Saturday, September 20, 2008

Restaurant Review - Corner Table

Last night I had a phenomenal dinner at the Corner Table, a local food restaurant at 43rd and Nicollet. This is the same intersection that boasts Anodyne, which is one of my favorite coffee shops/breakfast stops in all of Minneapolis. So it's odd that I hadn't yet tried the locally-themed restaurant across the street!

This was the perfect time of year to go, since the chefs had the most local ingredients. When I went to Heartland several months ago, local veggies were in short supply. Pretty much beets only (still quite delicious!)

For drinks they had a small but impressive list of beers and wines. Considering that Corner Table prides itself on local food, it was odd that there was only one local beer option and ZERO local wine options (Note to Corner Table: There are some good wines and lots of great beers you could highlight from Minnesota). I had two delicious beers, an Oktoberfest beer from Hacker-Pschorr that was the best Oktoberfest beer I've ever had, better than even Paulaner. Then I polished dinner off with a Belgian Kwak. My only gripe with that was that I was given the wrong kind of glass. They gave me an oddly shaped "hour-glass"-shaped glass, but not the traditional Kwak glass with wooden stand as seen here (and as served at Busters on 28th). Drinks: A- (lack of local options).

For an appetizer we split a cold app, Grilled Vegetable (see menu here) medley. For the price, I was a little surprised that it was so tiny, but the presentation (chopped up zucchini, squash, etc) in a cylindrical shape was great, and the taste was fantastic and did the job of whetting our appetite for more. Appetizer: A- (size outweighed by taste and delicious bread, probably from Rustica???)

The meal came and wow, it was superb. My date had the Vegetable En Croute, which was basically a meat pie without the meat. The crust was flaky and looked delicious, and the ingredients were local and fresh. I had the lamb. It was the first lamb I'd had in probably 7 years and it was worth the wait. It was juicy and flavorful. The orzo/corn mix was great, although a lot of the orzo stuck together. But really, it's hard to find anything wrong with this. Main Course: A++!!

The atmosphere: I got there a bit ahead of my date, and there was a nice small bar to sit at and enjoy a beer while I waited. Not much else for waiting room, but the bar was a perfect spot for that. Thumbs up! While I waited I checked out the dining options. The place had a nice, romantic, but not stuffy feel. The outdoor seating looked good, even with the busy traffic of Nicollet Avenue. While the main dining room had a great feel, we were placed in a back room that jutted off the main dining room. It was a small room with only 4 tables. When I first sat down, only 1 table was occupied by a loud and annoying couple on probably a first date. I didn't really enjoy the feeling that I was sitting at their table and in their conversation. But once the other tables filled with diners, the room became uniformly noisy and the conversations canceled each other out. Grade: B+ (A+ for the main room, C+ for the back room)

Service: Impeccable, friendly, just what I would expect for the price. Great job!

All in all, in the categories that matter most: 1) Would I recommend this place and 2) Would I return, the answer to both is a resounding YES!

I'd love to return in winter and see what local food they have.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Key Lime Yogurt Challenge

I often wonder about the subtle differences in food and beverage. This interest previously inspired my "Coke Challenge", where I had folks try 4 different types of Coke and Diet Coke to see if anyone could discern the difference.

In addition to drinking a lot of Diet Coke, I also eat a lot of yogurt. Lately I've been eating a lot of Key Lime-flavored yogurt for some reason. While shopping for yogurt the other day, I saw 4 different types of no- or low-fat Key Lime yogurt. So I bought all of them. And ate them. And now I'm here to blog about 2 of them: The Archer Farms Target Key Lime Yogurts.

When shopping, look for the colored bar! They look so similar.

Not only does Target make a low-fat Key Lime yogurt, they also make a NO-fat Key Lime yogurt. I ate both at the same time to compare. The results are interesting:

I'll start out with the essential 3 C's of yogurt-grading:

Consistency: Surprisingly, the low-fat had a slightly runnier consistency than the no-fat version. I was expecting the no-fat version to be runnier like the Light and Fit yogurt, which is basically like water. Winner = No-Fat

Low-fat sticks to the spoon...

But not like No-fat does!

Color: Both are a shade of green, but the low-fat is a more Key Lime shade of green. Winner = Low-Fat

Calories: No-fat has far fewer calories. 80 vs 180. Winner = no fat.

Ingredients: Well, since the low-fat version doesn't have ingredients that give lab rats cancer, I'll give the nod to low-fat.

Low-Fat's key to taste victory = real sugar and lime juice. But 100 more calories? (click on the photo to zoom in on the ingredients)

And most importantly, TASTE: No contest here. While both are quite tasty, low-fat has that traditional tart lime taste. And somehow it's a little sweeter too.

So the clear winner is Low-Fat Key Lime. HOWEVER, when consumed BY ITSELF, No-Fat Key Lime tastes good too. Let's call it the Diet Coke principle. Diet Coke is pretty good until it is consumed side-by-side with Coke or Coke Zero. Then Diet Coke starts to taste like a$$.

So what will I buy? Probably a little of both, tending towards the no-fat. I like massive quantities of yogurt, and the lower calorie option allows me to eat twice as much!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

George McCain or John Bush?

Now the question can be answered definitively. Thanks Tom Ridge.

And thank you Daily Show. It was a great 2 weeks of convention episodes. Looking forward to the homestretch this campaign season.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Tale of Two Races

The title of this blog has two meanings as will become apparent. This morning I ran two 5Ks. I first ran a free 5K sponsored by LifeTime Fitness and the Mayor's Office at Minnehaha Falls (obviously I had to run that, look at the title of my blog!) Then after chatting with some folks at the race, I ran home, jumped in the car and drove up to North Minneapolis for the Victory 5K.

These were two very different races. The first race in South Minneapolis is part of More To Tri, a series of races put on by the mayor to highlight Minneapolis' amenities and fitness. The event is timed to coincide with the Republican Convention, and a push was made to get delegates to attend (it didn't look like there were any there as far as I could tell). About 100 people showed up at the beautiful pre-dawn hour and ran the race. It was a fun, but small event, run entirely on bike trails and sidewalks through Minnehaha Park. And of course Mayor Rybak competed as well.

The Victory Races (10K and 5K) are races sponsored by the Minnesota Distance Running Association (disclaimer: I belong to and coach for this running group) benefiting the Folwell and Webber-Camden neighborhoods. This is a long-standing race (26th year) that draws much of the running community and the neighborhood. The course is flat and fast, and follows Victory Memorial Parkway, which is a gorgeous boulevard lined with tall and historic trees. Each tree along the parkway commemorates a fallen Minnesotan from World War I. It is a gem of a location in North Minneapolis, part of the Grand Rounds bike route, and a living part of Minnesota's history. During and after the race, the neighborhood throws a big block party in Webber Park and serves unlimited hot dogs while the tired racers watch 5-year-olds run around in the toddler race. It is a wonderful party and probably one of the best races I've ever been to.

So 2 races, one in South, one in North. But while these races were separated by only a 10-minute car ride, they felt much further apart. The Folwell and Webber-Camden neighborhoods have been at the center of the foreclosure crisis, and are right at the center of the homicide heat map. This is a neighborhood that is hurting. Yet this is a neighborhood that hasn't lost its fight. While a drive up Lyndale from Broadway revealed easily a dozen boarded up or demolished homes, there were so many bright spots in the neighborhood as well: exquisitely-maintained homes and parks full of children. Clearly this is a neighborhood that is fighting back against crime and the economic crisis that has hit harder in North than anywhere else.

But where does Mayor Rybak choose to showcase Minneapolis to our out-of-town guests? Beautifully manicured South Minneapolis. It's hard to argue that Minnehaha Falls is a bad location for a race. Easily a dozen races a year are held at this location, and, obviously, it's my favorite location in the entire Twin Cities and I feel so blessed to live 2 blocks from it.

But the mayor missed a great chance to showcase a wonderful neighborhood, a place that feels as friendly and welcoming as (and probably more so than) any other part of Minneapolis. The real story today was in North Minneapolis. It's a great story for people of Minneapolis to hear. It's a great story for the RNC delegates to take home to their foreclosed neighborhoods. And it's something inspiring for all of us. In spite of the physical and economic pain that North has endured, people live, have fun and throw a great party. There were two parties in town this Labor Day, and I feel so blessed to have been included in the one in North Minneapolis. Mayor Rybak is an energetic mayor with a passion for Minneapolis. His cheerleading does good for our city, but on this day, his cheerleading would have been better placed in North Minneapolis.

OK, so most of you that read this are probably more concerned about my race report than my non-running ramblings, so here you go!

Race 1: my intention was to run this as a fun run and a warmup for Victory. So I sandbagged the first 2 miles, yet was winning handily. Or so I thought. Some LifeTime Fitness guy caught me with a quarter mile to go. I let him go thinking, "I'm saving myself for Victory 5K". Then I got competitive. I sprinted the last 40 meters or so and almost caught him but he kicked and beat me by half a step. Finishing time: 18:07. I regret not racing this one from the beginning. How many chances will I have again to win a 5K in Minneapolis? Probably not many. I should also be clear that I'm sure the guy that won probably would have beat me on a head-to-head. He really sandbagged the race and only kicked as much as he needed to in order to win. But if I had gone out at a 5:30 pace, I would have won. Oh well.

Race 2: Fun race, fun times with lots and lots of good friends. While the shirt at the first race was better, this race was so much better organized and was just a blast from beginning to end, with great racers in the 10K and 5K (especially the 10K with all those Team USA-MN racers). I placed 6th in the 5K with a They called out 17:43 and my watch said 17:43, but the official time was 17:45. Shouldn't be a big deal but that's the difference between a PR and not. So I'm calling it a PR, but hopefully I'll beat that again and the official time will reflect that. I'm happy with how I raced, but a larger lead pack would have been nice for that extra push.

This was the first time I ran 2 races like this. Obviously not the best way to PR. I would have done better at either one if I hadn't done the other. But I enjoyed both for very different reasons, and it was a good way to spend a Monday morning!

CORRECTION: The Victory Races are co-sponsored by the Folwell and Webber-Camden neighborhoods, and while the race benefits the neighborhood in many ways, there is no direct monetary benefit for the community from this race. They are partners in the race, not recipients of any assistance.