Monday, March 31, 2014

Talkin' baseball

Two things: one, happy baseball opener my fellow Twins fans! Two, somewhat related...the Metrodome, she is no more. And I for one could not be happier! I mean, don't get me wrong, I have a lot of memories there. Remember the Blaine vs. Eden Prarie Prep Bowl in 1996? Since I was in flagline (yeah I was and still am a nerd, cram it) I got to march during halftime! I learned very quickly that marching on squishy Astroturf is incredibly awkward. Later on I learned the hard way what a two point conversion was! Eden Prairie won, all thanks to Johnny Moxon. Or was that Varsity Blues?

I could wax nostalgic about all the Twins, Gophers, and Vikings games I attended over the years in that big inflatable bounce house. The highs (Blair Walsh kicks a field goal to beat the Packers and move on to the playoffs)! The lows (remember when the Hawkeyes beat the Gophers 55-0? Yeah, we drank a LOT that afternoon)! The middles (a work outing when I was at Piper wherein I tried to keep up drinking with my male colleagues, failed, and wound up drunkenly slapping a co-worker on the ass right in front of our boss) (might be more of a low) (sorry Mom and Dad)! And while I will fondly remember having cocktails and smokes in the Maroon Saloon, I will remember the food with a small amount of disgust.

Maybe it's because Target Field's food is so magnificent, it makes a Dome dog seem like a redheaded stepchild. Let me go on a bit of a sidebar here - Target Field in and of itself is simply magnificent. The first time I brought my mom there I thought she'd died and gone to heaven. And that was before she learned she could eat her way around the park! We went to Hrbek's first for some good old fashioned fried food. (Fun fact - Herbie and I share a birthday! He was celebrating at Tiger Sushi of all places when the fam and I went there for my 30th. Did not picture him to be a sashimi kind of fella.) We got the walleye bites, and honest to blog they were the best I've ever had! I have dreams about them sometimes (not really). They use an aioli instead of a traditional dipping sauce and I would drink it if they gave me a straw (again, not really).

The other massive improvement is the nachos. First of all, you can get them in a helmet! Isn't that so much cooler than a sad little bag of tortilla chips and that radioactive looking cheese sauce? Not to mention, there are actual toppings! I don't expect to get authentic Mexican cuisine with my $8 beer or anything, but jalapenos and chips are not nachos in my opinion. Gimme beans and cheese and beef and an ice cream scoop sized dollop of good old sour cream on top. Then when you're done, you can be a dork like my friend Rick who once washed out the helmet and wore it over his hat on the way out of the game (sorry ladies, he's taken and she can beat you up). Whimsy!

One more win for Target Field - the Vincent Burger. I'd write more about that but I risk drooling into my keyboard so much it shorts out and I don't feel like being electrocuted today.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

"Hey Ma! Get off the dang roof!"

A few months ago, Noah and I went over to my parents' house to help them with their new computer. They're getting up there in age (read: REAL friggin' senile) (...and now I'm out of the will), so understandably, electronics are kind of a new thing for them. So the menfolk set off to do manly computer things in Dad's man cave, and Mom and I sat in the kitchen like the good little wifeys we are. Mom, still the mom even though her little girl is almost 35 and her baby boy has a mountain man beard and can bend a nine iron in half with the best of them, insisted on making me lunch. Rather than setting her to work making waffles and Neuske's bacon, I asked for PB&J on an English muffin, and I kid you not, it was the best I've ever had. I don't know what kind of magic that woman learned helping raise her 10 siblings in that tiny kitchen, but it's good stuff.

When we have a big group up at the cabin, Mom always makes sure there's a spread at cocktail time. Cocktail time at the Goin cabin is when we set up the rickety old table, make some drinks, and ruin our dinners. It's amazing I ever belonged to the Clean Plate Club, We're talking the Last Supper, but with more vodka. Cheese, summer sausage, like three kinds of crackers (Triscuits for the win), veggies, dip, and Phyllis Goin's famous hamburger dip. I have personally witnessed my aunt Barb consume an entire Crockette of the cheesy deliciousness in one sitting (I may have dreamt that). It's so simple, just spicy Velveeta and taco meat, but Barb swears Mom's is the best.

If any of you are still friends (pleeeeeeeeease don't unfriend me) with me come the holidays, hit me up for some of Mom's fudge. If you're a big fan of fudge in general and tell me it's NOT the best you've ever had, I will stick a big red and green bow on my hand and give you the gift of a black eye. Because you are not only wrong but insulting my darling mother in saying that. Again, it's a simple recipe (which I will not divulge, mainly because I don't remember it, but there is condensed milk involved which is kind of gross in my opinion). However, unlike the hamburger dip, the fudge is a pain in the ass to make. You literally have to stir it for seven days straight or the granulated sugar absolutely refuses to dissolve. I don't know how she has the upper body strength for it; I tried making it one year and I'm not gonna lie, calling it "subpar" would be complementary.

Let me be cheesy for a moment here about Phyllis. In May 2010, she was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer. After months of treatment, she beat the crap out of it, and as of this writing is still cancer free! And do you know what she did in December 2010? You bet your ass she made fudge. Every time I have a piece, I thank God my tiny moms is still around, because I'd be a wreck without her.

Ahem. Anyhow. The one other thing my mom makes over the holidays, her true signature dish, her bon appetit (go with it), is her egg rolls. I kid you not. I don't remember when it started, but the woman picked up a Leeann Chin's cookbook and decided, yes, a white woman from Northfield, MN should make egg rolls for the Benjamin Christmas Eve Extravaganza (too many people to just call it a party). I have to say, other than giving birth to the two most amazing people to ever walk the earth (Nick and me), it was the best idea she's ever had. They are legendary. Fisticuffs have broken out over who got the last one (may have dreamt that as well). And they are a labor of love. She spends an entire week browning pork and sauteeing vegetables and stuffing the delicate wrappers with the five spice scented mixture. I'm fairly certain she does this out of love because I'm not sure I've ever seen her eat one. She considered bailing and just buying some Target brand ones last year, and when my cousin Pete caught wind of that he put his fist through the wall (now that might have actually happened, I can't confirm). So maybe that's why Mom's food always tastes the best. Love.

Friday, March 21, 2014

And yet nobody ordered steak

Last night, Noah and I made the trip out to Little Canada to dine at Porterhouse with our besties Chad and Sarah. The boys are on their way to Milwaukee (Algonquin for "the good land") for the annual fantasy baseball draft, and being the gentlemen that they are (chortle), they decided to take us out to a nice meal before abandoning us for a weekend of debauchery. The four of us hadn't hung out in some time, which royally sucks because when we lived next door to each other we were practically attached at the hip. We spent many hours grilling, Wii bowling, or playing pull tabs at our local watering hole. Alas, Northeast was calling them, so they moved to Chad's old house, and we get together as often as we can now, which still isn't enough, but I digress.

But as we all know, absence makes the heart grow fonder. We had a lovely time talkin' baseball and kittens over a few drinks and an absolutely insane amount of food. You see, if you have not been to Porterhouse, here's the deal: it's not like other steakhouses. You don't have to pay $17.95 for a side of asparagus large enough to build a small log cabin with (I don't care if it "serves two," MANNY'S, that's highway robbery for something that makes you have stinky pee). It's all included - and it's cheaper than any place downtown by far! So you get the bread, your choice of Caesar or spinach salad, and then, right when you think another piece of bread sounds like a good idea, your meal comes out. And your side dish should serve two, but it's all yours. Sarah got a baked potato with her scallops, and the thing was the size of a regulation football. She could have kicked it to Cordarrelle Patterson for a 109 yard return, but then she would have got sour cream all over her shoes. (Waooooo!)

Clearly, my readership, we were all stuffed after the meal. I had every intent of bringing my mashed potatoes home for Mom and I to have on Saturday, but the clarified butter I had dunked every ounce of my lobster tails into went straight to my brain (certainly wasn't the cosmopolitans) and I forgot them. The waiter asked if we wanted dessert, and creme brulee did sound tempting, but I feared that one more bite of food would leave me unable to walk, requiring Noah to roll me out of the building, much like they had to do with Violet Beauregarde in the book version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. (I refuse to see either movie version. I have my reasons.) I realized I'd be so much comfortable in my track pants.

Track pants should be appropriate attire to wear to nice restaurants. I am not a crackpot.

Hear me out. Remember that last big meal you had, where you stood up to leave and you were so full you worried that the button was going to shoot off your pants and shatter the wine glass of an innocent patron? The only two ways to wash away those concerns are eschewing pants altogether (not recommended) or track pants! Better yet, wouldn't it be fun to get a big group together and all show up in Zubaz? Maybe it's because I come from Anoka County, where just last month a woman found it acceptable to walk into the Northown Best Buy, drop trou, and take a tinkle, but I think Zubaz are kind of fun in a white trashy way! They're not flattering, and they're practically synonymous with the mullet, but gosh darn it they're comfortable! Just think about it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

"Eat at Shenaniganz, enjoy your food. Eat at Shenaniganz, Calvin works here!"

Okay, time to sound like a capital A Asshole again...I don't like chain restaurants. Fridays, Applebees, Chilis, the lot of you. I've wined with you, I've dined with you, but I think I'm done spending my hard earned money on you. Now, I don't think I'm above eating at these places, because Lord knows I love me some fast food. It's just...we can do better at home, you know? If you have a ridiculously specific Whopper craving, only Burger King is going to do, and I am going to order the onion rings even though they are conspicuously absent of onion. But if I want a grilled burger or steak or something, we have the tools and skills (MAD skilz, even) and a Cub right down the street.

I'm too clumsy and forgetful to ever have worked in a restaurant, but having to deal with all that gimmicky crap day after day seems like it would be unbearable. Fridays (with whom I have multiple bones to pick) has an entire page of menu items celebrating everyone's favorite hooch, Jack Daniels. This puzzles me. Most people I know have an aversion to whiskey due to some house party back in '99 and haven't been able to look at it without projectile vomiting ever since. Speaking of booze, my friend and former bartender extraordinare Sarah taught me the phrase "corporate pour" last year, and most chains have to abide by the person tending bar to pour using a chigger rather than letting them trust their own pour. Some places even have a "deal" where for a little extra, you can get another shot in your drink. I don't feel like shilling out $9 for a fishbowl-sized margarita with a half ounce of Cuervo in it. Mainly because margaritas give me a bitchin' case of heartburn.

I think this goes without saying - we've all seen Office Space and Waiting (and if you haven't, stop reading and go see them both now, especially if you've worked in an office or a restaurant and like laughter and happiness). But anyhow, who was like, "Hey! Let's hang old records and waterskis and other miscellaneous crap on the walls! It'll look quirky and entertaining!" Do you really need all that 3D distraction on the walls when there 54 TVs for my husband and I to gape at rather having adult conversation? I can see why a place like Buffalo Wild Wings would want to put up some sports memorabilia, but the average person is likely going to look up, note that there's an enormous blue French horn above the bar, and go back to getting girl-drink drunk (Extreme Strawberry Fizzle with a sugar rim, $8 with an extra shot of Pucker!).

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Just set it, and forget it!

When we got married eleventy nine years ago, we got a Ronco rotisserie from the Goin aunties and uncles. I was confused, mainly because it was 9 am and I was running on six hours sleep (note to future brides: have an after party or a gift opening. Not both). Why, I wondered, would my dad's siblings decide to buy something from As Seen On TV? Did Auntie Verena order it out of insomnia-induced insanity and decide to regift it? As it turns out, I come from a family of geniuses. The rotiz, as we call it, is amazing! Other than the whole set it and forget it thing (which is true), it really does keep the meat super juicy and tender, plus the sight of rotating pork chops is nothing if not mesmerizing to a tiny kitten. Sadly, it just can't compare to cooking on the open flame of a charcoal grill.

The thing we most looked forward to when looking for a house was finally being able to grill. That, and I was excited to live in a place I owned where no "city ordinance" could tell me I couldn't smoke on my deck. Damn the man! Anyhow, I'm pretty sure we went straight from the closing to Home Depot, where we bought a shiny shiny gas grill. It looked so pretty on our deck, all gussied up with a U of M grill cover, which quickly became pointless when the city of Fridley said grilling on the deck was a fire hazard. Because meth labs aren't flammable. Gotta shut those down, City of Fridley. Damn the man!

So we happily grilled with propane for a while, until Noah got a bug (likely a mosquito) up his ass about getting a charcoal Weber. "I am real man," he said. "Real man grill with FIRE!" He then roared mightily, changed into his best loincloth, and went back to Home Depot for his precious Weber. I'm sorry, you can have a smoker box of hickory chips on a gas grill all you want, but nothing compares to a nice steak that's been coddled over Royal Oak charcoal. You can't top that smell. The wafting scent of grilling meat is, for me, every beautiful night in the summer, riding bikes with the neighborhood kids, soaking up every bit of wonderful until Labor Day. It's hanging out on the deck at the cabin, watching the party barges and the loons float by. It's sitting in the driveway with the neighbors, having some laughs, having some flaming assholes (don't ask), happy that we finally met each other. Will Smith was right, the smell of a grill does, in fact, spark up nostalgia.

After a while, it was decided that our smaller Weber wasn't big enough to grill for the neighborhood. So after both sets of neighbors moved away, we got the biggun! The grill big enough to handle a Benjamin party (cousins only) (no significant others) (I have a big family)! And it has served us well. Being able to control the level of direct and indrect heat has been a gamechanger, and everything Noah makes turns out perfectly! Obviously we don't bust it out when we're having hot dogs, but it's great for when the family's over, or when we're trying out something ridiculous we saw on Primal Grill.

Oh, speaking of Primal Grill? Watch it when it's back on PBS. Steven Raichlen is a pretentious douchenozzle who loves grilling almost as much as he loves overpronouncing words. Team Oberg may be the only couple in the world for whom "herbs de Provence" is a running joke. But it's entertaining and informative, and you can feel good about watching public television instead of another Teen Mom 2 marathon.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Pull my finger

Cheese. Man oh man, do I love me some cheese! When we lived in Golden Valley, we'd stop in at Byerlys on the way home and pick up something for dinner that night. If I was in luck, they would have put cheese samples out all around the deli area, and I'd toothpick those little cubes to my heart's content. Now that we live in "friendly" Fridley (people do a lotta uppers around here), we frequent our local Cub with the occasional trip to Lunds in Northeast, and those cheese misers haven't put out a sliver of Jarlsberg in years. Years! So yesterday, when I had a hankerin' for some fancy dancy blue cheese, rather than buying a giant hunk that only I will eat for the next month, we went to The Sample Room.

I'm a big fan of the small plates movement. While I love food (duh), I don't like the feeling of bloat and sloth that comes with eating the 96 ounce porterhouse and loaded baked potato. That's why I love The Sample Room. I can have a bit of this, a taste of that, and not feel like I'm waddling like a penguin out of a restaurant. I did overdo it last night, as I learned very quickly that a cheese platter is meant to be shared, and sharing is hard to do if one of the two people staring at said platter is mostly disinterested.

The one cheese Noah did try, a cow's milk named Annabelle, was declared stupendous. He spread his on a cracker, and I ate mine right off the fork, because I'm from Ham Lake and that's just how we do things, okay? He of course didn't touch the blue cheese because he's a big fraidy cat, so I was left to my own devices to power through the wedge. (God, I'm making it sound like an episodd of Man vs. Food over here all over a portion of well aged dairy product. I'm a wuss.) It was super creamy, but had a little bit too much kick for me to finish it. I'd order it again if I went with other fellow cheese nerds who didn't mind my deplorable table manners.

Thankfully I'd left enough room for my entree. I use the word "entree" loosely because many people would see three shrimp and a polenta cake and wonder where the hell the rest of their dish was. I couldn't finish it, and the waiter was all concerned that I didn't like it. Didn't like it? I loved it! We might go back there tonight so I can get it again! I ate and I ate until I couldn't ate no more. Anyhow, they really knocked it out of the park! The shrimp were perfectly cooked in a tomato-y broth that had a bit of a kick, yet was slightly sweet at the same time. The polenta cake was lightly seared and came out piping hot and delightfully crumbly. The Monday after "spring forward" is always a bearcat, and it was a wonderfully comforting meal at the end of a long day.

Friday, March 7, 2014

It's the little things

It's official. I can feel it coming (in the air tonight...thank you Phil Collins). That's right, ladies and germs, there are certain Limited Time Only foods available right now letting us know springtime is upon us!

Now, I know what you're thinking. "Kay, you ignorant slut. How can you claim spring is coming when it's eleven degrees outside? Not to mention, the snow's so deep we let little Woofer out to poop on New Year's Day and we haven't seen him since! Now, enough of your lame-assed rambling, Candy Crush is calling you."

Well, can it. Spring is coming, and I have the Girl Scout cookies to prove it. That's right, once again some dear friends of mine who shall remain nameless (#teamsheehan) gave me the Catholic mother guilt trip to goad me into buying my weight in Thin Mints. Okay, I exaggerate, and furthermore, it's impossible to NOT buy cookies this time of year for so many reasons. It's for a good cause! Frozen Thin Mints are delectable! You're an '80s nerd who is desperately hoping a troupe will bust out "It's Cookie Time" from Troop Beverly Hills! And speaking of mint...

I don't care for the shamrock shake. Don't ask me why. I'm part Irish, I have no aversion to green beverages (hello, Tony Jaros'), and Lord knows I've sucked down my fair share of milkshakes in my time. I have been known to have one for lunch on occasion (very comforting when having a bad week and you don't have Mom to make you PB&J and a Fruit Roll Up). But every year when they make their blessed return, Noah does a happy little jig, drains the cup, and spikes it like he just got the winning touchdown against the Hawkeyes (who hates Iowa?). Meanwhile, I eat my sad little cheeseburger and lament the demise of everyone's favorite jingle. Give me back that Filet o' Fish, gimme dat fish!

Speaking of commercials (yes, I am going to use the same segue twice in this post. You don't like it, read a better blog), there are two holiday commercials that I refuse to fast forward through. The first one is that Hershey's Kisses commercial they show over the holidays where they're bells playing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." It always makes me misty because it reminds me of how Grandma Goin (miss her dearly) would always have a bowl of red and green Kisses on the mantle where the grandkids' stockings hung. The other is the Cadbury Egg commercial with the animals auditioning to be the Easter bunny. Part of it is nostalgia, part of it is because I used to devour those whole when I was younger and could handle that much sugar. But when it all comes down to it, it's a bunch of animals with big bunny years on, and that is amazing! Well played Cadbury, and thanks to you also for your Mini Eggs, aka Easter Crack. May I find you in my basket again this year!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Disco brunch

Our friend Nancy was in town from Fargo on Tuesday night, so we took Wednesday off work presuming we'd wind up getting nicely shellacked and thus unwilling make it into work the next day. I mean, we were going to an Irish bar with a refugee from America's Drunkest City, on Fat Tuesday, time to party, right? Not so much when the guest of honor has a class the next morning. So instead of flashing people on Hennepin Avenue for beads (which I would never do, and sorry if you were eating) 7:30 found me at home in flannel pants with a tiny kitten walking all over me. And that's okay, because having Wednesday off meant we could go to brunch at Spring Street!

Spring Street Tavern, tucked away on Monroe and (duh) Spring Street in Northeast Minneapolis, is absolutely fabulous. I almost always get the same thing every time, because their sausage egg and American cheese on an English muffin is a thing of beauty. It's what you want when you get McDonalds, thinking it's going to be the best thing you've ever eaten and consarn it why do those morons not serve breakfast all day. Of course, when you get done with your McMuffin you realize you have crumbs of egg yolk on your sweatshirt and you're going to have gas so bad it might just put the nail in the coffin of your marriage. At Spring Street, the egg is real and your husband is so happy with his Philly cheese steak that your nonstop farting (I blame the sausage) is simply adorable.

Also, the place in itself is a trip. We walked in yesterday to the dulcet tones of Jump Around on the jukebox. The table behind us referred to each other as hookers and entertained themselves by shouting "PENIS!!!" for a solid minute. I think that was after they did shots of Jameson. (Did I mention this was brunch? Like, one in the afternoon?) The music alternated between '90s alternative and Now! That's What I Call Gay Bar! Both bartenders were out, proud, and flaming. Nobody cared that I was in track pants and a NDSU hoodie. No judgment, no bad mojo, just love and some greasy tater tots.

The funniest thing mom loves Spring Street! We first took her there one summer Saturday and took advantage of their patio. It's really more of a smoker's patio, but when it's 77 and sunny I will take a little secondhand with my French toast al fresco. Nobody was screaming about naughty bits and we didn't hear any Scissor Sisters, but it was definitely an experience Phyllis was not going to have in Ham Lake! There was a dude in the corner chilling out and playing guitar, and she thought that was just the neatest thing! The sun had set by the time she finished her omelet, but that's to be expected. A happy mom is all that matters at the end of the day.

Next up on the Ma and Pa Bucket List per my father's request is Psycho Suzi's. That's right, Harold Goin has informed me that he wants to go to a TIKI BAR. You read it here first!

Saturday, March 1, 2014


Welcome to my first RIP post, during which I will piss and moan (these are a few of my favorite things) about the demise of a favorite restaurant or a particular dish I loved and lost. Today, we're gonna be sad about fish!

Last night, Noah and I skipped out on our buddy Steve's happy hour to treat ourselves to a $15 a person three course dinner at Bradstreet Crafthouse. I felt pretty bad about giving Steve the shaft until I had my first bite of seared arctic char (#sorrynotsorry) (love ya Festler). It was the best fish dish (unintentional rhyming) I'd had since the late, great (intentional rhyming) Three Fish.

Three Fish was a delightful little restaurant on Excelsior Boulevard I frequented Back In The Day (BITD = 2003 or whatever). I went there alone after a long day at work. I went there with my mom. I went there with a 33 year old bartender who found a Taz t-shirt to be appropriate restaurant attire. And every time, I got the salmon.

Don't get me wrong, Noah is an amazing cook. I'm surprised I'm not even fatter than I currently am thanks to that gorgeous cookazon (IT'S A WORD). But he will readily admit (and did when he was just now all, "OMG write about Three Fish and go knit me a sweater, woman!"), he can't replicate it. We can't figure out why. Was it the portobello mushroom and tomato salsa? The copious amount of lemon butter? Or the way the aforementioned lemon butter mixed so tastily with the Yukon gold mashed potatoes it made me want to do cartwheels until I fell over and had an aneurysm in the entryway of Whole Foods? Like the mystery of the Tootsie Roll Pop, the world...may never know.

RIP, Three Fish. Thanks for having takeout for those nights when I was 24 and feeling ridiculously self conscious about being the single girl at the restaurant!