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RI: Port of Galilee

A quick apology first.  Since I was just learning how to use my new toy, there was a bit of a screw up.  Somewhere along the way, the camera got switched to manual focus and I didn’t realize it for a day and a half, so there are a bunch of pictures that I’m really less than satisfied with.  Please bear with me, we’ll get to better ones soon.

The whole dream of the Rhode Island vacation started with an invitation from our friend Dave’s parents.  They have a beach house that they were kind enough to open to Dave and some of his Seminary friends for a week.  Through a couple of iterations of who was interested and available, our group came out to be Dave, myself and Lindz, and Matt and Janessa.

Da group. Matt, Janessa, Dave, and yours truly. Lindz was behind the camera.

Our first day in Little Rhodie, we went over to the Port of Galilee for some seafood lunch.  There is a restaurant that Dave’s family goes to all the time that is about a 20 mile drive from the house (or about 10 miles as a crow would fly).  Champlin’s Seafood is located right on the inlet from the ocean to one of the many saltwater ponds in the area.

Champlin’s Seafood. One of my new favorite places ever. Too bad it’s a half of a continent away.

They have a great working relationship with the fishing boats that use the Point Judith Pond as a harbor.  Many dock right outside of the building.  One touch that I thought was really cool is that they have the names of the fishing boats that they buy from on the life preservers hanging up around the building.  Besides the restaurant, they also sell a large variety of fresh seafood.

This is one of the fishing boats that supply Champlin’s. The photo was taken from my seat where I ate the first of many unbelievable seafood meals.

Their menu has a selection that any seafood lover would drool at the mere mention of a quarter of the items.  I would highly recommend at least looking over the menu before you go.  That way, you aren’t staring slack-jawed at the menu board trying to make a decision while people are waiting for you.  They have a full bar, so if you would like a homemade bloody mary, a beer, or just a soda, they have your thirst taken care of as well.  I should warn you that you should be prepared to spend a bit of money.  It’s not excessively expensive, but it isn’t cheap either.  I really should clarify that a bit: the quality to cost ratio is unbelievable, but it’s not someplace most people can afford to go more than once or twice a month.  Yeah, I feel better with that description.

Dave bought a half-dozen clam cakes to share around the table.  Think of a doughy (in a good sense)  crab cake and substitute in some clams.  They were really good.

Deep fried clammy goodness.

Lindz and I went a little wild with our order.  Based on Dave’s recommendation, I went with the deep fried whole-bellied clams.  In hindsight, I should have gotten them a la carte, and shared Lindz’s fries and slaw.  Whole bellies are whole soft shell clams as opposed to clam strips which are sliced hard shell clams.  The whole bellies that I ate had a nice mild clam flavor with a sweet undertone.  You didn’t need tarter sauce or anything to accompany them. I’ll put it another way for you.  I kept eating them after I was stuffed halfway through my meal.  Hands down, they were the second best clams that I have ever eaten.  Lindz ordered a lobster roll dinner for herself.  I think she still has the lobster bug from when we ate at Cosmos.  Ha ha!  Lobster bug, get it?  I’m so punny!  I did swipe a bite and it was really good.  Perfectly cooked and oh, so tasty.  Speaking of Cosmos, that is the reason why I got a 1/2 pint of their lobster bisque.  This was good, but it wasn’t quite as good as the one at Cosmos.  Significantly cheaper, but still slightly disappointing.  I shouldn’t be complaining because it’s still far better than you can find most anywhere.

Lower left: whole belly clam dinner. Upper right: lobster roll dinner. Bottom right: 1/2 pint of lobster bisque. Upper left-ish: 2 cherrystone clams

Finally, I saw that they had raw cherrystone clams on the menu.  I’ve never heard of, much less had clams on the half shell before.  So I ordered two of them.  I figured I’d offer Lindz one and if she declined, then I could eat both of them!  But, she was feeling adventurous that day and decided to try one.  Which still made me happy.  Janessa kindly documented our experience.

A little squeeze of lemon . . .

Hoist them and say “Cheers!” . . .

And suck them down!

I’m spitting out a lemon seed, not the clam.

If I was still hungry and we didn’t already spend a healthy wad of cash, I would have happily gone back and ordered a baker’s dozen.  They were everything that people tell you that good shellfish should taste like.  Slightly sweet and a bit like a fresh ocean.  These are the clams that claim the #1 slot in the best that I have ever tasted.  Lindz even liked them.

As far as seating options go, you can either sit inside (it’s really spacious) or out on the deck (a bit more limited).  It was a gorgeous day, and the place wasn’t busy, so ours was an easy choice: the deck.  I would suggest going there for lunch or an afternoon snack because I heard that around supper time, the line can get up to a hundred feet long or more.

One of the “patrons” hanging out at the restaurant.

Watching boats go by while eating fresh seafood is priceless.

One of my stated goals for this trip was to eat myself stupid with really good seafood.  This place fulfilled that dream and then some.  It also set the bar unbelievable high for the rest of the trip.

Brunch at Longfellow Grill

A friend of ours was up in the Cities from Iowa.  So a bunch of us got together at the Longfellow Grill on Lake St.

Szechwan Beef Salad

I had the Szechwan Beef Salad.  It had beef strips, greens, carrots, fried wonton strips, sesame seeds, and a sweet peanut sauce.  On the side was served a piece of cornbread.  Longfellows definitely earned bonus points for having chopsticks with the salad when they brought it out.  Yes, I used them to eat it too.  The beef was tender and very flavorful.  The greens were fresh but the salad was overdressed.  I liked the dressing but it got really sweet towards the end.  I liked the fried wontons in place of croutons, it fit with the theme of the salad.  The cornbread stole the show though.  It was moist.  I cannot stress that enough, it was borderline dripping.  It tasted like one of the main ingredients was creamed corn.  Not the canned stuff either.  I’m talking the stuff that is made by some hillbilly’s great-grandmother in the backwoods of the South and then smuggled over the Mason-Dixon line and sold to the highest bidder on the black market type of creamed corn.  Yeah.  It was that good.

Biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs, and a fruit compote

Lindz had the biscuits and gravy. This choice surprised no one.  Pretty much by default, she always gets biscuits and gravy no matter where we go.  I would venture that it is her favorite dish.  I didn’t try any of it because I was still trying to finish off my own plate.  You can’t tell from the pictures, but the servings were very large.  Okay, I’m going to qualify that a bit.  The servings didn’t look large when they were sitting in front of you, but you noticed it after eating for ten minutes straight and not being able to see any difference in the quantity of the food still in front of you.

As with most of the places I write about here, if you get the chance you should go and eat there.  You will be happier person afterwards.  Probably will want to slip into a food coma, but happier nonetheless.

Maverick’s

As seems to be the case all too often lately, by the time that I got home from work it was late and neither of us had any energy to make something for supper. Lindz was kind enough to run out and grab us some food. After running through the list of places nearby, we both decided that Maverick’s sounded the best.

Maverick’s Real Roast Beef is a small Mom & Pop BBQ place on Lexington Ave by Larpenteur. There is nothing fancy about their food, it’s just plain good. And good plain. (Notice that word play? I’m so clever! And I most certainly didn’t steal it from the CityPages review.) Also it’s very reasonably priced to boot. Although they are equally good, I usually get the brisket basket and Lindz gets the roast beef basket. The bonus for me is that they have a really good horseradish sauce that you can put on your sandwich. I grew up with homemade horseradish, so I am particular when it comes to this condiment. You should read that last sentence as “I am a horseradish snob.”

Not the greatest shot, but I was hungry. BTW, this is the brisket. The Horsey Sauce is top center. Yum.

To sum up, this is a place that deserves your business and you deserve to eat there.

Poached Egg Salad

I know I dropped the huge teasers of a Rhode Island trip and a new camera.  But I’ve been busy with work and making trips up north to make sure Grandma doesn’t go too stir-crazy in the nursing home.  In the near future, I’m going to be posting some short blurbs just to keep up the habit, and to shorten my queue.  So you’ll have to deal with crappy photos and short rambles.  Meh, such is life.

A while back I made myself and Lindz a salad with poached eggs on it.  I really enjoyed the combination.  So when I had some leftover stuff for a salad and I wanted a snack after work, it seemed like a good time to recreate it.

All that went into the salad was lettuce, sliced almonds, an Asian Sesame dressing, and a poached egg on top.  For as simplistic as the ingredients were, it was a very satisfying salad.  If you have a Rainbow Foods (grocery store) near you, I highly recommend getting the Roundy’s dressing (it’s the store brand).

601 Graves, part III

The restaurant that Lindz and I went to was the one located in the hotel.  I can’t describe Cosmos any better than the line from the New York Times: “Hybrid of SoHo slick and Minnesota nice.”  Like the rest of 601 Graves, it has a modern chic decor.  The staff was unbelievably nice from the hostess, to the bartender who chatted with me at the bar while I was waiting for Lindz to come down, and to our AMAZING waiter who was spot on with personality and menu suggestions.

The first step into going out to a fancy place is getting suited up properly.

Lindz is justifiably proud of her smokin’ hot dress.

We were seated in a quiet corner of the restaurant, which wasn’t too hard because there were not a lot of people dining that night.  But they did take care to place at least a couple of tables between us and the closest diners for a more intimate experience.  Lindz and I decided to split a bottle of one of their cheaper wines.  $40 is cheap for a bottle considering they had some that ranged upwards to $1000.  Like I was ever so subtly hinting at before, our fantastic waiter struck up a conversation with us right after we were seated.  In the process of explaining our little celebration, he threw out a few suggestions to try on the menu.  One of which was the tuna tartar appetizer.  He described it as “habit forming” and that he would eat it as often as he could.  Since both Lindz and I like sushi, we figured this would be a safe bet for a starter.  Boy were we wrong.  Saying that this tartar was a safe bet is like calling McD’s cheeseburger a safe bet and getting filet mignon set down in front of you.  This tartar is not comparable to anything that I’ve ever had before.  The freshness of the tuna was unquestionable.  The richness of the fish and whatever spices they mixed with it was heavenly.  Plus, as a side, they put a dollop of avocado ice cream on the plate.  This may sound like a weird concoction that you would see on Iron Chef, but it really does work.  The creaminess of an avocado transitions beautifully into the creaminess that one gets with a high quality ice cream.  So like our waiter said, habit forming.  One quick example why I have a bit of a foodie crush on our waiter is that he went ahead and had the kitchen split our app orders without asking us.  He was able to anticipate our wants and needs even before we realized them.

This photo does absolutely no justice to the beauty that was on my plate.

The other appetizer that we split was some lobster bisque.  I’m not sure what Lindz’ motivation was, but I just like to say “I’ll have the lobster bisque.”  Makes me feel like a Vanderbilt.  I was not to be disappointed with this selection either.  The bisque was a thick creamy seafoody bowl of goodness.  It was everything you would expect out of a bisque plus more.  The more was a couple of morsels of lobster chillin’ in the bottom of the bowl like the prize in a cereal box.  Only better.  Much better.

This lobster gave its all. And all it gave was gleefully cherished.

Between our app and main course, the waiter brought out a palette cleanser for us.  It was one of those fun little things that molecular-gastronomists like to do.  It had a concentrated citrus liquid (orange I believe) suspended in a gelatin skin, which was in turn suspended in a different liquid in a shot glass.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get a picture of it and the only thing I remember is the strong taste of citrus and the pop of gelatin skin.  While it may not be the highlight of the meal, it was definitely fun and amusing.  The timing on the courses was stellar.  There was no awkward lag between one dish and another.

Lindz decided to go all out on the fancy seafood this night.  For her entree she chose the butter poached lobster.  There is really no way you can go wrong with that combination.  The little bite that I stole from her proved that very well.  Without a doubt, this was the most perfectly cooked lobster that I’ve ever had.  The butter flavor was infused into the meat and since it was poached, the meat was unbelievable succulent and tender.

Now this is how to create visual appeal on a plate.

I opted for the white wine braised rabbit.  I choose it mainly because I haven’t had rabbit in a long time, also it was the most out of the ordinary dish they had for entrees.  If you haven’t figured it out by now, I like to be adventurous with my food.  It pains me to admit this, but this was the weakest dish that we were served the entire night.  I’m a self-proclaimed salt fiend and by the time I got to the end of my dish, it was getting a bit salty even for my palette.  Other then being a bit heavy handed with the NaCl, this was a great dish.  the rabbit was tender and flavorful.  The pasta, I’m 98% certain was made from scratch and cooked to the perfect chewiness.  All in all, it was a great meaty and earthy dish.

I usually shy away from pasta dishes, but with one like this, who am I to resist?

Even taking our wild sushi meals into account, this was by far the most expensive meal I’ve ever eaten.  That being said, it was also without question one of the top three meals that I’ve ever eaten.  As soon as we can afford it, I’m planning on going back.

Ouch!

I do feel a little guilty about the tip we left our waiter.  Don’t worry, it was in excess of what we normally do and we are generous tippers.  If we could have afforded it, I would have left him a 100% tip because with his help the experience was that great and the food selections were even better.  If you can afford to splurge for a night, I recommend this place without hesitation.

601 Graves; part I

Lindz had this brilliant idea of having a little “stay-cation” awhile back.  In order to rationalize it further, we also combined it with celebrating Lindz’ graduation and our anniversary.  Yup, it was going to be an expensive night.  Which is why we combined three celebrations into one big blow out.  The place that Lindz found was 601 Graves in downtown Minneapolis.

Hands down, this was the fanciest place that I have ever stayed.  And not surprisingly, the most expensive.

Part of what you pay for is the view of downtown.

I have no idea what building that is, but I love old architecture.

Big, poofy bed.

Very chic and modern decorating.

The sink may look cool, but it is completely useless. Every time you use it water splashes all over the place.
No, it’s not user error. I know plenty of other people that have the same problem.

And finally, you know you are in a really fancy place when there’s a phone and TV right by the toilet.

All in all, the hotel was a fun experience.  But for the price, I’m not exactly itching to get back anytime soon.

Coming soon in parts II and III:  the most over the top mini-bar that I have ever seen and supper at the hotel’s restaurant, Cosmos.

Finally made it to Kieran’s

Our friend, Narren, was up here in the Cities for a conference last week.  Being the good friend he is, he called us wondering if we wanted to get together for supper one night.  Our answer was “Well, duh.”  After winding our way through the maze of one-ways in downtown Minneapolis, we found Narren waiting outside of his hotel for us.  Once he hopped in the car, his first question was “Where are we going?”  Yeah, this wasn’t helpful.  Lindz and I rarely go to downtown, so it’s practically a foreign country to us.  So we found a parking ramp a little farther down the road and figured that was a good starting point.  After walking around for just a bit, we discovered that we were right by the hotel where Lindz and I had our “stay-cation” (a post that is coming soon, i.e. as soon as I remember to get some pics from Lindz’ computer).  At this point Lindz suggested going to Kieran’s Pub, neither Narren or I could come up with any reason not to, so that is where we ended up.

I’ve never been to Kieran’s, but I’ve heard about it constantly from friends who work downtown, as well as ones who like to frequent pubs.  I haven’t heard a bad review, and after visiting, I can see why.  Since we went on a Tuesday, it wasn’t very busy at all, which is exactly the way I like it.  We were seated immediately and promptly placed our drink order.  Both Narren and I decided to go with the June beer special: Brooklyn Lager.

Yes, we were sitting right by this sign. So I took it as a sign that I should have some.

I was amused by the “Pre-Prohibition Style” tagline.

As far as food, I couldn’t resist going with the fish and chips.  After all, we were in an Irish pub.  Also, it is one of those dishes that I use to determine the quality of a place.  I use dishes that are deceptively simple to prepare, but if it’s done right, it’s wonderful.  If it’s not done right, well, you can tell immediately.  In other words, there really isn’t a middle ground for taste.  The result?  Kieran’s passed with flying colors.  Easily one of the top 3 places where I’ve had fish and chips here in the Cities.  I took the walleye option over the cod.  No particular reason, just the way my whim was pointing at that moment.  As a added bonus, I didn’t even need to ask for malt vinegar.  They just assumed that I wanted it because everyone should eat it this way.  I love it!

Happiness on a plate.

Beers and Dogs

After a really crappy day on the job, the boss-man took us out for beers after work.  He’s nice like that.  We ended up going to Dean’s Tavern on Rice St.  They like to brag about their Cony Dogs, so I figured I would give one a whirl.  It wasn’t bad.  Not the best dog I’ve ever eaten, but like I said, it wasn’t bad. Just not sure how they got their rep.  The plus side is that they served some really good kettle chips with it.

Pairs really well with a Sam Adams

Guy’s Night

So my friend Ringer and I had a guy’s night when Lindz was out of town a while back.  I know what you’re thinking, “You’ve mentioned her before and unless something drastic changed, she’s still a girl.”  And you’re right, she is a girl,  but over the years she has proved that she has more testosterone than many males that I know.  Heck, she even went to my bachelor party.  So by definition, she is “one of the guys,” and therefore guy’s night is a legitimate option.  Anyway, we both love to try new foods and the best we could come up that night was a Brazilian rotisserie called Rodizio Grill.  We both decided to get the “Full Rodizio” which included the all you can eat salad bar and the gauchos (I know it’s a poor use of the term, but that is what they were called) with their spits of meat.  I’m not going to go into a full blown review like I did before because it was, well, a pain in the nether regions to write up.  I’m just going to give some brief impressions / highlights of the place.

We started off with a round of the salad bar, and I have to say, for the $20 price tag for that option, it is a bargain.  There was at least two dozen options of green salad, pasta salad, collard greens, cheeses, cous-cous, mozzarella salad, yucca salad, coleslaw, and bread.  I know I’m forgetting a bunch of stuff as well as low-balling the number of dishes.  Two of my favorites were the collard greens and coleslaw.  Not that I’ve had a lot of collard greens in the past, but these were best that I’ve ever tried, and Ringer, who’s had more than I have, also really liked them.   The base of the coleslaw was nothing special, it was just your basic creamy-style slaw, but they threw in shaved coconut and chunks of pineapple which pushed it into its own little realm of mouth magic.  The enthusiasm with this dish didn’t carry over to Ringer.  Oh, well, more for me.  We both decided that it would be well worth the trip again just for the salad bar.

The gaucho’s with their meat was an interesting experience.  We got a little hourglass shaped wooden marker with one half painted red and the other half painted green.  It’s a really simple system.  Green up, the gauchos will check if you want some of what they were offering.  Red up, they will skip your table.  On its side equaled “Check, please!”  You should check out their menu because it is quite extensive.  But here are some of highlights that we tried.  The Bife Com Alho (Beef-e Com Al-yo) is beef that is slathered garlic paste.  I mean slathered.  Even after it was cooked, you could see the layer of garlic that is still on it.  If you are a fan of garlic, this is definitely the dish for you.  My personal favorite of the tasty beef options.  The pork options were all very good, but nothing outstanding.  Without a doubt, my favorite chicken dish was the hearts served with a slice of lime.  They are called Coracao (Cor-da-sone).  The gaucho was quite kind enough to give me 3/4’s of a skewer.  He even mentioned that some people asked for entire skewers just for themselves.  The Abacaxi (Ah-bakah-shee), grilled pineapple, was to die for.  I’ve always been a fan of grilled pineapple and this was exquisitely done.

The best part of all of this is that it is that you can eat as much of whatever you want.  So my suggestion is to try a little bit of everything that sounds good and then get a lot more of whatever tickles your fancy.  A quick side-note is that they claim over 90% of their menu is gluten-free, and from what I saw that is completely true.

I would like to give a special shout-out to the gauchos and the floor manager who were extremely helpful in getting us what we wanted and making sure we were able to try everything that we wanted.  They definitely added to the experience.

Mmm. Happiness is chicken hearts.

Anyone want to give me $500?

I was watching some of the foodie TED talks (Technology, Entertainment, Design) because I love to geek out like that.  One of them was by Dr. Nathan Myhrvold.  He was promoting his and his co-authors new cookbook called Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking.  It emphasizes the science behind all of cooking with a special emphasis on the field of molecular gastronomy.  I highly recommend checking out the talk if you are even slightly interested in the how and why of cooking.  It is a five volume set of books that contain over 2400 pages, plus a waterproof companion volume with the 1500 recipes collected for easy kitchen use.

 

That is one sharp looking set of cookbooks!

One of the things that they do in the cookbook are cut-away photos of cooking in progress.  These pictures are amazing, but not the easiest to capture.  Dr. Myhrvold said their philosophy was that it only had to look good for 1/1000th of a second.  And they succeeded!  Being a nerd, one of my favorite things is that they have differential equations in the book describing the physics behind cooking, one example is Fourier’s Law of Heat Conduction (an equation that describes how efficiently heat/energy is moved along in a certain substance).  Along with all of these, what really got me was their philosophy of wanting to make a cookbook that they wished they had while they were learning to cook.  Of course all of this greatness comes at a price of $450 plus S&H.  But what do you expect from a man who was a chief technology officer for Microsoft, a World Champion of Barbecue, Chief Gastronomic Officer for the Zagat Survey, and has formal training in mathematics, geophysics, space physics, mathematical economics, and theoretical physics.  Oh yeah, he also worked with Stephen Hawking.

How can you not want to own a cookbook with photos like this???