Pizza Sunday (on Saturday) – Birchwood Cafe
April 26, 2009, 3:23 am
Filed under: Beer, Wine & Cocktails, Pizza Sundays | Tags: ,

Today’s Pizza Sunday is a day early for a very good reason….it’s Birchwood Cafe’s Saturday pizza party!  On Saturdays after 5pm at Birchwood a mere $30 gets you two small pizzas and a pitcher of beer or a bottle of wine.  Tonight our choice included a cheese pizza and a veggie pizza, plus a pitcher of Surly Furious.  It doesn’t get much better than that, folks…especially on a Saturday night when it’s warm enough to sit out at the outdoor tables.  As we sat outside tonight, the happy voices and laughter from other tables floated on the evening air as we munched on tonight’s veggie pizza selection, which was a chewy homemade crust topped with basil olive oil (no red sauce), cauliflower, sauteed spinach, diced local tomatoes, scallions and mozzarella.  D.Jones was not looking forward to it because he often reads the less common ingredients on Birchwood’s pizzas and turns up his nose, but once he gets a bite of it, he loves it every time!

The options we didn’t select from tonight included a sausage pizza made with wild rice pork sausage from Fischer Farms or a 1,000 Hills grass fed beef pizza with poached garlic spread, roasted mushrooms, sweet onions, fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and cheddar.  Though we didn’t try them, I have no doubt they, too, would have been delish.


The cheese pizza is always good and even a hit with the 3rd person in the Jones party, who is definitely the pickiest of our bunch.


Usually I talk D.Jones into splitting a bottle of wine with me and Birchwood usually has a couple of great offerings of both red or white to enjoy with your pizza of choice.  Tonight, Doug wanted beer and I gave in, though then we argued about whether to get the Surly Furious or the Saison from Lift Bridge in Stillwater.   I caved and put my stamp of approval on the Furious, but as they filled our pitcher, the keg blew about 3/4 into our pitcher, so the awesome guy running the counter gave us each a mug of Lift Bridge’s Farm Girl Saison.  Furious is always delicious and the pitcher on our table definitely added to the perfect little springtime evening we were enjoying…


We sat and chatted and sipped as we waited for our pizza delivery.  Our discussion centered on how much we don’t mind paying to dine out when it’s at a place as fabulously conscientious as Birchwood, and how no matter what we order there, it just feels healthier than eating someplace else….even the pizza.

So…2 thumbs up on Birchwood for so many reasons I can’t list them, but tonight it’s all about the pizza.




Brew Review – Summit Horizon Red Ale
April 26, 2009, 3:05 am
Filed under: Beer, Wine & Cocktails | Tags: ,


D.Jones had an opportunity to try Summit’s new beer before it was released to the public and he made me promise not to post any details until it was “officially released.”  The fact is, D.Jones has been a fan of Summit for many, many years.  I wasn’t so hip on Summit’s EPA until more recent years.  I suppose my love of Summit started about four years ago, or so, when we lived in downtown St. Paul and would often walk to Pazzaluna for late night appetizers and a cold beer or two.  They always had Summit on tap, and after many trips, the bartender knew that D.Jones was a huge fan…and I was starting to become one too.

On one particular night, we bellied up to the bar and the bartender came over, leaned in and said “Mark Stutrud is at the end of the bar….”  Enough said.  D.Jones ditched me faster than a frat boy running toward a keg.  Oh wait….he was a frat boy. 

Anyway, he introduced himself to Stutrud, and Stutrud made pleasant conversation with him for quite some time until D.Jones worried he was pushing the limits of friendly conversation and bordering on annoying fan, when he politely excused himself and rejoined me at my seat.  While he was gone, I sipped a Summit EPA myself, finding that it was fuller bodied and more delicious than I had ever given it credit for…in fact, I loved it.

Since then, we have continued to enjoy the EPA and wish Summit the best, all while being slightly disappointed in the missing presence of new brews, and getting just a little bored.  We were both thrilled to hear that Summit would finally be releasing a hoppier new beer.  That is, until D.Jones came home one night and announced he had an opportunity to try it and was a little disappointed.  I didn’t want to hear it, and certainly didn’t want to negatively taint my own opinion, so we didn’t talk about it much.

The other night he came home with a sixer so I could try it for myself.

The verdict?  It’s Summit.  It’s good.  It’s hoppier than the EPA, which makes it slightly different, but it’s so similar to the EPA that it’s…well…it’s Summit.  It tastes like Summit.  I don’t know what else to say.

In comparison, last night I ordered the Surly beer flight at Common Roots, where about $5 gets you 4 tastings of the Surly beers on tap.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I think it’s a mistake to compare Summit to Surly….I’m making a different point entirely.  My point is that this was an exercise to prove to ourselves that we were correct about the new Summit.  You see, when you taste Furious, Cynic, or Bitter Brewer, they taste like three distinctly different beers.  You’d never guess with a blindfold on that they are all products of the same brewery. 

Not so with Summit EPA, Summit IPA  and Summit Horizon Red.  They taste like Summit.   Make no mistake, we’re not saying we don’t notice and recognize the subtle differences….it’s just that they are very subtle.   And although they are good…the Summit Horizon Red doesn’t have the boldness we were hoping for and thus, the release was a little disappointing.  We will continue to love Summit but boy…I wish we had more to say about the newest addition.

Brew Review – Southern Tier Iniquity
April 22, 2009, 1:42 am
Filed under: Beer, Wine & Cocktails | Tags: , ,


Southern Tier’s Imperial Iniquity Black Ale is available for a limited time only at the Four Firkins.  A friend of D.Jones picked one up for him last night at the Summit Red Ale debut at the Firkins.  At around $8 for a 650ml, this 9% A.B.V. black ale is awesome.   It pours pitch black into the glass, as the name suggests, and the first sip is full of carmel malts and finishes with the hops when it hits the back of your tongue.  The more you sip, the more apparent the hops become.   This beer is dangerously drinkable, as the 9% is relatively unnoticed.

Now, my beer palate is far less refined than D.Jones’ and my first proclamation was that it reminded me of a stout.  D.Jones said he can see where I’m coming from, mostly due to the thickness and the roasted characteristics.

Another great beer from a great brewery…Southern Tier.

2 thumbs up from both D.Jones and myself!


Brew Review – Full Sail Slipknot Imperial Pale Ale
April 19, 2009, 11:21 pm
Filed under: Beer, Wine & Cocktails


 Tonight as D.Jones and I devoured our Dulono’s pizza, he cracked open a 22 oz. bottle of Full Sail’s Slipknot Imperial Pale Ale.   It ran about $5 at South Lyndale Liquor, ABV 7.8%. 

When poured, it tops off with a nice white  foamy head.  When sipped it starts off bitter and hoppy and only intensifies.  It’s not exactly a balanced beer, as D.Jones pointed out, but I really liked the flavor.  The pine is apparent and it’s incredibly full flavored, as an IPA should be.  D.Jones says he doesn’t think it’s great because of it’s lack of complexity and isn’t a huge fan of the overriding taste of pine.  He says there are a lot better IPAs out there, but he liked it for the price as it was relatively inexpensive for an Imperial IPA.  I, however, like it alot and though I wouldn’t sit down and drink a few in a row, I thought it was a wonderful accompaniment to our pizza dinner.

Full Sail Slipknot revew from the Jones Fam – 1 thumbs up from me.

Pizza Sundays – Dulono’s
April 19, 2009, 11:09 pm
Filed under: Pizza Sundays | Tags: ,

Located at 607 W. Lake Street, Dulono’s has been around since 1957.  My sister worked there way back in the day and Dulono’s has been a family favorite since the 70’s.

It’s always an interesting place to dine as you can see just about anything or anyone there during your visit.  Sometimes bikers, sometimes hippies, sometimes suburban looking parents with kids. 

This Sunday I had every intention of going out for a deep dish pie, but home plumbing issues found us under lock and key while D.Jones tried his hand at fixing some pipes.   Seeing as how I already told everyone I’d be writing about pizza on Sundays, Dulono’s came to mind right away.

The crust is thin as can be, and crisp around the edges.  They never skimp on the toppings, which is usually a good thing, except that D.Jones always orders the ‘chovies and with the amount they throw on there, they can really smell up the Jones digs. 


Tonight he had a medium anchovy and mushroom, while the boy and I split a small 1/2 cheese, 1/2 pepperoni.  As always, Dulono’s does not disappoint. 

My father-in-law has a favorite pizza place close to his house in South Eastern Wisconsin.  In the largely Italian population of their hometown, pizza can cause heated debates and he does not mess ar0und.  Basically, if it ain’t Pa’s Pizza, my father-in-law is disappointed….until he tried Dulono’s.  He claims it’s the best he’s had in the Twin Cities.  Not as good as Pa’s, but a close second is quite a victory in his eyes.

If you like your crust thin, your tomato sauce not too sweet, and lots of cheese like a good old-fashioned corner pizza place kinda ‘za, you gotta try Dulono’s.  Mmmm….delicious!


Couscous with Apples, Walnuts and Tofu
April 14, 2009, 1:08 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Last night I was trying to decide what to make for a fast, easy dinner that wasn’t too complicated after the busy Easter weekend.  Using some food I already had in the refrigerator and cupboards, I came up with this, which was a hit with both D.Jones and Cooper.  That doesn’t always happen, so I decided to share…

Couscous with Apples, Walnuts and Tofu

1 1/3 cups Israeli couscous

1/2 block extra firm tofu

2 c. vegetable stock

1/2 red onion, diced

1/3 c. chopped walnuts

1 large or 2 small cloves garlic, minced

1 apple, diced

olive oil

salt and pepper to taste


In a medium saucepan, saute 1 1/3 cups couscous with 1 T. olive oil over medium heat until couscous begins to lightly brown.  Slowly pour in 1 3/4 cups of vegetable stock.  Return to a boil, stirring periodically.  Cover and reduce heat to low.


Meanwhile, coat bottom of large skillet with olive oil and turn to medium heat.  Press excess liquid out of tofu and cut into small squares and add to pan.  Use wooden spoon or other utensil to saute tofu until it browns.  Add diced onion to pan and saute for a couple of minutes.  Add walnuts, then garlic and apple and continue to stir for a few more minutes.  Reduce heat to low and add now cooked coucous from saucepan into skillet and stir to combine.  Add salt and pepper to taste and mix.  If mixture seems slightly dry, add remaining 1/4 c. vegetable stock and stir.


Serves 4 as side dish


Spring Sugar Cookies
April 12, 2009, 2:14 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

In addition to the Thyme-Lemon bars I decided to bring to Easter brunch at the ‘rents, I thought some lovely cutout sugar cookies would be a nice addition. 

Believe it or not, I’v never made sugar cookies.  Gasp!  I know!  Craziness.  Who hasn’t?!  Well, me, I guess.  Either way, I found a recipe online that seemed simple enough and decided to give it a shot.    Unfortunately, in my distraction to get all of this done and also take the boy out to the zoo to visit the “zoo farm babies”, I didn’t actually jot down where I got the recipe.  Ooops.  Someone deserves cred, I’m just not sure who.  Oh well…here it is.

Sugar Cookies

1 1/2 c.  butter, softened

2 c. sugar

4 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

5 c. all-purpose flour 

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth.  Beat in eggs and vanilla.  Stir in the flour, baking powder and salt.  Cover and chill dough for at least an hour or even overnight.  (this is really imporant, as when this dough is not cool enough, it’s nearly impossible to work with)

Preheat oven to 400F.  Roll out dough on floured surface until 1/2 to 1/4″ thick.  Cut into shapes and place on ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake 6 to 8 minutes depending on thickness, or until beginning to lightly brown.  Cool completely.


To glaze:

1 c. powdered sugar

1 T. light corn syrup

3 T. water

food coloring if desired

Mix it all together with a fork in a small bowl until well blended.  I used a small knife to smooth it evenly over the cooled cookies.  I then immediately topped mine with a sprinkle of decorative sugar just because I like the extra sparkle it gives them.  I think they turned out pretty good.  The glaze hardens pretty well, so they will be easy to transport to brunch.