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!

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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.

Balsamic & Fig rubbed Chicken & a Beatrice update…

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Well it’s been an interesting week here; the previous frigid cold temps have been making me want to eat comfort food everyday and now it appears as though we are plunging back into the deep freeze after a lovely three day hiatus!  I’ve got some oh-my-gosh-they-are-so-cute-I’m-gonna-die pictures and updates of our adorable new family member, Beatrice.  There, I said it.  Now, can we make it so, number one? 🙂

Sadly, I am feeling how tight the jeans have become these past few months.  Even after busting my butt with tremendous amounts of basket orders over the holidays…it’s all still there, taunting me everyday I get dressed.  After leaving my part time job, that had me sitting for most of six hours a day, I have been trying to incorporate a bit of exercise into my daily routine, although hating it, every step/weight/crunch I do.  Yeah, I’ve never been much for working out.  So, this latest comfort food binge will most likely haunt me, specifically my thighs, butt & stomach, but for now my body wants warmth.  Is it Spring yet?  Ugh.  So, I caved…and what is one of the best ways to warm up? With food silly!  Or at least that’s what I’ve been telling myself…so let’s begin this food fest already!

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Last Saturday we indulged in Truffle Mac & Cheese with Eggs en Cocotte.  We have both white & black Truffle oils and I have been craving it in Mac & Cheese for some time now.  And the baked Egg Cocotte was something I wanted to try for some time.  It’s basically an Egg, with cream, a bit of cheese & herbs, baked in a ramekin in a water bath in the oven.  Here is a great recipe from The Kitchn, & reference for how to make your own delicious egg dish!

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On one of the coldest nights we had Butternut Squash Risotto.  I think Risotto intimidates people, but it’s actually really easy!  All it involves is a lot of stirring, as you slowly incorporate the liquid into the rice.  You should try it sometime, it’s so worth the extra time & muscle!  Hey, think of it as a mini-workout! 🙂

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I tried my hand at making Chicken Marsala…yeah, I know, kinda weird I hadn’t already ever made it & it turned out pretty good!  It’s bathed in wine & mushrooms…so what could be wrong with that?!?

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Friday night we made homemade pizza.  Sweet Italian Sausage Pizza with caramelized Onion, Fennel & Green Olive style-Pizza-night baby!  Do you have a designated Pizza night?  I love to do that on Fridays…the end of the work week, it’s nice to take a relaxed approach with dinner that night.  We use frozen pizza dough, (it’s a Rhodes product you can buy in the freezer section at your store) which you can pull out of the freezer in the morning, spray one side of plastic wrap with oil and wrap the loaf up to rise on the counter for the day.  Oh, and don’t forget the cheese. LOTS of cheese, this time it was mostly Mozzarella with a bit of smoked Cheddar & grated Parmesan once it comes out of the oven.  We’ve done blue cheese, goat cheese…  It’s all good, as long as there is cheese!  Have I told you I love cheese?  Yep, another vice of mine…all cheese & lots of it.

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Next night we had Polenta, braised greens & tomatoes and basted eggs.  Have I told you I could eat eggs everyday?  Yep, I love me some eggies 🙂  Someone recently asked what my favorite three foods were.  Wanna guess my response?  Eggs, cheese & BACON!! I am truly a Minnesota-Iowa girl.  Oh and about that, anyone know where I can get a really good, freaky huge, totally calorie-laden Pork Tenderloin sandwich here in the Twin Cities?  I want the kind that is three times bigger than the bun, with pickle slices and gobs of mayo….like I used to get at the local Hy-Vee foods near my work….sad isn’t it?  It still haunts me 🙂

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But most recently, I roasted this amazing Chicken dish.  Let’s call it Balsamic & Fig rubbed Chicken.  It was so easy and ended up delicious I thought it would be fun to share it with you!  I used a Chicken thigh/leg combo…please, please use dark meat for this dish.  If you absolutely hate dark meat, then go ahead and use a bone-in Chicken breast.  But only if you absolutely hate dark meat.  Otherwise trust me and make it this way!  The meat ends up so moist & tender it falls right off the bone!

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I roasted this chicken over a bed of thinly sliced fennel, onion & diced parsnips but you can use potato, carrots, sweet potatoes or whatever you like to roast with your chicken best.  And the fig portion of this dish, was a jar of Fig Butter I had purchased awhile back from Trader Joe’s.  I love this butter, it’s thick, not super sweet, and full of rich fig flavor & crunch!  Really you could use any jam/butter for this dish.  Cherry…Apricot…you pick it!  I had enough of the parsnip mixture leftover to put on the top of baked potatoes for my next two lunches!  I could eat that everyday…

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Balsamic & Fig rubbed Chicken:

~1/4 cup of Fig Butter (or any jam/butter of your choice)

~1/4 cup of Balsamic Vinegar

~enough whole Chicken pieces (skin-on, white or dark) to feed your crew

~three large parsnips, diced

~1/2 sweet onion, sliced thin (you could even use red!)

~1/2 head of fennel, sliced thin

~five cloves of garlic, skin removed & crushed

olive oil ~ salt ~ pepper

Pre heat your oven to 325 degrees.  Mix together the jam/butter & the balsamic vinegar.  You can add a bit of the olive oil & salt and pepper to this as well.  Then rub the all the chicken with this mixture.  Carefully poke your fingers in between the chicken & it’s skin, separately it slightly, enough to be able to tuck some of the jam/butter inside.  Set this aside.  Then after chopping/slicing up the parsnips, onion & fennel, mix this all together with the rest of the olive oil, salt, pepper & crushed garlic.  Lay this on the bottom of the roasting pan and place the chicken on top.  Cover the pan with plastic wrap and then aluminum foil.  Pop in your oven, plan to cook it at 325 for at least an hour, but if you can do an hour and a half, the stuff will literally melt away from the bone!  If you want to try to crisp up that chicken skin a bit, uncover it for the last 15 minutes or so, being very careful not to burn the skin, as it will quickly, with all that delicious jam/butter & balsamic!

Kick back, cozy up and enjoy my friends!  Please, let me know if you make this, or have your own go-to delicious chicken recipe you want to share!

Oh wait, I almost forgot…you want to see the oh-my-gosh-they-are-so-cute-I’m-gonna-die pictures of our new girl kitty Beatrice, don’t you?!  Okay, I readily admit that some of you closest to me are probably sick of hearing about it, but I’m a proud Mama and can’t help myself!  Crazy cat lady, yes, yes…I know, I know…

IMG_7172A first kiss…

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IMG_7249First evening snuggles…

Oh my gosh, the cuteness with these two never ends!  So, I don’t even know where to begin to get you caught up!  Since we last chatted, I was getting ready to take her to the vet, hoping she’d get a clean bill of health so I could let her come up from her basement chamber.  Well, that was one of the scariest things I have ever done…trying to put her in the kennel.  Never want to have to go there again….but, we made it, she made it and came home with a clean bill of health!

Shortly after getting back home, my youngest cat Indy did another one of his dive bombs at her, to which previously I prevented to the best of my ability.  This time, I thought, what the heck, let her kick his little butt, for getting all up in her grill.  Well, little did I know, that’s EXACTLY what she wanted!! It was truly love at first sight.  She immediately became a totally different cat.  Flopping down on the floor in front of him, rolling around with her belly up in the air…cat flirtation at its best!  So, I let her hang out with the other cats, which obviously she is most comfortable with, being she has been running with her “herd” the past 10-ish months.

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Over the past week, she has gotten braver & braver with us, hanging out on my daughters bed with the crabby cat (Augie) and just tonight she crawled up next to me on the couch, like a real house cat!  Still not excited about us touching her, but we’ve been able to get a few pets in the past couple days.  Baby steps…or should I say, kitty steps…

It’s truly amazing and I have enjoyed the past week immensely!  Thank you all for your good wishes, encouragement and for cheering me on through this whole process!  It was so difficult to keep her inside, where she initially hated every minute of.  But I just couldn’t bear the thought of her being outside any longer.  With the impending cold again, I worry about her Mama, Daddy & two other siblings.  Hoping they’ll all cuddle up and make it through another night or two of cold.  So, for now, keep warm thoughts for her family members, and all the other animals who’ll be going through another night of negative degree temps.

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Oh my gosh, the cuteness!!! Indy & Beatrice sittin’ in a tree…. ❤ ❤ ❤

Until next time, stay warm!

🙂 Shawn