Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Interesting News- New Chain Bar and Grille Coming as The District Gets a Rookies Infusion. How much Grill can we take?

I have to hand it to Jodi Schwan at the Argus Leader for rooting up interesting business news that includes new restaurants. Check out Jodi's story here.

The gist of the situation is that a new restaurant, Tanner's Bar & Grill, a chain from Kansas and not to be confused with Tinner's is coming to Sioux Falls and will land in the space currently occupied by Rookies Bar and Grill on Louise Avenue. Rookies is going to relocate to The District, apparently where the lounge is and the Woodfire Grill at The District is also apparently going to go through some sort of re-birth.

Admittedly, I am a little confused, which is probably par for the course. I'm not clear whether Rookies will be sort of separate from Woodfire Grill, or whether we are talking about some amalgam of the two. I guess we'll find out.

This whole situation is rather interesting to me, though, for the following reasons:

  • The Rookies location has always intrigued me since it doesn't seem that any of the tenants there have been able to give it a go. Bennigan's started at the location. To be blunt, Bennigan's sucked.
  • Rookies has/had some interesting burgers. They have a big selection with some unique options that are fun to try. However, I have to note that the place has somewhat recast itself over the years. Rookies has been a big stadium sort of sports bar, featured live bands (including the Drive By Truckers once, if memory serves), and now has a comedy club area attached. Maybe the new location will allow some focus.
  • As to The District, it ought to be interesting to have what appears to be two distinct eateries under one roof. Thus far, the all-things-to-all-people Woodfire Grill has never seemed to catch, well, fire. (See what I did there?) It's an odd concept to have a lounge and allegedly fine dining in an area that does not seem particularly suited to either. Maybe Woodfire can recast its menu and re-define its space to become a little different option than the same old, same old.
  • Speaking of same old, same old, how much "Grill" can this town possibly absorb? Grille 26, Cherry Creek Grill, Tinner's Bar & Grill, Backyard Grill BBQ, McKenzie River Pizza, Grill & Pub, Carnaval Brazilian Grill, etc. etc. etc. There are more. And now Tanner's Bar & Grill (not to be confused with Tinner's)? I wonder how many Grills it takes to trade for a good Thai joint? We've got to be close.
  • And from Jodi's description of Tanner's, not to be confused with Tinner's, how different can another sports bar-ish, chicken wing-ish, burger-ish, wrap-ish, salad-ish joint be from every other place serving more or less the same stuff? For forking crying out loud, for every one of these places that closes another three sprout up. It's like the heads of the hydra, not to be confused with the brewery.
Good thing it's summer. Perhaps I can just stop by the bar for a beer and skip the grill in favor of going home where I can fire up my own grill and grill me a pork chop or a Thai-seasoned grilled chicken.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Great Place to Try: Fernson on 8th

If you like beer and know anything about the local beer scene, you should know about Fernson. They brew some great stuff. After getting operations underway, the Fernson guys opened a tap room. I hear it's really nice. Unfortunately, it's located waaaaaaay up north near Spader's Camper Sales just north of I-90. This is great if you live near say, Renner, or if you're a Sanford employee assigned to their north citadel. Not so great for me, because it's just far enough out of the way to make it into my general presence of mind when it's time for a weekend beer. Besides, 15 minutes of interstate driving isn't what I'm in for when I want to drink a couple of beers, especially IPA's and other varieties that tend to sneak up on a person fast and hard.

Well, problem solved. The fine fellas at Fernson have set up a branch office in the old Flatiron building at 8th and Weber. This is the former location of Latitude 44.

Blogging on this sort of thing conflicts me, because I want to hog up a nice place like this all to myself. It's neat, tidy, bright, open, and still features live music. Fresh, tasty Fernson beer on tap- several varieties are available. And, there are a couple added bonuses. First up, thanks to the familial connection with eye surgeon and Napa winery owner Dr. Vance Thompson, Fernson on 8th has what is probably a more complete catalog of Jessup Cellars bottles available at any given moment, outside of Vance's cellar, anyway. And, if you like to eat when you drink, Breadico is located right next door- where Queen City Bakery started out. Breadico has expanded its offerings to include sandwiches and pizza. And, I'm hear to tell you that I wholeheartedly agree with Cory Myers on this point: Breadico offers the BEST pizza in town, hands down.

Good beer (or good wine) and good pie in pleasant surroundings? What's not to love? Actually, the parking isn't much to love, but hey, sacrifices must be made.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Getting the Good Stuff: The State of Grocery Shopping in Sioux Falls

If I've said it once, I've said it a million times: We are living in Sioux Falls at a great time. The cultural diversity keeps getting, well, diverse. And we are all reaping the benefits in terms of music, art, and food.

If you really cook, like I do, sooner or later you are going to need some pretty crazy ingredients. I'm on a real Asian food kick lately, and fortunately, I have identified much better resources for things like fish sauce, Chinese wind sausage, and dried shrimp, than I ever imagined. I needed ingredients yesterday, so between downpours, I ventured out and picked up a few things and made a few mental notes I'd like to share.

Nikki's. I've mentioned Nikki's before. This gem is located at 8th and Indiana and has been serving awesome, authentic Mexican tacos, tortas, and burritos for years. The food is great, but step inside the grocery store and prepare to stock up on all those authentic little ingredients you need to cook some great food at home. For instance, need some epazote to simmer in a pot of black beans and pork? No problem- you just need to decide what variety you need. Need dried peppers? Ancho? Pasilla? Guajillo? Chipotle? All there. How about good tortillas? Queso fresco? Crema? Reliably ripe avocados? Si, si, si, and si. Need a beef head to make barbacoa for the neighborhood block party? What the what? Yeah, there just might be one in the meat case-- along with really good pork, pre-seasoned beef, chicken, or pork for fajitas, all sorts of short ribs and other cuts that will amaze you. The prices are great and the quality is outstanding.

New Asian Store on East 10th. I'm sure it has a name, but I didn't catch it. It's at East 10th and Omaha, right next to where the old Pizza Inn/new Popeye's Chicken is going. I stopped in there because I was on a quest for Thai Bird Peppers- the very small, insanely spicy red peppers to make a dipping sauce for some chicken. The sign said Asian Seafood and Produce, so I figured this was a good bet. Beautiful little store. Clean and well organized. No fresh peppers on this occasion, but I asked for help and was handed a package of frozen peppers. Boom! While I was at it, I picked up some curry paste and some rice noodles to add to my collection at home. Apparently, I feel compelled to pick those up every time I leave the house.

Thanh Mai. This is the Asian grocery on Rice Street. It's practically in the Morrell's parking lot. Hands down, this is one of the most far out crazy places to visit in Sioux Falls. It's small, the aisles are narrow, and the shelves are bursting with all sorts of things. It's organized, but it will take you several trips to get the hang of it and to locate some of the hidden gems. If you need dark soy sauce, kecap manis, thick soy, mushroom soy, or just want a gallon of regular Pearl River Bridge soy sauce, this is the place. Been missing out on duck flavored ramen noodles? No problem. Korean fermented pepper paste? Yup. Need a pot and basket to cook sticky rice? It's there. Thanh Mai is also my go to place for esoteric Asian vegetables. I honestly cannot identify a lot of what's there. If you really want to blow your mind, go explore the freezers. You'll find things like bags of pre-made pot sticker dumplings and some frozen fish. But I have also made note of the following: an entire pig skin, a tray of frozen duck heads, frozen frogs (not legs, whole frogs), and the prevailing champion (thus far) a package of four, whole, immaculately packaged and vacuum sealed frozen giant water bugs. They were labeled "Bait for Fish." Yeah, I have some doubts. You might also note a box full of fresh fish heads or maybe even some live blue crabs. Don't touch those.

Fareway at 41st and Sycamore. Yeaaaahhhh! The new Faraway store is open. And, I must say it is NICE! Very nice layout and a very nice store. You won't find the bells and whistles like you do at Hy Vee, but these guys have a great selection of all sorts of things. However, the real reason to go is the meat counter. Staffed by a small army of flying monkeys, it's all fresh out of the case, old school butcher service. It's fresh, good, and priced nicely. And chances are, if you need something a tad out of the norm, like skirt steak, just ask. They probably have some. It might be frozen, but you'll likely get what you need.

Start searching the inter webs for cool recipes, make a shopping list, fill your travel mug with coffee, crank up some good tunes, and go explore the awesome ingredients available in the little grocery stores around town. You'll be much richer for the experience and the efforts are well worth it.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Attic Kitchen Is Open! Get there!!!

One of the best options for a friendly beverage and a respectable, delicious bar meal on the East Side is The Attic. The lines out the door on Friday nights and some Wednesdays attest to the popularity of the food.  Well, if you've been by 41st and Sycamore in the last 30 days, or so, you may have noticed the kitchen has been closed due to the super cool expansion and remodeling going on there.

The kitchen is now together with about as much new, shiny stainless steel as the top of the Chrysler Building! And, with the kitchen open, there is now a new menu. Here's the low-down. 

Overall.  Kicked up. If you were loving something that rolled off a delivery truck in a processed pre-made, freezer ready form, you're going to be sorely disappointed. Goodbye big breaded "shroom" slices, waffle fries, and Nacho cheese the color of John Boehner's suntan. Hello whole chickens cut up in house, fresh steaks, and reformulated, house ground burger. Yeah, that new "Nacho" cheese? Creamy Manchego.  Impressive and tasty.  Chef Roger has totally revamped this. Some old classics like the club sandwich are gone, but there are some new contenders that will be hard to beat.

Burgers. Reformulated. House ground. The Attic always had a good, fresh burger, but if there was any complaint about them, it was that they could get a tad dry.  Now, it's a house ground blend with chuck and either short rib or brisket that delivers on the juicy flavor you want. And look at the menu pages below. A couple new contenders with a Pull Monty and a tricked out egg burger.  Probably more of a mess and a food coma than I am looking for, but I bet they get some attention.

Flatbreads.  Another nice addition. Anything pizza is usually pretty good. I had one last weekend and the buffalo chicken flatbread was really flavorful. And the presentation on a half sheet pan with some micro greens as garnish was very cool.  I'm looking forward to trying the Mediterranean version soon.

Way gourmet stuff.  A braised short rib glazed with plum demiglace? Sign me up.  And the half roasted chicken is phenomenal. That's a dish you'd expect to see at a place with starched white table linens. It almost begs for a wine list instead of an icy cold macrobrew. 

I dare say this is going to push bar food ahead just a tad here in River City. Give it a try!

Here's a bootleg look at the menu on the first full day of the new kitchen being open:

Saturday, March 12, 2016

St. Patrick's Day Feast. Are you ready?

It's Ersatz St. Paddy's here in Sioux Falls. Paint the shamrock with Sylvia, get bombed with a bus load of Canadian Shriners, eat breakfast at McNally's, and stand around the parade.  Or not.  If you are, please be safe and don't drink and drive.

Me? I'm skipping the ordeal, oops, I mean festivities. But in honor of my Irish grandmother who treated St. Patrick's Day like Mardis Gras, New Years Eve, a birthday and V-E Day all rolled into one, I will be making some corned beef and cabbage to celebrate Thursday. Personally, I think a brisket slowly cooked with aromatics and vegetables is more Eastern European Jewish than Irish, but hey, it's 'Merica! And it is comfort food. A tough cut of meat (cheap, or cheaper than a nice tender steak) seasoned well and cooked into submission makes for great eating. 

For the second time, I am brining my own. In other words, I am taking a brisket flat I purchased at Costco and making that into corned beef.  Plain beef brisket, not that pre-corned crap in a bag. It sits in a brine solution consisting of water, salt, sugar, pickling spices, garlic, and the magic ingredient sodium nitrate a/k/a pink salt a/k/a saltpeter. I keep it in that brine for five days. Then I take it out, rinse it, and toss it into a crock pot. Add one bottle of Guinness, a healthy pinch of more pickling spices, and one roughly chopped onion, carrot and celery. Put the lid on, put it on low, and carry on. After a good 8 hours or so, add some new carrots and celery to serve with the meat. About an hour or so before you plan to serve it, put in some whole baby potatoes and some wedges of cabbage.

Use the internets to find a brine formula. It's not as precise as baking French macaroons, but this isn't a time to eyeball all the ingredients, especially the water, salt, sugar, and sodium nitrate. You need to hit a certain level of salinity. Oh, and you can get pink salt at Uncle Eds, or possibly Scheels or places where sausage is made. If all else fails, Amazon. Be careful with it. It's not pink to color meats, it's pink so you don't eat it or put it in a salt shaker. 

Serve that up with some nice mustard, or better yet for me some horseradish, a little soda bread with some butter, and knock yourself out. The leftovers will make for a killer corned beef hash and/or a good Reuben sandwich. Whatever you do, DO NOT toss the liquid left in the crock pot. Use that to cook a regular beef pot roast, a pork roast, or a chicken or something. It's amazing.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Today's Tip: Fromage Fort. Just in time for the Super Bowl

Jacques Pepin! I read your book! You magnificent bastard! 

Always like to use that line.  Anyhoo. Here's something to boost your Super Bowl food street cred.  Fromage Fort. It means "strong cheese" if you don't parlez. Heard about it from . . . you guessed it, Chef Jacques Pepin. It's basically cheese spread. But here's a good part: you make it out of all the leftover pieces of who knows what cheeses that you bought at Hy Vee or when you were drunk at Look's.  It's the best way to blow the remnants out of the fridge and make something awesome.

Find a half pound of leftover cheese pieces in your fridge.  Blue, Gruyere, cheddar, feta, sheep's milk, cow's milk, yak milk, mozzarella, whatever. You can even use that Hy Vee Monterey Jack leftover from taco night. Personally, I'd skip cream cheese, Velveeta, American, or anything flavored, i.e. Taco cheese.  Cut it into pieces. Grate the harder stuff like Parmesan or pecorino. Toss it in the food processor. Chop up a mediumish piece of garlic, add a couple grinding a of pepper, a quarter cup of a decent-enough dry white wine, and maybe a dab of Dijon mustard. Process until it's smooth and spreadable.  You might have to add a dab of wine or two, but not much.

Put it in a dish, cover it with plastic wrap, let it get comfortable with its recombobulated self in the fridge and then break out some crackers or toasted bread.  Or go completely nuts and use it to make some cheese bread to go with a nice soup. 

Leftover elimination. Fridge management. Good eating.  Enjoy.  

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Hy Vee Market Grille: Credit Where Credit is Due

I have a love-hate relationship with Hy Vee. They try hard and have made many improvements to their shopping experience over the years. Unfortunately, some of those changes have been made at a political level (Sunday alcohol sales) and some crafty real estate purchases that have literally driven competitors out of the marketplace. I don't like that.

But what I do like is the new Market Grille concept that has come to all the local Hy Vee stores, with the sole exception of 26th and Sycamore.  It's a sit-down restaurant, complete with wine and beer service, inside the store. We visited the location on 37th and Minnesota last week while finishing some holiday meal shopping. 

Overall, I must say, not too shabby. Atmosphere is pretty good. Tables and some booths around the room, bare concrete floors, bar area in the corner, and a wall of wine. Staff was friendly and helpful. 

The menu is pretty extensive and features a lot more than what someone could run out to the deli/Chinese/sushi/fried chicken area to plate. There are good appetizers.  Try the maple bacon won tons, as mentioned by Cory Myers. They are unique and pretty tasty. Want to keep eating? You can select from salads, sushi rolls, steaks, chicken entrees, sandwiches, and flatbread pizzas. I tried the Sicilian flatbread. Not what I expected. Instead of getting a mini-pizza, it was on a crackly sort of bread with three different meats (meatballs, crumbled Italian sausage, and pieces of a spicy sausage link) and dollop of sauce and cheese. Was it the new culinary star of the SF dining scene? No. But it was well-prepared and pretty tasty.

And overall, that's my take on the place. Hy Vee is not going to pose much of a threat to the likes of Minerva's, Bros, or Ode. But it is a nice, convenient place to duck into for a casual meal or a refreshment of the adult beverage persuasion while shopping. It's a good addition to the overall food fabric of our community.

So, kudos, Hy Vee. Now, about that fresh meat pricing . . .