Inspiration for Winter Salad Season

Mixed Greens with Beet, Grapefruit and Avocado with Grapefruit-Thyme DressingYou might think a person’s natural “Salad Season” would occur in the summer.  Since I started photo-documenting the food we eat, I have discovered our true salad season occurs in the deep winter.  We certainly don’t have a dazzling array of garden and local produce available, but even so, we do our best to choose the best produce and canned goods available to get by.  This is probably the season when we need hearty salads the most here in the Midwest.  Our bodies are hiding in bundles of clothing, we spend our time mostly indoors and in natural darkness, and we inevitably encounter a number of virus threats on a weekly basis.  I consider these light, bright, crunchy, energizing, nutrient rich, colorful salads, [along with sleep] to be one of the secrets to a maintaining a pretty reliable immune system.  They are also my January-February hope that when spring arrives, I will feel and look more springy than a person feels in the depths of winter.  Shaved Carrot, Purple Cabbage and Sunflower Seeds on Romaine

Our first salad, shaved carrot, Parmesan,  radish, white bean and raw sunflower seeds on romaine. Cukes, Halved Grape Tomatoes, Celery Chunks and Kidney BeansI start preparing our salads by adding its prominent components to a bowl.  Chop something crunchy (celery), add a protein (kidney beans), add any other vegetables you have on hand and wish to include (here, cukes and halved grape tomatoes) , toss with greens, (here, romaine and spinach).  If you care to, add a flavor/texture  “treat” such as seeds, nuts, avocado, egg or a bit of cheese.   This is the way to make a great winter a great salad.Radish, Celery, Cuke and Kidney Beans with Spinach and RomaineI typically toss greens with either some citrus juice, lime, lemon, orange or grapefruit or a flavored vinegar.  My favorite vinegars are red wine, balsamic or tarragon vinegar.  Then I drizzle just a few drops of olive oil and toss the greens.  It is surprising how little oil you need to bring all of the flavors together.  Sometimes I add a tablespoon or two of Dijon mustard, or a teaspoon of honey or jam to the oil and vinegar/citrus mixture before mixing vigorously to add further flavor and help the dressing to emulsify before tossing the liquids with the greens.   Chopped fresh herbs or dried herbs along with salt and pepper added according to taste complete the dressing.  Beet, Bosc Pear and Cucumber on Mixed GreensThis salad is composed of beets, peeled bosc pear and sliced cucumber on mixed greens dressed with leftover grapefruit juice and fresh thyme dressing and a little pepper and salt.  Don’t hesitate to open a can of beans, beets or citrus canned (hopefully BPA free) in its natural juice.  There are many health benefits and few sacrifices when you add these nutrient-rich ingredients the easy way.  ourwour

The next salad is composed of sliced radish, sliced pear, white beans and a few slices of brie on spinach with citrus-preserve dressing. Black Bean, Corn, Radish, Grape Tomatoes and Pepitas

Another great salad is composed of corn, black beans, peeled and quartered cukes, minced scallion, halved grape tomatoes and pepitas dressed with lime juice, olive oil, honey and chili flakes over romaine.  Beet, Avocado and Grapefruit dressed with Grapefruit Juice and Thyme on Mixed GreensIn my book, this winter salad is special, grapefruit supremes, sliced avocado and red beets on mixed greens with grapefruit juice and olive oil dressing with thyme leaves. Shaved Carrot and Chickpeas on RomaineHere is another hearty and satisfying salad we’ve enjoyed composed of shaved carrot, celery, chickpeas, sliced radish and provolone on romaine-spinach mix.

Salads in winter are limited by the produce in season, but those limitations can open up room for creativity.  Salads like these complete a meal as a healthy side dish or stand as a meal on their own.  Certainly, they brighten your plate and the winter— try ’em.


Un Morceau de Montreal – A Morsel of Montreal

A few weeks ago, we spent a long weekend in Montréal, Québec visiting a dear friend I grew up with.  We stay close despite the many miles between the places we live.  We enjoyed our little get-away immensely.  We balanced our time between catching up with my friend and her husband and getting to spend time with their two darling, sweet, smart and loveable little boys, and seeing some sights around a vibrant French city in my home country.  The best meals we ate over the long weekend were in my friend’s home.  My friend is an omnivore, and her husband is vegetarian, and they are conscious of eating healthfully.  We dine well together.  I was so busy being entertained by the two little guys at the table that I didn’t remember to whip out my camera during those meals, so, a fabulous Quinoa and Beet Salad, Roasted Pork Tenderloin and the best Indian food we’ve ever eaten will have to live on in our memories. We happened upon a few tasty bites when we went out exploring, and so I will share a little peek at what we saw and ate around the city.

This is my second visit to Montréal, and Bjorn’s first.  The first afternoon of our visit we set off wandering from the campus of McGill University and headed toward the Old Town of Montréal.  It turns out this colourful building, which could be a museum of modern art, is in fact a convention center known as Palais des congrès de Montréal.  It also contains shops, restaurants and a metro stop.  What a surprising structure to house a convention center.  It serves a vital purpose in the city, and the higher cause of being public art.

We didn’t have to wander long before we became thirsty and peckish.  I had a short mental list of things to show Bjorn and for him to try in Montreal.  Trois Brasseurs in Old Montréal, or Vieux-Montréal, if you are local, was a good place to check Poutine off the list.  

Poutine, which consists of French fries, topped with cheese curds melted by gravy goes very well with an afternoon beer. 

We wandered our way through Vieux-Montréal, and stopped to buy a print from a gentleman with a temporary stand set up at the corner of Rue Saint-Vincent and Rue Saint-Paul.  We live in Saint Paul, so we thought a picture of this street corner was a perfect souvenir.  We will add it to a little framed collection of art that we have purchased from similar street-corner stands in Czech Republic and Italy on display in our house.  I have learned to buy the souvenir I want right away when I see it. When I put off buying it, I never come across what I want again.  

The City of Montréal holds a parade in honour of Saint Patrick’s Day, the day after Saint Patrick’s Day.  Our city, Saint Paul, Minnesota is a very Irish and Catholic city, so I am used to a pretty big celebration of this day.  Montréal does it big too.  The parade goes on for hours, and is a massive party, to say the least.  We spent a few hours at the parade with my friend, her parents, and her almost three year old who loves marching bands.  We were all satisfied after twenty-or-so marching bands and a few hundred floats went by and so my friend and her parents headed home for nap time and Bjorn and I headed out for lunch.  We ended up at a bistro.

I had a “Caprese” sandwich on a baguette with salad made of a tomato, cucumber and red onion.  The unique twist on the caprese was that it contained brie instead of fresh mozzarella.  So very French.  

Bjorn had a roast beef panini and a bowl of chicken noodle soup.  No, it doesn’t look terribly exciting, but it was a totally solid, satisfying lunch.

When we are travelling and have no idea where we are going and we end up with a lunch of baguettes and paninis with brie, we’re doing alright.

Lunch revived us.  We headed toward le Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal.  Montréal seems to have art on every street corner for the enjoyment of the public.  Just above is Coeur Jumeax, a sculpture by Jim Dine.  

After taking in the Musée des beaux-arts, we were thirsty, and so we stopped in to a little shop to buy something to drink.  What a place!  I could not believe the variety of all manner of prepared foods, produce, dry goods and wines that lined the shelves in this tiny, urban grocery store.  The coolers and shelves were positively packed with salads, sliced vegetables, plates of fruit, Babybel cheese, marble cheese, greek yogurt, cups of sliced fruit, and cantaloupe sliced in half, and wrapped in saran wrap with plastic spoon all ready to be grabbed and eaten on the go.  The place was packed with people, so I had to move fast which is why the pictures are a bit blurry.

Behind a deli counter, there were colourful bowls containing a marvelous variety of salads: top left, salads de Thon (Tuna), front left, Salade Greque (Greek), and front right, Legumes Grille (Grilled Vegetables).  

Also behind the deli counter, there were bowls of hard-boiled eggs, sausages, Salad D’Orizo Epicée (Spicy Orzo Salad), and baguettes and bagels prepared with dinde et fromage (ham and cheese) and saumon fumé (smoked salmon) all of which were selling like hotcakes to the masses of people recovering from Saint Patrick’s Day parade revelry.  Clearly, this store exists to meet a need in this neighborhood.  It appears that real, ready-to-eat food is a go-to meal of choice for Montréal’s many University students and bankers who are natural regulars in this neighbourhood.  I sometimes daydream about being a proprietor of a general store with a lunch counter.  There may not be enough foot traffic to support a store like this in my neighbourhood, but it is fun to see a city that depends on independent neighbourhood grocery stores.  Montréal feels European.  

Every day in Montréal we managed to find some high place to climb.  One day it was Mont Real, the next was up the shaky elevator shaft in Stade Olympique, or Olympic Stadium, constructed for the 1976 Olympics.  It felt like we stepped into an anachronism visiting Olympic Stadium, which sits seemingly untouched, unused and un-updated since the late ’70s.  

The final high point of the trip elevation-wise was up the steps to visit the impressive Saint Joseph Oratory, or Oratoire-Saint-Joseph du Mont Real and its grounds.  As you can see here, Bjorn was determined to get a head start.  
We thought the insignia on the facade of Oratoire-Saint-Joseph above the entrance also seemed anachronistic being so modern in the context of an immense old building.  Perhaps it was added closer to the building’s completion in 1967, not in 1924 when construction began.  
Another must-try food item on our list was a pastry.  Along with neighbourhood grocery stores, it seems like there is a quaint boulangerie on every block.  We enjoyed some delicious pain au chocolat and almond pastries with a latte at Au Pain Doré, a really nice boulangerie near my friend’s house.  
Also on the Montréal food “To Do” list was bagels.  We grabbed some sesame seed bagels with cream cheese just before we boarded the plane to go home.  We didn’t make it to one of the “must visit” bagel shops, but the bagel we found was still way better than average*.  Our visit to Montréal was so nice.  It was a refreshing little get-away.  We struck the perfect balance of friend-time, and seeing new streets.  I highly recommend a visit in conjunction with a trip to Quebec City as a great two-stop tour of French Canada.
*And that is saying something.  I didn’t even eat mine until lunch time at work the next day.

2 Brunches in Tangletown at Wise Acre Eatery

Two weeks ago, late on Saturday morning we went to the Minneapolis Institute of Art to see the Sports Show, a collection of sports-related photographs, television and movie clips related to sports in society, both a pastime and a spectacle.  To be honest, I wasn’t sure I’d be into the show, but I’ll go see any kind of art.  It turned out to be fascinating.  Stanley Kubrick, Andy Warhol and Frank Lloyd Wright took sports photographs — who knew?  

After a few hours of art, we thought we deserved lunch.  It was a beautiful sunny day, so we wound around city streets in South Minneapolis with no particular destination in mind.  We drove down Nicollet Avenue, passed on Corner Table and Blackbird and when we reached 35W we turned around.  When we were about to give up on South Minne and head toward more familiar territory, we drove past a shining, silver auto mechanic’s shop with a brightly lit sign that said Wise Acre.  I commented on the name, not knowing for sure that it was even a restaurant, but Bjorn was familiar with it and heard it was good, so we decided to give it a try.  

From the moment we approached the door, I was glad we happened upon Wise Acre.  Wise Acre is located right next door to Tangletown Gardens, a fancy garden center with a yard that is bursting with creatively arranged garden goods, potted twig, branch, leaf and pine arrangements, statuary, flower pots and bird baths.  It just so happens that the two businesses are under the same ownership.  This means that Wise Acre is abundantly decorated with art and unique potted arrangements, both inside and out.  I was completely agog at the creative decor.  The restaurant was packed, so we opted to sit at the bar, which is made of dark lacquered wood.  There were potted arrangements of moss, birch bark, faux succulent plants, twigs and pinecones on the bar and on every table.

Behind the bar, heavy shelves made of dark-stained, weathered wood and thick glass held wine bottles, glasses and wooden framed geometric ephemera collages.  I am gathering ideas for shelves to hold pots and pans in our kitchen, and I was intrigued by this idea, and inspired by the cool collages.  In the main part of the restaurant, hanging high along the walls were fabric bags with all types of leafy plants and moss growing out of them, right up to the ceiling.  Mechanic’s work lights — single light bulbs attached to wooden handles and protected by a wire cage were suspended from the ceiling by long chords of various lengths, to provide lighting throughout the restaurant and above the bar.

I sat gawking at every detail of the decor and the waitress had to come back twice before I remembered that I was there to eat.  Wise Acre observes a farm-to-table philosophy in every sense.  Beef, Pork, Poultry, Eggs and vegetables raised at Tanglewood Farms, a 100 acre farm located in Plato, Minnesota are served at the restaurant.  Their motto, “the shortest distance between the earth, the hand and the mouth” rings true.  On the weekend, only brunch and dinner are served.  I was tempted by the chowder of the week when I spied a bowl containing hearty chunks of carrot and potato, served with bread.  It contained ham, so I opted for the Egg and White Cheddar sandwich on a Brioche Bun and a mixed green salad.  I had already eaten eggs for breakfast, but when brunch is the only option, and it is 2 p.m, an egg sandwich sounded better than pancakes.

My sandwich came with ham, and I asked for it on the side so that Bjorn could eat it.

The sandwich came with a Dijon Mustard spread on the delicious, grilled Brioche bun.  The mustard was punchy, but makes sense on the sandwich, since the sandwich usually contains ham.  It had kick, and I liked it.  The sandwich was very good.  It was great to have the eggs I had for breakfast to contrast with the Wise Acre eggs.  Hands down, the egg on the sandwich was more fresh and of better quality than the eggs we had at home.  We need to start buying better eggs again!  Friends and family with chickens, take note, we’re in the market for fresh eggs!

Bjorn ordered the grass-fed beef burger with bacon and brie which was served with hand cut fries, a small jar containing pickley cole slaw and little glass of apple chutney.  Bjorn said the burger was good.  It sure looks amazing.  I think the little jar used to serve cole slaw is the cutest thing I had ever seen.  I will be using this idea for serving salads at our backyard BBQ’s this summer for sure.  I tasted a french fry and noticed how remarkably un-greasy they were.  The apple chutney was an interesting condiment.  It is not the new ketchup, but it was fun for a change.

This isn’t the first time a photograph from the inside of the woman’s bathroom in a restaurant has appeared on this blog.  I couldn’t resist snapping a shot of these permanent arrangements of faux and real moss, twigs, leaves and pinecones sitting below romantic sentiments stenciled on rough wood.

Nor could I resist documenting the pine cone and faux succulent plants in clay pots and framed seed collages that decorate the ladies’ room.

This is the first time a photo from the Men’s room has appeared on our blog.  After seeing the ladies room, I had to see the men’s.  I managed to convince Bjorn to head into the restroom with the camera on my phone to do some research.  Sure enough, it too contained cool, artistic decor.  We left feeling well fed and inspired, so inspired that we decided to bring my parents to try Wise Acre the very next weekend when they were in town for a visit and to attend the Minneapolis Home and Garden Show.

Last weekend, after a few hours at the home show, we again headed south on Nicollet toward Wise Acre.  I had the Cheddar and Fried Egg Sandwich on Brioche Bun with Dijon again!  I am a person who has their “go-to” selection in every restaurant.  Typically, as a vegetarian I am accustomed to having only a few choices on most menus.  It makes it easy to decide.  When I return to a place, I tend to have a certain meal in mind.  I know I should live a little, but this is how I like to eat.  Bjorn and my Mom tried the breakfast special, described as a German breakfast, a Wise Acre Bratwurst wrapped in a blanket of light puff pastry, served with a fried egg, sautéed cabbage and salad of apple, fennel, and hoophouse greens tossed in a Furthermore Knot Stock Black Pepper Ale and Mustard vinaigrette.  It looked great, and they both reported it to be good.My Dad had the beef, bacon and brie burger with fries and slaw.  Still love that little jar for serving the slaw….

Butter, Milk Cream, eggs and house-made condiments are sold at Wise Acre.

After lunch we wandered over to Tangletown Gardens to look around.  It is a great garden store, but most items were out of my price-range.  We picked up a dozen of the delicious Tangletown Gardens eggs with pretty green, blue and brown shells for $3.50.    

There is an abundance of inspiration at both Wise Acre, and Tangletown Gardens, and that comes free!  I like these nifty paper flowers cut out of newsprint.  What a great idea.

I always enjoy a little restaurant swag, and this little box of toothpicks from Wise Acre was a nice touch.  I recommend a trip to Wise Acre and Tangletown Gardens.  The farm-raised vegetables, meat, house-made condiments and baked goods are noticeably fresh, well prepared, and are of quality, local origin.  The cool decor adds so much interest to the overall dining experience at Wise Acre.  We didn’t go back a third week in a row, but we surely will return.