Jihye Chang

“Good Eats in U.S.A.”

Bread and Chocolate, Berkshire Mountain Bakery

I love reading Saveur. And I have somewhat naive trust over whatever that magazine recommends. Plus I have a soft spot for the Berkshires (memories of Tanglewood, Lenox coffee, Chocolate Springs in Pitsfield, etc.) So when I read an article about an artisan bakery in the Berkshires in the Saveur’s December 2012 issue, I HAD to order some.

Berkshire Mountain Bakery’s website is very simple and you can easily place an online order. However the shipping cost is really high – for the states that are not close to the east coast, an order of $50-60 will cost you $45. I know food items should be shipped overnight, but $45 seems pretty steep.ย And the minimum order is $50. But like I mentioned above, I had to try it.

So I ordered a box of stuff – 2 loaves of cherry pecan, 2 loaves of the holiday Stollen, 1 loaf of multi-grain sourdough, and 2 loaves of the infamous Bread and Chocolate, which appeared on Food TV’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” show.

I placed this order on the 23rd. I expected nothing to happen until the 26th. (They ship on the Tuesdays.) But there was no shipping notice, so I had to make a call in the afternoon of the 26th. They said they were handing out my box to the UPS guy as I was talking to them. For $45 shipping, I would expect it to be an overnight service, but it’s a 2 day air UPS shipping. I waited all day long anxiously on the 28th, and it arrived at the end of the day.

All the breads seem to have the same sourdough base. I liked the cherry-pecan bread a lot – great balance between the dough and the cherry! (I would have liked a bit more pecan ratio, though). Multi-grain was not as good. Stollen was a little disappointing as it was a bit too chewy, and not fruity enough. But the Bread and Chocolate – this was worth all the effort and the shipping cost! The loaf is loaded with dark Callebaut chocolate pieces, and it’s somehow magical to have the tangy flavor of a sourdough bread and sweet and deep chocolate flavor together. It actually is better than chocolate croissant. And it’s quite large, too. I think it’s a really great buy ($5.95 for a loaf) if you can just get it in store. I enjoyed both loaves of Bread and Chocolate for about 5 days, trying to imagine how much better it would be if I had it right out of the oven!

I don’t think I will order it online again, but this made me want to go back to the Berkshire area very much. I should make an excuse or an occasion to go back there sometime soon.

Brunch @ Cosmos, Graves 601, MSP

I and my husband stayed in Minneapolis for 10 days in October, in an apartment on 9th Street above Hell’s Kitchen. On my last day (Sunday) I needed to grab some brunch before our performance at The Cowles Center. It was around 11:30am, and the wait at Hell’s Kitchen was 90 minutes. Key’s Cafe down the street was no better – 30 minute wait. Both places were totally packed and so loud. When it seemed almost impossible to grab a seat or any food, my friend who invited us to the brunch had a brilliant idea to go to a hotel near The Cowles Center – Graves 601. We headed to the 4th floor and voila, there was no wait and their brunch was one of the best I have had in a long time. (Later I found out that this is a very well rated and highly favored hotel/ restaurant.)

My husband ordered Eggs Benedict with breakfast potatoes; I ordered Eggs Benedict and a half order of Belgian waffles.ย  We also had coffee. Our dishes came with a complimentary shot of fruit smoothie.

Food: Eggs Benedict often comes with overcooked or runny eggs, rancid or sour tasting Hollandaise sauce, and almost burned muffin. But not here! Our Eggs Benedict had very delicate Hollandaise sauce. Eggs were beautifully poached, and the English muffin was soft and warm. Canadian bacon was delicious and juicy. Belgian Waffle was also very satisfactory – not too big or soggy, crispy outside and buttery inside. I think the blueberry compote and mango creme fraiche were almost unnecessary, but the waffles were still delicious with some maple syrup and butter. The coffee was also very good – much, much better than what you can get at any regular brunch joints. And the waiter kept refreshing the pot, which was nice.

Price: Eggs Benedict for $12/ Belgian Waffle for $12. (Our friend paid for it, so I don’t know how much the half order waffle was.) Everything on the menu seemed reasonable. It’s a restaurant in a high-end hotel, and the menu was much better (and better priced) than other hotels in downtown Minneapolis.

Service: A bit stiff, but still very good and professional.

Atmosphere: Sleek and modern. Nice dishes, silverware, and furniture. Not too pretentious.. maybe a bit “cold”

Overall: A great place for a quiet brunch – what a nice surprise and a find! I just hope I am not spilling the beans or anything.ย  Great food at a reasonable price with good atmosphere and service. I checked out their dinner menu, and it looks great. A lot of restaurants in downtown MSP are over-priced (Vietnamese spring rolls for $11?!) and sub-par, but this restaurant seems different. I would definitely go back for their dinner.

Phone: 612-312-1168/ Website: http://www.cosmosrestaurant.com

George’s, real charmer in Alys Beach

George’s is charming and precious. I just don’t know how else to describe this little white restaurant on the Alys Beach.

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One of my dear friend – a beautiful Southern lady, who enjoys playing tennis and doing all kinds of volunteer work – introduced this restaurant to me when I was visiting her in Rosemary Beach, FL. One of the owners of this restaurant (Ann Hartley) loves frogs for some reason, so the restaurant is full of frog-themed objects. The menu is simple enough – burger, fish taco, BL(green)T, and some fried seafood plates and salad items. The service can be a bit slow as it’s always packed with people. But it’s just so …charming! If this restaurant was in downtown somewhere, I don’t think it’d be the same. It just works beautifully with the pristine beach, friendly owner who’s mostly there unless she’s traveling to Paris, and fresh seafood.

The food is really great. I have had their grouper sandwich (“misbehaved”, meaning fried), fish taco, vegetarian soba salad, and a few desserts. They always use great ingredients, and whatever you get is not too salty, but always very flavorful.

Some people complain that it’s overpriced, but I don’t feel that way. It’s on a beach that’s a vacation place. And the food and the charm make you happy. I would be OK paying $12-15 (or $20 with a dessert) for my little happiness.

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Below was a pecan crust tart with local berries and honey. So yummy! (and big.)

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This restaurant opened only about 3 years ago (in 2008), but has many loyal followers. If you are ever in 30-A area, visiting Rosemary Beach or Seaside, make sure you go visit George’s. You may have to wait for your table and it may get very warm and noisy inside, but that’s part of the charm. ๐Ÿ™‚

MSP Greats #4, Quang’s Deli

Minneapolis – St. Paul (Twin Cities๋ผ๊ณ  ํ”ํžˆ ๋ถ€๋ฅด์ฃ )์—๋Š” ์ฃผ๋กœ ์Šค์›จ๋ด, ๋…ธ๋ฅด์›จ์ด ์ถœ์‹ ์˜ ์ด๋ฏผ์ž๊ฐ€ ๋งŽ์ง€๋งŒ ์˜์™ธ๋กœ ๋ฒ ํŠธ๋‚จ ์ถœ์‹  ์ด๋ฏผ์ž๋“ค ์ˆซ์ž๋„ ๊ฝค ๋งŽ์Šต๋‹ˆ๋‹ค. ์ œ๊ฐ€ ์ข‹์•„ํ•˜๋Š” Little Szechuan (http://blog.naver.com/jhjascha/110035232189) ์ด ์œ„์น˜ํ•œ University Avenue์—๋Š” ์ค‘๊ตญ ์‹๋‹น๋ณด๋‹ค๋Š” ๋ฒ ํŠธ๋‚จ ์‹๋‹น ๋ฐ ์‹ํ’ˆ์ ์ด ์ฆ๋น„ํ•˜๊ณ , Hmong Cultural Center๋ผ๋Š” ๊ณณ๋„ University Avenue์— ์œ„์น˜ํ•ด ์žˆ์ง€์š”. ์˜ค๋Š˜์€ ๊ทธ ์ˆ˜๋งŽ์€ ๋ฒ ํŠธ๋‚จ ์‹๋‹น ์ค‘์—์„œ๋„ ๋‚จํŽธ์˜ ์‚ฌ์ดŒํ˜•์ด ๊ฐ•๋ ฅํžˆ ์ถ”์ฒœํ•ด์ค€ Quang’s ๋ผ๋Š” ๊ณณ์„ ์ถ”์ฒœํ•ด๋ณผ๊นŒ ํ•ฉ๋‹ˆ๋‹ค.

Quang’s๋Š” New York Times์—๋„ ์†Œ๊ฐœ๋œ ์ ์ด ์žˆ๊ณ , Minneapolis์˜ ๊ฐ์ข… ์žก์ง€์—์„œ๋„ ์ตœ๊ณ ์˜ ๋ฒ ํŠธ๋‚จ ๋ ˆ์Šคํ† ๋ž‘์œผ๋กœ ๋ฝ‘ํžŒ ์ ์ด ๋งŽ์€ ๋ ˆ์Šคํ† ๋ž‘์ž…๋‹ˆ๋‹ค. Pho ๊ฐ€๊ฒฉ์€ 6.95 – 8.95๋ถˆ ์‚ฌ์ด์ด๊ณ , ์งœ์ฃ ๋Š” ๋‘๊ฐœ์— 2.95๋ถˆ, ์Šคํ”„๋ง ๋กค์€ ๋‘๊ฐœ์— 3.25๋ถˆ์ด๋‹ˆ๊นŒ, ์ด๊ฒƒ์ €๊ฒƒ ์‹ค์ปท ์‹œ์ผœ ๋จน์–ด๋„ ํ•œ์‚ฌ๋žŒ๋‹น 15๋ถˆ ์ด์ƒ ๋„˜์–ด๊ฐ€๊ธฐ๊ฐ€ ํž˜๋“  ๊ฐ€๊ฒฉ์ด์ฃ . ์–ด๋”œ ๊ฐ€๋‚˜ ๋ฏธ๊ตญ์˜ ๋ฒ ํŠธ๋‚จ ์Œ์‹์ ๋“ค์€ ์ด ์ •๋„์˜ ๊ฐ€๊ฒฉ๋Œ€๋ฅผ ์œ ์ง€ํ•ฉ๋‹ˆ๋‹ค.

์ผ๋‹จ Quang์—์„œ ๋ง›์žˆ๋Š” ์Œ์‹์œผ๋กœ๋Š” ๋ฒˆํŒƒ์งœ์ฃ  (Bun thit cha gio)๋ฅผ ๊ผฝ์„ ์ˆ˜ ์žˆ์Šต๋‹ˆ๋‹ค.

๋ฒ ํŠธ๋‚จ์‹ ์Šคํ”„๋ง๋กค์ธ ์งœ์ฃ ์™€ ์ˆฏ๋ถˆ๊ตฌ์ด ์‡ ๊ณ ๊ธฐ (๋ถˆ๊ณ ๊ธฐ ๋ง› ๋น„์Šทํ•œ ๋‹ฌ๋‹ฌํ•œ ์‡ ๊ณ ๊ธฐ ๊ตฌ์ด), Pickled carrots and radishes, ์ซ‘์ซ‘ ์ฌ ํŒŒ, ๋•…์ฝฉ์„ ์Œ€๊ตญ์ˆ˜ ์œ„์— ์–น๊ณ  ๋ฒ ํŠธ๋‚จ์‹ ํ”ผ์‹œ์†Œ์Šค-๋ผ์ž„์ฅฌ์Šค ๋“œ๋ ˆ์‹ฑ์„ ๋ฟŒ๋ ค ๋จน๋Š” ๊ตญ์ˆ˜ ์ƒ๋Ÿฌ๋“œ์ธ๋ฐ, ์—ฌ๋ฆ„์— ๋จน์œผ๋ฉด ์ฐธ ์‚ฐ๋œปํ•˜๊ณ , ํฌ๋งŒ๊ฐ๋„ ์žˆ์ง€์š”. ๋‹จ์ˆœํ•œ ๊ฒƒ ๊ฐ™์•„๋„ ๊ตญ์ˆ˜ ์–‘์ด ๋„ˆ๋ฌด ๋งŽ๋‹ค๋˜๊ฐ€, ํ”ผํด ์ข…๋ฅ˜๊ฐ€ ๋ง›์ด ์—†๋‹ค๋˜๊ฐ€, ์‡ ๊ณ ๊ธฐ ๊ตฌ์ด๊ฐ€ ๋ง›์ด ์—†๋‹ค๋˜๊ฐ€ ๋“ฑ๋“ฑ ์กฐ๊ธˆ๋งŒ ๋ฐธ๋Ÿฐ์Šค๊ฐ€ ์–ด๊ธ‹๋‚˜๋„ ๊ทธ ๊ฐํฅ์ด ๋œํ•œ ์š”๋ฆฌ์ธ๋ฐ, ์พ…์—์„œ๋Š” ๊ฐˆ ๋•Œ๋งˆ๋‹ค ๋ง›์žˆ๊ฒŒ ๋จน์—ˆ์Šต๋‹ˆ๋‹ค.

Bun Bo Hue๋ผ๊ณ  ๋ถˆ๋ฆฌ๋Š” Spicy beef noodle and pork hock soup๋„ ์ •๋ง ๋ง›์žˆ์Šต๋‹ˆ๋‹ค. ๋ผ์ง€ ์กฑ๋ฐœ์ด ๋“ค์–ด๊ฐ„ ๋งค์ฝคํ•œ ๊ตญ์ˆ˜์ธ๋ฐ, ์ด ๊ตญ์ˆ˜๋Š” Hue๋ผ๋Š” ์ง€๋ฐฉ ํŠน์œ ์˜ ์Œ์‹์ด๊ณ  ์ทจ๊ธ‰ํ•˜์ง€ ์•Š๋Š” ์‹๋‹น๋„ ๊ฝค ๋ฉ๋‹ˆ๋‹ค. ํ˜น ๋ฉ”๋‰ด์—์„œ ๋ฐœ๊ฒฌํ•˜๋ฉด ๊ผญ ๋“œ์…” ๋ณด์‹œ๊ธธ์š”! (์‹๋‹น์— ๋”ฐ๋ผ, ๋งค์šด๋ง›์ด ์ข€๋” ๊ฐ•ํ•œ ๊ณณ๋„ ์žˆ๊ณ  ์ƒˆ์ฝคํ•œ ๋ ˆ๋ชฌ๊ทธ๋ผ์Šค ๋ง›์ด ๋” ๊ฐ•ํ•œ ๊ณณ๋„ ์žˆ์–ด์š”~)

Quang’s ์˜ ๋ฒˆ๋ณดํ›„์—๋Š” ๋ฉด๋ฐœ์ด ๋ณดํ†ต ํฌ์™€๋Š” ๋‹ฌ๋ฆฌ ๊ตต์งํ•ฉ๋‹ˆ๋‹ค. 6.95๋ถˆ์ด๋ผ๋Š” ๊ฐ€๊ฒฉ์ธ๋ฐ, ๊ฑด๋”๊ธฐ๋„ ์—„์ฒญ ์ถฉ์‹คํ•˜์ฃ ? (์˜†์— ๋ณด์ด๋Š” ๊ฑด ๋ฏธ๋ฆฌ ํฌ์žฅ๋œ ๋ฒ ํŠธ๋‚จ์‹  ์•„์ด์Šค์ปคํ”ผ. ์Œ.. ๋ฒ ํŠธ๋‚จ์‹ ์•„์ด์Šค ์ปคํ”ผ๋Š” ์ฒœ์ฒœํžˆ ๋‚ด๋ ค์„œ ์—ฐ์œ ๋ž‘ ์„ž์–ด์„œ ๋จน์–ด์•ผ ๋ง›์žˆ๋Š” ๊ฑด๋ฐ.. ์ข€ ์•„์‰ฝ๋”๊ตฐ์š”.)

๊ตญ ์ˆ˜์˜ ์งˆ์— ๋น„ํ•ด ์พ…์˜ Fresh spring roll์€ ๊ทธ๋‹ค์ง€ ํŠน๋ณ„ํ•˜์ง„ ์•Š์Šต๋‹ˆ๋‹ค. ๋ง๋ฆฐ ๋ชจ์–‘์ƒˆ๋„ ๊ทธ๋ƒฅ ๊ทธ๋ ‡๊ตฌ์š”. (๋‹จ๋‹จํ•˜๊ฒŒ ๋ง๋ ค ์žˆ์œผ๋ฉด์„œ ๊ธธ๋‹ค๋ž€ ๋ถ€์ถ”๊ฐ€ ๋ฐ–์œผ๋กœ ์‚ด์ง ๋น ์ ธ๋‚˜์™€ ์žˆ๋Š” ๊ฒƒ์ด ๋ง›์žˆ๊ณ  ๋ณด๊ธฐ์—๋„ ์ข‹์€๋ฐ ๋ง์ž…๋‹ˆ๋‹ค.) ๊ทธ๋ž˜๋„ ํ•œ๊ตญ์—์„œ ๋จน๋Š” ๋‹จ๋ฌด์ง€, ๋ง›์‚ด ๋“ค์–ด๊ฐ„ ์Šคํ”„๋ง ๋กค๋ณด๋‹ค๋Š” ํ›จ์”ฌ ๋” ๋ง›์žˆ์Šต๋‹ˆ๋‹ค.

์•„ ๋ž˜ ์‚ฌ์ง„์€ ์—„์ฒญ ์ง„ํ•œ ๊ตญ๋ฌผ์˜ Pho dak biet์ž…๋‹ˆ๋‹ค. ์–‘์ง€, ์‚ฌํƒœ, ๋ฏธํŠธ๋ณผ ๋“ฑ์ด ๊ณจ๊ณ ๋ฃจ ๋“ค์–ด๊ฐ€ ์žˆ๋Š” ๋ชจ๋“ฌ ๊ตญ์ˆ˜๋ผ๊ณ  ๋ณด์‹œ๋ฉด ๋˜์ง€์š”. ํ‘ธ์งํ•œ ์–‘๊ณผ ๊ฑด๋”๊ธฐ์— ์—ญ์‹œ ํ‘ธ์งํ•œ basil, mint, cilantro, ์ˆ™์ฃผ, ํ’‹๊ณ ์ถ”, ๋ผ์ž„..! ๊ตญ๋ฌผ๋ง›์ด ๋„ˆ๋ฌด ์ง„ํ•ด์„œ ๋‹ค ๋จน๊ธฐ๊ฐ€ ์กฐ๊ธˆ ํž˜๋“ค ์ •๋„์˜ˆ์š”. ์–„ํŒํ•˜๊ณ  ๋‹ฌ๊ธฐ๋งŒ ํ•œ ์œก์ˆ˜๋ณด๋‹ค๋Š” ๋ฌผ๋ก  ๋ช‡๋ฐฐ ๋” ๋ง›์žˆ๊ณ , ์•ฝ๊ฐ„์˜ ๋‹ฌ์ฝคํ•จ๊ณผ ์‹œ๋‚˜๋ชฌ ํ–ฅ๊ณผ ์–‘ํŒŒ์˜ ๋ง›์ด ์•„์ฃผ ์กฐํ™”๋กœ์šด ์œก์ˆ˜์ž…๋‹ˆ๋‹ค.

Samurai Asian Fusion Reustaurant and Sushi Bar

Samurai Japanese Cuisine in Fargo has been open for only a few weeks, but it has already generated a lot of buzz. (Last week I got 2 emails from my friends urging me to check it out!)

I have so far tasted their Chirashi, Mackerel (saba) sushi, Ikura (salmon roe) sushi, spider roll, volcano roll, green curry with tofu, shrimp and vegetable tempura and tempura ice cream. I was skeptical at first as they have such a huge menu that ranges from nigiri sushi to Singapore noodle and general Tso’s chicken, but everything I had was surprisingly good.

First of all their fish quality is probably the best in town. The white tuna and salmon on my chirashi were of very good quality. (although it did not have a lot of fish considering the price at $17.95) Many new restaurants tend to put out their best in the first few weeks and then eventually downgrade. But I hope the ingredient quality at Samurai will continue to be good.

I also liked the way they cook their sushi rice. (In my humble opinion, sushi is as much about rice as it is about fish.) Of course you can’t compare it to the sushi you eat at great restaurants in Japan, where the sushi master takes amazing amount of care for their vinegar, rice, particular kind of salt, etc. But at least it was not sticky or gummy or too sweet as some of other sushi places in town, and the rice-other ingredients ratio was very good as well.

Ikura sushi was good enough, but the seaweed outside was a bit dried out. Probably it would be better if I sit at the sushi dai and eat the sushi as soon as it’s made. Spider roll and saba sushi were good, too. Volcano roll was tasty but probably won’t order again as it’s a bit too big and on the pricey side without being special.

Shrimp tempura was very good. Japanese tempura is not made with panko, and it should have light and crispy texture to it. The tempura at Samurai was better than any other tempura that I had in town. To my taste it had a bit too much little “tempura flowers,” but still very crispy and light. The shrimp quality was good, and the oil was drained very well. Tempura sauce was also good.

Thai green curryย  was tasty, too. Unusual to have fried potato pieces in Thai curry, but everything else was well balanced and it was made with good ingredients. Salad and miso soup are OK. I looked at other tables, and all the food looked good. (Pad Thai, Crab cake, tuna dumpling, etc.)

I talked to the manager, John, for a little bit. I asked him how he manages to have such a big menu, and he told me that there is a “master top chef” who knows everything in the kitchen, and there is also a chef only dedicated to doing teriyaki stuff. There are also 2 sushi chefs at the sushi dai. Interior is very modern and minimal, (the blue light makes you feel like you are in the Tron: Legacy!) and the service is good. Since my husband liked eating at Samurai and won’t refuse to go, I think I will be back for sure. At least it’s worth trying for more than once, just to check out the menu. ๐Ÿ™‚

They don’t have a website up yet, so here are a few essential information:

Address & Phone number: 1775 45th Street South, Suite B/ 701-356-8882

Open hour: Monday-Thursday 11am till 10pm (11am – 3pm, lunch hour)/ Friday and Saturday 11am till 10:30pm/ Sunday noon till 9pm

Sample menu:

Miso soup $2.5, Tom Yum Soup with shrimp $3.95

Samurai seafood salad $10.50

Gyoza $4.95, Beef negimaki $7.50, Crab cake with pineapple salsa $6.95, Shrimp tempura $7.50

Usual items for nigiri sushi and sashimi from $4.50-$7.95

Many choices for special rolls and what they call “sashimi roll” $4.95 – $19.50/ Chirashi $17.95/ Unagi-don $15.95

Fusion Asian entrees such as lychee duck, grand manier shrimp, soft shell crab Thai style

Other items include Thai curry and basil sauce stir fries/ Japanese noodle soup (Udon)/ Chinese items such as eggplant with garlic sauce and Genera Tso’s chicken, Japanese teriyaki, etc.

UPDATE (as of February 10, 2011) – I have visited three more times after this initial review and tried many other dishes. I think sushi is still OK, and some Thai dishes (green curry and pad Thai). Udon was not good at all (broth was salty and not flavorful/ had same vegetables as the Tom Yum), and the tempura had an odd detergent (?) taste.

Still a very nice service, good sushi rice, and variety that a lot of my friends liked. Not sure if I want to keep this in “Good eats in America” category, but it’s the best Asian/Japanese restaurant in FM area in my opinion.

Lucy’s North China Cuisine

Alas. Silver Moon closed. I am so sad. I hope something good will take up that lovely place again soon.

But there is a good news, too – Lucy’s North China Cuisine on the 32nd Avenue South, Fargo, expanded their menu! Now it has tea-smoked duck, lion’s head meatballs, home-style tofu, eggplant with garlic sauce, Szechuan style shrimp and quite a few more.

(From left to right: Dumplings with Chinese chives, Vegetable delight, Tea-smoked duck/ Second row: Szechuan style shrimp, my table with take-outs, and eggplant with garlic sauce)

First of all I like Lucy’s steamed dumplings a lot. They seem that they are made daily – they sometimes run out of dumplings, and there are 3 kinds of stuffing – Chinese chives, onion and celery. Lucy’s grandma noodle is spicy and yummy, although it sometimes comes with too much oil. Tea smoked duck was good. Eggplant with garlic sauce was very tasty, although a bit oily. (I hope this oily problem will go away soon..!)

Fried flat breads are also very tasty. Oh, and one must try their green onion pancakes – very similar to the ones I ate in Taipei! Lucy’s also has special menu written on a whiteboard near the cashier (e.g. Szechuan boiled beef in fiery sauce), and if people like the special menu enough it will stay on the menu. More to come, they said.

I think the vegetable delight was better when the restaurant just had opened. It had more garlicky/ smoky taste. Now it’s a bit too sour and watery. What they call “Szechuan shrimp” is more like fried shrimp with sweet and sour ketchup sauce with a bit of kick to it, but tasty enough. (I often make it at home, and it’s sometimes called “Chili shrimp” in Korean Chinese restaurants.)

Lucy’s is doing really really well, and I think I will go to Lucy’s for a while when I crave Chinese food.

P.S. I don’t know how their standard Chinese items such as General Tso’s chicken and Sweet and sour pork taste like. But why would you order them when you can order other fun stuff?! ๐Ÿ™‚

Lucy’s Northern China Cuisine: 701-356-5100/ 3003 32nd Ave S.

11am-9pm, 7 days a week

Green Market – Food with trust

I believe that every town needs a place that incorporates local ingredients and encourages sustainable agriculture. It’s about more than just taste and food – it’s about culture and attitude. In Fargo, the Green Market across the public library is the place to look for that “slow food” goodness.

It’s a mystery that I did not visit this restaurant until the end of August this year. I think that’s partly because this place has been in a few different locations recently. Now it’s located at the building that used to be the Full Circle restaurant and some kind of community food-project office. The kitchen is run by Andrea, a talented and ambitious chef who changes her menu daily.

The first day I visited with a few good friends (and a guest from out of town), the menu read like this:

housemade breads & good butter $3; cheese plate with fruit & crackers $12; house made pate & sausage plate $10; pickle plate $6

chilled gazpacho $6; BBQ beef & bean soup $7

organic greens, herbs & champagne vinaigrette $6; heirloom tomato, gorgonzola & basil pickled shallots $7; corn & okra risotto $7; Provencal stuffed vegetables $7; stir fried miso green beans, carrots & eggplant $6

griddled Raclette cheese sandwich $7; griddled Raclette cheese & genoa salami sandwich $8; tuna nicoise melt with heirloom tomato & mozzarella $8; roasted pear tomato, zucchini & ricotta lasagna $7; chicken & vegetable torta with sun-dried tomato jam $5; Hawaiian walu with heirloom tomato broth $11; filet mignon with herb gremolata $11

panna cotta with mint & berries $4; cantaloupe, berries & coconut cream sauce $4; peach & blackberry crumble $4; chocolate orbit cake $4; ginger ice box cookie $2; carrot cake $4

All the servings are pretty small, but I like it that way as I can order a few different plates just for myself. I think it’s incredible that she’d change the entire menu every day – unbelievable, but I admire and enjoy her dedication. And it is obvious that she likes to try new things. She also tries to use as many local and organic ingredients as possible. The Green Market also has a very nice selection of cheeses and deli meats as well as a few grocery items such as imported vinegars and oils.

My favorite dish on our first visit was the stir fried miso green beans, carrots and eggplant. It had a wonderful smokiness and just the right amount of saltiness and sweetness. The vegetables had a really nice texture, too. Also amazing was the peach crumble – not too greasy or buttery, just perfect.ย  I have been to Green Market 4 more times after that initial visit, and every time I had something unusual or unusually great. Their cheese & fruit plate is always nice. I also love their hazelnut-sage bread (on Thursdays) and organic flax seed crackers. A few days ago I had “clam and smoked salmon noodle with shiitake mushroom” that was so unusual – like chicken noodle soup, except with clam and salmon! It was so different from anything I have ever eaten, yet so good. The best part about this restaurant is that I can trust the ingredients came from good sources and are made with care. Some dishes were a bit too salty or gooey for my taste, but I am getting better at picking out what I will like from the daily-changing menu!

The location is pretty good, and the almost non-existent decor is not a problem for me. The problem is that the entrance area between the main door and the door to the restaurant has a sort of old-building moldy smell. But once you pass that, you sit down and have a wonderful time. The Green Market is one of the gems of Fargo-Moorhead, and I hope they will enjoy a long and successful tenure in their new location!

Cafe116- Gem in Fergus Falls, MN

Eureka! I finally found a cafe that has good philosophy about coffee, great machines and brewing equipments and good beans – in Fergus Falls! I tumbled upon this place at a reception for a recital that I played at the Center for the Arts. Cafe 116 both hosted and catered the reception, so I did not get the whole cafe experience then, but the wonderful roast beef sandwich with horseradish sauce and gorgonzola was unforgettable. I’ve since been there on my own three more times and have just fallen in love with this little gem.

First of all, their espresso machines mean business: Synesso and La Marzzoco GS3 espresso machines & Mazzer and Rio grinders. You see these machines and you know that someone cares about their coffee and has put some resources behind that passion. Both Synesso and La Marzzoco at Cafe 116 are smaller machines, but this establishment isn’t turning out a shot every 45 seconds for hours at a time like some places, and a bigger 3- or 4-group machine would just be overkill. The espresso macchiato I had yesterday was pretty darn good (almost as good as the one that Ben makes at home and close to what I had at Gimme! Coffee, Ithaca), with beautiful milk foam and even two little hearts on it. Their espresso lacks that tiny touch of sweetness that I look for in espresso, but still it was easily the best espresso macchiato in the region. Period.

For their brewed coffee, they have three options: normal machine brewed coffee at $1 (with a ‘reasonable’ number of free refills), Micro brewed cup with Hario V60 ($2.25), and Yama Siphon pot, 16oz ($7). Microbrew (also known as hand-dripped coffee) is THE way to brew coffee at any reputable cafe in Korea and Japan, but somehow not a lot of American cafes are doing it. Intelligentsia has developed an interesting way of doing it a bit faster (and more organized), and I hope moreย  places will catch up soon since it brings out so much more aroma and flavor from the coffee grounds – If the beans are freshly roasted and ground. And since the Cafe 116 has their own roastery at the back, the beans are likely to be fresh! (The roasting company is called Stumbeano, which supplies a few places in Fargo, including Nichole’s Fine Pastry.) Siphon is not my favorite method of coffee brewing, but it’s fun and Greg, the coffee person, is always studying the perfect combination of bean, roast, grind, and brewing method for the Siphon. It’s definitely worth checking out.

On top of this, the food here is great, too. The menu is simple soup-sandwich-salad fare, and there is nothing fancy about it. But what they have is simply good food made with good stuff. Cafe 116 uses organic breads from the Falls Baking Company, and Jenny, the food person, says that she tries to use local and seasonal ingredients as much as she can. “The Union” sandwich with roast beef, gorgonzola and horseradish ($5.95 full/$3.75 half) is so delicious. Spicy shrimp and sausage gumbo ($5.45 bow/ $3.45) is spicy yet well balanced. (Something I miss about the South is a goo d bowl of gumbo, and I think I will go to the Cafe 116 on many Tuesdays to come..!) Sesame noodle salad and sugar snap peas ($4.95 lg/ $2.95 sm) is flavorful yet not too sweet or oily. Reuben sandwich was yummy (not as yummy as The Union, but still very good). Oh, and the potato salad is more vinegar and less mayo – so tasty and again, really well balanced with right amount of saltiness, sourness, and green onions. Creme brulee ($4) was also the best I have eaten in the area – not too thick or eggy, very smooth , and real vanilla bean speckles! An order of Beignets ($2.75 for 4 small triangles) make a very good afternoon snack or dessert for sharing.

As you can see the price is nice, too! You can order about 5-6 things between 2 people and not pay over $25. Plus I hear the breakfast items are great as well. And they also have a small but nice wine list and good beer selection.

I just wish this place was closer. But then..it gives me a very good excuse to drive down the highway and see my wonderful friends in Fergus Falls! I highly recommend anyone visit this place whenever you are in Fergus Falls or on the way to Minneapolis. ๐Ÿ™‚

Cafe 116: 116 South Union Avenue, Fergus Falls, MN (Phone: 218-998-3780)

Spicy Pie – Good (&Cheap) pizza in Downtown Fargo

Downtown Fargo now has a new pizza place – and it’s got good, cheap pizza, too!

Spicy Pie is a new pizza restaurant on the corner of 4th Ave N. and Broadway in downtown Fargo, where a.k.a. men’s clothing store used to be.ย  That corner has been under construction for a while, and then I saw it buzzing with people just a few days ago. It was closed on Sunday, so I checked it out today (Monday, May 24, 2010) with my husband.

First of all – it’s not a fancy or gourmet pizza restaurant, although the interior is quite nice with the brick walls and cool tables. There are a lot of TVs, too. Their menu is pretty simple: you can order either pizza by the slice or create your own whole pizza with basic toppings (sausage, salami, pepperoni, bacon, Canadian bacon, olives, green peppers, onions, mushrooms, pineapples, green and black olives, jalapenos, and anchovies).ย  They also offer a few sandwiches (“grinders”), tacos, and tostadas. That’s all. Oh, and a few beers on tap (Blue Moon, Flat Tire, etc.), cocktails and mixed drinks, and some wine options. You order and pay for your food at the counter, then get your number, and the server brings your food to your table in about 5 minutes.

At first I was quite disappointed that they did not have pizza margherita or any special pizzas with unusual toppings. So I ordered a slice of pizza with onion and pepperoni. My husband ordered a slice with pepperoni, mushrooms, and black olives and another with japaleno and sausage. And we were both pleasantly surprised at the quality of the pizza. The dough was thin in the middle and fluffy at the edge. It was very tasty without being oily or soggy at all. Also the tomato sauce was very simple andย  delicious – it’s like smeared whole tomatoes on the dough rather than a thick sauce with dried herbs and other ingredients. It was not salty or grossly sweet. I loved it! (They had a lot of big cans of “Alta Cucina” tomatoes on display: this is a canned plum tomato for restaurants.) The only quibble was that the sausages were too big, and they were more like meatballs. However everything else was far better than any other pizzas we have eaten in this area, except Stella’s. I even went back for dinner and got a slice of mushroom and onion. The onions were sprinkled more evenly than what I had for lunch. ๐Ÿ™‚

And the best part is the price. A slice of pizza with tomato and cheese for $2! Additional toppings are only 25 cents each. The slices are quite big as you can see in my picture. Canned soda is $1. I am sure the beer and cocktails are priced nicely as well.

Usually great things are not cheap, and Spicy Pie is no exception. Their great pizza at a very low price comes with a small problem – they serve everything on a paper plate, and there is no real silverware in the restaurant besides the cooking tools. I would be happy to pay $1 more if that would help them serve on a real plate. I mean, it would still cost only $4 to get a big slice of pizza with four toppings..!! According to an excerpt from InForum, this is a “New York style pizza restaurant” opened by a company in Minot, N.D.

Anyways. Within just a few days of opening, this restaurant seems to have attracted quite a lot of young people and families. It was packed both at lunch time and dinner time today. Their website is www.fmspicypie.com, but there is nothing up yet.

Sunday – Thursday: 11am – 11pm

Friday and Saturday: 11am – 2am

One more thing to love about downtown Fargo, I would say.

Where to carb out before Go Far! Fargo Marathon

The Fargo Marathon is this weekend, Saturday May 22! I signed up for the 2-person relay with a friend of mine but have not trained myself all that much. So I plan to make it up by eating lots of pasta before Saturday! I have written a few things about restaurants in the Fargo-Moorhead area on this blog, but today I will present a list aimed at fellow marathoners and runners in search of good carb-loading/ pasta options.

Taste of Italy (Formerly Isabella & Stella) – 608 1st Ave. (close to Broadway) 701-365-0608

Stella was my (and my husband’s) favorite choice for Italian food and pastas in FM area, period. Their Ravioli, Pappardelle alla Bolognese, Spaghetti puttanesca (all $13), Rigatoni con porcini ($18), Seafood spaghetti ($21) are all very delicious and reasonably priced. I know they use San Marzano whole tomato cans for their tomato sauce, which makes a big difference. (I persuaded Tony to sell me a can once and made a great Bolognese sauce with it!) Their strengths as a restaurant are how well they do the simple things – the basic pasta dishes and simple tomato sauce that make or break any Italian kitchen.ย  Chefs here are not afraid of using a lot of garlic, and Stella’s pasta dishes are never salty or soggy. All dinner pasta dishes come with marinated vegetable appetizer, bread, and salad. Be aware that the service can be very slow, and the owner has a “personality.” Oh, and for their food the wine list is a bit sad. But the word is out – today (Monday, May 17th) I reserved a table for Friday (the day before the marathon) at 7pm, and already the restaurant was almost totally reserved for marathoners and carb-loading parties! (This restaurant changed their ownership in 2011. Some dishes are still same, some changed. No more marinated mushrooms, though!)

Toscana – 202 Broadway N. 701-235-9100

A lot of dishes here tend to be salty these days. (It was not the case when they just opened, but it has become that way and I don’t like it as much as I used to), but all the pasta dishes are reasonably priced and some of them are still pretty good. My husband likes their gnocchi, and I like their Piselli e prosciutto pasta. Their Arrabbiatta used to be good, but these days it’s too salty and too spicy for my taste. Also their shrimps (in any dish) tend to be too watery. Service is better than Stella’s.

Spitfire- 1660 13th Ave E. West Fargo. 701-478-8667

This restaurant is mainly a rib/roasted chicken joint, but 5-6 pasta dishes are on the menu. (BTW- their ribs are the best in town, if you would rather eat protein than carb.) My husband and I have tried their Diablo pasta with sausage, chicken and shrimp a few times, and it’s cheesy, peppery and tasty. Big portions, and satisfactory taste. Not anywhere near being “authentic Italian” but it’s good. Through many trips, I have not been disappointed at this restaurant, except getting a sad salad once. This would be actually a good restaurant to go after you run a marathon.

Granite City – 1636 42nd Street S. 701-293-3000

It’s been a while since I ate at GC, as they took some things I liked off the menu and their food tends to taste as if it comes frozen or pre-cooked, but a lot of people seem to like this restaurant. This place has 7-8 pasta choices on the menu, and almost all of them are parmesan or pesto-based. I recall trying a seafood pasta special, and it was not bad. Good beer selection and nice atmosphere.

Santa Lucia

This claims to be a “Mediterranean” restaurant. I ate at this place a while ago once, and today I went back to check out again. Spaghetti with bolognese sauce and meatballs (about $13, salad separate at $2.95) was not good at all. It had a very strange canned tomato paste flavor and was really salty, with very dry meatballs. Their Penne Arabbiata with shrimp ($14.95) was better, but it was also on the salty side. Both dishes were gigantic. You can probably go to this restaurant when you don’t want to go to Olive Garden/ when other restaurants are full.ย  I suspect that the Greek dishes on their menu would be more successful.

There are a few other non-chain restaurants with pasta menu, but I have not eaten their pasta dishes:

Sarello’s is a very nice Italian restaurant in Moorhead (28 Center Ave. Moorhead, 218-287-0238), but the only pasta dishes on their menu are Lobster Ravioli ($24) and Penne Arrabiatta. ($17)

Basie’s is also a nice restaurant inside the Ramada Plaza Suite. (1635 42 St. S. 701-281-7105) I have eaten their steak and fish dishes, and they are what you expect from this kind of restaurant. It would not be my first choice of restaurant, but it has nice service, good food, and good menu. They feature 5 very interesting pasta dishes. (Thai red curry sauce on Linguini with crab and mussels/ gorgonzola cream sauce over linguini to name a few)

Doolittle’s – 2112 25th Street S. 701-478-2200

Doolittle’s pastas all have Alfredo-type sauce, so I have never ordered a pasta dish here. But their food is usually quite good, and the portions are big. Oh, and their kitchen is open until 11pm, which is a bit later than the norm for Fargo-Moorhead.

Lastly, Speak Easy is a locally owned restaurant in Moorhead with an extensive pasta menu and a cute, old-fashioned deco. However their food is not something that I would recommend highly. Their spaghetti with meatballs was only marginally better than Olive Garden or other not so high-quality chain restaurants.

Well, good luck to everybody who’s running! I hope it will be warmer than last year!