Friday, January 23, 2015

Betty Danger's Country Club - NE Minneapolis

Sometimes, people will make a big deal out of what seems like a big deal. Earlier this year when a ferris wheel seemingly suddenly emerged on a busy city street corner, people started talking. "Oh, it looks like fun!" and "What an atrocious eyesore!" said the people. Soon it was uncovered that the owner of St. Sabrina's (a tattoo/piercing shop opened in 1993), the nearby Donnie Dirks Zombie Den (Zombie-themed bar), and Psycho Suzi's Motor Lounge  (2-story Tiki themed restaurant with numerous bars), and the Zombie-themed food truck Undead Frank's, had a new baby on the way. Being the theme Queen that the owner is, it was announced that Betty Danger's Country Club was to be unveiled.

But it's not just a ferris's a vertical patio, which will have full drink and food service, called...The Danger.

Leslie Bock states that it was her own experience being rejected from a country club that inspired the idea.  Me being in the "atrocious eyesore" group (pink and green..!), I pondered the meaning behind this. Was it rejection jealousy? Was it the old "if you can't beat 'em?" motto? What sort of motivation was exactly behind this vision? Here's a piece about it from the website:

"Betty Danger’s Country Club (Restaurant/Bar) is located in the Village of Mexampton, a little known, but highly visible enclave in the beautiful Northeast Arts District of Minneapolis. In the Village of Mexampton, Betty Danger’s Country Club serves to protect the creative class from the tyranny and tragedy of the 1%. In Mexampton, classism doesn’t exist and everyone drinks Margaritas. Welcome to the Country Club for the 99%.  Membership not required."

I'd like to begin with addressing some of the obvious concerns. Psycho Suzi's is notorious for it's kitsch, but also it's lack of parking (despite having a moderately sized parking lot) and underwhelming food and service. The parking here is not much different. The lot is pretty small, though they do offer valet service for $5. Upon (finally) entering Betty Danger's at 7:30 on a Friday night, it was pretty packed and there is a lot going on inside. The crowd isn't much different from the type of crowd you will see at most moderately priced dining establishments in the suburbs, or at Psycho Suzi's. Not quite city, but not upscale either. Form whatever opinion you'd like about that, but the bottom line is that themes will always draw in people who like anything that seems fun. After powering my way through the main room, I promptly found a seat open at the bar in the next room, but it was the only one available.

The front room. Try to imagine at night, and more crowded with people standing in groups everywhere.

My very first impression sitting at the bar was how comfortable the bar stools were. It's true I am a sizeable woman, but I don't think ample butt-space goes unappreciated by anyone of any size. The bar itself is large, and had 5 or 6 people tending. The bar is open to the dining room, that has booths and is spacious. The staff at Betty Danger's wear outfits true to the theme. Argyle, plaid, button up crisp-collared shirts and good looks are in abundance. My bartender approached me almost immediately, and promptly provided me with the drink and food menu's.

The carpet leading into and covering the bar and dining room area.

The food menu, and the drink menu.

The menu's are actual books, with thicker menu pages attached inside for easy access. I had heard of this before, and I admit I thought it was a little dumb. But this detail is the very least amongst the glut of decor that surrounds you. And if anything, the books are just one bauble in a series of components that will slowly draw you in.

The interior of the books.

And then onto the menu. I had reviewed the selections before, and was a bit annoyed with the extremely ridiculous names. Yea I get it, a menu item can't just be called a "bacon cheeseburger" in a place with such a heavy theme. And quite frankly, I can't come up with a better alternative.

The food theme is Tex-Mex. In my quest to rip this place to shreds, I struggled to understand why. Was it a big Eff-You to country clubs everywhere? We're gonna eat greasy food! Then I came to the conclusion that it's probably just food that the owner/creators personally like. Alongside some of the Mexican-type foods, they also offer  Lasagna, Braised Beef and Chicken entrees, and Mac and Cheese. I decided to order the Brooks. By name.

Some of the drinks.

Aside from their spotlight drink (Margarita's), they have drinks categorized by sport. I actually really like this menu and idea, because it offers a greater variety and the drinks seem well paired to their corresponding sport. I ordered the Golf, as listed above.

Not exactly inexpensive at $7, due to the Stoli, but not as much as their top-tier $10 Margarita. You won't drink cheap at a place like this, and I almost hate to say it but the cocktail was very, very good. Quite strong and refreshing, I was beginning to imagine myself sitting aside on a sunny day, watching people play golf on the rolling grass in all their white polo'd and tan slack-ed glory.

The Food:
I ordered the Chip's Chips, which came with a red and green salsa. The red salsa was surprisingly, divinely...spicy! *GASP*! Could it be? The green was milder, with fresh tomatillo flavor bursting through. I started to imagine myself rubbing elbows with some grand old Dame, deep in old money and immersed within the Country Club circuit for decades. And then I remembered, Betty Danger's offers memberships.

The memberships are offered at different levels: Supporter, Defender and Protector. Each come with it's own set of perks and you can pay as little as $6 a month, or as much as $125 a month. The twist here is that the higher levels can be paid in trade or in-kind, "Because it' not your fault you aren't a Rockefeller." The reasons behind offering memberships started to become clear to me. Rather than make this blog longer than it already is, have a look for yourself. Although trust me in that you will want it cheerfully, seamlessly explained to you by a pretty staff member as you sip on your second Golf cocktail

Wait, wasn't I talking about the food? I suppose it was easy to be distracted by the abundance of wallpaper, horses, and membership perks that surrounded me.

At this point, the food becomes an afterthought. The Brooks is pulled chicken with buffalo sauce and blue cheese dressing inside of a tortilla. I ate it with almost no expectations, and was happily surprised that it, like the Golf, was truly good, if overpriced at $12.95. While there wasn't a lot of complexity, it's a step above something you could make in your microwave at home. It, like the red salsa, had a decent spice level, which I suspect a will be the downfall of Minnesotans near and far.

Also, they serve shots in antique-style tea cups.

And they sell polo shirts and teacups and regular shirts that say "Teacups"on them in a large, gaudy display case near the lockers.

Speaking of lockers, if you read the membership perks, you know they offer them. This is not only a selfie of myself, but a sly way to take a picture of the lockers even though I blatantly took all the others right out in the open. (what country club would let you do that?!)

By the way, I still do not understand why anyone would want a locker in a restaurant. I suppose if you're going to spend that much time there, like one would at a country club, you need somewhere to stash your booze and charge your phone, or store anything that isn't a kitten.

As I near the end of this atrociously long blog, I find a tasteful way to start my grand exit would be to point out the wallpaper arrangements:

 Horse Wallpaper
 Animals that one may hunt for sport themed Wallpaper

Overheard in the women's bathroom: "That food was so spicy. My whole body is hot." And: "My goodness it's bright in here." And lots of glittery and delicate laughing that only the elite can perfect.

Did I mention they have a min-golf course? Here's part of it.

If you've made it this far, you might be exasperated and asking yourself....ok but WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE PLACE? WHERE'S THE REVIEW? As Ms. Bock says herself, it asks more questions than it answers. Down to every last detail.

 Also: Horses.

(These lamps line the entire bar.)

 Horse pictures on horse wallpaper.

Approaching the non-winter seasons, when The Danger and mini-golf open up, Betty Danger's promises to be another experience entirely. Be sure to stay-tuned for another blog that will probably sound like I'm talking about a different place and be just as long!

Tl;dr: Just go, and don't make a big deal out of a big deal.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

One Pot Pasta Learning Curve.

Recently, I came across some recipes for One Pot Pasta's. They look easy and fast, so I decided to vaguely follow one of them, adding a bit of my own touches. Here's what I came up with!

For my creation, I used basil, some cut up grape tomato’s (cherry or any other kind would work well too), some roughly chopped roasted red peppers from a jar, and 4 cloves of thinly sliced garlic.

Basically, you just throw all this stuff in a pot, and boil it with water and spices. I’ll admit to being a little confused about how these ingredients would behave being boiled, especially the basil and garlic. But I decided to just go with it and see what happened. Normally, this recipe calls for linguine. All I had was thin spaghetti, so I used that. 

After it’s all cut up, you just toss it into the pot with about 4 ½ cups of water (that is if you’re using 12 oz of linguine and not ½ a box of thin spaghetti like I did), salt, lots of black pepper and a good tsp. of crushed reds. And you let it boil at a rolling boil, turning the pasta 1-2 times, until the pasta is al dente (usually 9 minutes if you’re using linguine, less for my thin spaghetti), and most of the water has evaporated. Take it off the heat, let it cool and thicken a bit, and then you’re supposed to be able to just serve it up, with some parmesan cheese and torn basil pieces if you want. 

Though I like the concept of this, I made some mistakes and it really turned out just so-so as a result. Here are my gripes:
-The *sauce* was too watery
-It was kind of bland
-The pasta got lost
Here are the mistakes I made:

-I used too much water for my frail, half box of thin spaghetti. I should have used 2.5-3 cups instead of 4. Even though I poured a lot of the cooking water out when it was done, it was still more water than I needed.

-The pasta matters. A thicker pasta – even a regular spaghetti – would have been much better.

-It needed more flavor. This may be my own preference, since I like strong flavors. Seriously. Adding water to things skeeves me out, unless it's tea.Water just…waters things down. Anytime a recipe calls for water, I'll use a broth of some kind instead if I can. This wouldn’t apply here, but next time I will need to add some very concentrated flavors to the water to keep it from dampening the whole thing. (Amore pastes come to mind – or a nice strong pesto.) This especially applies because imparting distinct flavor into something within 10 minutes is tough.

-I only used 1/3 of the jar of roasted red peppers. I should have just used the whole thing.
Things I did right:
-Thinly slicing the garlic was better than mincing it. You could press it too.
-It was nice and peppery because I use lots of black pepper
-I added brie at the end while it cooled. It didn’t give the full effect I wished for, but it did help.
The cool thing about this method is that you could throw any number of things you want in there. You could use a tall pot, or a large skillet. Isn’t it considered some major foodie rule to cook/finish your pasta right in the sauce? This is pretty much that. I will have to experiment more to get the flavors down. I discovered that the things I used kind of disappear/wither down when boiled. So next time...more more more.

Have you ever tried any sort of one-pot cooking method?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Pasta with Sun Dried Tomato, Mushrooms, Spinach, and Goat Cheese

Keeping with the alarmingly irregular rate at which I post blogs, it's been 6 months since I posted anything! So I guess the moral of the story is that I will post things when it feels good, and most of those times are spontaneous and inspired by the simple recipes that yet require a good amount of cooking sensibility.

I'm at the comfortable point where I know what I like, and I know which of those things go well together. I cannot comfortably not cook for much more than a week, which is about the same amount of time I can swear off wine. Anyways - less words, more pictures.

It usually always starts with garlic, in my world. I'd have the balls to say garlic is my religion, but until I've mastered making this, I don't feel comfortable making such a statement. Ignore the hot sauce hiding back there, as I unfortunately could not justify using it in this recipe. :-(

Once upon a time, it was said that I couldn't...wouldn't...befriend mushrooms. I've done a lot of crazy shit in my life, yet this may be the only true regret I have.

You already spied these I'm sure. Congratulations, but here they are again anyways.

They always look like little soldiers to me, ready to go onward into some delicious battle.

What I did was take the oil from the sun dried tomato jar, mixed it with lemon olive oil, and used that for my oil. Seriously, nothing fancy here. I add that to a very warm skillet and let it percolate and whatever else it wants to do, so long as it doesn't burn the place down.

Garlic is the answer to most things. I want to mention that at this point I add salt, (a lot of) black pepper, and more lemon oil. The garlic just needs around 3 minutes to start getting golden over medium heat. I should also mention that I like to make sure that the base here is quite strong to the taste, because if you're going to eventually put this onto something else, you don't want to lose the flavors. Also because I like strong flavored non-kimchee things.

 Does this need an explanation? If so, I put sliced mushrooms and sun dried tomatoes in with the toasted garlic and now garlic infused oil. I add the crushed reds at this point also. The reason why I wait to add them is because spice builds as it heats. For a recipe this fast, you could add them at the beginning with no repercussions. For a longer cooking recipe, I wouldn't add any kind of peppers too soon.  Do it too soon though anyways, because learning from your own mistakes and not vicariously through others mistakes is honestly better. PS - I cook all this for 5-7 minutes so the mushroom can do what they do best, which is sop up a stupefying amount of fat and flavor.

See in my mind, this picture lacks spinach. I could have easily added a cup more, because spinach wilts like crazy under heat, and quickly. I only kept this amount on the heat for maybe 2 minutes tops, and got this:

It's a shame it doesn't last longer. Hallucinatory green is my favorite color.

Pasta doesn't grow on trees. In fact, I was actually cooking it the whole time (10 minutes) I was doing the other stuff I posted above. All you do is find a big bowl, put the pasta inside of it (multi-colored Penne by Barilla, because I had a coupon for it and I'm a cheap asshole), and put that impossibly delectable thing you just made into the skillet on top of that. I also crumbled goat cheese on top of it, because goat cheese is really fucking delicious. I never understood people who don't like goat cheese. "It's too tangy!" are words that I've heard. Vegans have a better excuse than that.


Yes, I did.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Shrimp Ceviche and Guacamole

Sometimes, when it's late July in Minnesota and also 50 degrees, you have to use your imagination. Being a warm blooded creature, I personally don't take offense to cold "off-season" weather. But when you have avocados calling you from the kitchen, you run. Summertime or lack thereof.

Every "summer", I have 4 staples I enjoy making. Shrimp ceviche, pico de gallo, guacamole, and sangria. Being late July/already August, I still had not made any of them. I decided to divide them into 2 parts, starting with the avocado based items: shrimp ceviche and guacamole.

Ceviche is one of those recipes that's accessible, but refined. It uses few ingredients, with opportunities for variations. The base of this recipe is traditionally raw fish, lime/lemon juice, onion, and some kind of chili pepper. The fish is marinated in the lime/lemon juice, and the premise is that the citrus juice "cooks" the fish. What actually happens is the acidic juice changes the texture of raw fish, from soft/slimy to more solid and condensed. It does not actually kill any bacteria.

For my ceviche, I use precooked, deveined, tail on frozen shrimp for my seafood base. Not because I'm scared, but because I'm cheap. And I like shrimp.

Gather 'round.

1 bag of frozen shrimp. Tails yanked off, they soak in about 1/4 cup of lime juice for about an hour. But you could marinate them anywhere from 30 min to 8 hours.

I chopped up a small red onion, whose bite was much bigger than it's bark. Loud and clear, onion. Loud and clear.

Some people have drugs. I have this.

After marinating, I took the shrimp out, and drained it. Since I only use 1/4 cup lime juice (which comes out to be 2-3 limes for me), the shrimp soaks it up a bit, but leaves a little puddle leftover. But if you wanted to leave the extra lime juice, you could. You rebel.

The amalgamation commences, and includes: sea salt, black pepper, a splash of olive oil, along with my drugs: chopped grape tomatoes, 1 minced jalapeno, 1/2 small red onion, and plenty of chopped cilantro.

Give it a stir. Add more lime juice (1/2 - 1 lime perhaps.) If you're me, add more black pepper. Taste it. Be blown away by bright pops of cilantro and lime, the plump sweetness of the shrimp and the tomato, the heat of the jalapeno, the delightful pungency of the red onion! Unless you're some kind of a fool, you will dice up avocado and put it on top. Not only does it add richness, but avocados are awesome and nothing more needs to be said about that.

You could eat it with a spoon. You could eat it with chips. You could throw some greens in there and make a ceviche salad. Some people add tomato sauce, hot sauce, corn, cucumber and any other refreshing/vibrant/spicy thing you can think of.

I only used half of my drug plate for the ceviche, saving the rest for the guacamole. I'm crafty with my vices.

Things of beauty.

For this recipe, I used 2 larger avocados. Next time I will use 3 or maybe even 4 because if it were possible to drink guacamole, I probably would. I then added sea salt, black pepper, a healthy amount of garlic powder, cumin, coriander, juice of at least 2 limes, cayenne pepper, and got this:

You might be wondering what the white crumbles on the top are. I might respond that they are blue cheese crumbles, and I will not make guacamole without them ever, ever again.