Sunday, November 14, 2010

That Thing I Love Too Much

It's been awhile since I've written about one of my favorite topics, nachos. That's because generally there's not much to report. There are a lot of monumentally bad nachos stinking up this world, and I usually choose not to report on them because it's so much more fun to talk about the good ones. Too bad they're so few and far between.

Recent events have changed all that. The first was a visit to Acadia Cafe on Cedar and Riverside, kitty-corner from the 400 Bar. Acadia Cafe is definitely a college hangout, super casual and borderline dumpy without going all the way there. They host live music and boast one of the most amazing beer lists around. Last week Doug and I went there for dinner before a beer tasting event at the nearby Cedar Cultural Center. We settled on a grilled cheese with bacon and tomato and an order of the nachos, because we were eating healthy. Ha! Anyway, the chips for the nachos are fried on the premise and it shows in the final result, there's a definite homemade taste to the chips that is quite delightful. As for toppings, they were basic, but generous. Cheese, black beans, tomatoes, with a side of salsa and sour cream. They're not going to win any awards, but they're solid and deserve a chance.

The other nachos I tried recently could win an award, if there were such a contest out there. And if such a contest exists, I beg to be invited to judge. Friday night I celebrated my upcoming birthday with the Hags - my girls, my peeps. Originally I had wanted to go to Bar LaGrassa, but that is not the place you go with a big group on short notice. All of the Twin Cities wants to be there and they make early reservations, which we couldn't. So instead I chose a place where I hadn't been in years but remember enjoying, a place centrally located for all of us in downtown Minneapolis, a place where reservations wouldn't be an issue. Eli's Food & Cocktails is on the periphery downtown, at 13th & Hennepin, but has the most important thing a restaurant downtown could have - a free parking lot adjacent! Love that.

The menu at Eli's is substantial, with great appetizers and entrees and specials that include ingredients like pork belly and duck confit. The atmosphere is laid back, with Ella Fitzgerald and Ray Charles crooning in the background, and the lighting is subtle. We decided to share a few apps to get things started and, thankfully, Maria suggested a half order of nachos with chicken. The menu says they fry their chips at the restaurant but I couldn't tell. Still, these nachos may just be my new favorites in town! Just the half order was a good size, piled high with chips and cheese and spiced chicken and the requisite tomatoes and onions and salsa and sour cream on the side. There wasn't a big pile of dry chips left at the bottom, the sin committed by so many restaurants. I truly didn't want the plate of nachos to end and briefly considered ordering another plate for my dinner entree. But I came to my senses and realized I could actually return to Eli's and enjoy them again. Which I will be doing, soon.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Beautiful Reminder

Anyone who knows me well understands that I pretty much always want to be anywhere but here. Certainly I am here, but my head is usually in the clouds dreaming of faraway places, countries where I could be working and playing and living and loving. But plans don't always work out the way you thought they would and life moves in mysterious ways. You don't always turn into the next Sebastian Junger or Annie Griffiths, you don't always write the great American novel. There are no guarantees.

But it's certainly not with a heavy heart that I remain here in Minnesota. Yes, I complain bitterly each year as the gales of November come early, yelling "I'm moving!" to anyone within earshot, but I have a million reasons to love living here as well. I love my family, my friends, my sweetie, my gigantic kitty and just the quality of life here in general. Still, I need reminding now and then just why I haven't left my birthplace. This past week I received that reminder, in spades, during a two day vacation on the North Shore (that's local speak for the stretch of shoreline on Lake Superior that runs northeast of Duluth). Even during this cold month, when the leaves have blown away and the grass has faded, the beauty of this area of northern Minnesota cannot be denied. At one point during a drive from the lodge where we stayed in Beaver Bay north to Grand Marais, I couldn't help but think that the beauty was so alarming that people living on the other side of the world could come here and be bowled over by what they saw, by what they were missing back home. That's the reminder I need to take with me, that as beautiful as the rest of the world is - the pyramids and the walls and the mountains and the seas - that same beauty resides right here under my nose, just waiting to be encountered.