SATURDAY, APRIL 27 – THE MEAT MARKET
For two days, Wanderingjew and I had been comparing weather notes for this day.
We had seen forecasts ranging from a high of 36 and 1-3 inches of snow to possible early flurries and 41.
What we got resembled neither end of that spectrum, as the Roadfood gods shined down on us.
Well, actually it was the sun shining down but we took it.
After skipping yet another breakfast stop, we met up at Café Latte
and Bread + Chocolate
, two pastry shops caddy corner from each other on the outskirts of St. Paul.
The croissant at Bread + Chocolate was amazing, flaky and buttery with plenty of chocolate. I tried a couple of other sweets and they were solid.
This was outside:
The reason we visited the Como Zoo on Thursday was the sketchy forecast for today, but with any precipitation holding off and the temperate already in the low 40s, we headed back.
We were probably going to do that anyway after seeing on Thursday that this zoo had many indoor enclosures.
The kitties were active, but the polar bears were being lazy, which makes me glad we had scouted this stop out two days prior.
We spent plenty of time there, as our next actual scheduled stop wasn’t until 2 p.m.
The lone item in that four-hour span was the Hmong Marketplace.
I knew the Hmong people were Chinese but didn’t initially realize they hail from interior China, which was encouraging to me as I hoped for a meat-centric menu.
There were few signs anywhere on the market grounds, just some nondescript white buildings in a huge parking lot.
Almost all of the first building consisted of clothing and other artsy stuff that didn’t really interest me, but finally we hooked up with the Buddyroadhouse gang by a number of food stalls, and thank God for that as the next 30 minutes would represent the culinary high point of the weekend.
The Roadhouses had already several items in front of them, and after Buddy and I conversed with one of the stall owners and we saw a beautiful Fred Flinstone-portioned slab of beef rib, I decided that would be our contribution.
If the mint pie was my favorite sweet bite of the weekend, the prime rib was tops in the savory department. A close second was the sweet pork that was being passed around.
It was ultra-tender to the point that it broke apart upon biting, and was swimming in a delightful soy/hoisin bath that was neither too sweet nor too salty.
There was the stuffed chicken wings, packed with seasoned lo mein noodles. The wings themselves were super crispy, served whole and nearly bursting with noodles.
Somehow the texture and the contrast in flavors worked, and worked to near perfection.
The people couldn’t have been nicer, and they were extremely happy that we loved their food.
The stuffed wing:
The beef rib:
I thought we had a sweet pork shot but I think Lucy already posted one so we're good.
One thing about the Hmongs that I learned is they are extremely short of stature. Not exaggerating here, but the women averaged about 4-feet-10 and the men maybe 5-4.
Even the Roadhouse gang looked tall here, and Wanderingjew looked like he was among Lilliputians. At 6-2 I felt the same.
Thinking this would be a five-bite-and-move-on stop, I think I speak for the majority when I say I ate too much here.
That said, when you find a stop that is this remarkable, falling off pace isn’t such a bad thing.
It was the ultimate Bonk stop: A six meat and zero (footnote: credit to Nagle for initially coining the phrase ‘2-meat-and-0’ for my Nashville breakfast).
The problem was our next stop was more thick and hearty food at Kaffe Stuga. At least it was a 45-minute drive north to Harris, so we had an opportunity to burn a few calories on the ride.
We hung with CNW and the Wanderingjews here, and we kept it simple: The Swedish meatballs, the famous Minnesota hot dish and desserts: Raspberry pie and sour cream and raisin.
The meat balls were the top food item here, I thought, as I really enjoyed the texture and meaty flavor.
I go with the majority that I don’t get the hot dish concept, but I liked the casserole part. The tator tots just don’t seem to go with the rest.
I did have a bite of someone’s Minnesota wild rice soup and thought it was good but scored slightly below the other two I tried this weekend.
The sour cream pie was fine: It’s not something I would order but liked the bite I had. I liked the raspberry pie, which was loaded with some of the freshest raspberries I’ve ever seen in person.
Mrs. Bonk enjoyed it so much she ordered a second one.
So we had originally written off the waterfall park across the Wisconsin border when we saw the forecast, but it was now 50 degrees and sunny, so off we sped to the south and east for a calorie-burning nature walk.
Cathy had just gone under the knife for a torn meniscus in late October, and while she has been an exercise machine in her rehab since, this would be the first time attempting a potentially challenging walk.
While the hike to the waterfall was paved, there was an immediate problem when we turned the first corner: The downward slope to the base of the falls was extremely sharp.
And it kept going at that clip.
Around another bend and finally the road leveled off, carrying us to the waterfall.
Making my poorest decision of the trip – even worse that the second roast beef at Wally’s – I saw a lookout point that I walked to climb.
It appeared to be maybe 70-80 stairs, but as I kept climbing it was about twice that. I rarely am out of breath from walking, but I was sucking major wind by the time I reached the summit.
And really, the view wasn’t spectacular enough to justify my insanity. I got a nice look downstream, away from the falls, but I was pretty much on top of the waterfall itself with branches partially obstructing my angle.
I headed down, and I was still struggling winded, and now we had to tackle the road we had descended going the opposite direction.
Spoiler alert: We made it, and I couldn’t have been prouder of Mrs. Bonk. She wasn’t even out of breath when we hit the apex.
My look straight down after suffering a near cardiac arrest.
My look downstream.
We had done our requisite two walleye stops and post-Stuga stop was fish and chips, so we hatched an alternate plan.
The Nook in St. Paul was one of the Ju(i)cy Lucy stops that was scratched from the original list because of its lack of table space.
But we really wanted to try it, and there was an item on their menu that was a must for Mrs. Bonk: Honey-glazed, bacon-wrapped cheese curds.
We got a Lucy and the curds and headed to our final stop, the Lion’s Tap
. We messaged the group and told them to meet us at our car to try some of each, and though we arrived a little after 6:30, almost everyone got there well after.
A look at the Nook...
Is that Bob Ross bowling on TV?
So a lot of people got to try the burger but it obviously was no longer hot. I still really enjoyed it, and the sweet and savory flavors accompanying the cheese curds made for a delightful appetizer.
The Lion’s Tap was as simple as it gets: Burgers and fries, and fortunately for us, one of our old former Cincinnati friends now living in MSP who goes by the screen name Divorceki
was able to join us.
After well-founded complaints about the doneness level of Ju(i)cy Lucys, we were elated to find out we could order medium rare here.
It seemed like most did.
This was a burger done right. Melt-in-your burger-y goodness and gooey melted cheese in tandem with a smallish, thin bun that allowed the beef flavor to shine through.
I thought this and the Nook were the top burger stops of the weekend, although my first bite of Nook was 40-plus minutes after it came off the grill.
A preview on the way in:
With an early-morning flight upcoming, we said our good-byes, sharing a number of hugs, and we returned to our hotel.
I dropped off Cathy at Malone’s and parked the car at the hotel.
We were ecstatic that Divorceki could join us, and we were joining another couple.
As season ticket holders for Miami University hockey, we meet a lot of the players and have befriended a number of parents over the years.
Tonight we met up with the mother and father of Taylor Richart, a Rudy-type of player who was always too small and not skilled enough who continues to defy odds to this day because of his toughness, guts and hockey IQ.
Five-feet-10-inch, 185-pound defenseman rarely thrive in the Division I, much less the pros, yet he was one of the top three blueliners on the team’s depth chart by the time he graduated, and he scored 17 goals in his ECHL rookie season.
We hadn’t seen his parents in the three years since Taylor had graduated, but since they live in nearby Blaine, tonight we got to enjoy a couple of beers with them.
It was a truly enjoyable way to wrap up our trip.
The inside of Malone's:
Love this photo near the restrooms:
post edited by Bonk - 2019/06/02 17:54:45