Sweet Peas Classic Neighborhood Pub

Maybe I watched too many episodes of Cheers when I was growing up, but I love a neighborhood bar where I feel like everyone could know my name. That’s the feeling that you get from Sweet Peas. Located on Snelling Avenue in St. Paul, Sweet Peas has a classic bar menu filled with burgers, fries and sandwiches. They’ve added their own touch of intrigue with homemade tater tots (not for the vegetarians in the group), lobster grilled cheese sandwiches, and spicy stuffed pickles. Despite the meat-centric menu, I liked my veggie burger so much I returned for a second visit!

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A Grand Evening at Everest

Sometimes despite my best efforts, my photos are an epic fail. Despite the bad photos, I hope that you will make a stop at Everest on Grand in St. Paul because the food will knock your socks off.

I had a real itch this week for non-American fare, so we headed out for Everest’s delicious Nepali, Tibetan and Indian options. We started with the Veggie Momos. Momos are steamed dumplings made with a mixture of vegetables and served with a house sauce of cilantro, tomato and spices – I would love to take this sauce home with me.

momo

Veggie Momos: Cabbage, spinach & onion mix.

The Husband went for the curry. The Chicken Tikka Masala is marinated boneless chicken breast roasted and then cooked in house tikka sauce. He ordered it “hot” and lived to tell the tale.

chicken curry

Tikka sauce is specialty spices blended in heavy cream with herbs

chau chau

Eek!! BLURRY! #drat

I opted for the Tofu Chau-Chau “medium+” spicy and it was perfect. What isn’t to like about sautéed wheat noodles with veggies?

Not only does Everest on Grand have tons of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options, they also do takeout and catering. They can feed every appetite, stop in today!

Cozy Comfort at Carmelo’s

I have been driving past the Carmelo’s sign for years, always meaning to stop in but never making the time. Last night that changed and I expect to be stopping there regularly from now on.

A cozy little Italian restaurant on Snelling Avenue in St. Paul, Carmelo’s believes in the wholesomeness of homemade food. Making everything from scratch using recipes passed down through the generations, the entire meal was a comfort after a long day. While Frank Sinatra softly crooned in my ear, I slathered butter on the fresh baked bread, dug in to my Primavera and sipped a crisp Pinot Grigio:

primavera

Fresh sautéed garden vegetables with aglio olio sauce, tossed with fettuccine (vegetarian)

The Husband opted for their signature dish, The Chicken Carmelo. He loved every bite:

chicken carmelo

Lightly breaded, baked & topped with fresh crab, parmesan & a lemon cream sauce served over angel hair & garnished with roasted vegetables

We couldn’t leave without dessert. Their tiramisu was heavenly, so light and creamy:tiramisu

Gluten free? No worries, they have options for you too. Trust me, you don’t want to wait to stop in.

Dinner Dates in French Meadows

Do you ever get so hungry that you just can’t figure out where or what to eat? That happened to us the other night. We ran through a list of restaurants that would feed us very respectable dinners, but we weren’t excited about any of them. That’s when inspiration struck, how about The French Meadow? It’s a favorite breakfast joint for us but we’ve never had their dinner before. Turned out to be just the ticket.

The Husband dug into the North Start Bison Burger. It comes with St. Pete’s Bleu Cheese (his favorite), bacon, and red onion marmalade on an organic brioche bun:
bison burger

I was having problems deciding but our server sold me on the vegan special: Chickpea Croquettes on Pita with Greens. She was right, the little croquettes were light and satisfying:chickpea croquettes

When you go to The French Meadow, you have get dessert. It took a lot of soul searching, but we finally landed on the Seasonal Berry Cake:
cake

Take a lesson from us. The next time you’re so hungry you can’t decide on where to eat, head to The French Meadow!

Birthday Dinner at Scusi

When it comes to celebrating, the first place that comes to my mind is Scusi in St. Paul. Not only is the food absolutely delicious, the entire dining experience has a festive air to it. It’s so comfortable and relaxed you lose track of time when you’re there, I like to imagine it’s what a leisurely dinner in Italy is like. Their tagline sums up the restaurant well: Delicious, authentic; never stuffy or pretentious—that’s Scusi.

We started with the three cheese plate. My favorite was the creamy and buttery Triple Crème:

Triple Creme, St Pete's Blue Cheese and Humboldt Fog with Ginger Chutney

Triple Creme, St Pete’s Blue Cheese and Humboldt Fog with Ginger Chutney

We shared another favorite of mine, the Arancini:

risotto balls

Arancini: Crispy risotto balls, roasted red pepper aioli (vegetarian)

The Husband tried the Fettuccine:

Fettuccine

Fettuccine: Shrimp, zucchini-mint pesto, almond, lemon

I wanted to save room for dessert, so I opted for the Beet Rattafia:

Beet Rattafia: Roasted beets, St Pete's Blue Cheese, mixed greens, crouton

Beet Rattafia: Roasted beets, St Pete’s Blue Cheese, mixed greens, crouton (vegetarian)

And happy birthday to me, what a dessert it was:

donut holes

Zeppole: Italian doughnut holes, marsala cherries, chocolate, whipped cream

Home Street Home

It helps the work day go faster when you can have a picnic with friends. Thank you to the food truck partnership in St. Paul that has organized #lunchbytheriver on Thursdays!

food trucks

Our lunches came from Home Street Home. Started in 2011, their St. Paul-based truck provides gourmet food made from scratch using fresh local ingredients. We sat on a bench overlooking the Mississippi River while we ate.

This vegetarian Hummus Gyro was a messy delight, at least that’s what she said when she ate it:

hummus gyro

Hummus Gyro (w/chips): our own scratch made hummus, red peppers, red onions, cucumber and tzatziki sauce folded up in warm pita bread

The Best-Good Friend really liked the coleslaw on her pulled pork sandwich:

pulled pork sandwich

Pulled Pork Sandwich (w/chips): pork slow roasted in India Pale Ale , topped with our own BBQ sauce and crispy citrus coleslaw on a butter toasted bun

This sandwich made me think jam should be mandatory when serving grilled cheese:

grilled cheese

My Grilled Four Cheese Sandwich (w/chips): provolone, Colby jack, sharp cheddar and Havarti w/raspberry & jalapeno jam

With lunches like these, I might have to picnic in the park every Thursday.

Just a Taste

Life is about the little things, like enjoying a spontaneous lunch with a girlfriend on a workday. That’s how I ended up at The Buttered Tin in downtown St. Paul.

Located in Lowertown, I was enchanted by the cafe and bakery. My only regret was that I only ate one thing:

roasted beet salad

Roasted Beet Salad Baby Arugula, shallots, basil, orange supremes, avocado, raspberries, feta cheese & toasted almonds with a curry vinaigrette (vegetarian)

It was delicious. I think there will be more spontaneous lunches in my future, hopefully with cupcakes….

Morning in a French Meadow

I love a good breakfast, it’s pretty much my favorite meal of the day. I love breakfast so much I’ll eat it morning, noon and night. Do you get the idea? And when I find a favorite food, I want to eat it all the time. So it will come as no surprise when I say that I haven’t stopped thinking about my Breakfast Quesadilla last January at The French Meadow Bakery & Cafe in Minneapolis. Despite my love of this quesadilla and my inability to forget it, I hadn’t been back to The French Meadow because there are so many great places to eat and so little time.

You can imagine my childlike glee when I learned that a new French Meadow had opened in St. Paul, what a perfect excuse to eat there again! I made a rule for myself, however, I had to try something new. After a great deal of soul searching, I landed on the “Zone” Omelette. It was good, but it was no Breakfast Quesadilla:

omelette

My “Zone” Omelette: Three egg whites & one yolk, chevre, organic spinach, scallions, sun-dried tomatoes, side of organic mixed greens & organic sprouted toast (vegetarian)

The Husband really liked his selection. He mentioned a few things about the fresh flavors and the salmon, but I secretly think he liked the meal because he could slather cream cheese all over everything. He had the Eggs & Smoked Salmon:

eggs and salmon

The Husband’s Eggs & Smoked Salmon: Organic Schultz scrambled eggs, smoked wild pacific salmon, cream cheese, organic spinach, side of organic mixed greens & organic sprouted toast

And because we didn’t know how long it would be until we’d be back, we made sure to save room for a scone:

Image

White chocolate and cranberry scone.

A Juicy What?

A great rivalry exists in Minneapolis, a rivalry over a delicacy that I’m not sure is known outside the Twin Cities. It is a debate over the best Juicy Lucy (also known as a “Jucy Lucy”). What is a Juicy Lucy? It’s a cheeseburger made with the cheese on the INSIDE of the burger. When it’s brought out to you, the server warns to beware of your first bite because the hot cheese oozes out like molten lava.

Being the vegetarian that I am, I’ve never had the pleasure of tasting one of these burgers, but the debate over the best one stirs great passion in the connoisseur. Most often one hears the best is at Matt’s Bar or the 5-8 Club, both establishments are in South Minneapolis and claim this brilliant concoction of ground beef and cheese as their own. While there is no doubt that the burger was born at one of these restaurants in the 1950s, new versions have sprung up since then on the other side of the Mississippi River. Restaurants in St. Paul have their own twist; some have gone Cajun with jalapenos and pepper jack cheese, some use bleu cheese and garlic, and others throw in fried bacon. I was pleased to find an entire article on Wikipedia dedicated to this topic!

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking, how can a vegetarian tell me where to find the best Juicy Lucy? Well, I live with an impassioned eater of these burgers, and his vote is for The Juicy Nookie at The Nook in St. Paul:Image

A seasoned professional at eating his Juicy Nookie, he patiently approaches his burger, giving it several minutes to cool before he goes in for the first careful bite:Image

I love The Nook too. The wait staff sport t-shirts that say, “Meat is murder, delicious, delicious murder” but they are kind enough to offer the choice of TWO veggie burgers on their menu and quip “You’re in the wrong place for this, but if you must….” And they are really good, especially the Black Bean Burger. I’m not sure what I like better, the burger or the fresh cut fries. Good thing I don’t have to decide:Image

And now it’s your turn. Where is your favorite Juicy Lucy? And who is ready to try making a veggie option?

A Taste of Thailand

Sometimes at the end of a long day you just want an old favorite for dinner, that’s how we ended up at Pad Thai on Grand in St. Paul. According to their website, they are family-run and make traditional Thai food. I’ve never been to Thailand so I can’t guarantee the authenticity of that claim, but it sure is delicious.

We started with the deep-fried vegetarian egg rolls. These are some of my favorite egg rolls in the city:

egg rolls

Deep-Fried Vegetarian Egg Rolls: Wheat paper stuffed with mungbean thread noodles, cabbage, black mushroom, carrots & onion.

The Husband always orders the same thing because it’s his favorite and he loves it so much, the Thai Steamed Scallops:

thai scallops

The Husband’s Thai Steamed Scallops: Steamed scallops served with traditional Thai mild peanut curry sauce.

 

I ordered something new and it was AMAZING, the Pad Thai Srirasha:

spicy pad thai noodles

My Pad Thai Srirasha: Special stir-fried rice noodles, carrot, cabbage, bean sprouts, broccoli, green onion, & tomato sauce with tofu. (vegetarian)

 

We both ordered our dishes medium spicy and our taste of Thailand was complete.

Getting A Little Nutty

What? Martha Stewart doesn’t like bloggers? That’s fine, this blogger doesn’t like her fortune cookie recipe. My first pass at Valentine treats was a disaster, I ended up with a stack of fortunes and a mess of dough that looked like this:fortune_cookie

It was not a good thing. Fortunately, I know when to accept defeat, especially when the Valentine’s Day clock is running out. These little gems saved the day and were super simple to make, Cherry Bonbon Cookies:

Cherry Bonbon Cookies

There’s a maraschino cherry in the middle!

I got my little Valentine suited up for deliveries:
danny

And we hit the road:
valentines

Afterwards, The Husband and I celebrated our Valentine’s Day at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. It was a crisp afternoon for a walk, but so beautiful:

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We seemed to be on the path most traveled:
tracks

And I was mesmerized by the birds:

Saturday we were up bright and early so we went to my FAVORITE breakfast location ever, Day by Day Cafe in St. Paul. The Husband had one of his top picks, “The Heart Stopper.” Just kidding, it was Biscuits & Gravy with Sausage Gravy:

The Husband's Biscuits & Gravy

The Husband’s Biscuits & Gravy

I had my favorite, The Earth Breakfast:

My Good Earth Breakfast: Two eggs scrambled in hashbrowns with onions with melted cheese (I added spinach, avocado and a side of salsa) - VEGETARIAN

My Earth Breakfast: Two eggs scrambled in hashbrowns with onions and melted cheese (I added spinach, avocado and a side of salsa) – VEGETARIAN

After my first taste of Nutella last weekend, I needed to follow the advice of a friend/reader who said it was a breeze to make. He was right! I whipped up a batch to give my own version of the Lake & Irving Nutella French Toast a try:

nutella

I used the recipe from The Splendid Table and it was gooooooooood but I almost burned my hazel nuts (aka: filberts) in the toasting process, so keep an eye on them when you make your own. Also, the comments on this recipe are correct, it will harden overnight – I softened mine in the microwave. The Nutella was so simple, I tried my hand at whipping up some peanut butter at the same time:

peanut_butter

The peanut butter was good but a bit bland. I used 1 cup of dry roasted peanuts (no salt) and then added a little bit of olive oil for smoothness. Perhaps it will grow on me if I forget how much I love the taste of Skippy Natural?

Now, I really prefer a savory breakfast but I must say… my Nutella French Toast was fantastic. I added fresh strawberry puree and bananas. The fruit added a bright flavor to all of the chocolatey sweetness, The Husband took a classic approach and ate his with maple syrup. I’m telling you, it attracted attention:

Even Cleo wanted a bite.

Cleo is moving in for a bite.

Sunday I slaved away on my dress and finally won the war against jersey. I can’t wait to start my next pattern, I already have one in mind. I’ll be dressing Matilda up for a fashion show later this week.

The hard work sewing had me hungry for a veggie burger. We stopped in at The Blue Door in Longfellow for dinner. It was good, but I have a hard time being happy with a veggie burger when it doesn’t include some form of avocado on top – I’ll take traditional or guacamole: