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Sweet Baby Weenies*

Oh what a wonderful Christmas I had.  I hope everyone else did too.  Even though the initial flurry of Christmas is over, I like to bask in the glow of the Christmas tree until the Epiphany (the 12th day of Christmas) and reflect on the wonderful cheer that was spread in my little world.

One of the traditions in my family is that every household hosts “Christmas Cheer.”  These little gatherings are an opportunity for everyone in the family to get together to celebrate the season and to see how each household has decorated for the holiday season.  This year there was a newcomer to the mix.  My nephew Paenney has recently moved out of his parents’ house and into one of his own.  What a lovely surprise to get an invitation to his house for some holiday cheer!  He requested a heavy appetizer from the guests in attendance.  Pot luck is always a hit.

I brought some mini reuben appetizers, my mom made queso, my dad made a salami torte, Charlotte made pickle dogs and Mexican roll-ups.

Mexican roll-ups, salami torte, crackers, and pickle dogs. Yum!

 

Queso and chips, mini reubens with rye bread, and the coup de grace…

It was a wonderful variety of food, but the coup de grace was Paenney’s appetizer…

Sweet Baby Weenies.

Sweet, sweet baby weenies.

What could be better than mini hotdogs smothered in a sweet barbecue sauce?  Nothing fancy, everything delicious.  Paenney prepared a whole crockpot full of these delicacies and luckily had enough left over to feed himself for lunch at work the next day.

I salute Paenney for taking on a Christmas Cheer gathering for his family so soon after getting his own residence.  I also salute Paenney’s roommate for putting up with the likes of us for an afternoon.  Paenney also decorated his house to welcome Santa with a tree and plenty of other wonderful decorations throughout the house.

It’s hard to believe my little nephew is on his own, but I’m delighted to see he holds onto the traditions of our family, hosting a Christmas Cheer, and serving his guests the ever popular Sweet Baby Weenies.

Thanks Paenney!

*This is what Paenney calls this delectable treat.  He loves them nearly more than life itself.

It’s not too late to serve the Sweet Baby Weenies – New Year’s Eve will be upon us soon.  Weenies are the perfect way to ring in the New Year!

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OK, I’m pretty sure you guys know what’s coming up in this post.  This time of year I’m very predictable.

IT’S MINNESOTA STATE FAIR TIME!

I know it’s not everyone’s bag, but I can’t understand why not.  For crying out loud, people come from other states just to visit our state fair.  Why?  Because it’s the best state fair in our state.

Today is the first day of the Minnesota State Fair and for the first time in a long time I’m going to attend on the first day, with my friend MaryAnn.  The first thing on my list of things to do is eating a deep fried Twinkie, if indeed they still have deep fried Twinkies, what with the whole Twinkie-going-south thing.  MaryAnn is looking forward to some deep fried pickles.  Deep fried.  It doesn’t matter what kind of food it is, as long as it’s deep fried, and maybe even on a stick.

Deep Fried Twinkies (on a stick) are to die for. I’m not even kidding about this.

So, after MaryAnn and I are done working our tedious day jobs we’re going to meet up at the fair and see the sights, eat the food, and talk some girl talk.

If you live in Minnesota, or even Iowa, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, heck, Alaska even, come and see the Minnesota State Fair.  It starts today and continues through Labor Day.  Oh what a time it is!

The Mighty Midway

For the next twelve days you might hear from me about things other than the fair, but know that my heart is at the fair.  Always.

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Bedtime Snack

There is nothing more cozy at the end of the day than the bedtime snack.  The perfect bedtime snack may be different for different people, and it’s possible that a person could be happy with any bedtime snack as long as it’s food, but the perfect bedtime snack for me has to fit certain qualifications.

1. It must be sweet. Salt before bed could cause annoying thirst after I’m in bed which might wake me from my slumber.
2. It must not make noise when I eat it. Bedtime is quiet time, the snack must be quiet too.
3. It’s best served with a good book.

Sweet dreams.

A slice of red velvet and a glass of milk.

 

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MaryAnn’s Pickles

There’s something about someone else’s cooking. Or handiwork. Or home decorating. It doesn’t really matter what it is, if someone else can do something well and you can’t do it at all you appreciate that thing so much more.

Husby made a delicious meat-thing* dinner, and what goes better with hamburger than pickles? And what better pickles are there than MaryAnn’s? She knows how to make pickles and I totally don’t, which makes me appreciate hers that much more. When I take a bite out of these crunchy wonders I know MaryAnn is the most talented cucumber pickling artist since Mr. Gedney.

Look at that savory clove of garlic at the bottom of the jar.  Yum!!!

I could probably learn how to make pickles, but why should I with MaryAnn around? Whenever she offers me a jar of these dilly delights I welcome them with open arms and a watering mouth.  As far as I’m concerned she’s the Pickle Queen and always will be.

Thanks, MaryAnn – keep ’em coming!

* Meat-Thing = a bachelor term used by Husby and Pinky (Husby’s former roommate and my now brother-in-law) for seasoned hamburger spread on a piece of bread, broiled in the oven; served open-faced.

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Dive Night is a semi-monthly adventure undertaken by me and Husby, along with our friends Ruthie and Ray. Each couple alternates choosing a restaurant, one which must come under the category of “dive.” Our definition of dive: a neighborhood gathering spot with a laid-back atmosphere and good food. We’ll find the interesting hang-outs in the Minneapolis/St Paul area. Casual attire required. A sip of beer or wine doesn’t hurt either.

If you live in St. Paul, MN or any of the surrounding areas you’ve probably heard of Mickey’s Diner.  The original is right downtown.  There’s another Mickey’s over there on West 7th away from the bustle of the city but with the same character.*  It’s called Mickey’s Diner (By Willy).  I’m not sure who Willy is.

Mickey’s is the epitome of the word “diner.”

When we arrived there was hardly anyone in the place.  One other couple, to be exact.  The staff consisted of a cook and a bus person.  The building is old and not exactly spotless, but not dirty enough to make me scared of eating there.

Classic Coca-Cola light fixtures.

I love diners with a counter like this. This is pretty much the extent of Mickey’s. The counter on one side of the aisle and small booths on the other. Quite cozy.

Mickey’s even has a bakery case. I didn’t try any of the bakery items, but they looked pretty good. Especially the muffins. I have a thing for muffins.

I thought it was pretty ironic that Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives was on the TV.

We laughed when we saw the Side Orders on the menu.  Whole pieces of meat.  As a side!  I guess it makes sense if you’re getting eggs and you want a steak with them, doesn’t it?  It seemed pretty funny to us though.  Funny ha-ah, not funny peculiar.  Well, I guess it was peculiar too, at least compared to the other places we’ve been.

Four- and eight-ounce steaks as a side.  Or how about a pork chop?

Finally, after consulting with Sam the cook we decided what we wanted.  We started out with an order of onion rings, just because we’re accustomed to getting an appetizer when we’re out for Dive Night.  The rings?  Okay.  I’m not an onion ring connoisseur, but I thought they were pretty average.

This plate of rings was shared by four of us and there were some left when we were done with our meal. Not outstanding by any means, or else we would have been fighting over the last ones.

We ordered our food and Sam the cook got to work.  I like it when you can see the cook making your food.  That’s called “transparency” in the business world.  I feel much better knowing the cook didn’t spit in my food on the off-chance he took a disliking for me.  Of course Sam was of such superior character he would never spit in the food no matter what his personal feelings.

Sam.

Ray had the most unusual meal of the bunch.  It was called One-Eye Jack and was composed of ham, cheese, and egg on toasted bread.  There was a hole cut in the bread/egg, which is what makes the “one eye.”  He got a side of hash browns with that and they looked really good.

Husby had a patty melt with a side of beans.  He said the sandwich was “fine,” but the beans were not great.  They were overdone, cooked and heated up in the microwave.

Husby’s patty melt. It looks pretty good to me – that bread is grilled to perfection.

Tomato-saucy baked beans. I don’t like baked beans anyway, so these look kind of disgusting to me. Husby didn’t like them much.

Ruthie had the Classic.  A cheeseburger with hash browns and some Mulligan stew.  I had the same thing only I got french fries with my hamburger.  The fries were pretty good.  The hamburger was too little for the bun and the cheese was pretty lame.  The menu listed three types of cheese so I asked Sam if I could have Swiss cheese.  He said they have “white” cheese.  He said, “Swiss cheese is white, but our white cheese isn’t Swiss cheese.  We only have the white cheese.”  Whatever.  It was laid lopsided on my burger so only half of it was topped with “white” cheese.

Ruthie’s Classic.  It looks like her cheese is more centered on the burger than mine was.  Those hash browns again ~ boy they look good.

The Mulligan stew was something else too.  Something not so good.  It was luke warm and the potatoes were raw and hard.  I couldn’t eat it.

Um, no.

Overall the food at Mickey’s was pretty bad.  Edible, but nothing I’d go back for.  However, there is something I would go back for.  The malt.  Oh my, what a glorious, thick, whipped cream covered malt.

My chocolate malt. The only thing that would have made this better is if it were served in an old-fashioned soda glass.

By the time we were finished with our meal there were some more people in the diner.  They all sat at the counter and no one spoke.  It was kind of creepy.  But Sam the cook was a delight even though the food he served was mediocre at best.  Seriously though, it’s totally worth a trip for the malts (shakes too).  They come in chocolate, vanilla and strawberry.  Yum!

Sam the cook.

* This review is not intended to reflect the food, service, or atmosphere of the original Mickey’s Diner in downtown St. Paul.

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Dive Night is a semi-monthly adventure undertaken by me and Husby, along with our friends Ruthie and Ray. Each couple alternates choosing a restaurant, one which must come under the category of “dive.” Our definition of dive: a neighborhood gathering spot with a laid-back atmosphere and good food. We’ll find the interesting hang-outs in the Minneapolis/St Paul area. Casual attire required. A sip of beer or wine doesn’t hurt either.

Because of all this busy-ness of summertime we haven’t been able to schedule a Dive Night in quite a while.  But, at long last, Ruthie and Ray, Husby and I were able to find an open evening and celebrate the dive once more.

Ruthie and Ray took us down to the St. Croix River, to a little town called Marine on St. Croix.  It’s an artsy community with really cool houses and a cute little main street.  On that main street stands Brookside Bar and Grill.

The Brookside has four distinct areas to drink and dine.  The bar…

…a dining area behind the bar…

Photo bomb by our waitress and another guy behind her.

…another dining area behind the first dining area…

…and the back yard/patio…

I’m not sure why no one was out on the back patio.  The bar wasn’t even set up.  Maybe they only serve out there when they have live music, which I assumed they have because there was a stage back there too.  There was also a little barnyard scene with a not-life-sized pig and cow.

Of course the Brookside gets its name from being located beside a brook.  Actually, the brook runs right under the restauarant.

There was a cool piece of art on the wall right where we were sitting in the bar.  It’s a little miniature version of the town of Marine on St. Croix.

And there you have the ambiance; moving onto the actual dining experience.

When we first arrived around 7:00 p.m. there weren’t too many people eating or sitting at the bar, yet it took at least ten minutes for someone to acknowledge that we had sat down.  Someone, not a wait person but associated with the restaurant, came up to us when she saw we didn’t have any drinks and offered us a glass of water.  Once our waitress did show up, about three minutes after the first person, our service was wonderful.

Our appetizers were pretty good. We got the bruschetta, which kind of scared me at first because it looked like there was nothing but tomatoes on it. I don’t care for tomatoes that much. But the tasty treat was something I’d definitely get again. We also got the pizza fries, which is basically a pizza crust with some delicious seasonings and cheese cut in strips, served with marinara sauce. Yum.

Ruthie had the build-your-own burger. I don’t know if I can remember everything she had on it, but I do remember gorgonzola cheese, grilled onion, and avocado. She also ordered onion rings, which she described as “doughy.” However, Ray disagreed when he sampled one. Ruthie was happy with her meal.

Ray had the Hunters’ Extreme burger. It’s a half-pound burger stuffed with cheese, bacon, and caramelized onions. This photo doesn’t do justice to the fries – they were the skinniest fries I’ve ever seen! Ray was happy with his meal too.

Husby had the turkey avocado sandwich with hash browns. He was disappointed that “avocado” actually meant guacamole. It was good, he said, but he would have liked a slice of avocado and thought that’s what he would get when he ordered.  He ate three-quarters of his potatoes but didn’t finish because they were a little too greasy. Despite his specific complaints he enjoyed the meal and experience as a whole.

There are some more of those skinny fries. They were delicious with my Brookside Halfer. You are not going to believe this – the halfer is made with equal parts of fresh ground chuck and fresh ground…BACON. How absolutely ingenious is that?! I topped my burger with some provolone cheese.

The Brookside serves burgers, obviously, pizza, a couple of dinner items, and a nice variety of sandwiches.  They also have a kids’ menu.

Having dinner and drinks in Marine on St. Croix at the Brookside Bar & Grill turned out to be a great summertime retreat.  When it comes to their hours of operation, I think they’re kind of flexible.

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Dive Night is a semi-monthly adventure undertaken by me and Husby, along with our friends Ruthie and Ray. Each couple alternates choosing a restaurant, one which must come under the category of “dive.” Our definition of dive: a neighborhood gathering spot with a laid-back atmosphere and good food. We’ll find the interesting hang-outs in the Minneapolis/St Paul area. Casual attire required. A sip of beer or wine doesn’t hurt either.

It’s been a long time since the last Dive Night.  I guess the four of us are getting busier, so we get together when we can.  The dive was the choice of Husby and me, which took me back to my old neighborhood of over twenty years ago.  I spent some time at this place during my single days as it was only a half block away from my apartment, and when Husby and I were dating we’d stop by for a bite once in a while.  We thought it would be a good place to share with Ruthie and Ray, and really fun for me to see what’s happened to the establishment since I’ve been there last.  I present to you, Goby’s.

Goby’s has a new facade since I was there last, but the interior was pretty much the same as it was oh so many years ago.  One thing I noticed right away that hadn’t changed at all ~ one of the regulars.  A little grayer, but it was the same guy.  We were there around 6:30 on a Friday evening and the crowd was more mature, like us.  I have no idea what kind of clientele they have after the dinner hour.

A view from the front door. See that wait person toward the center of the picture? The one with the short shorts? She also had a low-cut top that was very filled out. Besides being very bodacious she was also a very good server. I’m sure the boys tipped her well. I would have too ~ she was cheerful and served our meals perfectly.

Here’s a picture of the game room. It’s located at the back of the bar/restaurant. Lots of games to choose from. Lots. There’s also a juke box that holds lots of your old-time favorites.

Goby’s is a clean place to spend an evening eating, playing, and drinking.  Husby and Ray both got a Stella Artois (if I drank beer that’s what I’d drink because it’s just so classy) but Ray didn’t think the Stella was anything spectacular.  Husby still enjoys it quite a bit.  Ruthie and I got our typical glass of wine.  And now, on with the food.  Please forgive the blurry photos.  I’m still learning how to take pictures in a dark room.

For appetizers we got a basket of deep-fried pickles (Ruthie’s favorites) and deep-fried garlic mushrooms. Both were served with a ranch dipping sauce. The mushrooms were especially good with that garlic-y flavor.

Ruthie ordered a steak sandwich with mushrooms and swiss cheese. She ordered the steak rare and that’s exactly what she got. It looked delicious. She also got a side of onion rings which looked fantastic.

Ray got a hickory burger with bacon, cheese, and a hickory barbecue sauce. He also got a big pile of fries. The buns Goby’s uses for their burgers are my favorite. They’re toasted, but are lofty and kind of squishy. I love them.

Husby had the buffalo chicken sandwich. He got it with chips, which come standard with a burger/sandwich. The chicken was moist and the buffalo sauce was just the right temperature, spicy-wise.

I got the ‘shroom burger. It was a favorite of mine a long time ago and is still as good as ever. Goby’s uses fresh mushrooms and plenty of cheese. I got a side of crinkle fries and seasoned sour cream. The sour cream was a little sweeter than I expected. It tasted more like Thousand Island dressing, but was still tasty.

The burgers are eight ounces but you can also get them as twelve ouncers.  Twelve?!  I love to eat but a burger that big would put me in a food coma for a week.  But it’s available for those with extra huge appetites.

One thing that might turn some people off is the outdoor smoking.  Smokers stand close to the door, and the day we were there the door was open, so the smoke wafted in a bit.  If that bothers you, you might want to sit toward the back of the room away from the door.

All in all, Goby’s is every bit as good as I remembered it being.  It’s a bar, there’s no doubt about that, but the food they serve is well-made and served hot out of the kitchen and our service was considerate, friendly and accurate, not to mention a perfect hottie.

Whether you go to Goby’s for an after-work cocktail, a very reasonably priced and delicious meal, or to shoot a game of pool or two, you’re sure to have a good experience.  If you doubt it, just ask the twenty-five-year veteran Goby’s patron sitting at the end of the bar.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this very special Dive Night, which will be posted later this week. 

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