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Author: Phatphood

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The Lotus Uptown

Lotus Returns to Uptown Minneapolis

The Lotus Uptown Minneapolis

Lotus returns to Uptown Minneapolis! The beloved Nguyen family that has graced us with their family tradition since 1983 is expanding their Vietnamese fare to Uptown Minneapolis (opening date to be announced). With their already established downtown favorite, will Lotus returning to the area from which they originated possibly be the end of the long running curse that has plagued this particular location? You may remember some of the past tenants; Old Chicago, Boneyard or the most recent yet short lived, GĀME. The Ngyuens are well aware of the ever-changing demographics and energy of Uptown, but they hope to restore an “old-school Uptown” vibe with the new location.  With Mama Lotus’ creative influence on the food and the execution from her husband and sons, this just might be the family vibe that Uptown has been yearning.

Lotus MN Opening

If you are familiar with the downtown location, then you probably have been greeted by the eldest son, Yoom Nguyen; with his well-known, warm, comedic, yet humble demeanor.  He will now be serving as front of house and business operations manager at the new location.  He sure will have his work cut out for him with a much larger space, a full bar and a few additional features including –availability of their signature “stacked bahn mi” sandwich as a quick to-go pick up during lunch hour, a to-go bubble tea stand, fresh rice bowls, fresh salad bowls and a late night food menu after 10pm.

Lotus Pho Uptown

Taking a seat next to the many garage door bays that will soon open to their patio in the coming weeks, my son and I decided to try a few of their signature favorite dishes and perhaps some new ones, if we can talk Mama Lotus into doing so.  For now, I’m eyeing the five specialty cocktails they now have that I must try, starting with the Café Da Lat – Hennessy VS, Kahlua & Vietnamese Coffee – $9 Now this is my kind of brunch starter right here. I can’t believe I didn’t think of this idea, I’m an instant fan!

Lotus Uptown MN

They still serve up some delicious fresh made spring rolls that I no longer have to travel a greater distance for.  I’m guessing these will be available at their late-night walk-up only window for the coming seasons.

Lotus Uptown Spring Roll

The decor is simple and shows the progression made with a telling tale of family photos covering a wall in the comfy waiting area.  Other poster-sized pictures throughout the restaurant show the Vietnamese culture in black and white, with a capture of everyday residents going about their day in their homeland.

Lotus Family Photo

Much like the one in this background of yet another one of their specialty cocktails.  Vung Tau Paradise – Rumhaven Coconut Rum, Banana Liqueur, Blue Curaco, Peach Schnapps, Strawberry Schnapps, Heavy Cream, Sprite, and Orange Juice. Tasted like sherbet, and definitely tropical -$8.

Lotus MN Drinks

Mmmmm the new Uptown location has Shrimp Egg Rolls. Finger size. My finger, not yours.

Lotus Uptown appetizer

Lotus Minnesota

Mr. Nguyen and one of his sons are running the kitchen during the soft opening.

Lotus Review

Bartenders Midian and Vikky model with some of the favorable top shelf cognacs at Lotus Uptown.

Lotus Uptown Staff

Hanoi Mule – Stoli Vodka, Fresh Lime Juice & Ginger Beer – $8.  a decent price for the area, lots of bubbles and spirit with a good ice to cocktail ratio (I really dislike when you only get one sip along with a cup of ice like some establishments, not here).

Lotus Uptown Drink

You no longer have to travel down eat street for a giant bowl of pho.  Lotus serves up their House Pho with 4-Meats – chicken, beef, meatball and seafood, to fulfill all your protein needs.   I think their bowls may have gotten bigger during transition, but I’m not complaining.

Lotus Uptown Pho

As the exterior is a solid jet black that vibrantly makes their logo pop, the interior is mainly dressed up in olive green with many high-tops and booths divided by bamboo style windows.  The bar has a modern vibe to it; housing violet neon with 10 flatscreens and 15 beers on tap.  For now, I’ll stick to that specialty cocktail menu, this one is named Nha Trang Da Chanh – Stoli Vodka, Fresh Lime Juice, Sugar & Water – $8.  Refreshing, but not for me. If you’re not a big drinker, and you’re looking for a light tasting drink, then this one is probably for you.

Lotus Uptown Drinks

Well, hey there you badass bowl of sexy Vietnamese love…where have you been all my life? New menu item at their Uptown location, and I guarantee it definitely will be a crowd pleaser. Nem Nuong Salad – It’s the latest creation from Mama Lotus, she took the Vietnamese Nem Nuong and made it into a salad using seasoned ground pork, shrimp egg rolls, and their homemade Nem sauce. Crazy good portion right here, this bowl is huge.   Mama Lotus, I only have one small request, two sunny side-up eggs on top for me, please!

Lotus Uptown Dinner

The restaurant has a respectable sized outdoor patio that walks off to their own parking lot, which may be a form of entertainment in itself , with some of the parking spot placements multiple maneuvers with close-calls are a thrill to watch, for some.   If people watching isn’t your thing, don’t fret, there are also flat-screens on the patio for your viewing pleasure.   With the already established relationships and following the Nguyens have built during their journey in the surrounding communities, I’d imagine this will be a quite lively patio during the Spring and Summer seasons. After all, it is a celebration.  Oh, the drink…it’s a Saigon Connect – Hennessy & Amaretto – $9.   My kind of drink. Cheers! – Phatphood

Lotus Uptown Review

Lotus Uptown

2841 Hennepin Ave South, Minneapolis, MN  55408

Sunday – Wednesday:  11am-10pm

Thursday – Saturday:  11am-1am/2am

CDT Grease

Chanhassen Dinner Theatres Grease Review

Phatphood Grease

The 1950s hip-thrusting, hand-jiving, Rock ‘n’ Roll pop culture is back, and it isn’t going anywhere for at least the next several months.  Grease has finally returned to the main stage at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres after a 10-year hiatus. This time around, resident Artistic Director Michael Brindisi, who played Kenickie in the second national tour of Grease in 1978 (the same year the film version was released), gives you a more emphasized version of social commentary during this era of teen rebels and coolness. What he did was brilliant, with less attention on only two characters and more focus of high school cliques and the dawn of sexual connotation.  Brindisi has this production made in the shade.

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MagicChanges

All the classic hits made popular from the 1978 film were all included along with a few other addicting additions from the original Broadway production like “Those Magic Changes” which is the quirky play on musical notes sung to an up-tempo tune of “Stand By Me.”  Another instant favorite was the comical “Mooning” performed by Evan Tyler Wilson (Roger) and Therese Walth (Jan), who were the perfect duo for this doo-wop inspired song of the human posterior. Now in the second act when Kasano Mwanza took spotlight in the crowd as Teen Angel for “Beauty School Dropout” I got chills, and they were definitely multiplying!  Kasano literally had the voice of an angel and had the entire theatre under his wings.  I could watch this scene over and over, it was that captivating.

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BeautySchoolDropout

This production felt a bit fast paced, almost rushed into each musical number to fit them all in.  Enjoyable, but I wouldn’t have minded sitting longer to have it spread out.  The entire first act scene changes were the build up to the dance competition in the second act with the voice of Vince Fontaine (Keith Rice) coming across as a radio broadcaster, making for groovy transitions. Goosebumps gave way as Sandy (Caroline Innebichler) twirled an umbrella forefront to the house band as she performed “Hopelessly Devoted To You” ending the scene prior to the productions longest scene of the evening as the dance competition took place at the school gym.  The set decorations were minimal, with the coolest prop being an actual mini-mobile convertible, but it made room for the large dance numbers and the simplicity didn’t take anything away from the heart of the show, it’s characters.

Sandy

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Keep in mind this is a PG-13 type of production with a few flips of the bird, a couple of SOB’s and other sexual references.  However, it is an experience I believe we all should be entertained by, and lucky for us it has performances every night of the week excluding Mondays with matinees on Wednesdays and Saturdays all the way thru October 28th, 2017.  Oh, and to satisfy your cravings as well as mine, our favorite Teen Angel flies back on stage to join the entire cast to perform “Grease Is The Word” for the finale that will be sure to bring you to your feet.

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Purchase your ‘Grease’ tickets here.

Photo Credit: Dan Norman, 2017

Barkers Bar and Grill Hudson

Barker’s Bar and Grill Hudson, WI Review

Barkers Bar and Grill Hudson

Bar food at its finest; There is some seriously good grub over the river in Hudson, WI – along with some fantastic people that greet you with genuine enthusiasm.  Marty at Barkers Bar & Grill took me under his wing from the moment I walked in until my departure. For a bar, I had some damn good service and some wonderful food to go along with it, check it out.

Barker's Bar and Grill Hudson WI

Going off of the suggestions from the general public that frequent this joint, so definitely giving these a go! Garlic-Creole Wings – The locals know these as “Beer Wings.” Sautéed with sweet butter, fresh garlic and a combination of Creole spices. These are fresh and crisp, just how I like my wangs! Now you would think upon seeing this much garlic, that is all you would taste, nope! Not over powering at all, and the taste is phenomenal. No overwhelming garlic breath lingering either. Date night approved.

Barkers Garlic Wings

Next up is their Patty Melt – Charbroiled burger, caramelized onions, cheddar and Swiss cheeses, atop grilled rye bread. I went ahead and made this a double, it made me feel more in control of things. Now I don’t like my beef more than medium, so this was bit overdone for my liking, but still a good tasting Patty Melt.

Barkers Patty Melt

Bullseye Burger – topped with Barker’s smokehouse BBQ sauce, smoked cheddar cheese and crisp, hickory-smoked bacon, and locally sourced lettuce, tomato and red onion. Yummy smoky stuff right here.

Barkers Bullseye Burger

Now we are eating! This has my name written all over it. Barker’s Smoked Green Chile-Bacon Mac & Cheese – smoked green chiles, hickory smoked bacon and cavatappi pasta topped with their house-made queso. I really love the smoked flavors along with the zestiness of their queso. I’m ordering this atop a burger next time!

Barkers Macaroni and Cheese

There just happens to be a unique featured item here at Barker’s and guess what? Yup, I ordered it! Crunchy Ramen Ahi Tuna – 6oz center-cut Ahi Yellow Fin Tuna Steak breaded with crunchy ramen noodles, flash-fried to a perfect medium-rare and glazed with their house teriyaki sauce. Served with a side of togarashi spiced potatoes (chili flakes, orange zest, sesame seeds and seaweed powder) and curried green and wax beans.

So as I was preparing to feast on this Asian-creation I immediately thought I was going to break a tooth. It felt like it was made out of legos in my hand. However, that wasn’t the case, it had the normal crispness of like- something coated with panko deep-fried or even a crispy fried chicken…and it actually worked. I just wish it had a spicy mayo dipping sauce. It’s a special, so get it soon. By the way, these were the most flavorful green beans I’ve ever had.

Barkers Special

Now I was told I couldn’t leave this place without trying their tuna melt, who am I to turn down some more grub? Bring it on! Dan’s Yellow Fin Tuna Melt – 6oz center-cut Pacific-fresh Ahi Tuna steak, seasoned and char-broiled medium (or to your liking). Topped with melted sharp cheddar, Monterey Jack and caramelized onions, served atop grilled sourdough. This is a fantastic tuna melt, and I made the mistake of not ordering it Tucson style, with their scratch pesto and oven roasted tomatoes, because I was thinking it was your typical green processed pesto, but it’s not. I got a side of it, and it drastically changed this Melt for the better. It was actually red and had a depth of flavor. Even got a side of it to take home.

Barkers Ahi Tuna

Barker’s hand cut fries in their home-made queso, dipping just one fry does no justice. Does anyone just eat one fry at a time?

Barkers French Fries

Just like the locals that frequent here and have been telling me that I must try, I’m telling you to come pay this place a visit and hopefully you won’t get ridiculed for waiting so long.

You can find Barker’s Bar and Grill at 413 2nd Street, Hudson, WI or visit their website. You can also check Barker’s Facebook page for daily specials.

Follow @phatphood on Instagram to see what I eat next.

FB The King and I Orpheum

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I

The King and I Orpheum

If you can guess how many times “et cetera” is said during the 2.5 hour seating of Rodgers & Hammerstien’s The King and I at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, you win…well, nothing.  I have nothing to offer, what you will win is a marvelously witty and charming stage performance that you will want to share with everyone you know.  Kind of like I am doing now, this is definitely a must see and not to make you rush out to go get your tickets or anything, but you only have until March 5th before this ship sets sail out of town.

Laura Michelle Kelly, Baylen Thomas and Graham Montgomery in Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I. Photo by Matthew Murphy

On opening night, as a huge ship on center stage glides towards the audience, Laura Michelle Kelly (Anna Leonowens) steps to the bow as the audience erupts in cheer.  After all, she is a big deal.  She is praised for her work starring on Broadway in Mary Poppins and most recently Finding Neverland.  She is opposite of Jose Llana (King of Siam), who is also no stranger to the stage or the big screen, I actually remember him from a little role in the movie Hitch.

Laura Michelle Kelly as Anna and the Royal Children of Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I. Photo by Matthew Murphy

The first act had the whimsical comedy and playful nature as the teacher and the King culturally clashed during the late 1800s of Bangkok as Anna, a British widowed schoolteacher, arrives to shed the knowledge of Western Civilization and the English language to the King’s children.  Laughter will give way as puns intended towards the modern day political madness. The King jokingly mentioned how he wanted to build a fence around Siam to keep the other countries from entering and taking power.

Joan Almedilla as Lady Thiang in Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I. Photo by Matthew Murphy

An unforgettable scene during the first act was with the introduction of the many wives and children of the polygamist King.  This is where charm came into play.  Each of the kids had their own unique stature and playfulness, where as the wives were more subtle.  Except for the elder wife, Lady Thiang (Joan Almedilla), who captivated the audience with “Something Wonderful”, conveying a powerful voice of nothing less than perfection.

Laura Michelle Kelly and Jose Llana in Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I. Photo by Matthew Murphy

The second act comprised of more serious nature and sadness along with a grasp at love between the King and Anna, giving way to more heartfelt duets such as “Shall We Dance” and also  “I Have Dreamed” performed by Manna Nichols (Tuptim) and Kavin Panmeechao (Lun Tha), whose love affair was hidden in fear of the King.

Jose Llana and Laura Michelle Kelly in Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I. Photo by Matthew Murphy

Also in the second act, a performance within a performance was conducted as the character, Tuptim, narrates a book known as Uncle Tom’s Cabin, for the King and his guest, Sir Edward Ramsey, whom was there to be convinced that the King was not a barbarian.  This scene had dancing, singing and simple props that captivated the audience’s attention.

Jose Llana as The King in Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I. Photo by Matthew Murphy

Opening night had its minor mishaps, as the spotlight tech had trouble keeping up with the quick movements of the performers.  Also, for a show of this caliber, the choreography could have been a little more precise.

You can purchase tickets for ‘The King and I’ through March 5th at the Orpheum Theatre.

Can Can Wonderland fb

Phatphood Reviews Can Can Wonderland

Can Can Wonderland

Went on a little fun adventure today to enjoy some crafty cocktails, eat tasty bites and compete in 18-holes of miniature golf all in the newly opened Can Can Wonderland in St. Paul.

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It’s in the basement of a warehouse and has underground parking with a one-way creepy steep ramp.  A lot of hand-made signs guide you throughout the establishment almost like it’s a pop up rave of some sort.  Unorganized is the best word to describe how it functions.  You really don’t know if you’re in line to play or to get on a list. There are four bars, with three different menus.  You can’t order the same items at each bar, so make sure you grab the correct menu.

Can Can Wonderland 5

It was about an hour and a half wait to play golf today (Saturday) at 2pm.  No fret–ample time to explore the grounds and sort out the confusion. Played a few old school pinball machines that seemed to have techs working on a different one on every turn around.  The staff is very hipster friendly and well knowledgeable with the cocktails they pour.  Great conversations can be had to make the wait time go by very quickly.

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Can Can Wonderland 1

The food and drinks are fun and creative and I wouldn’t mind trying every item…on all three menus.  On this visit I tried the Mac and cheese dog, a brisket and bacon grilled cheese with a side of tomato soup, a Bloody Mary, and a blue cheese infused gin drink served in a bloody shark jaws.  Also had the “Cruise Ship” – mini donuts with caramel and chocolate sauce, bacon and sprinkles, and comes with a cone of cotton candy, yum!

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Can Can Wonderland 3

I’d wait a month or so to go.  Let them get up to speed and work out the few kinks they have. It’s new, but it’s fun.  They are only open Thursday – Sunday and after 8:30pm anyone under 21 has to motivate. Not every hole is finished, and some aren’t working properly at the moment. I’d also avoid weekend days. The art work (holes) are awesome to play and work your way around, but you are a bit rushed with players eagerly waiting behind you, I get it though.

-Phatphood (follow me on Instagram)

The Bodyguard Review

Review ‘The Bodyguard’ Orpheum Theatre

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If you can get past all the gasps and pacemaker alarms after the opening scene, you will be sure to enjoy Deborah Cox performing, as well as delivering hit after hit made famous by Whitney Houston in this musical adaption of The Bodyguard.  This tale of a bodyguard hired to protect a superstar and eventually fall in love is easily stage worthy and leaves you with a full experience of a story and a concert.

Judson Mills (whom you may have seen in a variety of TV shows) plays Frank Farmer- the calm, and at times, somewhat robotic, protector of a pop mega star.  When he spoke, it just didn’t feel natural.  During a karaoke scene, you cannot help from breaking into laughter as he attempts to sing, or actually talk his way through “I Will Always Love You.”

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Deborah Cox as Rachel Marron is nothing short of spectacular.  From the rebellious attitude, to filling the shoes of the late Houston, with each scene featuring one of her famous jams, it is easy to say that the right choice was made for the role. However, she was nearly upstaged vocally by Jasmin Richardson, who plays Rachel’s sister Nicki Marron.  Jasmin had everyone’s undivided attention as they adjusted in their seats in amazement while she sang “Saving All My Love” with ease and grace.

Another head nod with an eyebrow raise notable mention goes to the future star, Douglas Baldeo, who plays Rachel’s son, Fletcher.  He wasn’t just an adorable stand in, this kid could really sing and dance.  Speaking of dancing, this cast had some wonderful choreography and wardrobe that will bring you back to the 90’s.

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The Bodyguard recently wrapped up production in the U.K. with 16 months of sell-out shows; now add Deborah Cox, a talented ensemble and a U.S. launch, and what you have is a breathtaking show an audience will enjoy whether they watched the movie or not.

The Bodyguard runs January 10-15 at the Orpheum Theatre, in person is the best option with no service fee at the State Theatre Box Office, or you can call 800-982-2787.  Also online at Hennepintheatretrust.org

6/10 – Cliche characters/acting with a beautiful soundtrack.

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

Hudson Burger Battle

2016 Hudson WI Burger Battle Review

2016 Hudson Burger Battle

2016 Hudson WI Burger Battle Review – Back again for the second year in a row to give my vote for the #HudsonBurgerBattle2016.  Now you have from the 1st of November until the end of December to try five selected burgers at five local restaurants in Hudson, WI with the purchase of  a punch card for $25.00. One hundred percent of the proceeds go to BRIDGE, supporting programs that allow youth and adults with disabilities in the St. Croix River Valley to attend year-round day service programs, attain meaningful employment, participate in ongoing recreational activities, and socialize with friends.

It just wouldn’t be in We’ve Tried It fashion if I didn’t go and eat all five burgers in one evening.  So, let the meat sweats begin.

Right now I’m here at Dicks Bar & Grill for the first of five burgers in this burger battle.  Ricky Style – Topped with their special homemade sauce, lettuce, tomato, raw onion, American cheese and pickles. Kinda like a junior Mac, if you will.   Prepared nice and served open-faced.  Tasty and very fresh bun, lovely burger here with an excellent homemade sauce I might add!

Dick's Bar and Grill Burger

Moving down the street to Stone Tap for the second burger in this battle of meat.  What we have here is the C3BO – C3 is for the 3 cheeses involved; Queso, American and Wisconsin cheese curds. BO is for the bacon and onions mashed into the patty.  Stone Tap was my 1st place last year as well as the overall winner from all participants.  Does this one do justice this year with a new chef involved? Hell yes! Try this burger! It’s petite, but packs a delicious punch.

Stone Tap Burger

On to the third burger at Postmark Grille, which happens to be very unique.  The Peanut Butter Cup Juicy Lucy – a peanut butter cup (from local candy shop Knokes just across the street) stuffed burger, with crisp bacon and fried jalapeños. This actually works, there is no cheese to take away from the peanut butter cup, it oozes like a true juicy Lucy, it was just missing one major ingredient; seasoning.  However, I’m a fan.

Postmark Grille Burger

Unbuttoning the pants for this short drive to the outskirts of town to Seasons Tavern where I am chowing down on my fourth burger in this challenge which happens to be the return of a monthly special they had this summer know as their Empire Burger – 7oz burger patty, thin sliced apple, caramelized onions and bacon cream cheese on a pretzel bun.  I was a bit concerned about apples on my burger, but they really are thinly sliced and they mainly are added texture with a faint taste of apple that gets lost in the caramelized onions. Cream cheese was a nice touch with the pretzel bun.  Their caramelized onions are definitely the star in this burger.

Seasons Tavern Burger

The fifth and final burger tonight is served up at Big Guys BBQ Roadhouse, and is ironically named The Winner (aka The Trump) – 8oz blended patty of sirloin, chuck and short rib with pork Belly, Vermont cheddar, smoked chanterelle mushroom, chive horseradish sauce and arugula on a brioche bun.   Another petite burger served with all the right toppings, without the mess.  We have a serious battle going on here.

Big Guy BBQ Burger

In short, not one of the restaurants asked how I would like my burger prepared, but all served up some wonderful creations.  Who is on top of this burger battle?  I think they are all winners this year, they really stepped it up a notch with their creativity and execution.  Unfortunately, you will have to wait until the end of the year to see who brings home the title of this annual fun and delicious burger battle.

We regret to announce that the tickets have been sold out for the 2016 battle. The winners will be announced in January 2017. If you purchased your tickets already be sure to comment and let us know your favorite.

Be sure to follow @Phatphood on Instagram .

Chanhassen Dinner Theatres Camelot

Chanhassen Dinner Theatres Camelot – A simple, yet efficient set with very little change of elements was the backdrop to this deeply moving, whimsical at times, timeless classic. That’s right; Lerner & Loewe’s Camelot is back on the main stage at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres for the season. From an arranged marriage, to chivalry, to a borderline adulterous scandal, this is still one of the best romantic tales of all time.

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The performances were stellar!   My most favorable moment of the evening would have to be during the first act when Guenevere, played by Helen Anker (a first at Chanhassen) along with ensemble gave way to ever-so-popular “The Lusty Month of May” which they did so, effortlessly.  Another honorable mention was the lovely ballad performed by Aleks Knezevich, playing the part of Lancelot in the second act with “If I Ever Would Leave You.”   If you recently frequented CDT this past season you may remember him as the bronzy, corny, yet confident Gaston in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.  

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Main character, Keith Rice as King Arthur and his mythic mentor David Anthony Brinkley as Merlyn were phenomenal together and brought complexity and humor to the stage. Arthur had moments of a confused expression at times that were laughable, but perhaps not intentional. More than once during the performance, Guenevere and Arthur broke character and gave way to small giggles during the evening, this for me was surreal and life-affirming.  

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Overall, it was a splendid theatre classic that you should definitely see during this Fall/Winter season in Minnesota while taking in a dinner while you are at it, the CDT never disappoints in either category. Run of engagement is until February 25th, 2017. You can purchase your tickets here.

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We highly recommend spending an evening at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres. Take a look at the 2016-2017 CDT calendar here.

Photo Credit: Heidi Bohnenkamp

Phatphood State Fair sm

Phatphood 2016 Minnesota State Fair Food Review

Phatphood MN State Fair 2016

Phatphood 2016 Minnesota State Fair Food Review: Well, it’s Summer ’16 and I’m back at the great Minnesota foodie get together to bring you a review of the new edible items they have to offer this year.  I took a different strategy this year by not reading any descriptions or list of the new foods before going on the first day of the State Fair.  Yea, I heard people mention items and I had seen a few pictures here and there on social media, but I stayed clear of the hype and went in blind to give an unbiased review.  With that typed; I’m giving you the description that was available on the Minnesota State Fair website first, followed by my review with a 1/5 scale, so I may have some similar descriptions as I was posting live via my Instagram account while I was eating each item in my 12-hours at the fair.  Here they are in the order that I ate them: 

Rustic Beef Pastry: Moroccan-spiced, grass-fed beef and baby spinach topped with creamy goat cheese and nestled in a flakey butter crust.

MN State Fair Rustic Beef Pastry

Located at: French Meadow Bakery & Café on the north side of Carnes Avenue between Nelson and Underwood streets.

SF

Dry, dry, dry. Pre-cooked and under heat lamps waiting for what I guess was an eternity.  The dry crumbles of beef reminded me of Tontio’s party pizzas when I was a kid.  This would probably work at a gas station next to the Taquitos.  1/5

Spicy Pork Bowl: A mix of adobo pulled pork, rice, black beans, spinach, charred salsa and fried onion strings.

MN State Fair Spicy Pork Bowl

Located at: The Blue Barn at West End Market, south of the History & Heritage Center.

It’s a lovely portion, and basically a burrito bowl. I’m a fan.  The pork could be much spicier for me, it was missing that heat I expected.  3/5

Candied Bacon BLT: Crispy, thick candied bacon, rancher’s slaw and green tomato spread on a sweet egg bun.

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Located at: The Blue Barn at West End Market, south of the History & Heritage Center.

My favorite new item thus far! Perfection. I want this BLT daily.  Blue Barn nailed the candied bacon and it has just the right amount of sweetness.  Sooooo good!  Bun and quality of every ingredient is top notch. 5/5

Candied Bacon Donut Sliders: Sliced glazed donut holes with thick candied bacon and a chocolate red wine ganache.

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Located at: Minnesota Wine Country on the west side of Underwood Street between Carnes and Judson avenues.

Cold. Not as fresh as I’d imagine. Bacon had a mild spice to it, yet cold as well.  This is the one that was brought up the most in the last few weeks leading up to opening day here at the fair so I was actually excited about trying it, not anymore.   It just could have been executed better, bummer.  1/5

Minnesota Corn Dog: Custom ground sausage on-a-stick made with blueberries, apples, wild rice, maple syrup and cayenne dipped in a homemade corn dog batter and deep-fried.

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Located at: Gass Station Grill on the west side of Cooper Street between Dan Patch and Judson avenues, outside the southeast corner of the Food Building.

Mn State Fair Minnesota Corn Dog

Actually, a pretty good tasting breakfast corn dog with a decent hint of spice.  Small, but covered an excellent tasting batter. Biggest complaint is that the sausage will come right out of the casing when biting, so you pretty much have to bite hard down onto the stick or eat it from the side and hope for the best.  For taste and the reasonable fair price of $5 it gets a 3/5.

Saucy Shrimp & Slaw: Breaded shrimp tossed in your choice of parmesan garlic, sweet chili or buffalo sauce on a bed of fresh coleslaw.

Mn State Fair Saucy Shrimp & Slaw

Located at: Fish & Chips Seafood Shoppe at two locations: In the Food Building, northwest section, and on the west side of Liggett Street just south of Mighty Midway.

Good ol typical battered shrimp tossed in buffalo sauce. Another item that has a decent amount of heat to it, duh, buffalo sauce, and the slaw is better than at most restaurants. Basic, but good. Was never given the option for the Parmesan Garlic, ugh I hate that here and it happens every year at most vendors. 3/5

Beer Brat Buddies: Oktoberfest beer brat in a German pretzel bun with sauerkraut, chopped onions and a choice of mustards — a serving for two!

Mn State Fair Beer Brat Buddies

Located at: Sausage Sister & Me in the Food Building, east wall.

Good little buddies here, sister!  Fresh, and made to order, unlike a few other items here at the fair just sitting around waiting to be bought. I put the special sister Sriracha sauce on one and their spicy brown mustard along with raspberry jam on the other.  The pretzel buns were very fresh. No complaints here.  3.5/5

Macaroni & Cheese Curds: Rich macaroni & cheese blended with fresh cheese curds.

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Located at: Oodles of Noodles in the Food Building, east wall.

Mn State Fair Macaroni & Cheese Curds

This a hefty dish! Excellent curds (not breaded), tons of thick melted cheese, and mixed with the macaroni noodles. Carbs on carbs!  The breadstick is blah, but who in the hell cares?  Comes in a to go box, kudos on that!  4.5/5

Sheep Dog: Lamb dog served hot in a bun with garlic sautéed kale, raw fermented sauerkraut, quinoa and honey mustard drizzle. (Gluten-free option without the bun.)

MN State Fair Sheep Dog

Located at: Lamb Shoppe in the Food Building, east wall.

This is a good solid dog. The honey mustard goes great with the fermented kraut. Messy, so make sure to lick your entire hand when finished. All the ingredients worked in harmony.  4/5

Carpe Diem: A Taiyaki (fish-shaped) buttermilk miso waffle cone filled with balsamic-roasted strawberry compote and topped with vanilla ice cream, graham cracker crumble and a fresh strawberry.

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Located at: The Rabbit Hole at the Midtown Global Market booth at the International Bazaar, east wall. Available Aug. 25-30 only!

MN State Fair Carpe Diem

Oh my damn this is gooooood.  The waffle cone is crisp and amazing, especially when the balsamic compote bleeds into the cone it tastes like PB&J.  Great dessert here; Don’t take a long photo session with it, this here melts FAST! Don’t just go biting into it either, scoop it out and enjoy it or the cone will explode at the seams…I know this!  Grab the wet wipes they offer. Thomas is a stand-up dude, so make sure you say hi to him. 5/5

Cheesy French Onion Monkey Bread: Savory, pull-apart artisan bread loaf filled with caramelized onions, cheese and beef broth, then baked in a wood-fired oven.

MN State Fair Cheesy French Onion Monkey Bread

Located at: Blue Moon Dine-In Theater on the northeast corner of Carnes Avenue and Chambers Street.

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French Onion Soup pored over some dinner rolls, literally. Simple, savory, deliciousness.  3/5

Bang Bang Fresh Chicken Tenders: Lightly breaded, fresh, never-frozen fried chicken tenderloins served with Bang Bang sweet and tangy chili sauce.

MN State Fair Bang Bang Fresh Chicken Tenders

Located at: LuLu’s Public House at West End Market, south of Schilling Amphitheater.

Definitely crisp and fresh.  Great with or without the sauce since the breading is seasoned well, a little on the salty side.  The sauce is a wonderful addition, so dip away. Pair it with a beer.  4/5

Minnesnowii Shave Ice: Maple flavor with bacon crumbles. A new flavor this year at the fair. These guys are at every carnival, fair and event here in Minnesota. Definitely at the top in their category.   The maple works of the shave ice, the bacon gets a bit soggy and chewy, but it all works together.

MN State Fair Minnesnowii Shave Ice

Located at entrance of the West End Market. 4/5

Burnt Butt Ends: Premium cuts of pork, seasoned with a BBQ rub, then smoked over oak and served with onions and jalapeños.

MN State Fair Burnt Butt Ends

Located at: RC’s BBQ on the north side of West Dan Patch Avenue between Liggett and Chambers streets (former site of Famous Dave’s).

Dry, burnt ends is right.  I’ve had much better.  Bring Famous Dave’s back!  Mmmm jalapeños. Good flavor in the sauce, on the salty side, but pretty basic.  1/5

SPAM® Curds: Cheese-flavored SPAM® that has been cubed, battered and deep-fried, served with a side of ranch dressing.

MN State Fair SPAM® Curds

Located at: SPAM® east of Chambers Street, just south of the Grandstand.

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Now you already know these are salty, but it’s a Minnesota food staple, and some us of grew up eating SPAM® and still love it.  Better with the ranch!  Not a single hint of cheese at all and not worth the $7 price tag.  Decent bar snack with a beer.  2/5

Gumbo Frites: A bed of crispy french fries topped with Ragin’s traditional New Orleans gumbo made with andouille sausage, chicken, bell peppers, onions, celery and a rich roux-based sauce, then finished off with cheese and green onions.

MN State Fair Gumbo Frites

Located at: Ragin Cajun in The Garden, west wall.

I’m turned-off when it comes to pale looking fries, but they are going to be soggy regardless and the gumbo is a wonderful reminiscence of Popeye’s gravy with nice chunks of sausage and chicken, hell yeah!  Good job on this!  3.5/5

Barbecued Shrimp Taco: Sweet, smoky, slightly spicy barbecued shrimp and cool, fresh jicama slaw in a warm flour tortilla.

MN State Fair Barbecued Shrimp Taco

Located at: Tejas Express in The Garden, north wall.

Not impressed, at all.  You would expect this at Taco Bell for $2.50, but $10 for two here with the most basic ingredients, or lack thereof.  Maybe try the macho taco if you come here.  0/5

Italian Taco: A flour tortilla baked with butter and shredded parmesan, filled with Italian sausage and mozzarella, topped with roasted bruschetta, romaine lettuce, Caesar dressing, pesto, pizza sauce and parmesan cheese, and then drizzled with a balsamic glaze.

MN State Fair Italian Taco

Located at: Green Mill on the east side of Cooper Street, between Randall and Wright avenues, at Family Fair at Baldwin Park.

I didn’t expect much when I read about this one prior to locating it, but after two bites I was amazed on how good it is.  For $5 this a decent sized meal, and a tasty one at that! 4/5

Reuben Pickle Dog: A dill pickle spear with sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing wrapped in a slice of pastrami.

MN State Fair Reuben Pickle Dog

Located at: Pickle Dog on the south side of Carnes Avenue between Liggett and Chambers streets.

Good little street food snack. Perfect amount of cream cheese to kraut ratio. Can’t go wrong with this one. 4/5

Deep Fried Nachos Supreme: Pepper jack cheese cubes coated with a mixture of crushed seasoned tortilla chips and nacho cheese, then deep-fried, covered with taco meat, guacamole, more nacho cheese and sour cream, and served with jalapeños on the side. Also available traditional-style without the supreme toppings.

MN State Fair Deep Fried Nachos Supreme 2

Located at: Texas Steak Out on the west side of Underwood Street between Lee and Randall avenues.

MN State Fair Deep Fried Nachos Supreme

Wow!! I am blown away by this one. I haven’t been very fond of the items sold in the last few years from Texas Steak Out, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Damn, I can’t get over how impressed I am, wonderful. Tastes like a mozzarella cheese stick wrapped in a ball of crushed Doritos deep-fried. Love. 5/5

MN State Fair Phatphood

Unfortunately I had a few bad items that I heard later in the day had improved, that is just the way it goes here at the fair.  They always have a new, young staff helping them each year and executing a new item at the same time.  So although these are my opinions of the items I had, they may be different for you when you try them.  It can be a hit or miss situation, and that is just how it is.  Had a great fulfilling time, thanks for following along and I hope you enjoyed!  Til next year.

Orpheum Lion King

Disney’s The Lion King Orpheum Theatre Review

9 Aaron Nelson (Simba) and Nia Holloway (Nala). ©Disney. Photo by Matthew Murphy_

Disney’s The Lion King Orpheum Theatre Review: Imagine only seeing in black and white your entire life, and then suddenly you can see in color for the first time. This was that first time! The Orpheum Theater has brought the pride land of Africa to the city of Minneapolis with Disney’s The Lion King, along with its vibrant living art and beautiful music on stage. There is no argument that this is indeed the World’s best musical. I admit however, I did at first have my doubts with the actors not being in full costumes playing the roles of animals of the wild. It was the costume designs that brought this master of puppetries to life on stage, and it worked marvelously. It is to no surprise that Julie Taymor (director, costumer designer and mask co-designer) won a Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical.

7 Mukelisiwe Goba (Rafiki) 3 ©Disney. Photo by Matthew Murphy_

The entire show lasted a little over 2 hours with a 15-minute intermission between acts, the first act being longer than the two. There was a musician on each side of the stage beating on drums, congas, chimes and other various instruments bringing the soundtrack to life. There were a few South African inspired songs added that were not taken from the movie to help during the growth of Simba. The cast took to the isles and balcony more than once throughout the performance adding a wow factor to the element of surprise. Humorous dialogs were also added to the stage that played off of some of the other Disney favorites that will give way to laughter. The on stage set is just simply captivating, there is no other way to describe it; just something you have to witness for yourself. It is pure seamless magic happening right before your eyes.

8 Gareth Saxe (Scar) and Gerald Ramsey (Mufasa). ©Disney. Photo by Matthew Murphy_

If I were to pick out a single character or actor that mesmerized me throughout the performance, I cannot. The entire cast and crew brought this to life, as a whole, they all deserve as much credit as anyone involved on or off the stage. Truly a unified team that works unparallel together.

5 Gerald Ramsey (Mufasa) ©Disney. Photo by Matthew Murphy_

The only disappoint is within myself, for waiting so long to see and hear this beautiful magic take place right in front of me on stage. This is the fifth time this touring show has been to Minneapolis now in its 19 years of existence. Hopefully you haven’t passed up as many opportunities as myself, but if you have, do yourself a favor and go see this show while it is in your city…you still have time!

The Lion King is now playing through August 7 at the Orpheum Theatre. Get your tickets here.

Photo by Matthew Murphy