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)…
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.
Busy 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.
We 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?
It 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.
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.
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!).
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)
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.
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.
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.)
Has it really been a week since we were hiking in Jay Cooke State Park, on the St. Louis River, in Carlton, MN? Not for nothing is this park reportedly one of the Top 10 most visited in Minnesota. It was a logical spot to stop on our return from the North Shore to Minneapolis because it’s about 10 miles southwest of Duluth. I was reminded of my beloved Ithaca when we crossed a suspension bridge over raging falls (although the water was an odd yellow-brown, reminiscent of root beer, which I later learned is caused by tannic acid, a natural plant compound used to tan hides – and make wine). We hiked on a muddy but scenic trail along the falls and into the birch and pine forest on a drier trail until a rainstorm suddenly blew in. Fortunately we didn’t get totally soaked. We found a shelter on the trail and the rain soon stopped but we ended up eating our picnic of smoked fish and cheese inside a rustic park lodge, completely with roaring fire! Nice touch!
Back in Minneapolis, we took “the kids” out for a quick Vietnamese meal at Quang, on “Eat Street,” aka Nicollet Avenue, which was packed with customers but the servers did their best to get the food to us quickly.
Another great Airbnb (unlike the one I booked in Minneapolis where the weird host cancelled at the last minute). We are in a airy blue-walled room on the second floor of an old wooden house in a neighborhood high on a hill above downtown and the blue waters of Lake Superior. Some nice touches including a Polaroid camera to snap a few shots (haven’t used one in years), a white noise machine, pretty botanical prints on the walls, a map with pins to stick in to show where visitors are from. (Other Des Moines residents had been here, as had visitors from Tehran and Hamburg.) We shared a bathroom with the one other room, which wasn’t an issue.
After a brief stop at The Minneapolis Farmers Market downtown on Lyndale near Twins stadium to pick up huge red dahlias, raspberries, strawberries, scones and banana bread to take to Noah and Rachel’s new apartment on Emerson Street, we drove two hours or so to Duluth (not too much traffic) and tried our first batch of smoked whitefish at Northern Waters Smokehaus, a hip, foodie sandwich shop inside an old brick warehouse renovated into a marketplace with nice shops. I ate the fish on saltines with a smear of cream cheese, as directed.