Author Archives: jmgasper
On Sunday morning, Julie and I traveled over to Minneapolis for a couple of days of mini-vacation. We ate at a couple nice restaurants, caught a Twins game, and even dealt with a somewhat flat tire and a trip to Ikea.
We left early Sunday, parked the car at the hotel, and walked over to Target Field. We met my parents there an hour or so before the game and walked over to a nearby pizza place for lunch. If you are in the area, Black Sheep Pizza is a highly recommended spot. Great pizza, perfect crust, and not at all expensive.
We then went over to the game and got baked in the sun for a few hours. I have to start remembering that day games have extra considerations for seating vs. night games. The Twins won, and I think everyone had a good time, so in that regard the game was a success.
After the game, my parents went back to their campsite and we walked back to the hotel to check in. I normally just get nice downtown hotels via Priceline, usually at ridiculously good prices. This allows us to try all the different hotels in the area. The W Hotel was definitely on the nicer end of where we’ve stayed. The hotel was almost too hip for us – with giant pink lighting in the lobby and lots of dark paints in the room. There was also a window from the bedroom into the shower, which was a little strange. Overall though, the room was super comfortable, well laid out, and Julie says it had probably the best toiletries of just about any hotel we’ve stayed out. It’s not a big hotel, with only about 10 rooms on each floor, but I’m hoping Priceline will come back with this one again on a future visit.
After cleaning up, we headed over to the Bachelor Farmer for dinner. They do a Sunday Supper, which is 3 courses, served family style. They don’t accept reservations on Sunday, and you don’t really have a say in the food, unless there are dietary restrictions. We had a similar meal at Niche when we were in St. Louis last year. We found the restaurant just fine, and were impressed with the decor. They did a great job of transforming what appears to have been a warehouse space into a very cool, comfortable restaurant.
The first course was fried squash blossoms with roasted zucchini and foraged chanterelle mushroom stuffing, Bibb lettuces and Champagne vinegar. I wasn’t sure what to expect when they brought it out, but the stuffed squash blossoms were awesome, and the lettuce had a great flavor, even on its own with just the vinegar dressing.
The main course was whole roasted chicken, new potatoes, caramelized cauliflower, and basil-marinated cherry tomatoes. Very simple, but everything was cooked and seasoned perfectly. It was a lot of food, but we polished it off happily. The bannock that came as the bread was one of our favorite things. Super buttery and rich and it went amazingly well with the honey butter they provided.
The last course was orange granita, crème fraîche ice cream, Cointreau strawberries, vanilla bean hardtack. We didn’t seem to grab a picture of this, but it was a nice, refreshing finisher to the meal.
Overall, if you have a chance to go on a Sunday, or otherwise, we heartily recommend the Bachelor Farmer.
Monday, we decided to take it easy in the morning and headed over to the Midtown Global Market around 11:00 or so. The market houses the Salty Tart bakery, which is one of my favorite bakeries (after A Dash of Delicious, of course). We had a few items, but my favorite thing is always their pastry cream filled brioche. Sweet brioche muffin, filled with pastry cream, and then rolled in sugar. Nothing not to like.
We grabbed lunch at a very good Mexican restaurant in the market and then headed over to Ikea to pick up a few minor things on a list. On our way there, we ended up going through some heavy construction and hit a pot hole with a huge amount of force. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt a jolt quite like that in a car before. We didn’t notice anything amiss, but when we got out at Ikea to inspect, I noticed that our right front tire had a pretty good size bubble / bulge in the sidewall. I’d never seen anything like that before, but after a quick Google investigation, it turns out that this is not a good thing and requires the tire to be replaced. Luckily the car was still drivable, so we called over to a Tires Plus and they got the tire in while we shopped at Ikea. Replacing the tire took about 45 minutes and we were back in business. Not an ideal situation, but it could have been much worse. I take full responsibility for tempting fate since I was talking about making sure we get the spare tire checked before we drive to Montreal this fall.
After getting the tire fixed up, we headed over to Piccolo for our normal, spectacular Minneapolis dinner (the highlights of which are below) and then drove home. Couldn’t ask for a better 2 day getaway.
As you may have heard (also on the front page of the Wausau Daily Herald, which was silly), Julie and I are closing down the bakeshop and moving about 30 miles north to Wausau. For Julie, she will be selling A Dash of Delicious treats at Downtown Grocery, and also working for them a couple of days a week. This is a great move for her, allowing her to be able to focus more on what she has found she loves to bake, and giving us a little more flexibility to travel and do the things we love to do, without worrying about the bakery building itself as much.
The past month has been a crazy flurry of answering questions, putting the building up for sale, and general stress over the normal “I have to sell a building / house” stuff that goes on.
That being said, we are both very excited and looking forward to the move. Wausau has an awesome downtown area, and we are going to be right in the middle of it. Our apartment is in the Heinemann building, between the Palladian and Washington Square. A few pictures are below. After owning and maintaining a house and building (including over a year of both at once), I’m really looking forward to not having to maintain a space. It’s a little less flexible than owning a spot, obviously, but I think the tradeoff in less stress is going to be totally worth it. If we don’t like it in a year, I’m sure there will be another post like this one detailing where we’re moving to in Wausau
Our new apartment is a two story townhome, starting on the second floor, situated over Coldwater Creek. We get access to the Jefferson Street Inn pool and fitness area, and we’re within walking distance to a bunch of different restaurants, the mall, and all the stuff at Washington Square, not to mention the 400 block.
We’re really looking forward to having all that Wausau has to offer so close. I drive up at least once or twice a week to golf, and we go out to eat and visit family a lot, so it will be nice to be much closer.
On Wednesday, Julie and I made a mini trip to Minneapolis. We went to a Twins game, went out for dinner, stayed overnight and were back on Thursday afternoon. Nice and relaxing.
The first stop was the hotel, where we dropped the car, and then we walked over to Target Field. On the way there, we ran across a long line of food trucks, so instead of paying for the ball park food, we decided to try something new. I had the Korean BBQ Burrito from Vellee Deli, and Julie had carnitas from Barrio. Both were super good – either would be highly recommended.
We got to the game a little late and missed the first inning, but the rest of the game went well. I snagged us some good seats off StubHub (they were padded!), so we had a great view. The Twins won and we got to see a big home run and a Twins shutout of the A’s.
After the game, we went back to the hotel and checked in. Julie swam some laps in the pool and then we went to Piccolo for dinner.
As always, everything was wonderful. Here’s a rundown of what we had:
As always, everything was perfectly done. The clear “winner” of the night was the poached duck egg with ham hock. It was so good that I actually ordered another one before dessert – this was my birthday dinner, so I got to do what I want!
Other things of note – shrimp and sweet potato go together well. I wouldn’t have ever guessed that. Crosnes are a weird, very tasty little tuber. We had to ask what they were. Julie also confirmed that nettles are one of her favorite things, oddly enough. It’s not something we see very often, but we had them in one of her all time favorites at Menton in Boston, and then again at Piccolo, in the tortellini, and she loved them both times.
We made it back to Stevens Point last night at around 11. We left Kansas City at about 9 and started towards Minneapolis, where we had dinner reservations at Piccolo. We arrived early, and I had coincidentally seen on Facebook that the chef Piccolo was competing at the Mall of America in the finals of the annual Minnesota Monthly Local Chef Challenge, so we dropped by to check it out. It was super interesting to watch the two chefs compete at a dessert challenge with malted barley syrup, philo dough, dried blueberries, and Thai basil. Chef Flicker from Piccolo won, taking home a giant check (literally) for $10,000, and we headed off to his restaurant for dinner before coming home.
Dinner at Piccolo was amazing, as usual. Standouts for me were the razor clam chowder, the camembert and apple tortelloni, and the bone marrow rice pudding. Julie’s favorites were the cauliflower terrine and the pork jowls. The desserts, especially the pine needle panna cotta were exceptional as well.
Once dinner was done, we headed straight home and fell into bed.
Over by Il Sogno is the new CIA extension in Texas. At the Pearl complex, they have a bakery that sells all sorts of fun desserts, all at super reasonable prices ($6 for a box of macarons? Yes please.) Below is a sample of some of the fun desserts we have tried the last couple of weeks. All have been top notch.
The other day, Julie and I took a short walk over to Cascabel Mexican Patio, here in San Antonio. I have been looking at reviews on Yelp, UrbanSpoon, TripAdvisor and other sites to try and get a feel for the restaurants that are around us, and this one was highly rated everywhere.
We really didn’t know what to expect, other than that it is a restaurant considered more “authentic” than other Mexican restaurants. Based on the first view of the menu, that appeared to be the case. My Spanish is abysmal, but I know enough food words to have a general idea what I was ordering, but I stil knew that whatever I got was going to have a few surprises, and I wasn’t disappointed. I ordered huaraches, with carne al pastor, and Julie ordered tlacoyos. It was 3 fried little nuggets, similar to empanadas, with a cactus salad and rice. They also brought us out little bowls of soup and chips and salsa as an appetizer, both of which were awesome.
Both our dishes were absolutely excellent. Great, subtle flavors and everything worked well together.
For dessert I had a Guava empanada, which reminded me of pudgy pies made over a fire, and Julie had flan. The flan was thick and almost had a cheesecake texture – really, really good.
If this is what Mexican food is supposed to taste like, I think we’re missing out in the US with bland tacos and Taco Bell.
Last night Trav, Emily, Julie and I ate at Roost in Houston. There had been an article in the local paper about it, and it looked interesting, so we drove into the Montrose neighborhood and checked it out. The restaurant itself is very understated, but comfortable, and the menu is small, which made figuring out what to order nice and easy.
In the article had been a picture of some amazing looking pretzels, and that was one of the reasons we chose to go. Turns out the “bread service” is giant pretzels with different butters. We chose foie gras, bleu cheese, Spam, and honey butters. All were excellent on the giant pretzels.
Our first shared course was pork belly, with beans, a corn bread “crumble”, and pickled watermelon. All excellent. The pork belly was cooked perfectly and the flavors went together well.
Next was the charcuterie – duck rillettes, calf heart and liver, home made sausage, pickled vegetables and hot mustard. All excellent with big flavors. Especially surprising was how good the pickled vegetables were. They had a huge amount of interesting flavor.
The main courses were the catch of the day (red snapper), served over kimchi and an egg yolk sauce, and a cauliflower steak. The fish was probably the savory dish of the night – just really well cooked fish and the kimchi and sauce went really well with it. The cauliflower steak was also excellent. I had never seen this preparation before – deep fried chunk of cauliflower, but it tasted great.
Desserts started with fresh donuts with coffee ice cream. We’ve been to a few places now that serve fresh hot donuts with ice cream, and it’s one of my favorite things. You really can’t get a bad combination here.
We also had banana pudding that was easily the best I’d ever had. Not too sweet, and super creamy and delicious, and a brioche with chocolate ice cream, also excellent. They know their desserts here.
All in all it was a great restaurant visit and we were both quite happy with everything.