Aug 26
2011

Bar La Grassa

Bar La Grassa has earned itself quite a reputation around the Twin Cities.  The Italian restaurant has boasted several local and national “best” restaurant awards over the past couple of years.  And Chef Isaac Becker was named the 2011 James Beard Best Chef in the Midwest.  Awards like that are nothing to overlook.  The atmosphere at Bar La Grassa is exactly what you would hope and expect to find at an Italian restaurant in the warehouse district of Minneapolis.  It is hip, packed and loud (in a good way).

I always enjoy the feeling of an open kitchen with a bar that allows you to belly up and watch the masters at work.  I went to Bar La Grassa last weekend expecting to have quite a wait since I had not made a reservation, but I was pleasantly surprised to be offered immediate seating at the bar overlooking the kitchen.

When we sat down we were met with some marinated peppers and butter beans and wonderful focaccia that had a topping of salt and herbs.

After ordering some wine, it was time to explore the menu.  Bar La Grassa is known for it’s homemade fresh pastas among other things, and being the pasta lover that I am, I knew that I wanted to sample some fresh noodles.  However, that did not narrow down my decision much as the restaurant offers about 12 different fresh pasta selections.  We decided to start with the Crispy Insalata Saporoso Vinaigrette which was a lovely green salad with frisee, fennel, pine nuts and cheese.  It was an unique, fresh and light way to begin our meal.

I was lucky that my company also wanted to sample fresh pasta dishes.  That way I got to try 3 different pastas without feeling totally gluttonous.  I had read about the Mushroom and Taleggio Agnolotti, so that was the decision for me.  The rich flavor of the mushrooms was amazing, but I am glad that the plates come in half or whole orders because a little bit of this dish goes a long way.

My mother is unable to eat cheese, so the Crab Ravioli was perfect for her.  The Ravioli was paired with a rather simple cream sauce.

Finally, my husband needed some meat and so he sampled the Pappardelle with Veal Ragu.  The sheets of fresh pappardelle were perfectly delicate and light, but the veal ragu was sweet, somewhat one-note and left me wanting for something:  salt, spice, garlic, something.

We were too stuffed for dessert, but lucky for me, Bar La Grassa Satisfied My Sweet Tooth anyway.  The check was brought with some almond brittle with a hint of chili pepper for a surprisingly warm and lovely slow burn.

What is your favorite pasta dish and/or restaurant?

Print Friendly
Did you like this? Share it:

You may also like:

Peanut butter, Pretzel and Chocolate chip cookies recipe
Copycat Paradise Bakery Chocolate Chip Cookies
Soft Puffy Sugar Cookies

Oh Broders’, how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways…

  • I love that you are the perfect date spot
  • I love your intimate patio that focuses on small plates (many of them grilled) and great wine
  • I love sitting at your pasta bar and visiting with other patrons which inevitably leads to recommendations and discussion about other wonderful restaurants
  • I love your servers (always the same 3) who have been there for years and know your menu inside and out
  • I love your inverted colander lights that give off the perfect soft ambient light
  • I love your pasta (do I even need to mention this??) and unique, unexpected, simple flavor combinations
  • I love your insalate, antipasti, dolci, vino, espresso…

My husband and I went on a date to Broders’ Pasta Bar a couple of weeks ago and as usual, it did not disappoint.  We had the pleasure of sitting at the Antipasto Bar outside and the Pasta Bar inside and we also got to meet and visit with Charlie Broder, the general manager of the restaurant.  Charlie has been working in the restaurant and across the street at Broders’ Cucina Italiana (think deli, takeout, imported products) since he was a child.  While the restaurant is family run, it is interesting that no one in the family is Italian.  The space that the restaurant occupies used to be a gas station and although the restaurant has been open and successful for many years, the location at 50th Street and Penn Avenue in South Minneapolis is still Broders’ only location in the Twin Cities.  Despite lines of hungry customers everyday of the week, Broders’ has not expanded it’s successful business.  And I for one am happy about this.  There is something about waiting for your table with giddy anticipation about what the nightly specials might be and the sheer joy of feeling like you have just won the lottery when they finally tell you that your table is ready.  The wait is always worth it.

 “Ocean City shrimp”, old bay, lemon, olive oil

 polenta cakes with tomato, mushroom & caper ragu

 burrata, local baby lettuce, fava beans & wild arugula

 capellini with crab, red & green chilies, tomato & white wine

 ravioli con prosciutto di parma:  house made goat cheese ravioli with prosciutto di parma & smoked mozzarella

tiramisù

 carrot cake:  cream cheese frosting, pine nuts, honey & carrots

 Ahhh, la dolce vita

Print Friendly
Did you like this? Share it:

You may also like:

Funfetti Cake Batter Cookies
Malted Milk Chocolate Pots de Creme
Desserts for Game Day

Un.  Be.  Liev.  Ab.  Le.  That’s is how I would describe our meal at Travail Kitchen and Amusements.

I have heard about the wonders of Travail for over a year and I cannot figure out why it has taken me this long to experience them.  Travail is a small, quaint restaurant in Robbinsdale, MN (northwest of Minneapolis).

The ambiance is simple, utilitarian, nothing fancy.  Trust me, none of this matters.  You will not be dining here for the romantic atmosphere.  You will be there for the FOOD.

There is an open kitchen that takes center stage and if you are lucky, you might even get to sit up at the bar overlooking the kitchen and watch the masters at work.

The menu is very simple, like many things at the restaurant.  Simplicity is a beautiful thing, especially when it comes to food.

Each night, Travail features a 10 course tasting menu for 2 people that is an incredible value.  While everything on it sounded wonderful, we wanted to make our own tasting menu and sample all of the things that sounded too good to miss.  The servers are incredibly passionate about food and offer detailed descriptions of preparation, ingredients and accompaniments for each dish.

We started with the Figlets:  bacon-wrapped figs stuffed with goat cheese.  Enough said.

Along with the Figlets, we had this beautiful beet salad.  Red and yellow beets, sliced jalepeños, green apples, beet purée and beet powder.  Beet powder, you say?  Let the molecular gastronomy fun begin!

Blue cheese tater tots with truffle oil and homemade ketchup:  “fair” food at it’s best.

Course #4 (but who’s counting?):  housemade Agnolotti.  Agnolotti is stuffed pasta similar to ravioli.  Travail’s creation was filled with parsnips and goat cheese with an herb butter sauce, thinly sliced potatoes and parsnip foam.

Next up:  sea bass.  Served with crispy skin, minestrone broth, roasted summer vegetables and pancetta froth.

Now for surprisingly one of my favorite dishes of the evening:  homemade tofu covered in the most lovely curry coconut broth and served with thinly shaved carrots, zucchini and large pieces of broccoli.  The tofu had a beautiful texture almost similar to mozzarella cheese and the light curry flavor with the perfectly cooked vegetables was absolute perfection.

Possibly my favorite dish of the entire evening was the sweet potato soup.  Sounds simple enough, but the complex and warm flavors were amazing and the best part was the marshmallows on the bottom of the soup that slowly melted and oozed and gave the soup a lovely sweetness.  If I could swim in this soup all day and use the marshmallows as pillows at night, I would.

And for our final savory course, it was only fair to give the boy some meat.  Steak with fried polenta cake, brussel sprouts and mushrooms.  No complaints.

Enough savory already.  Time to Satisfy My Sweet Tooth!  Naturally, I insisted on the dessert tasting menu.  Don’t give me that look.  The previous eight courses were really quite small, and I told you to stop counting!

Dessert course #1:  lemon bars, cream puff with strawberries and very minty and refreshing mojito shots.

And then came a white chocolate tart with orange rhubarb coulis and elderflower ice cream.  At this point I was beginning to wonder if we were secretly part of a test audience for a new season of Top Chef.  Oh how I love food.

Second to last was the chocolate offering:  a chocolate mousse cake with chocolate wafers, mousse-stuffed cherries, cherry Dip N’ Dots and tarragon oil.  While I am a serious chocoholic, fruit with chocolate is not one of my favorite combinations, so this dessert was not my favorite (good thing we had 3 others so there was no need for disappointment during my favorite part of any meal).

Last, but certainly not least, came a light and refreshing melon soup with melon, grapefruit, blackberries, panna cotta and spec, all cooled by a fresh pour of liquid nitrogen.

(Insert “OOH’s” and “AAH’s” here)

In case you have not figured it out, Travail highly exceeded my expectations.  If you are a foodie who wants to geek out and be impressed by rare techniques and delightfully unique flavor combinations or you are just looking for a new restaurant to try, may I highly recommend Travail for your next dining experience?

Print Friendly
Did you like this? Share it:

You may also like:

Bar La Grassa
Chicago Food Tour Day 2: The battle for the best cupcake
Washington D.C.

Un.  Be.  Liev.  Ab.  Le.  That’s is how I would describe our meal at Travail Kitchen and Amusements.

I have heard about the wonders of Travail for over a year and I cannot figure out why it has taken me this long to experience them.  Travail is a small, quaint restaurant in Robbinsdale, MN (northwest of Minneapolis).

The ambiance is simple, utilitarian, nothing fancy.  Trust me, none of this matters.  You will not be dining here for the romantic atmosphere.  You will be there for the FOOD.

There is an open kitchen that takes center stage and if you are lucky, you might even get to sit up at the bar overlooking the kitchen and watch the masters at work.

The menu is very simple, like many things at the restaurant.  Simplicity is a beautiful thing, especially when it comes to food.

Each night, Travail features a 10 course tasting menu for 2 people that is an incredible value.  While everything on it sounded wonderful, we wanted to make our own tasting menu and sample all of the things that sounded too good to miss.  The servers are incredibly passionate about food and offer detailed descriptions of preparation, ingredients and accompaniments for each dish.

We started with the Figlets:  bacon-wrapped figs stuffed with goat cheese.  Enough said.

Along with the Figlets, we had this beautiful beet salad.  Red and yellow beets, sliced jalepeños, green apples, beet purée and beet powder.  Beet powder, you say?  Let the molecular gastronomy fun begin!

Blue cheese tater tots with truffle oil and homemade ketchup:  “fair” food at it’s best.

Course #4 (but who’s counting?):  housemade Agnolotti.  Agnolotti is stuffed pasta similar to ravioli.  Travail’s creation was filled with parsnips and goat cheese with an herb butter sauce, thinly sliced potatoes and parsnip foam.

Next up:  sea bass.  Served with crispy skin, minestrone broth, roasted summer vegetables and pancetta froth.

Now for surprisingly one of my favorite dishes of the evening:  homemade tofu covered in the most lovely curry coconut broth and served with thinly shaved carrots, zucchini and large pieces of broccoli.  The tofu had a beautiful texture almost similar to mozzarella cheese and the light curry flavor with the perfectly cooked vegetables was absolute perfection.

Possibly my favorite dish of the entire evening was the sweet potato soup.  Sounds simple enough, but the complex and warm flavors were amazing and the best part was the marshmallows on the bottom of the soup that slowly melted and oozed and gave the soup a lovely sweetness.  If I could swim in this soup all day and use the marshmallows as pillows at night, I would.

And for our final savory course, it was only fair to give the boy some meat.  Steak with fried polenta cake, brussel sprouts and mushrooms.  No complaints.

Enough savory already.  Time to Satisfy My Sweet Tooth!  Naturally, I insisted on the dessert tasting menu.  Don’t give me that look.  The previous eight courses were really quite small, and I told you to stop counting!

Dessert course #1:  lemon bars, cream puff with strawberries and very minty and refreshing mojito shots.

And then came a white chocolate tart with orange rhubarb coulis and elderflower ice cream.  At this point I was beginning to wonder if we were secretly part of a test audience for a new season of Top Chef.  Oh how I love food.

Second to last was the chocolate offering:  a chocolate mousse cake with chocolate wafers, mousse-stuffed cherries, cherry Dip N’ Dots and tarragon oil.  While I am a serious chocoholic, fruit with chocolate is not one of my favorite combinations, so this dessert was not my favorite (good thing we had 3 others so there was no need for disappointment during my favorite part of any meal).

Last, but certainly not least, came a light and refreshing melon soup with melon, grapefruit, blackberries, panna cotta and spec, all cooled by a fresh pour of liquid nitrogen.

(Insert “OOH’s” and “AAH’s” here)

In case you have not figured it out, Travail highly exceeded my expectations.  If you are a foodie who wants to geek out and be impressed by rare techniques and delightfully unique flavor combinations or you are just looking for a new restaurant to try, may I highly recommend Travail for your next dining experience?

Print Friendly
Did you like this? Share it:

You may also like:

Magnolia Bakery, NYC
Broders' Pasta Bar (i.e. my absolute favorite)
My personal food tour of Chicago: Day 1: Deep-dish Pizza including a rivalry

When did cupcakes become so popular?  You know what I mean.  I’m referring to the fact that until the past several years, cupcakes were for children’s birthday parties and maybe baby showers.  Today, there are bakeries that ONLY sell cupcakes, several TV shows dedicated to cupcakes, and many restaurants have the small sweet treats on their dessert menus regularly.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am thrilled.  I love cupcakes and enjoy seeing creativity expressed through exotic flavor combinations.

Personally, I give some credit for the cupcake craze to Sex and the City.  In one episode, Miranda and Carrie sit on a New York City street curb eating cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery.  Watching the glamorous characters sink their teeth into the lovely thick pink frosting while discussing their love lives made many fans want to sample the cupcakes themselves.  The official Sex and the City Tour in NYC highlights Magnolia Bakery as one of the stops.  After graduating from college, my dad took me on my first trip to New York to celebrate.  I am a huge Sex and the City fan and was ecstatic when he surprised me with tickets for the tour to see many of the locations made famous by the show.  Cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery were included on the tour and it was love at first bite of buttercream!

Today, Magnolia Bakery has several locations.  I have been to New York many times since that first visit and it is my favorite city to travel to.  On many of my visits, Magnolia remains one of my favorite stops.  Although the Bakery makes many types of desserts, such as whoopee pies, cookies and puddings, their chocolate and vanilla cupcakes with buttercream frosting are arguably their most coveted sweet treat.  In my opinion, the cupcakes have the perfect cake:frosting ratio which is 2:1.  The cake is light and moist and that combination with the creamy, velvety buttercream is pure bliss.  So light and lovely in fact that one cupcake is never enough. Not only are the sweets scrumptious, but the bakeries themselves are delightful with pastel decor and a retro, yet elegant feel.  They are what a sweet tooth’s dreams are made of.

My husband knows me so well.  We got engaged in New York and then he took me for a cupcake breakfast at Magnolia Bakery on Bleecker Street the morning after his proposal.  He always knows how to Satisfy My Sweet Tooth.

My family travelled to NYC this past Easter and one of the newer New York locations of Magnolia Bakery at Rockefeller Center was the perfect place for a midnight snack.

Magnolia cupcakes are iconic New York to me.  Next time you are in the City That Never Sleeps, stop for a small treat.  You will not be disappointed.

Print Friendly
Did you like this? Share it:

You may also like:

Lightened up Berry Crisp Recipe
How to make a Rainbow Cake
Sugar Cookie Crunch Bark