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IMG_4629I write about restaurants because I love good food and I don’t work in one. When I lived in North Carolina I embodied the East-West divide. But I missed Pho and green curry and Tom Yum Goong from St. Paul’s University Avenue. In France, I ate everything served to me without asking what was in it until after dinner (which is probably why I order tripe in my Pho.)

As much as I enjoy cooking, I love when someone cooks for me.

Meet Tony Andersen

I don’t go out to eat that often, so when I do, I want it to count. Meet Tony Andersen, restauranteur, old friend and servant leader. Tony owns the Happy Gnome and Augustine’s in St. Paul.

IMG_7752I lunched with Tony a few weeks ago at Augustine’s. He was keen for me to sample the veggie dishes. With my passion for burgers, BLTs and Bullock’s Bar-B-Cue I can barely remember I was a vegetarian for years and years. But instead of talking much about the curried falafel, Tony regaled me with stories of the bread oven and the coffee maker. I was hungry and definitely wasn’t paying the finest attention until the part about “my chef had to have the very best Italian bread oven.”

So I asked why.

Selby Avenue in Saint Paul is not the epicenter of fine dining. The food at Augustine’s and the Happy Gnome is delicious, but they are both pretty casual spots. So why invest in the very best machines?

Tony’s response? His employees take pride in their work and they needed them to do their jobs right.

Now, I was paying attention.

While technically Tony works for himself, he really works for his employees. As a servant leader, Tony instinctively knows that supporting his people makes his businesses successful. Bravo.

“The key to motivating employees is the focus a servant leader places on the welfare and growth of everyone in the organization. The motivating factor is that the servant leader pursue every opportunity to positively impact the behaviors of employees first—making a difference in their lives,” said David McCuistion in his article 9 Ways to Motivate People Using Servant Leadership.

Think Servant Leadership Is Too Good To Be True? Why It’s The Best Investment A Business Can Make, Forbes

 

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Thankfully the only wars raging in Minnesota include Japanese beetles vs. everyone’s garden and who serves the best Juicy Lucy. I suppose I could name a few other feuds (best twin city, best new food at the fair, best food on the Green Line, etc.), but I’m here to talk about the best cheeseburger in town. I’m not a fan of Juicy Lucy’s, so I’m referring to a classic grilled beef patty with cheese on top.

The economics side of me definitely prefers Monday night burgers at the Groveland Tap for $3 each. IMG_3560Even with the recent 50¢ price increase, I can order 6 burgers and a basket of fries for less than $40. No, I don’t eat them all myself.

But there might be a new champion burger in my life.

The other day, I wandered down West 7th and popped into Burger Moe’s with some friends. The Bleu Sky Burger with grilled mushrooms, caramelized balsamic onions and dripping with blue cheese still haunts me. Its unami yumminess — that 5th taste found in parmesan cheese, Japanese dashi (kelp) stock and caramelized veggies — is so satisfying. Unfortunately, it’s huge, so I’ve yet to finish one and remembered to bring my leftovers home. Now if only they served Fresh French Fries, I’d be in culinary heaven.

The burger’s so good, I forgot to take a photo.

 

As a teenager I lived on Diet Coke. I’d wake up at 5:00 a.m. and drive to swim practice with a can in my hand. I gave up that habit a long time ago, but every so often I’ll buy one on a hot summer’s day, drink two sips, shake my head in wonder and dump it out. In case you’re curious it tastes like overly carbonated chemicals to me — or just weird (if I were being polite).

I drink a lot of water, the occasional good beer and fantastic wine when I have the chance. However, every so often I want something sweet. Crystal Light doesn’t cut it.

Unrequited Love

Homemade lemonade satisfies, but few restaurants serve it on their menus. Last summer I bought some at a Bastille Day celebration flavored with lavender. It was sublime — tart, slightly sweet and meant to be savored. I’d drink it all the time if I could find it.

Enter Cribbage

Board games don’t obviously have much to do with my search for limonade à lavande except you find plenty of games at tap rooms. And beer + games = fun. Having mastered UNO, Candyland and Monopoly I needed a challenge. I tried golf. Golf goes well with beer and my husband  plays it. Golf does not go well with me — too much sun, takes forever and I have no skill. It’s not a game one can quickly play on par with one’s spouse if said spouse has played since he was six. And you can’t play golf in a taproom, you have to bring the beer to the game.

Cribbage seemed like a more strategic choice. How hard can it be, I thought? But I just can’t remember the rules after 8 ounces of beer. So in the pursuit of excellence one night, I ordered a grapefruit soda at Bad Weather Brewing. It was delicious. In fact, it was so good the next few times we went there I didn’t even order a beer.

Like a seasonal beer, the soda tap rotates at Bad Weather. Gone was the grapefruit Friday night and in its place, cherry basil. By midnight, I was thinking of serving it with barbecued ribs and Thai-style green beans or with a dark chocolate chipotle-laced brownie. In other words, like a wine or beer, it would pair well with food. Plus it’s good for my game.

Back to cribbage:  last week I almost skunked my husband. (That’s an official cribbage term, by the way!) I’m sure the soda helps.

 

Twenty Years.

Frogs bring good luck.

Frogs bring good luck.

That’s a long time–not as long as my parents (55 years) or my in-laws (52 years), but impressive, I think, when 50% of marriages end for a reason besides old age. With multiple kids playing multiple sports, I understand how this anniversary can slip by, under-celebrated.

I looked for bargain airfares. Sailboats, beaches, and Margaritas beckoned but ultimately, we decided that rearranging childcare and transport for 6 games was too much work for too much money. Don’t call me a curmudgeon just yet. The romantic lives on.

Tonight, we celebrated the last day of school at a favorite restaurant, Glockenspiel in St. Paul (Jen, our favorite bartender always works on Tuesday nights). The banter was familiar, the Hefeweizen cold even though it’d been almost a year since our last visit (yes, we grew up Catholic). Tonight got us reminiscing about where we used to hang out — before kids, with flight benefits, and even now.

We’ve lasted longer than many of our employers or favorite haunts. All Saints Brands was a pre-internet importer and distributor of Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne, Gaja Barolo, and funky, tasty beer that was difficult to sell (Rogue Ales, Bells Brewery, and Geary’s). Northwest Airlines was gutted, sold off, and moved south. I still miss the flight benefits, though (the Replacements European tour seemed irresistible until i priced out the airfare).

But enough with the work stories: what about the beer? the tapas? the amuse-bouches?

Who’s left? Who’s gone? Who’s changed?

Gone:

Pracna on Main, Minneapolis:  best gin and tonics (and where I met my husband)

Ciatti’s on Grand, St. Paul:  best cheap, late-night happy hour

Grandpa Tony’s on Randolph, St. Paul:  thank goodness there are other pizza joints

The 510 on Groveland, Minneapolis:  (sigh) truly missed:  impeccable service, linen tablecloths, and fantastic wine list

Around, but different:

Italian Pie Shoppe, St. Paul:  moved down the street to Macalester

La Cucaracha, Minneapolis:  gone, but still on Dale in St. Paul

Half Time Rec, St. Paul:  they serve food now!

Still clucking:

Frog et Rosbif, Paris:  English-style ales since 1993

First Avenue, Minneapolis:  many derivations and bleeding ears since 1970

Micky’s Diner, St.. Paul:  greasy eggs for over 70 years

Paradiso, Amsterdam:  a former church that became a creative center in 1968

W.A. Frost, St. Paul:  best patio, smallest keg room

The very least that should occur!

Dr. Rebecca Hains

"I hate my thighs" onesie

Yesterday, NYU employee Jason Y. Evans snapped this photo of an “I hate my thighs” onesie for infant girls in the NYU bookstore.

He alerted several student and alumni groups, and they complained to the bookstore. In fewer than eight hours, the bookstore had removed the onesie from its shelves.

To many, however, it’s shocking a university bookstore had stocked the item in the first place. It’s the same onesie that made internationalheadlines two weeks ago after being roundly condemned by critics for body-shaming baby girls. The t-shirt’s producer responded to that original controversy in a tone-deaf (or perhaps intentionally baiting) way, claiming it was “ironic,” adding further fuel to the fire.

Evan’s photograph has prompted another round of attention for the onesie in part because of the contrast between the girls’ body-shaming onesie and the boys’ “I’m super” onesie. Their presentation together underscores the differences in girls’ and boys’ socialization regarding self-esteem and body satisfaction in a…

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Roof top Art ParkThe Roof Top Art Park debuted in 2003 at the Minnesota Children’s Museum. Do you remember when exactly? I do —  I was there with son number one.

He said, “I’m up top, Mama! Come up! Come up!”

“No can do,” I thought peering down at my round midsection — at 9 months pregnant I was impressed that I even visited the museum.

Son number two arrived that night, which is why I know exactly when the Rooftop Art Park opened. This playful visit is just one in a long series that illustrates the Minnesota Children’s Museum role in my family’s upbringing. Like many Minnesota families, I can chart my children’s growth by their mastery of skills such as blowing bubbles, shopping a grocery store, or making kimchi in the Our World Gallery.

Play at homePlaying at the Minnesota Children’s Museum meant more playing at home. The open-ended play in the galleries sparked the same kind of creativity in my dining room.

I’m just really glad I invested in a waterproof table-cloth…

Why Play is Important

Play fosters creativity.  I teach an MBA class at St. Catherine University in creativity and innovation because business requires creative thinking to solve problems like water scarcity or food spoilage. See my #MBA6410 tweets to see what goes on in that class. I’ll give you a hint:  we play, experiment, and test ideas.

A business whose only ambition is to continue doing tomorrow what they did yesterday, will wither as both its competitors and customers change around it. The central role of creativity in business survival was recognized in an IBM survey of more than 1,500 chief executive officers from 60 countries. They reported that – more than rigor, management discipline, or even vision – successfully navigating an increasing complex world will require creativity.

What Is Creativity’s Value–In Marketing, In Business? Forbes, 10/04/2010

Taking Play a Step Further

Championing the role of play and creativity in business brings me a new adventure. I’m still encouraging play, but today it’s from a new perspective as the director of content and communications at the Minnesota Children’s Museum.CJamThumb

Creativity:  Thinking of alternative ways to do something, or altering a step to change the result, displays a child’s ability to be innovative-the wave of the future. New ideas, tomorrow’s inventions, the next, big innovative thing is often sparked by an unusual and creative idea.

Play and the 7 Cs. Minnesota Children’s Museum MCM.org

In my new role, I direct the content and communication strategies of the museum as we truly engage with families in their online spaces and, of course, throughout the museum.

Today’s Children are Tomorrow’s Leaders

Help me support the power of play by visiting the museum and donating to fund our amazing expansion.

Looking ahead to the next 30 years, and what living, working and contributing in the 21st century requires, we determined that constructing and developing the proficiencies and skills your child will call upon and use daily to succeed in school and in life would be our focus. There are seven proficiencies which is not a fun name so after a raise of hands we chose to call them “The 7C’s.”

These seven “tools” are consistently viewed as crucial and necessary for success in the 21st century by researchers and Fortune 500 company executives. And amazingly so, these tools begin to surface in early childhood and are first developed through play!

Play and the 7 Cs. Minnesota Children’s Museum

Ice #MNWX

My nonna used to terrify me with a story of falling through thin ice on a Massachusetts’s pond. Despite growing up on figure skates, I won’t skate across a lake unless it’s been below zero for 3 weeks or more. I’m definitely risk adverse when it comes to ice.

Pea Soup and Deep Cracks

Saturday’s fog and ice on Cross Lake in Pine City was ethereal and amazing–thick, too. We spent the whole day shoveling, exploring, sluicing, and drying off. Once the snow melted, I found sea weed suspended in ice, intricate waves of cracks, and a few deep cracks. With 8 inches of ice, I felt pretty safe.

 

 

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