Getting a Little La Fresca

A really great restaurant can transport you somewhere else and that’s just what happened when we went to La Fresca for dinner. Located in south Minneapolis, this is the newest restaurant from chef Hector Ruiz and is described as “nouveau Mexican cuisine.” What exactly does that mean? Well, our server Boris could be heard telling tables throughout the room (ours included), “It’s Mexican food with a French twist.”

While we sat in the small, cheery dining room, Boris guided us through a delicious assortment of dishes. And the man knew exactly what he was talking about. He told us that the guacamole was best in the city and the verdict after my first bite? It was. It’s not my finest moment, but I tried subtly moving it closer to my side of the table with the hope The Husband would forget about it so I wouldn’t have to share:

GUACAMOLE: Fresh avocados, red onion, cilantro, vine ripe tomatoes, roasted tomatillo sauce, lime, citron oil, sea salt, cilantro-chile de arbol oil (vegetarian)
GUACAMOLE: Fresh avocados, red onion, cilantro, vine ripe tomatoes, roasted tomatillo sauce, lime, citron oil, sea salt, cilantro-chile de arbol oil (vegetarian)

There were no vegetarian options on the “terceros” section of the menu, but there were a few options in the “primeros” (small plates) and “secondaros” (salads). If every corn tortilla tasted like the homemade “corn tortilla boat” in their sopes, that would be all I ate. Far from the thin, dry store-bought corn tortilla, these were moist and tender:

sopes
SOPES: Homemade corn tortilla boat, roasted poblano peppers, onion confit, crema casera, frijoles colados (vegetarian)

Boris recommended the Frida salad, and it was as light and fresh as he said it would be. I was surprised to find in sprinkled with sea salt, even more surprised that I liked it. One of my favorite aspects of this salad was that the honey-chipotle chevre fondue was on the bottom. It really complimented the salad, not overwhelming it or adding heaviness:

salad

FRIDA: Red wine braised pears, roasted beets, arugula, baby spinach, toasted almond, fennel, apple, honey-chipotle chevre fondue (vegetarian)

The Husband was having problems making up his mind but Boris sold him on the Carne Asada. I watched him take his first bite and saw his eyes roll in what I can only describe as ecstasy:

carnas
CARNE ASADA: Serrano pepper marinated flank steak, beans borrachos, cambray onion confit, asparagus, chorizo, fried shallots (medium rare)

I’m disappointed that we were both too full to try dessert but look forward to going back. If you need to transport yourself somewhere else for an evening, consider a little nouveau Mexican. Just make sure to save room for dessert and let me know how it is!

Down by The River

The beautiful weather had us back at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge over the weekend. With 11,012 acres to explore, we expect to spend a lot of time there in the months to come. I was surprised to learn that this is one of only four American national wildlife refuges in an urban area. It’s also the largest, with eight protected areas over 34 miles along the Minnesota River. It’s amazing to have spaces like this only 10 minutes from our house in Minneapolis.

This raised footbridge takes you to a viewing platform on the Minnesota River:foot bridge

We saw our first Cedar Waxwings while we were out:
waxwings

And this little bird seemed to have an entire stretch of the river to himself. We guessed that it was an Eastern Phoebe. Can anyone confirm?
bird

And I couldn’t resist the cattails:
cattails

The national wildlife refuge is managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the state recreation area by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Everything But the Kitchen Sink

It’s all about having a great recipe. Unfortunately, I don’t have one for you.

During an ideal week, I like to plan out my menus. On a typical Sunday before we go to the grocery store, I make a list of dinners we’ll have, the groceries that we’ll need, and then we hit the store to do our shopping. This is a great help for those days when you stagger in from work with eyes crossed and can’t making another decision – just consult the list! When that typical Sunday doesn’t happen, I enter into a world of improvisation and who knows what you might end up eating. That brings us to this delightful soup that I whipped up for myself the other night:
Image

A more apt title for this blog post would be “Everything But the Kitchen Sink (Or Whatever You Have On Hand),” but that felt a bit longwinded.

There was no menu planning or trip to the store this week, and I was proud of myself for digging through the pantry for supplies instead of calling for pizza. Here’s what I threw in the pot:

1 box of vegetable stock
Some frozen chard
Some frozen peas
Diced (sort of) fresh celery
Diced fresh carrots
One sliced up shallot
Minced garlic
The rest of a box of curly pasta

I seasoned with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and dried oregano; when the pasta was cooked, I added a can of drained and rinsed cannellini beans.

VOILA, almost instant dinner – faster than pizza delivery anyway!

I encourage you all to fearlessly tackle your pantry and see what you come up with. Who knows, you might like it! Worst case scenario? You throw it out and call for pizza.