Monday, January 26, 2009

Jay's Cafe Uses the Term Cafe Lightly

NOW CLOSED - wamp, wamp

Jay's Cafe
791 Raymond Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55114

Wow, so what can I say about Jay's? Nothing good, that's for sure. Everything about this experience was awful. I would never and will never recommend this place to anyone. The biggest disappointment for me was the fact that I had really high hopes for this place. I even brought my camera to document this time.

This cafe way trying really hard to be cute and trendy. I was sort of feeling it at first (or at least trying to), but then the waitress came out and it was the beginning of the end. All I have to say is - if you're the only waitress in a small place like Jay's you should know how to do your job better. I've seen waitresses with twenty tables in a packed sports bar give better service than this fruity pie did. And I'd like to note, that before my cushy office job found me, I was waiting tables so I know what I'm talking about. That and I was damned good at my job...toot, toot.

The waitress proceeded to check our IDs for the mimosas we had ordered and as I fumbled through my huge purse (as I usually do) she said I could just tell her if I was 21 or not. I'm not sure if it was because she was getting annoyed with me having a hard time finding my ID or if she really just didn't give a fuck. I don't look old enough to not have my ID checked. And I had to suffer through official training to learn how to check ID (for a bartending job) so take it seriously. She followed that with "it's not like you're going to get wasted or anything". Um...what if we were? A little hint: don't use the word wasted unless talking to your friends, definitely don't say that to customers.

So...after that wonderful welcome she returned with our mimosas. They had adorable little strawberry garnishes! How CUTE! Except mine was moldy. We placed our orders and went on with it. It took a long time considering what we ordered and what ended up on our table. All the food was cold (of course it took so long, you had to let it get to room temp, thanks!), bland, and not worth the price. Actually, I take that back, Mr. B had a decent breakfast, but given the rest of our experience we will not be returning.

Bottomless mimosas $5.00 - great, right? In order for any booze drink or beer to be bottomless at Jay's you can't look like you weigh 90 pounds. Otherwise the waitress will cut you off when she sees fit. I guess I was a 90 pounder, because I had only 2 before she stopped coming back to our table to check on us...guess 2 was the limit.

Biscuits & Gravy Special $TOO MUCH (mine...barf)
There was only one biscuit to speak of, it was cut in half, the bottom was burnt, the whole thing was cold, the gravy was sweet and floury and cold, the pork was dry and had too much sage in it...what else...oh yeah, the eggs made me not want to eat eggs for awhile. Cold, rubbery, dry. The best thing on this plate was the pineapple garnish...AND I DON'T EVEN LIKE PINEAPPLE!

The picture does it more justice than it deserves.

Cheese & Herb Omlet $$$WAY TOO MUCH (For the Sister)
Once again, it was cold. There were no herbs...I guess my sister found a chive and a piece of parsley, but that was it. There was a small amount of brie inside, but it had already began to harded up again because it was sitting around in the cold for so long. My sister agreed that she wasn't going to be able to eat eggs for awhile after that experience. The breakfast potatoes were decent, but also cold.

Breakfast Pastry $NOT WORTH IT (Mr. B's)
The only thing that was warm. The inside was filled with red bell peppers, melted cheese, and some sort of meat. The outside was golden brown and flakey. Served with seasoned breakfast potatoes and a couple pieces of fruit. Mr. B approved, but it didn't save the breakfast.

# of People: 4
Reservations: Had none, didn't need to, no one was there.
Day/Time of Visit: Sunday, January 25th - 8:00am
Will I be back: Only if they close and someone else moves there.
YAYs!: My review of Jay's proves that I'm not a softy. Everything else was horrible.
Nays: See all reasons above. Bad service, bad food, bad restaurant.
Notes: If you're in that neck of the woods go next door to Keys.

- an angry B.W.

In Jay's defense some people do like it (says Urbanspoon)
Jay's Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Peninsula, are you a land mass surrounded on 3 sides by water? or a really great local eating establishment?

Peninsula Malaysian Cuisine
2608 Nicollet Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55408

If you live in Minneapolis you've been to Eat Street or at least driven down it, but if you have not seized the opportunity to stop I suggest your first stop be Peninsula. With its grand opening less than three years in the past Peninsula has already made a name for itself. Great food, a huge menu, drinks, decor, and open kitchen...oh! and I noticed they got their liquor license (for actual liquor not just wine and beer), woo hoo!

Roti Canai $3.95
According to the menu this is an all time Malaysian favorite. It is a large folded Indian style pancake. Crispy edges, soft middle. Enough to share. Served with a spicy curry chicken and potato dipping sauce. The pancake starts as a small round of dough which is then stretched and fried on hot griddle. Great to share between 2 or 3 people.

Pasembur $7.95
Don't let the "hot and spicy" warning scare you off. The dish is not all that hot, but it has a lot of flavor. Fried shimp pancakes, tofu and sliced hard boiled eggs sit on top of a salad which consists of shredded cucumber, jicama and bean sprouts. The dish is then covered with a sweet and spicy tomato based sauce. The pancakes and vegetable salad are crispy, the tofu and eggs are soft and the sauce is creamy. There are a lot of textural elements and layers of flavor.

Seafood Lemon Grass (Tom Yum) soup $8.95 (For the Sister)
Shrimp, squid (although Sharon opt for no squid), scallops and vegetables in a spicy and sour chicken broth. This is a huge portion and definitely could be shared. The broth is very mild, a little seafoody flavor, but it does have a spicy kick at the end so be careful. I love seafood and straw mushrooms (one of the veg in this soup) so I thought it was great. Very light, but still filling and a good meal.

Beef Brisket Curry Noodle Soup $7.95 (Mine)
Tender beef brisket stewed in a spicy coconut curry served over egg noodles and bean sprouts. Not too spicy, but really flavorful. Sweet from the coconut milk and savory from the beef. Don't be expecting something lean here. The beef is tender and they leave the fatty skin on. The curry is thick and creamy and is served in a huge bowl. This could definitely be shared. I would have liked it to be more spicy.

Fried Rice Noodles with Salted Fish $10.95 (For the Mum)
For the noodle lover. Thin rice noodle stir-fried with salted fish, chicken, shrimp, bean sprouts, eggs and green onions. If you're on a low sodium diet you might want to be careful with this one. The salty taste is not overpowering, but there is definitely some salt going on in this dish. My Mom said she felt a little puffy the last time she had this, but it was so good she had to do it again. I would define this dish as a comfort food, very satisfying.

Indian Mee Goreng $8.95 (For the Dad)
The menu says thing is a Indian style stir-fry that includes yellow noodles with tofu, potatoes, shrimp and bean sprouts. It is tossed with a spicy squid sauce and topped with crushed peanuts. Again, a great noodle-comfort dish, but this one is a little different. Although the noodles are 'yellow' they won't look that way when you get the dish. Because of the squid sauce this color of this dish is a deep brown, almost black color. The flavor is unique, sweet, bitter, and spicy. If you enjoy noodles, but are a little more adventurous try the Indian Mee Goreng.

Malaysian Lo Mee $8.95 (Mr. B)
Fresh egg noodles tossed with a house soy sauce. Served with stir-fried chicken, mushroom, and other vegetables. Although delicious, I would have gone with something a little more adventurous. This is like a lomein, but not like food court brand so it's still a step up. The noodles are similar to ramen, the sauce is dark and thin, but it has a good flavor. If you like simple noodle dishes this would work for you.

# of People: 5
Reservations: No, we didn't make reservations, but you can! They have a large dining area, but on a weekend evening it might not hurt.
Day/Time of Visit: Monday, January 19th - 11:30am
Will I be back: Yes! What I have tried has been great and I have yet to tackle their huge menu. I will always go back for their chicken and potato curry.
YAYs!: Wide variety on their menu. Good portion size and reasonable prices. Fun atmosphere with the open kitchen.
Nays: Parking can sometime be difficult. Also, if you want something spicy ask for it that way, sometimes I think they might tone it down. Also, the last time I was there I had a bubble tea and the tapioca pearls were not cooked enough, kind of crunchy so I probably won't do that again.
Notes: There is a small free parking lot in the back otherwise during the dinner hours there is a free lot across the street.


Friday, January 16, 2009

Dear Sushi, Get in my Face

Fuji Ya
600 W Lake Street
Minneapolis, MN 55408

Fuji Ya on Urbanspoon

The Sushi craze has hit the Midwest hard over recent years. Before I moved from Iowa back to Minneapolis I even noticed a sushi/japanese steak house going up on the outskirts of Ames (I believe it has closed now...*cough*). In Minneapolis alone I know of a least 10 Asian/Japanese places that feature sushi only 10-15 minutes from where I live now. However, Fuji Ya was Minnesota's first Japanese restaurant (since 1959!). Fuji Ya has tons to offer even if you're not a huge raw fish fan (although I am). I went for a visit yesterday and it was great as usual.

Fuji Ya is located near the corner of Lyndale & Lake (LynLake for you Uptowners). This is a wonderful little corner for good food. And during the warmer months its an easy walk from anywhere in uptown.

There is a dining area which includes "authentic" Japanese seating on the floor in a quite private room and of course regular good ol' table seating. There is also a regular bar which allows you to dine from the regular and HH menus as well and a sushi bar where the chefs prepare your sushi right in front of you. During HH time you must sit on the bar side to get the good prices, and by the way, the HH there is great! During the spring and summer there is also a small semi-enclosed patio located on the parking lot side.

Speaking of parking...There is a large pay lot right next to Fuji Ya. It's only $1 per hour, so if you can't find free street parking this is the way to go. Make sure you bring some singles for the ticket machine and your lady of the night...Just kidding about the last part, but you do need cash for the parking lot.

Here's a little amateur sushi speak:
Nori is toasted dried seaweed
Roll means it has the fish, vegetables, or whatever rolled up with rice in nori via a sushi mat (generally made out of bamboo)
Hand Roll means the fish, vegetables, or whatever are rolled by hand with rice usually into a cone like shape
Maki is a smaller version of a roll usually consisting of only one kind of fish or vegetable in the middle (they are much smaller than a roll)
Nigiri is the style of sushi where a single piece of fish is placed on top of a small portion of rice
Sashimi is just the raw fish usually served in 3 pieces per order at Fuji Ya

Also, it is perfectly okay to use your hands (you'll get a fresh hot towel at the beginning of the meal to clean your hands). When eating sushi it is customary to eat the whole piece all at once.

If you're wondering about things on the menu just ask!

Edamame $5.25 (regular price)
Young soy beans boiled in the shell. They call it authentic Japanese "bar food". Seasoned with salt and served steaming. It's hard to tell who will like edamame and who won't. If you're a vegetable person you will probably enjoy. Although to be honest the soy beans remind me a little of lima beans with a less mushy texture. Don't let this throw you, try them out!

Gyoza $6.25 (regular price)
6 pieces of pork potstickers, steamed, then pan fried. Served with soy based dipping sauce. When I've ordered these from the HH menu they come fried and there are only 4. Still delicious and some of you may like the fried ones better. The filling is pork, green onion, and other seasonings.

I also recommend the Tuna Takati.

Sashimi Teishoku $19.25 (Chris' Dinner...)
This sashimi dinner consists of 5 varieties of fish (chef's choice, aka you don't get to pick) with miso soup and rice. Each variety includes 3 pieces of fish, so you get 15 pieces total. Chris got salmon, red snapper, octopus, ahi tuna, and hamachi (yellowtail). It was a beautiful presentation and a great amount of food for the price. You might think you wouldn't be able to fill up on raw fish, but think again. The fish was clean and fresh and the octopus had just the right texture.

Spicy Tuna Roll $6.95 (More of Chris' Dinner)
4 pieces of tuna marinated in spicy mayo sauce and rolled together with lettuce, kaiware sprouts (also know as Daikon sprouts like the radish), & gobo (a slender root vegetable similar to a carrot in taste and texture) with a nori (toasted seaweed) outside. This one has a bit of a kick, but really flavorful. Also, if you aren't a sashimi master yet specialty rolls are a good way to start out.

A little side note: Sushi is wonderful for many reasons, but it's great to try with a big group. Order lots, order a variety, and try it all!

Mr. B and I decided to pick a few and share...

Dynamite Roll $7.00
4 pieces of diced yellowtail seasoned with Tai chili pepper and a spicy chili bean sauce. The texture here is almost creamy. There is a lot of heat, so be careful. The yellowtail is rolled up with lettuce, kaiware sprouts and cucumber sticks. Great flavor and texture, no need for sauce or wasabi here. The pieces are big and have a beautiful presentation.

Toro Sashimi $7.95 (Market price varies)
My sister knows that I rave about this fish all the time. I first tried Toro at Miyabi 9 in the East Village of Des Moines, and I haven't got over it since. I will warn those of you who aren't completely in love with raw fish like I am - THIS IS RAW FISH. However, if your palate has become more accustomed to the true joys of sushi, this is a must have. The texture is smooth and creamy and the flavor is refreshing. The favor is bold, but at the same time does not have a hint of fishy-ness or ocean for that matter. I think if a Wagyu cow and a million dollar tuna had a baby Toro would be its name.

What I learned About - Toro:
Toro is a particular cut of the Blue Fin Tuna, the fatty belly to be more specific. Although Toro is technically in reference to the fatty belly part, true Toro comes only from the Blue Fin Tuna. Interesting fact there. The Toro we had at Fuji Ya was Big Eye Toro, which is perfectly acceptable, but according to, not true Toro (but still F-ing good). Some sushi restaurants also use the belly of the Yellow Fin for their Toro.

The grade of the Toro is based on the marbling (the fat content and pattern) of the meat. Marbling is more commonly used to grade beef. The part of the Toro closest to the head is the most expensive and valuable and as you move down the belly closer to the tail the grade decreases as does the marbling.

Negi White Toro Maki $4.75
The less expensive, less oily cousin of the Toro, but still very delicious. This Maki is filled with white toro and scallions. I opt for just the fish and no scallions just because I love fish so much, but with scallions is good also. This is a good choice because the fish is very mild, the pieces are small (bad for me, but good for new sushi explorers) and it is not too expensive. You get 6 pieces when you order Maki so everyone can try.

Tekka Maki $4.75
Tekka (red tuna meat, also known as Akami) Maki is also good for the same reasons listed above. I would say that Tekka is a little less firm than the White Toro and has a more oceanic taste. Still refreshing and good for beginners or people like me who like lot and lots of little sushi rolls.

Kampyo Maki $4.25
Kampyo is marinated Calabash (Bottle Gourd) gourd. I will admit that I was a little adverse to this, me and gourds don't usually get along, who knows why. I'll do zucchini and maybe the occasional butternut, but you probably won't see me at a grocery store buying a gourd under my own will. Did I mention I don't like the gourds? But being the wannabe foodie that I am (that and not wanting to be outdone by Mr. B) I decided to try. Great surprise, the gourd was good! It wasn't mushy (which is what I expected...damn you gourds just rename yourself baby food and get on with your day) and the marinate gave it a sweet and salty favor. I'm not sure what they marinate the gourd in, but I assume the base is soy sauce. Also, if you're expecting a yellow and orange gourd colored center's dark brown, almost a deep purple. I tried it, now you have to!

With 4 Sapporro ($8.00 for a 22oz.) that comes to a grand total of...over a hundred something with tax and tip. You could definitely go more thrifty (especially if you catch their happy hour), but considering what we got it was well worth it...and we may have ate enough for 6 people. When it comes to sushi I say go big or go home, eat up or shut up, be aggressive...'B', 'E'...aggressive...

# of People: 3
Reservations: We didn't have any and it was actually too busy for us to get into the bar and make it for HH. This was the only time this has ever happened. Yes you can make reservations, but I believe it's only for the dining and private rooms.
Day/Time of Visit: Thursday, January 15th - 6:15pm
Will I be back: Yeah, it's reasonably priced, close by, pretty good sushi.
YAYs!: HH is great, there is a nice atmosphere, good staff, good variety on the menu.
Nays: Not opened Monday, no waiting area in front. Otherwise its awesome.
Notes: Fuji Ya is not opened on Mondays!
There is also a second location in St. Paul at 465 Wabasha Street. You cannot make reservations at the St. Paul location.

HH is 5-7pm Tuesday-Thursday and 8-10pm Sunday. Sushi ranges from $2.95 to $6.95 on the HH menu, and $3.00 bottles (not the big guy) of Sapporro, yay!


Wednesday, January 7, 2009


This is not diet friendly so beware. I love pasta and all things pasta. This recipe is pretty basic, but I put all of my favorite things into it!

To perform this task successfully:
1 medium skillet
1 spatula
1 large pot
1 large baking dish
1 medium mixing bowl
1 spoon to mix stuff in the mixing bowl

For middle #1:
1 lb. ground pork sausage (I recommend spicy italian sausage...anyone notice the price of pork go up? wtf)
1 can tomato sauce (I just use hunts)
1 package mushrooms (you can use canned if you want, but my personal favorite are fresh baby bellas)
1 clove garlic diced
ground black pepper

For middle #2:
1 package (approx. 1.5 cups) frozen spinach
15 oz. (one small container) ricotta cheese
15 oz. cottage cheese
7 0z. (one package) shredded mozzarella
2 eggs
ground black pepper

1. Fill your large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add lasagna noodles and cook for about 10 minutes until they are no longer stiff. Make sure not to overcook because they will get another chance to cook some more in the oven.

2. Strain and rinse in cool water to stop the cooking. Set aside.

3. Prep your meat sauce by adding the ground pork to the medium skillet. Brown the meat, reduce the heat and add the mushrooms. If you are using canned mushrooms you can add the tomato sauce right away, if you are using fresh mushrooms I would let them cook down a little until they become soft and darker in color.

4. Add the tomato sauce, garlic, and black pepper. Warm through. If you like a little extra spice add a few red pepper flakes to the sauce.

5. Defrost spinach. An easy way to do this is to set the block in warm water. Squeeze out any extra water either with your hands or use a salad spinner.

6. For the cheese mixture simply combine all ingredients (leave about a cup of mozzarella out for the top) in your medium mixing bowl and add spinach.

7. Now that you have all of the lasagna elements spead a little red sauce in the bottom (this prevents sticking) or you can use a non-stick spray. Add a single layer of lasagna noodles (about 3) so that it covers the red sauce. Add more red sauce, another layer of noodles, a layer of the cheese mixutre and repeat until the pan is full.

8. Heat up your oven to 375 degrees. Cover the top of the lasagna pan with tin foil and bake for about 30 minutes. You may want to put a cookie sheet under the lasagna pan just incase it bakes over (saves you some clean up if there's a spill). Check after the 30 minutes for doneness. You want to make sure the cheese is melty and the edges are browning. All ovens are different, so if you feel it needs a little more time leave it in.

9. Remove the tin foil and top with remaining shredded mozzarella chesse.

10. Return uncovered pan to oven for about 10-15 more minutes or until cheese is completely melted.

Once the lasagna is done take it out of the oven and let it rest for about 10-15 minutes. Cut into squares and enjoy!


Friday, January 2, 2009

French Toast

Okay, so this seems like sort of a dummy recipe to me, but maybe someone out there will find it helpful. I know that Mr. B couldn't make this...then again he has had trouble making instant oatmeal before.

To perform this cooking task successfully:
1 large non-stick skillet or use a griddle if you have it
1 medium shallow banking dish (make sure a slice of bread can lie flat in it)
1 small mixing bowl
1 whisk or fork
Tbsp and tsp measuring spoons

For the eaty part:
1 loaf french bread sliced thick (the bread can really make all the difference)
4 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
Butter, maple syrup and/or powdered sugar

Combine eggs, milk, vanilla and cinnamon. Whisk together. You may want to add some cinnamon now and some later because it tends to float up to the top and get stuck on just the first few pieces. Pour the mixture into the shallow baking pan. Take each piece of toast and dip each side into the egg mixture. Allow the excess to drip off and place into medium hot skillet. Allow to cook on each side for about a minute or until golden brown. Repeat until egg mixture is gone. Plate and add butter and powdered sugar.

A little side note: Leaving the toast in the egg mixture longer will make the toast soggy. If you like you toast a little mushy then by all means leave it in there. However, I think drenching the toast in butter and maple syrup after it's been in the skillet, but before you serve it is a better choice.


Spicy Green Beans

I am addicted to soy sauce so I just made this recipe up to serve as a side with asian dishes. Also goes well with steak!

To perform this cooking task successfully:
1 medium skillet
1 mixing spoon (whatever you use to stir stuff in your skillet)
1 small mixing bowl (this is just to combine the sauce ingredient, I sometimes just use a tupperware when none of my dishes are clean!)
Tbsp and tsp measuring spoons
1 knife

For the beany goodness:
1 package frozen green beans (I use frozen because it's quicker, but you can certainly use fresh ones, it will just take a little longer to cook)
1 Tbsp sesame seed oil
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp rice wine vinegar
2 tsp sugar
1 clove garlic minced
1/2 green onion minced
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp red pepper flakes

Combine soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, garlic, green onion, black pepper, and red pepper flakes (use less of these if you don't want it too spicy). give it a little stir and allow it to sit while you heat up the skillet. Add the sesame oil to the cold skillet and heat on medium high. Once the oil is heated add the frozen green beans. Toss and coat in oil. Add the sauce. Cook until green beans are warmed through.


Chicken Noodle Soup

Back to basics...
As the junior league, self-proclaimed foodie I figured I could begin from square one. Cooking doesn't come easy to everyone. Getting the basics down can get you there...
I couldn't make a puff pastry if my life depended on it.

It's friggin cold. Warm up, save some money, make some soup.

To perform this cooking task successfully:
1 large pot
2 knives (one for chicken, one for vegetables)
a cutting board (or nothing if you don't care that your counter top goes to shit)
potato peeler (optional)

For the soup part:
5 cups pre-made chicken stock/broth
2-3 chicken breasts (for simplicity sake)
3 large carrots (peel on or off, you choose) diced
1/2 small nappa cabbage cut into small strips
1 package mushroom (I recommend baby bellas) sliced
2 cups dry wavy egg noodles

Pour the chicken stock into the large pot and set on the stove at medium heat. Once the broth begins to simmer add the whole raw chicken breasts. Cook until opaque. remove from stock and cut into small chucks. Season the chicken with a little salt and black pepper. Return to pot.

A little side note: don't worry if the chicken is not completely cooked when you cut it up. It is just easier to deal with when it is cooked versus raw. Plus it's going right back in the pot so it will continue to cook through.

Continue to simmer chicken chunks and stock. Add diced carrots, cabbage, and mushrooms. Allow vegetables to reduce in size as they cook. Lastly, add the dry wavy egg noodle. Cook until tender. Make sure not to over cook the noodles. Add more than 2 cups if you like.

Don't do canned chicken noodle. This is much better and you can avoid the celery. Hey soup guy, STOP PUTTING CELERY INTO EVERYTHING! Gross. Stay on the side with the bleu cheese where you belong.


Happy New Year (nobody)!

New year resolution time...what's yours? Hello? Anybody there? I can hear you breathing...

This year I am planning to get healthy (just like every other year, but this time I'm serious), do a whole lot of cooking, and get my blog up to full speed. With some serious consideration I posted the link to my blog on facebook. Probably a horrible idea, but I had to do it sometime, so don't be too judgemental here friends. There is always room for improvement and I would love some constructive complements (see: The Office reference).

The getting healthy stuff I will keep to myself, but I will say and health go hand in hand. If I run out of things to write about maybe this will turn into a food/health blog. However, I feel that anyone who enjoys internety things is bother enough by weight loss spam and the 10 best kept dieting secrets, I don't need to add in my two cents. Just do a little exercise people...I'm on the beer diet and I'm doin okay.

Next I have a boat load of recipes. Do I post? Okay, will do!

Lastly, blogging...sigh, not everything I thought it would be. It's a tough crowd. Maybe this is just a futile exercise...I guess I need the exercise.