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Brief but delicious return to MSP (Brasa, Pho Ca Dao and assorted odds and ends)

tex.s.toast | Nov 30, 201106:50 AM

We swung through the twin cities as part of thanksgiving outside of town which just involved a lot of down home midwestern cookery (i didnt know stuffing could be made in a crock pot, but it came out pretty great with even some crusty outsides). There was precious little time to eat but we did return to a couple of st paul favorites.

Brasa seemed even better than we remembered, and we were fortunate to experience it in my favorite context, a big group meal with large (or medium) orders of meats and sides shared around. We got the pork, beef and pulled chicken (always a favorite of mine) and they were great. The beef's sweetness has always been a little offputting for me, not because its overly sweet, but just because i eschew sweetness in general. The pork is pretty plain but had great porky flavor and with a squirt of the provided limes hit the spot. I LOVE that they offer the pulled chicken outside of the sandwich option (which was the only way to get it when we left town, i believe) and it was outstanding. Moist, large chunks of chicken lightly dressed in that deliciousness that is the creamy cilantro sauce - i could do this every day. The sides were on point as ever, we had the masa cakes (great), mac (better than i remembered it, nice and moist), very good plantains, light and crunchy apple slaw and OMG those greens. We were staying just down the street and i spent the rest of our stay fighting the urge to walk down the street and get a large order of collard greens to inhale all by myself. We had the perfect amount of food, a drink each, and our total bill came out to about 20 dollars per person (maybe ive been in NYC too long but i thought this was a steal given the quality of the food and the fact that it didnt require eating in an atmosphere-free ethnic dive)

Speaking of zero atmosphere ethnic dives . . . another day we had lunch at Pho Ca Dao on university and it was, like dinner at brasa, as awesome as ever. I was pleased to find it busy with a mixed lunch crowd even on the later side of lunch, and the soup was just on point. Great flavor, fresh vegetables to add in (culantro that i didnt remember getting when i was a frequent pho-er back when i lived in town) and incredibly efficient. My only knock would be that they dont, i think, offer omosa which i have a love/hate (more like fascination/revolt) relationship with and which i kind of enjoy testing myself with every so often.

The rest of our time was spent giving thanks and eating assorted home-cooked things, although we did get some great locally raised bison (through the farmer, not avaialble retail), a couple of shopped items really stood out. A friend works in a school in east st paul and a parent makes and sells tamales to the employees - these were fantastic with a great avocado based hot sauce on the side. We enjoyed those with Burrito Mercado's jalapeno asado salsa that was just incredible, and I thought a steal for 4.50 for a large jar. Also cooked with some chorizo from the seward coop that had great flavor and a nice course texture which we really appreciated. Also finally found a Summit beer that i liked, the black lager was a good, not super heavy but nice and dark winter beer that didnt taste too "summity" to me.

All in all not nearly enough time or eating on this trip, but it was great to revisit some old faves and be reminded of why the twin cities are great eating towns (and be constantly astounded at the outrageously low, to us, prices).

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