Tuesday, May 24, 2011

If a picture is worth a thousand words....

Mice chewed through something important, so the family portrait had to be hauled across town. It's more than a little laughable, and this is now the front page for our intranet at work. It's good to be able to laugh at yourself. Especially when everyone else is.

Monday, May 23, 2011

In the tornado zone

It's not exactly Joplin or Alabama, but Minneapolis residents had a tangle with a tornado on Sunday that left several neighborhoods in disarray.

It's been awhile since I've covered a storm of this magnitude. When you are ultra-local and your coverage area is small, you miss several of the big stories and working in a bubble is sometimes extremely frustrating. Even though the neighborhood was technically not in our viewing area, it was close enough for our residents and agencies to be impacted.

The disaster zone had many of the same characteristics that you will see in any disaster area: people gawking, lawmakers touring, chainsaws buzzing, police manning barricades, media crews swarming, and news choppers circling. Many people still seemed dazed. Lawmakers pledged to help. Good Samaritans arrived with water, food, muscle, and helpful attitudes. There will have been cleanup for days to come.

Thankfully in our small town, we are fine. We got hail and wind, but that's it.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Real Soul Daddy

After writing about one Soul Daddy, I feel compelled to write about a Soul Daddy who can truly cook FRIED CHICKEN.

Here's chef Bill in the kitchen, cooking up a Friday night favorite, wings. This is a belated blog post from the last time we were home visiting, and I'm sure he's been looking for this post. (haven't you?)

Buffalo Wings originated in Buffalo, New York, but they are a staple in bars and restaurants all over the state. Dave has several fond memories of Friday nights with his friends and his Dad frying up all the wings they could eat in the deep fryer. So, when Dave goes home "wing night" is a frequent request and a friend or two usually comes over to relive the memories and the taste of something delicious.

And the wings are most certainly tasty, but we expected no less from a real SOUL DADDY.

Soul Daddy's....or Yuppie Soul Food

Dave and I got hooked on watching America's Next Great Restaurant on NBC simply because they were opening a restaurant in Minneapolis. Being the foodies that we are, we wanted to follow the path of this predicted great eat place.

While I cheered for the grilled cheese guy, (because I love a good grilled cheese and not everyone can make them folks. Turns out, the contestant couldn't either.), we quickly switched our allegiance to Jaman from Detroit who could cook up mean waffles and fried chicken. While the investors kept pushing for Jaman to make soul food healthy, we thought he got a unjustly raked over the coals a few times for trying to turn soul food into something it's not. I mean, there's only so much you can do before you change the food to fit another genre. (which is what the Indian food guy did.)

Dave got the assignment to be an iPhone foodie for his station, and we tagged along to test Soul Daddy's wares. I grew up eating soul food before I knew that's what it was even called. So to say the standards were rather high would be an understatement. I thought the food was fine and some dishes were tasty, but it wasn't any kind of soul food I've ever eaten....and something tells me Jaman would agree. THEY WOULDN'T LET HIM KEEP FRIED CHICKEN ON THE MENU. The ridiculousness of not having fried chicken in a soul food restaurant is probably the equivalent of McDonalds not serving big macs. Sure, there's other foods that are soul food, but fried chicken is the soul daddy of them all.

I told my friends here the place is a lot like, no surprise, Chipotle...which are on every corner in Minneapolis. Sure, you'll check out the place on your lunch hour....but you aren't going to drive out of your way to go to one.

PS...Jack did not like Soul Daddy's. He ate raisins and left a good portion of them all over the floor. My apologies to the staff.

'iPhone Foodie' w/ Dave Schwartz
Dave Schwartz loves cornbread waffles Soul Daddy's sweet potato salad Whole grain biscuit Black eyed pea salad Baked chicken
Soul Daddy’s at the Mall of America is billed as healthy soul food and if one can truly make soul food appeal to the masses in Minnesota while keeping it relatively healthy, Soul Daddy’s manages to pull it off.

If you’re looking for finger-licking, button-popping, “leave me alone with my plate”, soul food, this is not the place for you. But if you want a good meal, fast, with pleasant (but not too strong) flavors, Soul Daddy’s is a great choice.

Let’s first start with the service. When we got there at 5:30pm on a Saturday the line was just almost out the door. We were moved through quickly, greeted by a very warm and helpful service staff and found a seat (table for two with child) within 15 minutes.

I had the ribs with black-eyed pea salad, corn bread waffle and cheesy grits. The ribs had a nice crust and still managed to be juicy on the inside. They were seasoned on the outside, but certainly not overpowering so you could really taste the good smoky flavor that slow cooked ribs should have.

While the ribs were palate-pleasing by themselves, you have your choice of three sauces; (and can sample all three) ‘Soul Daddy BBQ’, ‘Molasses Mustard’ and ‘Jamawn’s Hot Sauce’. I found all three very good although the hot sauce was not particularly hot.

The cheesy grits were fantastic. They had a wonderful cheese and butter flavor, had great texture and were not gummy—and I should add that I am not usually a fan of grits. My wife (who is a true southerner, from Arkansas) also liked them.

If you know a southerner, you know they are very picky about three things: grits, cornbread and sweet tea. She loved all three at Soul Daddy’s.

The cornbread waffle was the understated contributor to this meal and was AWESOME. If you’re used to very sweet corn bread (almost like a dessert bread) then you haven’t really had good corn bread. Real “southern” corn bread is not sweet, but rather a little bland and designed to help soak of the flavor of the meal. Soul Daddy’s nailed this side perfectly.

My wife had the baked chicken with sweet potato salad the whole grain biscuit and we shared the wild rice salad.

The baked chicken was solid. The skin had a rosemary herb mixture and was very juicy. As Bobby Flay said in the America’s Next Great Restaurant finale; if you’re not going to fry the chicken make sure it’s the best baked chicken ever.

He also said he was disappointed that Jamawn Woods’ menu didn’t have fried chicken. I was too.

The two salads, like the rest of the meal, had very mild flavors; easy to like, but not necessarily memorable enough to ‘have’ to come back for.

Soul Daddy’s is to soul food what Chipotle is to Mexican; not authentic but a great alternative that will allow you to leave happy and full.

It's good food, fast. And because of that, it will likely live up to its billing as America’s next great restaurant.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Foodies Unite

During our annual Passover Pilgrimage to New York, my MIL, one of the cousins, and I journeyed down to New York City for our own version of a food tour. We got a late start, but we packed a lot of sights and smells into the day.

Our first stop was the Chelsea Market. The food-themed concourse and television studio is located in the old National Biscuit Company building in Manhattan. In the space where bakers used to churn out Oreos and saltines crackers, foodies now browse through a unique collection of restaurants and food stores. One of Dave's relatives operates a kitchen supply store there.

You can find shops with interesting names like the Fat Witch Bakery, Lucy's Whey, and the Cleaver Company. You can eat gelato, thai food, soups in a soup-only restaurant, and what I did--a bacon sandwich in a Jewish deli. The Food Network and a few other cable shows tape segments in the spaces above the shops and restaurants, which only makes the place a bit more interesting.

I walked away from a few hours there with a few poster prints that I bought at a rock-bottom price, and plan to frame for the house. I also picked up some gourmet olive oil as a gift in an Italian grocery.

Little did we know, we were only a few blocks away from an Italian food-lovers delight. Eataly is a european open-air market and food concept operated by an italian and promoted by some of the biggest names in America's Italian Cuisine business. Mario Batali and Linda & Joe Bastianich have cookbooks offered in several corners of the huge complex.

We watched this fellow make fresh mozzarella. One of the reasons why he was wearing gloves is because the water was so hot it was steaming. He pinched off a small piece for us to eat and it was the best mozzarella I've ever tasted. You could taste the milk in the cheese, and it had a smooth and creamy taste that lingered on the tongue. My MIL was going to buy one a container for us to share, but after actually finding the end of the line and realizing it snaked all the way around the building, we decided having a bit of cheese wasn't worth waiting in line for an hour.

In the marketplace, you could buy fresh pasta, cheese & sausage, coffee, bakery items, fish....you name it. All had gourmet prices to go with the fancy names, but it was enjoyable to look while elbowing through the crowds. And we weren't the only tourists scoping out the area....on the way out, we maneuvered around a group of women hauling trash bags filled with big items around. One explained to me they had watched the Nate Berkus show that morning and been surprised to win a vacuum cleaner and several cleaning products. They didn't let that stand in the way of a day touring the city, vacuum cleaners and all. The women had just gotten through the line, so obviously some people deemed it mandatory to buy some cheese...... to go with their Windex.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Stroller Envy

The Schwartz family just returned from another plane trip to visit a family branch and once again, our most frequent talking point in the airport came back to our awesome stroller.
We've been asked by passengers, pilots, TSA screeners, you name it, we've been stopped and asked, "where did you get that stroller? I've never seen anything like it before."This stroller converts to a backpack and it looks so different that I can understand why it catches quite a bit of attention. We'vebeen stopped many, many times and asked about it outside of the airport too. It's become quite a joke and we have our canned response ready when asked.

We bought the Kelty Kids stroller/backpack months ago at a second hand store. We actually debated on whether or not to buy it, when inretrospect it's been one of the best baby purchases we have made. The contraption allows Jack to stand or at least sit upright instead of reclining, which for an active baby is a much more attractive option. During busy travel and in tight spaces, we fold the handle down and let Dave carry Jack on his back. This was very, very helpful getting through crowds during the holiday season in the busy airport, and Jack loves the view from up top. It only weighs 9.5 pounds.

While this isn't a baby equipment review blog and I realize that this post totally shows how my life has changed, our stroller has become something that makes us cool....at least in some circles.