March 2009 Archives

Not a shwarma, not a gyro, but yum!

Get yourself over to Mim's on Cleveland Avenue in St. Paul and ask for a salad with chicken. It has no name but must be the nicest salad in the 55108 postal code.

Really just a pita-less shwarma and rather unassuming in its styrofoam box, this salad is made of cabbage and lettuce, topped with garlic-mayonnaise sauce and raw onions, but heaped with that delicious spit-roasted chicken normally associated with shwarmas and their cousins, gyros. Topped with raw onions and a slice of lemon to greet your nose as you open the box, it makes a great lunch for anyone on or near the U of Minnesota St. Paul campus around lunchtime. Tell Mahmoud that Ann sent you.

A controversial subject--tipping

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Along with religion and politics, tipping is apparently a subject that's impossible to discuss in civil tones -- at least internationally. A recent BBC story about tipping in America described how US waitrons rely on tips to make up a significant part of their incomes, which puts pressure on their customers to decide how much to tip. (For anyone who is not aware -- this is not the case all over the world!) When it comes to tipping, travelers beware! Local customs prevail, and it's up to travelers to work out what those customs are, how much they agree with them, and judge the performance of their particular server.

So here's a primer on tipping in Minnesota, for those who plan to visit, and don't want to offend:
The service charge is not included in the restaurant bill unless the group is large. In this case, the service charge will be noted on the menu. Fifteen percent is standard; leave 20% for excellent service. As noted in the BBC piece, do not be anxious if your server seems overly familiar; he'll stop as soon as you've paid the bill.

By the way, if anyone out there knows, I'd appreciate some guidance on how much to tip a bartender here in Minnesota? I'm not sure I've got that right yet.

Fantasy restaurant

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When it comes to food blogs, The Heavy Table is in the big leagues, with a staff, contributing writers, starred restaurant reviews and ads.

Being a mere guppie in the foodie pond, Eating Minnesota recently entered HT's Create a Restaurant competition. Lo and behold, we made the list with the "Just around the corner" entry ! (Although we think the poem just below it knocked the ball out of the park in comparison.) The $20 gift certificate to Annano's deli will fund a weekend outing that may feed not only EM's family, but this blog as well.

Many thanks to The Heavy Table.

Two Scandinavian institutions in Minnesota have closed in the past year, due more or less to the state’s shrinking Norwegian population. The Royal Norwegian Consulate General’s closing last summer was well publicized. There were protests, a letter-writing campaign, much outrage and then, when the Norwegian government announced that the honorary consul would be Walter Mondale, acceptance.

Less well publicized was the closing of the Scandia Bake Shop in south Minneapolis’s Nokomis Village. For 18 years, it sold a wide range of authentic and not-so-authentic Scandinavian cakes and cookies. You could stop in for a cup of coffee and a piece of kransekake or a bolle. Boller (balls), sweetened bread rolls, look very plain Jane, but are a bit sweeter, and come standard with your coffee in Norway, and thus very authentic. You would almost certainly take with you a loaf of Knipe bread, your basic hearty wheat bread, excellent with a brothy soup, and sold unsliced.