1610 Harmon Place, Mpls.
PITY THOSE WHO plunge themselves, their time, and their money into hopes of gaining public admiration. What if their well intentioned strategies go unnoticed? How much sadder can you get than a lonely evening of waiting by the phone or door, anxiously looking out the window, anticipating your guests or audience to arrive and be impressed by your artistry? I felt a small blow of woefulness on a chilly, rainy evening last week as my friend and I visited Joe's Garage. Where are all the good people of these fabulous cities, people who you'd suppose would certainly know how to appreciate a good burger? "Good burgers" might be misleading however, for the burgers featured on the menu here are more than good; these are the burgers of nouveau dreams.
The decor at Joe's Garage could use a little feeling; if this problem were tackled with some confidence, I think that Joe's would rule the roost. It wouldn't take too much; you know what they say about a little paint going a long way. Right now, the decor is a stripped, emptier version of the space's previous tenants, Randy's Tres Cafe. The icy blue splotched walls, the low white ceilings, the white, cracked floor, the white tables-- you might start feeling like you're stuck in the waiting room of your local hospital, or perhaps at the bottom of your favorite lake. Nice jazz music sifts through the dining area though, and the warmth of the staff and the tasty vittles can't help but make you feel welcome and content. The people-watching from the roof garden on a sunny afternoon (and take heed: there aren't many left this year) is pretty good; I was convinced for a few minutes that I saw Valerie Bertinelli sitting behind the tomato plant, though I don't think it was her. My disappointment was soothed with a glass of J. Pedroncelli merlot, a bit pricey at $6 a glass, but it was the size of a water glass, and the stuff is glorious. Beer is $2.50 per tap and $3.75 for bottles, which include New Castle and Watney's Cream. The menu also offers shakes and malts ($3.25)--this is a burger spot after all--but I personally couldn't stomach the thought of a big, frosty strawberry malt with an herbed chèvre lamb burger ($7.25).
The menu is made up of appetizers, salads, and burgers; during lunch hours, pasta is also available. Our table eagerly went through the smoked trout mousse ($4.25) and the gingered pork wontons ($4) we ordered to start with. The wontons, delicately fried triangles filled with ginger-marinated bits of pork and served with tamari spiked with chili for dipping, went more quickly than the smoked trout mousse. A cold, creamy mixture served with skinny, cold asparagus tips, diced tomatoes, and lightly baked rounds of French bread and pumpernickel, cold mousse on a chilly day isn't always the ticket. Maybe next time we'll try the roasted red bell pepper risotto cakes ($5.75) instead. The curried yellowfin tuna burger my friend tried was a nice twist, grilled with pickled ginger and sweet onions on thick slices of toasted sesame brioche smeared with wasabi mayonnaise, though the potato salad (made with new potatoes, corn, tomatoes, and green pepper) veered towards the bland. I enjoyed the spicy Asian pork burger ($8), seasoned with a heady mix of soy sauce, ginger, garlic, mint, and chili paste, and served with a tangy Japanese coleslaw and cumin-scented, latticed potato chips. The best of the burgers we tried, I blush to admit, was the classic beef burger, grilled perfectly to specification on an egg bun studded with sesame seeds and accompanied with fresh, healthy specimens of tomato, lettuce, and onions, not to mention a hot mass of skin-on French fries ($6). Of course, you could fancy things up with a variety of cheeses (add $1) or a slice of apple-smoked bacon (add $1.50), but we were extremely happy without it.
Dessert was our favorite part of the meal. If I had a small child in tow, I would drag them (albeit I imagine they'd be quite willing) to Joe's for a exalted view of the Basilica and an ice cream sundae--a leviathan concoction of Sebastian Joe's ice cream with homemade berry syrup, chocolate truffles, and, for the young connoisseur, topped with a sprig of fresh mint ($3.50). Being grizzled adults with no child in sight (besides, we'd eaten ice cream sundaes the night before), we were forced to order something more mature and called upon the strawberry shortcake ($3.50). Composed of billowy mounds of fresh, lightly sweetened whipped cream sandwiched by buttery, feather-light biscuits and dimpled with lusty, fresh strawberries, it restored every bit of our innocence, adding some that was never there to begin with. Among the paths we regret we were unable to take (though they sure did look good on our neighbor's table): raspberry devils food cake ($3.75), coconut creme caramel ($3), and the coffee chocolate ice cream sandwich ($3).
Literally and figuratively, Joe's lies between the posh fare at the Loring and the down-home eats at Ruby's. There should be a spot for them; you just need to find it.
PORK PLEASES: We're happy to announce that the Minnesota Pork Page is available on the world wide web. Located at http://www.mnpork.com, the site promises hours of edutainment. Whittle away the minutes on an interactive pork trivia quiz, get information on who raises hogs in Minnesota, receive a visual explanation of "how pork producers are stewards of the land and help protect the environment," and get the latest on the economic impact of pork production. Says Minnesota Pork Producers Association Executive Director David Preisler, "Our goal with this website is to show the people in Minnesota how the pork industry contributes positively to the state. We set the site up in a user-friendly way and think that both kids and adults will enjoy visiting it." If you are in need of fascinating or potentially hyperbolicfactoids to dice up party conversations, this site is full of them: Hey, nice dress, and by the way, did you know that pork accounts for 40 percent of the world's meat consumption? And of course, you'll get loads of fabulous recipes like this one .
Braised Pork Medallions
* 1 whole pork tenderloin, sliced into eight pieces
* 1 tsp. black pepper, ground
* 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
* 1 tsp. vegetable oil
* 1 small onion, minced
* 1 large apple, cored, coarsely chopped
* 1/2 cup apple cider
Mix together pepper and pumpkin pie spice and season medallions on both sides. Heat oil in a large, non-stick skillet; sauté pork on both sides to brown, remove from pan and reserve. Add onion and chopped apples to skillet, sauté until golden. Add apple cider to skillet, heat to a simmer. Return pork medallions to pan, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Serve with hot rice or couscous, if desired. Serves 4.
SHINE ON: Have you been hiding your cookbook under your mattress? You or your club, restaurant, or church are cordially invited to submit your cookbook for possible inclusion in Best of the Best from Minnesota: Selected Recipes from Minnesota's Favorite Cookbooks; all community cookbooks are eligible as long as they are still in print. Scheduled for publication in 1997, this will be the 24th volume in Quail Ridge Press's distinguished state cookbook series. What's in it for you? Well, your cookbook will be given credit beneath each recipe included and will also be featured in the catalog of contributing cookbooks section. If you want everyone to know that your cookbook is amongst "The Best," here's a sure-fire way to prove it. To receive a free brochure about the series, call 1-800-343-1583.
AIN'T NO MILK IN HEAVEN: Are you lactose intolerant? If so, you'll be sure to want a copy of The Lactose-Free Family Cookbook, written by Jan Main with Marsha Rosen. This book is a guide to tasty, healthful foods that lactose-intolerant people can lap up with gusto, and includes recipes, hints, and tips to enhance a lactose-free life. To whet your appetite, here's a recipe featured in the book for salmon mousse.
* 1 pkg. (10.25 oz./290 g.) silken soft tofu
* 1 1/2 pkg. gelatin
* 3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
* 1/2 cup boiling water
* 2 cans (each 7.5 oz./213 g.) salmon
* 1/2 cup light salad dressing
* 1/4 cup each chopped fresh dill and green onion
* 1/4 tsp. black pepper
Using sieve, drain tofu. Line 4-cup mold or small loaf pan with plastic wrap. In a small mixing bowl, sprinkle gelatin over lemon juice. Let stand about five minutes or until lemon juice has been absorbed. Stir in boiling water until gelatin is dissolved. Drain salmon, discarding skin and reserving bones. In food processor, combine salmon and bones, tofu, salad dressing, dill, onion, and pepper; puree until smooth. With motor running, pour dissolved gelatin through feed tube.
Spoon salmon mixture into prepared pan; cover and refrigerate about two hours or until firm. May be made the night before. To unmold, place serving platter over mold; invert mold and, using plastic wrap as lever, gently ease mousse onto platter. Remove plastic wrap. Slice into half-inch pieces. Garnish with sliced cucumbers and fresh lemon.
IN WITH THE NEW: After eight successful years at their location on Nicollet Ave. S. in Minneapolis, restaurateurs Gus and Carol Parpas have opened a second Christos restaurant in St. Paul's Union Depot (214 Fourth St. E. to be exact; 224-6000). Pay them a visit at their new location, and treat yourself to a classic Greek meal based on the cuisine of the island of Cyprus.... Executive Coffee & Tea, downtown St. Paul's oldest coffee shop, has opened a new store in the skyway at the corner of Fourth St. and Jackson.... Biscuits & Blues, a blues club based in San Francisco and renown for the butter biscuits it ministers, is set to open at 430 First Ave. N. in Minneapolis.... Along the same lines (though this I cannot say with much authority, not having had an opportunity yet to visit either club, old or new) is Famous Dave's BBQ & Blues, which has opened in Calhoun Square in Minneapolis (3001 Hennepin Ave. S.; 557-5798). Live bands and greasy, plump ribs should stuff your soul, though with what remains to be seen.
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