Salsa Verde

I’ve always liked a variety of salsas, from the traditional Mexican salsa made with ripe, red tomatoes, to salsa guajillo and salsa verde. Most salsas serve a special purpose to be an important part of a dish, but they can also be served as a dip with chips. I’ve made salsa verde many times, but I’ve found it to be slightly acidic. So, one day I added an avocado. It really seems to make it more well-rounded by balancing the acidity of the tomatillos. Read more

How to make delicious homemade corn tortillas

I’ve always bought corn tortillas, but they were never as good as the homemade ones in Mexico. I was determined to make my own so I looked at a bunch of recipes online. How hard could it be? The only thing I thought was that it would be very labor-intensive.

Fortunately, with modern equipment like the Vitamix, I wouldn’t have to do it completely by hand. I committed to buying a 25 pound bag of organic, local yellow corn. This was indeed the smallest size available. The only other ingredient I had to buy was cal, which is dried lime, often used for pickling vegetables. Read more

Yes, it’s vegan cheese!

I’ve made sauerkraut a couple times. It was pretty easy. Basically you mix diced green cabbage with sea salt, weigh it down with a rot iron pan and lots of books for a few days and, voilà, you’ve got sauerkraut! It’s been several years since I last tasted cheese. My favorites were double cream mushroom brie, Gouda and any stinky French cheese. I gave it up, along with all things dairy, to rid myself of asthma. And it worked. For the last few years there has been a fake meat trend, partnered with lots of varieties of fake cheeses. I’m not so thrilled about the fake meats, but there’s actually something very healthy about vegan cheese varieties. They are made with real ingredients, like nuts and herbs, and they are indeed fermented much like cheese has always been made. Probiotic foods that help digestion, like KimChee and sauerkraut, are right up there with fermented, aged vegan cheese! Read more

A Second Taste: Trying Nico’s Taco and Tequila Bar Again

nicos-alpha-invertOkay, so it’s been 2 1/2 years since I first tried Nico’s Taco and Tequila Bar on their “soft” opening. Wow. Has it been that long? Every time I passed it, I swore I wouldn’t go back. As we were standing in line behind all the bachelors at Chipotle, my favorite and only “fast” food place, my partner and I looked at each other and pondered giving Nico’s another chance. Heck, they’ve had plenty of time to work out the bugs, so the food must be better. I’ll have to say that I was very impressed by the changes.

We started out with a Tecate, which is not a very common beer to find in local Mexican restaurants. The Mexican beer list was quite extensive. I’ll have to come back to try one of the many tequilas. Next, the trio of salsas took some deciding, among the available six, including: Pico de Gallo, Roasted Tomatillo, Chile de Arbol, Chile Serrano, Ancho Narranja and salsa Verde. I opted for the Roasted Tomatillo, Chile de Arbol and the deliciously spicy and “creamy” salsa verde. And here I thought that cream had been added, but it’s all on account of the whipped avocado.

tacosTwo orders of tacos came next; two vegetable and one camaron. Arroz and frijoles came with the tacos. I was happy to discover the soft corn tortillas, instead of the typical hard-shelled gringo tacos, accompanied by sauteed squash, red bell peppers and charred corn. The shrimp taco had sauteed garlic, chile de arbol, black pepper and lime served on a flour tortilla. The tacos were very good. The only thing I would change would be to have corn tortillas instead of flour for the camaron tacos.

It did take me a while to get back to Nico’s Taco and Tequila bar, but I’m glad I gave it another chance. The “soft” opening is all but a faded memory. I look forward to stopping next time and not just walking by.

Cooking with Linda, in Cuernavaca

I spent a LOT of time taking and editing these videos in Cuernavaca, Mexico a few years ago. I showed how to make three types of salsa: salsa verde, salsa guajillo and hot as a dog’s nose salsa. By the end of the third shoot, I sampled the last chip with habanero salsa, and then the mosquitos started to attack!

When in Playa…

Ernesto and I have been to Playa Del Carmen, Mexico seven times. Playa del Carmen, or just “Playa” as the locals refer to it, is a coastal resort town in Quintana Roo on the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico. Playa is located 70 km south of Cancún and 20 km west of the island Cozumel.

Avenida Quinta, a.k.a. 5th Avenue

caravanWe have certainly seen Playa grow into a more commercial resort city, but I think it has its charm intact. There are more convenience stores that sell cheap trinkets and t-shirts, but there are still quaint restaurants and artisanal stores that dominate the avenue. I did notice that some of the local vendors have become more aggressive in trying to draw tourists in to their stores. One particular vendor prodded a tourist by saying, “Hey, where are you from? I have something to show you. Stop! Hey, I said Stop!” Read more

Another attempt at Nosh

A restaurant review. I’ll give it 4/5 stars

cornfieldWe’ve been trying to go to Nosh for quite some time. Every time we go, we’ve picked a day when they’re closed. But today we took our usual road trip from Minneapolis, en route toward Lake Pepin, which takes us through some very quaint, but small towns like Maiden Rock, Stockholm and Lake Pepin. There were droves of people waiting for the Harborview Cafe to open at 5pm, so we hit the road toward Nelson and saw the other side of Lake Pepin, on our way to Lake City. We were anticipating another harbor and hopefully a great restaurant.

nosh-signWe saw the familiar harbor in Lake City, with Nosh nudging at its side. Fortunately we got the last table on the second floor, which had a great view of the harbor. We started by sharing a large Belgian beer, followed by a warm beet salad with arugula and candied walnuts. We ordered a good, dirty red until the delicious steamed mussels in a tomato broth arrived with just the right amount of chili heat. We both ordered the Thai red snapper. I thought it would be the typical filet with a side of vegetables, but instead it was a fragrant stew with bok choy and a perfectly spiced broth. Given the fact that it was a sunny, but cool 40 degree day, the hot stew was very comforting.

harborAs with most restaurants, I’m usually hesitant to order dessert, but I thought that if everything was so great up to this point, the dessert would also be fabulous. Not so. I ordered the chocolate mousse with chipotle chiles. It was good, but not anything to write home about. My partner had the chocolate torte with raspberry sauce which was just so-so.

The service was excellent. Everyone involved made an extra effort to make our experience memorable. I hope to return to Nosh when I can enjoy the sunny patio in humid, 90 degree heat, while watching the boats come in to the harbor. I know the food will be good.

Why I love the Fair

When I was a kid, I loved going to the Fair with my Dad. We’d go on the big yellow slide, order a foot long hotdog with all the fixins, take in a few rides in the Midway, and the sun always seemed to be shining. Much later, the Fair wasn’t as appealing. It was all about eating cotton candy, French fries, all you can drink milk and anything deep fried on a stick. The Midway rides weren’t like the real ones at Valleyfair and they didn’t seem all that safe. I thought, “What’s the point of all this?” Why do thousands of people come to this place for a week at the end of summer every single year?”

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Dudes

For the past five years, I’ve looked forward to the MN State Fair and I go at least twice in that week at the end of summer to take photos. I’ve found that this is the best place, even better than all the block parties, to take photos. Here there are all walks of life; young and old, extremely obese to rail thin, disabled, and the most diverse group of people gathered in one place. I really think it’s a good sample of what our city and surrounding communities are all about.

I can see all the different stages of life in people walking by. The young couples enjoy each others’ company, young families balance toddlers on their hips, pushing strollers with the second child, middle-aged sons and daughters wait patiently for their elderly parents, teenage girls giggle with braces on their teeth, short tops and short shorts, and cautiously eye the young boys as they pass.

Young couple

Princess

Before the last stint in the Midway, I make my way toward the big yellow French fries stand. I don’t eat the deep fried pancake breakfast on a stick, but I do indulge in French fries and beer. As the sun reaches the golden hour, I’m in the Midway capturing people on my lens coming toward me; they are completely in the moment and oblivious to being photographed. The rides shine in bright colors as people line up to board the swiveling cars. I’m capturing these active scenes at the end of summer where everyone meets before the school year starts, the next business quarter and the cooler weather marks the first day of Fall.

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2014 MN State Fair #mnstatefair

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Whirl-i-gig

Vegan is spoken here

thekenwoodI went to the Kenwood a couple months ago with a friend after long boarding around Lake of the Isles. I glanced at the menu and found quite a few vegetarian options, but I don’t do dairy so I thought I’d ask if they could create a vegan entree. I knew I may be taking a small risk, but this seemed like a restaurant with a credible chef, or at least a handful of sous chefs who could think on their feet.

The server came over with our generous glasses of red wine and I asked her, “So, do you think the chef could make something vegan for me?” She nodded confidently and reassured me that he could make something really good, but I needed to give him the reins, so to speak. I looked at my friend as the server went to the table across the room, and said, “Hmmm, this could be interesting.”

6837189640_4544be3596_zI saw the plate set in front of me. It was mostly green, with curly ramps piled atop a mix of sautéed wild mushrooms on a bed of toasted barley. There was a fragrant mushroom broth as well. I was pleasantly surprised.

I went back to the Kenwood again with my partner. We sat outside and also had the generous red wine and started with french fries. They had the skins on, which I like, and just enough sea salt. We dared to ask for a vegan entree and our server again said that we needed to let the chef do whatever he thought best. Our steaming plates arrived with a very savory Asian noodle dish with both red and yellow beets, morel mushrooms and a mixture of fresh herbs. Once again, I was happy to try the vegan dish.

I WILL be back!