Burgers and Bottles: A Quick Review

There are a lot of criteria you probably use to judge a dining establishment before you even take the first bite. One that I’ve learned to not put a lot of weight on is the location.

Traveling around the world there have been plenty of locales that I could have easily overlooked and missed out on some amazing food. The sandwich shop inside a gas station in Switzerland, the ice cream shop literally in the middle of nowhere in Tasmania, or the Jamaican dive in the middle of a cornfield in Kansas. Recently, I found another one of those spots closer to home. The all to familiar strip mall that is often filled with chain stores and below par food sometimes holds tasty surprises.

Tucked in a strip mall next to a gas station in the nearby town of Eagan, MN we recently had the pleasure of trying a new establishment that I’m hoping will not be overlooked. Burgers and Bottles might be a narrow and rather non-descript restaurant from the outside, but you step inside and instantly see the energy and care that the owners have put into their dining dream.

The owners did the demo themselves to turn the space into a cool bar with light wood and stone running throughout. The lights made of old glass soda bottles were fun to look at and the wall of colorful bottles kept Olivia entertained. The service was friendly and you can tell that the owners and staff are working to build a local following. This funky little space is a community gem – a cool place to hang out with great food and friendly locals.

Cheer Wine light

Speaking of the food, the menu is always changing, but it is full of handcrafted burgers, tasty sides, and killer desserts. The drink menu held our attention even without any mixed drinks on it; especially since there were a few regional sodas from back home that I don’t see here often. The soda list is extensive and a rundown of nostalgic pops made only with natural sugar. This throwback to a different time in restaurant food is really the overall theme. Burgers and Bottles prides itself on hand crafted burgers, fries made from real potatoes (did you hear McDonald’s fries have 18 ingredients!), sodas without high fructose corn syrup, and craft beers from family owned Minnesota breweries.

The hand crafted burgers were delicious! The juicy patties were perfectly seared on the outside and tucked in a soft fresh bun. We had a hard time deciding since all the unique combinations sounded delicious. We’ve been back twice now and tried the grilled mushroom & swiss burger, the guacamole burger, the chorizo burger, the bacon brisket burger, and the fried pickle burger. All amazing!

Guac burgerChorizo burgerPickle burgerReal potatoes

The fries were good, but what we really got addicted to were the battered green beans. The whole petite green bean is coated in a slightly spicy batter and quickly fried so the whole thing comes out crisp and delicious. Dip it in the chipotle ranch sauce and you could have a whole basket of them as a meal.

Good thing they offer carry out with online ordering because this might be our new go to on busy nights. Enjoy!

P.S. Share some of your favorite places to dine and I’ll add them to my wish list 🙂

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Quick Minestrone soup

When I started my MBA, and working outside the home full-time, and motherhood all back-to-back I envisioned plenty of time for extracurricular activities. Prior to these major life changes I worked out twice a day most days, made homemade granola weekly, and read for fun. I guess in my head I lived in a world with more than 24 hours in a day.

Unfortunately, I don’t live on whatever planet I thought I did so it is one workout a day, store bought granola, and a growing list of unread fun books piling up by the bed. One thing I hate to give in on though is a healthy meal for my family. That would be why this soup is a great addition to our recipe box (even Nick can throw it together in a pinch).

Quick Minestrone

-1 large yellow onion, diced

-2 carrots, diced

-3 stalks of celery, diced

– 1 Tbsp olive oil

-14.5 oz can dice tomatoes

-14.5oz can tomato sauce

-3 cups chicken broth

-2 cans white beans, drained and rinsed

– 2 tsp dried Italian seasoning (mixture of oregano, basil, thyme)

– ¼ cup fresh basil, minced

-2 cloves garlic, minced

-1/3 cup frozen corn

-1 cup frozen peas

-salt and pepper to taste

-extra water as desired

  1. Dice your onion, carrots and celery. Mince your garlic (or use jarred like I do)
  2. Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a large stock pot
  3. Add your diced vegetables and sauté until onions are translucent
  4. Add the broth through the frozen peas to the pot and simmer for 15 minutes
  5. Add water and salt and pepper to desired consistency and taste

Quick minestrone soupServe with crusty bread and save the leftovers for a quick lunch or dinner to go.

Of course on the other planet I imagined only having spring and summer, but I live in Minnesota where winter trumps all.

So even after seven years of frozen tundra when I should be buying this . . .

MN winter

I am instead buying this . . .

Toms

So I guess I will curl up inside with my pretty bright shoes on and eat my soup to stay warm 🙂

Flashback: Australia wine and chocolate

My mother-in-law recently returned from G’Day USA – an event that brings influencers from Australia together with influencers from the USA to continue to build a relationship between the two countries. There are speakers from business, tourism, academia, and other areas to strengthen economic and political ties. I have to admit I really miss events like these since I left the travel industry, but I still got a goodie out of it all.

Margaret River Valley

This beautiful Hazelnut chocolate bar from the Margaret River Valley in Australia made it’s way to me – thank you Rhonda! It was so delicious and reminded me of a little wine and chocolate pairing I took part in during a trip to Australia’s Adelaide Hills wine region a few years back.

I love chocolate and always have, but my palate has evolved from the M&Ms I ate as a kid to single source and gourmet dark chocolate bars. I’ve eaten a lot of chocolate so I figured I know what it tastes like and how to truly enjoy it . . . I was so wrong! The ChocoVino Experience at South Australia’s Hahndorf Hills Winery set me straight and provided a soothing and wonderful experience.

This isn’t your do it yourself chocolate and wine indulgence. They don’t just pick up a Hershey bar (or a Cadbury since we’re in Australia) and throw it on the plate with a glass of wine. This is an experience that takes months to build and has to be redesigned every year when the new wine blends come out to create the ultimate tasting pairings. Before you even pick your wines the chocolate has been vetted by the trained staff to create the specific pairing. Trained by the experts in this type of tasting, staff from South Africa’s Waterford Estates, the crew at Hahndorf Hills spends six months training on chocolate prior to even tasting anything. Then they spend several weeks tasting one to two wines per week with around twenty chocolates. After voting and eliminating pairings only eight to ten will make it on the final menu.

Wine and chocolate

Some of the most exclusive chocolates in the world are on this menu – Chuao, Dolfin, Valrhona single- origin. These aren’t chocolates you just scarf down which is why they go perfectly with this relaxed and unhurried experience. You will experience chocolate in a whole new way as you use all five senses to enjoy the full range of flavors.

See the different colors of each chocolate. Listen to the snap as you break off a piece with your teeth. Feel the texture on your tongue as you move it around your mouth. Taste the flavors as the components of the chocolate melt apart. Smell the chocolate and the wine as you sip each pairing.

Chocolate then wine. Wine then chocolate. Each creates a completely different flavor, but how when it is the same wine and chocolate?!? I guess I’ll just have to keep coming back to try all the new flavors 🙂