Sovereign Estate Wine

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A little background

Sovereign Estate Winery is a family owned and operated vineyard and winery located near Lake Waconia, 30 minutes outside of downtown Minneapolis.  The winery was started by  Paul Savaryn, the winery and property owner, when he had been told by his father that the south facing slope would be idea for growing fruit.  He and his wife started the vineyard in 2008 after a year’s worth of practice vines to see how they would grow.  Today, Paul’s son Ben and his wife Hana, work there, as well as his step brother Isaac.  SEW is in their fourth winemaking season and their wines are distributed by a small handful of sellers.  The majority of their wine is still sold at their winery to accommodate the large number of visitors.

We were fortunate enough to meet Paul when my fiance and I visited SEW this past weekend.  He was upbeat, friendly and was more than willing to explain his craft to us.  We both were thankful to hear the history of their winery  and to learn about different types of grapes and the flavors that each yields.

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Tasting Room
Tasting Room

 My thoughts

My fiance wanted to take me on a surprise date this past weekend and what better way to do that than visiting a winery!  He definitely hit the nail on the head with this one.  Note only was I able to get content for this blog, but we would be able to sample local wines!  Luckily, SEW is open on Sundays and for a small fee of $5, we’re able to sample five of their wines.  He scored some pretty big brownie points with me for finding this gem.  Here’s what we thought …

I’m not  going to pretend that I have a vast knowledge of wine, but I’ve had my fare share of them to know the difference between a mediocre wine and something of quality.  Sovereign Estate Winery definitely produces wines of quality for both red and white wine lovers alike.  Don’t believe me?  Feel free to check out the awards won from their most popular wine, Talon Crest.

Talon Crest won a gold medal in 2011 at the American Wine Society judging in New York.  This is a semi-sweet, fruity white wine and was a smashing hit with my fiance and me.  With notes of apricot, green apple and an orange zest finish, it is quite refreshing.  We decided to order two more glasses of this wine while listening to a local band that SEW was hosting for the day.  My fiance and I loved this wine so much, we had to bring a bottle home with us.

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Their La Crescent is a dry, fruity wine.  It’s a French-American hybrid that is descended from the Seyval Blanc grape.  You can definitely taste the apricot and apple notes in this wine.  I tend to like whites better than reds (my fiance does, also) so this one struck a chord with us.  This wine was a little on the drier side, but we didn’t mind much.

Blue Loon was our second favorite wine of the day, behind the Talon Crest.  Not only did this wine have a delightful aroma, but the taste was astounding.  We could definitely pick out the floral notes from this wine and welcomed the citrus aftertaste.  Blue Loon was nice and crisp, perfect for a summer day.  It’s made from the Traminette grape, which is a hybrid of the Gewurztraminer.

The last wine we had was their Tenuta Di Sovrano, which is a light, dry red wine.  This wine is an Italian-styled Sangiovese that has undertones of plum and spicy clove.  To put it simply, I loved it.  I would probably have purchased a bottle, but we couldn’t resist their Talon Crest.  For red wine lovers, this is definitely one for you.  SEW recommends pairing this wine with traditional Italian fare for one unforgettable dinner.

We’re definitely going back to this place.  They have host events throughout the summer and will debut their new collection of wines June 8th of this year.  This collection will feature their estate grown grapes.  In addition, they’ve crafted a red wine version of their original Talon Crest.  Excited?  You bet we are!

For a full view of their wine list, check out the link below:
Wine List

Also, be sure to walk around their garden when you visit.

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The Caffeine Crawl – June 1

ticket

For the first time ever in the Upper Midwest, Minneapolis will host one of several national caffeine crawls Saturday, June 1st from 10:30am to 3:30pm.  Tickets are currently still available and you can select one of two route options.

The Caffeine Crawl is the clever brain child of The LAb, a group so passionate about quality beverages that they wanted to highlight local businesses that are dedicated to excellence.  At the Caffeine Crawl, participants can expect to sample some pretty amazing coffee, tea and chocolate.  In addition to giving your taste buds a workout, participants will have to opportunity to learn more about the quality, technique and process of the products.  At each stop in the crawl, there will be a brief presentation and a selection of free drinks available to attendees only.  Get your tickets!!!

Participants: Bull Run Coffee, Cafe Imports, Dogwood Coffee with Gray Duck Chai, J&S Bean Factory, Peace Coffee, Publika, Quixotic Coffee, Sebastian Joe’s and TeaSource.

Want to know more about this year’s Caffeine Crawl and to find more locations nationally?  Check out the links below!

Website: Click here!
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Barbette – Uptown

A little background

Barbette is a casual, eclectic French Bistro located on the corner of Lake Street and Irving Ave. S. in Uptown.  The owners of Barbette are a collaborative bunch.  They work with local farmers, organizations supporting local and organic agriculture, local brews and spirits, and other restaurants supporting local foods.  It’s because of these relationships that Barbette is able to provide its guests with an incredibly fresh menu that changes with the seasons.  Chef Sarah Master’s background in French bistro cuisine and skills in “nose-to-tail” concepts with meats and produce contribute to success and outstanding creations of Barbette.

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 My thoughts

I chose to check out Barbette’s Lunch menu because Minneapolis finally had a gorgeous day, which means outdoor patios are open for business!  Barbette has plenty of outdoor seating and fun, vibrant tables that reinforce summer’s arrival.

This was my first time here so I didn’t know what to expect.  I heard that they offer a darn good coffee so I had to order a cup.  I chose to go with their Thai coffee.  It was a pretty basic brew, meaning that it wasn’t overly strong.  This medium-roasted coffee had a little spice that I wasn’t expecting, but was surprisingly fitting for such a sunny day.  Unfortunately I was sitting outside so I couldn’t watch them make it; a “to-do” for my next visit.

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I had checked out their menu online and was dead-set on ordering the Star Prairie Smoked Trout Crepe.  Just look at the Breakfast and Brunch menu listed below and you’ll see why I was excited to try it.  When the waitress arrived to take my order, however, she totally changed my mind and I ordered the Pork Rillette & Terrine.

The Pork Rillette & Terrine was served with arugula, frisée, dijon vinaigrette and two grilled baguettes.  Big congrats to my waitress for recommending this one!  I totally understand that I’m about to talk about how good a salad and pureed pork ball was, but hear me out.

While this dish looks simple, the flavors were amazing.  Beginning with the salad, I was surprised and delighted to find spinach chips sprinkled on top.  They gave a regular salad a wonderful, salty, crispy texture that had me stopping to enjoy every last bite.  I haven’t been to a restaurant that’s done this before.  Additionally, I was so thankful to find that every vegetable was fresh.  I’ve been to a few diggs that actually serve the greens a little on the yellow side.  What’s included in this salad?  You get tomatoes, arugula, spinach chips, carrot, cucumber, pepper and asparagus.  Just delightful.

As for the Pork Rillette, I’ve never tried something like this before either.  (This was a day of “firsts” for me.)  Honestly, I would order this again for lunch.  Not only did the Pork Rillette taste fresh, but, with the addition of the dijon vinaigrette, it became perfect assortment of flavors.  Traditionally, the Pork Rillette is served at room temperature and that’s how I got it.  It was easy to spread and absolutely made my lunch a great experience.  A big thank you goes out to my waitress, who brought me more baguettes to help me finish it off.

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I’m definitely going back again.  If the rest of their menu is as delightful as the Pork Rillette, which I’m betting it is, I have many more surprises heading my way.  I do want to highlight a couple things about Barbette.  They have an extensive wine list and spirits list, which you can enjoy at their daily happy hours.  Also, be sure to check out their Prix Frixe Mondays where customers can have a four to five course dinner for $32.  I’ll have to check this one out myself!

For a full view of their menu, check out the links below:

Breakfast and Brunch Menu
Dinner and Dessert Menu
Late Night Menu

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Dogwood Coffee Company

A little background

open cafeDogwood Coffee Company is a small, specialty coffee roaster in Uptown right off Hennepin Avenue.   They serve their coffee single-cup style; single-cup style means that each espresso is brewed to order and not a minute before.

It’s important give a call-out to Dogwood Coffee Co. because of their dedication to working with producers, exporters, importers, agronomists and educators who focus on sustainable living.  Building relationships with these individuals is clearly important to Dogwood Coffee Co. and this goal is apparent when reading their blog.  Yes, a specialty coffee roaster that blogs!  They post valuable content ranging from their experiences sourcing product to their favorite coffee moments.

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In addition to their outstanding dedication to providing a quality cup of coffee, they also work with local groups within Minnesota to make their coffees special.  They even go as far as sourcing the milk from local Minnesota producers!  I have to say, I’m very impressed with their dedication, passion, knowledge and involvement in enhancing the coffee experience.

 My thoughts

With a motto of “We work hard so you can have good coffee in your mouth,” it’s no surprise that baristas at Dogwood Coffee Co. know how to whip up a fantastic brew.  To kick off my morning, I decided to step outside my usual (vanilla lattes or chai) and order a café miel.  A café miel has a shot of espresso, steamed milk, cinnamon, and honey.  The name comes from the French word for honey, miel.  While it’s not my usual, I did enjoy it.  I would prefer more of a stronger coffee flavor, but I realize that a café miel is supposed to be a little tamer.  Overall, I would order it again.  My cup had a nice, smooth flavor and definitely gave me the kick I needed to get my morning going.  In addition, the baristas knew what they were doing and served up the perfect ratios of steamed milk to espresso.  A huge plus for me is receiving a cup with coffee art.  Not gonna lie, I’m a huge sucker for awesome coffee art. 🙂

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I quickly want to mention their location.  Dogwood Coffee Co. is located in the Calhoun Square Shopping Center.  This place piqued my interest even more when I saw the entire brewing station in an open space!  Literally, a shopper could walk right into the area behind the counter.  What a perfect way for customers to view their brewing technique!  Lastly, there is a seating section that gives you a great view of Hennepin Avenue.

P.S. I’m also a sucker for huge windows that let me look outside when I write.  This place definitely got my creative juices flowing!

Little Angie’s Cantina and Grill – Duluth

A little background

If you’re not from Minnesota, the first image that would probably pop into your head upon thinking of Duluth is a city by the vast Lake Superior, full of ships.  Those of us who live here most likely associate Duluth with Grandma’s Marathon.  The Grandma’s Restaurants sponsor many events in the city.  In addition to their involvement in the community, their wide variety of restaurants have become popular with tourists and locals alike.

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Little Angie’s Cantina and Grill, located in Canal Park of Duluth, MN, is one of 5 restaurants owned by the Grandma’s Restaurant Company.  Angie’s serves up “south-of-the-border” fare, complete with a wide variety of Tex-Mex drinks.  They have an extensive list of tequila ranging from $6-$100.  The nice thing about having such a long list, is that customers can choose which tequila to sample in Angie’s house margarita.

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 My thoughts

I love the fact that my fiance like trying new places just as much as I do.  The benefit to this blog is that you can read about two totally different styles of taste in food.  He tends to go with the more “traditional” American taste, i.e. anything with meat and cheese.  I tend to choose off-the-wall and unique dishes that I wouldn’t find anywhere else.  Before I share my thoughts on our entrees, I’m going to digress about an appetizer we shared and the margaritas.

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Let’s be real, we were at a Tex-Mex inspired restaurant and we had to order margaritas.  With so many tequilas on the list, how could we refuse?  Deciding to be adventurous, I went with a blueberry margarita and he went with a pomegranate one.  We were pretty pumped about them, especially since they looked incredibly and perfectly slushed.  Sadly, the excitement didn’t last long.  Not only was the taste of tequila a little tame, but the margaritas didn’t offer much flavor.  We actually had a hard time figuring out which margarita was the blueberry and which was the pomegranate.  Seems like Angie’s could take a few tips from the Mexican Village.  I know Mexican Village is a chain, but they know how to make one good margarita.

IMG_1397Luckily for us, their house-made chips and salsa are pretty darn good.  For a ridiculously cheap price of $0.99, you can order a large basket of their warm, house-made tortilla chips with two cups of their fresh salsa.  I will brag about this one.  I love a good chunky salsa with fresh ingredients and Angie’s definitely delivered.  This salsa didn’t have any trace of an oily texture and you could taste the fresh herbs mixed into the chunks of jalapeno and tomato.  P.S. it has a nice kick to it too!  This is a plus for two individuals who can’t get enough of extremely spicy food.

For our main course, my fiance decided to go with Angie’s house specialty, the enchilada combo.  The combo consists of three corn tortillas stuffed with roasted chicken and shredded beef, baked, and topped with green and red chile sauce with cheddar and Jack cheese.  They come served with rice and your choice of black or refried beans.  Both he and I agreed, these were some well-made enchiladas.  The cheese inside was not overly cooked and provided a nice, gooey texture when pulled apart.  Unfortunately, you can see a little browning on the outside.  Additionally, their meats were well seasoned.  Overall, a very satisfying entree for anyone in look of tasty Mexican food.

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Wanting to try something unique, I went with the tropical tacos.  Why, you may ask?  I went with these because they contained fish and came with avocado (I’m obsessed) and a ton of tropical fruit!  The tropical tacos consist of seasoned mahi-mahi grilled to perfection and served in a flour tortilla with lettuce and a tropical salsa: papaya, mango, pineapple, and strawberry. Served with a side of avocado sour cream, asparagus, and fresh fruit.  Yep, I hit the summer-inspired jackpot with this one.  I highly recommend it to anyone coming here.  The fish didn’t have that harsh fishy taste that you can get with tuna for example.  The mahi mahi really was grilled to perfection, which became a great compliment to the fresh fruits and vegetables served with this meal.  Honestly, I was wondering how my tacos would taste with the fruit inside.  I was surprisingly delighted.  Just try it and you won’t be disappointed.

Overall, we would probably stop there again.  They have an outdoor patio that offers a great view of the lift bridge and of Lake Superior.  The entrees definitely made up for the disappointing margaritas.  We enjoyed the friendly staff and the casual, rustic atmosphere.

For a link to the full menu, click here!

World’s Best Donuts – Grand Marais

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A little background

Started in 1969 by Merieta Altrichter, World’s Best Donuts has become a repeat stop for travelers with a hunger for fresh, warm donuts.  When Merieta began the donut business, she would make the donuts by hand every morning.  In addition to making her donuts, she had a day job in a department store.  In 1975, she was able to quit her minimum wage job and work full time in her donut shop.

Skip ahead to the present day, and four generations of her family later, the donut shop is still there.  Located in Grand Marais, MN, World’s Best Donuts is open during the summer from May to September.  They serve a variety of donuts, both cake and raised, and much more.  All donuts are made fresh daily.  They also offer coffee, a perfect pairing to a warm donut.  Be sure to try their signature Skizzle.

To see the donuts being made and meet the family that make it happen, check out their video.

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 My thoughts

Both my fiance and I can agree that World’s Best Donuts really does have the “world’s best donuts.”  We enjoy section backpacking along the Superior Hiking Trail and we make a point to stop here for breakfast every time we cross through Grand Marais.  The bakers at World’s Best Donuts continue to deliver awesome donuts every time.  We’ve never gotten a cold or hard donut.  Warm, soft, and incredibly delicious, it’s a guilty pleasure that I can’t stop bragging about.  If possible, we even bring some home for our buddies in the Twin Cities.

My fiance ordered a skizzle the last time we were there.  Again, I had to sneak a piece of this one.  One skizzle alone can easily satisfy a donut craving for two people.

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Yep, that sugar-coated saucer is a skizzle.  I urge you, try it!  Below you’ll find the rest of our spread that day (no we did not eat all of them at once).  We were able to save them for our hike for the weekend.  We ordered two of their chocolate-covered knots, a standard glazed cake donut, a chocolate-covered cake donut and coffee to top it off.  Can you tell we both like chocolate … a lot!

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Being in this donut shop alone is an experience.  Once you take your seat in the back room, you’ll notice open shelving along the walls with coffee cups in them.  Take a closer look and you’ll see that they are the cups of visitors that frequent World’s Best Donuts.  The table tops offer up their own stories.  Underneath the glass, you’ll find images and brief stories of World’s Best Donuts traveling coffee cup.  It’s a goal of the staff to collect pictures that include their branded coffee cup.  What better way to do this than asking fans to send in pictures from around the world.

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Overall, we highly recommend World’s Best Donuts to anyone willing to take the trek up to Grand Marais, which you should visit because the scenery all the way up is gorgeous.  The bakers are always friendly and ready to serve you a piece of their family’s 4-generation history.

Sea Change Restaurant and Bar – Guthrie Theatre

A little background

SeaChange logoThe Sea Change is definitely a place to celebrate a special occasion.  From its stunning and dramatic interior design to the friendly staff, this is a great place if you want excellence in seafood.  Sea Change is a sustainable seafood restaurant and raw bar with their menu developed by 2009 James Beard Award-winning chef, Tim McKee.  Sourcing their products from fisheries that use environmentally friendly methods or gathering and farming seafood, you can rest assured that you are receiving a quality meal.  Additionally, they offer plenty of non-fish entrees so everyone is welcome.

You’ll be entertained in any place that you are seated.  From their large windows that allow you to view the Mississippi to their open kitchen, there’s plenty to look at if the conversation turns slow.  Let’s hope you have plenty to talk about, may I suggest the cuisine, but if you don’t, comment on the architecture.

Sea Change has had coverage from the New York Times highlighting Chef McKee, the atmosphere and, of course, their entrees!  To find more attention they’ve received from the media, please return to their website.

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 My thoughts

seachange wallMy fiance hit the nail on the head with this one.  He took me here for a surprise Valentines Day date (yes, I know it took me until May to write about it).  I would advise taking your date here and then check out one of the many Guthrie performances.  Really, this is a wonderful date.  Now, I really do apologize or the lack of pictures for this post.  I didn’t feel it was appropriate to snap a picture with my iPhone.  I would feel slightly…okay, a lot less classy if I did that in this place.  For pictures, please check out their Facebook page in the link above.

Now, on to what this post is really about…the dinner!  We went all out on this one.  We went for dinner and decided to order cocktails, an appetizer, entree, and finish with a dessert.  The cocktails of choice were “The Sun Also Rises” (this was totally mine) and “Aurora Borealis”.  Creative names for the perfectly mixed drink.  Our appetizers were soon to follow.  We ordered the grilled octopus completed with salsa verde, spanish peppers, and pimenton.  With that smoky flavor so characteristic of grilling, this was a hit for me.  With the sauces, it was just what we needed to get our appetites going!

The Entres

Tony decided to go with the grilled ribeye.  I swear, this place makes art with they way they present their plates.  His entree was arranged in small stacks that formed a circle around the outer rim of the plate and the middle contained the sauces.  He had no complaints.  Stating that “it’s so tender” and that “I wish I had more” pretty much summed up this dish.  What a happy man.

I went with a seafood option.  Mine was the Brandade.  The Brandade included ravioli pillows stuffed with freshwater fish.  The ravioli was topped with a sunny-side up egg yolk, bagna cauda, and tomato.  To this day, I will still remember it as one of my top seafood dishes I’ve ever had.  I absolutely loved the addition of the egg yolk in this.  It worked in combination with the bagna cauda as a dipping sauce for the ravioli.  The ravioli itself was prepared beautifully too.  There’s nothing worse than over/undercooked pasta, but Sea Change wouldn’t ever let that happen.  My fiance even loved this one and he’s not that much of a seafood kind of guy.

Dessert

We both decided to go with the Lime Pudding Cake.  Trust me on this one, save the room in your stomachs because this is well worth it. Life everything else they serve, the presentation was almost too good to eat.  I didn’t want to ruin it!  This would dessert reminded me of key lime pie.  It was presented with three circular, sweet sponge cakes topped with a dollop of lime sauce and pistachio financier (google it).  Coconut cream was also drizzled over the serving plate.  To me, this dish alone brought the feeling of summer to my cold, bitter winter.  Again, we spent a great deal of time enjoying this one.  It’s become a favorite of ours whenever we pay a visit.

Overall, I highly recommend this restaurant to anyone in the Twin Cities Metro area.  You can see the level of detail in everything they serve.  The presentation and cleanliness is always apparent.  I would like to note, their amazing wait staff.  They are very friendly and are focused on providing you with an amazing experience.  Plus, they have an extensive knowledge of their menu and offer excellent suggestions for those of us who are unfamiliar with items on their menu.

For a full view of their menus, check out the links below:
Lunch Menu
Dinner Menu
Raw Bar Menu
Patio and Grill Menu
Wine List
Dessert Menu
Happy Hour Menu
Specialty Cocktails

Whew, talk about a wide range of deliciousness!