Archive | October, 2011

Wise Acre Eatery: Minneapolis, MN

19 Oct
by Deanne

Wise Acre Eatery: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Steve and I visited Tangletown Gardens, a garden center in Minneapolis, this summer.  Their website states, “We’ve created an oasis that is tranquil, yet intoxicating — a place of inspirationA photo of Wise Acre Eatery's Patio every day of the year.”  We agree, the garden center was lush and expertly designed.  We also read on their website that they had recently opened a restaurant, so we walked over to Wise Acre Eatery.

It was a hot weekday afternoon and Wise Acre was open and bustling. As we walked towards the restaurant, I noticed the neatly planted flowers and large pots overflowing with colorful blooms. The property used to be a gas station.  Its former life is noticeable in the two open glass garage doors, which allow diners to spill out onto the patio and enjoy the MN summer sun.

Review:  (See Real Local Cooking’s criteria.)A photo of the Wise Acre salad
Localness: 4.5

This restaurant sources its ingredients from its own farm in Plato, MN, which is about 45 miles from Minneapolis (directions to the farm are provided on their website). What we read about the restaurant before visiting matched the food and atmosphere we encountered. You can find menus on their website, which is always nice so that you can think about what you’d like to try before visiting.  Although they don’t mention that they serve seasonal fare, a quick glance at the online lunch menu lists items like a Shades of Autumn salad, which isn’t something that was offered when I visited in July.

Flavor: 3

The two items we ordered, the Wise Acre: a salad with smoked sausage and a Deli sandwich served with wild rice slaw and kwik pickles, sounded appealing on the menu but didn’t wow us as we ate them.  The ingredients were top notch, but we didn’t feel that they were used in creative and flavorful ways.  Since the restaurant recently opened, there is much room for growth and improvement in this area. (As restaurant owners, we know it can take time.)

Pleasant surprise: YESA photo of our Dessert

Dessert was our surprise. We don’t always order dessert but since it was my birthday we celebrated by sharing a lovely little treat of frozen vanilla custard with a rhubarb caramel topping. It was just the right kind of sweet and was served in a clear glass dish.

Also the restroom was pleasant. I know it might sound odd, but ever since I was a little girl, I’ve enjoyed visiting restaurant restrooms. Restrooms can tell you whether the owners or managers care about keeping the place clean and tidy. At Wise Acre, there were fluffy white terry cloth towels rolled up in an interesting wooden bowl. This may or may not be more sustainable than paper towels. Perhaps I should consult that book I paged through awhile back, How Bad Are Bananas?: the Carbon Footprint of Everything by Mike Berners-Lee.

Comfort + Coziness =the C factor: 5

This place had a number of interesting touches. I liked how the sandwich was wrapped in paper and tied up with string. I also liked seeing milk in glass bottles for sale in the display case as we walked in. ThoseA photo of Sandwich and Slaw kinds of things  make me feel comfortable.  On top of that, the host was very friendly and welcoming.

However, when thinking sustainable restaurant practices, a paper-wrapped deli sandwich that is not being taken out may not be the ideal presentation.

Overall Rating: 12.5+

If you ever travel to Minneapolis, you probably won’t stumble upon this restaurant and garden center because they are in a residential neighborhood, not near hotels or major businesses attractions; however, they are worth seeking out with your GPS. They aren’t too far from the airport, so if you have a few hours to spend before catching your flight, you could enjoy a seasonal meal in a comfortable restaurant and then wander across the street to explore Tangletown Gardens. Their website states that they are open all winter.  It would be wonderful to visit the lush garden center when the Minnesota winter serves up chilliness, with a side of white and gray for a solid 5 months.  (Although once again referring to How Bad Are Bananas?, greenhouses and flights have very high footprints [*sigh*…things are complicated and highly intertwined in today’s world]…but for all you banana lovers, you may be glad to know that bananas aren’t too bad after all, according to the book.)

Have you visited Wise Acre? We’d love to hear about your experience.  What things make you feel comfortable+cozy when dining out?

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What to do with all this squash? part I

17 Oct

A Winter Squash Series: Delicata Squash

by Francine

Squash is plentiful, long lasting, festive and somewhat of a puzzle. It can be difficult to get through it’s sometimes-thick skin and figure out what to do with it. I decided to figure out this puzzle by picking up four wee squashes at the farmers’ market a few weeks ago. I’ve been researching each one and looking for recipes that are more than cut in half, scrape seeds, bake and top with butter. Stay tuned to find out what I did with each squash, as well as some fun facts.

Winter Squash Family Portrait

First up, Delicata squash. It’s an heirloom variety that has recently regained popularity. It has a thinner skin than other winter squash, which means it doesn’t keep as long as its thicker skinned relatives.  The farmer I bought it from told me she thinks it has a taste similar to sweet potatoes.

I clicked through a number of lavish recipes for this little guy. There are many decadent ways to prepare Delicata squash, as well as the possibility to turn it into a soup (which is always a good idea). But I wanted something that would allow me to really get a sense of its taste, so I decided to toss it in olive oil and bake until crispy.

  • I cut the squash in half, scooped out the seeds, then sliced it as thin as possible. (Before slicing the other half, I had an idea. I’d read that the skin is perfectly fine to eat, but I thought I’d try an experiment…I peeled the skin off one half while leaving the skin on the other half.)
  • After tossing in olive oil and spreading evenly on a tinfoil covered baking sheet, I sprinkled half with regular ol’ salt and the other half with sea salt and a blend of rosemary, bay and thyme (another experiment).
  • I put the tray of squash into our little convection oven at 325 degrees. After 15 minutes, the slices were beginning to brown and I gave them a flip.  After another 15 minutes, I gave the sheet a shake, then kept an eye on them until they seemed crispy brown.

Everyone wanted a taste as soon as they were out of the oven. The verdict: yum!

So how about my experiments? The slices with the skin…much nicer than the skinless ones. The slices sprinkled with an herbed salt blend…more flavourful than those with just salt. While they held up nicely once cooled, they were the best right out of the oven.

This is definitely a remake recipe. ItA photo of Crunchy Delicata Squash‘s easy, flavorful and sings fall. Find yourself some Delicata squash and give it a try!

Do you have any Delicata Squash recipes to share?  Do you like to try little experiments when you’re cooking?  We’d love to hear.

Wash Before Eating

16 Oct

A vegetable patch has always been a romantic notion for us. The loveliness of brushing the dirt off vegetables, bushels of red apples, sunshine, blue skies and smiles…all of these things wrapped up and neatly deposited on our clean white plates.

A few months ago, my dad constructed raised beds behind our family restaurant and carefully planted lettuce, radish, spinach and scallion seeds.  He chose to use no pest control of any kind, chemical or holistic…just let the vegetables do what they do.  We’ve been eagerly waiting for the day we could have garden fresh salads.

Finally, fresh cut garden salad days have arrived! Armed with scissors and a bowl, we snip off the bright green leaves. And while we expected to wash the vegetables before eating them on our white plates, we didn’t expect how carefully we’d have to wash them.

It turns out that (obviously!) puffy green caterpillars love our lettuce too. There are also small black eggs and some little green bugs that call the creases of our spinach leaves their home. Washing the greens takes a bit of time and allows for some thinking…

Of course, there are bugs on this food, it’s grown in dirt and nourished by nature. When I buy green stuff from the store, it’s so clean! How does it get so clean? And just because there are no crawly things on it, doesn’t mean there’s nothing on it. How, oh how, as a human have I become so disconnected from the thing that keeps me alive? Of course, we could concoct a pest control plan that doesn’t harm the environment. But that’s not really the point. The point is there’s so much to learn about eating from our backyard.

Lettuce washing and pondering has helped us decide to put on our thinking caps together–as a mother and daughter team–and learn about food…how do it locally, healthily, with some spice and with some adventure.  This blog will be a place where we dig in and explore sustainability, recipes, restaurants and learn from the world around us.A photo of us in our garden

So grab your most colorful scarf, let your hair blow in the breeze and let’s learn about real food, local food and cooking food together! (I’m sure we’ll find some hungry caterpillars along the way.)