Tag Archives: st. paul

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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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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Hanging out in the Minneapolis airport..great places to eat

We were not looking forward to our three hour layover in the Minneapolis airport en route to Phoenix from Des Moines but it turned out to be better than expected. We found a surprisingly good restaurant and decided to splurge since it was a Saturday night and we were stuck in an airport. And by splurge I mean paying $10 for a fancy sandwich with top-notch ingredients as opposed to $5 at Subway. We ate at a wine bar called Surdyk’s Flight in the “airport mall,”  which  has small plates, sandwiches, salads and paninis served in a sleek alcove with a few booths, each with a flat screen TV showing a movie with the sound off and English subtitles. Our sandwiches were excellent, served on crusty baguettes from what we were told is one of the best bakeries in the twin cities, Rustica. The restaurant itself is an offshoot of a well known wine shop in Minneapolis. (Hence the word “flight” in the restaurant’s name.)

One sandwich was salami with a thick slab of fresh mozzarella, aoili, greens. The other was Applewood turkey with thick slice of Manchego cheese, aoili, quince jam. My husband had one of his favorite beers, Bell’s from Kalamazoo., Michigan. The place even had two of Iowa’s finer products, La Quercia prosciutto and Templeton Rye. We shared a Rustica ginger molasses cookie for dessert and all toll managed to easily kill over an hour at dinner.

On the way back to Des Moines, with another three hours to kill in the Minneapolis airport, we ate at the super sleek Japanese sushi and noodle place Shoyu in Concourse G. The food was really good (and pricey) – we had very crispy chicken and mushroom wontons with cilantro and smoked chili glaze and shared an entree –  Tokyo style pork ramen with hard boiled egg , wakame, memma, and togarashi (none of these items were familiar except the egg) and a Rush River Amber Ale from River Falls, Wisconsin. We ordered on an Ipad (not the one I am typing on now) and watched chefs cook in an open kitchen. Brave new world here. The waiter told us the new restaurants in Concourse G are part of the airport’s overhaul last August and some were conceived with the help of well-known Twin Cities chefs.  Shoyu, for example, was the offspring of Tanpopo noodle house in St. Paul’s warehouse district.

Also in the foodie flyer’s heaven of Concourse G, we  found Mimosa, an upscale French restaurant, and Minnibar, a cafe that looked like a set from the Jetsons (serving “globally inspired sandwiches created by Chef Andrew Zimmern). There also is a new high-design upscale “food hall” in Concourse G (and other mini-halls elsewhere) that is markedly different in appearance and offerings from the old-style “food court” that still exists in the airport (along with fast food chain outposts sprinkled here and there including Starbucks, A&W, Subway, Godfather’s Pizza, Quiznos Sub, DQ, Chick-fil-A, Sharro ).  While the courts have the usual Chinese and Mexican fast food, the halls are sleek and cleanly designed with little areas selling upscale fro yo, lots of fresh fruit, eccentric assortments of candy (goo goo clusters from Nashville but alas no Hi-Chews, from Japan), cleverly packaged travel items, from nausea pills to backpacks.

Of course we were looking for some humble popcorn after sharing our pricy entree and appetizer at Shoyu. No such luck.







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Revisting old Twin Cities favorites – Lucia’s, Walker Art Center, U of M Gehry Museum

We did visit some old favorites last weekend in the Twin Cities that didn’t disappoint. They include:

Lucia’s, the venerable Uptown restaurant, was packed on a Saturday night, as expected so we were glad to have booked a table well in advance. It’s a cozy unpretentious place that prides itself in a constantly changing seasonal menu using fresh local ingredients whenever possible. One mild complaint – both our soup and a main course arrived luke-warm bordering on cold. They were quickly warmed up. And the desert – an updated version of German Sweet Chocolate cake – was too sweet and heavy. (The cake was more like chewy macaroon and the frosting more like denser chocolate.) But the appetizers and main courses were beautifully done. We had a cup of a white bean soup with vegetables and chorizo; an amazing ravioli filled with caramelized cauliflower with thick bits of bacon on a bed of arugula, a very tasty baked chicken dish served with perfectly cooked brussel sprouts, chewy mushrooms and a bread pudding; and a leg of lamb in calvados with sliced apples and braised vegetables.

– I’ve never really gotten used to the Walker Art Center’s new building – feels sort of disjointed and without a center and the graphics show left me cold. But always good to check in there – and at the sculpture garden across teh street.

– The University of Minnesota’s Art Museum has a new wing also designed by Frank Gehry, who designed the rest of the place. It’s a crazy shiny steel-clad building (although there is some rust…) that looks a bit like a crumpled up beer can. Inside the space is light and airy and all the better for displaying an eclectic collection of contemporary art.

– We took the drive along the river from U of M to St. Paul – absolutely gorgeous on a crisp fall day with blazing autumn leaves. Wished we were riding our bikes!

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Macalester College…in St. Paul

I’ve had a little time to catch my breath after long day to and from Macalester. Pretty campus right on Grand Avenue, a little west of the area D and I used to visit now and then – near Cafe Latte (as usual – my landmark is a restaurant. It used to be a bookstore but that’s long gone, as is the case with many an independent book store.) Cafe Latte is still going strong – we picked up a sandwich to take on the drive home (note to self: next time, skip the guacamole on the turkey sandwich, much of which ended up on my black sweater as I tried to eat while driving.) and resisted the temptation to take home a piece of luscious german sweet chocolate cake too. Did get a bread for home and our neighbor, who kindly walked our dog yesterday. Noticed a new (or new to me) store across the street “Bread and Chocolate” (the kind of store I’d notice!) as we were leaving but didn’t have time to stop and later realized that on the other side of my Cafe latte carryout bag it said “Bread and Chocolate” so guessing the two are related. Also a Brasa in that neighborhood – a branch of the rotisserie place loudly advertising it’s good ingredients that we visited in Minneapolis last year.

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Visiting Macalester – (“where’s that?”)

Nine times out of ten, when I mention Macalester College people’s response is “where’s that.” I can confirm after visiting the school today that it’s in a very nice area of St. Paul – in fact I must have driven by it several times during past visits and didn’t notice. Small liberal arts college – we found it pretty impressive.

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