Friday, August 31, 2007

And now for something completely different

Last night I met up with some of my old coworkers for a quick happy hour and then met Matt for dinner at the Happy Gnome, but that's not what I wanted to tell you about.
While I was driving back to St. Paul I was totally rocking out to Rob Zombie on the radio - top down on the convertible, of course. I noticed this guy two lanes over just screaming. Since I always enjoy a good view of crazy, I turned down the music. Then I realized, he was screaming at me specifically. Evidently, I'd done something to cause him to classify me as a "Stupid Bitch." Needless to say, I was intrigued. Me? Por que? Well, I had just gotten my new business cards that day with a little skull and crossbones icon on them. I was listening at top volume some music that, by some, would be considered pretty heavy... Hmmm... Unfortunately, my lane of traffic was progressing nicely, while his was stuck at a dead stop. From the wizened face and wild gesticulating, I surmised that he had more to say on the topic. His beat up Ford Tarus said, "Hey, I know what I'm talkin' about. I drive a Ford and I am totally 'keepin' it real.'" But, as his lane progressed forward a bit, I caught another wisp of, "Fucking Stupid BITCH!!!!" Hmmm.... Well, if he says so. I waved and smiled before turning the music up and heading off into the Saintly City. I am some kind of serious fucking bitch!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Fairly Breathing

Holy Crap. I've done nothing, but eat like a fifteen year old boy this weekend. Quick! Somebody get me a vegetable! And if you even thing about knocking me on the head like those stupid V8 commercials....
My Mom, Sister and I decided to divide and conquer. We would share everything that we ordered so that we could maximize the food variety consumed. Matt just ate everything that came across his path. No one was feeling too good by that evening.

First, we started with the Scotch egg, sausage wrapped around a hard boiled egg (naturally) on a stick and then fried. This was our breakfast after all. It was perfect! The sausage was nicely seasoned with a little fennel and perfectly salty to match the deliciously cooked egg. It wasn't too hard, and there was none of that off putting green or odor that hard boiled eggs can occasionally have.
Next it was off to the cheese curds. The only place to get them, in my mind, is the food building, where they have that place that I think is called the Mouse Trap. There is always a line, which indicates to me, fresh curds. A cold curd or heat lamp sodden curd is a pathetic little thing. These, were bursting fresh, molten cheesy fried goodness. Ahhh...
Appetites satiated for a bit, we wandered around the agriculture building, admiring the apples, gladiolus and - wait! They have wine here!? I'd forgotten! I decided on the light red from Falconer vineyards outside of Red Wing Minnesota. It was so tasty! It was a perfect balance of sweet and dry, crisply cutting through the cheese curd residue, yet mildly fruity sweet, perfect for a wine being consumed before noon! I was surprised and would totally buy a bottle of this! A road trip to Red Wing might be in order. It's a beautiful drive and we have precious little convertible time left in the year.
But enough of this boozing - there is more of the fair to see! And people to see. I know it's cliche, but oh my God, people watching does not get better than this. I mean, I saw a guy wearing a T- shirt that said Certified Asshole. I appreciated the up front notice not to have anything to do with this guy. The shirt doesn't just say it, it proves it. Only an A-hole would wear a shirt like that! Which is to say nothing of the Freaks from Table 9 that Julie and I spotted on our way to the KSTP booth to catch some of my cousin Matt McNeil's show. This one girl had a face so spotted with red, picked acne that you could easily mistake her for a polka dotted sheet, were she not standing in the middle of the street - picking at her teeth. Her friend had the most malformed face I've ever seen. Really, she had a narrow, long forhead and then the lower part of her skull bulged out wide - like a human butternut squash. I'm certain these two poor souls were more odd looking than anything in the side show.
We spotted them while I was sucking out the last of the juicy corn nibblets from my own teeth. I'm probably not one to point a picky finger. The corn was one of the best things that we had. It was charred and perfectly butter/salty. And it was a veggie. We hadn't had a whole lot of those. I was happy to see the big compost bin right outside of that booth, too. Very cool.
After watching Cousin Matt for a bit - which was weird, by the way. I've known this guy my whole life and he can TALK. Now, he's finally landed the perfect job! I'm happy for him, but standing there watching him converse, but not really being in a conversation with him... it was odd.
Next, more booths, more food. We found our way up to the quilting building, where I'm proud to say that my wildly talented mom-in-law Carol's prize winning chocolate cake was on display. I also wanted to peep the apron retrospective which was not nearly as interesting as I expected it to be. Most of the aprons just looked old. I know that logically, this shouldn't surprise anybody, but it did surprise me.
It was time to go back down the hill and check out the animals. I walked in and admired the pretty bunnies... awwww... bunnies... Then we admired the chickens. Hmmmm... chickens.... They were weird, cute, ugly and occassionally tasty looking. Unfortunately, this is when my eyes began to water. Then, slowly the throat started closing up. I didn't understand. I'm not allergic to bunnies... Buuuhhaaa haa haa shrungcoooooo!!!!! It had started. The marathon sneezing fit kicked in just as we were approaching the sheep nestled into their little hay beds. They don't call it hay fever for nothin'. I was doing my best impression of Cloris Lechman in the Muppet Movie. Matt grabbed me forcibly and walked me out of the barn. He insisted that I would only scare the animals and the children in the barns by remaining.
While blotting my pathetic face and not at all unaware of the stares I was garnering. (Table 9 for the sneezer!) I wheezed in and out until I started to be able to feel moderately human again. I dragged Matt over to the first beer garden I saw. Beer makes everything better. He was having nothing to do with the first place we approached - the one by the Midway with the loud music. Some sad cowboy hat sporting fool was up on stage singing, but the singing seemed to consist of repeating the line, "It's the rule of attraction," over and over again like a Hare Krishna.
We went to the Cowboy Lounge, which I thoroughly enjoyed. They were nice and gave me Summit. Yay! I went through roughly 30 cocktail napkins before I finally started to stop the sneezing and get back to the people watching. People.Are.Facinating.
Julie and Mom were taking so long in the friggin Sneeze Barns that we eventually wandered back into the crowd and got some shrimp and "chips." The chips were actually underdone Ore Ada fries, but the shrimp were shockingly good! They were freshly cooked, the shrimp were tender and super flavorful. I couldn't believe it! They were really, really good! The batter was crispy and just vaguely sweet. I could eat a ton of these! I was about to go back for more when I realized that $14 for 10 shrimp was a bit much - at least for the fair.
We hooked up with them in the first beer garden and that cowboy sportin' goon was still going. At least he had stamina. Now, he was singing Neil Diamond and Jimmy Buffet songs that were more crowd appropriate. Mom loved it. At least, I'm assuming she did, because I couldn't hear a word she said, but there was a lot of smiling and some clapping. When Julie had one of our shrimps she decided to go grab some clam strips from the same joint. The line took forever for her to get through, but she liked her strips. I thought that they were a little bit fishy.
At this point, I'm an exhausted, battered, crusted over fair goer. We'd been there, tramping around for hours upon hours. Julie had been attacked by Mothra sized strollers and accousted by sticky fingered, tanteruming children while I'd been sneezing for what seemed to be about two years. Even perky Mum was just about ready to go. Just to make certain that we really, really were done with the fair, we decided to walk through the Midway.
Wow. It's a whole different kind of crazy down there. Carnies, people barking rip off games, gang members hauling their over-stuffed dolls, squirrely teenage boys and overly sexualized little girls. This place is nuts! There's the one Zena/Lara Croft inspired ride with the boobs and flailing arms, the "MTV" booth with Britney when she had her own hair and the whirling, swirrling, snapping, popping, squealing, screaming, catapolting, zooming, crashing, whirring, clicking - AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!

They found me staggering towards the line for the Ferris Wheel. This is somewhat astounding because, I hate heights. I am built low and streamlined for a reason. I'm built for comfort, not speed and I do not do heights. I rode Wild Thing at Valley Fair once and Eric still has my finger prints tattoed into his forearms.
But, it was quiet and Mom and Julie had already purchased some disount ride tickets. We had 20, just enough for us all to go on one ride. This seemed appropriate. And it was. Although I was constantly bracing myself and couldn't look directly down, I think I fought of the panic long enough to enjoy the view. The ride eventually stopped with us at the tippy top. I could see all of St. Paul spread out around us. I could see the capital and all the people down on the ground enjoying the fair. I could see families and joy and excitement; anticipation and community. I could see it all and lived to tell the tale.

Friday, August 24, 2007

What Begins with Wings

Some nights are more productive than others. Sometimes you come away with lessons to be valued and cherished while other times all you get is a hangover and Diet Coke stains on your t-shirt. Last night, I learned much.
Lesson #1 I am not the target audience for Trocadaros. I was meeting my friend Candace there because it's near where she works and even nearer to Monte Carlo, where we would end up. We were on a mission for wings, but first we wanted cheap drinks. We knew that there were no specials at the Monte. Trocaderos had 2 for 1's! First, I was irritated trying to park because although the building is surrounded by parking lots, none of them are to be used by the citizenry. I found a meter outside of Ribnick furs - have you ever seen that place up close? The pictures of men in women swathed in fur are hilarious. I apologize if you're sensitive to the whole killing of rodents to wear them thing. It is perverse, but even more, these people looked RIDICULOUS!
I giggled as I darted across a rather busy intersection. Round and round I went, where the hell the main entrance was is anybody's guess! Finally, I was in. I was in, and there was Candy with a couple of her new coworkers. They were really nice guys, who got a pizza that they shared with us. Love people who share free food with me!!!
I tried to get the bartender's attention. I could see she was totally swamped by the two other people in there. There was a lot of bustling around. I tried to make out the wine bottles behind the bar. Kenfold's Kanuga Hill something... I tried to flag her down again. Busy, busy, very busy. There was some kind of an event upstairs where everyone was forced to wear these identical maroon golf shirts. I was chatting with Candy and her guys and fighting the irritation that was building up inside me. It finally got so I couldn't hold a conversation, because I was so busy staring at the bartender attempting to get served. Finally! She asked me what I wanted AFTER she offered to refill the guys drinks.
Then I did the dumbest thing possible. I asked for a wine list. I didn't see her again for what seemed like an eternity. (Because, why would you keep the wine list behind the bar?) I'm sure you think I'm exaggerating, but when I arrived, these people all had full drinks. By the time she finally TOOK my order two of the three had finished their drinks, and none of these people were guzzling. I watched the bartender fill my glass with the end of not one, not two, but three end of the bottles bottles of wine. What the heck are they even doing with that many open? You can imagine how it tasted. Like white hot shame. Why did I even try?
We decided one round was plenty and headed off to the Monte Carlo. And there was the seething. I was kind of seething and that's just not... good. But then the sweet coworker guys bought our drinks! It was so lovely of them! Did I mention the love? So, between the seething and the loving I was returned to my usual equilibrium.
The Monte offers free valet services, so I zipped back across the street and drove my car the block and a half over there. I don't ever, ever want to hear a word about Trocaderos again, let alone go past it.
Which brings me to lesson #2 - Free Valet is GOOD. The parking lot guy was so nice! I love parking lot guy. So, free valet rules, take advantage and tip well.
We sat outside and I immediately ordered a dirty martini (sadly they didn't have Hendricks! So, I had to make due with Grey Goose. Wha whaa whaaaaaa) We were planning on meeting up with Andy & Eric, but they weren't there yet. When our gracious waiter Serge returned, I ordered my wings.
It's been eons since I'd been to the Monte Carlo and couldn't precisely remember why I loved these wings so much, only that I did and they were wonderful. I also remembered that the rest of their food, pretty much sucks. And it's expensive. But there were these mythical wings! I couldn't wait. Andy and Eric could get their own. (And they did.)
And then... there they were. My heaping mound of gorgeous, fried yumminess! They come out this golden brown, super crispy and dusted with a mysterious seasoning. We all tried and tried to figure out what all was on there. There is brown sugar, seasoning salt, Cinnamon and cayenne pepper, but there seems to be more... They are these perfect, juicy examples of what all fried chicken should always be. And I love the sweet/savory flavor combination. I tried so very, very, VERY hard to control myself, but probably could have eaten the entire order myself.
We stayed for a few more rounds of drinks and some fun conversation, but I was getting worried about my limited fundage for the night. I knew I was getting low. Candy & I decided to take off for the Saintly city and Andy & Eric had a show to go to at the Fine Line.
We headed to my local pub Skinner's, where Matt was tending bar. I swear, he's been working so much this week, I don't think I'd recognize him if I ever saw his legs. Drinks are so cheap there, that we were able to keep the party rolling. My friend Jeremy hooked up with us at this point - he'd just gotten off work. Responsible. Some of us... were not so much. More drinks always seems like a good idea when you've started at exactly 5 p.m., were originally pissed off and gulped a martini before salty foods. Yeah. Great idea - drinking until you're thirsty again.
My third and final lesson for this happy Slursday was #3 - Know when it's time to take yourself out of the public eye.
Here's a good way to know that you've reached that time:
I walked into the ladies room and there was some girl in there claiming that whatever was wrong with the toilet was NOT her fault. I was drunk enough to completely take her at her word. Of COURSE not. You nicey girl. So, I go in and the seat is a little wet. I gingerly laid down t.p. and sat down. I had to go SO BAD. Then I hear my song come on the jukebox. Jackson! It's Jackson! Jeremy and I have to SING!!!! So I pee as fast as I can, hitch up my britches and dash out there. While shaking my tush to the end of the song, another patron(a regular), runs up to me and discreetly removes the toilet paper that I had hanging off of my twitching fanny.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

State Fair Time

I love that they chose my absolute favorite local artist Michael Birawer to do this year's poster. He's awesome, if you aren't familiar with his work, you should really check it out.
So, I wasn't really planning on going to the fair this year. Sunday's our anniversary and I had - a month ago - made reservations at Heartland. I was so excited because it's really not the sort of thing that we can generally afford, but I had a gift certificate. I was going to be dining on the haute local cuisine! Now, I'll be dining on hot cheese. Not that this is an entirely bad thing. It's just not what I had in mind.
BUT, I think it's a sin in Matt's family if you don't go to the fair. His mom and sister (Peggy of the poor spelling/ stove pushing fame below) have entered baked goods for competition. My mom and sister excitedly called me earlier in the week to let me know that they were coming down and able to get discounted tickets for all of us. Won't that be great!? Well... yeah. I mean, I love them. I want to see them. But dammit I wanted Lenny Russo to dazzle me!
Yeah, I know, I've got to get over it. So, instead, I'm wondering if anybody has any ideas on what should be my first tasty item ingested at the Great Minnesota Get Together? I'll have to go to the food area for the cheese curds - that's not debatable. My mom wants the cream puffs. I usually get a Scotch egg because A.) I'm Scottish and B.) Somewhat Egg Shaped. But what am I missing? What's your favorite fair food?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Land of the Lost 1

El Oven Del Diablo - Continued!

God bless my sister in law Peggy. She's desperately trying to get me to pick up a new stove. Apparently, I complain a lot. Who knew? But, this? This is not an improvement.
It's out on Old Highway 8 in Chaska. I picture a strip mall right next to that waterfall from the opening credits from Land of the Lost. Chaka curiously inspects the insides, watching the wonder that is continuous self cleaning.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Moons over my Hammy

You have got to be kidding me! Some dude in Spain is creating what is supposed to be the finest ham this world has ever seen. The marketing genius, getting this news tidbit out so far in advance of when the "heavenly" piece of meat is set to go on sale (next Christmas.) At the same time, what the hell is he talking about? $2,000 bucks for a HAM? This is a pig we're talking about, right?
What if this is a sign of things to come? Lobster used to be considered peasant food and now it's the height of luxury! Could my tasty bacon be following suit? Could I be facing a future of $40 for a pound of the salty, fatty goodness? Would it then cease to be odd that I still save the bacon fat for cooking in? Bacon fat would be the new truffle oil! Theilen Meat Market will be the new Graceland!
Let's just hope that the huddled masses continue to be allowed access to the delicious meat of the swine. I'm gonna go get me a ham sandwich.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Pass over Picosa

My mother always said that people will live up to your expectations. If you don't trust that someone is going to do the right thing, they probably won't. Or she said something like that - it was probably more eloquent. It's a little fuzzy. Hey, I was 6! But it's so true.
Like, my sister one time had this boyfriend and he was a total doofus. He was this wisp of a white boy who spun records at raves in small towns. He had recreational activities that included attempting to grow what I will call here a "Victory Garden" in my sister's closet while she was still living with my parents. Adorable, right? As soon as she told me about this guy, I said he sounded like a moron. Sure enough, in all the time that they dated, he was nothing but a moron. A complete, utter, draining source of constant inane chatter slowly sapping me of the modicum of decency I try to hold out for my fellow man.
But maybe, perhaps, it was all this fungi's fault. Perhaps if I'd just ever given him a real chance and afforded him the suspended belief that I hold out for those considered innocent until proven guilty - you know, guys like Ken Lay - maybe he would have risen to the ranks of a... CEO, or maybe a politician, someone we can really trust. Instead, and I do blame myself for this, he never stopped talking until she finally closed the door on that painful chapter.
Now, I think I know how it feels. Laura and I decided that since it was possibly the most beautiful day of the summer yesterday that we'd try to find ourselves a patio. I knew that the space that used to be Sophia had reopened as new restaurant. I couldn't remember what the heck the place was called or even what food they served, but I figured, eh, what the hell? It's got a patio and it can't be any worse than any of those other joints down on St. Anthony Main. Besides, I reasoned, the view would be incredible!
I strolled up the cobblestone street and found her on the patio at Picosa. It was lovely. I failed to notice the signs were just taped over the old Sophia signs, but still, it looked nice.
Our poor waiter. The first thing he did was pour water not into Laura's glass, but instead onto her foot. And the rest of the table. He said that the happy hour special was 2 for 1's, dollar tacos and Captain Morgan specials. He didn't seem to know what "rail" meant when I was asking for the specifics on the drink specials. Answer: You can get Bacardi and coke. Anything else - you're on your own. I was just thankful something - make that two somethings - was on the way. I could relate with the poor kid. He must have been new. I've been at my new job for an entire week and I'm amazed at the shit I've managed to screw up. Anyone dealing with me right now must be convinced I'm a complete and utter moron. I pray for patience and understanding. I don't know that people in the ad biz are usually described as such, but I'm in a hopeful mood.
We ordered the beef tacos and the emanadas. I was excited when my taquito arrived in a little basin all by itself. It looked divine. The tortilla was charred, the meat looked slow roasted, there were peppers and tomatoes and roasted garlic! YUM! And... And then I had to go and try and eat it. When I picked it up a flood of tomato juice cascaded down my arm and all over my lap. I tried folding it up burrito style and again I was doused. I don't get where all that liquid was coming from! Anyway, that can be chalked up to eater error, my real problem was the flavor - there was none! I few grains of salt and a chili pepper could really have gone a long way. I took another bite and looked around, sad to see I was still in bland city. I didn't even want the rest. And I know what I'm saying here, but if you put some Taco Bell meat in this tortilla I would have been ecstatic! It bothered me that this all had the hallmarks of being home made, but tasted nothing like it.
The empandadas were better, but not much. The doughnut type dough is wrapped around braised pork, deep fried and served on a tomatillo salsa. The salsa looked fire roasted and toasty - a lot like my favorite store bought salsa. . There were little flecks of salt on top of each one, so at least I knew it wouldn't be under seasoned. So I bit in. It was perfectly cooked, crispy, doughy, the meat fell apart at first bite and yet.... Meeeaaahhh. Just grease - that's all I could taste! Even the salsa was hopelessly bland! That's when it dawned on me. They think I'm a wuss! These people - who probably have crazy culinary skills - are holding back because Minnesotans are known for being big into bland! Sure, I like a mayonnaise sandwich and a side of water crackers as much as the next guy, but I can take it! If any of you remember my whorey addiction to Szchwan food, you'll also know that I really enjoy the hazy after effects of chowing down on some chilis.
Don't be afraid people! I am in the kitchen, and I am taking the heat. It was all so boring and disappointing. Even the drinks were blah. Pooh!!! I want the chili's, I'd love the firey, smokey taste of even some mild poblano in there - hell! I was promised poblano right there on the friggin' menu! And still... nothing. It was so boring.
As a last ditch effort we ordered the calamari. Finally, something with a bit of flavor! I'm happy to report that the breading on the squid was seasoned and it was a nice crispy exterior. It was served with two sauces. One was super sweet and kind of ookey, but the other was a creamy avocado dip that had a nice little kick to it. Delicioso. Now THAT I liked! The calamari was nicely cooked, too, not tough at all. Tender as the snow on a fresh winter's day. We ate all of it.
Still, I wasn't in the mood to attempt another drink order. I read on the Thrifty Hipster that this is a great place to dance and get crazy mad shots on the weekend. Eh, they can have it.
Me and Laura? We went up to Bulldog NE for some of their fantastically heavy handed wine pours... and there may have been some truffled tots devoured.
I'm just disappointed in every joint on St. Anthony Main. You have the best real estate in town - it's true! Especially in the summer! And there's all those goofy bridge gawkers - they can't see anything, but they may be hungry! FEED THEM. And for goodness sake, have the decency to trust that they will enjoy something more sophisticated than a Manwich. Chipotle gives us that trust - and you're all so much better than that! I believe in you.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Deli - O

I just got back from a fantastic lunch at Cecil's. I hadn't been there in ages! I've been spending the week working on getting a real "feel" for unemployement. I'm in my transition period and let me tell you - I am freakin' good at this. I mean really. There are some people this world that need tasks and assignments to really feel their self worth. I am not one of these people. I can honestly tell you that my greatest accomplishment on Wednesday was gradually rolling from the South end of my couch to the North. Sigh. That was a great moment. So, I've decided that this working business is strictly for the birds. Seriously, why should I have to be anywhere at any predetermined time. This is AMERICA.
You know, the Nazi's had flare... they made the Jews where them.
Which brings me to Cecil's. I would probably have spent another productive day of cushion deflating had I not agreed to meet my lovely mother in law Carol for lunch. I've been shorted big time on lunch breaks lately. My job had become this monsterous time suckage moat of enternal doom and now that I'm free, we thought we ought to frolick and Highland Park just sounds like a place you should frolic. Matt came, too. He's on a break between bartending and school.
It was a bit of a struggle for me as those of you in the know, know that I had about half a bottle of rum last night in between a shot and a bottle of Fat Tire. My former employer sent me off with a bang. This was the most enjoyable work function I've ever attended. There may have been one toast that I extended my former coworkers that ended with "So long SUCKERS!" but mostly I think I was pretty graceful.
Oy, and that part where I talked to the bartender that obviously had no idea who I was, even though we've met on many occassions AND I had once a long, and meaningful conversation with him regarding the Replacements awesomeness. Either he a.) genuinely did not remember me or b.) was embarassed by his proximity to the drunk chick. I'm hoping for A.
So for the restorative powers I ordered a bowl of Matzo ball soup (because who doesn't crave soup when it's 90 degrees out?) Also, I got a pastrami with Swiss on rye - a classic sandwich.
I cannot believe I forgot about this place! I used to work in the building that houses Brother's deli and while their pastrami is good - super peppery - they've got nothing on Cecil's. I think it was the added love they put in their sandwhiches. While Brother's tends to go for that New York Soup Nazi type vibe - pretending that your business is not only unneccessary, but kind of annoying - Cecil's is the converse. Somebody's bubby must have labored over these tender little dumplings! The broth was most defintly made recently and made from scrath. This is what you want when you're ailing. I slurruped it down between gulps of water. The effects of the bad ice cubes were dwindling already.
My sandwich was a thing of beauty, too. I only ordered a half and what I got was a perfect serving. The rye bread had a pleasant tugging crust - crisp brown and earthy. The pastrami was shaved impossibly thing and curled up like a little cat naps, nestled in to the melty cheese. (I ordered it cold, but did I mention that it's hotter than a witches hoo haw over here?) The entire affair was divine.
Matt had the chicken salad sandwhich and Carol ordered the egg salad. So, when you're asked - the egg came first. Both were tangy and slightly sweet. The egg salad was creamy and dotted with sweet pickle relish. It was a refreshing take on an old standard. Matt's chicken salad was also a little sweet and tangy with a bright little vinegar note. And everything was wonderful.
I've lost no love for Brother's - that corned beef hash they have on special every Thursday and Friday for breakfast is an all day meal of hangover pulverising bliss, but for over all ambiance and restorative foodstuffs - I've gotta say St. Paul has this one beat.
Now, if you'll excuse me, the poof on that cushion seems to be a little too puffed up for my caring. Better go get that smooshed back down. 30 seconds to Wapner!!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Where I've Been

Sorry for the silence guys! I was having all kinds of crazy things happen with me personally and then I took off for my cabin.

The first new order of business was to find me a new job. Cube life had been draining on me and all of the fun crew that I used to go out with all the time had already left the company. (Except for Jimmy K - who continues to rock it old school style.)

So, I picked up my pencils and left. I'm headed to a new company right across the street - this one has a keg in the office at all times. I think this new place my suit me just fine. Week before last, I was spending all my time either interviewing or worrying. There was almost no good food to speak of and if pressed for information I might have to cop to eating Ramen more than once.

Almost immediately after I got the job, I went on vacation. Nothing says two week notice like taking most of the time off. We went back up to my cabin where there was much good food and laughs. I tried to take some pictures, but haven't been able to get them off of my stupid phone. I'll try to post some on here if I can get that thing to work.

Oh, the food.... And you know that cabin time means nothing but sitting, eating, reading and occasionally swimming. We have this kick ass sauna, too, so many nights were spent sweating out the booze from the night before, before restocking the bloodstream for another go around. The first night we cooked it up to 180 and sat there for as long as we could take it before dashing out and flinging ourselves into the cool lake waters. My mom stopped short causing a sweaty and rather unpleasant pileup at the end of the dock. "Look!" she gasped. There was a low slung, nearly full moon grazing the tree tops, completely red. It wasn't a fading pink or straight scarlet, but it was definitely red. I've never in my life seen a moon like this! We ran into the lake, whooshing and splashing, until settled and cool, we floated on our backs and watched the moon.

The cabin is located in Britt, MN which is right next to the middle of no where. The lake it's on is quiet and the cabin itself is impressive. It was built in 1910 by my great grandparents on my mother's side. It's still all logs and bricks, barely anything has been updated since then save a dishwasher that was added in the 40's and a gas range that was just put in this year. This place is OOOOOOOLLLLD. Most of us stay down in the boat house that used to be an actual boat house, but has now been converted into bedrooms. Every year we wonder, is this the weekend where it tumbles into the sea? Luckily, it wasn't this one. Matt & I took the yellow bedroom. The top two bedrooms are the best spots in the cabins. There's the Aloha room (named for the curtains with the dancing ladies) that is big, spacious and gorgeous with a closet, dresser and even two bedside tables. Next to it is the yellow room, small, cramped with a double bed that leans to one side where if one is not careful and one is rather drunk and tired from a super hot sauna, it is possible that one could roll off the bed in the night causing a terrific crash and one's hip to ache for days like an old lady. I'm just saying that it's possible. And I hate the yellow room.

But, because I am the bigger person and because it was her birthday I was generous enough to concede the Aloha room to my younger, smaller, single, not having to sleep with the chaos that is Matt sister. I'm sure she appreciates why she'll hear about this for the rest of the year.

The food highlights were the porketta, Fraboni's meat products and the potato pancakes. We actually bought the proketta, which was odd for me because I usually make it from scratch. It's not a common product around these parts and places that do make it usually cover it in MSG and other crap you don't need. Corn Syrup. Why? Why? WHY do people put that in everything!? It's horrible. We were going to get the Fraboni's one, but it was about fifteen thousand dollars, so we just got the Super One generic one. It was one tasty hunk of meat. We cooked it on the grill - slow and low, probably about two hours. There was a gorgeous little smoke ring and all these crispy hunks of charred fat that was a little slice of porkey, fatty perfection. We had sandwiches for days!

The next morning my mom made us potato pancakes for breakfast. They were delicious. I whipped up a little Greek yogurt/jalapeno sauce and my mom made a fresh raspberry syrup. I love that the recipe was written in my Dad's slanted scrawl. It was good to have a little bit of his presence there. The recipe is incredibly simple. We just used Simply Potatoes, flour, baking soda, salt and pepper. I really think that's all there was. They took forever to fry, in the steamy hot kitchen, but Mom was a real trouper. We had plenty to eat. She served them with some of the Fraboni's bacon. Now, you might think I'm a little insane over this stuff, but you would be wrong. I swoon for their products. My love affair with their meat started simply enough. A couple of years ago, while visiting my grandma in Virgina, we happened upon some breakfast sausages of theirs. They had a really porky flavor - which is a simplistic way to describe the sweet and fresh flavor. They tasted like well treated meat, sage and real maple syrup. Then there were the porketta sausages and the wild rice, last time we got the Italian and they were all delicious!! A pack of Fraboni's bacon is thick sliced, chewy, meaty and salty like my Grandma Aggie's disposition. A full pack is only $5! Life on the range might not be easy. It's tough to get a job that pays much and the winters can be brutal. But dayum, if ya'll don't have some tasty pork products!

We also had a T-bone steak that was so freakishly thick that my sister couldn't believe it was only one cut of meat and my mom was nervous about how long to cook it. (For perspective: my mom's cooking abilities could put those wonks on Top Chef to shame.) That was incredible. Mom and I took turns sucking the marrow out of the bone. When we finished our faces were shiny and dotted specks of pepper and char. Ahhhhhhh.

Another night I did a large antipasto platter for us to graze on. And I'm only mentioning it here because although it was tasty - it was not spectacular. But it was very, very pretty! And I have a picture! On that goddamn phone!!!! Hopefully here: is where I'll post that.

Update: (Not the best picture, but here you have it.)

It was olives, rosemary and onion bread, chiabatta, melon wrapped in Capoccollo, the ripest, berry best tomato ever, fresh picked blueberries, leftover steak and porketta. We were drinking Crinzana Temperanillo - which I think was probably an old bottle. Mountain Iron might not be big on the temperanillos, but still it was good.

Wednesday, we were trying to temper the images on the TV with the fact that it was Julie's birthday. For dinner we grilled cheddar brats and my mom had gotten her angel food cake:

After we ate cake drizzled with hot fudge and raspberry sauce, we turned up the boombox and danced to Ricky Nelson and Sam Cooke. Julie does a fantastic jitterbug.

It was so hard to leave the place. But, to paraphrase the Big Chill, how much food, fun and love can you handle in just one week? So, Matt and I packed our cooler with leftovers and freed the nightcrawlers. We had a big party to get to back in the cities.