Do you ever get bored with the usual French, Italian, Mexican, Chinese, basic American food? I do. When I hear about something I’ve never had before, I’m all over it. Give me something I’ve never had before.
I remember in high school (Big Lake, go Hornets), we had a field trip to Taste of the Nations at the old St. Paul Civic Center. Not exactly an episode of Bizarre Foods but it also wasn’t Perkins. I loved it. Made me into kind of an adventurous eater…..I may not like it but I’ll sure give it a try.
That was followed by a couple of mission trips to Haiti in my late teens where I got to stretch the foodie legs a little more. You wouldn’t believe what they put on rice. Or maybe you would. It doesn’t look great but it tasted great. And for the record, I was sick only once and that was my fault (don’t get the flavored ice from a street vendor…I was not thinking). Stick with the beans and rice.
Haitian Red Beans and Rice
Put it this way, why not try something! Does Foie Gras sound gross to you (yes, its duck liver)?
I brought our Program Director, Wendy Paulson, to 112 Eatery in downtown Minneapolis. They make Foie Gras meatballs that are off the charts good. She wanted no part of them. But the server backed me up and told her you can’t knock this until you try it. It’s not like eating liver and onions. It’s very mild and delicate. She ended up loving them. Now, I don’t think she’s going to be searching for duck liver on every menu from now on but at least she gave it a shot, and had a great experience. You never know.
Another quick story….I mentioned in my last post that my girlfriend, Anne, is Filipino. Her parents came here from the Philippines in the late ‘60’s. Now Anne is practically more Americanized than I am. They make food that she won’t touch. At Christmas, after seeing it at several previous gatherings, I was finally talked into trying one of their dishes I had avoided and Anne won’t go near (although this is pretty much the only thing she won’t eat and most of it is fabulous).
Dinuguan is kind of a stew that you eat over white rice (here’s a recipe if you’re curious). It’s pork (mostly). But it’s cooked with blood. Think blood sausage without the casing. Sound gross? It kind of did to me too. I’ve had blood pudding before and it’s not bad. But this was a little different. Anne’s family kept jokingly telling me to “try the pudding”. Nope. I avoided it for months.
Now, I guess the holiday spirit got me and I got talked into it. So, I loaded up the rice and stood in the kitchen….with the whole family staring at me (look at the American eating our strange foods!!!). I ended up going back for more. It was great. It was a touch spicy and tasted kind of like an exotic beef stew. Like I said, you never know.
Anne lived in Spain for a while during college. She LOVES Spain. She loves the food, the culture, the whole deal. So this past weekend, I wanted to find a little Spanish food for us.
In the Twin Cities, to the best of my knowledge, we’re looking at three places: Conga in NE Minneapolis, Solera in downtown Minneapolis and El Meson in south Minneapolis. El Meson was the choice.
I used to live a block from El Meson in the late 90’s when I first started working at WCCO. We used to head over there for the lunch buffet which they still do. It’s terrific. We got the Paella Marinara, a rice dish with tons of seafood…and a big jug of their fabulous Sangria. Plus, on Saturdays, they have live Flamenco dancers which are very cool to watch. Check out the deal they have on Wednesday night called “Date Night”. Can’t beat that.
This weekend is the 4th of July and a big weekend for outdoors, picnics, grilling, etc. Sounds like the weather will be pretty nice (first time we’ve said that all summer). Anne’s family has a little gathering at a park and I’ve been told I have some cooking to do. Right now I’m leaning towards doing a couple of barbecue chickens on the rotisserie.
Last year I made pulled pork which was a hit. It was actually a 14 pound pork shoulder to give you an idea. It took me 3 days to make. 24 hours in a brine solution to keep it from drying out, 24 hours marinating with a dry rub, 16 hours in a smoker and another 4 hours or so to cool down so I could shred it. I didn’t have anything big enough to put the dumb thing in. I had to go buy a new cooler so I had something to store it in while brining/marinating. Impressed? OK, don’t answer that. Anne told me to make that again but I just can’t bring myself to make the same thing two years in a row. Just doesn’t seem right!
I found out that on the east coast, there are rotisserie places popping up everywhere (especially in Washington and NYC) that make Peruvian Rotisserie Chicken. And people are flat addicted to it. I found a recipe (here) that I think I’m going to try. I guess they use a pepper called Aji Amarillo which is a mild yellow pepper…if I can find that anywhere (the Midtown Global Market carries a lot of this type of specialty food). If not, I read that banana peppers are a good substitute.
One more thing….last time I told you about a small south Minneapolis restaurant called Broders. The WCCO Half Off Page has a deal on another south Minny Italian place, Al Vento. It’s in the Lake Nokomis area and is recommended by Charlie Boone if you need a legend to tell you where to eat!
Enjoy the holiday and as always, leave your comments and suggestions below!