First off, that is a great name for a pub. Simple. Unpretentious. Easily shortened: the Blue Door. Rolls right off the tongue. Unique, as not to be confused with another establishment. Great name.
Our good friends, Miles and Sarah, were in town for a preaching convention (yeah, I now know more pastors than I had ever thought possible). Since we don’t get to see each other in the flesh all that often, we decided to go out and have supper together. Miles, being a fellow food lover, suggested The Blue Door Pub in the Highland Park area of St. Paul. This was a great choice because it is close and they have amazing food. The downside is that everyone around the area knows that they have great food. Which translated into a 45 minute wait for a table at 6:30 pm on a Thursday.
The main reason (other than good food and good company) Miles wanted to have the Spam Bites.
As previously noted, I do love me some Spam. So, basically, there was no possible way this evening was ending without having some Spam. We also ordered the Deep Fried Pickles and Cheese Curds for our appetizers.
The spam bites went beyond my wildest dreams. The bites consisted of diced spam and diced pickles, held together in a mass of cream cheese. Then gloriously battered and deep fried. If you’ve ever had the pickle/cream cheese/ham wraps before, these tasted just like that. Deep fried pickles are out of this world. The tart vinegar taste pairs very nicely with the beer batter and the garlic aioli. Cheese curds are a Midwest staple (the really good ones squeak against your teeth). They only improve if you batter them and deep fry ’em. If you’ve never had any of these before, I most definitely recommend it. Just not too often. You know, heat attacks and such.
The burger of choice that night was the Merriam Park Juicy Blucy. Three out of four of us ordered it, and it will make sense as to why in just a sec. The Merriam Park is a hamburger stuffed with bacon, bleu cheese, and garlic. Them topped with a red currant jelly. See? You want one too, huh? All of the stuffing makes for a really rich and full bodied bite. That’s where the jelly comes in. It gives that bite just a hint of sweet and tart to balance out the flavor. At the moment, it is my clear favorite Blucy. I opted for the deep fried green beans as a side. Though it was a close call because their tater tots are worlds beyond your fondest memory of them as a kid. Really. They are that good.
So if you ever find yourself in St. Paul (specifically, Highland Park) swing on over to The Blue Door Pub. It is without a doubt worth the wait in line.
P.S. A quick shout out and a thanks to Miles for letting me use his pictures (the top and bottom ones).
I’m a Minnesotan, born and bred. Rural Minnesotan to be specific, so my perspective (and relatives) are definitely hick. With that being said, it should be no surprise when I say that I fall firmly into the hotdish camp of the Great Hotdish vs. Casserole Debate. It’s okay if the rest of the country doesn’t agree. They’re wrong, but it’s okay for them to have their own opinion.
Tonight we had two friends over for supper and some mindless TV viewing. Since the weather is getting cooler and there was a decent chance that Lindsay would be cooking when we made plans, it was decided that Tater Tot Hotdish sounded really good.
Rereading that last sentence, it sounds like Lindz is not a good cook. I just want to set the record straight here. She is a great cook. She worked in two different restaurants for several years. She is even highly praised for her ability to cook breakfast, specifically her eggs. In fact, there were people who would walk out of brunch in one of the restaurants if they saw that she wasn’t working. Nowadays, she just lets me cook because I enjoy it more and I’m more adventurous in trying different things in the kitchen.
Back to story. Everyone I know grew up with a different standard version of this dish, but most of the time it was a way to use up different things from the fridge or freezer. Even through all of the iterations, several key ingredients remain constant: tater tots, cream of something soup (traditionally mushroom), burger of choice, and frozen veggies.
I ended up cooking supper because I was home and Lindsay was busy with other stuff, so it all worked out in the end. This recipe is going to have a lot of hand waving and approximations because I’ve made it enough that I just do it by feel.
First off you want to brown a pound of hamburger in a skillet and drain off the fat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Place the burger in a large mixing bowl. To that I added about a pound of frozen mixed veggies, about a pound of frozen green beans, and about a pound of frozen corn. Then I added two cans of cream of mushroom soup. The idea is to add just enough soup to coat everything without the final dish turning into, well, soup.
I put the filling into a 9×13 stoneware dish and leveled it out. The final step is to place a single layer of tater tots over everything. I then placed it in the oven and turned it to 375 degrees and left it for about 45 minutes (I forgot to get an actual number on the time, but this is pretty close). Pull it out when you see the filling bubbling up through most of the tater tots. IMPORTANT NOTE: Never put stoneware into a preheated oven. The thermal shock will cause stress fractures in pottery and in time it will crack on you. Just put it in the oven and then set the temperature and let both heat up together.
And this is what came out:
Just so the meal didn’t feel so institutional, I decided to make a side salad with romaine lettuce, button mushrooms, onion, tomatoes, and parmesan cheese.
For dessert, Sheryl and John brought over some apple crisp and vanilla ice cream. Though somewhere in the process it lost the crisp, but nobody complained. Not even sure that they noticed when we were all scarfing it down.
As an added bonus, the whole meal was gluten-free for those keeping track.