Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Seidelcamp 2009

This past weekend was the fifth annual Seidelcamp down at Chimney Rock Campground near Decorah, Iowa. It was a much smaller group this year, with just 16 or so people (compared with last year's 28). It was nice to have a smaller group, though, as it felt more cohesive. Also, each food group was responsible for only one meal, which was a treat.

Josh and I got there around 7 Friday night, set up our tent and hung out at the fire with everyone else. Dave's food group had made pulled pork sandwiches and pasta salad. Had a few cocktails but went to bed reasonably early.

We were the first ones up Saturday morning so we got the fire going and cleaned all the beer cans up from around the fire pit area. Jim and Bethany's group made breakfast of biscuits and gravy. I had absolute faith the sky would clear off for a sunny day of canoeing, but that never happened! I wore sweat pants and a fleece jacket on the river. Other than that, it was warm enough, if not sunny, and thankfully nobody tipped their canoes.

Jim let me putter around in his kayak for a while, and I think I will go that route next year. It's a lot less work, more fun and you can get yourself out of tight spots a lot easier.

Saturday night our group made burgers, brats and hot dogs. Josh manned the grill and I didn't do much as most of my work had been done in advance – potato salad, beans and bars. Another fun night of sitting around the fire with a group of really good people.

Sunday morning Chuck and Betsy's groups made pancakes and sausage, and then we packed up and headed out. At least it didn't rain this year, but sure am hoping for some sun next year!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Visit with Josh's parents

Josh's parents got into town about 4 Friday afternoon. We hung around the house until 7:30 or so, and then headed over to The Strip Club in Saint Paul. We got there about half an hour before our reservation, and the place was very crowded and noisy. Luckily, we were able to grab four chairs at the bar so the wait was tolerable. Fay ordered an appletini that was more cider than pucker; it would have been nice if they had explained it was not your standard appletini. However, the service was very good and attentive.

For apps we ordered the poutine, and what I would call an upscale version of the corn dog, which was Thousand Hills sausage with corn breading and bacon ketchup. Fay and I ordered the "Love you long time" New York strip, Josh ordered the "Shrimp Trampi" strip and Doug ordered Swedish meatballs with mashed potatoes and lingonberry sauce, which he said were delicious. As good as the steaks at The Strip Club are, it might be impossible to beat their carrots. Carrots come on the side of every steak and I actually made a point of finishing my carrots over the steak - that's how good they are! The four of us were stuffed but still decided to share a dessert called the candy bar that was quite good.

Saturday morning we got up and I made breakfast, with Josh giving me a hard time about cooking the entire time. I had made a hash brown casserole thing since Josh doesn't like eggs, but it still got called "crap". It will be a sad day for him when I stop cooking entirely! Also made honey wheat pancakes (out of a box) that came out pretty well on the griddle Fuzzy gave me a while back. May have to dig that out more often.

First stop was the Japanese Garden at Normandale CC, which is such a great, serene little place. We then headed up to Chisago City to Winehaven, a family-owned winery that Josh and I had never been to. They were having a festival of sorts to introduce their latest batch of raspberry wine. The wine tasting was free, and there were maybe eight fruit wines, six whites and six reds to taste. We tasted pretty much all of it, though later I saw a note that said to limit your tastings to six. Oops. Fay and Doug picked up a couple of bottles they liked; Josh and I didn't purchase any.

We also did the tour. Our tour guide was a Mr. Peterson, who owns the farm/vineyard. He has a great Minnesota accent and you could tell he was really invested in his business. It was fun to listen to him talk.

We then drove down to Stillwater to have lunch at Smalley's Caribbean BBQ. Overall, a disappointment. The apps were good – corn fritters and sweet potato fries – and I had a great rum punch, but I thought the food was blah at best. My pulled pork sandwich hardly had any sauce on it at all, and our server didn’t stop back to see if we needed anything. No one else was overly flipped about their food, either. Josh did have a "Walk the Plank" rum flight, two of three of which were very nasty in my book. On the plus side, we did have a great table outside in the sun, but I can't say I would recommend ever going back there. Which is unfortunate, because it is co-owned by Tim McKee, who also owns La Belle Vie, which is absolutely fabulous. I realize they are very different types of restaurants, but you think the quality would come through on both.

Next stop was St. Croix Vineyard. Tastings were $5/each and our pourer was a young kid named Chris, who was nonetheless very knowledgeable. I didn't think their wines were as good this time as they have been other years, but I still liked the vignole and the raspberry dessert wines the best. But, we didn’t buy any. With the 30 bottles of rioja we have right now, it is hard to justify buying another bottle of wine that we have no room for.

Next stop was home and a quick nap. Josh and I meant to cook burgers on the grill, but we were all too stuffed. We were in bed by 10 and Josh's parents left first thing in the morning. All in all, a nice – if too short – visit.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

July 4th Weekend

Thursday was my friend Dee's wedding. I was supposed to be her personal attendant, but since I recently started a new job I wasn't able to get the time off work. Fortunately, she managed just fine on her own.

The wedding was at the Great Hall in downtown Saint Paul. She and Dan both looked stunning, and it was a beautiful venue. As a surprise, they had a step team/drum corps perform. It was fantastic in every way! The food was catered by The Strip Club, so the beef satays were delicious, Dan made a garlic yogurt dip, there were caprese salads on sticks, a watermelon soup and some other goodies. Instead of cake they went with traditional Lebanese and Italian desserts made by their respective aunts. Another fun thing was the photobooth where you could keep a copy of the shots and the other half of the strip was pasted into a guest book that you could sign for the couple. Many of the photos turned out very funny.

Friday we puttered around the house in the morning, then went to Dee and Dan's Open House at her brother Nick's condo around 4. He's got a nice place in a good location. Josh and I were busy mentally "remodeling" the party room into our new residence.

Next up was Taste of Minnesota, which Josh had never been to. It's your basic outdoor festival with music and food on a stick. Whitesnake played at 6:30 and Judas Priest at 8:30. Whitesnake wasn't that good and David Coverdale clearly thinks he is way hotter than he actually is. Judas Priest was actually much better, even though I only knew three of their songs. We watched the fireworks and then headed home.


Saturday we ran some errands and then decided to have lunch at Pairings Food & Wine in Minnetonka, which is fortunately just 5 miles from our house. What a great place! When you enter, to the left is a gourmet-style lunch area and to the right is a wine shop. You can purchase a bottle of wine at the shop and then take it over and crack it open for lunch. We picked up a bottle of pink moscato that was quite yummy! Jeff, the wine seller, was very helpful and friendly.

For lunch I had a duck confit pizza, which had duck, goat cheese, butternut squash, dried cherries and arugula. Unbelievably good! Josh had a Cuban pork panini or similar. After lunch we popped back into the wine shop and wandered around a bit; I accidentally bought four bottles of wine.

Later that afternoon we went to see "Public Enemies" at Southdale. My overall reaction is "ehh." Most of the shots were zoomed in far too close for my taste, and the camera was shaky a lot. I realize this was intentional, but I found it distracting.

On Sunday we decided to take the motorcycle out for a ride and I suggested heading down to Cannon Falls to check out the Cannon River Winery. What a cute little spot! Our wine pourer knew even less about wine than we do, but she was friendly and chatty and we had a nice time. We tasted easily a dozen or so wines, from whites to roses, reds to a port. I particularly liked one called GoGo Red, which was fruity like sangria.

The ride down was nice as well. It was a beautiful day and getting off the main road reminds you what a truly lovely state we live in.