Sunday, May 31, 2009

Bowled - St Petersburg, FL

I went to this place for Sunday brunch. Luckily, I had heard good things about this place from another person, otherwise I would not have known it was there. In fact, the outside of the restaurant is very plain with nothing in particular to attract attention to its existence, but when you step inside, it is another thing altogether. The decoration has a nice groove and is very pleasing to the eye. We ordered the mimosas to go with our brunch and they were very nice. My husband ordered the Bowled Burger with cheddar cheese and it was all served on a roll. I had a taste of the burger and thought it was very good. For myself, I ordered the Asian bowl with Shrimp and soy and ginger glazed vegetables all served over jasmine rice, which we both thought was delicious. Later on, we finished with coffee and the strawberry crepes. The coffee was super and rivaled some of my favorite coffee places. The only disappointment was the strawberry crepes. I was expecting a warm crepe and it was not that at all because it was cold. Not cold as in they brought it out too late, but cold as in it tasted like they had pulled the crepe and strawberries straight out of the refrigerator. If not for that one disappointment, it would have been a perfect meal. I will definitely be back again, but next time I would like to try the dinner because it looks like a lovely place to come in the evening.

Bowled Restaurant
3451 4th Street North
St Petersburg, FL 33704

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Zurritos- St Petersburg, FL

Zurrito's is the place I go when I am in the mood for tacos. It is located on Central Avenue in the heart of downtown St Petersburg. I always grab a table on the sidewalk because it is a good place to people watch, just because it is Central Avenue. Although I have been here many times, I always order either the shredded beef tacos or the fish tacos, both of which I absolutely love. The rest of the menu looks good, but I never make it as far as trying something different. Maybe one day I will stretch out and try some other things on the menu. The tacos come with tortilla chips and your choice of salsa. I always have a cold beer alongside and life couldn't get much better.

269 Central Avenue
St Petersburg, FL 33701

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Cafe Bohemia - St Petersburg, FL

Cafe Bohemia is a cafe and coffee house located on Central Avenue in downtown St Petersburg. You will easily recognize it by its bright green color when driving by them. This is another nice community place to gather and it especially embraces the art community. They often have live events going on, such as music or a night for painting. On Wednesday's you can catch politically or community motivated films in the courtyard. For drinks, you can order coffee, tea, beer, wine, and sodas, etc. They offer a small, but nice menu. They serve soup, eggs, sandwiches, and wraps. I have enjoyed the spicy turkey wraps or the falafel wraps. My husband especially enjoys the egg omelette and croissant sandwiches, to which you can add fillings of your choice. We used to enjoy the Sunday brunch there, but they had canceled that, at one point. The inside is nice and you can find a lot of nice art by local artists on the wall. When the weather is nice, I love to sit out in the courtyard. This is a good place to hang out and relax.

Cafe Bohemia
937 Central Ave
St Petersburg, FL 33701

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Sacred Grounds Coffeehouse - Tampa, FL

This is a local coffee house located on Busch Boulevard in Tampa and is near the University of South Florida. It caters largely to the college community, but any and all are welcome. They often have events going on such as live music, so check out their calendar to see who is playing. They offer a very extensive and interesting coffee menu along with smoothies, and other drinks. Also, they offer a small menu if you need a light meal. I stopped there with my family for a light snack and some coffee. We ordered a small pizza and cappuccinos. They make great coffees and this is definitely not your corporate chain coffee. Good for the community.

Sacred Grounds Coffeehouse
4819 East Busch Blvd
Tampa, FL 33617

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The Melting Pot - St Petersburg, FL

I will only do this once and a while, but this is a post about a chain restaurant. That is because experiences can be so different at different locations of chain restaurants and I like to support local restaurants, but I will limit my post to the Melting Pot located in St Petersburg. My family and I have wanted to try this place for quite some time, but we just never quite got around to it. Finally, we checked it out over the Memorial Day weekend.

First of all, the place is huge. It is made up of several rooms, and we were led to one near the back. Each table has one or two cook tops, depending upon the size of your party. Our table had only one cook top and this is where you will have your fondue and cook your food. Your party will have to agree on the fondue and cooking style for your entree because you will all be sharing the same cooking pot. Not a problem for us, but maybe a problem for others if they have widely differing tastes. We ordered a bottle of Riesling, a German white wine, to go with our meal. For fondue, we went with the Traditional Swiss Cheese Fondue. This was delicious and came with green apples, vegetable, and bread for dipping.

The fondue was followed by the entrees. For our cooking style, we chose the oil for frying. The other choice is broths for cooking on you cook top. In case you are wondering, you do cook your own food. This is not something I would enjoy doing all the time, but on that night we just went with the flow. We went with the fondue fusion that was for two, and that included meat, seafood, chicken, and pasta for us to cook. There are batters and sauces for dipping that come with your entree. It was kind of fun to sit there and watch your food cook in the pot and it slows things down, so don't plan to eat in a hurry. Plan on two to three hours if you are going all out. Our main course was followed by dessert. We ordered the dark and white chocolate fondue. This comes with pound cake, cheesecake, brownies, marshmallows, and fruit for dipping. I don't even need to tell you that this was delicious because we are talking about melted chocolate, after all.

Overall, service was nice here and the food was good. That being said, it was more of an experience than anything, and it is not someplace I would go on a regular basis. Why? Well, you do have to cook your own food. Fun to do it once, but on a regular basis, that defeats the purpose of going out. I might go back just to do drinks and the cheese fondue, because you don't cook that yourself. Overall, our favorite parts of the meal were the cheese fondue and the chocolate fondue. Good experience.

The Melting Pot
2221 4th St. N
St. Petersburg, FL 33704

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Purple Moon Inc - Dunedin, FL

This is a MUST see place if you live anywhere in the Tampa Bay area. I went there on a Friday evening to hear Rebekah Pulley sing and I found so much more. First off, the place is purple and it is not too hard to miss a purple house when driving around in downtown Dunedin. This is a house converted into a business. Inside there is a gallery plus a few tables for enjoying coffee, drinks, or a light meal. In the gallery you can buy jewelry, art, soap, books, etc. The patio outside is where you will find most of the tables and an area at the front of the patio for the singer. The whole place has an eclectic feel and just a great vibe all around.

When we arrived, we grabbed a picnic table at the back because it was already packed. Fortunately, some other people left and we were able to get a table up front near the singer. When ordering, you just go up to the window and place your order. You will get your drinks right then and somebody will most likely bring your food out, but sometimes they call people up to the window. My husband and I had a glass of the cabernet and we tried the three cheese grilled sandwiches. This sandwiches come with chips and a pickle. For a pleasant change from other places, the tomatoes on the grilled cheese tasted like real tomatoes. Not fancy fare, but simple and delicious. For dessert, we ordered the chocolate fudge cake which was yummy beyond words. Later on, we ordered cappuccino which was fantastic. The food, along with the atmosphere, made for a very delightful evening.

I must say the service was very good and the ladies working that night came around to the guests often to make sure they were enjoying everything. Almost everyone that was there that night stayed until the end of the show. And you won't hear me say this often, but check out their bathroom, really cool. Like I said, even if you don't live in the neighborhood, I think it is worth a drive to check this place out.

Purple Moon Inc
833 Douglas Ave
Dunedin, FL 34698

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Friday, May 29, 2009

Fav's Italian Cucina - Bradenton, FL

Grab a seat on the outside covered patio and watch the quiet activity of Bradenton's downtown Main Street. It is the perfect setting to enjoy the food at Fav's. There is seating inside, but I find the outside seating more charming. If you stop by for lunch, they offer a special of two pizza slices and a soda for around $4.50. Otherwise, they have hot and cold subs, wraps, and a few pasta choices. I normally have the cheese pizza or the spaghetti marinara when I am there, which I heartily enjoy. In the evening, their menu is more extensive, and they offer nightly rotating specials that are displayed on the board.

The service is friendly and it seems to be a local hangout where everyone knows each other. If you are at the Lost Kangaroo Pub just down the street, the friendly folks at Fav's will run it down to your table at the "Roo" when it is ready. This is delicious Italian comfort food and try to save room for dessert. They make one great cannoli and they fill it on the spot, so that it is still nice and crunchy when you bite into it. If you like, they also serve beer and wine to go along with your meal.

Fav's Italian Cucina
419 12th Street West
Bradenton, FL 33701

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Paciugo - St Petersburg, FL

With the days starting to really heat up in Florida, there is more than one reason to make a stop at Paciugo for gelato. For those of you not yet familiar with gelato, it is basically the Italian version of ice cream. From my understanding of gelato, it has less butterfat than traditional ice cream and when it is served it is in a semi-frozen state versus a hard freeze, thus it is softer. I experienced my first taste of gelato in Italy and I have been hooked ever since that time, so you can imagine how happy I was to find Paciugo.

Paciugo is the closest I have been able to come to my gelateria experience in Italy. It is an inviting spot located on Beach Drive in dowtown St Petersburg. People walking in are drawn immediately to the gelato case with all of its variety of color and flavors. There are milk based gelatos as well as water based gelatos. Start with a small cup and select up to three different flavors or you can get five flavors in a cup. If you are not sure what to try you can sample some of the flavors before choosing. I am not going to even start naming my favorites because they are all declicious. When eating gelato, there is really no way you can go wrong.

Another thing to know is that Paciugo is not just for gelato. They also offer pastries and they make a really good capuccino, so it is a good place to stop in the morning. Paciugo also offers freezer packs for those who want to take gelato home with them, if you think it can make it that far......

300 Beach Dr
Saint Petersburg, FL 33701

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Hooker Tea Company - St Petersburg, FL

I am going to have to say that I feel really stupid for not having written about Hooker Tea, until now. I really enjoy this place, and only wish that I was able to make it there more often. This is THE coolest tea place there is, I have to say. They have only been around for a couple of years, but from the first time we went there, we have all been hooked, including my son.

This is another nice little spot located in downtown St Petersburg on Beach Drive. When you walk in the door, you step into a relaxing environment. On the wall is a bewildering array of teas, but don't worry because someone will give you a helping hand. The teas are arranged and there are black, green, herbal teas, etc. There are traditional teas and interesting blends of tea. I am normally a traditional girl, as far as my tea goes, but once and awhile I try something new. I have had a tea blended with oranges and spices, a coffee flavored tea, and my son is in love with the kyoto cherry green tea. It is nice because you can smell the loose leaf tea before they prepare it to see if it is something you might like to try. Also, you can order your tea hot or iced. No matter what tea I order, it is always good. By the way, no tea bags here. It is all loose leaf tea that is brewed in front of you.

I need to give special recognition to the owners, Kendra Rodriguez and Shawn Hooker. They always take the time to talk to their customers when they come in the store and they don't try to rush you out the door. I love to support local businesses, and this is an example of small business at its best. I do need to warn you that once you try their tea, you won't like to get your tea anywhere else.

The Hooker Tea Company
300 Beach Drive NE #124
St Petersburg, FL 33701

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The Moon Under Water - St Petersburg, FL

In the mood for a pint this past Memorial Day weekend, my family and I headed over to The Moon Under Water in downtown St Petersburg. We have been coming to this restaurant for a number of years and we appreciated the fact that it was open on Monday, when a lot of other places were closed that day in downtown. It is located on Beach Drive, not far from the water. If you time your visit for the right time of day, after your meal you can head over to the water and watch the dolphins as they come in near shore.

My husband and I opted to have a pint of the Carlsberg Beer along with our lunch. This is a light and refreshing beer to drink when the days start getting hotter. For lunch, I had a half order of the Thai Chicken Salad with a sweet vinaigrette. This was a real flavorful salad with the lightly spiced chicken and the sweet Thai vinaigrette was delicious. My husband order the blackened chicken sandwich and fries, which I also got to try. I enjoyed the sandwich and fries and thought that was a good menu choice.

As far as seating goes, we opted for a shaded sidewalk table. However, with the days getting hotter, go for more shade and a spot on the porch if you can get it. The inside is nice if you want that English pub feel. As far as some of the other food goes, in the past we have had some of the curry dishes because that spicy food goes really well with a pint and the rice that comes with the curry is really good. And of course, I love the English pasty, which is a turnover with ground beef and vegetables and mashed potatoes and gravy come with this meal. The service is good here and you will see a lot of tourists eating here as well as a lot of locals. Give it a try!

The Moon Under Water
332 Beach Dr NE
St Petersburg, FL 33701

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant - Minneapolis, MN

At long last, I come to the most exciting part of my recent trip to Minnesota. An evening out at the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant which is located in downtown Minneapolis on the Nicollet Mall. I have not been to the Dakota in quite a number of years, and this was my first time being there since they moved to downtown Minneapolis. For those of you not familiar with the Dakota, they used to be located in St Paul in Bandana Square, which is a historic railroad building. I used to go there all the time when I was in the mood to listen to live jazz. I have to say, that although the new location is beautiful, I miss the old location because I thought it was a smaller and more intimate venue. Oh well, I guess all things cannot stay the same.

Upon arrival at the Dakota, my family and I checked in to receive our table number because we were there to see Katie Melua, which was a ticketed show. We arrived two hours prior to the show because we wanted to eat before Katie's performance, so that we would not have any distractions. After all, this show was the entire reason for our trip to Minnesota. We were happy to find out that our table was right next to the stage. Our server was very helpful in pointing out the two optional menus to dine from and the specials that were on the wall. There was a bar menu and a full dinner menu. The bar menu looked really good, but we decided to go all out and went for the dinner menu.

For drinks, we decided to go with the Angeline Pinot Noir by the glass. This was a nice, deep red that went well with our meal. My husband ordered the Stuffed Breast of Amish Chicken that was stuffed with a chestnut mousse and chanterelle mushrooms. This had awesome flavor and the chicken was juicy and cooked to perfection. For myself, I ordered the Meyers Farm Natural Angus Beef pairing. For the pairing, there was a beef tenderloin & short rib with porcini mushrooms, cipollini onion, and a semolina pudding. The beef was wonderful and so tender that I didn't really need more than my fork to cut it and I loved the savory semolina pudding that came with it. For dessert, I had a glass of Corvoisier VS Cognac, which went very well with the chocolate orange flavored mousse cake. This was an absolutely fabulous meal from beginning to end and I really have to compliment the chef.

Now, for Katie Melua. I was so happy because I got the chance to meet her before the show and we all got to take our pictures with her. I am happy to say that her singing was just as beautiful in person as it is on audio. She has a mighty voice for such a little person and she is very soft spoken when not singing. I am so glad that I got the opportunity to see her show live. She sang my favorite song, Spider's Web, as well as The Closet Thing to Crazy, my second favorite song. Check out her link above and listen to some of her songs.

So, if ever in town and you are looking for something to do, check out the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant and see who is playing.

Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant
1010 Nicollet Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55403

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Bon Vie Cafe - St Paul, MN

When I walked by this cute little cafe that is situated next to a flower shop on Selby Avenue, I saw blackberry pancakes on the menu and knew that I would have to give it a try. Inside, was bright and cheery and a would have been a nice spot to watch the happening on Selby, if it hadn't been under construction during my visit. However the outside construction did not detract from the breakfast my family and I enjoyed this particular day.

I ordered coffee, but you can also order espresso drinks of your choice. To eat, I had the blackberry pancakes, which turned out to be just as delicious as they sounded. What can be better than hot pancakes, with blackberries inside. Also, I tried some of my husband's Egg Scramble that had smoked salmon, cheese, and onions. That was great and I loved the smoked salmon they used and thought it added great flavor to the eggs. As if that wasn't enough, we had a mammoth plate of hashbrowns. Was it delicious? Yes. Could we finish it all, no. But I will definitely add this on my list of breakfast places to go to when in Minnesota.

Bon Vie Cafe
518 Selby Ave
St Paul, MN 55102

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

La Grolla - St Paul, MN

Walking down Selby Avenue in St Paul on a cloudy day, my family and I found ourselves in need of a light lunch. Passing by La Grolla Italian Ristorante, we noticed a number of people sitting at a charming outdoor patio and decided to give it a try. We had to go inside to get to the patio, and we thought the inside had a nice atmosphere and would provide a romantic setting for any couple wanting an evening out. However, we wanted to catch a few rays of Minnesota's fleeting sun.

Not wanting to go too heavy for lunch, we opted for the beef and vegetable soup, which was perfect for the weather outside, which was quickly turning cooler. Along with the soup, the server brought us warm bread with olive oil and herbs for dipping. For drinks, we had a glass of chianti. Altogether, it was a lovely lunch with good service. Now, if only I would have had time to go back and try the dinner menu, things would have been perfect. Too many places to try this trip and not enough time.

La Grolla Italian Ristorante
452 Selby Ave
St Paul, MN 55102

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The Happy Gnome - St Paul, MN

I was glad to be back at The Happy Gnome Restaurant this trip back home. This was another place that I found the last time I was in Minnesota and taking a walk down Selby Avenue in St Paul. It has a huge beer selection and claims to have over 44 beers on tap and 200 different beers by the bottle. It is really cool because when you walk into the place you see this monstrosity of a chalkboard that lists all the beers that are on tap.

On my most recent trip to Minnesota, I had the opportunity to stop here twice. The first time was for beer and appetizers and the second time was for a Mother's Day brunch. The food here is really good and the service is even better. My first visit, we tried the chicken wings and a burger. Both were delicious, but I have to say I really enjoyed the wings. Rather than the usual blue cheese or ranch dressing, they offered a horseradish and celery slaw to go along with the wings and to cool off the palate. I have to say that I enjoyed the change. For the Mother's Day brunch, I had the B.Y.O. Grilled Cheese Sandwich with two different cheeses, carmelized onions, roasted red peppers, and asparagus all served on a multigrain bread. This was delicious and I don't know why I never thought of making my grilled cheese this way. I especially loved the asparagus and melted cheese together. This all came with fries. I enjoyed my meal with Murphy's Irish Stout, which to me, went perfectly with everything.

I cannot do this post without a special shout out to Wayne Roemhildt, the bartender, who really made this a memorable meal. I was there with my family, and more importantly my mother, for a Mother's Day Brunch. We arrived at the Happy Gnome with nary a table available, but a seat at the bar for all, while we waited for a table to become available. However, about ten minutes after our arrival, we realized it was more fun at the bar, thanks to Wayne. He was funny and had us laughing so hard, it was like a free show with the meal. Of course, he did call us riff raff, but I won't hold that against him. Thanks Wayne.

Also, we enjoyed the live music and our fellow patrons at the barstools with who we shared a lively political discussion. (The Happy Gnome is located very near Minnesota's state capital building). And special notice and thanks to the kind hearted gentlemen, and his lovely family, who bought us a round of drinks. We have been many places in the world, but this really felt like home, like Minnesota.

The Happy Gnome
498 Selby Ave
St Paul, MN 55102
(651) 287-2018

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Matt's Bar - Minneapolis, MN

This is for all intents and purposes a fun post. Why? Well because if I am talking about Matt's Bar then I must be talking about the famous Jucy Lucy. And no, I did not accidentally misspell Jucy Lucy. Matt's Bar claims that "if it is spelled correctly you are in the wrong place." Yes, there is a long going feud in the Twin Cities as to who actually created the Jucy Lucy and if you want to know more about it, read here. I am not taking sides in the feud, but I just happened to try the Jucy Lucy at Matt's Bar first, and I have found no reason to ruin a good thing.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Jucy Lucy, it is basically two beef patties slapped together with a piece of cheese in the middle. The burger is grilled and when you first bite into the Jucy Lucy, molten cheese comes squirting out. Yes, it is hot enough to burn you. However you do receive a warning when the food is brought to your table. The best thing to do when eating your Jucy Lucy is to break a piece of your patty off first to let off some of the steam so you do not get severely burned. Of course, it is always more fun to live dangerously. Order a huge basket of fries and a draft of Grain Belt, and you are set.

Okay, now for Matt's Bar, which is basically a hole in the wall. This is a good thing and it adds to its appeal. You will see all sorts when you go here from students, business men, housewives, and the average guy. No matter the socioeconomic level, people of the Twin Cities love their Jucy Lucy. There is not much on their menu and you will see it all on a board on the wall or a single sheet of paper at your table. This is because the Jucy Lucy is the star of the show. There is no kitchen at Matt's bar, but there is a grill and fry basket behind the bar that is constantly manned by one busy cook. When you get your Jucy Lucy, it is pure heaven. If you are in Minneapolis for only a day or two, go to Matt's Bar just so you can say you had a Jucy Lucy.

Matt's Bar
3500 Cedar Ave South
Minneapolis, MN 55407

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Friday, May 22, 2009

New Louisiana Cafe - St Paul, MN

I have going to the Louisiana Cafe since it used to be in a little cubby hole with a few tables. For extra measure they also had some bar stools thrown in next to the window to optimize what little space they had and there was usually a long line out the door on weekends. The Louisiana Cafe has since then moved into a space about four times its previous size, but not much else has changed. On weekends, you will probably still have to wait for a table, unless you arrive bright and early. Thankfully, the line seems to move fairly fast. And the food is the same great food served in ginnormous portions. And what's more, it is fun if you get a window seat to look out and see what is happening on Selby Avenue.

First, I have to mention that I love the service here. The servers here have spunk and an attitude, and I mean that in a good way. Now, on to the food. As previously mentioned, the orders here are huge. Depending on your appetite, two people can easily share an order and still have leftovers. If you like, you can order a half order. On my most recent visit, my family and I were there for breakfast. However, if you don't feel like breakfast for breakfast, you can order lunch. We ordered the chocolate chip pancakes, a single pancake, the Cajun Breakfast, and the Cajun Burger. The Cajun breakfast is pretty much hash browns topped with eggs and a hollandaise sauce sprinkled with cayenne pepper. This was comfort food at its finest as was the Cajun Burger, which also featured cayenne pepper as an ingredient. The pancakes covered in syrup were perfect to balance out all that heat. This is breakfast food and lunch with soul that I love to come back for again and again.

New Lousiana Cafe
613 Selby Ave
St Paul, MN 55102

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Nina's Coffee Cafe - St Paul, MN

Nina's is a fabulous spot to sit and have your favorite coffee. We first discovered this place the last time we were in St Paul and we just had to stop in again this trip. It is located at the intersection of Selby and Western Avenue in St Paul. When you first walk inside, you will notice the walls that are covered with a lot of cool art and the eclectic mix of sofas, chairs, and tables. Also, there are huge windows that cover the length of one wall and let in plenty of light. When finding a spot to sit, you will need to vie with students for a spot to sit because Nina's draws a huge college crowd, which I love because it makes for great people watching. On this particular occasion, it was near the end of the semester, so Nina's was particularly busy. The coffee drinks are excellent there, and the baked goods are even better. Along with my coffee I enjoyed a biscotti and a yummy chocolate and caramel bar. They also offer other choices if you need lunch. Maybe one of these times I will get to try the chili at Nina's because I hear it is really good. This is a great place to sit at and while away the day with a good book.

Nina's Coffee Cafe
165 Western Ave N
St. Paul, MN 55102

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dinner at the Muffuletta Cafe in St Paul, Minnesota

A trip to the twin cities would not be complete without a trip to Muffuletta's. This restaurant is in Milton square on Como Avenue and is sandwiched between the St Paul campus and Minneapolis campus of the University of Minnesota. Muffeletta's has been around for twenty-five plus years and is still going strong. Because of its location near the university, one will often find an interesting and largely intellectual looking crowd, but with room for everyone. We have been dining there for almost 15 years and have always loved it.

If you get a chance to dine there, start the meal with a cup of their signature beer cheese soup with popcorn sprinkled on top. I love this soup and I always order it when I am there. From there, everything on the menu is always delicious, so go wild. On this visit, my husband ordered the gnocchi with duck confit, mire poix, onions, tomatos, and lemon olive oil. For myself, I tried the three cheese ravioli. Along with the meal, diners always get a basket of roasted garlic puree to put on the bread. Both dishes were delicious and I always love the roasted garlic that comes with the bread. For drinks, we ordered a carafe of the house cabernet, which turned out to be Coastal Ridge. This is a wine that won't knock your socks off, but it went well with the food and allowed the food to be the star of the show. And for a perfect end to our meal, we finished with the Thai Coffee Creme Brulee and a slice of Bete Noire, a flourless chocolate cake served with rasberry coulis and whip cream. This was really a wonderful meal with a restaurant in a quaint setting. I can't wait until I can go back to Minnesota to dine there, again.

Muffuletta Cafe
2260 Como Aveunue
St Paul, MN 55108

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Into the Great Beyond....Minnesota

Recently, I had a chance to return to my home state for a visit. As you can tell by the title of my post, I hail from Minnesota. Once upon a time, my family and I were lucky enough to escape to Florida and its warm climate, but every so often Minnesota calls me back. Although in this instance, it was Katie Melua calling me to Minnesota. For those of you don't know Katie, she is one of the top female vocalists in the UK and she is now doing her introductory tour in the US, and she was performing in Minnesota. I will talk more about her in a later post.

So anyway, I was in Minnesota for six days and some of the next posts will cover my trip. Let me summarize the weather for this trip right now: predictably unpredictable. Minnesota is interesting this way and this is why you will invariably hear Minnesotan's talking about the weather wherever you go. This trip was in May, however the weather was nice one day out of six, with the other five days being cold and gray. It was all good though because it was a refreshing break from Florida where it is starting to get hot. Also, it helped that I brought along a variety of clothing to cover whatever weather elements Minnesota might throw at me.

To sum up this trip in one sentence: we ate, we drank, we ran in the park, and we listened to Katie Melua's performance.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Dinner at Buona Vita - St Petersburg, FL

In the mood for Italian food, I headed over to Buona Vita on a Friday night. This restaurant is located in downtown St Pete in what used to be the Local Coffee Shop, which closed down, unfortunately. Upon walking in the doors, I didn't find drastic changes, and it reminded me for the most part of what it looked like when it was Local Coffee. The space was opened up more and there was a bar added that you can sit at and have a drink or eat dinner, but like I said, no huge changes. That is a positive because I liked the looks of the place before and I still like the use of space. Rather than sit at the outside patio, we dined inside. We ordered a bottle of wine and I have to say the wines on the list were reasonably priced. We ordered pizza, pesto gnocchi, and mushroom gnocchi. While we were waiting, our server brought us some warm bread rolls that were served with a tasty olive oil dipping sauce. Now comes the hard part because the food was just not quite what I would like it to have been. The crust of the pizza was slightly undercooked, along with both servings of the gnocchi. The gnocchi was a tad bit doughy and heavy, rather than tender and light like I enjoy. It was really too bad because the sauce that was served on the gnocchi was delicious, but the gnocchi just didn't stand up to the sauce. However, we did end the meal on a good note with dessert when we ordered the tartufo. This was a coffee flavored ice cream covered in nuts and cinnamon with a chocolate filling in the center. I might add that the coffee was also delicious. I also want to add that the service was very good, even if the food wasn't quite what I was hoping for that evening.

As a final note, I want to say that I won't let one experience stop me from trying this restaurant again. I felt there was enough positives to give the place another try because I really do want them to succeed. I want downtown St Pete to have a number of choices for dining options, and I think if this place makes a few small improvements that they could have a winner.

Buona Vita
330 1st Ave South
St Petersburg, FL 33701

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Saturday, May 2, 2009

Brunch at Cafe Alma - St Petersburg, Florida

If you are in the mood for brunch, a good place to head to is Cafe Alma for their Saturday or Sunday brunch. Cafe Alma has their regular menu serving omelettes, eggs benedicts, french toast, and such. Also, they have a rotating pancake and omelette of the day, along with some other special that the chef has prepared that day. If you are not in the mood for breakfast, they offer some non-breakfast options, but I normally opt for breakfast. One of my favorite items on the brunch menu is the Sirloin Fiorentina served over sweet potato cakes with eggs, mushrooms, blue cheese, and a scallion cream sauce, mmmmm. They normally offer a build your own bloody mary bar for brunch, or you can order a mimosa, beer, juice, coffee, etc. All of this is offered in a very relaxing environment with indoor and outdoor seating. They also serve lunch and dinner, which I have not really tried yet because I enjoy going there so much for their weekend brunch. If you enjoy downtown St Pete's Saturday market, Cafe Alma is the perfect place to sit and relax afterwards.

Cafe Alma
260 1st Avenue South
St Petersuburg, FL 33701

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