December 9, 2010: Chicken Wild Rice Soup Quest

One of my favorite things about all the lakes in Minnesota is the wild rice that come out of them! In fact, I love it so much that my husband and I gave bags of it as favors at our Pennsylvania wedding. Hey, you can't get it out East, and we were supporting local business!

I love wild rice plain, in casseroles, but especially in chicken wild rice soup. I'm on a quest to find the best chicken wild rice soup in the state of Minnesota:

1. Black Bear Lodge & Saloon, Brainerd, MN: This restaurant described its chicken wild rice soup as "legendary" and I was prepared to put it to the test! It surpassed all my expectations, and sits at the top of my list. My husband agrees - it's amazing. Great flavor, a perfect balance between thick and thin, all around fabulous!

2. Dakota Harvest Bakers, Grand Forks, ND: Okay, so the restaurant is in North Dakota, and the soup is actually turkey wild rice, but on both counts close enough because this soup is fantastic!

3. The Great American Bar & Grill, Duluth, MN: This restaurant describes their chicken wild rice soup as "award winning" and it certainly receives the bronze medal on my list! Added bonus - you can buy this soup frozen at your local grocery store!

4. Bixby's Cafe, Grand Rapids, MN: I love their homemade soup - it's very thick and has a great flavor. It's so good, I've eaten it for breakfast!

5. Schroeder's Fine Food & Spirits, St. Paul, MN: My husband and I agree that this soup is excellent!

6. The Timberwolf Inn, Marcell, MN: A hearty and delicious soup that is perfect after a day of snowshoeing. Sometimes they put corn in the soup though - not my style.

7. Panera, Minneapolis, MN: My Panera in Pennsylvania never had chicken wild rice soup, but thankfully the chain caters to regional tastes!

8. Brewed Awakenings, Grand Rapids, MN: A thinner soup with a mild flavor and locally grown rice!

9. Forest Lake Restaurant, Grand Rapids, MN: This soup is mediocre, and there is corn in it - not a fan!

10. Grizzlies Grill N Saloon, Duluth, MN: Another mediocre, corn-filled soup.

July 30, 2010: Boats and Visitors

Have not updated in quite awhile - been quite busy with lots of visitors! We always enjoy family and friends staying with us. Took the parents to Trout Lake on a beautiful sunny day:

Mom and Lindsay, Trout Lake

Lindsay and Vic, Trout Lake

In other exciting news, we now have a boat! Our boss Dennis was so kind to give us a great deal on the boat he was selling - we love it! Vic is a great driver! It's docked on Trout right now. Before we park it in the garage for the winter, I'm dying to get over to Bluewater Lake, which is appropriately named for it's stunning color. There are no public accesses to this lake, so only small boats like ours can sneak in via Wabana Lake.

Captain Vic
Looks like he's been boating on Minnesotan lakes forever.
Hard to believe he's a former New Yorker!

Moose - we couldn't resist!

We've also been spending lots of time with our fun friends up here - cruising around with Dennis and Robin, or Joe and Sara, or Pokegama sunsets with Mat and Heather.

Vic, Joe, and Dennis, Trout Lake

Upcoming Northern fun: Tomorrow we are going to Lake Itasca for some hiking - it's the headwaters of the Mississippi. Then next weekend we are going to a book signing for Mary Shideler - a woman who made it her goal to kayak all the lakes here in Itasca County... there are 1007!

Independence Day 2010

This holiday weekend was spent exploring quite a few lakes in the area. Friday night after work found us at a party on our lake, Trout, hosted by our friend Joe who just bought a home on the southern end. Saturday we were pretty low-key, just cleaning up around the house, since my parents will be visiting next weekend. Then to celebrate the 4th on Sunday, we went to an awesome BBQ/game night/fireworks show at Mat & Heather's on Pokegama.

We had today, Monday the 5th, off from work, so Vic and I headed to the Brainerd area for some Kohls and mini-golf. It was so much fun, and along the way we picked up two more lakes to add to my collection:

Hole in the Day Lake, Crow Wing County

Smiley Lake, Cass County

Addition: Vic found Hole in the Day Lake on the map, and we decided to visit because it clearly has a fun name. I decided to Google it later on and found that it is named for a former chief of a local band of Ojibwe natives. The full story can be found here:

This lake project began as something to make my coworkers laugh, but it has done so much more than that. It has caused me to explore Minnesota in places I might otherwise not have, along with giving me a new appreciation of nature and history. Vic thought I was weird at first, cruising my little Rio down tiny dirt roads in search of an oddly-named lake. But after a few excursions, he thinks it's fun too and is helpful in finding new fun lakes!

June 26, 2010: Welcoming summer at Lammon Aid Lake

Lammon Aid Lake is a small lake south of Calumet, MN. This ridiculously-named lake was discovered by our coworker Dave. Instead of cleaning the house or landscaping, as we probably should have, Vic and I took a quick excursion to add this lake to our collection. What better way to celebrate summer than spending an afternoon on a lake with lemonade?

Lammon Aid Lake was really scenic and had lots of wildlife. We saw loons, fish, dragonflies, and an eagle.

There only appeared to be 2 residences on this little lake - from our angle I saw one dock with a lawn chair on it and a tiny brown cabin on the opposite side. As much as I love our house, I think it would be pretty awesome to have a little secluded cabin on a lake. Maybe I'd go crazy with the isolation, but maybe not right away. There never seem to be enough hours in the day for reading, writing letters, and just thinking.

Home on the lake

We have been lucky enough to live on a lake or down the street from a lake for as long as we have been in Minnesota (really, it's difficult to get away from them!). I spend a lot of time discussing lakes that I have traveled to, but haven't spent any at all on the lakes I call home.

Upon first moving to Minnesota in August 2008, I rented a gorgeous cabin on Wendigo arm of Pokegama Lake. This lake will always be my favorite. Summer or winter, there is always something going on at Pokegama. I could wake up at 3 am to find either boat or snowmobile traffic, depending on the season. Pokegama is the place to be. Whenever I miss it, I head over to Zorbaz for some fun drinks on the deck! Bonfires and BBQs at Birch Cove resort are the best!

Pokegama Lake

For about a year I rented a small house in the town of Grand Rapids, just a walk down the road from the small, but picturesque Crystal Lake. This lake is a favorite since it is surrounded by a nice walking trail, with park benches along the way. My favorite memories at Crystal Lake involve sitting on a bench facing North with a cup of tea, waiting for the aurora.

Vic walking on Crystal Lake

We have recently bought our first home in Coleraine, and at the end of our street is an access to Trout Lake. Trout's history has not been a pretty one - residents tell me that the lake was quite decimated for a period due to mining. Recent changes in environmental zoning enforcement have resulted in Trout Lake becoming known for it's clarity and fishing. We're still new to the area, but from what we can tell, the wildlife on Trout is abundant and the views from our bay are lovely.

Trout Lake

June 12, 2010: Central MN Lakes

My husband wanted to travel down to Aitkin to go shopping, so I decided to turn it into a road trip to pick up a couple lakes south of GR. Generally, when I plan a day trip getaway, I head north. I just think it's prettier, though the mixed farm-and-forest landscapes of Central Minnesota are lovely as well. Dinner Pail, Poor Farm, and Rabbit (in honor of our pets!) Lakes were simple to get to. Dirty House Lake, however, involved a long trek on a minimum maintenance road, and my husband was NOT happy with me.

Dinner Pail Lake, Itasca County

Poor Farm Lake, Aitkin County

Rabbit Lake, Crow Wing County

Dirty House Lake, Cass County

I was happy to see that Dirty House Lake had enough mucky, weedy water to live up to its awesome name!

June 5, 2010: Journey to the Northwest Angle

For my 26th birthday, I wanted a road trip to somewhere remote and odd. Minnesota's Northwest Angle satisfied both of those requirements! The Northwest Angle is that piece of Minnesota that you can only get to by crossing into Manitoba (or via ice road in winter).

At the Canada-US border crossing lies only a phone booth, no customs agent. The phone only has two buttons to push, one reading "US" for those entering into the Northwest Angle, and the other reading "Canada" for those heading back to Manitoba.

The town of Angle Inlet has less than 200 people, but the restaurants were delicious, the golf course looked nice, and most places took debit! Lake of the Woods was beautiful as always. We spent lots of time admiring a group of American White Pelicans.

American White Pelicans, Lake of the Woods, Minnesota

On our way up North, we came across Shallow Pond Lake, which of course made my list of unexplainably-named lakes!

Shallow Pond Lake, Itasca County, Minnesota