Category Archives: Minnesota

Art exhibits to see Fall 2019 in NYC, Chicago, LA, Minneapolis and Bentonville

Thanks to the NYTimes listings, I know what’s on my to-see list during trips East, West and North this year.

In LA – Betye Saar: The Legends of “Black Girl’s Window” – LACMA Sept. 22-April 5.

In Chicago – Photography + Folk Art: Looking for american in the 1930s: Art Institute of Chicago Sept. 21-Jan. 19, 2020 ….In a cloud, in a wall, in a chair: Six modernists in Mexico at Mid Century (thru Jan. 12)

In Minneapolis: Theaster Gates: Assembly Hall – at Walker Art Center thru Jan. 12.

In Bentonville, Ark — The Momentary, which appears to be an outpost of the fabulous Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

In NYC: Kenyan-American Artist Wangechi Mutu’s sculptures at the MET – the first-ever art commission for the museum’s Fifth Avenue facade niches (her “Water Woman” sculpture at the Des Moines Art Center is a bit hit with the fourth-graders I take on tours) ; also on my list: the Amy Sherald show (she of the Michelle Obama portrait)…

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Filed under Arkansas, California, Chicago, Illinois, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Minnesota, museum exhibit, New York, THE ARTS

60th bday bash and mom’s day in Twin Cities

Late post:

So nice to be with my kids to mark these occasions. We are staying at an Airbnb on Ashland Street in the MAC-Grove neighborhood of St. Paul, not far from where noah and his pal for life Conor live (midcity.)

Dirck and I took an easy and scenic bike ride along Marshall and over then along the Mississippi to the Guthrie Theater where we met “the kids” (who drove in the black monster truck emma and rocket rented), which was a good starting point for emma who is in the twin cities for the first time. We took the long elevator in the Guthrie up to the cantilevered outdoor deck with stupendous views of water crashing down St Anthony’s Falls. Then we rode over the stone arch bridge past the falls to northeast Minneapolis to check out some great vintage stores noah, our guide, has found include Find Furniture (lots of mid century modern) and x, where I bought a lively patterned 80’s shirt jacket, complete with shoulder pads!

We rode back to St. Paul along the east side of the river thru dinkytown (the u of Minnesota college town) and the stadium, stopping briefly for some light rain to pass. The kids brought back delicious arepas from Minneapolis for an afternoon snack (we had a delicious brunch earlier at Rose Patisserie in St. Paul.. great quiche). we went to a nearby bar for drinks and then for a delicious dinner at Bar La Grassa in the Minneapolis warehouse district and stopped by the fabulous “bank” bar, an Art Deco masterwork that used to be the farmers and merchants bank (now a hotel) downtown. Couldn’t ask for a better bday with my family!

On Sunday, after a mom’s day brunch at Noah’s apartment on Edmunds Street we drove to Minnehaha Falls, which was full of water, and lined with visitors. onto Lake Harriet for a stroll past the Scandinavian looking pavilion, with lots of visitors too strolling, cycling and skateboarding. Also spotted an old trolley that I am not sure goes where. early Cambodian dinner (green curry, scallion pancakes, omelette), at Cheng Heng in Noah’s neighborhood.


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Volstead’s speakeasy, Sculpture garden, LynnLake Brewery – Minneapolis

90329B12-EBEC-4EC7-9743-77F9ACCD89CFBusy weekend visiting Noah in the Twin Cities. This trip we spent more time than we have in ages in St. Paul because Noah has moved there from Minneapolis. But we still made it back to our old stomping ground in Uptown, in part because we stayed again at a great Airbnb in south Minneapolis, in a 1917 stucco house a block from the bike trail along Minehaha parkway.

CC52C40B-D86A-405A-A32F-7519E188F07A.jpegWe checked out the revamped Sculpture Garden next to the Walker which looks a little shaggier and less manicured, thanks to the prairie plantings. I’m still a fan although I did notice that the spoon of the Oldenburg Spoonbridge and Cherry has a yellow water stain. I particularly liked the giant blue rooster sculpture. Noah did note, accurately, that several sculpture parks around the country seem to have work by the same sculptors and sometimes almost the same work. The McDonaldization of sculpture parks?

15BB400B-5BEC-4AF0-86AD-01FF6177B954.jpegIt took two tries (I botched the first one by failing to have my ID, believe it or not) we finally were admitted into Volstead’s Emporium, my first visit to a retro speakeasy, which I gather is a thing. To enter, we walked down a nondescript alley and stood in a short line in front of an unmarked industrial looking metal door where a guy occasionally looked out at us through a peep window he slid open and closed. After a suitable wait to make sure we felt we were entering some exclusive club (shades of Studio 54) he let various parties trickle in after others trickled out.

The atmosphere was very atmospheric – cozy little quasi-private booths, dim lighting, low ceiling, lots of old wood, vintage brass light fixtures and art nouveau wallpaper. We sat at a high top table by the bar and had pricey cocktails and shared some good desserts (key lime pie, a chocolate brownie with banana chip ice cream.) There were clever touches, like gilt-framed mirrors in the booths that opened, with an arm extending to serve people their drinks and food. This being Minnesota most people were wearing denim, plaid and/or flannel (including us) and the wait staff were friendly rather than haughty. We also noticed a few empty tables as we left, even though a few people were kept waiting out in the cold.

The previous night, when this 59-year-old did not have an ID to prove she is over 21 (why thank you)  we ended up at a much louder bar nearby, the LynLake Brewery.

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Exploring St. Paul – Farmers Market, Cheese Shop, Common Good bookstore, Cheng Heng Cambodian Restaurant, Grand Ole Creamery, Lake Como

Over the years we have dipped in and out of St. Paul, trying a restaurant here or visiting a shop there but never getting a sense of the place or the lay of the land. With Noah now living in the Midway neighborhood of St. Paul, we spent more concentrated time there and left with a better feel for the place, which looked lovely on a early fall weekend with the trees just starting to change.

Awaiting pierogies

The St. Paul Farmers Market, downtown under an overhang structure, was bursting with fruit, veg and huge colorful dahlias. We bought treats for brunch the next morning – peach strudel, cheese, smoked trout, snowflake apples – and some to devour on site including excellent pierogies stuffed with creamy mashed potatoes and cheddar cheese, with plum sauce drizzled on top and sour cream.

Later we had very good sandwiches at the St. Paul Cheese Shop near Macalester College (prosciutto and brie; roast beef, arugula, red pesto.) Dirck and I drove past the grand mansions along Summit Avenue (the annual house tour the following day was packed with people lining up in front of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s boyhood home and other stately homes. Unable to find Common Good Books where we’d last visited it decades ago, we discovered it had long ago moved — around the corner from the Cheese Shop where we ate lunch. It’s still good, even it owner Garrison Keeler’s star power has since dimmed.2E1C425E-6F1C-431A-B9BD-5625F715F058.jpeg

Six of us had delicious Cambodian food for $64 (pre-tip) at a no-frills restaurant called Cheng Heng near Noah’s new place. (No liquor, among my favorites —  a crispy chive pancake, an omelette filled with bean sprouts and bits of pork served with lettuce and cucumber, stir-fried tofu , crispy and in a delicious light brown sauce.

2007A9EC-076D-4ED4-A951-D3A687A9CF2EBefore leaving we walked around Lake Como, dropping in at the old pavilion (which we later learned is a 1992 replica of the original early 1900’s structure), the cool old streetcar station with a facade of round stones, a torpedo monument to the WW2 submarine, lovely old Victorian homes overlooking the lake with long green lawns and well tended gardens and porches. The “kiddie” cones at Grand Ole Creamery were big enough for this adult. And takeaway sandwiches from a Kowalski’s Market will do for dinner on the road home. (Not as good as the St. Paul Cheese Shop, though.)CDA734A1-B3CB-414C-AFA9-2DB599296E05.jpeg

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Lovely Airbnb, Biking the Lakes, Hot Indian and the Happy Gnome — Twin Cities

at Minnehaha Falls

My friend Nell and I only had a half day here but made the most of it. After driving my son Noah back to his apartment in Minneapolis from a trip home to DSM, we checked into our pretty Airbnb, an early 1900’s four square with a lovely garden in South Minneapolis near the Minnehaha Parkway and bike trail. We stopped at  Midtown Global Market for some “Hot Indian” food including an “indurrito (Indian burrito) and delicious “Indi-Frites” – crispy seasoned fries with an aoili dipping sauce. Clever.

On an afternoon with perfect bike riding weather (cool, light breeze, slightly cloudy) we rode on a lightly populated trail (a Monday) west and north to Lakes Harriet, Calhoun and Lake of the Isles. I did learn that when you ride this direction, you have to stay off of the bike trail that’s on the sidewalk rimming the lakes because it’s carefully designated for riders going the opposite direction — and Twin Cities riders take these designations very seriously, as they should especially on very busy weekends.

The trails were relatively quiet on a Monday but we didn’t want to “break the rules” so we ended up riding a few sections of the trail on the side of the access road lining the trail, which fortunately had few cars but was at times bumpy and sandy. No big deal. I also learned that the Lake of the Isles offers immediate and easy access to the Midtown Greenway trail, another favorite and we rode that subterranean-feeling trail to a cool trailside bike store/cafe called MPLS Coaster Brake Cafe, near the Global Market. I loved that you could wheel your bike right into the store/cafe and park it near some lounge chairs to take a break. No need to lock out front.

Happy Gnomes

We rode back on Portland Avenue along the bike lane which worked well, given the heavy rush hour traffic. There were several other riders, which helped make us a more visible presence on a busy city thoroughfare. Back on the Minnehaha Parkway, we learned the hard way to stay on the trail rather than the bordering streets, in order to get under 35W Highway. (We had to backtrack slightly and portage down some steps with our bikes.) We also had to overshoot the street where our airbnb was because there wasn’t an easy exit off the wooded trail — but no big deal, we just backtracked a little.

Dinner was at The Happy Gnome, a gastropub in St. Paul (which I kept calling the “Grumpy Troll,” a Wisconsin place we’re going to this weekend). We went for the beer (note to self: Indeed is a good local brew!) and ended up staying to eat (note to self: good salmon burger) rather than going to a nearby Cambodian restaurant, as planned. Great company, with two of the world’s nicest boys, errr, young men! On the way home, we stopped briefly at Patisserie 46 (because it was only blocks from our airbnb) and for a quick walk around Minnehaha Falls (note to self: hike this area properly some time!).

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2018 James Beard Award Finalist restaurants in Minneapolis and Milwaukee to try.

Best Chef: Midwest (IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD, WI)

Karen Bell (Bavette La Boucherie, Milwaukee)

Steven Brown (Tilia, Minneapolis)

Justin Carlisle (Ardent, Milwaukee)

Gavin Kaysen (Spoon and Stable, Minneapolis)  WON

Ann Kim (Young Joni, Minneapolis)

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Prince Show and the Bachelor Farmer Cafe – Minneapolis

My favorite piece at the art show honoring the late great singer Prince at the U of Minnesota’s Weisman Museum was a portrait by an apparently well-known Minnesota “crop artist” who used a variety of crops (bromegrass, grits, canola, etc.) as her medium. The show was only two rooms worth of stuff – a lot of photos, some painted portraits, a giant mural and some glass sculpture but always nice to wander through the bright high-ceilinged spaces of the museum, designed by Frank Gehry.

my favorite bachelor

Lunch was at the bustling Bachelor Farmer Cafe in the warehouse district where we had fresh-tasting squash soup and an very Scandinavian-feeling open-faced toasted sandwich. The cafe is at the front of the Bachelor Farmer Restaurant, where we had a great meal over Memorial Day weekend.

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Good Food, great Company in Minneapolis

Nanook of the north here where it is decidedly snowier and colder in the Twin Cities than in Des Moines. Noah and Conor live in a sweet older apartment in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis, which has a good selection of restaurants. We had excellent pulled pork with lime, black beans, chicken stew with green olives and capers and don’t forget the desserts (chocolate cake and flan) at Victor’s 1959 Cuban Cafe, a very atmospheric place, sort of a tar paper shack with the walls and seats covered in graffiti, including by another Betsy who sat in our booth sometime earlier in 2017.

Lunch was quiche and ham sandwich, (real ham on a homemade baguette) at Patisserie 46 (yes on 46th Street),which also has lovely breads, pastries and chocolates (which we did not try). We spent part of the afternoon at IKEA and then browsed at its price/aesthetic opposite — a hygge home goods store in the warehouse district called Foundry.

The drive here had more winter precipitation than I expected maybe because I looked up the weather for major cities between Dsm and Minneapolis (that seemed, and were, fairly dry). I ran into freezing rain and later blizzard-like snow in the sticks so maybe I need to look in the future at the weather forecast for podunk towns between say, Mason City, Iowa and Albert Lea, MN.

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Cool stuff to do in Minneapolis — weather be damned

As can happen this time of year, the weather is turning from uncharacteristically dry and balmy to wet and cold on Thursday — just as I head north on a four hour drive to the Twin Cities to pick up my son, who is coming home for the holidays from law school. I’ll be watching the weather reports and promise to stop at the first sign of my least favorite form of precip: ICE.

A few things on my list:
– The exhibit on Prince – THE PRINCE – at the U of Minnesota’s Weisman Art Museum (designed by Frank Gehry). open 10-5

IKEA. Because we need a cheap bedframe. open 10-8
The Bachelor Farmer Cafe —  loved the more formal but very “hygge” restaurant. Time to try the more casual cafe (where, I see, breakfast is served daily from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) and explore a few shops in the Warehouse district (if the temps aren’t too frigid). Martin Patrick 3,” a seriously stylish men’s store” and the Foundry Home Goods

Victor’s 1959 Cafe, for “revolutionary” Cuban food in Uptown, recommended by a friend. I’ve got a 7:45 reservation just in case.

– Winter at the Purcell-Cutts House  Info here., which apparently is now owned/overseen by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. I wrote about this gorgeously restored 1913 Prairie Style home maybe 20 years ago when it first opened. It will be decked out in period holiday decorations typical of an “upper-middle-class progressive lifestyle”  and open for tours, alas on weekends only (when I won’t be there.)


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Here’s my story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune about smoked fish on Minnesota’s North Shore!

If you’re looking for smoked whitefish in Northern Minnesota, here’s a travel story I wrote….

An Iowan takes in the region’s tourist basics, but it’s the taste of the fish that stands out.

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