Thursday, July 29, 2010

Weekend in the City

By mistake, Doug got an extra Saturday off this month so we decided to make something special of it. Our first instinct was to go away somewhere for the weekend, perhaps a getaway to some tourist town outstate. After some investigation, we determined a weekend trip too expensive and decided to make a weekend of it right here in the twin towns. We decided we'd throw in one night at a hotel downtown, having my parents take care of Hakeem so we'd have no reason to stop at my place for a full twenty-four hour period. And we decided to throw in some things that we wouldn't normally do around town, pretending we were tourists in our own hometown.

First stop Friday night was dinner at Sea Change. Not a new experience for us, but a good one. We sat at the raw bar and Doug waited patiently for the sparkling wine to kick in and wipe away my busy day. He's really great about that! Doug knows the chef from his work so we chatted with him briefly and he sent out an order of delicious oysters for us. In addition, we ordered a variety of small plates - albacore, langostinos, octopus, and a main dish of fish, pork, egg and ramen in a too salty broth. For me to say that something is too salty, it has to be pretty bad. However, I still really enjoy Sea Change and know that any dish can have a bad day. It won't deter me from returning, if for no other reason than the wonderful location on the main level of the Guthrie Theater. After dinner, we took the world's longest escalator up to the Endless Bridge, the cantilever that juts out over the River Road and provides spectacular views of the Stone Arch Bridge and the Mississippi. It was a perfect Minneapolis night and we continued on outside, walking around the gorgeous lofts that line Mill City and calling it a night.

On Saturday morning we got up early to hit the Mill City Farmer's Market before the crowds got too bad. That's the secret to enjoying the experience of the whole thing, arrive during the 8:00am hour to avoid the annoying crowds that inevitably gather later in the morning. We met up with my parents and enjoyed softshell crab sandwiches, deep fried and slathered in homemade tarter sauce, from the Chef Shack, plus my absolute favorite Indian-spiced mini donuts from the same vendor. We sauntered around, buying Green Zebra tomatoes from the Amish booth where the men all wear wide-brimmed hats and I can't help but wonder if they're costumes or they really dress like that. We walked around some more and Doug introduced me to Brenda Langton, the owner of Spoonriver and the former venerable Cafe Brenda, who now also runs a crepe stand at the farmer's market that doles out both savory and sweet crepes with ingredients like homemade Nutella and cheese and fresh fruit. I love those crepes. Brenda could not have been sweeter, it's no wonder she's one of Doug's favorite customers at Coastal Seafoods.

On our way back to my place from the market, we stopped in the downtown Minneapolis main post office. This is an historical building, an Art Deco masterpiece on the river that supposedly has the longest fluorescent light fixture in the world, and I've never been inside it, at least not to my memory. The building was as beautiful as I'd heard, with long, marble-filled halls and brass cage windows where stamps are sold and parcels mailed. Doug and I marveled about the wonders of general delivery, mailing letters to people in care of the local post office without benefit of address - like in the case where someone is backpacking across the country and has nowhere to receive mail - as we scoped out the fancy post office boxes and that super long light fixture. It's fun to see something new in your hometown, right under your nose!

Once home we hopped on our bikes and headed towards the river, passing through Nicollet Island and over to the west side so that I could show Doug my favorite hidden little bridge that hides away in a little pocket just across from Boom Island. It's off the bike and walking paths, but not difficult to get to, and once there you stand on one little footbridge while looking at another, usually without other people around. In the distance across the river you can see the riverboats and the lighthouse of Boom Island and everything is very beautiful and hidden and nice. We continued on to the store Clay Squared to Infinity, a handmade tile store located in the keg house of the former Grain Belt Brewery. Just cycling around the Grain Belt Brewery is fun, but to go inside where they make the crusts for Punch Pizza and to see the amazing tiles being produced at Clay Squared is a quintessential Minneapolis experience. I purchased a number of little tiles to make a picture frame and then tried to figure out how to carry them on my bike. Once that was done, we rode on down Marshall to Psycho Suzi's, where we sat outside on the wonderful patio on a warm, sunny day and drank Caribbean beers and ate pickle dogs. Nothing makes me happier than drinking in the middle of the afternoon, because it means I have absolutely nowhere to be for at least another day! The feeling of freedom runs through my bones as a sip my cold beer and laugh happily in the sun.

We rode back to my place and spent some time deciding what to do next. We settled on trekking over to St. Paul to share a juicy lucy from The Nook on Randolph and Hamline. Despite heavy traffic to the capital city because of the crowds heading to the Red Bull Flugtag at Harriet Island and because of the closure of 94 east, Doug's knowledge of backroad routes got us there in no time. The Nook was packed, so we headed toward its sister bar, Shamrock's on West 7th. We sat right down and ordered up the Juicy Nookie, two hamburger patties squished together lovingly with American cheese in the middle, which oozes out like molten lava when you bite into it. Incredible, and worth the drive. After lunch, we gathered our things back at my place and went downtown to check into the Aloft on Washington, our destination for the night. We stayed there for a few hours, enjoying the views of Gold Medal Park and some much needed rest before continuing on with our weekend in the city.

Dinner Saturday night was across the street at Sanctuary, a French restaurant with Asian and Latin influences that I had wanted to check out for some time. We ate outside on what might have been the most perfect weather of the year, and it was divine. The food was just fine, Angus filet and striped sea bass, tuna and a cheese plate, but my pear vodka cocktail and our shared bottle of pinot noir were incredible. I don't need to go back to Sanctuary for a full meal, but I'd be happy to go for drinks or appetizers. It's a gorgeous little place with a bar that I'd love to check out sometime. After dinner we walked across Washington and down to the Guthrie, just under the cantilever, where we sat down along with half of the Twin Cities to enjoy the unbelievable Aquatennial fireworks. These are the best of the year, better than July Fourth or the state fair, and seeing them on the river is a wonderful city treat. It was especially nice, after the show was over, walking just a block to our hotel, rather than fighting traffic home.

Sunday morning we moved slowly, since we had no place to be, until we finally got moving and walked across the street to Spoonriver for brunch. We sat outside in the hot sun and ordered a screwdriver and a Bloody Mary, which we enjoyed with our eggs without hurry. After brunch we killed a little time and then went to Boom Island and boarded the Minneapolis Queen riverboat for a one and a half hour ride on the Mississippi, through the very first lock on the river and down to the new 35W bridge and back up all the way to see the progress on the new Lowry Avenue bridge. While nothing on the river trip was new, it was all from a new perspective and it was really fun doing something we wouldn't normally do in the city.

Our last destination for our weekend in the city was to have a beer on the patio at the Bedlam Theater in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. I really didn't know anything about the place until recently, but heard they had good views of the city skyline and would be closing in about a week to make way for a parking lot. They are located off the beaten path, right on the Cedar-Riverside stop of the light rail, in a neighborhood known mostly for its heavy Somali population. We were pretty much the only ones on the patio for a while since it was late afternoon on a Sunday, which was the perfect end to a perfect weekend. We tried new places, enjoyed some old favorites, visited both cities, and fell in love with our hometown all over again. This will not be our last weekend in the city.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Special Delivery

Both of my admin work peeps, who help make each day at the office a fun place to be, were on vacation today, leaving me alone and busy! I wasn't busy necessarily because they were gone, but because large projects were due all at once. Since they were gone and I was crazy, lunch should have been tough to deal with. But because of my sweet honey Doug, it was the easiest thing ever. He prepared and sent over a gourmet lunch for me, packed in ice so it would be cold and delicious upon arrival.

In the bag he sent a traditional Hawaiian poke with the freshest raw ahi tuna, Hawaiian seaweed that looks like cute little trees or cartoonish frog feet and adds a wonderful crunch, white onion, Tapatio hot sauce, sesame oil, Hawaiian red salt, and some garlic. It was divine and my coworkers loved it, too. Doug also made a wonderful salad dressing and sent over some fresh crab meat and salad greens. Who's the luckiest gal in the world? Yup, that's me.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Freedom Isn't Free

Say what you will about pit bulls, I probably won't disagree with you. But I couldn't help but giggle last weekend at our annual giant family gathering in Wisconsin when I noticed Freedom, a family friend's pit bull, locked up inside a camper, gazing with sad eyes out the window, longing for his owner to free him.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Summer in the City

I've discussed my love for Sea Salt Eatery before, this is nothing new. But it can't be understated just how wonderful a summer evening in Minneapolis can be when you have fried squid, beer, music, friends and family, and a waterfall. This week Doug and I enjoyed some of the best calamari around, a Mexican seafood cocktail that was just okay, and a delicious crawfish po' boy with spicy mayo, along with a few cold ones, and then settled in the grass to listen to my coworker's band perform at the Minnehaha Falls pavilion. As the water audibly rushed over the rocky wall nearby, the Melvilles sang and kids licked ice cream cones and danced around soap bubbles floating listlessly about the crowd. It's no wonder Minnesotans go so crazy for summer – it's really short, but intensely beautiful.