Restaurant review: Noodles & Company…Slow Braised, naturally raised Pork

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Here I go again, talking about my favorite animal…the pig!  Noodles & Company reached out to me, not long ago, asking if I would be interested in trying some of their new slow-braised, naturally raised Pork, their treat!  Well of course!  Because if you know me, you know I love me some piggy meat!

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I’ve only been to Noodles & Company one other time, and on that day, I actually didn’t order anything for myself, just for my kids.  So I was excited at the opportunity to try it myself.  I went there on a Saturday, for lunch, with three kids in tow.  The place was hopping & after tasting the delicious dishes you see here, I know why!

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Cucumber Tomato Salad…a friend said she always orders this when she goes to Noodles & Company and it definitely stood up to that recommendation!  Even though we are in Minnesota, in what seems to be a never-ending winter, the tomatoes were juicy and delicious.  I liked that the cucumbers were cut small and there was just enough red onion to make it a perfect addition.  This starter had some magically delicious seasoning on it that brought the whole dish together.  I might have to see if I can pry that out of someone…

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Another favorite of mine was the Potstickers (chicken dumplings) and these were a perfect starter.  Fried crispy on the outside and accompanied by a delicious dipping sauce.  You can order 3 or 6 in an order as well.

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Before I made my trip to Noodles & Company, I perused the menu online, as all good food-lovers do, right?  I spied Pad Thai on the menu & knew it would be on my list to try!  The person who took my order, recommended the shrimp with this, but I declined and after the fact, was wishing I would have taken his suggestion!  It was a tasty and light option, great for a quick lunch!  They have a great assortment of Asian dishes, so it will be hard to choose on my next visit.

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The last time we visited Noodles & Company, my daughter ordered the Spaghetti & Meatballs and guess what?  My normally adventuresome kid, ordered the same thing!  She remembered how much she liked it before…meaty & moist meatballs in a sauce full of flavor with just the right amount of spice.

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The youngest of our group, played it safe & went with the Wisconsin Mac & Cheese…cheddar & jack cheeses melted in cream & served over elbow macaroni.  Well played little one, well played!

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My son, the least adventuresome of my two, loves his Buttered Noodles at home, so naturally I let him choose that, as long as he added the Parmesan Chicken to it!  What’s great about Noodles & Company is that they encourage customization and you can add different types of protein to any dish, for example Shrimp, Tofu and of course the new slow-braised Pork!

www.whoeatslikethis.com

I saved the best for last!  Remember, the reason I came to Noodles & Company was to try the new Slow Braised Pork…so what better way to try it?  Barbecue Pork Mac….oh yeah!  First, they take their Wisconsin Mac & Cheese and add crispy fried onions, barbecue sauce & the Slow Braised Pork.  People.  Seriously.  This was ridiculously AWESOME!  And I am not just saying that, I wanted to eat more & more!

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I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the awesome soda dispersing machine they had at this Noodles & Company location.  It’s called the Coca-Cola Freestyle and offers (I have read, but didn’t actually verify…) 125 Coca-Cola drink products.  It’s basically a high-tech, touchscreen soda fountain!  My kids thought it was the coolest thing since sliced bread…okay maybe since the iPod…and apparently so did everyone else, as I had to wait in line, just to take a quick picture!

logoIn addition to the Barbecue Pork Mac, you can get the Peppery Pork Sandwich, which also features the slow-braised Pork.  Or as mentioned before, add the Pork to any of your favorite Noodles & Company dishes!

UPDATE:  I got a note from the nice people I am working with, on this review & I get to GIVEAWAY two vouchers for you to enjoy Noodles & Company!!  Just leave a comment below, or on my Facebook Page and I will randomly draw a winner tomorrow night!  (3-22-13)

They were also nice enough to share the following recipes with us, for you to try at home!

Thanks for “virtually” tagging along & I hope you’ll visit your neighborhood (find locations here) Noodles & Company soon to try the delicious slow-braised Pork!

Cheers ~ Shawn

Truffle Mac & Cheese ~ Recipe for the Home Chef
Serves 4 -6
Ingredients:
Cheese sauce:
  • 1 pint cream
  • 6 oz cheese (your choice)
  • 1 Tb. Butter
  • 1 Tb. flour
  • ½ tsp. Truffle oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Toppings:
  • 1 lb. Macaroni noodles, cooked and drained according to box directions
  • 16 oz.  Mushrooms (your choice) sautéed in 1 oz. butter until golden brown
  • 6 oz. Parmesan or Italian blend shredded cheese
  • 1 cup Toasted bread crumbs
Preparation:
  • Mix the butter and flour together in your hands and set aside.
  • Bring the cream to a low simmer in a thick bottomed pot.
  • Add the butter/ flour blend and stir with a whisk until smooth and slightly thickened (about 5 minutes)
  • Take the pot off the heat, add the cheese and truffle oil and whisk until smooth, season to taste.
  • Mix with macaroni noodles and top with mushrooms, cheese and breadcrumbs

Backyard Barbecue Chicken Salad ~ Recipe for the Home Chef

Serves 4 regular salads or 6-8 small sides

Ingredients:

12 oz. bag of mixed lettuce

8 oz. shredded mixed cabbage, red and green

¾ cup cole slaw dressing

4 chicken breasts, cooked, shredded, cooled

½  cup of your favorite BBQ sauce

¾ cup tomatoes, diced

¾ cup corn

1/8 cup red cabbage

 BBQ Chicken Preparation:

Bake 4 chicken breasts, completely cool and then shred into bite sized pieces.  In a bowl mix together the chicken and ½ cup BBQ sauce.

Assemble:

Mix the lettuce, cabbage (keeping 1/8 cup of red cabbage aside for garnish) and cole slaw dressing in a large bowl.

Place the BBQ chicken, corn and tomatoes on top of the mixed greens, forming the points of a triangle in the center of the salad.

Place the 1/8 cup of red cabbage in the center of the triangle to garnish, enjoy!

Disclaimer~

I was given two vouchers good for two noodle bowls and paid for the rest of my delicious meal on my own. The opinions here are my own and most of the information I didn’t get upon my visit, I found by searching the Noodles & Company website and their online menu & nutritional information.

Menu tasting…2.0…

Earlier this year, I was given the opportunity to sample some of The Liffey’s (authentic Irish Pub in downtown St. Paul, connected to the Holiday Inn) new menu items and blogged about those here.  They recently added some new items and was again invited, along with a few of my co-workers to come down and sample!

Let me take you on a little tour…

Pub Pretzels…”thick & chewy, baked with coarse sea salt & served with a stout cheddar sauce”…these were served to us warm and were a definite hit amongst us all! The stout cheddar sauce had the perfect blend of stout & cheese flavor.  You won’t need mustard with these babies!

Next up, the Walleye sandwich…”lightly breaded, served with crispy & fully garnished on a potato hoagie with a side of herbed aioli”.  You get your choice of garlic-dill crisps (housemade) on the side or can upgrade to “chips”, mash, slaw, house greens or soup.  Ask for extra aioli (fancy mayo)…sandwich came with lettuce & tomato as well.

Chicken & Cheddar Chop salad…”chicken, bacon, white cheddar (chunks), egg, tomato, red onion on romaine lettuce tossed in an herbed vinagrette”.  (ask for the dressing on the side if needed…also try the housemade honey chive dressing!)  This is a simple, fresh & filling salad served straightforward without all the pomp & circumstance you find with many “entree” type salads on other menus!

Berries & Brie Salad, with grilled Salmon (slightly extra)…”seasonal fresh berries, mixed greens, Brie cheese, candied walnuts, dried cranberries and served tossed in a lemon-poppy seed dressing”.  (ask for dressing on the side-you can also get grilled Chicken) Oh this salad…not one bite was left on our plate…in fact, I think one of us even licked the plate clean! Perfect summer salad!

Buckle in, desserts are next…

Wee Berry Pie…”assorted berries served in a warm flaky pastry crust with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream”.  Nothing says comfort dessert more than pie…and this pie delivers!

Key Lime Brulee…”a key lime custard with a caramelized sugar crust”.  I’m a sucker for any type of Creme Brulee…this one had just a hint of Key Lime, not overpowering and just the right amount of sweet to counter balance it all.

Coconut Layer Cake…”coconut sponge cake with pineapple pastry cream & coconut cream cheese frosting”.  Do I have you?  Doesn’t look like a piece of cake…but you won’t be able to stop eating this one!

S’more Pot du Creme…”chocolate crusted with graham cracker ice cream, topped with a marshmallow fluff brulee & home-made graham cracker”.  The chef was most excited for me to try this dessert…I was so enamored with the Boca Negra from the past dessert menu, he thought this one would be right up my alley.  It’s a dousy, that’s for sure!  Be sure to dig that spoon all the way down the cup…and get all the layers in each bite.  You’ll get what I am talking about when you order one…

Well people, what are you waiting for?  Get yourself over to the Liffey NOW!  Slainte!

The Liffey Irish Pub, 175 West 7th Street, St. Paul, MN 55102.

Open daily, with Happy Hour specials each day (non-event) on drinks & appetizers.  Have you had a Big Ginger yet?  Would go perfect with the Walleye Sandwich!

Some verbiage taken directly from the Liffey menu…comments listed after are those of my own.

Until next time,

Shawn 🙂

A menu tasting………at The Liffey Irish Pub

I don’t make a habit of reviewing restaurants, as I leave that to the real critics out there, but today I, along with some of my co-workers were invited to the Liffey for lunch, to sample some of the new menu items.  I find a reason to eat at The Liffey whenever possible….but that is easy for me.  I work part time at the Holiday Inn St. Paul Downtown, which is connected to The Liffey!  We are so lucky to have such a great place for our guests to enjoy when staying with us!  Our guests are well taken care of, under the guidance of Chef Erik Rasmussen and General Manager, Jay Johnson.  Let me share with you a little history first…taken right from their website.

“The Liffey Irish Pub first opened in February 2003 and is part of the Cara Irish Pub family which includes our sister pubs The Local, Kieran’s Irish Pub and Cooper Pub.  In the summer of 2011 we remodelled the pub, adding more color and flair along with more bench and high booth seating, while still retaining our warmth & charm.  The pub was built in Dublin, Ireland before being constructed here in St. Paul. The Liffey was chosen as the name to celebrate both our proximity to the Mississippi river and our cultural ties to Dublin as The Liffey is the name of the river that runs through Dublin, Ireland. The Liffey is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In 2005, we opened The Terrace at The Liffey, our 2nd story outdoor seating area.  This award winning patio offers seating for over 150 with a full bar available to our guests as they take in views of St. Paul.”  Read more here.

Located just steps from the Xcel Energy Center– home of the Minnesota Wild and venue to some of the best concerts & events each year, The Liffey is situated in one of the most exciting parts of downtown St. Paul.  My clients don’t hesitate to say yes when I offer lunch in the summer…that terrace is awesome!  So let’s talk about what we sampled today!

First up, Pot Roast Sliders……these little cuties were in the top two of what we tasted today.  Soft buttery buns, stuffed with tender, juicy Pot Roast, gorgeously sweet caramelized onions and the horseradish sour cream added a nice little kick to balance it all out.  You get three to an order, perfect for sharing or to keep all to yourself!  Seriously, after tasting this today, the next time I make Pot Roast, I may just make them into sandwiches right away!

Next up, Ham & Gruyère, our second favorite of the day.  To start, this sandwich was perfectly cooked, golden brown and oh, if I could encrust all my sandwiches with Gruyère, well life would just be a whole lot better!  Wikipedia describes Gruyère as sweet but slightly salty cheese from Switzerland, with a flavor that varies widely with age. It is often described as creamy and nutty when young, becoming with age more assertive, earthy, and complex. When fully aged (five months to a year) it tends to have small holes and cracks which impart a slightly grainy mouthfeel.   It has always been a favorite cheese at our house.  The kitchen staff at The Liffey puts a whole mess of thinly-sliced ham, topped with a Dijon cheese sauce (uh, yeah, they should bottle & sell that stuff) in between two slices of sourdough bread and then slather the outside of the bread with creamy Irish Butter and grated Gruyère.  You can have it served with fresh-cut chips (they are kettle-style chips, coated in dill), champ (mashed potatoes with fresh chives), wee greens (as shown, with mixed greens, tossed in honey-chive vinaigrette, cucumbers, scallions & radishes), or a cup of their homemade soup.  GO GET THIS SANDWICH PEOPLE!!!  They only thing that would have made it better, was if I would have had it with a Crispin Cider!  Or a Guinness….or…..

Isn’t this one gorgeous!?  It was almost to pretty to eat!  Almost….. This is the Seared Tuna, another Small Plate at The Liffey.  They quickly sear the Tuna, still keeping it rare and place it on top of a bed of black olive tapenade, honey cured bacon and drizzled wasabi mayo.  Tuna is such a delicate fish, that I found the tapenade & bacon a bit overpowering, but delicious and in the end, the whole dish worked together.  I deconstructed mine while I ate it, so I could taste each component.  This was a well put together Small Plate that is the perfect beginning to a wonderful meal at The Liffey!

You can’t make a trip to The Liffey without having Fish & Chips of some sort!  This is their Fish Bites, another Small Plate and makes a great starter for that “wee bit of fish” you crave!  It’s served in a oversized bowl, on waxed newsprint with lemon wedges, spicy cocktail sauce & house tarter sauce.  They lightly batter the Cod and fry it crispy.  Who doesn’t love that?!

Another new addition to the Small Plates menu, is Curry Chips.  We had a discussion after our lunch about the term “chips” when it refers to what we Americans call french fries.  Many of you know that in France they are actually called “pommes frites“.  Here is what I found out about the origin of “chips”, again from our friends at Wikipedia.  “Traditionally, “chips” in the British Isles (and Australia and New Zealand), are cut much thicker, i.e., are “chipped” from the potatoes and described in some recipes as “chipped potatoes” not simply “chips”, and are typically between 10 and 15 mm (3/8–1/2 inches) wide. Since the surface-to-volume ratio is lower, they have a lower fat content. Thick-cut, or beefsteak, British chips are occasionally made from unpeeled potatoes to enhance their flavor and nutritional value and are not necessarily served as crisp as the European French fry due to their relatively high water content.”  Whatever you call them, these “chips” were cooked just right, crisp and perfect for dipping in the house made curry sauce & horseradish sour cream.

Each day, the kitchen staff creates a new Pub Pizza.  Today, we tried the Sausage & Pepperoni version, thin cracker crust, ample toppings and the perfect amount of cheese make this a great Small Plate to share or for lunch.

And of course, we couldn’t leave without trying a couple of desserts.  The Bread & Butter Pudding, was made with sourdough and tossed with vanilla bean custard, mixed with apples & cranberries, baked & topped with a whiskey anglaise.  Not too heavy or overly sweet, this was just missing a steamy hot mug of Irish Coffee along side it!

The Whiskey Apple Crisp is spiked with a touch of  2 GINGERS IRISH WHISKEY™, cardamom, cinnamon and new, topped with a scoop of Izzy’s Salted Caramel ice cream.  Oh yeah!  They have a really great selection of desserts, but the problem being, there are so many great things on their menu, its hard to save room!  Maybe I can bring a client in for a “dessert lunch”…hmmm….

Other favorites on The Liffey menu, Chicken Shots on the Small Plate menu, crispy bits of chicken tossed in a 2 GINGERS IRISH WHISKEY™  glaze.  You can’t go without trying the Frickles as well.  They take their house-made sweet & spicy pickles, batter them in buttermilk and fry them golden.  Served with a creamy side of ranch, these are a must have!  Interestingly enough, they have some non-Irish goodies on the menu as well…the Curried Chicken is one of my favorites and they make a pretty mean Gnocchi as well!  Two other popular items are the Finnegans-Brined Chicken & Steak & Mushroom Pie.

The only things missing from our lunch sampling today was a pint of Guinness or The Big Ginger™, but alas, we all had to be productive the rest of our day!  If you haven’t been, you need to go….don’t walk, RUN to The Liffey soon!  There is no better place in downtown St. Paul to grab some great pub food!

Thank you to The Liffey staff for inviting us in to taste these delicious dishes!

Cheers,

Shawn