Trip Around Lake Pepin – On the Mighty Mississippi

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Lake Pepin is a naturally occurring lake and is the largest lake on the Mississippi River. On the west is Minnesota and 1.7 miles across it is Wisconsin. It covers 29,295 acres and is 21 miles long. Its main claim to fame is that in 1922, Ralph Samuelson successfully skied on water. He was from Lake City and after five days of trying, he succeeded in being the first documented water skier. In 1925, again on Lake Pepin, he made the first water ski jump.

I took a drive around Lake Pepin to see what else it had to offer. We drove from the Twin Cities down through Red Wing, famous for its shoes among other things, and crossed the Mississippi to the Wisconsin side.

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A few years ago I was in Frontenac State Park on the Minnesota side looking over to Maiden Rock. This time I was driving through Maiden Rock village. A plaque at Frontenac Park states: “On the east shore of Lake Pepin, opposite this point, juts out a high rock. From this pinnacle, according to accounts of early travelers, a Sioux maiden of Wabasha’s band prevented from marrying the warrior of her choice, leaped to her death that she might avoid union with another and older man.”

Stockholm was our next stop. Population 66. At one time it was a thriving community of about 300. It was founded in 1856 by Swedish immigrant farmers and was connected to the railroad in 1886. Although most residents moved to more urban areas after World War II, the village did not disappear completely. In the 1970’s people were drawn to the area for its natural beauty and it has become a thriving artist community with small artsy shops like the Purple Turtle Artisan Collective and North Oak Amish Furniture and Gifts. There is a pie shop on the corner and a complete gourmet kitchen store. It is home to music and art festivals throughout the summer.

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Down the road, just outside of Pepin, is the Villa Bellezza winery. Wisconsin wine has a ways to go but we tasted a few decent wines and had a look around. The setting is stunning with vineyards all around an Italian Villa. There is a piazza with a fountain and it is a popular place for weddings and receptions. There is a self-guided tour but the main tours are on Saturday and Sunday at 11:30 am. The tasting room is open everyday.

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Pepin is larger than Stockholm with about 800 people. We stopped at the Harbor View Café across from the marina for lunch. The café has been coming to life every summer since 1980. It is well known throughout the area for its tasty eclectic food. The Menu goes up on the chalkboard over the bar twice daily. We were offered Alaskan Halibut, Hawaiian Swordfish, Massachusetts Striped Bass, Copper River Salmon, along with chicken, pork, risotto and pasta. We shared a chocolate buttercream pie for dessert.

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From there it was a beautiful drive to Nelson and a stop at the Nelson Creamery. The ice cream looked tempting but we were way too full. We did stock up on local cheese and beer. They have a small seating area with a fireplace that must be lovely in winter. As we arrived it started to rain so we spent some time watching a summer downpour.

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We headed out as it eased up and crossed the river to Wabasha, Minnesota and up to Reeds Landing. Reeds Landing was founded in the mid-1800’s as a trading post and became a major logging town. The Reeds Landing Brewery is housed in a building originally built in 1869 as a dry goods store. Today it is a pub and restaurant overlooking Lake Pepin. One of their beers, Cap’n Crunch Amber, is made with Captain Crunch cereal and is pretty good.

We took a quick tour of Lake City on our way back to Red Wing to close the loop. On the way home we passed through New Trier to see St Mary’s Church. The church was built in 1909, in the Beaux Art Classic Style by architect Paul Ries of St Paul. The statue of the Virgin Mary and child was cast in 1862 and sits over the main door. It was entered into the national Register of Historic Places in 1980. It is at the top of a hill and is impressive.

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Salt Cellar, Dining in St Paul

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I discovered a great blog recently. Chef Alan Bergo of the Salt Cellar restaurant in St Paul writes as the Forager Chef. He likes to use indigenous Mid-western ingredients and local purveyors. He cooks with dandelions, knotweed, ramps, spruce. burdock root and nettles. He writes about hunting for mushrooms, cooking methods and recipes. The recipes look fabulous – Spruce Brined Poussin with Apple Mustard Sauce and Beef Tartare with Dead Man’s Fingers and Ramp Vinaigrette are a couple that caught my eye.

View into the kitchen

View into the kitchen

I don’t remember seeing them on the menu at the Salt Cellar. A friend of mine was raving about the meat so I went there for the first time the other night. There is a large glass window into the kitchen from the main dining room so you can watch the chef in action. The meal started with homemade potato chips and pimento cheese with warm fresh rolls that melted in your mouth.

The beef steaks were tender and flavorful. They came with a small cup of wild mushrooms and a cup of their own special béarnaise sauce with a little tomato added. Our sides were the market vegetable medley which were nicely seasoned and the beef fat pommes frites. I think I ordered the roasted potatoes but the pommes frites were sinfully delicious.

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Chocolate Mousse with Shortbread

We finished the meal with a chocolate mousse and a Boston cream pie. Our waiter insisted we try the spruce ice cream that was offered as part of the daily ice cream selection. It was unexpectedly delicious. Very fresh and light.

Manu

Manu

Our waiter’s name was Manu and he had a strong French accent. Usually when I ask people where they are from, they will tell me the country or the continent and I have to ask several times to find out where exactly they are from. He told me he came from Toulouse, France right away and was happy to chat. His mother’s family was from Catalan across the border in Spain and his grandmother had called him Manu, short for Manuel and it stuck.

My dining partner and I had been speculating about how he got here. My friend was sure he followed a woman. I thought he might have come for school. Of course it was a woman. He said he followed a woman here and then fell in love with Minnesota and could not leave. The restaurant was empty on a Friday night and I asked him if it was always like that. The explanation was that the restaurant has no outdoor space and in the summer Minnesotans like to be dining outside if in town but many were probably at their summer cabins. We consoled each other for not having a summer cabin.

 

 

Indian Boarding School to Green University

Last weekend I drove up to Morris, Minnesota, population 5,000, which is about a three hour drive north of the Twin Cities.

On the way we stopped in Glenwood for a DQ ice cream and spent a few moments enjoying the view of Lake Minnewaska. It was a beautiful day and the lake was inviting. That night we dined at the Bella Cucina in downtown Morris.

It has an extensive menu and very good food. We enjoyed artichoke dip with grilled ciabatta as an appetizer and then dug into such things as lasagna, Tuscan rigatoni with goat cheese, lobster mac and cheese, penne Corsica with shrimp and artichokes, and chicken scallopini. All were delicious although probably too much because we were all stuffed.

We couldn’t find a bed for the night in Morris due to some track meet so we had to drive another half hour to Benson. Benson is a town of about 3,000 people, how hard could it be to find our hotel? We got lost, drove all the way through town, turned around, got out the phones and finally found our hotel. By this time we were ready for a nightcap. We headed to the bar attached to the hotel. It was packed, not a free seat in the place, and the DJ was a maniac with loud, loud music. It was time for bed instead. DonsCafe-300x300[1]

The next morning we headed back to Morris and Don’s Café for breakfast. Don’s has been around since the 1940s and serves good homemade slow cooked food. The bread is made on site every morning. On the wall above us was a plaque presented by the local CBS affiliate to Don’s for having the best grilled cheese sandwiches in Minnesota. We decided it must be the bread.

Morris’ main claim to fame is the University of Minnesota – Morris which was founded in 1960 as a public liberal arts institution. About 1,900 students enroll each year. The campus is on 130 acres and is part of the state university system. In the Liberal Arts College category, Morris ranks in the top 20 along with three other Minnesota colleges, Carlton, Augsburg and Macalester as LGBTQ friendly campuses. Morris has a long standing commitment to fostering diversity, intercultural competence and environmental stewardship. The campus is a national leader in green initiatives and on its way to becoming carbon neutral.

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Lamb Stew

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My brother gave me an electric crockpot and my son was begging for some lamb so this turned out to be a great marriage. If you don’t have a crockpot, simmering on the stove would probably work just as well.

Once I got into the recipe I discovered I didn’t have any coriander so I threw in some cinnamon instead. Of course, I must have just gone brain dead because obviously coriander is cilantro and I always have cilantro. In spite of it all, it turned out to be a tasty dish.

Lamb Stew

1 lb lamb shoulder chops, trimmed and cut into smallish chunks

Mix together and toss with the meat:

1 Tbsp olive oil

4 tsp cumin

1 Tbsp coriander (cilantro)

¼ tsp cayenne pepper (I would put a little more)

¼ tsp salt (don’t really need it if you are using the full strength chicken broth)

Several turn of the pepper mill

 

1 large onion, chopped (I used a red one)

 

28-oz diced tomatoes

¾ cup chicken broth (I used half a cube in boiling water)

4 cloves minced garlic

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1 can cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans)

Mash about ¾ cup of the beans

 

6 oz fresh spinach, chopped

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Put the spiced up meat into the crockpot, top with chopped onion.

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Heat tomatoes, chicken broth and garlic in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.

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Pour the tomato mixture over the meat.

Cover and cook 3 hours on high or 5 hours on low, until meat is tender.

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Mix in the mashed chickpeas, whole chickpeas, and spinach

Cook an additional 5-10 minutes until headed and spinach has wilted.

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Serve over rice.

Leftover note. We had this the next day as a sauce for gnocchi and it was really pretty good.

 

 

 

Cooking in Colorado

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I recently spent some time in Boulder, Colorado with an old friend of mine. We both have frequented the Indonesian restaurants in Amsterdam and gorged ourselves on Rijsttafel. I hadn’t had Rijsttafel in ages and when he volunteered to make it, I was very excited. After a quick trip to the Asian store he assembled all the ingredients and spent the afternoon cooking.

Many many ingredients

Many many ingredients

Rijstaffel means rice table. It usually consists of rice with multiple small dishes, appetizers, and condiments. The dishes can come from anywhere in Indonesia from spicy curries to dishes with Chinese influence. The Dutch colonists who had been living in Indonesia brought the Rijstaffel back to the Netherlands. Today it is virtually unknown in Indonesia but is still going strong in the Netherlands.

We had beef in red sauce with tomato chili and coconut cream, chicken Bali with lemongrass and coconut cream, Gado Gado (vegetables with peanut sauce), two kinds of Satay, rice and multiple condiments.

It was a feast and all delicious. I am going t have to try to make the chicken one day soon.

Toasted coconut and peanuts for sprinkling on dishes

Toasted coconut and peanuts for sprinkling on dishes

Beginning of beef in red sauce

Beginning of beef in red sauce

Starting chicken Bali

Starting chicken Bali

Chicken Bali almost done

Chicken Bali almost done

Condiments with Gado Gado

Condiments with Gado Gado

My plate is full!

My plate is full!

Women’s Day Torte

Happy International Women’s Day! For some reason this day reminded me of a torte I have made several times and associate with Women’s Day. Probably because it is so delicious.

Turkey is the top producer of Hazelnuts but they are also grown commercially in Europe, Iran, and the Caucasus. The hazelnut-chocolate spread, Nutella, accounts for about 25% of all hazelnut production.

Hazelnut Torte

½ lb shelled hazelnuts

8 eggs, separated

1 ½ cups sugar

½ cup breadcrumbs

Grated rind of 1 lemon

Juice of ½ lemon

1 tsp vanilla extract

½ cup whipped cream

1 cup tart jelly

Grind the unblanched hazelnuts very fine. Put 2 tablespoons of the ground nuts aside for the outside of the cake.

Beat the egg yolks with the sugar till very light. Add the breadcrumbs, lemon rind, lemon juice, vanilla and ground nuts. Fold in the egg whites whipped very stiff but not dry.

Bake in 2 layers, 30 minutes at 325 degree F. Cool in the pans.

Take out and put together with whipped cream and a little jelly spread between the layers. Whip the rest o f the jelly with a fork and spread it over the top and sides of the cake. Powder with unused 2 tablespoons of ground nuts. Decorate the top of the cake with a swirl of whipped cream. Chill before serving.

 

Food and Beer with some other stuff thrown in – My Week

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I had an interesting week. After spending 12 years in the DC area and never going out or doing anything (at least very rarely), I know have a blooming social life. The DC area is spread across Maryland, Washington DC, and Virginia. You often have to travel an hour or more to see people and with the horrid traffic, it can take you much longer. It was easier to make the long drive home after work and just stay there. The Twin Cities are much smaller in area and I would call the traffic “light”. I would guess I could be anywhere I want to go in 30 minutes or less.

My week started on Sunday back at the Walker Art Museum. A friend of a friend was visiting from out of town. She happened to be staying with people who live a block from my new place and also moved here recently. I am living in an up and coming trendy area where old buildings and warehouses are being converted into lofts and upscale apartments. My building is an old dry goods store but their building is brand new. We went over and saw their place after a quick tour of the Walker. The apartment is spacious and very modern. They have a view of a parking ramp. But I suppose the price was right. And the location is perfect.

From there we went to eat at the “best” Indian restaurant in the city, India House. Our new friends were vegetarian and this place had many vegetarian options with “homemade sauces and secret spices”. I had the Tikka Masala with chunks of chicken, green peppers and onions in a tomato sauce. My brother, who went to boarding school in India, said he thought Tikka Masala was a dish they made up for the British and not really Indian but, when served in India, it usually had chunks of vegetables in it. I had never had it with vegetables before. The best part of the meal was the onion pakora appetizers. I have no idea how they made them but they were clusters of onion fried in a batter. They are also called Kanda Bhaji or onion fritters. They were delicious. And of course we washed it all down with a Taj Mahal beer.

– READ ON at: http://baltimorepostexaminer.com/food-beer-stuff-thrown-week/2015/01/23#sthash.gn0fHZIb.dpuf