B’s Mom reading an article about the recently overhauled cafe to get me in the door.  At her request we ventured out on a Sunday morning for brunch.  The prices are a teensy bit spendy but you get what you pay for in terms of quality, organic ingredients.  Go here for clean, healthy food and if you want to wash it down with a milkshake (or better a yet a beer or glass of wine) that’s your prerogative.  I had the breakfast sandwich which was simple and delicious.  I say teensy spendy on the prices because my sandwich was literally a slice of bread, egg, cheese sprouts, tomato and avocado no sides for $6.50.  So depending on your priorities, you might find this a little steep.  Mr. B had the breakfast burrito.  I caught him dousing it in salt a couple of times…  but that’s another story entirely.

Loved it – go often for healthy food options in a super cute environment.  And if you want, there’s a 1/2 price bottle of wine night on Tuesdays and a Monday night date deal ($28 for 2 entrees + 2 glasses of wine + 1 dessert!).

My Review of ‘In Vino’ (NYC)

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A recent work trip yielded something to blog about, In Vino.  I had the pleasure (wink, wink) of selecting a restaurant for myself and 4 co-workers after a long day of meetings.  No pressure.  But at least I wasn’t in charge of the 25 person dinner the night before….

Here’s the scoop:  East Village, side street, seats probably 30 people max, exposed brick, amazing wood work, only 1 Italian beer available, huge all Italian wine list, fantastic food.  It’s kind of cavernous with how cozy it is and the curvature of the ceiling.  Super sad I didn’t take any pics to share.  Booooo – bad blogger.

Food:  we split a bunch of stuff – bruschetta, meatball ap, ‘shroom ravioli, orecchiette with sausage and more.  Everything was fantastic.  Prices were reasonable and the service was outstanding.  Completely unpretentious.  Super chill vibe.  LOVED the experience and knocked the socks off my co-workers which made me happy of course- -seriously thanks for all the compliments but it’s really not that hard.  It’s called the internet or get a yelp ap and you’re kinda set in any city you happen upon :-)

My Review of ‘Icehouse’

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Deck overlooking Icehouse Plaza

I’m really excited about the new restaurant/bar/music venue that just opened last week at 26th and Nicollet.  Popped into Icehouse Saturday night for some chow and to check it out.  It was an amazing night so we opted to sit on the decent size deck that overlooks ‘Icehouse Plaza’ which opened a month ago and is described as a ‘privately owned green space’.  Here’s an interesting little article on the Plaza from the folks at Twin Cities Daily Planet.

Drinks were inventive and delish.  I had the ‘mother rita’ (I think, might be forgetting the exact name) which was a grapefruit based margarita, yum!  The speciality cocktail menu will set you back $9-11 a pop.

Grapefruit Margarita, yum!

Food:  Rainbow J and I split a few things – beet salad, trout salad, empanadas, crab cake mac n cheese, salmon trio and mushroom cannelloni.  Yes this sounds like a ton but it’s small plates.  We over ordered by probably one dish when it was all said and done.  I always find it hard to judge the small plate thing…  Oh well.  It’s

Salmon Small Plate

fun to sample a variety of stuff.  Unfortunately this inhibited us from ordering dessert.  We saw several pieces of pie walking by so we were a little sad that we couldn’t partake.  I’d say the average on the small plates is about $10 so it ain’t cheap but the quality is good.  Overall the menu is interesting and I thought the food was tasty.  If you have a shellfish allergy you’ll find the menu to be limiting.  It will be interesting to see what sticks and how the options evolve.  Side note: the place is party owned by Be’Witched Deli in downtown Minneapolis.

Set-up:  The place is huge and has chill vibe; beautiful old woodwork, upstairs balcony area, 2 dining rooms, a stage, a huge bar, a deli counter in the smaller dining room – need I go on??  It appeared that they are open for lunch, weekend brunch, have a late night menu and offer a happy hour from 4-6pm.  I’m very curious to get back here and check out a show.  It sounds like that they are taking that aspect of the business quite seriously with a proper PA, serious lighting, etc.

Stage

Overall I say thumbs up!

Adventures in LA LA Land

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A quick trip to Los Angeles recently yielded a couple of nuggets I wanted to share – Ok, it wasn’t that recently it was 6 months ago but hey, I got behind on ye olde blogge and I think this stuff is still relevant so here you go:

Beverly Laurel Motel- What a find!  Located right at the corner of, yep – you guessed it:  Beverly and Laurel (very near Fairfax),  this 60s motor lodge fits the bill when you are on a budget (ie, traveling on your own dime).  It was centrally located for what we wanted to do, clean, great service, free parking and had a fun retro vibe.  The owner (a perfectly pleasant gentleman who once lived in MPLS!) checked me in and was nice as pie, offered tips on nearby restaurants, etc.  Our room was on the 2nd floor which had recently been remodeled.  It actually had a huge kitchen but we weren’t there long enough to take advantage.  The bathroom was super

Avocado Toast = One of the best things I’ve ever eaten.

new, very nice.  Very close by you will find CBS, The Grove and the Farmer’s Market.  But the best, best, best thing is Swingers Diner which is connected to the hotel.  I LOVE Swingers!!!  Practically open 24hrs, this place has great food, booze, attitude in a good way and avocado toast.

If you stay in this area, a couple other notables for restaurants are Kings Road Cafe and Cooks County Restaurant.  Both walkable from the Beverly Laurel.  For you Minneapolitans, Cooks County is best compared to Lucia’s – lots of local/organic, cozy, great service, good lighting, etc.  Kings Road Cafe was a teensy bit on the ‘beautiful people’ side of the spectrum but the brunch was tasty and the coffee was most excellent.

The best way to see Santa Monica

Other points of interest on this trip included the Farmers Market, a hike in Runyon Canyon, Santa Monica (bike from the pier to Venice!), a cruise down Sunset – you get the idea.  There are a gazillion things to do in LA.  My own personal opinion is that it takes a car and a bit of planning as compared to Manhattan where you can literally just pop out of the subway and easily stumble onto something cool every few steps…  But of course LA has the sunshine and movie stars.  Plus you could totally be discovered.

Perhaps a new career is waiting for you?

Perhaps a new career is waiting for you?

I’m back.

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Well friends, it’s been nearly a year since I started this sucker. I came out with a bang (or at least I like to think so) and then regretfully petered off at the end of 2011 thanks mostly to a change at my day job. I let it get the best of me but now as I near this one year anniversary, I’m going to get back on the blog bus. I have some old ‘material’ that I’ve been meaning to write about including some travel adventures – so look for those among the usual stuff I write about to come your way soon.

My Review of ‘Rye Deli’

FINALLY something has opened up in the old Auriga restaurant location on Hennepin (near Franklin) – yay!  I always thought this little space was cozy/kinda cool and seeing it vacant for so long was sad.

Set-up = Rye Deli is a deli serving way more than sandwiches plus a bar.  Eat-in or take-out.  There are a fair amount of tables in the area serving as the dining room with a walk up counter – there’s a lot going on and figuring out what to do might be a challenge to some.  I say this because it’s not totally clear on if you sit down or order first.  Then there’s a fairly small bar in the back surrounded by high top tables that just added to my confusion.  We sat back there for quite a while with no service before I finally went up and asked what the hell we were supposed to do…  Turns out you can order a drink at the bar or the walk up counter then sit down.  Fine.  Now I know.  The bartender could’ve told us that as soon as we walked in instead of watching us awkwardly stand around…

Booze = full bar.  Taps start at $5  (not a huge selection but a mix of mostly local beer and He’Brew).  Glasses of wine start at $5.  Mr. B opted for the ‘Uptown Manhattan’ for $8 made with rye whiskey…. yeow, it was strong!  I went with some cocktail of the day (can’t remember the name) which consisted of Prairie vodka, ginger and lemon.  Tasty, not too sweet.

Deli Debris!

Food = At the walk up counter, there’s a case with pre-made salads, pastries, etc.  Then there’s a gigantic chalk board hanging behind the counter with all more food options ranging from hand carved sandwiches to burgers.  A little overwhelming.  They also offer breakfast and entrees after 5pm.  I wish I could report on the sandwiches since that’s kinda what they are all about but we weren’t that hungry so we split the ‘deli debris’ for a snack which was delicious: deli meats piled on bagel crisps with a little melted cheese mixed in – very reminiscent of nachos.  I ended up back at Rye on Saturday morning for breakfast.  The ‘way too healthy omelet’ was just that, healthy so boring but what do you expect.  To balance the healthy omelet, my pal and I split a caramel babkele, yum!  Service was good and the Peace coffee was unlimited.  In the daytime,  the dining room has a warm light about it so it felt good on a cold January morning.

Deals = late night happy hour starts at 10pm.

Bottom line = great for a drink, super chill and quiet.  It’s not super definitive as to what it wants to be (bar?  deli? ) but maybe that’s ok?  Only time will tell!  Speaking of time, I can’t wait for spring – they have what appears to be a kick ass little patio hidden under the snow :)

My Review of ‘Cocina Latina’

I’ve been meaning to check out this Central/South American restaurant on 38th & Nicollet for quite awhile.  I finally made it happen a couple Saturdays ago and was not disappointed with Cocina Latina in the least.

Modest dining room but look at all these beverage options!

Scene = Staff and the majority of patrons are Spanish speakers, always a good sign.  The dining room is fairly modest with comfy booths.  It’s clean and spacious.  Decor/aesthetics aren’t going to win this place any awards but I’m pretty sure that’s not what they are going for.

$10 quesadilla with rice, beans and more guac!!!!

Food = The menu is HUGE and features a wide range of Mexican, Ecuadorian and Columbian dishes.  We were overwhelmed with the options and intrigued by several dishes but ended up with a standard cheese quesadilla and chips/guac/salsa.  Not very inventive I admit but it sounded so good in the moment.  We agreed next time to definitely go for an arepa and one of the rice dishes.  There’s something for everybody ranging from meat platters to vegetarian options.  Basic enchiladas to churrasco (beef & veggies with rice, french fries, avocado and egg!).  They also have a kids menu for $3.99.  Oh by the way, say yes when asked if you want hot sauce (made in house).  Everything was totally delicious.  Maybe some of the best guacamole I’ve ever had. The chips were hot (yep, freshly fried).  Quesadilla was perfect!

Chips -n- guac -n- salsa!

Price = Our quesadilla was $10 and more than enough to split with chips & guac (a must-order – especially for $3!).  Most wines are $5 a glass.  $3.75 for imported beer.

Drinks = We went with a bottled Mexi coke but they do have an extensive menu of soda from Ecuador and Colombia as well as a ton of juices & milkshakes.  Next time I definitely want to try a milkshake after I spied one at a table next to us.  They serve beer (mostly Mexican along with Heineken and a couple domestics) and wine (all from Argentina and Chile).  Happy hour is Monday-Friday 4-6pm and the deal is 1/2 price ap’s, $3 beers and $3.50 wine.

Overall = check it out immediately!  It’s cheap, delicious and I really don’t see how you could be disappointed.

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