My cat picked out my sushi

August 21, 2014

Mackerel and sea bream cat food

Last Sunday, the Open Streets folks did one near my neighborhood. Open Streets is when a stretch of a road is closed to cars for a day and non-motorized folks get to go nuts on it. I’d been aware of previous events but hadn’t made it to one, so I was excited that I’d have to put forth minimum effort to attend this one.

But to be perfectly honest, the day was one of extreme relative humidity—something gross, like, the dew point was 69F and the air temperature was 71F (21C/22C). I had texted my bikey friend, Jon, at noon to inquire whether he would be toodling over, then stuck my big toe out the front door and immediately decided I wasn’t going out in that, and settled in to watch some Grand Hotel.* After the second episode I decided I at least needed to take a shower because, even inside in air conditioning, I was feeling sticky and yucky. I stood up, checked my phone, and realized that Jon had replied in the affirmative almost right away. I texted him, thinking I’d be lucky if he was still out. I was very lucky because not only was he still out but he was at my end of the two mile stretch of the open street.

Well, fine. I hated the thought of going out in that weather, yet knew I’d regret it if I didn’t finally check out such a convenient Open Streets, and knew I’d appreciate a shower more after I returned home. I met him in the beer garden in the parking lot of my local liquor store.

Dear Open Streets,
I ride my bike back and forth to work every day across two vectors of downtown, Victor. I thought suburban SUV-driving commuters who can’t think outside the car were the bane of my existence. Not so. In that one tiny ride during your event, one-half mile to a neighborhood business I often bike to anyway, I realized that, really, pedestrianing parents with cherubic children are far, far worse. No cars on the street? No motors to listen for to give us audio cues as to how to behave in common space? No problem. No trajectory is too weavy for us to wobble along. I’m riding a bicycle? I might as well be a semi-truck hurtling toward your Croc-shod toddler. You sneer in my general direction.


Beer and band gardenIn hindsight I’m very glad that, when I found Jon and said that I wouldn’t mind riding to the other end and back, he informed me that he had already done so twice and was just going to order another beer. Here’s to neighborhood brewery Harriet Brewing’s Woden Weizen!

Being the humid, unsettled weather it was, the sky soon unleashed another round of showers. Jon and I gamely stood in the rain because, let’s face it, neither of us is fancy, and it felt good. Unlike previous showers that day, though, this one lasted for more than three-and-a-half minutes. It wasn’t bad for us spectators but unfortunately for the band that was playing, the tent-shelter that was protecting them decided to let loose into the keyboard its load of water. That put a damper on the vibe.

But I digress.

I quipped to Jon that I’d still be willing to ride to the other end but he came up with a far better idea. I’m finally getting to the sushi portion of the story.

Across from the liquor store is a fairly new Thai restaurant which also has a sushi bar. It’s really like two restaurants in one. Jon said, nah, let’s just go to Sober Fish and engage in their happy hour. Okay, twist my arm, Croc-shod toddlers!

Lagunitas IPA and Sober Fish shot glassI was glad when he suggested ordering sushi items rather than Thai noodle stuff (which I do like but I was more in the mood for sushi). I was also glad when I saw Lagunitas IPA on the fairly short beer list. Lagunitas IPA goes well with raw fish things. Then I was horrified when he seemed eager to also order the house shot which consisted of cucumber vodka, ginger something, and something else. In the old days I did enjoy my vodka tonic, and in these new days I mix my Pimm’s with cucumber soda (during the two weeks of Wimbledon). Then I saw that you got to keep the shot glass.** I wasn’t too hard a sell on that, then, either.

The drinks were the easy part. It turned out that I like rolls and Jon likes sashimi. Also, we had never collaborated on a food order before so there was that awkwardness, “what do you like?” “Oh, no, what do YOU like?” I’m finally getting to the cat part of the story.

Jon made a hard sell for mackerel sashimi. I countered with advocating for spicy tuna roll. I like that a lot, and when I eat at a new sushi place it’s sort of my benchmark. Not too sophisticated in the big scheme of things but there you go. We decided we’d order both forms.

There were many sashimi choices. Tuna is my favorite raw fish in general, but I’ll always try anything once. Not that mackerel is so exotic. It’s not. Then I comprehended some of the other choices on the sashimi list and formed my opinion as to what else we should select.

As I said, Jon was a big fan of mackerel. I saw that sea bream was also on the list. So I said yes to the mackerel and suggested the sea bream as well.

Why? This is why.

A while ago I decided to bite the bullet on cost and serve my lovely cats wet food because it’s significantly better for their health than dry food. I like to get them the tuna-based kinds, and the tuna almost always includes some other seafood as an accent. The canned food ain’t cheap so I’ve been determining the best balance between ingredients and cost. Along the way I added a third cat, thereby half-againing the cat food budget, so I could no longer afford to buy the tiny cans of best-quality, tuna-based food and instead have had to figure out what’s next best.

I’ve settled on a couple of brands, one of which is pictured above. The store carries four varieties—shrimp (30¢ more per can), sardine, mackerel, and sea bream. Sea-what? Never heard of it.

Empty platesWe ordered my spicy tuna roll and also a caterpillar roll because Jon likes eel, and I like that sweet sauce that usually accompanies it. For sashimi we ordered the mackerel and, as our second sashimi selection at my behest, the sea bream. Do you see where I’m going with this?

My decision-making process: if it’s good enough for the cats, it’s good enough for me. Let’s go for it!

The mackerel was salty and firm and reminded me of smoked salmon or smoked trout. The sea bream was at the opposite end of the spectrum—tender, mild, and nutty. Jon hadn’t had it either and seemed pleasantly surprised by it.

I am embarrassed to admit that it was Jon and not I who said/thought, “This would make a good blog entry.” By that time, the sea bream and mackerel were long gone and we were down to one gyoza.


* If, by chance, you start watching Grand Hotel based on this brief mention, stick with it long enough to realize that Inspector Ayala reminds you exactly and completely of Hercule Poirot, which won’t actually take you that long. You will be richly rewarded in episode 23.

** Until that Sober Fish outing, I didn’t actually possess a shot glass. What I do have is a set of four antique aperitif, shot-sized glasses. But they’re delicate, textured glass. They were my grandparents’, and I’m always terrified that it will take only one gentle yet errant tap on the side of the Mason jar into which I mix my Wimbledon Pimm’s to shatter it to pieces. It was an easy sell to convince me order a shot that would resulting my owning a chunky, heavy-duty, actual shot glass. I guess the shot was okay. It was not much like cucumber or ginger, very sweet, and Ecto-Cooler green. One could get into trouble with them …

Landlocked lobster love

July 17, 2012


We Minnesotans may be landlubbers but one thing is for certain—we have good food. I know there are many excellent restaurants around the area, but my personal focus on eating out for two and a half summers has been with our new industry of (mostly) high-end food trucks. Two summers ago there were just a handful on our streets. Last summer there were a few more. This summer there has an explosion of new food trucks, and I don’t mean in the combustible sense.

The chefs who run these trucks aren’t afraid to make good food. And I certainly am not afraid to enjoy it. In fact, in the last couple of weeks, I have had the pleasure of consuming three completely different lobster rolls. Yes, you heard me. Lobster rolls. Here in landlocked Minnesota. (I don’t count Lake Superior. There are no lobsters there. Delicious lake trout, yes. Lobsters, no.)

Here, then, is a round-up of the lobster rolls you could have been enjoying had you been around and, if you were around, chosen to eschew skyway chain restaurants and chew on some inspired food.



The original: Smack Shack

Smack Shack was one of the original food trucks in downtown Minneapolis, appearing on the scene that first summer of 2010. Lobster and seafood is what they do. If you observe their truck from above, say, in one of those skyways where you’re trolling for taco Tuesday, you’ll see the giant lobster painted on the top of the truck and perhaps be intrigued enough to leave your comfort zone and treat yourself to a truly spectacular sandwich. I don’t have the links to prove it, but Smack Shack’s lobster roll has been reviewed by many as rivaling anything found on the northeast coast. Chef Josh Thoma tosses globs of succulent lobster in a cucumber tarragon lemon dressing and stuffs it into tender griddled milk break made by local bakery star and bread provider to the food trucks, The Salty Tart. I can also personally attest that The Salty Tart’s beer bread is another amazing creation, especially if you toast it and slather it with fresh, local butter. But I digress.


Next up: Get Sauced

Chef Driven is the umbrella company for a few different food ventures, one of which is the Get Sauced truck. Get Sauced appeared on the scene late last season and made an immediate impact. Their menu is Latin-influenced and features amazing tacos and tortas made with seasonal and sustainable ingredients. Out of the blue last week, a Mexican lobster roll appeared as the special item. This version was a toasted bun (from the Salty Tart as well?) packed with more of a salady filling. There were nice, giant pieces of lobster mixed with shredded meat, sweetcorn kernels, cilantro, and spicy spices. Sweet, succulent, spicy, splendid. Chunky lobster, yes. Succulent, again yes. The same only different, definitely, deliciously!


Newcomers: SushiFix

This summer, 2012, has seen an exponential growth in the number of food trucks on the streets both in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Do I exaggerate about the exponential part? Of course. But as more trucks join the scene, it becomes harder to stand out from the crowd. SushiFix does not have that problem, because they are the first truck to serve fresh, amazing sushi. Or sushi of any kind. And while you’re finishing rolling your eyes about the notion of a mobile food truck serving sushi that’s anything less than disgusting, let me disabuse you of that notion. Food trucks are licensed and inspected like any fixed kitchen and, amazingly, they employ modern techniques such as—wait for it—refrigeration. The proprietor is a well-experienced sushi chef previously of a respected restaurant in town and I’m pretty sure that I read that the fish is overnighted daily from Japan (I’m not doing much research-linking tonight but I’m 97% sure I’ve read these things to which I’m referring). But if you’re still skeptical, hey, go back into the skyway and enjoy that sodium-bomb chemical sub. 

Today in the pre-lunch Twittersphere, SushiFix announced that their special was a lobster roll. A sushi lobster roll!  I suppose sushi is often made with lobster, but because we were dreading the forecast high temperature of 100°F/38°C, a fresh roll with lobster, tempura shrimp, avocado, and strawberries—strawberries!—seemed like just the thing. And so it was. My only “complaint”? The outer strawberries made the pieces a little slippery to pick up with my chopsticks. First world problem. And for the first time (except maybe that other time I had SushiFix’s spicy tuna roll) I didn’t even think about employing the soy sauce and wasabi. For the record though, I’m pretty sure the soy sauce is homemade or, as is currently the fashionable terminology, house made.

We are not deprived.