Basket of Nachos-The Bulldog, NE Minneapolis

After bidding adieu to Los Angeles, we found ourselves settling back into life in Minneapolis pretty easily.  We were excited to try out the creative new restaurants that had sprung up since we moved & eager to return to our favs.  I, myself, was thrilled when a group of old co-workers wanted to gather for HH at the Bulldog.  I love their HH specials & beer selections-$2 off delicious apps & drink specials (I usually get a Surly Furious or Fulton Sweet Child of Vine, but opted for the Saison Dupont during this visit).  Let’s get to the details!

Toppings: Savory beef brisket, quest fresco, picked jalapeños & onions.  Served with a side of guac, pick de gallo & cilantro creme fraiche.   Loved the brisket & pickled veggies, but the queso fresco was minimal & didn’t have enough staying power to be effective in this dish.  Nachos should be all about the cheese, right?!  The guac & pick de gallo were delicious, but I would have appreciated a bigger portion of these items.  The cilantro crime fraiche could have been left out of the app, was much to runny to act as a dip.  3/5

Topping to chip ratio:  Close to ideal, but i did wish we had a few more chips to scoop up the remaining toppings so we could participate in the clean plate club.  3.5/5

Freshness:  The chips were warm & tasted fresh out of the fryer.  The toppings were bright & colorful without a hint of having hung around the cooler too long.  5/5

Crunchiness of chips:  The toppings weren’t particularly heavy (even the brisket, which was strange) and the chips kept their shape & crunch throughout.  I think the lack of cheese definitely helped out in this category.  We gobbled them up pretty fast, but even if we hadn’t I think they would have fared pretty nicely!  5/5

Creativity: The brisket was awesome & I liked the pickled onions & jalapeños.  I might have added Monterey cheese & pinto beans to the nachos to make them even more hearty.  3.5/5

Total: 20/25

Bulldog Basket of Nachos

Bulldog Basket of Nachos

Nachos, Tony P’s, Marina Del Rey, CA

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Tony P’s is one of our favorite restaurants in the Marina that  my husband & I discovered before we had moved here (Angelenos-don’t judge us!).  We absolutely love the amazing little restaurants that are all over LA and frequent them often.  But when we have guests from out of town who just don’t appreciate the communaldining/mustusevalet parking/$20 craft cocktail type of place we take them to Tony P’s!  The portions are the size of Olive Garden’s and their menu is reminiscent of a mid-western supper club.  The views of the Marina are beautiful and the service is always really good.  So it’s a win-win.  Score.

The Nachos are no longer on the menu and I feel like a true regular when I ask for them.  But they are worth the calories.  Every.Single.Time.

Toppings: Pulled pork chili, monterey jack & cheddar cheeses, sour cream, salsa, scallions.  The pulled pork chili is delicious with rich flavor & big chunks of savory pork that easily breaks apart to get the perfect amount on your chip.  The cheese is perfectly melted and was distributed evenly throughout the plate.  The salsa was spicy-a bit runny for a nacho topping IMO, but the heat made up for it!  Score: 5/5

Topping to chip ratio: Just about perfect.  There wasn’t much left on the plate after we devoured it, but enough to know they got the ratio just right.  Score: 5/5

Freshness: All of the toppings seemed fresh and there were no hints that it had been sitting around before being served; however, there were no produce items on the nachos which would have been a dead give away on the level of freshness of the nachos.  Score: 5/5

Cruchiness of chips:  The chips stayed crunchy throughout and didn’t sog under the weight of the cheese.  Some of the chips were a little greasy, but still edible.  Score: 4/5

Creativity: These nachos were pretty standard, but the pulled pork chili added an extra element of creativity and flavor. Using a combination of cheeses also added an extra dimension of flavor and made for a pretty presentation. Score: 3.5/5

Overall score: 22.5/25

Irish Nachos at Finn McCool’s in Santa Monica, CA

On a recent Sunday funday I found myself out with friends, drinking beers, watching football and enjoying another glorious Sunday afternoon in Southern California.  We left the crazy frat party like atmosphere of Brick + Mortar and headed to the cool and calm Finn McCool’s which was right down the block.  We claimed an empty part of the bar directly across from a big screen & ordered up the first of several rounds.  When happy hour (yep-they have a Sunday happy hour even during football games!) rolled around, I perused the menu and ordered the Irish Nachos-against the advice of one of my friends who warned me they weren’t very good…but, I was hungry and have had really yummy Irish nachos in the past so decided to give them a try (plus, I do run a Nacho blog!).  When they finally arrived I was super excited, they looked tasty & I eagerly popped one of the thick cut potatoes into my mouth.  All I tasted was bland nothingness.  I was amazed that even with cheese, Irish bacon, Sour Cream and tomato salsa they still tasted…bland.  Never in my life have I eaten this combination of foods where it had completely no taste.  It still baffles me as to how they managed to pull this off.  I really want to eat there again to see if their other options have the same problem.  I’m hoping not because I really liked the atmosphere of the bar, plus it’s in a great location along Main Street in Santa Monica!  And I have a soft spot in my heart for Irish bars…doesn’t everyone?!

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Toppings:  Cheddar cheese, Irish bacon, sour cream and tomato salsa…all bland.  1/5 stars

Topping to potato ratio:  This was pretty good overall I thought…had they tasted good & I eaten more I think I would have been pretty satisfied with this category.  5/5

Freshness: I guess it appeared freshly made?  Not to be redundant (Redundancy Department of Redundancy is one of my favorite sayings on a t-shirt!), but the tomato salsa appeared to be made fresh, but lacked any flavor so either it was made too fresh & the flavors didn’t have time to marinate together or it was so old it just sucked.  My palate really couldn’t tell the difference with this one:( 2.5/5

Crunchiness of chips:  I’m going to count the texture of the potato on this one which was pretty spot on-not too mushy, not too crisp.  Baby bear would say it was “just right”!  5/5

Creativeness:  At most of the Irish bars/restaurants I’ve been to they have some form of Irish nachos on the menu so I didn’t think this was any more creative than most.  I do think they attempted to do something different with the tomato salsa vs. regular tomatoes, so I’ll give them a few stars!  2/5

Total: 14.5/25 stars

Foux Du Fafa

My husband & I are taking a belated honeymoon to Switzerland next week.  We couldn’t be more excited!  Or Nervous.  Well, I”m nervous…my husband is calm.   He has planned international trips before in the time span of one week, I need much, much more planning & freak out about every detail.  I sound fun to be married to, right?!   I’m super nervous about not being able to speak French or German fluently-or really at all. I tried to learn some French, but it is really, really hard to learn!  When I was in college my fellow itsnachoblogyo.com bloggers both spoke French fluently and I would just make up sentences that consisted of “Bonjour, Merci, S’ il vous plait, Au Voir, Oui Oui, Je m’apelle” since those were the only words I know.  Pragya sent me this video to make me laugh & it did the trick:)  Merci Pragya, Merci.

 

Musical Mondays Happy Hour Nachos, Eleven Bar & Nightclub, West Hollywood, CA

Katie & Pragya enjoying the night!

Katie & Pragya enjoying the night!

 

http:/http://www.arseniohall.com/video/comedy/5095_arsenio_plays_who_said_what/index.html

After our extremely exciting taping of Arsenio Hall, in which we came oh so close to getting our big itsnachoblogyo.com big break (can you spot us in the audience?  I was almost picked to participate!), we decided we needed more nachos & cocktails. And since we were in West Hollywood, it just seemed fitting to stop off at a gay bar with a great patio, enter Eleven Bar & Nightclub. Little did we know we were about to be introduced to our master parodist waiter OR stumble upon West Hollywoods lip synced version of classic showtunes OR order surprisingly good nachos all while sipping 2 for 1 margaritas.

Toppings: Standard nacho fare…chicken, melted cheddar, black beans, sour cream, guac & tomato salsa topped with a little bit of green onion:) The cheese could have been melted more uniformly & the chicken didn’t taste the freshest, but overall yummy:) 3/5

Topping to chip ratio: A little bit of topping left over…3.5/5

Freshness: I already mentioned the chicken didn’t taste all that fresh and all the other toppings had a pretty typical bar quality freshness to them. The tomato salsa seemed the freshest which is a good sign! 3/5

Crunchiness of chips: Maintained their crunch the whole way through! Might have been due to the lack of evenly melted cheese, but it was really easy to pile on the toppings since the chips stayed crunchy! 5/5

Creativeness: This was pretty standard nacho fare, which I like. I seem to be a purist with my nachos so I was okay with this:) 4/5

Total ranking of 18.5/25

Eleven Nachos

Eleven Nachos

Cheat Day

Everyone deserves a cheat day.  I have been training for a half marathon for the past few months & am elated that I get to run alongside my fellow itsnachoblogyo.com bloggers on May 10th in the Santa Barbara Wine County Half Marathon.  I’ve been pretty strict about my training, following the Hal Higdon Intermediate Half Marathon Training program.  I’ve put off running errands, declined dinner invites with friends, left work strictly by 5pm everyday all in the name of training.  This past weekend was my cheat day (okay, cheat weekend!).  It was Easter and I was missing my family- the baking traditions, egg hunts and polish sausage that made our family Easter celebrations amazing.  So, I indulged a little-did a quick 3.5 mile run on Saturday and then spent a leisurely morning at our neighborhood farmer’s market which had lovely fresh fruits & veggies and beautiful flowers which led to grocery shopping at my favorite high end markets (Bristol Farms I love you!) and an evening of baking.  Sunday was supposed to be my 1o mile run, but it got pushed off for church and Easter brunch…and mimosas…and wine…and lots of jelly beans.  Needless to say the run never happened, but I had a beautiful rejuvenating day.  I try not to feel guilty when I have a cheat day, I just jump back on the training regime the next day.  I think my younger self used to let a cheat day ruin me, to take it from a cheat day to a cheat week and so on.  My current self recognizes that being flexible with myself and my routine leads to a healthier sense of self and the ability to continue running long after the training is over.

Here are some links to my Easter brunch recipes-they are all delicious and fairly easy to prepare.  Enjoy!

Salted Caramel Easter Popcorn from Two Peas & Their Pod-I might play around with the caramel sauce and ratio to the dry ingredient mix.  It was pretty sticky, but did dry up a bit by the next day.  I’d also half the amount of M&M’s in the recipe since it seemed a bit dominant.

Katie Lee’s Apricot Glazed Ham from RachelRay.com-hands down the BEST ham I have ever eaten.  It might have also been due to the high quality smoke, bone-in ham I bought at Bristol Farms, but the glaze recipe was sweet, tangy deliciousness!

Beecher’s Kale & Brown Rice Gratin with Smoked Cheese Sauce from Iowa Girl Eats-I changed up the recipe a bit & used hash browns instead of brown rice to make it a more “traditional” Easter brunch recipe, but it turned out a bit gloppy & heavy, although still delicious!  I love the carmelized onion paired with the smoked gouda & fontina cheeses.  I think I will try it again with brown rice or quinoa instead.

Green Green Spring Vegetables from Ina Garten- The perfect use for my fresh farmer’s market veggies!  I haven’t blanched a lot of vegetables in my time, but I think I’m hooked.  Theses were so crisp and flavorful I could make them all Spring long!

 

BWW’s Triple Threat Nachos-Los Angeles, CA (and every major US city)

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Oh Buffalo Wild Wings.  The triple threat nachos should really be re-named “One threat nachos with some other stuff”.  I should have stuck to the wings.  I usually get Spicy Garlic & Hot BBQ wings, but when we stopped by the local BWW’s pre-Muppet Movie, I decided to go a little crazy…I mean, we were about to see the Muppet movie after all…and it was 2pm on a Saturday.  We.  Are.  Wild.

Toppings

The nachos were split into thirds and each section had a different set of toppings.  The first section was a sweet pulled pork (Honey BBQ sauce) with queso & cilantro-yum!  I could have eaten a whole plate of those nachos.  The second section was a buffalo chicken type of topping with fried chunks of chicken with spicy garlic sauce, blue cheese & celery-a bit heavy for a nacho topping.  I mostly just ate the chicken separate from the chips since the spicy garlic is my favorite sauce!  The third section was some sort of meaty chili+queso=unedible.  Total stars: 2/5

Toppings:Chips

So many leftover chips it was just sadness all around.  I would have asked for salsa to eat with the leftover chips but BWW has the worst salsa of any restaurant chain I’ve been to.  It tastes like generic salted tomatoes.  No thanks.  I’ll just let the extra chips sit lonely on my plate.  Total stars: 1/5

Freshness

Hhhmmm…tough category.  This is Buffalo Wild Wings after all, I don’t come here to eat fresh food.  I come here to drink beer & eat delicious fried wings & watch sports.  But my food was hot & it tasted like it had been recently prepared as opposed to sitting under a heat lamp all day, so…Total stars: 2.5/5

Crunchiness of chips

Not a soggy chip in the bunch…probably due to lack of toppings!  But, when the toppings were as heavy as they were, a crisp chip is much appreciated.  Total stars: 5/5

Creativeness

I like the idea of three sets of toppings on nachos & I like that BWW’s took a bit of a risk with the Spicy garlic chicken ingredients since they were so heavy & dense, but the meaty chili topping was inedible & disappointing.  I think they could have used a shredded chicken instead of the fried and maybe they could have incorporated Caribbean Jerk sauce into one of the toppings? or the Teriyaki?  Total stars: 2.5/5

My final ranking is 13/20: 65%