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Broadening My Horizons

It’s become apparent to me that rather than making a list of New Year’s resolutions, my approach to 2009 could’ve much better been summed up in a list of just two items:

  1. Try new things.
  2. Learn new things.

Seriously, with the Get-Healthy resolution, I knew it had to be more than a diet. I love food, all kinds of food, so I knew that denying myself favorites just wouldn’t happen or I’d give up in about four days.  I do have personal goals, but I wanted this to be a lifestyle overhaul; I wanted the way I cooked to change.

I get a lot of inspiration from friend and food blogger, Kate. I’m also doing a lot of digging and reading a lot of food blogs, recipe sites, and magazines to learn how to make favorite dishes healthier, adding vegetables to every dish and looking for lighter, leaner meats.

The biggest thing I’ve been learning is how to overhaul my kitchen and cook differently. It’s also been incredibly fun. Since I already love to turn my kitchen into a Test Kitchen, I’ve been spending more and more time in the kitchen perfecting things, tweaking things, and eating a lot of healthier meals.

Two things I’ve never made before that I’m going attempt before spring: lasagna and soup. I know, they’re both simple because you get to just through everything in a pan and call it a day, but I’ve just never buckled down and done either of them from scratch, and it’s damn near time I did.

My second resolution is to learn new things, pick up new hobbies. For starters, I’ve grown up with an intense aversion to all things crafty and always got really overwhelmed and annoyed walking through Michael’s or Jo-Ann’s.  All those little pieces and strings and fabrics… WTF was I supposed to do with all that stuff?! Cue: anxiety.

Well, not any more. I started card-making (bizarre for someone who’s always hated the idea of scrap-booking) at the turn of the new year and almost have enough to start giving a couple of sets as gifts. That’s definitely a new thing.

Knitting. Last night, Kate came over and introduced me to two new things – lentils and knitting. The lentil dish included bacon and sausage which is pretty much an automatic ‘W’ in my book. It was awesome. As for knitting, I never, ever in my whole life thought I’d have the patience for it; it’s detailed, it’s time-consuming, and the probability of me making mistakes, finding a gaping hole in my fabric, and having to start over was high.

Yet, I found it’s something I can actually do, and not only that? I wanted to keep going. I knitted a row this morning before I went to work, just to make sure I remembered what I was doing. (I did!) [Spoiler alert from the future: this did NOT stick]

I’m going to find a way to track my progress, but here are the preliminary items, off the top of my head that I want to learn/try in 2009:

  • beading
  • sewing
  • cook this lentil dish (which is what I tried last night)
  • knit a scarf
  • take better photos of food (since I write about it all the time)

I’m open to new ideas! Tell me what new things you’re doing this year and maybe I’ll try it too. And since life is about balance and bacon should be it’s own food group, maybe I’ll even try a bacon mat.

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Blue Door Pub – The Blucy

My apologies for the complete lack of pictures from the actual experience.  My camera batteries are dead and the ones I took on my iPhone did not work out so well. Bad blogger, I know.

The bar/restaurant: The Blue Door Pub, St. Paul

1811 Selby Ave
St. Paul, MN 55104

The first thing of note was that the place is WAY smaller than I’d expected. I guess I didn’t know what to expect, but I’d heard about Buck Hunter and such, so I had pictured a spacious area with lots of seating.

Not so! There were 6 seats at the small bar by the front window, and (hang on while I count ’em)… something like 8-10 tables, 4ish booths, and a bar/barstools by a front window for perching and side-by-side eating.

With no room for a podium for a host, let alone room for a host to really stand in one place, I asked a bartender if we needed to get on a list of any kind. He said, “find the cute redhead and give her your name.”  The cute redhead was easy to spot with such an apt description, so as I glanced around the place, I quickly found her. We put our names on the list and headed towards the bar to wait. Twenty minutes later, we were seated at our table.

Beers: between the two of us, we got a Surly Furious and the Liftbridge Biscotti. I’d recently skimmed a note on MNBeer about it, so when I saw it on the menu it piqued my interest. It’s awesome. MNBeer describes it here as:

“… an array of malts, oats, wheat, pure local honey, light European hops and delicately spicing with Grains of Paradise, Madagascar vanilla beans, whole star anise, all brought together with traditional Belgian yeast, the result is a cloudy, deep copper colored, complex experience.”

After we were seated, we immediately started off with an order of beer-battered green beans (delicious!).  That counts as a veggie serving, right?  Right.

Onto the burgers…

While I was more than tempted by such Juicy offerings as a Pizza Blucy or a Bacon Blucy, I decided to keep it real and opted for their signature burger – The Blucy:

The Blucy – 6.50
Our flagship burger! We stuff bleu cheese and finely chopped garlic into a half pound of Angus beef.

It was amazingly delicious. As, I mentioned on Metblogs, it was perfectly cooked (just a teeeeeny bit pink, right in the middle), flavorfully bleu-cheesy and garlicky and the bun was perfect. When you get to the gooey center you’ve got to REALLY love bleu cheese as that is some intense smelly cheese action, but all in all? Awesome, awesome, awesome.

Overall:

  • Service: beyond friendly, and they were not a bit flustered by the packed house (though, as the bartender mentioned, that crowd was totally normal for dinnertime).
  • Food: The burgers were impressive.  For Jucy Lucy purists (Hi, Matt’s Bar), their signature is not your “classic” meat+cheese+fried onions offering, but they do make one appropriately titled “The Classic” for those of you that hate idea of anything other than the basics. For putting their own spin on the original, it’s a much better version than Bar Abilene attempted with their Southwest Lucy (not enough cheese, too many toppings).  I want to try all of them, and their other Blucy offerings include Luau, Pizza, Bacon, Breakfast and Cajun.
  • Price: It’s important to note that the burger itself doesn’t come with an included side of fries or other options, but at $6.50 for the burger, it’s tough to complain about a couple bucks to add on some potatoes, or in our case – the beer-battered green beans for $2.75. Fries and tots are $1.75. As for the beers, I found nothing on the tap list that was more than $4.

Overall – I will be back.

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