Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Making the City Feel More Like a Small Town

A few weeks ago, it was my boyfriend's 30th birthday party. We hosted a beer tasting at North Loop Wine & Spirits to celebrate.

I knew that one of the liquor store employees also owns a farm in Wisconsin, and sells at the Mill City Farmer's Market.

After the party at NLWS, we headed across the street to Haute Dish to continue drinking some quality beer. A little after we got there, the guy from the liquor store walked in the front door, with his arms full of produce that he was bringing for the kitchen. I knew the restaurant sourced locally as much as they were able, but it became so much more real to me--this guy that sells us beer and wine also provides the great ingredients for the wonderful dinners we've had at Haute Dish. And in turn, the liquor store prides itself in stocking wines and beers that the local restaurants have on their menus.

There's something so charming about that--so neighborly--that I fell in love a little more with my neighborhood right then and there.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Minne Links 10.20

Sad day in downtown: Palomino is being turned into yet another Crappy Crave. RIP 90's decor.

Happy day in NE: the former location of Pop!! is being turned into... something. Update: Hazels! Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner in NE.

More happiness, October-style, in NE!

Pop psychology at its finest: go see the SuperFreakonomics author speak! And go see the movie at the Uptown theatre, too! This would be a great first date idea, if you can't find something to talk about after this--just stop trying.

Speaking of theatres in Uptown, I may have to check out the midnight movie on November 5-6... I saw it at midnight a few years ago at another great independent theatre in NYC and it was a blast!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Minne Links 10.15

Good! Hook 'em early. Kids (under 18--sorry to those who are simply young at heart) are now free at the Walker, all day, every day. Thanks Wells Fargo!

Love Uptown? Love wine? Looking for plans next Wednesday evening? I've got just the thing!

Nominations are now being accepted for 2011 James Beard awards. Did you know that anyone is allowed to nominate? Really! Show some love to your favorite local restaurants and chefs here.

Wait... there's a Minnesota Walk of Fame... and Bob Dylan wasn't the first (and with the exception of Prince--the only) to be honored?

This one is tenuously linked to Minneapolis, but I like this blog because a) a friend's older brother writes it, b) it talks about Friday Night Lights, and c) the Wayzata High School football coach is my neighbor! And I happened to run into him last weekend on his way home from the game talked about in this post. Way to go Coach Matt! I'm still jealous of your TV!

And last but not least: this looks awesome. Even though it's allegedly full--I would love to stage an Amazing Case event (Drinkelodeon/Beer Olympics redux, perhaps?)!!!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Minne Links 10.8.10

New feature! Gossip and news I'm hearing around town, but don't want to write a full post about. Minne links. Get it!

Some new bars are coming soon to Minneapolis!

Damn, never got to try Subo.

Can the Undead get intoxicated? My sources say yes...

I don't know about you, but I'm gettin' lei'ed on October 28th!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Breaking Bats, Planting Trees

I have avoided writing about the Minnesota Twins this far, my fear has been that I would somehow jinx them. So I'm not going to wax poetic about how much I love them and how every player on the team seems like a guy I'd want to have a beer with, and how amazing Target Field is.

I'm just going to link to this story about how, for every bat broken by a Twins pitcher, they've arranged to have 100 trees planted in the state. And for the season, that means 18,000 trees will be planted. That's amazing!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Smooth Roads

We've all got sections of road that we drive regularly that are in dire need of repair. The one that most quickly comes to mind for me is the hellish stretch of Hennepin Avenue heading south from about the Walker Art museum to Franklin Ave., heading from Downtown Minneapolis to Uptown. Fortunately, they fixed that about a year ago (these repairs even won a "Best Use of a Paver" award in MplsStPaul Magazine's "Best Of" issue!). While nobody likes driving on a road that feels like Sarajevo, there's currently some drama brewing about state money spent to repair highways.

This article in the Star Tribune notes that most funding is being allocated to areas inside the 494-694 loop. Many individuals who live in far-flung suburbs are upset, as a result. And for once, the commenters on a Star Tribune article didn't make me want to punch myself in the face--some good points were made. Should we spend more money on roads that are used by less people? I personally think that (safety aside; I don't think a Minnesotan would argue against fixing a bridge that was on the verge of collapse, in light of the 35W debacle of 2007) funding should be allocated based on frequency of travel. Yes, I'm Minneapolis-centric and biased, but I also think that when one chooses to live far out in the exurbs and even rural areas, they should realize that, along with their quieter life and further-between neighbors, goes less-frequently updated roads and infrastructure. Just as retailers (Walmart excluded) thrive in more populous areas, so should state and federal money.

So, what are your thoughts? Am I being to city-centric in my logic?

Bottle of Red... Bottle of White...

I don't shop at Surdyk's much, because I have my own preferred neighborhood wine shop. But I can't deny that Surdyk's is a Minneapolis institution. It's been in the same NE location since 1934, and when I've been there, the staff have always been amazing. When I was meeting my boyfriend's parents for the first time, one wine expert took about 20 minutes to help me find the perfect bottle of wine to bring them. Their wine sale is an anticipated event and is beginning this week--running September 29 - October 16. Although I may not make it to the sale myself, I came across a great blog with recommendations on the best deals not to miss! Looks like another fun local blog, with a wine focus. Bookmarked!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Fall Restaurant Week--it's Official!

Took me long enough--I first hinted at it almost a month ago, but it's official, Minneapolis St. Paul Fall Restaurant Week will run October 3-8 (that's a Sunday through a Friday, friends). Here's a list of participating restaurants, as well as their menus for the week (most are prix fixe) and the price (lunches are $10 or $15; dinner is $20 or $30). Make those reservations now--the restaurants fill up quickly!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Plenty of Fish in the Sea

For being known as The Land of 10,000 Lakes (fun fact! There are actually 11842 lakes that are 10 acres or more!), Minnesota is depressingly landlocked. Unless you're hankering for a good ol' Fish Fry Walleye, there's something to be desired in the area as far as seafood goes.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I was never a huge seafood fan. I love scallops--they're probably my favorite protein--but never got too fired up over shrimp cocktail or the oh-so-90's Chilean Sea Bass. My boyfriend, however, might as well be a pelican for all the seafood he eats. This means that over the last few years, I've had a crash course in just about every kind of seafood that's out there to eat. I've eaten eels, oysters, octopus, clams, shrimp, lobster... and that's just the short list. Granted, many of these delicacies have been served over a bed of rice with a dab of wasabi and a generous dip in soy sauce--but sushi isn't enough for his man-sized appetite for creatures of the sea.

For a long time, my favorite restaurant was Oceanaire. Yes, it was a chain, and this was long before I started to be somewhat of a foodie... but I truly enjoyed each meal I had there. I haven't eaten there in years--since I took my parents there for Christmas in December of 2004--but hoped that quality had remained the same. Unfortunately, it sounds like it hasn't. So, where can I go now, to have high-quality seafood?

The first place that comes to mind is Sea Change. This place opened in the summer of 2009, and until Bar La Grassa opened in November, seemed a shoe-in for Best New Restaurant of the year. The restaurant is located in The Guthrie Theatre, in the space formerly occupied by Cue. I ate at Cue once, and while I loved the space, didn't love the menu. I was excited to hear about Sea Change's arrival, and it's one of those places that I always have intended to go to, but never have. Has anyone been there? I'd love to hear reviews from friends.

I also think of places like Stella's Fish Cafe in Uptown. I've eaten there, but the atmosphere seems more "bar first, food second", and they wouldn't be high on my list of places to go for something fresh from the deep. Am I wrong here? Is there more to this place than drunken antics on a late Saturday night?

The last place I think about is Sea Salt Eatery. Sea Salt Eatery--the place just makes me happy. It's one of the more unique restaurants in Minneapolis. It's seasonal--only open from April to October--and located in Minnehaha Park, right near the falls. It's the most serendipitous little place, and most of the seating is located outside, so you're enjoying the beautiful scenery and weather along with your delicious meal. I can't tear myself away from the Crabcake Sandwich, while my geographically confused boyfriend (he's from Canada, but you'd swear he was southern with his love of creole, cajun, and seafood) can't get enough of the Crawfish Po'Boy. Better yet, all their seafood comes from Coastal Seafoods. It's like a double-dip of local goodness!

So, am I missing out on anywhere that I can take my lobster for his seafood fix? I'm looking forward to hearing about any new, out-of-the-way places!

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Beer's a-Brewin' in the North Loop!

When I was interning in New York, my stop on the subway was Fulton Street. Therefore, I've taken a liking to Fulton Brewery, despite the fact that I've never (to my knowledge) had any of their brews.

There are many things I like about this particular brewery. First, they're local, started by four guys in Minneapolis. Yay, Minneapolis! They have a program called Ful10, where essentially they take 10% of their profits, and provide small loans to local entepreneurs who would be otherwise unable to secure the funding to start their business. Also, their beers have fun names like "Sweet Child of Vine" and "Worthy Adversary". I like creativity.

So, this being said about Fulton Brewery, I am very excited to welcome them to my neighborhood! They're going into the old Home Beautiful location at 414 N 6th Avenue. So close, I will drive right past them every day on my one-mile commute home from work. I am hoping that all of my great neighborhood restaurants and wine shops will be friendly neighbors and sell their beer!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Gettin' Dressed Up All Fancy-Like

I want to go to this. I was just cleaning out some things I don't need anymore, and came across some of my old formal gowns. And while I was planning on donating them to The Cinderella Project, this looks so much more fun. Plus, it's at the Foshay. Fo SHO!!!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Nice Ride

My dad rides a bike. Not like a motorcycle, tattoo'ed up, handlebar moustache bike, he rides a road bike, Lance Armstrong style. It's pretty awesome, he's really serious about it and even takes long, 50-mile rides on the weekends. Of course, this could all be part of a plot to get more gadgets into his life (he loves gadgets, too), but more likely he is part of the huge number of Minnesotans who love bicycling. In fact, this year, Minneapolis was named the most Bike-Friendly city in the nation, even though we have snow on the ground for half the year!

On June 10, 2010, Minneapolis got even more bike-friendly (and more colorful!) when Nice Ride MN launched. Nice Ride has about 500 bikes and 60 stations where you can pick up a bike, ride it around, and then return it when you're done (of course you have to pay for it, but memberships are as low-priced as $60/year). I've noticed several (solar-powered!) "stations" in my neighborhood, and if you've been downtown at all, you can't miss the bright neon-yellow bikes being pedaled around.

Even though I personally haven't tried this new, fun feature in our community, I was really excited to see that in less than 100 days since they've become available, there's been over 50,000 rides taken on these funky day-glo bikes! That's really exciting news, in terms of getting cars off the road and pollution out of the air.

My last bike was sold in a garage sale while I was living in New York; I'm not upset because I might be embarassed to ride it anyways: it was black with red speckles as though someone had flicked a paintbrush at it (yes, I bought it that way). Since my main squeeze already has his own bike, and we would love to be able to ride around downtown, maybe I will buy a subscription to Nice Ride instead of investing in a whole new bicycle.

And, for those of you who love biking and want to see more of our fair city, I would encourage you to check out the Minneapolis Bike Tour, taking place this year on September 19. It's a go-at-your-own-pace ride (not a race!) that takes you through some of Minneapolis's most beautiful park systems, and in fact the registration fees go toward maintaining the very bike trails you will be riding on!

This post is dedicated to the coolest rider around, so cool that he wears a do-rag under his helmet--my Dad!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


A few weeks ago, I mentioned having dined at Fogo de Chao during Minneapolis Summer Restaurant Week... several people asked me how I knew Restaurant Week was even going on. Well, I'm in the know!

And... don't quote me on this, but a little birdie just told me that there will be a Fall Restaurant Week from October 3-8. Fogo de Chao is back on the list, supposedly. I'll let you know more when I know more myself!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Well, That Was Quick...

Brett must have read yesterday's post.

I'm gonna be real sore if he pulls more wishy-washy crap tomorrow.

I also think it's in poor taste to welcome Brett back with open arms after sending Percy Harvin a five-day letter when he has had a long history of migrane problems (not to mention, shortly after his grandmother's death--when similar situations have been troublesome to the organization in recent history), and telling the media that he has "ground to make up" for missing time during training camp. As I said yesterday--a team is a team. All for one and one for all. If Percy has to make up the time, Brett should have to as well.

Lastly, I would like to give a high five to Jared Allen for being awesome (and for reportedly being one of the players who reportedly convinced Favre to come back... but mainly for being awesome).

Monday, August 16, 2010

Four is my Lucky Number

That is a fact. It's not based on any reasoning, really. I just decided, back in the day, that my lucky number would be 4.

The Vikings seem to also think their lucky number is 4. Last year, in a shocking acquisition, they signed quarterback Brett Favre, who played most of his career with the Green Bay Packers, our sworn rivals and archenemies. His coming to the Minnesota Vikings broke the hearts of many of my friends, and I know more than one grown man who cried at the news.

Brett is an amazing athlete. He is arguably the best quarterback in NFL history. Also, his middle name is Lorenzo, which is pretty fun. And he is a spokesmodel for Wrangler Jeans. The guy has something for everybody!

However, Mr. Favre-rhymes-with-Carve is also quite the drama queen. As far back as 2002, he has announced his "retirement", only to return (prompted, no doubt, by the promise of more money) to play another season. This year is no exception.

I just want to be on the record as saying that while he is an exceptional quarterback, and clearly still has "it"--he needs to step up and be a true leader to his team. Part of being on a team is taking your lumps: going to training camp. Participating in pre-season games. Not whipping the media into a will-he-or-won't-he frenzy. If Brett Favre wants lasting respect from the few people who still believe he has integrity, it's time for him to show up at Winter Park and join the team. Mark Rosen of Channel 4 News said this on the air last Tuesday night, and I couldn't agree more.

Brett, we would love to have you back. We would love to have another 12-4 season, or even improve upon that. We would love to go to Texas next February. But please, stop being such a whiny little bitch, and be the great athlete in shitty jeans that we know you are.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

This Chick is Toast!

Yes, I just quoted Ghostbusters.

Last night, my man and I had dinner reservations at a fancy-schmancy (OK maybe not fancy, but expensive) place, that was running quite a deal in honor of Minneapolis Restaurant Week. Since our reservation wasn't till 8pm, we decided to go for a glass of wine first.

Our neighborhood is full of cute little bars and restaurants, and we've been meaning to check this place out for quite some time. It's called Toast Wine Bar & Cafe. Some of our neighbors have recommended it, and we've walked past it several times on walks with the pup. It's somewhat out of the way, though, and didn't come to mind often--but now that we've been there, we will for sure be back frequently!

It's located halfway down the block of a non-driveable street, so you wouldn't pass it in your car. It's also partially underground in an apartment building (you have to walk down a ramp to the front door). But there is ample outdoor seating (and water bowls for dogs who stop by too!) and it's surprisingly big inside as well. It looks like an industrial space: unfinished ceiling, walls and columns painted black. The menu mainly features wine, crostini, cheeses, and most importantly dessert. Something I liked is that the individual items were just little bites and very reasonably priced--$2 per crostini is very inexpensive, and I like the idea of getting a glass of wine and a little snack for under $10!

We only had wine, so I can't vouch for the food, but the place was almost full, and I got the impression that many of the patrons were regulars. We immediately said we need to bring my parents there, they would love it. It seems like the type of place I'd go to with a few girlfriends and just sit and talk for hours, over several glasses of wine, of course. As a bonus, they strive to serve mainly wines from environmentally-conscious vineyards--so you may get to try wines that you wouldn't at other places!

Do you have any favorite neighborhood places that I should check out when I'm in your hood?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Mmmm, Beer.

I love beer. My favorite beers are boring, pedestrian beers like Minnesota favorite Michelob Golden Draft Light (fun fact! Michelob Golden Draft Light is only available for sale in nine states, and was introduced to the market in 1991), the hipster nectar PBR, and when I get fancy, something like Dark Horse Brewery's Raspberry Ale (love their motto: "Beer first, fruit second.")

My boyfriend also loves beer. He loves beer that I don't like (maybe that is not a coincidence?) because it's all bitter and hoppy and not at all refreshing.

My brother and most of my guy friends are "beer snobs".

Minnesota has a few really great breweries--Surly, Summit, and of course I would be remiss in not acknowledging Grain Belt Brewery, which brought us one of my favorite Minneapolis landmarks:

The Grain Belt Beer sign facing the Hennepin Avenue Bridge, between Downtown Minneapolis and Northeast!

However, curiously, Minneapolis has a long-standing ban on allowing small brewing companies to sell their beer.

Fortunately, the Minneapolis City Council is likely to update the wording of this ordinance on Friday! Brewers will be allowed to sell growlers. This is important because it cuts out the distributors, and allows the small companies to make more money early on, enabling them to grow and hopefully expand their business. Ultimately, of course, the goal would be to gain wide distribution which would necessitate working with a distributor, but having a small "cult" following is a great way to grow business as well, expanding by free word-of-mouth advertising instead of paying for exposure.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Old Colony

Minneapolis has had an outbreak of murders this year, many of them gang-related.

Last weekend, there was a shooting in my neighborhood. A few blocks north of my building is the Old Colony Gas Station. Three men were shot, one killed. Fortunately, the gunman has been arrested and charged.

As this story takes place close to home, I have been following it in the news. I am not intending to make light of a very serious and tragic situation, but it makes me laugh that in every story the Star Tribune has published on it to date, they describe the station as "[featuring] a cheerful, yellow faux beehive".

Cuba Libre

Approximately three years ago, there were three really great Cuban restaurants in Minneapolis: Victor's 1959 Cafe, Babalu, and Cafe Havana*. You can probably guess by my hyperlinking that two of these restaurants have now closed. It's a shame, because Babalu and Cafe Havana were both located on Washington Avenue North--and my loft is in between the two.

I love Cuban cuisine. When I was seventeen ("it was a very good year!") I had the opportunity to be a Production Assistant on a documentary film called Puente de Almas (Bridge of Souls) about a Cuban family that fled to America during Castro's takeover. During the two-week-long shoot, I was exposed to Cuban culture for the first time, and in the best possible way: dinners lasted for hours and were accompanied by family members improvising on the guitar and whatever percussion instruments could be found. I immediately fell in love with plantains. Well, I loved all the food, but especially the plantains.

You can imagine my disappointment when, shortly after I moved into my loft in June of 2008, I heard that Babalu was closing--and then a few months later, Cafe Havana did as well. While Cafe Havana's location remained empty for over a year, it was quickly reported that an Italian restaurant was going into Babalu's old space. I was so disappointed--I had just moved into this chic, bohemian neighborhood with unique restaurants and shops--and some crappy Olive Garden knockoff was going in. The restaurant's name came out--and I was even further dismayed: "the fat" in italian? Really? I was sure it would be a flop. But soon the flag for Bar La Grassa was hanging at 800 Washington Avenue North, and immediately the reviews began pouring in. "Divine". "A fantasy". It was called the Best New Restaurant by virtually every local media outlet. I was fascinated.

On a Friday night in January, my main squeeze and I walked down the block to check it out. As luck would have it, two spots had just opened up at the bar facing the kitchen (reservations are otherwise pretty much mandatory, but this section is first-come-first-served). Not knowing what to expect, we asked the bartender to bring us two of her favorite appetizers. What happened next changed my life. I am not exaggerating. She brought out their Bruschetta with Soft Egg and Lobster (thank you times a million to the genius at Star Tribune who was able to get that recipe!). I had never tasted something so exquisite in my life (yes, exquisite is a crazy, highfalutin word that I will only ever use to describe this dish, I promise). Before I swallowed the first bite, I'd forgotten what a plantain even looked like.

The rest of our meal was just as magical. One of the great qualities of my boyfriend is that he pushes me outside my comfort zone with food. We split two entrees that evening--each amazing, neither a dish I would have ordered alone. The first was Orecchiette with Braised Rabbit. Yes, rabbit. I ate bunnies. And they were fantastic. The second dish was Chiattara Nera with Ink Braised Squid: you may be right in suspecting that there is actual squid ink in this pasta! It was virtually black, spaghetti-like noodles (chiattara means "guitar" in italian, the noodles are like the strings of a guitar) with pieces of calamari in a slightly spicy, creamy sauce. Tragically, this dish has been taken off the menu. Before we left the restaurant, drunk on the experience and several glasses of wine, we promised each other to never visit this place without the other--it was that good, we would only make the other person jealous.

Months went by, and word got out that something was going into the former home of Cafe Havana. In May, Haute Dish opened. I had high hopes, hearing that the concept was comfort food made fancy. One evening, my boyfriend and a friend were headed to a Twins game and invited me to join them here for dinner before the game. With the philosophy that, "if they have it on the menu, it probably kicks ass" regarding Macaroni and Cheese, that's what I ordered. It was prepared with taleggio cheese and delicious chunks of king crab. I offered bites to the table, and was informed that "This tastes like Bar La Grassa!" (in case you didn't know, that's about the highest compliment a dish can get).

So, I learned that sometimes change is good. The best Cuban restaurant in town is still standing, and where others once were now stand two excellent new additions to my neighborhood. Have you eaten at Bar La Grassa or Haute Dish? Did you enjoy them as much as I did?

*some people consider El Meson to be Cuban, but seeing as they refer to themselves as "Spanish-Caribbean", I do not.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ghetto in the Sky

A dubious landmark in Minneapolis is Riverside Plaza, or as it's more commonly known among my generation, "Ghetto in the Sky" or "The Crack Stacks".

Located at the intersection of 35W and I-94, it is primarily home to East African immigrants. Minneapolis has a huge Somali population (fun fact: the much more commonly used "Somalian" is grammatically incorrect!)--in fact, Minneapolis has the largest Somali population in the United States.

When I was little, I thought this building was so cool, because of the painted squares on the outside that set it apart from other skyscrapers in the city. I don't know if it's a side-effect of me growing older, or if the buildings' colors have faded from the sun over the years, but they now seem dingy and dated, an embarassing hulk of real estate set apart from the rest of Minneapolis's reflective glass skyline. It was built in 1973 and looks like it was built in 1973.

Now, the owners of the development are planning a $100M renovation of the property, and are looking for the state to grant the buildings historic status in order to get over $20M in federal and state tax credits to help finance the project. Usually, a building needs to be over fifty years old to be considered for historic status, or have a great significance. I don't personally believe that these buildings are historically significant enough to be granted this status.

Am I biased, based on the buildings' not-so-flattering nicknames? My opinion is not based on racial stereotypes associated with these buildings, I just don't think they deserve historical status, and therefore don't deserve the funding from the government for their project. What do you think?

In the Beginning

Why, on my third attempt at a blog, write about Minneapolis?

It's where I live, where I love. They say "write what you know". So, I am.

How much do I love Minneapolis? Enough to get it permanently placed on my body. On my right wrist, the Spoonbridge and Cherry, my favorite work of art which just so happens to reside in the Sculpture Garden of the Walker Art Center.

The title of this blog--Spoonfed Minneapolis--is meant to be a combination of the original two purposes of this new project of mine: arts and food in Minneapolis. However, I've already realized that there are other things--politics, shopping, and sports, to name a few--that will also be a big part of my writing as well.

There has been a huge movement toward supporting the local economy in recent years, and that's something I've been working on doing in my life as well. So my purpose is to hilight the art, restaurants, shops, and issues that make Minneapolis the wonderful city it is. I'm always open to suggestions of ideas or places to feature!

I hope you enjoy reading, and I hope you enjoy Minneapolis!