restaurant: butcher block

For the tasters Birthday he decided on a new restaurant in our neighborhood called The Butcher Block. “Where meat is our passion; organic, grass-fed & sustainable are our principles; and serving great-tasting food – with or without meat – is our priority.” And meat we had. I love the more “traditional” Italian restaurants complete with separate courses of chewy pasta and tender meat. The prices were very reasonable and they had a number of bottles of wine for $15. So we had a $15 bottle of Chianti. Was it the best bottle of wine I’ve ever had? Obvy not but I’m no wine snob so it worked.

Get ready for a ridiculous amount of food. I’m just warning ;)


Grilled Octopus: Haven’t had this since Greece and while we are sadly no where near the ocean here in MN, it was surprisingly good. It pretty much melted.


Romanesca Salad: Romaine, cucumber, tomato, anchovy vinaigrette – some greens were definitely needed in this meat-centric meal.


Lamb Sausage: this is freshly ground and prepared on-site and it is to. die. for. literally. The taster and I were dreaming of putting this on pizza and pretty much just eating it as often as possible.


Fettuccine alla Bolognese: ground pork and beef, tomato – definitely not something I would generally order but it wasn’t my birthday :) This dish was so straight-forwardly delicious- nothing fancy here and nothing fancy needed.


Pork & Ricotta Meatballs: we ordered these along with pasta (why? I’m still not really sure) but they were amazing none the less

While we have already tried about 3/4 of the menu, I can’t wait to get back to the Butcher Block. Who knows, maybe once it thaws we can actually walk there!

the favorite present

the favorite birthday present

mac & cheese


Macaroni & Cheese was obviously a childhood favorite of mine. (Is there anyone who didn’t love the mac??) But growing up we didn’t have Kraft, we usually had Annie’s mac & cheese – Shells & White Cheddar. Kudos to you Mom! :)  I rarely make the cheesy goodness anymore, but once in a while I will pick up some Annie’s for old times sake.

What to do with a drawer-full of cheese and two new baking ramekins?? (ok, I lie, I actually bought the ramekins so that I could make the mac & cheese) The old favorite was calling my name and I wanted to make it from scratch. It went pretty well but the possibilities are endless with this and I can’t wait to try some exciting, more flavorful cheeses and toppings like carmelized shallots, crab meat, crispy sage, …..hmmmmmm.


I totally didn’t know if this was going to turn out or not and my only complaint is that it wasn’t as flavorful as I would have liked. Now I know and next time I will use some sharper cheeses. Problem solved. Other than that it was perfectly creamy without powdered cheese!


Cook pasta until al dente. Do not overcook. Save some of the cooking liquid, I left about 1/2 cup in the pan. (I used about 1 cup of brown rice pasta)

I made a quick roux with about 2 T of butter melted in a hot pan and added a spoonful (about 1 T) of flour. Mix together over heat until smooth. Pour in 1/8 cup 1/2 & 1/2 and 1/3 cup skim milk, dash of hot sauce and salt & pepper. Stir in 1/4 cup shredded italian cheese blend and 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella.

Pour cheese mixture into pasta and reserved cooking liquid and when all pasta is covered pour into ramekins. I sprinkled some whole grain panko bread crumbs and some fresh parmesan cheese to form a crust when broiled. Broil until top is toasty . I happened to have some chives on-hand and I loved what they added to the dish.


You can bet I will be making some more versions of mac & cheese in the near future. I have noticed that I’m starting to crave more pasta, soups and warm food this fall. I love pasta but can go weeks without it in the summer but once the chill in the air starts? I’m all over it as seen here and here.

sizzled sage & garlic pasta

This recipe, as like many, caught my eye when I came across it in Food & Wine. (August 2009)  (PS.  What am I going to do without Gourmet? Kind of depressed about it) Anyway, with all recipes that catch my eye, I daintily rip out the recipe and save in my “recipe folder”.  And as you can see I’m still in August recipes so I’m a bit behind. Now I usually don’t really follow these recipes but rather use them as inspiration (and so I don’t forget). This immediately sounded good to me but I must admit, while I was putting it together I was thinking that it might be a bit bland. The flavors so simple. The seasonings so sparse. But as I bit into the chewy pasta and crunchy garlic chips and sage I quickly forgot about this being bland…




Prepare pasta as directed. I wanted to get some extra-special pasta since this was such a simple dish. I found some Egg Noodles that are actually made in Chisholm, Minnesota. (Anyone ever heard of Chisholm before??) They were supposed to be similar to home-made noodles, which I think they were….but then again I’ve never made home-made pasta so who am I to judge?

Heat about 3 Tbsp of butter in pan and throw in about 3/4 cup whole sage leaves and sliced garlic (3 cloves worth). Season with salt and pepper and let sizzle for about 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Save yummy butter mixture.

Toss butter mixture with 1/4 cup saved pasta cooking liquid and pasta. Serve onto plates, grate with cheese and sprinkle with sage and garlic. Eat. It. Up.

Cheese: I used a Pecorino Pepato. “Produced on the island of Sardinia, this young sheep’s milk cheese is seasoned with black peppercorns”. I would dare myself to go to Surdyk’s and not spend $35 in the cheese shop but I know that is just not realistic. I like to trick myself and the taster.

Me: We should probably stop by Surdyk’s. I’m out of wine.

Taster: ok.

Me: (on the way in) We better stop into the Cheese shop. You know, in case they have anything that is really new and exciting….

Taster: done.

He is easily persuaded can you tell?


Just in case you all were worried, I did manage to sneak in some veggies to the meal. Asparagus was the veggie of choice and is one of our faves. Simply sauteed in some olive oil and garlic. The perfect accompaniment to the perfect pasta.


butternut squash ravioli


Eventually I would love to make my own home-made pasta. But I figure I should practice a little more with flour before I get into projects like pasta. So for the time being store-bought works for me!

I love Rising Moons variety of ravioli “insides” and always stock up when they are on sale. Butternut Squash? The perfect fall variety. Shallot Cream Sauce? Makes it even better!


Cook pasta as directed. Heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil in pan and saute 1 minced shallot and 1 minced clove of garlic until soft. Add 3 Tbsp butter (I actually used Earth Balance because that is what I have and it worked fine) and heat until bubbly.  Finish with 1/3 cup 1/2 & 1/2 and stir to heat and thicken. Toss with ravioli and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

It was a plate of creamy deliciousness with a hint of sweetness from the squash. i will be making this quick dinner again and again!