Archive for the ‘Geocaching’

Steve’s Onion & Garlic Pepper Sauce (Giveaway!)

Recently I was geocaching all over the Minnesota Iron Range with friends while staying in beautiful Nashwauk. A friend of mine who lives in the area who knows my affinity for hot sauces had me try one which has become well known in that area. Based out of Grand Rapids is a small company selling a hot sauce known as Steve’s Onion & Garlic Pepper Sauce which promises not only heat but “exceptional taste” and based on the number of restaurants and stores selling it, some people believe the sauce is a winner.

Advertised in many grocery stores, on restaurant menus, and sold just about everywhere around the Grand Rapids area, Steve’s sauce is hard to miss when traveling through the Iron Range. While I tried it at my friend’s cabin, I was later able to purchase both their “hot” and “medium” varieties at a restaurant in downtown Nashwauk for $4/bottle. A tall price for a 5oz bottle but one that I feel is quite fair knowing the quality of this sauce.

The owner, Steve, fancies himself a chili head with a desire to have a sauce which brought more flavor than just your typical vinegar-based creations. Beginning in 1999 he worked through numerous variations until he found a sauce he really liked and began bottling it for family and friends. Later his wife suggested they begin selling it and Steve’s Onion and Pepper Sauce was born. Made from natural ingredients and no extracts, Steve built a sauce which has a motto of, “it just tastes great.”

Now, knowing that I have tried hundreds of hot sauces from all over the world I was a bit apprehensive about a pepper sauce created in Minnesota and on the Minnesota Iron Range at that. With a population generally uninterested in heat, I took my first taste with a smirk. However that smirk turned into a huge smile as that first taste had me immediately wanting more.

The sauce itself is very similar to the Bella Pepper Sauce as you get a nice mouthful of flavor first. The unmistakable taste of garlic hits you in a wave first, then a nice soft onion becomes apparent, and then finally the heat sneaks up and engulfs your tongue from front to back leaving you with a nice and pleasant tingle while the flavor continues to wash over you. While I have only tried the “Hot” and the “Medium”, I found (and I realize you’re not going to believe this) that I prefer the “Medium” over the “Hot”. Now this isn’t because the “Hot” is uncomfortable, it’s not, it’s simply because I actually like the way the sauce tastes that I feel that the “Hot” takes away some of the pleasurable flavor that the lower level provides. However, Steve’s has created a variety of sauces which range from “Mild” to “XXX Hot” and while the types of peppers are never revealed in the ingredient list and it’s hard to discern due to the excellent onion and garlic flavor, this is a sauce which I find serves just as many purposes as my beloved Bella.

I had my friend Josh, a fellow chili head, try some of the “Hot” on Saturday night. He could not stop tasting it and even remarked that he thought it was better than the Bella sauce which I purchased for him at the same time as mine. He said he’ll be placing an order soon to get his own bottles of the stuff and that’s a big statement coming from him.

Overall I very highly recommend Steve’s Garlic and Onion Pepper Sauce for those of you looking for a hot sauce (or even a mild sauce) which carries some intense flavors. They have a range for everyone and while I haven’t tried all of the sauces, I am willing to bet that they all hold up just as well to the taste test as the two I have tried.

After trying the sauces I contacted Steve and asked if he’d be willing to send over some of his sauces for me to give away on the site. He got back to me in short order and a box arrived just after Memorial Day with a ton of bottles covering the entire spectrum of Mild all the way to XXX Hot.

So while many of you already know the drill (as we’ve done this many times before) here it is again anyway:

    1. Post a comment below to enter. Nothing fancy required. However if you say you won’t give any to MSPD if you win you get two entries.

    2. Like the Facebook post about this contest.

    3. RT @SouthMetroNews’ tweet including the URL pointing to this post on Twitter.

Each of those three things are worth one entry each (well, unless you say you won’t give it to MSPD then it’s two for the first). You can only have up to four entries total regardless of how many reminders may be posted to any of the social networking sites or how many comments you write below making fun of MSPD’s string of bad luck.

The contest will run through Friday 6/10/2011 at 11:59:59 PM and TWO winners (four bottles each) will be chosen at random by my patented SQL methodology and the winners will be notified by e-mail as well as a post on here, Twitter and Facebook.

Please note: due to the weight and fragile nature of the glass bottles, please be aware that I will not mail these to you so if you win you have to be willing to meet me to pick them up.

So go ahead and get your entries in. Even if you don’t win I highly suggest that you get over to Steve’s Onion and Garlic Pepper Sauce website and order yourself some of this sauce.

The Beach House: Sibley, IA

For the last few days I’ve been wandering around the South Dakota and Iowa countryside geocaching with my buddies to bid farewell to a good friend of the last 7+ years before he departs to San Diego as part of Eagan’s loss of Lockheed Martin. During these trips we do our best to avoid the national chains as best we can and eat in as many local establishments as possible.

On Sunday, while geocaching through George, IA we attempted to stop for breakfast only to find that not one single restaurant existed which was open for breakfast. While there was your typical small town bar and a Pizza Ranch (which seemed even more prolific on this trip than I had ever noticed before–but perhaps that’s due to their new location opening soon in Lakeville), there were no cafes or coffee shops as we have experienced so many other times in small town America. After verifying with the woman working the local Casey’s gas station that our eyes were not deceiving us and that there really were no places to eat breakfast in town, she suggested we try Sibley a couple miles away as we’d probably have better luck there. We eventually made it to Sibley and found the town also seemingly devoid of any restaurants aside from another famed Pizza Ranch. After meeting up with two local geocachers and asking them for restaurant recommendations for breakfast we made our way down the block to The Beach House Drive-In for some grub.

The Beach House Drive-In (Facebook only) wasn’t much to see from the road. Aside from the dim lights glowing within, there were no real signs of life Sunday morning. The drive-in area looked as if it hadn’t been used in at least two decades and was missing its signs. The parking lot was totally empty save for one pickup truck apparently used by the owners. However, as we neared the front door the owners greeted us warmly and offered their services to us.

A little piece of a small beach shack on the Florida coast, The Beach House Drive-in is a little restaurant on the inside with a variety of booths, counter ordering, and cute Florida/beach related kitsch on the walls bringing the sunshine of the South to this small rural Iowa town. A simple menu, written on several white boards above the kitchen window, included your usual breakfast foods such as omelets, pancakes and homemade biscuits and gravy as well as lunch/dinner fare such as burgers and burritos. They also served both hard and soft-serve ice cream as well as many other items which I cannot remember. The prices were all incredibly inexpensive and were definitely meant to attract as many of Sibley’s 2700 residents as possible.

According to one of the owners, Shay, working the counter that morning while her husband worked the kitchen behind her, The Beach House is a dream come true and one that they would never have been able to realize if they had not picked up and moved from Florida, her home for the 19 previous years, to the Midwest. She noted her and her husband were able to buy a house, a new truck, and a restaurant in town for less than they sold their home in Florida and open a very popular and successful restaurant with a focus on keeping local residents fed. Case in point, the owners were at The Beach House at 3:30 AM to feed a mob of more than 30 hungry prom-goers who walked in their doors at 4:15 AM after a night of dancing and after-prom activities.

I ordered their Cheeseburger in Paradise omelet which came with cheese, burger meat, lettuce, tomato, onions, and who knows what else. Wrapped in a perfectly cooked omelet and doused with copious amounts of their available hot sauce (later admitted to be Frank’s, something they use in a lot of their menu items including their chili) the omelet was passable and definitely better than the alternatives I was likely to find at nearby gas stations–our only other options in town. While I was warned that some people do not appreciate the lettuce and tomatoes and I told them to add them anyway, I expected the lettuce and tomato to be added much like a burger’s would be–after the fact and cold. Instead it was cooked along inside the omelet with everything else. Wilted lettuce is not exactly my favorite thing in the world and thus the “passable” rating. The rest of the plate were home fries and dry toast, neither of which were anything to write home about but did the job for the price.

One of my buddies ordered their homemade biscuits and gravy which came in a good sized portion with plenty of sausage. When I asked him if it had a kick he noted it did but being that he cannot handle any sort of spice at all I am guessing his opinion may be a bit on the weak side. Another ordered their pancakes with strawberry topping and a third ordered another omelet which looked similar to mine.

I paid for me Cheeseburger in Paradise omelet with hash browns and toast as well as the pancakes with strawberry topping and my bill came out to a whopping $8.34 before tip. I double checked with the owner to make sure that was everything and she proudly stated it was. Wow, what a deal–no wonder they do such great business.

While I won’t suggest that you drive the four hours to Sibley, IA just for a taste of The Beach House’s food, I do think that they are proving a great service to their tiny little town–something which I think each and every one of us can appreciate and support. So if you’re ever driving in an area which appears to only have gas station fare, try driving a few more miles into town to find that one place which houses two hard-working transplants from Florida looking to live out the American dream.

What stories can you share from your experiences traveling the countryside and eating at tiny little restaurants in the middle of nowhere? Are you willing to overlook quality knowing that you’re supporting the only non-chain restaurant in town? Is it surprising to you that someone would give up their life in Florida, sell their home, and move to rural Iowa to open a restaurant in an economy like the one we have? Whatever you have to say about The Beach House Drive-In or any small town America restaurant go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear what you have to say.

The Beach House Drive-In
625 2nd Ave
Sibley, IA 51249


Tuesday – Sunday: 7:00 AM – 9:00 PM

The Beach House on Urbanspoon

See all the pictures from The Beach House Drive-in on Flickr here.

SAS Global Forum 2011: Las Vegas, NV

The Family just returned from five days in sunny and warm Las Vegas, NV while I attended SAS Global Forum 2011 to present a paper entitled Using SAS to Help Fight Crime: Scraping and Reporting Inmate Data in the Data Integration section. The paper was based on the work I’ve done with Dakota and Scott inmate dashboards as well as the Level-3 Sex Offenders and the analysis I’ve done, and not always posted publicly, on the massive datasets I have collected from that work.

We arrived early Sunday morning and spent the day driving to the Utah border and back to add states to my geocache found map and The Rooster’s States Visited Map. Aside from that we spent a lot of time eating overpriced and mostly mediocre food, I spent a lot of time at Caesar’s Palace for the conference, and The Wife and The Rooster spent a lot of time wandering around sight-seeing before nap times.
We stayed at the Flamingo, directly across the street from the conference hotel and directly adjacent to the hotel we stayed at during our 2006 visit to Vegas. The Flamingo is showing its age externally, however, our room was very, very nice—especially when compared to the more expensive Caesar’s Palace.
While I had chosen a large number of places I wanted to try to eat, we ended up doing the usual: buffets or hotel cafes for breakfast, small and fast restaurants for lunch, and random selections for dinner. On Wednesday night a group of us (a SAS employee, another Minneapolis SAS user, a coworker, and me) headed to Bobby Flay’s MESA at Caesar’s Palace for dinner.

I spent the entire day with some sort of 24 hour stomach virus (we had just come off three days of fever/elevated temperatures for The Rooster so perhaps I had some of that) so I did not get to fully appreciate the food but from the half portion of Chile Relleno I had, I was as impressed as I could have been but mostly depressed that I did not get to live out my food-loving self in such a famous restaurant.
After MESA I went over to the PURE nightclub for the final event of the SAS Global Forum. Another famous Vegas institution, I walked in and was not impressed at all. Knowing that Vegas nightclubs, and PURE in particular, charge exorbitant cover fees I could not see one single reason why anyone would enjoy that experience. Even the ever so famed PURE outdoor deck with views of the strip was a bit of a letdown due to the glass fencing and plants blocking my attempts at any photos.

Overall, I took a lot away from SAS Global Forum, being a SAS geek and all, but Vegas again disappointed me as a destination location. I cannot understand how people can enjoy coming here as it’s way overpriced for everything, they let people smoke everywhere (although this was lessened from my 2006 visit), and it’s just way too busy.

I’m looking forward to the chance to attend SAS Global Forum 2012 in Orlando and I really need to start working on my paper submission for that conference now.

Have you ever been to Vegas? What do you think about it? Do you agree that it’s overpriced in every way? Do you enjoy gambling (we didn’t do any) and if so why? Have you been to any of the trendy restaurants or nightclubs? Do you find them better or worse than other options around town? Whatever you have to say about the trip to Vegas this week go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear what you have to say.

Millie’s Deli: Chanhassen, MN

I spent Sunday morning roaming around Shakopee and Chanhassen chasing my 4500th geocache which included my 200th multi-stage cache. While we had over 20 geocaches on the list for the day we decided to cut it short after I made my milestones and before the reported bad weather was supposed to hit. With the skies graying and the chain restaurants closing in all around us we decided to stop in for breakfast at Millie’s Deli in Chanhassen.

Located in an outdated strip mall near the Chanhassen Dinner Theater one block removed from highway 5, Millie’s Deli is certainly nothing to look at from the outside but at a little less than half capacity at 9:30 AM on a Sunday I figured they had to be doing something right inside. As soon as we walked in we were greeted by one of the very friendly servers who seated us at a corner table next to the windows, the only table which had plastic lawn chairs instead of the old and tired wooden furniture located elsewhere throughout the rest of the restaurant.

The breakfast menu is quite simple and offers your typical eggs, omelets, pancakes, etc. The prices are fairly reasonable and range between $4 and $8.50. Their website said that they offer the best breakfast in Chanhassen and that people should try their Cajun Omelet if you’re looking for something a little different–so I did and I added an order of home fries. My buddy ordered a simple meal with eggs, home fries, and bacon. I ordered a decaf coffee and he ordered a chocolate milk. The milk and coffee came out and I’m fairly certain the coffee wasn’t decaf, it wasn’t filled even half full and the chocolate milk was slightly larger than a shot glass and was only 3/4 full.

While we waited for our food I got to take a good look around. The restaurant, even though it’s apparently been around since the 1980s, hasn’t come out of the 1970s. There are a lot of dark wood, whiteboards with simple items listed for menus, and campy decor. The proudest item of their collection is what appears to be a congratulations from the City of Chanhassen for being open. One of the business cards inside is at an angle and the writing is hard to read. The staff is quite friendly routinely yelling across the restaurant at customers who are either already seated or had just walked in the door. One apparent regular who was seated in a wheelchair and on oxygen was cared for in a very nice way as soon as he walked in the door. Nice touches.

While it would appear that this place should have gotten high marks from me being that it’s a long-standing treasure in the midst of chain restaurants and the staff is friendly, it missed the mark completely with the food: the omelet looked strange and I didn’t see any chunks of andouille. Instead what I got were too few eggs, not enough cheese and, believe it or not, too much Cajun spice. It came with a side of toasted sourdough which seemed quite stale and had been drizzled with butter in a telltale swirl instead of evenly spread across the toast. Because the bread was so dry I opted to douse it in Tabasco to eat it. The completely tasteless home fries were most likely dumped from a bag conveniently stored in the freezer. As many of you know if one thing really irks me about restaurants serving breakfast, it’s when they don’t make their own potatoes. Seriously get with the program–fast. If I had been eating at a school cafeteria I would have said my my meal tasted all right but being that I was charged over $11…well, you are free to fill in the profanity that normally would have spilled forth from my mouth.

My buddy’s scrambled eggs, hash browns, and bacon were basically awful. This is a military man who lives by the mantra that you eat when you can because you may not know when you will eat again. He also happily recounts the times he taught others how to kill and skin rabbits in the bush with two simple snaps of his wrist. Being that he left a good bit of the delivered food on his plate I am guessing it was worse than the rations he ate while serving in various horrendous parts of the world in extreme conditions. The home fries were the same as mine and his eggs were done as he requested but the bacon–ugh–the bacon was just awful. It was as if they microwaved it to cook it and then microwaved it again to serve it. The bacon was devoid of flavor and reminded me of Bacos–without the bacon flavor. I’m not even sure my dog would have eaten it and while he doesn’t eat his own crap like so many others, pretty much anything else will slide down his throat.

After tax and before tip our bill came to just over $22. As we were leaving I seriously wondered if I shouldn’t have paid less and ate better at the McDonald’s down the street and as you know that statement should tell you something.

Overall Millie’s Deli in Chanhassen sucked. Flat out sucked. If you’re in the area and looking for decent breakfast please, for the love of all that is holy, do not waste your time and money at Millie’s as you’re far better off at any of the chain restaurants around–possibly even McDonald’s and you know how much I am pained to say that.

Have you ever eaten at Millie’s Deli in Chanhassen? If so please let us know what you thought. Are there non-breakfast options better? Are there other options on their breakfast menu which may have been better suited to two people who would normally eat anything placed in front of them? Whatever you have to say about Millie’s Deli in Chanhassen go ahead and comment on!

Millie’s Deli
545 W 78th St
Chanhassen, MN 55317


Millie's Deli on Urbanspoon

See all the pictures from Millie’s Deli on Flickr here.