Celebrating Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis

Sota Pop Minnesota artists event

The past 10 days leading up to Super Bowl LII have been a celebration of the NFL and state of Minnesota. Since I work downtown in the middle of all the festivities, the excitement has been obvious. While I’m excited to be getting my bus route back, it has been fun seeing the city, region and state showcase the best of Minnesota.

I’ve been lucky enough to take advantage of a lot of the activities downtown leading up to the big game. I want to share some of the highlights and images from the past week.

Leading up, I went to Super Bowl Live and the Super Bowl Experience. Check out some images from the events.

Super Bowl LII ice sculpture

Kitten Bowl 2018 Minneapolis

A Dolphins throwback to my South Florida days for all my favorite Dol-fans.

Ice sculptures on Nicollet Mall during Super Bowl Live.

Kurt Warner’s hand compared to mine. Gotta see the hometown boy.

Did you do Super Bowl related activities? If so, I would love to hear what you thought in the comments or, better yet, if you wrote a post, please link to that!

Day trip: New Ulm, Minnesota

New Ulm, Minnesota, day trip

Bad blogger confession: This post is way overdue (it’s 3 degrees out as I write this), but I really want to share the day I spent in New Ulm, Minnesota, this spring with you ahead of my recap of my trip to Europe, and specifically Germany. And if you are like me and planning travel for 2018, this post is the perfect time.

Located in southern Minnesota, New Ulm is about 90 minutes from the Twin Cities. This makes it the perfect distance from and size a town for a day trip; a full weekend is too much unless you are there for an event. Below I share attractions and spots to visit during a day trip to New Ulm.

New Ulm is named for the town in Bavaria of the same name, and was settled by Turner Society Germans, who left Germany after the Revolution of 1848 and were known for being very active in gymnastics (trust me, this will come up later in the post). As I was going to Bavaria later this year and I have wanted to visit New Ulm since moving to Minnesota, I made a point to go this spring.

New Ulm Attractions

Flandrau State Park

New Ulm has a state park right at the city limits, how cool is that? Flandrau State Park is the perfect place to step away from the town and take a break in nature. Although small in size, the park has diverse terrain and trails, from grassy to wooded areas. And it has a lot of nice-looking camping options that would make it a fun way to stay in New Ulm if you choose.

Hermann the German

Located in Hermann Heights Park, the monument commemorates the German victory over the Romans. Hermann is celebrated as a symbol of German independence. The 102 foot monument is topped by a statue that is the second-largest of its kind in the U.S., only smaller than the Statue of Liberty. It’s the highest spot in New Ulm and offers wonderful views of the town and valley below. The $2.25 admission fee is well worth the price.

New Ulm MN | Kale and Ale

View of New Ulm from Hermann the German monument.


Make a point to plan your day around the Glockenspiel performance times. The bells on the 45-foot tall clock perform at noon, 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. No matter your age, it’s a fun experience.

Food and Drink

Turner Hall

I’m going to be honest, there aren’t a lot of food options in New Ulm. It’s a small town. Since we were there for one day to experience the German culture, we went all in with lunch at Turner Hall.

This is Turner Hall like the founding Turners. Remember the ones into gymnastics? Well, this hall was founded as a gymnasium for training. There is a bar off the gym. And below that in the Rathskeller (basement, which is a great word to know in German, as that’s a good place to look for beer) is the New Ulm Turner Hall restaurant.

What the food lacks, the atmosphere (and cheap beer) make up for. Interesting facts: The menu has two prices-one for members and one for visitors, and it calls itself the oldest bar in Minnesota.

New Ulm MN Turner Hall Rathskeller | Kale and AleThe murals on the wall are worth popping your head in for, as they depict scenes from Germany, Switzerland and Italy. The original artwork was painted over and has been recently uncovered and restored. Ahead of my trip to Europe it got me very excited to experience Bavaria for myself.


No trip to New Ulm is complete without heading to August Schell Brewery. Tours start at the top of the hour (I missed it by a few minutes and was disappointed so I’ll have to go back) and for $5 take visitors around the grounds explaining different features. Also, a tour is the only way to sample the beer on site, as there is no taproom to pay for a pint.

New Ulm MN Schells | Kale and AleEven if you don’t go on a tour, stop at the brewery to see the grounds, gardens, buildings and resident peacocks. Yes, peacocks! The oldest brewery in Minnesota, five generations of Schell’s have brewed beers on this location.


Opened earlier this year, the Starkeller is a separate taproom where Schell’s features its Noble Star sour beers. They have a few snack options, and if you like sour beer, this is the place to get it. It has a beautiful bar in a minimalist taproom setting. Note: This is cash only and is only open Fridays and Saturday.

Have you been to New Ulm? What was your favorite thing you did, ate or saw?

Twin Cities Vegetarian Restaurants

Twin Cities Vegetarian Restaurants | Kale and Ale

Photo by Markus Spiske/Unsplash

I’ve wanted to write about my favorite vegan and vegetarian restaurants in the Twin Cities area (Minneapolis, St. Paul and beyond) in one spot for a long time.

Recently, the Eater article “18 Essential Restaurants for Vegetarians in Minneapolis and St. Paul” was published, and featured a spot with steak in the name. Reading the name on a list aimed at vegetarian spots was a disappointment and gave me a long pause, so I decided it is time to finally write my post about my favorite veg-friendly spots. Whether you are visiting from out of town, new to eating a plant-based diet or are looking for somewhere different to eat, think of this as a good starting point.

Below are restaurants I recommend along with a short reason why it’s included. To be on the list, the restaurant need not be plant-based, but must focus on plants, seasonal and local food, and have veggie options very clearly marked. These are restaurants I’ve been to myself that I would recommend, listed in alphabetical order. This post will be updated as I try new spots, as I don’t eat out often so I’m slow to try new restaurants.

What restaurant would you recommend I eat at and add to this list? Leave a note in the comments below.

Note: I’m professional writer, editor and content creator; if Eater or anyone is looking for a vegetarian to write about hot or new Twin Cities spots or plant-based trends, contact me for writing opportunities at Valerie@KaleAndAle.com.

Agra CultureThis fast-casual restaurant features healthy, simple food where meals are built a la cart and protein can be substituted.

The Bad WaitressThe menu at the two locations varies slightly, but both have a good variety of solid diner food that can be made vegetarian or vegan and is clearly marked.

The Depot TavernA solid choice if you are downtown or before a show at First Avenue, you will find classics like burgers and sandwiches with fries, tots or salad, that will keep you full through the encore. Tip: You can request half fries and half tots as your side, and the veg BLT is very filling.

French Meadow CafeIt focuses on special diets and local, fresh and organic food. I have been here for dinner, and I know breakfast and the airport location are both very popular options.

Hard Times CafeThis might be my favorite veggie restaurant, everything I’ve had is good and I can’t stop thinking about it. It is very no frills (I don’t think they have a website and only accept cash, how punk of them!) It’s just greasy spoon food, my favorite kind. What’s good? Everything I’ve had!

The Herbivorous ButcherNot a restaurant, this vegan butcher offers meat-free meats and cheese to go, and features sandwiches, soups and a nice selection of shelf-based treats. Read my recipe for Herbivorous Butcher pulled pork stuffed avocado.

Hola ArepaFresh, Latin food found in Minneapolis. Simple dishes that are clearly marked what are or can be made vegetarian or vegan.

J. Selby’sThey make the food meat-eaters crave, but are all plant-based. Popular items include are soyclones and cauliflower “buffalo” wings (a dish I can’t stop thinking about).

Milkjam Creamery: An ice cream shop with unique flavors where the owners are lactose intolerant, so there are always a handful of dairy-free options. Tip: Each scoop is very filling.

Pizza LuceService salads, sandwiches and pizzas, where many can easily be made vegetarian or vegan. It has unique combos, a seasonal menu and a solid brunch. It took me about five visits before I even had a pizza because the salads and sandwiches are so good.

Pizza NeaNeapolitan pizza with lots of ingredients, including many veggie meat options from Herbivorous Butcher, and vegan cheese so everyone can have what they want.

ReverieFlavorful dishes line the menu where ingredients are prepared in-house daily. They can run out of popular dishes, so it’s a reason to return. Read my review of Reverie Cafe + Bar dinner and breakfast.

Seward CafeVery no-frills cafe with flavorful food, a classic spot.

Spoonriver: Higher-end vegetarian restaurant serving contemporary food in a nice setting.

Triple Rock Social ClubVery veg friendly to grab a bite of classic bar food before a show or when you are out and about in the neighborhood. I have heard great things about breakfast but haven’t had it.

World Street KitchenA food truck and restaurant that focuses on world food, it features fresh flavors and veggie options.

What restaurant would you recommend I eat at and add to this list? Leave a note in the comments below.

Restaurant Review: The Tomato Vine

Note: I was provided the food in this review at no charge from the Tomato Vine restaurant. All opinions are my own.

salad The Tomato Vine | Kale and Ale

The peanut dressing on this tofu and grain salad is amazing.

When the restaurant/catering/take-and-heat business The Tomato Vine contacted me about reviewing its food, I jumped at the chance. Having spent last summer looking at healthy, local and fresh catering options for my wedding, this would have fallen into that category.

The Tomato Vine focuses on seasonally, from-scratch meals, and has a lot of options that are clearly marked for vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free meals. All ingredients are labeled, so you know exactly what’s in the food. (See the menu here.) Where possible they source local food. In short, they reached out to me because they prepare food the way I prepare food. I really respect that, for as much as I love cooking, sometimes I just want a break from cooking but I don’t want to sacrifice quality or my beliefs.

Food Options

In addition to the Tomatoes Vine’s set menu, there are weekly specials, and it’s clearly marked what can be modified for dietary needs.

Eating options include delivery or pickup (with heating instructions for later, served in nice Pyrex or disposable containers), a lunch cafe and catering. They focus on catering for corporate and private events.

Lunch options are a few hot choices, salads, sandwiches, sides, snacks and desserts.

My Review

The Tomato Vine | Kale and Ale

I tried a variety of food, all clearly marked with ingredients and cooking instructions.

As I already mentioned, ingredients and heating instructions are on the label for each meal (which I love, easy to find and see what is in it or to do). I tried a variety of foods:

  • Tarragon grain cakes with apricot chutney
  • Spicy peanut tofu salad
  • Veggie fried rice
  • Red pepper hummus with veggies and chips
  • Maple apple cobbler
veggie cake The Tomato Vine | Kale and Ale

Tarragon cakes full of grains and tofu.

That night I ate the cakes, and my first impression really was that it is something I would make: Simple with good flavor from real food. I loved that the ingredients it included were easy to taste, and it didn’t include extra ingredients or flavors. The tofu and grain mix that is the base of the cakes was really good, it was also in the salad.

Speaking of the salad, the dressing was my favorite thing I had. I took the salad as a work lunch the day after getting the food, since it was on a plastic container. I tried to figure out (with no luck) how to recreate that dressing. Topped with fresh veggies, it was a hearty, filling and flavorful salad.

I make and eat a lot of hummus and the thing that can make or break it is texture. It had a nice consistancy, smooth yet it wasn’t overly processed, so I loved that the texture was a little chunky, the way I like guacamole or salsa. I’ll have to remember to leave it like that the next time I make hummus.

I’m not a big dessert person, as readers of this blog and anyone close to me knows, but this dessert hit the spot. The sweetness is derived from the maple syrup and cooked apples, and the topping was browned and crunchy, contrasting the soft cobbler underneath.

If I’m looking to cater, I would consider and recommend The Tomato Vine, as they are knowledgeable and accommodating on diet, while using seasonal, wholesome foods.

The Tomato Vine

7134 Shady Oak Road, Eden Prairie, Minnesota 55344

Phone: 952-941-1699

Website: www.thetomatovine.com

Facebook: facebook.com/TheTomatoVine

Lowertown Pop Event Preview

Lowertown Pop market giveaway | Kale and Ale

Enter to win two tickets at the bottom of this post!

A group of Twin Cities lifestyle bloggers was given a chance to preview the first Lowertown Pop art, craft and local goods event that will take place Saturday, April 9, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Union Depot in St. Paul.

This was a great opportunity to meet Minnesota makers one-on-one and hear about their products and passions. It was really inspiring and encouraging to hear about what drives them, their process and why they do it. And I only interacted with about a quarter or a third of the 55-plus vendors that will be at the event, so I can’t wait to go back and check out the entire show.

Lowertown Pop food | Kale and Ale

So many great food and drink vendors, even at the preview.

While there are great people making clothes, accessories and beauty products (view who will be at the Lowertownpop Pop event), I was naturally most drawn to the food and drink vendors. I was able to sample a lot of products and talk with the people who developed them as to the product’s inspiration and future, where one might find them, etc.

Hearing about a passion project or filling a market void and all the time these people have invested in their project made the goods seem like more than something consumable. People in the Twin Cities community are focusing on bringing back long-ago natural recipes (Superior Switchel), creating a creamy vegan condiment (Grlk), bringing Greek family dips and spreads to an area lacking these items (Antigone’s), nuts bursting with flavor and natural sweetness that are vegan and gluten-free (Isadore), salsas and hot sauces that have a smokiness and kick (Double Take), and craft cocktails (Tattersall) and mixers (Blue Henn). And there will be more at the event that weren’t at the preview! I really can’t wait to get to know these vendors and their special stories more.

Lowertown Pop Ticket Giveaway (Now Closed)

Lowertown Pop drinks | Kale and AleLowertown Pop and event organizer MNBloggerBash were kind enough to donate tickets. Win two tickets (retail value $30) to Lowertown Pop at Union Depot in St. Paul on April 9 by signing up at the Rafflecopter widget below. Tickets can be purchased for $10 in advance and $15 at the door. Free admission for children ages 5 and under. 100 percent of ticket sales will be shared with the charity partner Face to Face and one lucky Minnesota Maker.

Giveaway is open to those with a U.S. mailing address and ends on 4/4/16 at 12 a.m. Entering below confirms that you agree to all terms and conditions within the Rafflecopter widget. Entries will be verified. Winner will be contacted April 4 and must respond that day with a delivery method. Tickets may be mailed via USPS (delivery by date of event not the responsibility of Kale and Ale or Valerie Dennis) or picked up in downtown Minneapolis during normal business hours.

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