Trying to catch up on this past summer's travel entries.
Next entry: We head home and on the way visit the woman who introduced us to the man in our life

Friday, June 14, 2013

Butcher and The Boar: A Minneapolis Restaurant Review

Imported from Just Call Me Frank: Our Endeavour at Being Frank:
Butcher And The Boar...A Restaurant Review of Meaty Proportion
 (May 13,2013)
We're in Minneapolis until tomorrow (for reasons we'll write about tomorrow), in the meantime James secured a good deal on a one hour massage at a place called Keep in Touch Massage ( with a great masseuse named Ben. We had a brutally painful deep tissue massage (they are supposed to be painful) that was better than the last few years of massage therapists we've had. We highly recommend him.  
After the massage we went to dinner at an interesting little place we found perusing called Butcher and The Boar ( Butcher and The Boar, a 2013 James Beard Award Semifinalist for Best New Restaurant, is in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota, and specializes in house smoked/preserved meats (Charcuterie), craft beers, and Bourbon.  
While we did not partake in the alcoholic offerings this time around, we took the meats head on. 
The host and hostesses of Butcher and The Boar are friendly as they great you at the door. As they take you into the restaurant you are greeted with tasteful decor, comfortable surrounds and music at just the right volume, as you pass by the bar into the dining area, which are separated by large panes of glass. The feel of dining room is not so much restaurant, and dining hall. Think German Beer Hall. The smell, like walking into a bottle of Liquid Smoke, divine. While there were women present, the clientele appears overwhelming males ages 24 and up; the environment undoubtedly masculine, without being pushy. It all makes sense really: beer, bourbon and meat's like man mecca.
The service was prompt and courteous, not overly friendly, which for diners like us, was pretty nice. Not everybody wants waitstaff that are obviously disingenuous - we like our servers attentive, without being familiar. A woman, not waitstaff, came around and silently kept the water glasses full, while the waiter left us with our food and conversation. Perfect. 
The only real complaint about the service, which is a direct reflection of the menu, was related to the two dishes ordered that contained nuts - one peanuts, one pecans; only once we were served the dish that contained peanuts (Stuffed Jalapenos ~ yes, you read that right) did the staff who delivered it say there were peanuts in it, and we actually had to ask what was on the dish containing pecans (the gratin on the Coal Fired Sweet Potatoes, as they cleared away the plates). Thankfully we don't have nut allergies, but our mind was on those who do, and also the liability of the restaurant.
Overall though the food was amazing, platters of pickled items, expertly smoked and preserved meats accompanied by vegetables, sauces and mustard - what's not to love. 
House Pickle Plate with Pickled Heart & Beef Heart
James doesn't like pickled things so we took on the House Pickle Plate "solo" and added Pickled Egg & Beef Heart for the extra $2 (if you are an avid reader of our cooking entries and recipes, you know we have a thing for animal hearts). Broken down item by item the least favourite thing on the Pickle Plate was the beets, but that's just because we prefer the lighter (less clove) taste of the ones we pickle. The best thing on the plate turned out to be the Pickled Egg, and the Beef Heart; the pickled eggs not too strong, and the pickled heart, something we had never tried, was such a unique texture for heart, and not overly pickled. Forcing James to try select item, he was pleasantly surprised, particularly regarding the heart - he is not a fan of that delicious offal - saying that the pickled preparation is probably the only way we could get him to eat heart in the future.  
We must not forget to mention the Stuffed Jalapenos, which were not at all as expected, in that they were inspiring and unique. Stuffed with a smooth peanut butter mixture, and garnished with golden raisins and feta, the Stuffed Jalapenos were a surprise, a spicy sweet treat. To be honest, had the menu said they contained peanut butter we probably would not have tried them. (but that still doesn't justify the non-disclosure of the peanuts by menu or waitstaff)
Stuffed Jalapenos
Bring on the Charcuterie! 
Instead of choosing one of their several main course meat offerings, we opted to go big and order both the Butcher Sampler, and the Sausage Sampler to share, and James chose the Coal Fired Sweet Potatoes, and Skillet Cornbread, as sides. 
The Butcher Sampler, a platter of house preserved meats served cold, was our primary choice, the offering included Turkey Braunschweiger, Texas Wild Boar Ham, Red Wattle Sausage, Rooster Terrine, and Wild Boar Head Cheese. Of all the items the Head Cheese, which is what sold the sampler, and the Braunschweiger, were our favorites; though the Braunschweiger, in it's luxuriously smooth texture, was very rich - half the amount of it would have sufficed (but then, these platters are meant to be shared among a table, so...). While the various accompaniments, pickled and crunchy, clearly have their place in cutting the heaviness of the fat on the tongue and cleaning the palate a bit, to make way for each new selection, every item is worthy of naked enjoyment.
Butcher Sampler Left to Right: Rooster Terrine, Wild Boar Head Cheese, Texas Wild Boar Ham, Red Wattle Sausage, Turkey Braunschweiger - served with crisps
A quick primer on some "strange" things: Braunschweiger - a liverwusrt, a pâté made of mashed livers Head Cheese - made from boiling pieces of the head, feet and/or tongue of an animal until it is jellied and then formed into a loaf. Terrine - a pressed loaf of loosely chopped meat. 
James' pick, The Sausage Sampler, a trio of house smoked sausages: Wild Boar Hot Link, Texas Beef Link, and Berkshire Pork & Cheddar, is an experience. A plate with three large juicy sausages with a very spicy Dijon English mustard called Zataran to be paired with the Wild Boar, and other sauces and veggie mixtures. A plate of smoked meat to behold. 
Of all the offerings the Wild Boar Hot Link turned out to be both his, and our, favourite. A nice balance between the smooth cheesy Pork & Cheddar, and the Beef. We both found the Pork to be a bit gamier than we anticipated (at first thinking it the Boar), but nonetheless delicious.
Sausage Sampler
The sides James ordered only got enough of a taste from us to ascertain that they were indeed very, very, good. As he liberally spread the smooth mapley buttery mixture onto his large skillet corn bread, we lusted after it, cursing our midsection. The Coal Fired Sweet Potatoes were topped with a sweet pecan gratin covering a perfectly smooth and buttery interior encased in a charred skin. The mouth salivates at the memory.
Skillet Cornbread
Coal Fired Sweet Potatoes
This amount of food was far more than enough for two people, half of each sausage came back to the hotel room with us and James was forbidden to order dessert, because while it may not look like it based on this eating experience, we are on a diet - a high protein, low-carb/gluten diet, so this restaurant fit nicely into our diet). Otherwise we would have welcomed the dessert menu, which looked amazing, with open arms and drooling mouth. 
Bottom line, if you love smoked meat, or meat in general, beer, and bourbon. A good atmosphere and new eating experiences, check out Butcher and The Boar next time you visit Minneapolis.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

In Love With New York City

It's been awhile...but we're still recalling our road trip, the latter half which was in June, but we figured we'd better get to it before we start writing about our new the owner of a 40 acre farm.

After Boston we went to New York City, with a two day stop in Danbury Connecticut. We spent most of the time in the hotel, getting in late and relaxing in the dry conditions of the hotel. The last of the two nights we went to a bar called Widow Brown's Cafe to have drinks with @JJ_Alexande and his girlfriend @twistddreamr who we met on Twitter. We didn't plan on staying out so late but we got along so well, and were having so much fun, before we knew it was last call.

The following day we went to New York City...and IT WAS AWESOME.

We spent about four days total, the whole time in which we spent walking. Walking, walking, walking.

The first night we went to Central Park, walked around new Times was perfect weather, finally after days of rain, and we were taken in by it's seduction. We fell in love immediately, like we knew we would. We had been dreaming about going to New York City since we first new it existed. It was not the most perfect situation, but it was still...New York City.

New York City is really expensive though, which put a damper on some of the days, getting there by bus was "time-expensive"...taking a cab was just stupid-expensive. Not only do you have to pay cab fare, but you have to pay the fee to pass through the tunnel. We missed the bus the first night, to the tune of $60 ($12 was a tunnel fee), just to go a few miles into North Bergen, New Jersey where hotel fees were extremely reasonable. We cried as we swiped our debit card, already concerned about finances that had been set aside for the trip. We vowed that next time we would stay in the city, if only because the buses don't run all night, and that limited our time in the city further, especially since we did every day on foot.

It was still worth it, even though we didn't go to any attraction that required an admission fee. Walking through the Greenwich Village we passed Matthew Broderick talking to an older man about film, we barely recognized him, but we did, and though we very rarely make eye contact, we did with him, and he could see we recognized him. Turing we whispered to James "That's...". snapping our finger, "I swear, that's Matthew Broderick!" we said. He shrugged it off, but immediately a young man walking behind us pipped us saying "Does anyone else feel like 'Buller, Buller'" quoting a famous quote from Ferris Bullers Day Off, a famous film starring Matthew Broderick, and proceeded to tell us how his girlfriend had seen Sara Michelle Geller (Matthew Brodericks Wife and star of Sex in the City) quite a few times while living in the Village, and he had only moved to the city a few weeks ago, and this was his first sighting.

A moment shared between us and a new-New Yorker.

Sure, it was only Matthew Broderick, but it was the first famous person we had knowingly seen in person. We fell further in love, walking through the famous Greenwich Village, the home of so many great American writers, artists and Dylan, Hendrix, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchele, Nina Simone, Velevet Underground, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Twain, Wittman, Pollock, Warhol...the list is so extensive it's crazy; these were the streets they smoked on, drank on, communicated on, wrote on...lived on. We fell in love with the neighbourhood.

While nothing like it would have been in their day, the city was still just so...alive. We walked at least 10 miles a day in many of the areas (some really...scary) south of Central Park from the East River to the Hudson River, even with bleeding blisters and sore legs and back. We enjoyed observing, taking pictures, taking it all in.

We wanted to see the Statue of Liberty, but since portions of it were closed and under construction we decided to save the money, and come back a day we could take it all in. We did go to Liberty State Park on our way out of town on the way to Trenton, New Jersey.

We didn't eat anywhere of note, due to budget concerns. Highlights include a slice of real New York pizza at Two Brother's Pizza (meh), shared a Gray's Papaya hot dog (which James said was the worst hotdog he ever had) that was fine, for the price; ate at a Cuban restaurant called Favela Cubana and had tapas and drinks; had pizza at an Italian restaurant. We also bought food at a Mediterranean market and had a picnic overlooking the East River.

If we had more disposable income by the time we got to New York City we would have done a few thing differently. Next time we'll bite the bullet and pay for a hotel in the city, to increase the hours we have to explore the city, and reduce surprise "bridge and tunnel" fees.

After New York we stopped in Trenton to visit another friend (Nick Twist), someone we had met on Twitter and carpooled with us from Chicago to the Detroit Tweetup. We had lunch, drank some spirits and got a mini-tour of Trenton before we continued on our journey, now heading back towards home, with more friends to visit on the way.

So many pictures, so we put them in a video:

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

On The East Side...South of Boston...and Beyond.

You don't like reading about our trips, do you?
Here's some very tardy pictures from our June road-trip. From home, to Chicago, to the Detroit Tweetup, to Allegany State Park...the next stop was Boston, Massachusetts, where we spent 3-4 very rainy and miserable days camping at a KOA campground just south of Boston. Here are some pictures of things we did.

But first we stopped at Niagara Falls...(about an hour north of north end of Allegany State Park)

Then we headed to Boston (with a night in Syracuse on the way)

Some views from the interstate...

Sunday at The SOWA Open Market in Boston...
Where we bought some delicious grass-fed beef to cook over our campfire back at our tend, and tasty pestos to take home (they travelled well, but had to be refrozen a few times - no preservatives)...not to mention LOADS of delicious samples that made us wish we had a kitchen to go to, and a reliable refrigerator/cooler to store things.

Mighty Rib and Rosemary Fries from Roxy's Gourmet Grilled Cheese
It was simply amazing.
Sign near a market we thought was humorous 
View of downtown Boston, from inside the  market, 
A Few Hours in Salem, MA...
Fourty-five minutes north of Boston is Salem, where we spent a few hours before heading back to Boston.
The witch village, not too thrilling, and the Salem Massachusetts Witch Trial Memorial were top on the list of the day, it was rainy and miserable, and from what is relayed to us, so were we.
We did have lunch a small out of the way little restaurant called In A Pig's Eye, where we had some a tasty pork chili (chili of the day), and James had a giant burger called The Ultimate Pig Burger.

The Witch Trial Memorial...

A few of the stones at the memorial. We were surprised to have found a couple of men in the mix...

Then a stop at the Marina, where we bitched and moaned about the cold, and the wind...

Then back to Boston...

Where we went to the Cheers bar! (nothing like we though it was going to look like...)

The last day: Bunker Hill Monument...
...the site (but not really, the actual fight was on Breeds Hill, south-ish of Bunker Hill) of the famous The Battle of Bunker Hill, on June 17, 1775. This site was where the first major battle of the American Revolutionary war (was not) fought against the British, and lost. But then we eventually won some, and claimed our independence (at least that's what we seem to remember being told once).
We walked all the way to the top of the monumnet...294 steps. It doesn't seem like much, at first. It was a great workout for our cardiovascular system.

Views from each of the windows/openings...

...and then we headed to Connecticut...