A taste of the good life | A philosophy of the good life

A taste of the good life | A philosophy of the good life

Life is short, they told us from the start. And, like the joke Woody Allen used in Annie Hall, “Two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of ’em says, “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.” The other one says, “Yeah, I know; and such small portions.” Well, that’s essentially how I feel about life – full of loneliness, and misery, and suffering, and unhappiness, and it’s all over much too quickly.” life is often viewed, perhaps sardonically, but with a certain modicum of truth, as something somewhat cruel. But, when utilized properly, filled with good food and drink, and good people on all sides to share it with, a moment can last a thousand years, each one better than the last.   Memory of a good life The smell of black coffee immediately brings me back to the childhood hours spent in airports across the world; flights to and from Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Reykjavik, Chicago. The fresh pastries; croissants with butter, raspberry cream donuts, kaiser rolls, and walnut snails ready to eat while waiting wide-eyed, watching a thousand people pass by, and then a thousand more. Getting together the last bit of change in my pocket to buy a fresh pretzel from the stand, or something warm to drink when the wind blows cold. A tall glass of orange juice reminds of the sun shining warm across the breakfast table. Three, four, five courses from some of the world’s most passionate chefs… It’s not just about luxury; not just about the foie gras with black truffle, or having caviar twice a day (though I would not object)....
What I ate when I was under the weather

What I ate when I was under the weather

Broth is the common cure for almost anything which ails you.  At least that’s my go to.  We all know grandmas have been taking care of business with their homemade soups and broths since the dawn of the soup bowl.  But more importantly I’m taking about spiced broth.  Spice gets the blood flowing, bringing more oxygen to all parts of your body.  Capsaicin, which puts the spice in spicy, can clear your sinuses, help against ulcers and get your metabolism running stronger.  Also can be a solid colon cleanse in large amounts. This is what I ate as I was laid up in bed for 48 hours craving nothing but spicy broth.   Pho ’79  (Nicollet Ave) Restaurant Grade: B Maybe it’s because I was dealing with a sinus infection, maybe it’s because we got it to go, or maybe the lazy cousin was working that day and forgot to put flavor in the broth, whatever the reason: this was the blandest Pho I’ve had in Minnesota.  Lacking on the spices and umami, only after adding the typical hoisin and chili sauce did it become appealing.  Pho broth is supposed to be this tried and true corner stone of depth that comes from hours of slow simmering and mélange of spices, so once you are given the necessary accompaniments you can tweak it how you’d like.  The lime, Thai basil, chili sauce, hoisin, bean sprouts, smoked chili oil, and scallions are all necessary and available for you to add the appropriate amounts.  These things are great but it doesn’t fix the missing layer of flavor from a boring broth....
Meatballs.

Meatballs.

If you like balls, especially when made out of meat and served for dinner, then look no further: This simple, delicious and incredibly versatile recipe for meatballs will hit the spot every time. Make this anytime of year and serve it with your favorite pasta, veggies, potatoes, or do the right thing and make my Boomer Gravy, with some braised kale or bok choy. These balls are also great skewered and grilled over charcoal or hot wood.   Classic Minnesota Meatballs, yield: 6 servings Ingredients: 2lb ground pork 1lb ground grass fed beef 80%-85% lean 2 eggs, lightly beaten 1T Onion granulated powder 2t Garlic granulated powder 1T Dried basil 1T Dried oregano 1/2t ground nutmeg 2t Black pepper 2T Salt Directions: Place all ingredients in kitchen-aid mixer or non-reactive mixing bowl and mix until thoroughly combined.  First put in eggs and meat and then sprinkle in spices to prevent them from clumping.  Cook a small piece of the mixture to check for salt content.  You may need to add more salt, depending on the fat content of the meat used. Once mixture is amazingly mixed because my instructions are flawless, begin to portion it for balls.  I use a small ice cream scoop to portion and then make sure to roll each portion into a nice tight and smooth ball about 1.5”- 2” in diameter.  Just the right size to cup two of them say, in your hand, for example. Now, you can either lay these out on a sheet tray with an oven rack, equally distanced apart and roast at 425f until the internal temperature of the...
Pajarito brings the heat to an already-sizzling West 7th

Pajarito brings the heat to an already-sizzling West 7th

The neighborhood Pajarito joins one of St. Paul’s oldest, now one of St. Paul’s hottest, avenues. West 7th was already cool, of course, peppered with great, if overlooked, places to eat and drink. There is no need to change West 7th or the West End neighborhood. But there was certainly room to add to it. The avenue is red-hot right now, from the Xcel Energy Center to Schmidt Artists Lofts. The success of new ventures, like Bad Weather Brewing Company, joins established hot spots like Mancinis and Cossetta’s, while looking to the future with Keg and Case Market, Stone Brewery, and New Bohemia coming this year. And Pajarito, which opened its doors during the final days of a tumultuous 2016, is making a name for itself in the midst of it all.   Pajarito, the restaurant We may have spent a few months lamenting the loss of the Glockenspiel (the space in which Pajarito is now housed), but the past is the past and the future is now. St. Paul is no longer lagging behind in creating neighborhood restaurants of note; in creating quality, awesome spots suitable for both a quick bite and cocktail or a nice sit-down-and-stay dinner. Pajarito embraces the fact that, on some level, it’s just a taco joint. The minds (and hands and hearts and souls) behind Pajarito don’t try and take on more than they can handle. This is evidenced by the beautiful simplicity of the menu. The tacos ($9) are great. The Carnitas is the best so far, and perhaps one of the best in the cities. You can truly taste the grill on the...
Winespiring: Bottles of memories

Winespiring: Bottles of memories

As a wine professional, I sample several wines each week.  Sometimes dozens in a single day.  When I taste a wine for work it is rarely with the thought of whether or not I like the wine.  I taste with the future consumer in mind.  I ask, will it go with the menu or is this price point going to deliver what the guest is looking for?  I look, sniff, swirl… all with the mindset of someone else. When you get into wine as a profession it is common to lose your passion for why you came to this inspiring beverage to begin with.  But sometimes, a wine will remind you of a memory, a snapshot of something ethereal and important.  Something forgotten that you find like a single earring under the rug.  A note of petrol that triggers a quick moment of sitting in the backseat of your parent’s car while they pumped gas with the windows open on a warm day.  Or graphite that takes you back to sharp pencils and algebra tests.  A Cabernet that brought back the taste of red currants growing near the front door of my grandmother’s house. I could not tell you what that Cabernet was.  But I can remember details of picking the sour currants and staining my lips with them.  I appreciate when a wine pulls the past out of my distracted brain.  It is like a microscope of smell and taste that connects me with a former time when I collected all the environmental clues that hold consistency in my glass. It is these olfactory moments that inspire me...
Comfort food to get you through the cold

Comfort food to get you through the cold

Wet, warm and cloudy. Not ideal weather for Minnesota in December. Although it hasn’t been as cold as normal due to climate change, I still crave some wholesome, warm, eat-until-you-want-to-hibernate type of food to make the serotonin flow. This recipe is just that, but with a little fresh zest; a spice and brightness that makes you tell yourself (or your partner), “don’t stop.”  So cozy up this weekend, cook in your underwear, crack a bottle and make something from scratch. Egg pasta, yield: 5 servings Ingredients: 4 large eggs 1c OO flour 3c semolina flour 1t salt   Directions: In a large sized bowl, combine flours and salt. Make a well in the flour, add the slightly beaten egg, and mix. Mixture should form stiff dough. If needed, stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons water. Knead for 10 minutes and let rest for 30 minutes. Cut the dough in 4 pieces and cover with a damp towel. Grab one of the pieces of dough and smash it down with your hands until its about 1/4in thick. Then using a pasta roller, start at the thickest setting and roll the past through it (you may want to do this setting twice). Then, lower the setting by one notch and roll the pasta through. Continue until you reach the thinnest setting. You should have a rather long sheet of pasta. Cut into 10in lengths and layer them on top of each other, making sure there is a fair amount of semolina flour between the layers so it doesn’t stick. Once they are stacked nicely, cut pasta every 1in and set aside with plastic wrap or damp towel over...