Saturday, October 21, 2006

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?

Maria's Cafe
1113 Franklin Ave. E.
Minneapolis, MN

Luckily Maria's Cafe doesn't have any real problems, I just needed to come up with a witty title to this post. This was not our first trip to Maria's, but it has been a very long time since our last visit. We clearly were due for a visit as any twin cities breakfast review site worth its salt should be able to discuss Maria's and their world famous cachapas venezolanas (corn pancakes). It had been so long since our last trip that when cousin Perley ordered a meal that consisted of nothing but meat and eggs, our served told us about this great new healthy way to diet where you just eat protein and stay away from carbohydrates. The good Dr. Judy waited until he walked away and then intoned, "Yeah, really healthy, until your kidneys fail and then you die."

It was a slightly depleted breakfast club that walked into Maria's around 10 am on Saturday. Fern was slaving away in the service industry and my suggestion to leave an empty space at the table in her memory was voted down. There was one positive to this development however, as it meant we could all pile into one car without forcing someone to hunker down in the way back of the station wagon. Alex drove and admirably showed off her newly honed manual transmission skills (reverse is still a little tricky). Maria's immediately earned a solid check in the positive column. Here it was, 10 am on a Saturday the restaurant was packed, and yet we were seated after waiting a mere two minutes. Maria's is absolutely massive. There are three different rooms, all very large. Ample seating for everyone!

The dining experience at Maria's was tremendous. The group sampled from across the menu, Rachael and Judy both had the daily special, one scrambled egg, black beans, sausage, arepa, and sauteed sweet plantains. They both gave it an A, but could have split one and had more then enough to eat. Jimmy had the standard breakfast and would have given it an A, but the potatoes tasted as though they had been frozen at one point, so it received a B. I had an egg sandwich and it was tasty, but I gave the meal a B due to the lack of coffee refills (I am WAY too demanding on that front, I know). Alex got one corn pancake (with cheese) and a side of sausage, gave it an A, but was only able to eat half of her meal. The corn pancake is tasty, but extremely filling. Overall grade of the meal was a B+.

The TCBC highly recommends Maria's Cafe. We did agree however that it does not make the cut as an "old standard". The food is great, but very heavy and not the sort of thing you can eat everyday Saturday, unless of course you plan on weighing 350 pounds in six months. We will return to Maria's, but it won't be next week.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Swann Song in Kansas City

Blue Bird Bistro
1700 Summit
Kansas City, MO

Our good friend, Kristen, got married this weekend. Somehow, even with all of the make-up and floral arrangements going on, she still managed to take Fern and me out for breakfast and some laughs on the very day of her wedding. She practically begged us to put a review of our meal on this site. Now, it's hard to say no to a bride on her wedding day, but we tried. We wanted to preserve the integrity of our mission. We are a Twin Cities Breakfast club. Kansas City has no twin. Judy, Beau, Rachael, Beau, and Jimmy have never even heard of the Blue Bird Bistro. However, when my food arrived, I decided to make an exception. Plus, I love Kristen, and she treated us to a fabulous meal.

First some back story. There's a restaurant here in the actual Twin Cities that has made a valiant attempt to become the next big thing in breakfast. I'm going to call it the Croquet Club, which is code, because Beau hasn't wanted to review it, because it's small and it's new, and we hated our food there. The thing about this Croquet Club is there is no evidence on their menu that they have a stove. Really. I kid you not. There is no stove top. Beau and Jimmy even poked their heads around the bar, looking for one. No stove. "How can they serve eggs?" you ask. Good question. Have you heard of baked eggs? "Well, but how can they serve perfectly browned potatoes?" you wonder. Well, they just don't. Yes. They have no potatoes today.

Anyway, Jimmy and I, noticing the lack of stove, ordered something we considered doable without such a tool. We got the smoked salmon and bagel with fresh field greens, tomato, and hard-boiled egg. (Someone must take the eggs home and bring them back boiled.) What arrived was a big salad, with pale tomatoes, a nicely boiled egg, and a Sarah-Lee-esqe bagel. The salad was covered in salmon shards that looked suspiciously like they came out of those new vacuum packs of salmon by Chicken of the Sea. In what alternative universe is non-smoky salmon shards what you expect when you order smoked salmon and a bagel?

And now the stage is set for my meal at the Blue Bird Bistro. I still had a craving for that perfect combination of smoked salmon and cream cheese. This place is so organic and earnest, they have a mission statement full of deeply-felt sentence fragments on the first page of their menu. They promised me sustainable, humanely caught smoked salmon, and I bit. It arrived on a too-large plate (to make up for the slightly too-small portion size), and matched my ideal for breakfast salmon. You don't want it to be too fishy. You don't want any slime. It should be firm, yet it should yield to the slightest pressure of your teeth. Most of all, it should not come from the tuna aisle. This salmon was perfect! Hooray for Kansas City. Three cheers for Kristen on her wedding day!

In fact, the earnestness and eagerness of the Blue Bird Bistro reminds me of that other place we didn't like so well in Minneapolis. Their execution, however, puts that stoveless wonder to shame.

P.S. I almost forgot to mention the deep red, seductively juicy tomato slices that came with my meal. Mmm...real tomatoes. You win, Blue Bird.

P.P.S. It turns out that stoveless wonder makes a fine panini. Who knew?