Thursday, May 22, 2014

Foodie Field Trip- Minnesota

Before you even ask "how can an entire STATE be a foodie field trip" let me just say- the foodie field trip part is just a BONUS. The reason for the road trip had nothing to do with food. Or kitchen stores. Or good restaurants. It just.......happened.

It was innocent enough to begin with. Mom and daughter. Road trip to Minneapolis to see Lady Gaga. Girl time. Fun and laughs. But the the fateful words "outlet mall" were muttered. I was all about to change from there. Barely 3 hours into our day I found myself in the kitchen store at an outlet mall near Owatonna. This is a very dangerous place for a person who loves to cook, loves interesting little shops, and LOVES to buy kitchen stuff. Very dangerous. It's not hard for me to find SOMETHING to buy in a kitchen store. I don't need to spend a lot of money- I can and will find something so I can say "I bought something there!"  Yes, I am that easy to entertain. So what did I pick up this time? A new tea steeper thing (since I cannot find my steeping mug from Teavana that I love so much) and a ceramic knife. I have lusted after a ceramic knife ever since I saw my first Kyocera knife at an upscale cookware shop in Kansas City several years ago. This store did not have Kyocera knives but they did have a KitchenAid ceramic knife for an exceptional price, so I grabbed one. I can try it out and if I'm not totally in love with it, I haven't splashed out hundreds of dollars. 

An outlet store full of Wusthofs. What a cruel, cruel twist.
THIS was not in my budget!!
We arrived in the Twin Cities with hours to spare. Checked into the hotel and went exploring Eagan for a place to eat. Bypassing all the same places we can eat at in Iowa, we decided to give Houlihan's a shot. 

I normally avoid chain restaurants like the plague but we were hungry and decided to brave it. We were not disappointed at all. The decor was warm and woodsy. The staff was very friendly and proficient. We didn't wait for anything. After the drive we were HUNGRY- and the menu looked pretty promising. They had a very impressive cocktail menu, including mini martini flights, and a pretty substantial "small plates" menu. Debbee chose a pasta special- fettuccine with lemon shrimp. Her salad arrived just moments after the waitress left our table- and was so much better than the usual boring and predictable bagged salad mix with 3 croutons. Fresh corn, bacon, blue cheese and a slightly mustardy version of ranch dressing.

The pasta dish was very generous. It arrived on a huge platter, with loads of fettuccine, a creamy lemon sauce and perfectly grilled shrimp.

I went with my old standby- steak. I chose the top sirloin, which was grilled and basted with a red wine sauce, and served with asparagus and baked potato and a Parmesan garlic butter to spread on top of the steak. So delicious, and perfectly cooked. 

We left, full and happy, and made our way to the Excel Center and had an amazing evening with Lady Gaga. But the fun didn't end there- and neither did the foodie field trip. The next morning we checked out of the hotel and made a beeline for Disneyland for Grownups, also known as IKEA. I'm not even going to sugar coat it. I'm in kitchen heaven in this place. Dishes- lots of dishes, several of which made their way into my cart. I'm always looking for good food props, and IKEA is a great place to find them. Their knife selection is impressive. The cookware is awesome. I've bought many many pieces from IKEA over the years and have never been dissatisfied. 

Another HUGE weakness for me- kitchen linens. I love love love kitchen towels. I must have a hundred. I'm sure I'm not done buying linens, although this trip did not include any. I did, however, find a very cool wheeled cart for things like farmers markets and I can't wait to use it !!

The Mall of America is surprisingly a good place to find cool little foodie things. Immediately upon walking in the mall we spotted a Vom Fass store. I had never been in one before- never even heard of them- but I soon was transfixed at the wall of oils, the wall of vinegars, the wall of seasonings. 

I was a little overwhelmed really- too much, in too small of a store. Of course we spent considerable time at the seasonings/spices, smelling everything and oohing and ahhing over the amazing aromas, even trying pumpkin seed oil. I had to make a decision, couldn't take it all with me, so I grabbed a couple jars, Aglio Olio & Peperoncino seasoning and Wild Game seasoning, grabbed a catalog, and begrudgingly left the store. 

We stopped for lunch at The Cadillac Ranch, where Debbee had the Black and Bleu Salmon Salad (Black and Bleu Catfood Salad as I call it) and I had the famous Minnesota Jucy Lucy. Browsed over the Vom Fass catalog while eating.......decided it was a good thing we left that store when we did........ and continued our trip around the mall.

There are several different foodie havens in the Mall of America. Williams Sonoma (which I avoided- we have that in Iowa), all the department stores which carry all my favorites as well, Teavana, and The Pepper Palace, which as you can imagine, is a store filled with nothing but hundreds upon hundreds of hot sauces, and things like Nacho Cheese scented candles.  I'll pass on the candles but the hot sauces are always my friend. They even carry Zakk Wylde's Berserker sauces. I was in awe of all the heat in one room.

I found this ADORABLE little piggy grill!!
Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and so did my time in the Mall of America. The sad drive back to Iowa began and I always feel that longing to just stay forever in my home state. But halfway back, there was one last stop that also yields a few foodie surprises- Cabela's. Many of my friends think it's weird that I, a girl, love going to Cabela's so much. Well, it's the animal displays, the live fish in the aquariums (game fish- things I catch, clean and eat!) and the assortment of food-related items that make it a great place for people like me! They have a huge assortment of cast iron cookware, dehydrating and preserving equipment, jerky marinades, seasoning of every kind, game cookbooks- and big jugs of seasoned fish fry coating. Just what I was looking for!

And finally.........we are done. Tired. Shopped out. Headed home. Our much-needed mom and daughter trip now in the history books, back to real life, work, kids, bills, and writing blogs.......about my foodie field trip.

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