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The Lowry

2 Sep

I’m attempting to expand my horizons in recipes and family cooking, but I couldn’t resist adding this review.

At @LittlePod’s suggestion we came to the Lowry. The first thing I realize as someone is throwing their arms around me is I know one of the servers and he’s one of my favorite people who I don’t really know. You know, the folks you see regularly places and have conversations with, but that you don’t know their last names. So, Jack throws his arms around me and welcomes me in, which I have to say is a pretty rock star way of being greeted in a restaurant, It makes one feel special, and isn’t that what dining out is really all about?

Now, because I’ve been completely preoccupied with my other endeavor The Good Counsel for the better part of a month, I’m a little scattered, and I actually show up to the restaurant an hour before Lisa and I agreed to hang. What this means is I get extra time with my beloved Jack and he tells me all about the wonders that are the Lowry, the owners, the handcrafted sauces and the amazing old school drinks. (I still need to learn how they make a Manhattan here, as that’s my fathers drink and he’s very particular.)

Since I’m so early, I decide to make myself at home and order oysters and deviled eggs, with a mojito, of course.

After which I wait for Lisa to order a proper lunch.

I have the tostada special, which I neglected to read, was made with feta, which for me now has become a deal breaker. I’m not sure what happened since I used to love feta, but lately I can’t stand the sight of it. Everything else about it was great, but unfortunately feta has a way of tending to overpower most other things you put it with.

Lisa was in a breakfast mood and had the egg’s benedict which looked amazing and I know firsthand from my deviled eggs that the béarnaise was very good. Not Meritage good, but really, that’s almost an unattainable standard.

Overall it was a bit of a mixed bag for me. The service was great, but I’m impartial since I knew Jack from before, the appetizers were awesome, but I think I did a poor job of reading the menu and avoiding feta, which really shouldn’t be reflected on my opinion since they brought what I ordered. I think I’ll have to make another trip soon and try the ever-changing amazing desserts Jack told me about.

Merlins Rest

19 Jul

I stopped by Merlins Rest the other night, to see how the dinner fare was. Merlins Rest is the owned by Lee Tomlin and in addition Bill Watkins, of the former Molly Quinns is often there as well. Bill’s official title is Minister of Culture, which he embodies whole heartedly.

He is the author of three books A Celtic Childhood“, “Scotland is Not for the Squeamish” and “The Once and Future Celt.

I first met Bill at Molly Quinns for  none other than St Patrick’s day 2003 (or maybe it was 2002.) He immediately welcomed us in and asked us to call him Uncle Bill. Once MQ closed I thought I had lost Uncle Bill forever, that is until I had the good fortune to be invited out for New Years 2010 to Merlin’s Rest . Along with the festivities I was treated to my first Scotch Egg, and quite a bit of fun, but I hadn’t been back until recently for dinner. I had heard about the legendary Fish and Chips. (Best in the Cities, probably in the state). Of course I had to try them. I was quite impressed. Not that I can say that I’m a fish and chip connoisseur, but these were amazing.

They have exactly the right amount of malt vinegar and crunch to them. The batter is delicious and well, the white fish is white fish, but it was cooked well and flakey and delicious. With not even a hint of rubber to them which is often what I find when I’ve ordered fish and chips elsewhere.

They also offer a Yankee version, no newsprint, no malt, and no fun, if you ask me.

On another visit recently I tried the Ploughman’s with English Stilton which was completely unexpected and fantastic. They vary a bit away from a traditional Ploughman’s Lunch in favor of a much greener, healthier, lighter dish. Additionally there was a HUGE chunk of stilton, so they were already on my good list. As much as I pretend that the bread is part of it, I would happily eat the stilton by the handfuls without any bread or crackers. Oh and I haven’t even mentioned the basil butter, divine!!

After a healthy dose of Strongbow (and a Black & Tan for Noah) we enjoyed the splendid English Toffee Cake. My mother tells me this is almost exactly what her grandmother used to make so for her it’s completely nostalgic. For me it was just fantastic.

In addition to the food is the weekly live entertainment and trivia. While we were dining there was live music which both my daughters enjoyed dancing to and added to the welcoming ambiance.  I wholeheartedly enjoyed my dinner, and maybe if I get brave I may go back to try my hand at some trivia.

Dim Sum, Part I

19 Jan

Dim Sum in the Twin Cities seems harder and harder to come by. Mai Village recently stopped doing it as it is a huge staff and food effort, and let’s be honest, how many times a year do you go out for dim sum? Using my family as my measuring stick, we go out for dim sum maybe three times a year. For restaurant who subsist mainly on bringing in business for dim sum, that is sadly nowhere near enough. Especially considering how staff intensive it is to do it well. This has been clearly shown by the closings of Yummy’s, Mai Le Hoa, and again most recently Mai Village tossing in the towel on dim sum. (Mai Village is still serving their regular menu, so don’t panic.) I know a few other places in town do dim sum, but I haven’t been. That’s one of the reason’s I’ve titled this Dim Sum, part I plan to go to as many Dim Sum places as I can in the next few months and then write-up a more comprehensive review of who does it well, and what I’d like to see improved.

Additionally I’ve been thinking about how many times the average person goes to dim sum in a year. As I said earlier I think this is the reason that it’s hard to keep good dim sum in the Twin Cities, What do you think?

Town Talk

16 Jan

I just found out that Town Talk Diner closed today. I wish I could say I am surprised, but my impression was that the food was a bit out-of-place in that neighborhood. I’ve had some spotty meals, and it more money then I (and others, clearly) thought it was worth. That particular neighborhood also doesn’t strike me as the right fit.  Denny’s across the street thrives while Manny’s Torta’s  and Town Talk didn’t, so you do the math. I understand that in this case, like in most others, there were also other contributing factors to the closing, however I’m still saddened to hear it.

It is interesting to watch, from an outsider’s perspective, the real business of running a restaurant. It fascinates me to see which places survive and which don’t. My first rather naïve impression was if you run a good business you’ll keep your doors open and if you don’t, you won’t. However, it seems that it is much more complicated than that. I’ve seen some really great places close and some that range from mediocre to terrible manage to keep their doors open.

I don’t pretend to know the restaurant business, but the owners I know pour their heart and soul in to their businesses. I would imagine it’s very difficult to have to close and I don’t wish it on anyone.

PS. I hope the mastermind behind the adult malts finds another place to serve them, they were fantastic!

Update: Adam Platt has the best musings on Town Talk Closing in March 2011’s issue of Mpls/St Paul Magazine.