Monday, July 12, 2010


PiC went out last Thursday as well to a Persian style restaurant on the south side of town called Shiraz.

It's clear that this sort of restaurant does not get a whole lot of traction in this section of town. Which is a shame. They've changed their menu and style slightly apparently to be more of a "steakhouse" style, though they do still have a whole section of Persian entrees. They just make sure there are steaks as well. Makes sense when they're competing with the Sports Bar next door.

Not surprising, PiC and I went straight for the Persian dishes. We started off with dolmeh, which had an unexpected tomato sauce on top. Dolmeh in Persian cuisine are served warm, unlike Greek where they tend to be cold. However, I could see why they wanted the extra acid of the tomatoes to balance the beef on the interior. Over all, the flavors were well balanced.

For myself, I got a cornish game hen (Joojeh) kabob with the barberry rice. I had never had Cornish game hen, and was surprised how the texture seemed slightly different from chicken. I'm not sure that I could put it into words, but it was cooked just to tenderness and still had a slight charring on the outside tips to add that fresh grilled flavor.

PiC was greatly disappointed that they no longer had the Fensenjan on the menu, it's a chicken stew simmered in pomegranate and with walnuts. He did however order the Ghormeh Sabzy, a filet mignon and red bean stew with lime and herbs. This isn't just a little bit of herbs. This is herbs on the order that it looked like a green dish. And the sour cherry rice. Regardless, we had to remind ourselves to stop eating. PiC had left overs for two lunches and the prices were quite reasonable.

I think that if I had to choose for Persian restaurants, if I want a greater variety of Persian, I'd go to Caspian, but do think that the food at Shiraz is better flavored. I was much happier with the overall balance here than I was at Caspian.

Accompaniments were perfectly acceptable martinis.

First Course

I apologize for the break in posts here since January. I went on a particularly restrictive elimination diet to figure out what I should and should not eat for a few months. The results were conclusive, if not fixing EVERY health problem I have, but I call it a win. In the mean time, I hadn't been going to very many new restaurants. But there are a handful now that I have been to and have not posted about yet. But will.

My personal cross to bear is that for the most part I have to avoid tomatoes. Being of Italian descent (among other things) this is particularly sucky. But it does inform where I tend to go. As does my intense need to avoid artificial sweeteners and flavors, be those HFCS or aspartame, or even MSG.

It means that my focus on restaurants has shifted a little, and I mostly focus on ones that tend towards making their own entrees from fresh ingredients and are less likely to use those sorts of short cuts. Not always, but I do try.

I go out to eat less, but I would like to think that the quality of restaurant that I'm going to is elevating as a result.

In any case. The actual review.

Tonight I biked on down to a local restaurant hidden near my local Kowalski's - First Course. I have immediately put this restaurant into the "why have I taken this LONG to find this place?" category. It is a cute french-american bistro style restaurant. The outside seating is plenty, though I went at the bright part of the evening so opted to sit inside with my book in the relatively dark interior.

I started off my evening with an Argentinian Malbec whose name I have sadly forgotten. If you haven't tried a Malbec for a red wine, you should. This is the current "hip" grape, passing by any Cab, Merlot, or Shiraz, especially for a summer red. It is slightly acidic but not harsh with the tannins. And it ends up with a full enough body but not enough to weigh you down.

As I was eating alone, I did not have any appetizers. I did note however that they had a $4 calamari tapas. Since PiC is a calamari *addict*, noting that I was certain I would at least have to come back here to try that with him.

Instead, I asked for the specials, and though they all sounded lovely I decided I wanted a entree that would challenge me. I went with the butternut squash with gorgonzola cream sauce, sweet potato strings, rainbow chard, and julienned vegetables. Understand that I *hate* blue cheese. I hate the feel, I hate the quality of the sharpness, I hate the way that it always feels out of balance with whatever else is in the meal. Gorgonzola is only one of many blue cheeses that I dislike.

And I loved my meal. Had to convince myself not to lick the plate loved my meal. The balance made the blue cheese subtle but strong enough to stand up to the other flavors of the meal, and it all danced across my tongue. It made me wish I had not snarfed the fantastic crusty bread that came as the appetizer as I would have used that to sop up more of the sauce.

To balance my meal, I had a glass of '05 Three Saints Chardonnay on the recommendation of the waiter. Chardonnay is also one of those wines that I drink occasionally but rarely enjoy. For this particular meal I thought it had enough body to compliment my meal, with the acidity cutting through some of the cream. It would be brassy if served at the wrong temperature, but here it was a lovely compliment.

To end my meal, I went with what I am required to go with if I have the option - I tried their creme brulee. With a sugar crust that was caramelized but not burnt, a rare treat in this town I have found, and an exceptionally smooth custard underneath, again I had to fight with myself not to lick the dish. The custard and caramel flavoring was especially lovely with their bold strawberry sliced on top.

I can guarantee that I will be back at this restaurant, only a few blocks from my house. I can bike to it and have a mostly lovely coast home on the way back.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Travelling: North Shore Restaurants

Fourth of July weekend, OSO, PiC, and myself went and rented a "cabin" on the North Shore. It was more like a house, but it was quiet, and ours for the weekend and for the most part we weren't bothered.

Mostly, in order to save on money as well, we cooked in the kitchen. But for one day, we drove into Grand Marais and messed around, ate at a couple of places, and generally enjoyed ourselves taking pictures.

Lunch was at Sven and Ole's pizza. Now anyone who has lived in Minnesota, and probably parts of Wisconsin and the UP as well have seen the bumper stickers for Sven and Ole's. This is the best advertising in the world for them because I remembered them, and decided that I wanted to see what was so good that people had permanently tacked these bright yellow stickers to their cars. It was well worth the attempt. I will put it in as some the better pizza I've had in Minnesota. It's not the floppy thin crust perfection that is a proper NY style pizza. But it was just a little bit bready. The quality of the sauce, cheese, and toppings (sausage and mushroom for us) all seemed to be pretty gosh durned good, dontcha know. And I'm fairly certain that should I find my way back to this cute little shore town in Minnesota that I will be having pizza here again. Also, the beers were very reasonably priced at $3.75 for a bottle in general. Though I imagine the lambics were more.

We picked up donuts at the World's Best Donuts for later because the pizza had filled us up greatly. They also turned out to be really good donuts. You have to get there early enough to get the right variety. When they run out, they run out.

We spent much of the rest of the afternoon wandering around town until it came to dinner time. Like going into an honest to god Ben Franklin store to pick up bug bite cream and conditioner.

Dinner time rolled around and we found our way to the Angry Trout. PiC is a fish fanatic in general, and had heard good things about this place from one of his friends before. We went in and found out that it was a place devoted to sustainable fishing and locavore foods. Right up our alley. The fish that they were serving were two of their typical three that come straight from Lake Superior, and we decided that even though they had other things on the menu, we needed to try their local fishes.

PiC got the grilled halibut and wild rice dish. OSO got the grilled trout and pesto pasta. And I got the fried trout and fries so I could have local fish 'n chips. Everything came with ginormous salads, and there were a bevy of salad dressings that we tried with them. The fish tasted like it had just been lifted from the water. Out of all the sides, I think we agreed that the pesto pasta was definitely the best, though they were all quite good. I was also surprised by how light the fish tasted even though it had been fried. I like the delicate touch they take with it there.

I can no longer remember PiC's beer, which was from Wisconsin, but I do know that OSO also had a Minnestalgia wine, which is local and usually fruited. I think hers was the raspberry mead. I got a glass of the Alexis Bailey Seyval Blanc. Both are on the sweeter side, but they were styles we were looking for that day and definitely enjoyed.

And we left there incredibly full. Definitely will also remember the Angry Trout for when we return to that area.