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Minneapolis ETHNIC Food Snobs, Your Help Is Needed!

I thought I was a "food snob" until I met my boyfriend...WOW! We both enjoy authentic, ethnic food and are looking for restaurants to try in the Twin Cities area. We are not afraid of "dive" restaurants or "off the beaten path" locations. Heck, we're dying to check out the Vietnamese flea market mentioned in a recent issue of MN Monthly.

I am searching for these places as date ideas and, hopefully, one unbelievable place to celebrate his birthday (This one can be located outside of the metro area and, hopefully, include a weekend getaway of some sort...We're very active and outdoorsy.) We are not "meat and potatoes" type of people...BORING and we can make it as good, if not better, at home. I'm talking about SPICY food, ethnic food, authentic food from near and far...Mexico, Thailand, The Philippines, Greece, Morocco, Spain, Ethiopia, etc., etc.

We're, also, seeking UNBELIEVABLE bakeries in Western WI and the East Metro area (VERY picky, as I once was a pastry chef.)

Since times our tough, we'd love to find affordable restaurants, too. Is this search doomed for failure or can you, foodies, help us in our quest? THANKS:-)

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  1. tvdxer's list should get you started. Not everything in the list is still open but more comprehensive would be tough to find. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/555525

    1 Reply
    1. re: MplsM ary

      Oh wow! Thanks! That's exactly what I need.

      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        Oops! Have you been there? I heard it's amazing but very difficult to locate.

        1. re: Inasuitcase

          Yes, I've been there many times. Refer to the post I linked to in my post above which includes information on how to find it, including photos of the entrance, and some detailed info on the various dishes.

          Please report back after you've tried some of the places people are recommending to you.


          1. re: Inasuitcase

            It's not hard to locate the complex, maybe just the food court. Just know that when you go in the parking lot, the food court is in the building on the left (closest to the street). BUT...I highly recommend walking around the other building too. Some really neat stuff in there.

            1. re: MSPD

              Actually, I found it hard to locate the complex the first couple of times (but maybe I'm just directionally challenged). But, the signage is very distinctive, hence, the usefulness, I think, of the photos.

              The food court is fantastic, but as MSPD said, don't miss the other buildings (there's one where they sell a lot of imported produce), as well as the open air "farmers market" in the back.

              Another Hmong food court is located in the back of Golden Globe, which is on Pierce Butler in St. Paul right behind Dragon Star (which someone mentioned in this thread as having awesome papaya salad to go). I've not eaten at Golden Globe, but it all looks intriguing and as if they are hurting for business. I've only been at weird, off-peak times, though.


              1. re: MSPD

                the building with the food court in it-- signage "west building" above door. go in, go straight, not left, through some clothing/shoe and misc stalls and you will wind up at one end of the food court. if you then hang a left, you can go to the end of the line of food stalls. (oh shoot, trying to remember) from the end, by the light green wall, i want to say the stalls go: "one stop"-- the one with the stars on the menu, then hmong express, then mr. papaya, then coco's. . . then several other stalls near where you first walked in. . . imo these 4 stalls have some good stuff though. "one stop" has good bbq and meats; hmong express has good sausage, and very good stuffed chicken wings and delicious pork belly; mr papaya has good steamed tilapia with herb stuffing and a very good papaya salad as well (go figure), made by a nice lady. coco's has a very good beef meat larb with beef tripe and fresh mint and vegetables, good 3-color dessert (bubble tea, $2) here as well--they put in finely chopped cantaloupe, so i am partial to this stall's version. make sure you order something with purple rice somewhere. the soups look good but ime skip 'em, unless you have a (*very* acquired) taste for hmong "healthy/health-giving chicken soup/soup for new mothers--in that case go for that item, from mr. papaya or hmong express. i like to sit at the long tables and nosh while watching the photo studio's digital display-- it's funny because it's a bunch of formal, traditional costume (hmong, thai, chinese) shots, western-style wedding & family shots, then there will be a random leather-clad sex-kitten shot. . . then little girls in traditional headdresses again. . . ;-P

                since you're already at the complex walk outside to the back of the open air market, past all the clothing stalls and check out the farmer's market, you can get some good veggies. in springtime everyone sells very cheap, nice bedding plants for like twenty five cents each, if you like gardening. one lady sells plants year round-- you can get hard to find stuff from her, like small kaffir lime trees, but watch out-- she is a *wicked* bargainer. near her permanent outdoor stall is a door that leads into an indoor produce market area (mostly fruit). good place to get large amounts of ginger, as well as melons (sweet & bitter), bananas, lychee, imported fruits in general. in this building there is also a large area for traditional hmong herbal medicinals. and lots and lots of videos, clothing, housewares, etc. one time i went to the hmong market and there was a stall set up on tables that had a huge variety of traditional hmong basketry. i was broke at the time so i didn't buy. when i came back it was gone, and i've never seen it since :( so if anybody sees this huge hmong basket display at the market let me know, okay?!

                oh yeah-- try to go earlier in the day. folks start packing up in the afternoon, if it doesn't seem busy.

                1. re: soupkitten

                  Oh, I completely disagree on your recommendation to skip the soups! It might not be a "soup" time of year right now, but I really like the sweet pork with hard boiled egg soup I mentioned in the link in my first post. Completely unique and, with the inclusion of the egg (which has special meaning in Hmong tradition) very Hmong. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3183...

                  I also like the spicy Shrimp Soup (tom yum goong).

                  And the "signage" I was referring to that I found helpful to have a photo of was not the signage for the food court building (I've never found it that hard to find the food court building. It's the first one you see when you enter the parking lot and the only building that doesn't look like a warehouse), but the signage visible from the street that lets you know you've found the complex: http://www.chow.com/photos/10401


                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    yes absolutely, your photos in the older post will be useful to anybody trying to find this complex for the first time. but i don't think the "west building" sign appears in your photos, it's been recently added and it might help someone trying to get directly to the food court, that was my only point, sorry to be confusing!

                    which stall did you get that delicious sounding pork and egg soup and tom yum goong from? it's totally possible that all the good soup is at one of the stalls i've been skipping for the past year--based on a totally arbitrary comparison of hmong sausage, when i first visited, LOL! if so i'll certainly correct that! in the meantime, i'll edit to say that the curry noodle soups from the hmong express, etc end of things look a lot better than they taste.

                    1. re: soupkitten

                      The soups were from different booths. I say in the link which ones I got the dishes from. There's some photos there, too.


          2. I would put Bankok Thai Deli on your list.

            I also really miss Great India up in Brooklyn Center (we moved to S. Mpls to we don't get there much)

            1. bangkok thai deli without a doubt.

              also, the croissants at trung nam, just down university are really tasty, and i guess count as east metro.

              im also partial to the papaya salad at dragon star market (no seating though) on minehaha an dale, if you are insistent they will make it super spicy.

              2 Replies
              1. re: tex.s.toast

                Super spicy is what he LOVES!

                I read alot about Bangkok Thai Deli on the boards here last night. It is on our list and I hope to get there this weekend. Can someone simplify what we should order? I read a few different things. Thanks!

                I'm so happy I found this forum. It's really going to help us.

                1. re: Inasuitcase

                  My favorite at BTD is stir fried beef with peppers. I think this is #20 on the menu. They will make it super spicy for you as well :)

              2. When I want Mexican, I head to El Burrito Mercado. It's no frills but I get consistent and quality cheap eats. It's cafeteria style with a few more tables (since expansion) and I ask for extra spice-and they'll give it to you.

                When I want Chinese, I always get Cheung's Hot N' Spicy chicken (off Dale/Lexington) in St Paul. It is always the same and is never a disappointment.

                I prefer Thai over Vietnamese, etc. even though I live by Frogtown-Como, so I'll let others tell you where to go. I've been to Hoa Bien, Mai Village-and have not been overly impressed.

                When I wa Thai - and this is up for debate-these are my choices-Sen Lai Sen Lak (despite the authenticity), of all my eateries (Taste of Thailand, True Thai, Chang, Sawatdee, Tum Rup, etc) I prefer Sen Lai, Thanhdo in St Louis Park or TOT. I also do like Tum Rup - mainly for the fact that I can get a mean, mean Mai Tai.

                There is a huge debate on this too -but I prefer Mirror of Korea. It's probably b/c I live so close and I think she likes that I'm Korean and my hubby is white and digs into kimchee like it's the best thing since sliced bread- b/c we always get extra food and extra off-menu appys. The Na Go Gi and Bulgogi (pork over beef) if you ask for it extra spicy, she'll indeed create it that way.

                I think the spicy tuna rolls for sushi are top notch at Origami (Ridgedale Mall) or at Fuji-Ya in DT St Paul.

                While I posted that I didn't like Fasika - I think it is more that Ethiopian is not my out to eat food of choice-but I will say that the spiciness of my dora wat was deep and rich, and spicy (good with the hard boiled egg). Anything with harissa makes life better anyway.

                And finally, I will say that India House on Grand Avenue deserves a visit.

                In terms of pastries/sweets, I'm not a sweets fan-so I'll let the expert CHs give you that.

                1 Reply
                1. re: snoboardbabe77

                  Thanks! That's a lot of great info. I won't disagree and will do my best to go to the places you mentioned. I mean, how could I go wrong with someone who appears to love to ride as much as my boyfriend and I. Perhaps, you are coupled, too, and would want to hit the slopes this winter. We're always looking for others to join us:-)

                2. You're my kind of folks, Inasuitcase! For great, inexpensive, "not meat and potatoes" food, my favorites are Bangkok Thai, Caspian Bistro (Persian meat-and-rice), Gandhi Mahal (Indian), Holy Land (Middle Eastern), Jasmine Deli (Vietnamese), Keefer Court (Chinese), Khyber Pass (Afghani), Mañana (Equadorian/Mexican), Pho Ca Dao (Vietnamese pho), Russian Tea House, Safari Express (Somali), Saigon (Vietnamese), West Indies Soul (Caribbean), Zakia (Middle Eastern), and ... ... ... Oh, there are so many great, cheap ethnic places in town, including tons of places I haven't tried yet.

                  For just a few more $$, check out Brasa (Southern), Midori's (Japanese), Ngon (Vietnamese-fusian), Obento-Ya (Japanese), Tanpopo (Japanese), and Vincent (French) for lunch or happy hour. In fact, see the thread on "cheap fancypants dining" - but check before going as some places have closed since the thread was started:

                  For your weekend getaway, consider Madison or Milwaukee. There are lots of great bare-bones eateries in these towns. (Search this board for recommendations for those cities.)

                  Rural and small-town MN isn't exactly rife with great ethnic restaurants, but there must be some. Heck, even Duluth has three, count 'em, *THREE* Thai restaurants ( http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/614103 ).

                  And I hear that Schumacher's is returning to New Prague in August, hooray! (See Dara's MM blog: http://www.minnesotamonthly.com/media... .)

                  Have fun exploring, and please report back on your favorites!


                  5 Replies
                  1. re: AnneInMpls

                    Thanks, Anne. Will check out your places, too, and report back. I think that this has given me a great idea. We both love lists and his birthday is in early August. Since we're going camping Up North later in the month, I won't be able to spend a lot of money on his b'day. I think I'm going to create a master list of all these great restaurants for him, as a checklist. Together, we'll work on visiting them all in the coming year. I think he'd love it! That and, hopefully, we'll find a special place or a few that can become "ours":-)

                    1. re: Inasuitcase

                      AnneInMpls has excellent suggestions. I love Obento-Ya and Brasa (and they just opened one up in St Paul!) I also really like Holy Land although I prefer the main one on Central as opposed to the MGM. And we're early 30s and hardly ANY of my girlfriends snowboard! We're slowly teaching them all - it's great to board and then find some great eats! Perhaps we could meet up on the slopes next winter!!!!

                    2. re: AnneInMpls

                      I think it may be too late for Midori's. I drove by the other day and it looks like it's been replaced by an Indian restaurant.

                      1. re: JimGrinsfelder

                        Hi there Jim, you know that Midori's simply moved to a new location on Lake Street? http://www.floatingworldcafe.com/


                    3. Korean - Dong Yang in Columbia Heights (735 45th Ave NE). Grocery store in front, restaurant in back. Crabby but fantastic food. Bakery: Bakers Wife in South Minneapolis on 28th Ave. South.

                      1. Well, Los Andes does meat and potatoes really well, so you might not want to discount the genre.

                        My favorite Thai place, Bahn Thai, resides in a strip mall in New Hope.

                        Great India is a great choice, but if you are on the south side, you can't go wrong with Gandhi Mahal.

                        Sweet Basil has some good food up in Brooklyn Park, and will do it up VERY spicy.

                        On the east side, Hoa Bien is worth a visit, even though they have gussied up.

                        1. I would recommend a whole in the wall in St. Paul called "Manana". They specialize in El Salvadorian foods, especially "Pupusas".

                          These pupusas are hand made tortillas, stuffed with pork, beans and cheese. They do not come particularly spicy but you must add the pickled cabbage that comes as a side and the hot sauce which you ask for.

                          It is one of the best tasting Central American dishes I have ever tried here in the TC.
                          Follow this link to the location and let me know what you think after you try it.


                          Also see:

                          14 Replies
                          1. re: mpls3467

                            More reviews of Mañana with a link to another jfood review within the thread and more raves for the pupusas: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/512740

                            1. re: MplsM ary

                              Thanks for the link...I haven't explored this site enough but I see that even the holes in the walls, are known to the contributors here (and their detailed reviews).

                              Next time, I'll do a search before posting :)

                              1. re: mpls3467

                                There is a veritable treasure trove of great information on this board, (and all the other Chowhound boards, too). Sadly, the search function blows. I guessed Manana would bring back search results for this board as I remember reading jfood's review fairly recently.

                                Welcome to Chowhound!

                            2. re: mpls3467

                              Oh, wow!!! THANK YOU!!! My ex-boyfriend lived just outside of San Francisco. He turned me on to pupusas. I never thought I'd find them here! Oh, I am EXCITED!!! Then again, I can no longer enjoy dairy. This may pose a problem.

                              Now, can anyone tell me where to find a delicious Honey Walnut Prawns dish? I loved that, too, despite how bad it is for you.

                              1. re: Inasuitcase

                                I agree on the honey walnut prawns, though ive had an increasingly difficult time with the mayo-iness of it all. Its more something i like when other people order them, so i've got no clue where to fine em.

                                On the pupusa/dairy front, the last trip we made to manana included a friend who HATES dairy (but loves central/south american food) and we were very easily -though in spanish - able to get her pupusas w just beans/chicaron (though id say she missed the best part, it was how she liked them).

                                There seem to be mixed reports about the availability of english speakers - for example our order was taken by a nice middle aged lady who spoke little english but we were rung up by a guy in his thirties/forties who spoke perfect enlish. if you dont want to practice telling them you have a diary allergy in spanish beforehand it may be something of a crapshoot - though there are non pupusa items that are still really good (those black beans, its too early for bean cravings!)

                                1. re: Inasuitcase

                                  Hong Kong Noodle on Washington in Minneapolis has the weird shrimp dish. They call it Shrimp with Walnuts, but it is the candied walnuts with mayo. Weird but it is tasty. I'd also recommend the eel on hot plate. Very good. Always get noodles instead of rice as for me that's the whole reason to go to HK Noodle.

                                  Also, Manaña is really good. It actually says Manana on the sign as the sign painter didn't know how to paint a tilde. While you're there be sure and get an agua fresca. They are different every day and really good. I've had guava, cantaloupe, melon, passion fruit and others. Always delicious.

                                  1. re: misterpatrick

                                    Do you know if Hong Kong Noodle offers authentic Hong Kong style food?

                                    1. re: Ummm

                                      I believe that it does, but don't have enough knowledge about the subtleties of HK cuisine to be conclusive about it.

                                      1. re: bob s

                                        thanks bob. grew up in hong kong, and then when i was in australia we had authentic cantonese food there, so i definitely miss it!

                                        1. re: Ummm

                                          They serve up plenty of non-Cantonese, even non-Chinese menu items like Hainanese Chicken Rice, Kimchi, Thai Style Seafood Soup, Korean Short Ribs and the ubiquitous General Tso's Chicken. Cantonese cuisine is rich enough with a plethora of cooking styles, regional variations (like Teochow or Chaozhou) and dishes so my guess is that the place is pretty Americanized. I don't see any evidence of fresh fish or seafood on their menu but they do have congee.

                                          1. re: scoopG

                                            Thanks for the feedback! I think I saw a picture of the front and their name in Chinese on the sign doesn't match their English name "Hong Kong Noodle" which I found interesting.

                                          2. re: Ummm

                                            Hello Ummm,

                                            (Sorry for the not-so-timely response:) Have you been to House of Wu at 1250 Highway 13 W in Burnsville? I haven't been there myself for quite some time. But, assuming that things are still the same, on weekends only, they sell Cantonese "BBQ" meats including roast pork and char siu by the pound, roast duck and soy sauce chicken (whole). I have a vague memory that they may also have some organ meats and things like cuttlefish. You walk through the dining room to the back of the restaurant and order what you would like at the counter. I don't know where they get their chickens from, but they are huge and succulent! My husband, who grew up in the Bay Area and whose family is originally from the Toisan area of Canton and HK, thinks that these cooked meats at House of Wu stand up to what he used to get in SF Chinatown.

                                            Keefer Court in Mpls nowadays has soy sauce chicken (available whole or half) and roast duck almost everyday. I haven't tried the duck. But, their soy sauce chicken is pretty good although not as good a the one at House of Wu.

                                            Mandarin Kitchen in Bloomington also started to sell a variety of Cantonese "BBQ" meats a while back. But, I have not tried any, and in fact, have not eaten there since the cooking went down the hill after the remodeling/expansion.

                                            1. re: Ms. Fennelbulb

                                              Thanks for the recommendation Ms Fennelbulb! No, I haven't been to any of the restaurants you mentioned, as we live in Rochester and don't go up to MSP very often. But I am keeping a list of places to try, so when we do go up I'll know where I can go for good food :)

                                  2. re: mpls3467

                                    jfood would add that the fish soup for $11 is outstanding as well. and if they happen to have the gorditas for a couple of bucks they are easily worth it.

                                  3. Forgot to add image:
                                    Not the most beautiful looking dish, but the taste is very unique.

                                    1. I think Vicky's Place in Brooklyn Park is a winner. It is a Liberian restaurant, so it may be different than what you have tried before. They have super spicy sauces that are very tasty. There may be meat and potatoes, but not like you make at home. Fufu and soup is good. Smoked fish dried rice is good. Fried Plantains are excellent.


                                      1. lots of great suggestions in this thread! not that i'd been to any but my to-eat list is definitely getting longer and longer!

                                        1. You should stop by a place called cajun potluck in circle pines. They are not a restaurant but sell real pre packaged cajun food directly from LA. its the real deal - not cajun food from Ohio... nothing wrong with Ohio! I think they have a website - cajunpotluck.com

                                          1. I stumbled upon a mexican joint the has rotten decor, fair service and the greatest authentic mexican food this side of Edina. Priced great, lots of food and bring your zantax. Located at 6009 Nicollet Ave named LaPerla Del Pacisico. I've been eating there once or twice a year for the last 7 years. Love the food hate everything else.

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: reservationsplease

                                              CG and I ate at La Perla del Pacifico once after moving into the neighborhood, but we had a very different experience. Our enchiladas and tacos were very stereotypically tex-mex, not fresh tasting, not spicy or particularly flavorful and pretty meh in my opinion. Maybe we ordered the wrong stuff. What did/do you order that is great?

                                              1. re: cheeseguysgirl

                                                The Carnitas burrito was huge, filled with rice, beans, fresh pico de gallo, sour cream, and tender, tasty pulled pork. The chicken fajitas were very good and the fish tacos were the best . The tortillas are some of the best I have ever had.

                                                1. re: reservationsplease

                                                  We had none of those-- we'll have to give it another try. Thanks!!

                                                  1. re: cheeseguysgirl

                                                    I think it is a seafood place, so try to stay that course. I know a co-worker of my husband's loves it and his wife is Mexican. So, it must have some authenticity.

                                            2. I am not a Twin Cities local, but I have a couple visits coming up and noticed no one had responded about Filipino food yet. I read about Mabuhay closing and also ran across this tidbit about K-Wok:

                                              Here is K-Wok's site:

                                              Please respond if you try them out, because my jaw hit the floor and I was in total disbelief upon seeing they offer a Filipino breakfast menu. The ethnic options in MSP just keep astounding me and I would love to know what dishes they serve!

                                              A good Filipino breakfast is quite uncommon outside specific parts of the country, and I'd honestly take the time to stay during the weekend if they do a good job at it. Especially if they make dishes like tocino and champorado from scratch!

                                              A little primer on Filipino breakfast..

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: air

                                                I used to love K-Wok with the old owners! I haven't been able to go back and try the food with the new owners but I have been meaning to.

                                                1. re: shaox

                                                  This thread is old but since nobody else seems to have commented on Filipino food at K-Wok, thought I'd add my two cents... it's a great place when you are craving Filipino food but can't be bothered to cook it yourself. The food is really home-style cooking, in terms of quality and type of dishes - nothing fancy, but pretty authentic (considering ingredient availability here in MN). Breakfast was good - we haven't had the tapa, but the tocino and longganisa were tasty (fatty with a nice amount of sweetness), the bangus was great, and all the dishes were very filling - they give plenty of garlic rice! The folks that run the place are very nice, it feels like having a meal at your neighbors'.

                                                  1. re: epfoodie111

                                                    I couldn't agree more about K-Wok. The only thing un-authentic about the pancit bihon served there is the addition of celery and the use of lemon in place of the kalamansi. I have to order it every time I'm there. Its a great dish to expose friends to Filipino food. I also can't resist the lechon kawali, fried tilapia and lumpia.

                                                    I've been curious about their Saturday Filipino breakfast menu, but always forget to ask if its more than what is on their regular menu. I would be extremely happy if I found out they serve tuyo or pandesal!! I have ordered the tinsilog from the regular menu and loved it. They also have plenty of atsara and spicy vinegar to balance out all the fried food!!

                                                    K Wok
                                                    1813 Riverside Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55454

                                              2. No one's mentioned Peninsula yet either. Malaysian, non-dive, on 26th and Nicollet in Minneapolis. Good roti canai, plus I love the golden spareribs (starter) and spicy golden tofu.

                                                1. I'm not sure how this post has made it through without a mention of Little Szechuan. It's our absolute fav on University in St. Paul and if your boyfriend likes spicy, he will love this place! He can even ask them to make the dishes extra spicy (if he dares). :)

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: Seige

                                                    Unless there has been a recent update, it was reported that the kitchen crew at Little Szechuan was on strike before this thread began. They may still be out.

                                                    I am sometimes reluctant to push a favorite while a new chef is settling in, and would be even more wary if ALL the stations are being staffed by new faces.

                                                    1. re: KTFoley

                                                      I am happy to report Little Szechuan was up and running again last weekend albeit with a new chef. I ordered the usual Pork in Spicy Szechuan Broth and at ther rec of TDQ tried the Fish Fillet is Same Spicy broth. Both items were a hit. I even told the server to have the chef make the dish very,very,very spicy to which she laughed but complied earnestly. It was a yin and yang of numbing and burniing delight. Absolut euphoria of the senses. Pieces of Fish and Tofu swimming in a delicious hellbroth. The Spicy Pork with the new chef didn't miss a beat either.

                                                  2. Bilal's Restaurant in NE Minneapolis.

                                                    1. I live out in milwaukee and i guess i would qualify as a "ethnic food snob" lol! If you do consider Milwaukee for a weekend trip there are def lots of places to check out. For mexican food especially! As far as thai/lao/viet food the choices are really limited for a person who knows what the food is supposed to taste like. Im originally from the east coast and i guess didnt realize how spoiled i was as far as having options to dine. This is what ive found so far....Phans Garden for pho, Vientiane for lao food and Fortune for chinese. Choices are limited out here if your use to having many options for asian food. Like for example i cannot find a asian bakery to save my life out here, cant find a noodle house that serves capeac and have not once seen a duck hanging in any store front window?!? However i do hear that chicago has not only a china town but a viet town. Im told that china town is for tourists and viet town is for people who mean business when it comes to eating = ) I did stop at viet town once briefly on my way to Indiana for a weekend trip and can def tell you that i will most definately be returning for a whole day and plan to be very hungry before i go.
                                                      I've also heard about the flea market in MN but i believe its a Hmong flea market. I was suppose to check it out wt friends when i went to Rochester for a engagement party a few months back but didnt make it in time...
                                                      Good Luck!