Archive for the ‘Eating & Drinking (aka Restaurants)’ Category

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.


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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?


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

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Cossetta’s, Pho Ca Dao, On’s Thai Kitchen, Big Daddy’s Barbecue

I like to eat far more than I like to cook. While I’m pretty good at the latter, I’m even better at finding great food close to home. I especially like food that I don’t know how to cook like Pho or that I’m simply to lazy to make–Cossetta’s ravioli and mushroom salad, for instance.

20130118-220300.jpgTonight’s pulled pork on my salad was incredible. The Styrofoam containers or number-5-the-city-won’t-recycle containers never are.

We need an affordable, environmentally friendly alternative.

No, I don’t have a solution. Do you?

Here are a few ideas:

1) A city-wide packaging cooperative. Put economies of scale to work and find better substitutes.

2) Ask restaurants to make a reasonable committment to using more earth friendly products.

3) Promote restaurants that do use paper vs. styrofoam.

4) Ask patrons if they want disposable forks and spoons. I think that many people, like me, bring the food home and use real plates, bowls, and silverware.

5) Challenge a local design school to create a better package. If IKEA can design from the packaging point of view, why can’t we start with the landfill’s perspective?

6) Lastly, lobby the government to incentify packaging producers and restaurants to use recyclable and compostable products.20130118-220221.jpg

What’s your idea?

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When I lived in North Carolina, I bought two tiny fig trees at the Carrboro Farmer’s Market. Like most things in that part of the world, my fig trees grew prodigiously in only a couple of years. When I left a couple of years ago, my fig trees were laden with hundreds of small, hard, immature figs. My neighbor sends me fig updates from time to time and posts photos of my garden on Facebook, so I can imagine grilling figs and canning fig jam.

However, like the Dutch blogger, Martetatin, a pint of organic figs in Minnesota costs $5, so I don’t buy them very often.

While checking in on my class blogs, I stumbled upon the gorgeous fig salad photos that Martetatin posted recently and WordPress featured today. Click here to see them and for the recipe.

Was I searching for a fig recipe? Not at all, but the stunning photo made me click…

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My friend, Lishyloo is a master thrifter. If you miss the cutie-pie clothes you wore as a kid, check out her Etsy site, that I mentioned on Day Four’s Daily Dozen.

On the other hand, I covet old cars. Maybe it was childhood trips crammed into my parents’ MGs and jags driving around the Iowa countryside or maybe I just appreciate their design; either way, no used-goods list would be complete without Quality Coaches. I have to admit the lack of price on this 1957 MGA listing might just prevent me from seeking more information, but not the Electric MG Midget. Find them at 20 West 38th Street (at Nicollet) in Minneapolis. They are a perfect place to walk to after lunch at Blackbird.

Not too far away on Lyndale, you’ll find june. It’s a “buy outright resale shop, not consignment.” Custom made hats. Wow. 3406 Lyndale Avenue South, Minneapolis

The Selby corridor in St. Paul features a plethora of old stuff, as I like to call it:

Lula Vintage. Mod and cool vintage. 1587 Selby Avenue

Up Six. Mid-century coolness for house and home. 157 Snelling Avenue North

The Mall of St Paul. I counted 6 manual typewriters the last time I was there (my son saw one on display, so we had to stop). Over 5o antique dealers in one place. Awesome record collection. 1817 Selby Avenue

Peter’s Oldies but Goodies is just across the street from the Mall of St. Paul. Lots of old furniture that needing TLC.

Before you head East down Selby, stop at the Blue Door for a snack, but beware, they are always busy.

Between Hamline and Lexington on Selby, you’ll find Express Yourself Clothing. Cool clothes and cool deeds:  “Express Yourself Clothing is kind of a hybrid. We’re both a traditional clothing exchange and a social purpose venture where young people from our community learn all aspects of operating a small business. In this unique environment, our customers can expect to receive courteous, professional service; high-quality clothing and accessories at great prices; and the knowledge that 100% of our revenues are reinvested in our urban internship program.” 1154 Selby Avenue

Northwest Architectural Salvage. Are you one doorknob short of a complete collection in your old house? Look no further.  Located across from J.J. Hill Montessori School at Chatsworth. 981 Selby Avenue

However for a truly amazing selection of furnishings for your old house and other house jewelry (more doorknobs and funky plumbing fixtures), you must visit Architectural Antiques. If you’re not sure what you could do, visit their idea page. 1330 Northeast Quincy Street, Minneapolis

Also in Minneapolis, but formerly in Saint Paul, is Bauer Brothers Salvage. When my husband I finished our 3rd floor walk-up, we wanted 25 linear feet of Oak molding to match the other 2 floors of our house. We went to Bauer Brothers and asked for it. The guy at the front desk politely shrugged his shoulders and said, “Well, that’s a lot of molding, but you can put your name in book.” So we did. And they called us 2 days later when they had some in stock. 2432 2nd Avenue North, Minneapolis

Another old favorite, the Reuse Center closed in January 2011. I mention them because their story is great. Read it here.

Obviously, I like old houses and old cars.

But let’s get back to my friend Lishlyloo. Hands down she recommends ARC Value Village because they have an excellent volunteer program, great organization and provide AWESOME thrifting. Four locations in the Twin Cities.

Another do-good-thrift-shop is the Animal Art Thrift Store, which supports Minnesota’s largest no-kill shelter at 809 East 7th Street in Saint Paul.

One last stop in St. Paul – Elite Repeat on Randolph at Hamline. Fashionable women’s clothes in perfect shape at great prices. Plus, I love their tagline:  “Ralph Lauren found hanging around second-hand shop.”

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More proof that I actually leave the city! Head West! Visit these fun and funky spots west of 494. I can only imagine the trip via streetcar, click here to read the history.

Leipold’s Gifts & Antiques  Their yahoo site says they carry lamp parts, which they do – and I mean all kinds of lamp parts:  cords, shades, plugs, and harps. But they have lots of other weird, cool stuff. 239 Water Street, Excelsior

Patisserie Margo Super yummy pastries where I’d never expect them. Of course, Margo was a pastry chef at the fabled 510 Groveland and Blackforest, so we shouldn’t be surprised! 284 Water Street, Excelsior

Minnetonka Music  My brother-in-law, Tim Berry, buys his musical gear here—all the endorsement I need! 250 Water Street, Excelsior

Artworks Art and Frames Fantastic children’s art supplies. 345 Water Street, Excelsior

Historic Excelsior Mill:   D.B. & Company sells yummy, European Soaps and Provisions stocks beautiful dishes, linens, and other housewares.  320 Water Street, Excelsior

Chanhassen Dinner Theatres 501 West 78th Street, Chanhassen / Old Log Theater 5185 Meadville Street
Greenwood. Theatre tickets always make great gifts!

The Sampler:  Where I bought my first Kaffe Fassett fabric after a show at the MIA. Quilters are collaborators, thus don’t be surprised by their extensive directory of other quilt/fabric shops  It’s like Target telling you where the Walmart is. How cool is that? 551 West 78th Street, Chanhassen

Tonka Cycle and Ski  All your bike and board needs and premier boot fitting. Plus they partner with Full Cycle outreach program, which offers free bikes to homeless and at-risk youth. 16 Shady Oak Road South, Hopkins

Shakopee Trading Post & Gallery Stunning sterling silver and turquoise jewelry, blankets, gifts, beadwork. 723 1st Avenue West, Shakopee

Market Hill Fine Fairy Houses & Accessories for Your Fairy Garden. Perfect accessories for all those fairy houses around lake Nokomis or your own backyard. Seriously. 11905 Market Avenue, Cologne

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Mashup Monday:  A random-mix of places I love. No rhyme, no reason

Northern Brewer  For the beer geek in all of us. As a “small shop,” they are kind of big (St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Milwaukee), but they used to be small not so long ago. Everything you need for making your own home brew (or wine).

Art Scraps The best second-use of industrial leftovers, donated collections (maps, fabric sample books, old National Geographics), and other would-be garbage. The ultimate source for making art with kids. 1459 Saint Clair Avenue, Saint Paul

On’s Thai Kitchen My new favorite Thai food. 1613 University Avenue West, Saint Paul

Wet Paint My candy store. Paper, pens, paints – all the usual stuff you’d find in an art supply store—one on steroids anyway. Where I go to buy my arty kid all his gifts (he shops himself at Art Scraps). 1684 Grand Avenue, Saint Paul

Minneapolis American Indian Center  The Woodland Indian Crafts store carries locally made beadwork and greeting cards as well as bead supplies. While you’re shopping, stop in for lunch (Monday-Friday) at the Wolf’s Den Circle Café. 1530 East Franklin Avenue, Minneapolis

St. Paul Corner Drug  Yes, this is a pharmacy, but they stock all of life’s little needs:  candy, greeting cards, phosphate sodas, and great advice. 240 South Snelling Avenue, Saint Paul

Borealis Yarns   A truly sensual collection of yarns that their website doesn’t do justice too. Free classes, too.  1340 Thomas Avenue, Saint Paul

Quinn Violin Didn’t you always want to play the Cello? You can rent one from $34 a month or buy one and all the necessary accoutrements. 1081 21st Avenue, Southeast Minneapolis

Chatterbox Pub Great food and video games from my childhood:  Atari, Nintendo, Frogger, etc. 800 Cleveland Avenue South, St Paul

Highland Nursery Plant magic anytime of the year. 1742 7th Street West, Saint Paul

The Day by Day Café Breakfast all day – score a table in the library or patio if you can. To-die-for caramel rolls. Read their history; I like that they hire people in recovery. We all need a leg up once in a while. Cash or check only. 477 7th Street West, Saint Paul

Ax-Man Surplus Stores ‎ Self-declared “surplus heaven,” which it truly is. 1639 University Avenue West, Saint Paul

Tune in tomorrow for a West Metro spotlight, you might be surprised.

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