Cocoa & Fig

January 9, 2015 § 5 Comments

Always bring dessert when invited to someone’s house for dinner.

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Last Day at the Midway

September 1, 2014 § 2 Comments

It’s the final hurrah for the 2014 Minnesota State Fair, and I hit it hard (and for the first time in several years).

I meandered through most of the major attractions — the Food, Agriculture, and Fine Arts Buildings (Minnesotans really are a talented tribe), West End Marketplace, the Midway, Machinery Hill. Listened to some music. I didn’t spend much time around the barns — I always feel bad for the animals, who are likely scared to death of those little hands grabbing at their fur and feathers, ears and tails. I would have liked to say hello to a lamb or goat, but they closed that barn down just as I arrived.

I ran this morning and came fasting, so that should have put me in champion eating form for the day. But I ate very little, which puts me in some sort of loser category. All my friends boast about the many foods they consume in one short afternoon or evening at the fair. Yet I couldn’t swallow more than a small sandwich from Manny’s Tortas and a cone of cookies from Sweet Martha’s, half of which I dropped at the WCCO Radio booth while watching a lame rendition of The Newlywed Game. I stopped eating hours ago and I’m still full.

Marathon food consumption is truly an American art, and it’s not for the meek and timid. But I would like to know the secret. Does it involve pacing, like for a race? Do winners only take a couple bites then throw the rest away? Do they offer leftovers to passersby or people waiting in line for the same food? Do they throw it to the barnyard animals? How did Templeton the Rat, a favorite character from Charlotte’s Web, manage it? All fat and happy rolling around the fairgrounds after rummaging through the waste tossed out by fairgoers, at the ready to hit the buffet again.

But my objective was not to overeat — it was to take photos. I even got on the SkyGlide to take pictures from above. However, I forgot to account for my severe fear of heights. The first half of the ride yielded nothing. But I finally relaxed and set into a rhythm.

Lesson learned, I still took more than 200 photos throughout the day. My favorites are below.

From Farm to Table to (Hot) Air

August 18, 2014 § 1 Comment

Vermont farms and fresh food were the themes of the day.

It began with a lazy, happy afternoon touring the Billings Farm and Museum in Woodstock and ended with dinner at Simon Pearce Restaurant in Quechee, Vermont — one of the best dining destinations in the state, if not all of New England — and a surprise hot-air balloon inflation and take-off along the Ottauquechee River.

Working farm — hope you like cows:

Farm house — hope you like old things:

Simon Pearce — hope you like hot-air balloons:

Hola, Possums

August 8, 2014 § 1 Comment

A little bit of Mexico in Minneapolis. Let happy hour commence.

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Me and the Leader of the Free World

June 26, 2014 § 6 Comments

Today I baked an angel food cake and rhubarb sauce from scratch.

And visited the rising Mississippi once in the morning and once in the evening.

And ran along the rising Mississippi.

And waved hello to the POTUS.

Pic-A-Nik

May 29, 2014 § 1 Comment

A picnic followed by the first Izzy’s ice cream of the season:

Hopper Heyday

May 15, 2014 § 3 Comments

When spring feels more like winter, it’s best to plan an evening indoors. Something akin to a visit to the Walker Art Center, then Heyday, the new “it” restaurant in town.

The Walker’s fantastic Edward Hopper exhibit explores the artist’s process through his rarely shown drawings. The collection primarily focuses on the charcoal and fabricated chalk drawings of Hopper’s early years and the drafts or storyboards for his paintings.

The Walker also displays a number of his painted works alongside the accompanying drafts. I particularly enjoyed a filmed walking tour of New York City highlighting the buildings that likely served as inspiration for Hopper’s most famous paintings, including “Nighthawks” and “Early Sunday Morning.”

Dinner and drinks followed at Heyday. I loved the atmosphere. A wood-burning stove in the kitchen smelled like home, and along with the lumberjack-meets-hipster decor, the place had the aura of an art collector’s cabin (but I could have done without the quotes and words written on the walls — a fad I’ve never quite embraced).

The food and drinks were good, but not exceptional, and the portions were small. And the poor acoustics and music piped in overhead made it difficult to have a conversation.

Hence, the Heyday was a bit of a Letdown.

High-decibel interference is an annoying prerequisite for any new, fun food space, and it’s a trend I despise. I don’t mind a busy buzz at a restaurant, but I find myself staying away from places that insist on a loud atmosphere to make the place appear lively. A space can have energy without manufacturing noise to draw people in. Good food and service and an interesting style and concept will keep people coming back.

Maybe restauranteurs will soon remember that the experience of a wonderful meal is not just about the food and the energy, but also about bonding with others, having a meaningful conversation with friends and family, laughing and crying between bites of flan or smoked trout. Unfortunately, that type of magic is priceless and becoming more difficult to capture when out for a lovely dinner.

Heyday

Heyday

Utensil chandelier

Utensil chandelier

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