Twin Cities Beer Fest

Alright, I’m psyched about this one and any beer lover should definitely jump on this Living Social Deal.  Thank you livingsocial for all of your fabulous deals … especially those that involve one of my favorite beverages: BEER!  For only $25 a person, you get a ticket into the Twin Cities Beer Fest hosted at Canterbury Park on July 27 from 2-6 p.m.  The best part of this deal is that participants get an unlimited amount of 2 oz samples of craft and local brews.

In addition to the craft brews, you’ll be granted admissions to watch the horse races and there will be live entertainment.

For a full disclosure of the event, check out the Twin Cities Beer Fest website by clicking here.

CHEERS!

Mainstreet Coffee Company

close sun

A little background

Mainstreet Coffee Company was started by Mike and Pam Borgman of Sauk Centre.  By using fresh ingredients in their homemade family recipes, this once family home has become a new hang out for the folks of Sauk Centre.  Corresponding with the seasons and their dedication to providing options with the freshest ingredients, their menu changes weekly.  In addition to a changing menu of entrees, they also offer pastries, specialty coffees and an assortment of other beverages.  Be sure to stop in for either breakfast, lunch or an afternoon coffee.

Wondering where Sauk Centre is?  Just get on Interstate 94 and travel Northwest passed St. Cloud.

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 My thoughts

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When you walk up to the cafe, it is literally a cute, sunshine yellow house with beautiful flower gardens.  The inside is only an extension of the house’s charm.  Mike and Pam have turned this house into a warm and inviting cafe for the citizens of Sauk Centre.  The walls are covered in coffee-addict-inspired artwork like the sign in the image above.  They also offer plenty of treats stored in their own cute serving plates for those of us who have a sweet tooth.

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I’ve been here before and my favorite is their chai lattes.  They’re not made like the traditional style of Indian chai, such as the Grey Duck Chai, but they are pretty darn tasty in my opinion.  Honestly, they make me think of Christmas upon first sip.  They’re always served piping hot and with a well balanced mix of spices.  On this visit, however, I stopped in for lunch with my mom.  Here’s what we got:

I went with the special of the day, a Greek Chicken Penne Pasta that consisted of kalamata olives, sun dried tomatoes, parsley, feta cheese, and grilled chicken.  On the side, you get orange slices and your choice of the muffins they baked that morning.  My choice?  I went with a morning glory muffin.  I thought the grouping of pasta with a muffin for lunch was a little interesting, but I was happy for a sweet pastry after my meal.  I’ll admit, I have a little … okay, a BIG sweet tooth.  To start, I would definitely order the Greek Chicken Penne Pasta again.  The pasta itself was well made and I was so happy that it wasn’t drowned in sauce.  That has got to be one of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to pasta salad.  I hate when there is too much dressing and you can’t taste anything else in the salad.  I didn’t find that problem here!  Everything was fresh and made for one awesome lunch.  Thanks Mainstreet Coffee Co.

my meal

My mom went with Grilled Chicken Bacon Ranch flatbread with a cup of vegetable soup.  The sandwich, in addition to chicken and bacon, included sauted onions, tomatoes, a blend of three cheeses, and romaine lettuce.  She said it was all very good so I had to sneak a bite of it too!  She, of course, was right.  The sandwich was nice and warm, which helped the cheese become all melty and gooey.  Again, this was another great way to have a casual lunch.

mom's meal

When we had finished our meal, we took a small tour around the outside of the cafe.  There were tons of flower beds, not shown, and this beautiful patio to sit on.  Had it been a warmer day outside, we probably would have been out here.  Take a look for yourself.

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In addition to the cafe, Mainstreet Coffee Co. also offers bicycle rentals for customers on the cheap!  Being located one block away from the Lake Wobegon Trail, which runs from St. Cloud to Alexandria, renting bikes is a nice service offered for anyone looking for a day ride.  In addition, Mainstreet Coffee Co. hosts an annual “Grillin and Chillin” BBQ Cook-Off in Sinclair Lewis Park.  There’s a cash prize and trophy for the best bbq made so be sure to stop in September 7 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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

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Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge

A little background

I’ll give you the slice on Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge.  Located in Northeast Minneapolis, a visit to this place will have you feeling like you are on a tropical vacation even in the dead of winter. Inside, you’ll find the walls adorned with over 50 tiki figurines of every shape and size. The inspiration for this winter oasis came from owner Leslie Bock’s love of 1920’s style tiki bars and the biker culture.  Psycho Suzi’s is known for serving up a wide variety of fried foods and their unique pizzas, which are made fresh to order.

Guy Fieri of the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” stopped in when he visited Minneapolis. See what he thought in the link below from his show.

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 My thoughts

A group of friends and I decided to head to Psycho Suzi’s to celebrate my friend Blake’s birthday. Minus Blake, all of us have been here before and we couldn’t wait to be back, especially since it’s been so nice in Minneapolis lately. Since the weather has been so nice, we’re able to sit on their outdoors patio, perfect for summer.  Deciding to try our luck for Blake, we asked our waitress if there were any specials for a customer celebrating their birthday. To Blake’s benefit, there is definitely a perk to celebrating your birthday at Psycho Suzi’s. You are given a free cocktail that will bring your thoughts to a tropical paradise upon first sip. After he allowed us to try some (it looked so good we couldn’t help but ask) we determined that it was mixed with rum, pineapple juice and some sort of coconut beverage.  It was pretty impressive and definitely fit the tiki theme.

Blake's Birthday Drink

After we got over the excitement of Blake’s birthday cocktail, we had to order something warm and deep fried. Funny enough, almost everyone at the table ordered up a side of tater tots. “Hey Napolean, can I have some of your tots?” – Napolean Dynamite, 2004. I don’t know about you, but that one-liner pops into my thoughts every time I hear or see tater tots! Now, hear me out. Not only are they served to you piping hot, but they come with a dipping sauce that really makes ordering them worth it. The sauce tastes a little like a mixture between horseradish, mustard and another tangy, yet flavorful condiment. All I can say is that the tots didn’t last long, thank you delicious sauce of awesomeness.

tots

The last couple times that I’ve been to Psycho Suzi’s, I didn’t end up ordering their pizzas. This is probably blasphemy to anyone who has had a slice of Suzi’s pizzas. The past couple times I’ve been here, I really just wanted a burger. Trust me, those taste great here too and are more unique than your typical patty, cheese, lettuce and tomato on a bun. On this visit, however, my fiance and I decided it was time and we ordered a large of their “Fastback” pizza. What’s the Fastback? It’s a thin crust pizza topped with artichokes, fresh spinach, tomato and Suzi’s signature white-wine garlic sauce. If that didn’t make your mouth water, there is just no hope for you. This was pretty much one of the best pizzas I’ve ever taken a bite out of. Not only was it cooked enough so that the cheese was stringy when pulled apart, but there was no hint of a burnt crust in any slice. Two thumbs way, way up for the person who made our pizza. You did a fabulous job and I will definitely be stopping in soon to try a deep dish pizza.

fastback pizza

I’d highly recommend a trip to Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge. This is simply a restaurant you must visit at least once if you are visiting the Twin Cities. Not only do they serve up unique versions of our favorite comfort food, but you won’t find an atmosphere quite like this. The wait staff are super friendly and are more than willing to joke around with you. Additionally, it’s a nice, casual hangout for anyone wanting to spend some time with buddies or someone needing a place to take their family. Rest assured, Psycho Suzi’s is the place to be.

For a full view of their menu, check out the link below:
Online Food Menu
Tiki Drinks
Beer
Specials

Gardens of Salonica

A little background

Since 1991, The Gardens of Salonica in Northeast Minneapolis has been serving up classic Greek cuisine that is fresh and flavorful.  The chefs make this possible by sourcing their products from local and organic producers.  Their cuisine is so good, The Gardens of Salonica are ranked as one of the best Greek restaurants in the area.  They are also recipients of the 2013 Talk of the Town Customer Satisfaction Award.

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 My thoughts

It’s funny how life throws you a curve ball every once in awhile.  A few years ago when my fiance and I were in search of Greek food after a date in the Twin Cities (we weren’t originally from here), we came acrossed a restaurant that had amazing food that we both remembered to this day.  A funny coincidence occurred the other day when my friend invited me to one of her favorite restaurants to catch up.  Since I adore any and all Greek food, I immediately said, “yes!”  When I walked into The Gardens of Salonica, my first thought was, “omigod, I’ve been here before!”  I realized that this was the exact same place my fiance and I had been years before and you better believe that I was excited to be back.

They have quite an impressive menu.  When I say impressive, what I really mean is that I wanted to order everything on the menu.  I was having a little bit of difficulty figuring out what I wanted to eat that night.  🙂  After a serious debate, my friend and I ordered an appetizer and I finally decided on an entree.  Here’s what we went with:

We started our dinner with a plate to share, introducing the Spinach Feta Boughasta.  Have no clue what this is?  I’ll tell you.  The boughasta is made of delicious, flaky phyllo dough (commonly used in baklava) and stuffed with fresh feta cheese, spinach, scallions and seasonings.  When served warm, it is possibly one of the best ways to start a Greek meal.  The boughasta has a lot of great, savory flavor and is perfectly light.  Personally, I loved it.  I thought it had just the right amount of flavor and I enjoyed the melted feta in the middle.  For anyone who enjoys these flavor combinations, I definitely would recommend this.  Also, a full one is just the right size to share for two people.

spinach and feta app.

I went with the house mousakas.  What you see below is a party for your tastebuds.  The Gardens of Salonica offer both a vegetarian and meat option so all guests can enjoy this one.  I went with the regular mousaka, which included meat.  The mousaka is composed of baked layers of oven roasted eggplant and seasoned local, pasture-raised ground beef, topped with bechamel cream sauce of organic milk, Hope butter, Schultz eggs and organic, aromatic spices.  Sound good to you?  I am certainly a fan of this one.  Not only did it taste fresh, but it provided the savory taste that I was looking for.  The flavors worked well together.  The layers of eggplant and the topping were my favorite parts.  The eggplant alone, did an excellent job of absorbing all the spices that were added in.  The top. made of the eggs and spices had a great texture that I enjoyed.  Sometimes, I can be a little bit of a texture person.  Overall, this dish was flavorful and one that I will be ordering again soon.  Use the pita bread served with your meal to mop up the saucy base.  It’s worth every drop.

mousaka

If you are thinking about visiting anytime in the future, trust me, you won’t be disappointed.  The entrees are served with your choice of a house salad or soup of the day and you automatically get a side of pita bread to go with your meal.  You really get amazing quality and a lot of food for a very reasonable price.  Make sure to put in a reservation beforehand.  Dinner time tends to get quite busy, but you should be fine if you are starting your dinner or lunch early.

For a full view of their menu, check out the link below:
In-House Menu
Take-out Menu

Caffeine Crawl – Minneapolis 2013

ticket

A little background

This past weekend, the Twin Cities were the host for the first Caffeine Crawl to grace the Upper Midwest.  The Caffeine Crawl was the idea 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 sampled some pretty amazing coffee and tea.  In addition, the participants had the opportunity to learn more about the quality, technique, and roasting process of the products.  At each stop in the crawl, there was a brief presentation and a selection of free drinks available to attendees only.

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.

(The hyperlinks for Bull Run and Dogwood direct you to posts on Minnesota Munch that I’ve written)

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 My thoughts

Apart from knowing that I would be consuming 10 times my regular caffeine intake, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the first caffeine crawl to hit the Upper Midwest.  Were we only going to be drinking coffee all day?  Absolutely not!  I have to give a shout-out to The LAB and all of the many sponsors of this crawl.  Not only did the participants get to sample AMAZING specialty coffees, chais, and teas, but we also had the opportunity to learn a thing (or two) about the sourcing, production, distribution, and preparation techniques of our favorite beverages.

There were two routes to choose from for this crawl.  One route covered many specialty coffee and tea cafes in St. Paul and the other had more stops in Minneapolis.  I was excited that my ticket took me on the St. Paul route because, as you could probably tell from my previous posts, I haven’t had the opportunity to write much about our state’s capital.  Not only was I shocked that I was missing so many great places, but I was ecstatic to meet the passionate people who bring Minneapolis/St. Paul residents something of quality and something that should be enjoyed.  I definitely want to share these places we toured with anyone who is willing/excited to explore a new place.  You won’t be disappointed.  Now, on to my route for the Caffeine Crawl.

First Stop

All of the participants met at Peace Coffee Roasting Facility where we were greeted by their staff and Jason Burton from The LAB.  We were given a detailed tour of Peace Coffee Roasting Facility that included the history of their company, a look at their roasting techniques, and information about the growth and sourcing of their coffee beans.  Towards the end of our tour, one of their baristas from Wonderland Park prepared a cold press coffee drink inspired by southern mint juleps.  What a great way to start our crawl!

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mint julep

Second Stop

We made the 12 minute trek from Peace Coffee to J&S Bean Factory in St. Paul for our second stop.  The Bean Factory, established in 2001, is an independently owned, local coffee shop and roastery.  Here, we were able to enjoy a sample of their cold press coffee and a bag of cinnamon twists from a local producer.  While enjoying their cold press and lounging in their spacious outdoor patio, we watched a coffee bean roasting demonstration.  The unique part of this demonstration was that they were using an original roaster from San Francisco.  It’s so old, that it’s serial number is literally all zeros.  That’s pretty cool.  Here, the cold press was a combination of a French Guatemala roast, an Ethiopian roast, and java.  Luckily, at this point, I was pacing myself and didn’t feel the affects of caffeine yet.  I would definitely come back here.  The baristas were very knowledgeable of their brewing and roasting techniques in addition to having a humor-filled personality.

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j&s bean factory

Their roaster
Their roaster

Third Stop

Not too far from the J&S Bean Factory was our next stop, Tea Source.  This was actually one of my favorite stops.  While I’ve always enjoyed a good cup of tea both full-leaf and teabagged, I never really bothered to research tea production and the differences amongst each variety.  Thanks to Tea Source, I now have a little more knowledge of tea varieties and tea growing than the average person.  Here, the staff at Tea Source gave us a thorough presentation on six different types of teas from Asia.  The first tea was a green tea from Japan that had an ocean-like taste.  One good tip I’ve learned about green tea is that you don’t boil the water when preparing it!  Next was a florally oolong from Taiwan followed by a Big Red Robe oolong from China.  The last two were black teas from China.  One was called Golden Dragon and this one was my favorite.  It had a nice, smooth taste and wasn’t too strong.  The last black tea was from the Yunnan province and had a very strong, earthy taste.  Definitely check this place out!  They have over 230 teas to try and a very knowledgeable, passionate staff!

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tea source

Fourth Stop

Quixotic Coffee was literally right across the street from Tea Source, which made getting to the next location on the crawl a snap!  By the time my group arrived here, it was around lunchtime.  We needed something quick to not only fight off hunger, but also to absorb the intense amount of coffee and tea we had been downing all morning.  Thank you Quixotic for your ridiculously good strawberry pastry with pistachios.  Yes, I did just say I had a pastry for lunch, but look at the picture below.  Can you blame me?

Getting back to the coffee again, they didn’t disappoint here.  The baristas at Quixotic gave a unique presentation on brewing the perfect cup of potato coffee.  I’m not kidding, the barista prepared potato defect for us to sample.  I’ve never heard of this before and was pumped to try it out!  FYI, it smells to high heaven when they brew it.  Don’t get discouraged by this because it actually doesn’t taste half bad when it’s hot and ready.  This particular defect had a mixture of Rwandan and Burundi coffee.  Apparently this is a common brew in Africa.  (If anyone else has tried this … and has actually sampled it in Africa, please post! I want to know more!)

After doing a little digging, this blog post had the most information I could find about the potato defect.

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quixotic

quixotic 2

Fifth Stop

By this point I was definitely feeling a caffeine high.  With headaches creeping up and more energy than I could handle, thank goodness the next stop was to Cafe Imports.   Cafe Imports is an importer of specialty coffee beans from 20 countries.  They are considered one of the best distributors and they sell their beans to specialty roasters worldwide.  A few of their clients include Dunn Bros. Coffee, Bull Run (Mpls local), and Dogwood Coffee Company (also Mpls local and the last stop on our crawl).  If you have an opportunity to tour a warehouse, especially one that is filled with 23,000 large bags of coffee, take advantage of it!  Seriously, when are you going to see 23,000 bags of coffee in one place?  Oh, you saw my picture below?  You’re welcome.  For more information, please check out their website in the hyperlink.

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Last Stop

This last stop was done in two parts.  There was Gray Duck Chai and there was Dogwood Coffee Company.  First of all, let me say that I love chai.  I really love chai and Gray Duck Chai has now captured my heart as my No. 1 go-to for chai.  Let me begin by saying that they gave a brilliant presentation.  Not only did they make the chai in front of us, but they also presented and discussed the attributes of all the spices and ingredients.  Who knew that cloves have 12 times the amount of antioxidants as the acai berry?  This was just one of the many interesting facts we learned from their presentation.  As for their chai, it was excellent and prepared like masala chais on the of streets of India.  You can’t get more authentic than that.  The authentic masala chais have strong notes of pepper and ginger.  Gray Duck Chai definitely incorporated these two spices to dominate the flavor of their chai.

Gray Duck

Gray Duck 2

Now, I’ve been to Dogwood Coffee Company’s cafe before in Uptown Square and I’ve enjoyed their hot miel coffee.  Dogwood Coffee Company began three years ago and was originally housed near Lake Calhoun in Rustica Bakery.  In 2010, they opened their own cafe in Calhoun Square and have been there since.  At their roasting facility, they chose to highlight their Zamboni Cold Press coffee.  In my opinion, perfect time for summer!  This coffee is a light-medium roast and had a nice, strong flavor.  Currently, they hand-make all their Zamboni batches for wholesale consumers, but they stated that they’re getting ready to produce smaller batches for individual sale.  I’m pretty excited about that announcement!

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Dogwood Zamboni

After Party

When things were all said and done, all crawlers met up at Common Roots Cafe in the Lowry Hill neighborhood for the after party.  At Common Roots, crawlers were given free samples of Fulton Beer’s collaboration brew, War and Peace.  If it’s being offered for caffeine crawl participants, it’s no surprise that the beer has coffee brewed into it.  In addition to sampling coffee beer, the after crawl included a raffle where proceeds were directly donated to Books For Africa.

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For such a wonderful event, I would like to thank all of the sponsors listed below.  This was truly a fun and informative day!

The LAB, Books for Africa, Peace Coffee, Dogwood Coffee Co., Barista Magazine, Stella di Caffe, yelp, Wholesome Sweeteners, Sleeve a Message, Rip van Wafels, and Baratza.