Last fall, I headed up to northern Wisconsin with My brother and some friends. During that trip, two of the bunch proposed a monthly cook-off. The original theme was simply ‘make Your s*** fancy.’ What can I say, it was a weekend of drinking, shooting and dirt bikes. The feast idea changed slightly after that and starting this past January, Fancy Feast had begun. Instead of making it a competition, it is a slightly less intense meal making endeavor. Four courses minimum, guests bring a bottle of decent booze as tribute, or declare themselves the next host/cook for the feast.
First up was My friend Keith, who made some beet and cheese appetizers that were quite good. Followed by a lobster and shrimp torta with lima beans, avacodo topped with seasoned cream cheese and an encrusted herby salmon bake. Then, He banged out a lovely candied bacon, puffed cream and brownie desert.
February went to My brother, Chris. Churning out seven dishes and various drinks. I did however neglect to catch a picture of the fresh pumpkin bread desert. Pictured are His mushroom soup, with leeks. Egg cooked in swirling water and hash, a topper variety plate, cold soba and soy sauce, what I think was a chorizo dish and meatballs cooked forever in a pho soup stock.
I called March’s meal. My theme was simply to do something different. So, no stir-fry. No grill, or smoker. No cajun spices, chili blends, sherry, or even soy sauce. I struggled a bit, making multi-course meals that come round after round doesn’t mesh particularly well with My laid back, ‘just throw some stuff together and hope it’s good’ cooking tendencies. I produced the minimum of four dishes. Bacon and baby lima bean soup, spicy sweet potato mash with roasted brocolli and pistachios on toast, fruit stuffed pork tenderloin roll and finished with citrus gratin. The desert was kind of odd honestly, but it had much potential to be delicious. Something to ponder on how to go about improving.
Here in the Twin Cities, there are many restaurants for foodies and hungry people to choose from. In My neighborhood, there are several notable establishments, along with tons of others, lining the milage of University Avenue. This five mile strip of ‘Uni’ has been home to two fine Saint Paul traditions.. Until a few years ago, University was THE cruising place for car enthusiasts of all denominations. A decades long hot spot, with crowds on any given friday or saturday numbering in the five figures. Naturally, those people needed to eat, so there has been no shortage of the other of University’s defining features… Family restaurants!
For many of My friends, Tay Ho is the place to go. Providing the right combination of tasty food, nicely sized portions and reasonable prices. They have risen to be one of the best places in Saint Paul for family dining and for those who simply wish to perform acts of sheer gluttony, without paying a ton. Sadly, all of the food establishments along University have been hurting. Starting around the turn of the century, the city started ‘aggressively discouraging’ the cruising crowd from using the traditional strip as their gathering point. Then, two years ago and ongoing today, from the U of M campus, to the State Capitol grounds, the city started to install a light rail line. The cruising scene has scattered and effectively died. Leaving restaurants hanging, struggling to get more people coming through their doors. Only to be discouraged by the fact that University is ripped up and under construction for a total of three or four years. It’s been rough for most of the small businesses along University. Both of My favorite food spots have closed down, for good.
So, when a friend asked Me to take some pictures of food for Her favorite restaurant, I was happy to jump on it. Clearly, I’ve taken pictures of food before, but not food cooked by someone else. So it was a rather fun experiment for Me. I’ve long been a fan of Vietnamese food. To have so many dishes placed on a table before Me, one after another, round after round, was a wonderful experience. The cooking at Tay Ho is handled by a father and son duo, with other family members filling in where they’re needed. There was no money involved on this endeavor, the food was the payment. I didn’t set up any lights, just placed things on a table about 5 feet from the solitary window in a back room of the restaurant and started taking pictures of everything that came before Me. It’s obvious why so many people in frogtown flock to this place. The people in the kitchen here, care about the food they prepare and it shows. Next time I want a large bowl of soup, I know where I’m going!