Category Archives: Restaurant

Personality On a Plate

I know a lot of chefs who work for someone else and as much as I think I may “know” them, I am not sure you really get to know a chef until he or she is working for himself in complete control of the menu.

I was caught a bit off guard when I heard that Michael Agan was opening Xavi Restaurant. It never occurred to me that he wanted to own his own restaurant, as he’s worked for pretty “corporate” kitchens since I first met him when he was an executive sous chef at Chambers Kitchen.

Including not knowing how to pronounce “Xavi” (our server kindly told us “zsa-vee”, like Zsa Zsa Gabor, which was very helpful), I had no idea what to expect. Reading through the menu, I was thinking three different things: 1) not a single chicken item on the entire menu 2) the combinations of ingredients made me very curious 3) I don’t know if I would have matched up this menu with this chef.

We started our meal with Spring Carrot and Bibb Salad, Mushroom Broth, La Belle Duck Breast and Shrimp and Grits. I enjoyed all of the dishes, but special note of my favorite elements of the emulsified carrot dressing on the salad and the pork dumplings in the Mushroom Broth.

Xavi Carrot and Bibb Salad
Xavi Mushroom Dumpling Soup

For our main course, we had the Red Wine Braised Short Ribs, as well as the Lemongrass Marinated Pork Loin. In general, I’m a huge fan of short ribs, so expected that to be my favorite, but I have to say the pork loin was very delicious. Aside from pork products bacon or ham, I might have pork loin once every year or two, so Xavi may be my go to place for pork from now on.

Xavi Pork

I like that the restaurant is in a quieter neighborhood, as it resulted in a nice relaxing evening.

However, the best part of dinner was discovering the real Chef Michael Agan on a plate.

Xavi Restaurant
5607 Chicago Avenue South, Minneapolis

Smack Shack Chicago!

If you are in Chicago, its worth checking out the new Smack Shack in the Google building!  During the VIP Grand Opening Party the hurricanes were flowing and the lobster rolls were rolling!

Smack Shack Chicago - Entrance

Smack Shack Chicago - Entryway

Smack Shack Chicago - Tattinger Sponsored Raw Bar Ice Sculpture

Smack Shack Chicago - DJ

Smack Shack Chicago - Grand Opening Guests

Smack Shack Chicago - Lobster Guacamole

Smack Shack Chicago - Shrimp Boil

Smack Shack Chicago - Hightop

Smack Shack Chicago - Main Bar Guests

Honor at Vieux Carre

Renovating the Artists’ Quarters space in St. Paul has been a much bigger undertaking than one would think given the size of the space.  However, the last several months have been a labor of love for the owners and manager, Martina Priadka, creating Vieux Carre.  Although the kitchen is small, it looks like it could produce some food that will pack a culinary punch!

As Martina was working on her wine menu one day, I asked who her main wine suppliers were.  She mentioned she was excited that the wine list would be a departure from Vieux Carre’s older sister, The Dakota.  In particular she expressed excitement over a wine she put on the menu from the Honor Winery.

It’s a winery that distributes wine with a portion of the proceeds from each bottle of wine sold going to families of military men and women who have either lost their lives or been severely injured.  It really is a beautiful sentiment, communicated through the simple beauty of the bottle.

Vieux Carre opens its doors next week.  Be sure to sample some Honor Wine.

Honor Wine

True Blu!

It was a handful of years ago when I got the inside scoop that Radisson was going through a radical rebranding and redesign. I was skeptical, as making the change of an established brand and large entity such as Radisson can take years.  Many, many years.  And the challenge is that as those years pass, sometimes the new concept is already dated before it actually gets executed.

I had a chance to get a peek at the concept guest rooms a couple of years ago and thought “good for them if they can pull it off.”  After seeing some hotel renderings last year, a few words came to mind.  Modern. Eclectic. Sleek. Innovative. Inspiring. Oh, yeah, and maybe even a bit Mysterious.

None of these words fit the Radisson I knew.

The Radisson Blu MOA is now like the cool kid that everyone wants to get to know.  When I was invited to their Social (Media) Event, I took the opportunity to check it out.

Entering into the hotel at night made me think of what it would be like to explore through ice caves without the chill (maybe because of the heat from the ultra hot sitting area).

Take a ride the escalator up to explore the rest of the hotel…for example the very yummy FireLake Grill and Bar (I’ve always loved the FireLake at the Radisson Plaza in downtown Minneapolis).

And if you want to be the man about town, you can hang out in the art room while the concierge finds the best concert tickets or best stadium seats for you. (I can’t promise the concierge will be as good looking as the one in the photo).

I was ready to move in, as these rooms are right up my alley.

Of course, I would want to spend most of my time in the Executive Lounge!

The bright and light event space is not what I would normally associate with the Radisson brand.  Having a modern neutral space gives unlimited potential to transform the space…corporate dinners to fundraising galas to weddings, which Bloomington desperately lacked.

Planning meetings is not interesting to me because they don’t involve “pretty things”.   But if the room is pretty….well, maybe its not so bad…


Need to cool off?  Just jump into the crisp, blu waters of the pool at Radisson Blu MOA.

The hotel is definitely worth checking out.  If you aren’t planning on staying overnight, go for a drink or dinner.

** Note:  When I was initially told about the rebranding, I was told that the flagship property downtown would not be turned into a Blu property.  However, just last week, the ownership of Radisson Plaza changed hands with plans to turn it into a Blu property with Carlson Companies continuing to manage the hotel.  After seeing the MOA property, I cannot wait!

Radisson Blu MOA
2100 Killebrew Dr  Bloomington, MN 55425
(952) 881-5258

Photography courtesy of Carlson Companies