Thursday, January 31, 2008

Manhattans Tries to Take Me Out

Here we are before things went horribly awry. There's Laura, moi and Andy. We were dressed to the nines for this magazine event that Andy had been invited to. Surreptitiously standing before me is the drink that would be the downfall of an otherwise auspicious begining. See how preeeety? Andy really should wear more red. Laura and I are lovely in curls and velvet.

We convened, at my suggestion at Manhattans. The event was being held on the top floor of Solera (which I've some how avoided going to up until now.) I thought a little pre drink before the party was a good idea. This picture was taken just after I arrived and before my drink was served to me. The limoncello martini in front of me was Laura's, but also what I ordered. The bartender took his sweet time in bringing it to me. A lovely waitress was kind enough to take this shot.

After the moment had been properly captured I swung myself up onto the stool. There were some tempting smells wafting from the kitchen. We contemplating trying the calamari again. It was a slow night, with barely anyone else in the place. Still, I had to wait, patiently, while the bartender talked to antoher server and the bar back before he got around to mixing my drink.

When it arrived Laura suggested a toast. We raised our glasses. "To - "

She didn't get any further because as I raised my glass, the panel under the bar where my knee was leaning popped out. My leg slid out from under me, the drink spilled everywhere, all over Laura's dress, the bar and my vintage beaded clutch. I barely caught myself before slamming a cheek into the marble bar. I was so confused. What the hell just happened? I hadn't even had a sip of my cocktail yet - stone sober, how does one nearly fall off a bar stool?

Andy grabbed a bar rag and I tried to sop up what I could with napkins. I felt so terrible. The drink's super sugary rim had dissolved and everything was sticky - including Laura's velvet dress. It was all spotted. I fretted over my purse, a gift from my long gone great aunt Niecey - once wife of Cedric Adams, a very glamorous lady about town in her day. I crouched under the bar to see what had happened.

I heard Andy ask the bartender if he would replace my drink, he asked someone else, "Should I give her another limoncello martini?"


My inspection showed that the panel was a really thin piece of plywood and the rest of the bar was also made of pretty thin wood. The panel must have just come unglued. It lay on the floor, leaned back against the ice machine. I poked my head back up. Glass, sticky, half empty still sat before more. The bartender had done nothing and was completely unconcerned about what had just happend. Would asking him to wipe down the bar with a wet rag really be such a waste of his precious time? Honestly, it kind of scared me. I could envision chipping a tooth on the marble, or actually falling and banging my head on something.

The bartender (bar stander, more like it) ignored us. I said, "I can't believe I broke the bar... I don't know if you can fix it?"

"I'll fix it after you leave," was his weary reply.

What the hell was this guy's story? You've got a total of seven patrons, three of them actually at the bar and you can't be bothered? Where's my new drink? I tipped back what was left in the glass, anxious to get the hell out of Dodge. Wiped off my sticky lips and reapplied my lipstick.

We were all disappointed and angry. If this is their standard of service, they can forget it. Last time I tried to go there, the food was only so so and the service was spotty. I won't be back. There was not one thing about my entire time there that would ever convince me that it was worth the price of admission. I'd rather start a night at Rock Bottom or Palomino than have to put up with this crap. I get it if you hate your job, but would it kill you to even be human about the fact that a lady was almost felled by shoddy construction?

We bitched as we walked across the street, trailing the other four bar patrons, also fabulous, glamorous ladies headed to event. Big tips for Crabass tonight. Maybe he could take a time out and think about what he's doing in the "service" industry. Clearly, he wasn't qualified to be a bartender, ticket taker or WalMart greeter.

Luckily, once we got to the party, our night was so fabulous that I was almost able to forget the unfortunate incident. Eric soon arrived and the free wine and champagne cocktails (guava cava - how cute!) were flowing freely. There was a fashion show that was fun. It was almost like a live viewing of Project Runway, without a weepy designer to be judged. And, p.s. the male models were GORGEOUS. Oh, my heavens, what fine specimen they chose. The girls behind me were whooping. Being too cool for such things, I rooted through my bag of goodies, Oh! Neiman Marcus notebook - sweet!! "Skinny Water?" What are you trying to say?

Once the show was over, the food was laid out. There were spicy veal meatballs served over a sweet and sour slaw and empanadas crafted from slow braised short ribs, served over a sweet tomato jam and garnished with balsamic reduction and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. I think the embellishments might have been a bit much, but the food was delicious. There was also a wonderful smoked salmon dish served of celery root, julienned and mixed with mayonaise and ground pepper. The only off dish was the shrimp kabobs. They were served in little espresso cups. I pulled out the skewer and looked at Eric.

"Why would they serve only the end of the tail?"

"Don't eat that! Look, it's got a bite mark. Someone took a bite out of that."

Ew. He went back and retrived an un-chomped serving. It was disgustingly fishy.

My night was saved by my wonderful friends and our fabulosity. And, if that sample of the food was what Solera served, I've got to go back.

And, as I said, I'm never setting foot in Manhattan's again.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Al Vento - Pancetta Tastes Like Comfort

To say Aisha knows me well is to say fish are keen on water. We met in Mr. Patruzzi's fourth grade reading class. She scared the hell out me. She was all dolled up, with extremely braided hair that pulled up on her eyebrows. She looked sugar and spice from the outside, but burning in her eyes was the blatant disregard for the establishment's rules. She was either going to kick my ass (and since I sported a short hair cut, making rhyming my name so much funnier, I had a feeling this was the way she was leaning) or we would become best friends. Thankfully, I'd chased down her twin brother on the playground in an attempt to kick him in the nuts earlier in the week. I guess the way she saw it was that anyone who didn't like her brother was a friend of hers.
We've been more or less inseparable since. Sure we've grown, changed and occasionally drifted, but we always come back around. We've grown up together like sisters from other mothers. (I'm through with rhyming.) When I told her about Julie's sickness, she insisted that we go out to dinner. I wouldn't be able to get up to Duluth until the next day, so she figured we needed to do something that would ease my mind. Of course, nothing eases my mind more than a candlelit dinner with wine and excellent food.
I'd been meaning to get over to Al Vento for a while, but I'd heard that it was nearly impossible to get into. Then again, that was probably a couple of years ago. I easily made our Thursday night reservations and we were seated right away. The entire room is softly lit, with lots of wavering warm candle glow.
Trying to watch the bottom line, I ordered their house red wine and tried not to grimace. $5 a glass. I braced myself. It arrived and I swirled in my glass, taking a tentative sniff. She'd opened a fresh bottle at our table, so I was happy that I wasn't getting week old wine. The nose didn't indicate much, but the flavor was surprisingly good. I could drink this! It was pleasant and soothing. I allowed myself to sink into my chair a bit.
Aisha arrived, resplendent in a full length black coat, looking every bit the professional woman that she is. It was freezing outside and she brought a gust of cold in with her. The waitress took her coat and she greeted me, "Hey there, lady!"
I encouraged her to try the wine and she agreed with my assertion that it was an amazingly tasty glass for only $5 ($22 for a bottle. We should have gone that route.)
We decided on starting with the artichoke and walnut bruschetta as an appetizer. She ordered the fettuccine with black, tiger shrimp, while I eventually decided to try the bucatini with pancetta and red pepper flake spiced mother sauce. The service was calm and easy. The room is so cozy that it was easy for her to keep an eye on us.
Our appetizer arrived with three little crostini's topped with a creamy, faintly green dollop. The artichokes and walnuts had been pureed with olive oil and garlic and sat upon the little toasts. The texture was down comforter soft, little bits of crunch and texture from the artichoke leaves, but mostly fluffy and smooth. The garlic had a decent bite to it, but since we were both widows for the evening (hers in a band, me pimpin him out to the bar) garlic stank breath wouldn't affect the rest of our nights. Even after we finished those, I couldn't keep my hand out of the bread basket. We were served salt topped foccaccia with olive oil to dip it in. Moments ago I'd said I wasn't hungry. I now realized that I'd been lying.
As our food was laid down, I became a little bit giddy. Everything looked wonderful. Aisha's fettuccine looked handmade, buttery ribbons of pasta, flecked with tarragon and boulders of shrimp. My bucatini was a gorgeous mountain of pasta coated in a downy layer of Parmesan cheese brightened by flecks of Italian parsley. I dug in greedily and slurped up a mouthful of bright tomatoes, earthy, salty, fall apart meat and spritely parsley. I miss my herb garden. It's been months since I had a fresh herb. The parsley, usually just a garnish, was actually a welcome accompaniment. The red pepper flakes cooked into the tomato sauce gave it a nice back layer of heat. The pasta (not unlike spaghetti, but hollow) was expertly cooked al dente, toothy. This is exactly the type of comfort food I long for on these endless winter nights.
Aisha's dish was just as divine and more dressed up for a cocktail party, than my fuzzy slippers style pasta. Every flavor was clean, simple and elegant. The shrimp were cooked perfectly, not fishy or chewy or anything that I always worry about when ordering a shrimp pasta dish. A couple of stinkies and the entire dish is ruined and tastes like liking the bottom of one of Aisha's salt water fish tanks (or at least I'm guessing. I've never actually tried such a thing.) To the contrary, the pasta was perfectly blanched and swept into this delightful, buttery sauce. One taste of her dish and I knew that were it mine, I'd inhale the whole thing without a second thought.
We sat, savored and talked. There was some reminiscing, concern about Julie and a little light planning of her wedding (upcoming this June.) It was salve on my worried soul. I couldn't do anything to help my mom or sister, but at least I had a really good friend who swept in and helped me.
For desert we pondered the list, but settled on martinis instead. I had a run of the mill dirty martini. They use actual good olives, not just those jarred things, but really nice olives. I was impressed. Aisha got the Esrpessotini and it was sinfully delicious. Frothy espresso mixed with Kahlua and vodka, floating in the middle of the glass were three tiny espresso beans. Now that is my kind of dessert.
Rather than parting ways, we decided to go back to my place, sip another martooni and talk into the night. I can't believe it, but I stayed up until 1 in the morning. Just as always, the conversation never lagged and never felt so comfortable, safe and warm.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Short Bus

After wrestling with my stupid car that seems to be taken a cue from my other household Nemisis. I decided it's time to board the bus with buddy Al and get on with making the world a greener, more energy efficient place. As much as I am loathe to spend time in tight quarters with other people - especially first thing in the morning, it was time to give mass transit a try. I had yet to attempt a bus ride to anywhere since we moved out of Uptown.
After a particularly harrowing commute to work on Tuesday, I decided it was time to stop being stupid and start getting real - a convertible, on Minnesota roads, under foot of thousands of inconsiderate SUV drivers is a truly useless mode of transportation.
So, I carefully checked the schedule and printed out my best route last night.
Then I left the paper sitting on my desk.
I got up at the crack of dawn this morning and grabbed my laptop. I tried to sneak over to the couch in the dark. As I lowered my left foot there was a distinctively delicate, grating crunch. I had just stepped into a giant pile of glass that had as recently as last night been a Guinness glass. Gingerly I retracted my foot, "Shit!"
"Mmm, whazizz it, sweethaat?" came from the bedroom.
"I just stepped in a huge pile of glass!" The glass you left on the coffee table even though you know it's the cat's favorite game to play in the night - glass tipping. It's like cow tipping, but all the rage with the urban feline of today.
"You okay?"
I wiggled my toes, still standing in an improvised crane. "I think so." Ever so slowly I lowered my foot behind me and limped back to the light switch. There weren't any more noises from the bedroom. I don't know what I expected, but in my dull, coffee starved brain I was thinking, "Well the least you could do is come OUT here and SEE if I'm okay since it's all pretty much YOUR fault." But I didn't. Two and a half years of marriage have taught me not to share those sorts of things. No, instead you just bottle them up into a tight little package that will eventually explode into a tearful tirade somewhere inappropriate and somewhere probably around the 14th of the month.
I got out the broom and swept up the glass and glared at that cat. She slowly blinked. Devil spawn.
Finally, I was able to pull up the laptop and find what my route was supposed to be. I could either take a bus going into downtown St. Paul, transfer to another bus OR I could take a bus to the airport, board a train and take that downtown. I like the trains. They're all cute and new and zippy. They make driving down Hiawatha a nightmare, but they were shiny! Also, I've nearly been run off the road by that reckless 94 Express bus that connects the Twin Cities. No way.
So, I tossed back a reheated two day old cup of coffee, gritted my teeth and bundled up. I waddled down the snow covered street. No one had shoveled their sidewalks since the last time it snowed and my Rocket Dog tennies are not built for practicality. I made my way over to the bus bench in front of the Holiday. Okay..... bus come now! No...... I tried to stand patiently. I slid my hands into my pockets and tucked in my elbows. There were about five school buses that passed me, but no city bus.
I don't know if you noticed, but it was FREEZING. Bus come... NOOOW? Bus now! Grarrgh. I huffed, which steamed up the inside of my parking and immediately that froze into little ice crystals and if I had a bit of a mustache - and I'm not saying I do, because that would just be a lapse in keeping up with a certain beauty regime. But if I did, the metal from the top snap would have them frozen to the front of my face in a rather unappealing and painful manner. FINALLY, the bus arrived. I climbed on, dumped two dollars worth of quarters down the gullet of the beast and grabbed my transfer. There was an open seat near the front. I plunked down and started to thaw.
I couldn't believe how quickly it zipped along! In no time I was at the airport. I glanced around nervously. My strategy was to watch everyone else disembark before I did. I figured chances were good that most of these people would be headed for the train. They probably were. But I lost most of the group as I followed the one guy that was heading to the tram that goes to the main terminal. Thank God I didn't get on that thing. I realized that it didn't look quiiiiite right then looked around. There was a large, idiot proof sign pointing me to the train station. Seeing that there were stairs or an escalator, I idiotically chose the stairs. I didn't realize that they were crafted after that stairway bought by the lady we all kno-ooo-ooow (insert Bonham drum solo here.) I was getting vertigo going all the way down these suckers. Where's exactly do the trains depart from? And who is that conductor? SATAN? Am I in hell, or just feel like it? No, I couldn't be in hell because the temperature was steadily dropping.
It really was beautiful. There were the two tunnels and a big dragon fly wing etching on the floor. It's just so pretty! And urban! I didn't feel like I was even in Minnesota! The train whooshed in and hopped on board. A transit cop asked to see my ticket and I showed him and sat down. I tried to read my book and look like a normal commuter, when really I felt like a country child in the city. Geezum! Wouldja lookit that?
In no time at all I was dropped off in front of Neiman Marcus. I'd made it! I'm a commuter! I'm a commuter!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Buster's - We Did It!

Mwa HA! We did it! We dined at Buster's! Last time we attempted to eat there, things went poorly. This time I would not be out manuevered - I would EAT, WIN AND SIT! Maybe not exactly in that order, but success would be mine. Our strategy was deceptively simple - we are old and married (read - lame.) We shall do what the old married people do and get there as early as possible and eat quickly so as to get home at a reasonable hour. We would play our music at an appropriate level and Sarah and I would wear sweaters to gaurd us against the chill!
Matt and I had already laid down our cool points at the alter of the Turf Club. I used to go there every Tuesday - I knew everybody and I'd like to say I did alright with the fellas, if ya know what I'm sayin'. A little drinking, possibly singing, chatting up a bunch of posturing musicians, 40 cigarettes and a drive through Taco Bell and I was SET for work the next day. Totally cool. This week - after a quiet, uninteresting dinner at Muffaletta, we decided to stop in for a drink. Dude. We were the only people in there that didn't work there. It was the dead hour between the day time University Avenue drunks and before the bands started to show up for the night. We.Are. LAME.
True to form, Matt, Tony and Sarah were all early. I had a small pressing matter at work that kept me behind for just a bit. I arrived at 5:32 and everyone was seated and ready. I tried to get comfortable at the tall table Matt had chosen, but my stubby little legs just didn't reach anything. They just dangled uselessly under me. I would have suggested that we move to a booth, but they were quickly filling up. What is it with this place? Would it just KILL the payroll to have someone watch the door and control this chaos?
The waitress suggested the home fried potato chips and Matt wanted to try the chorizo corn fritters for appetizers. The fried chips were from some seriously large russets and served with a side of French onion dip that was fashioned after the Lipton soup variety, but was actually make with real onions. Tony fears onions, but was able to happily much away on the cream cheese once the offending onion was removed. He's funny.
The corn fritters were excellent. Fried, sweet, corny balls with super spicy sausage tucked into the center. They were served above a chipotle creme fresh that was wonderful. It was a cool, creamy, smokey answer to the fried dough balls. There were three huge ones and we all tried to be polite about sharing. It was hard. We're a polite group, but chuck a fried ball of wonderful into the fray and things have the potential to get ugly. Tony's deft with a butter knife, but I commend Sarah's stealth and quick fingers. She's good for an ol married broad.
She and I were sipping the wine of the week - a zinfandel that usually goes for $9 a glass, but was on special for $7. We should have just ordered a bottle - it would have been cheaper. It was good, but not great. The wines struck me as a little over priced, but it is a beer place. If you're not sure what beer you would like to order, the waitresses are ready to pour off a double shot of whichever brew you're considering for a quick taste test. Both Tony and Matt were pleased with their selections, but tried several more over the course of our dinner. They all seemed wonderful, but I have a hard time working up a beer craving when it's minus kabillion outside.
For an entree, Matt and I ordered the bison burger to share. Tony had the chicken pesto pizza and Sarah had the salad with the maple vinegrette. I noted that Tony had ordered a pizza the last time we had dinner together. He's a creature of habit, that one.
In keeping with our old people theme of the evening, I asked Matt if he'd like me to cut up his burger into managable pieces and dip them in water before he tried get them down. I didn't want the food upsetting his delicate disgestive track. He didn't answer, but looked at me in a tired sort of way. Perhaps his aid was not turned up to proper volume.
Our burger was probably the best bison burger I've ever had. It came with a generous scoop of chilli seasoned cream cheese. We scraped most of it off. The flavor added a lot, but that was just too much. There seemed to be mayo of some sort on the bottom of it, too. They killed any hopes of claiming this was a healthier choice than a regular burger, but no matter. The bun was cold, too - that could stand to be improved. Other than that, the flavor was just amazing. It was crispy charred on the outside and disintigratingly tender on the inside. It was slightly under done, but that was just fine because I'd rather have it mooing (grunting...? Braying? Snorting? What's a bison do?) than be served a charred rememberance of an oven floor. The seasoning on the burger married beautifully (aw! MARRIED) with the spicy, smooth taste of the cream cheese.
The fries were clearly made in house in that charming, irregular dark brown way that home made fries can be. I was surprised to find that I even really enjoyed the house ketchup. I've always believed that Heinz figured it out and everyone else should just give it up. Yes, I like to avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup if possible, but a little dab of ketchup doesn't hurt anything! Their house ketchup was good! Tomatoey, spicy, mellow, complex - it was amazing! I couldn't believe that I liked it.
Sarah's salad was good, if a little uninspired. I'd made a maple vinegrette salad for a dinner party that Andy and I threw last weekend so I'm totally biased.
Tony's pizza was lovely. The chicken wasn't dried out at all and there was all kinds of cheese all over the place. The crust may have been a little under done. That's about it, though.
This is exactly what we Midwesterners seem to want. Reasonable food at a reasonable price, but maybe done just a little better, a little tweaked from the standard fare. We're not talking crazy. Something reasonable and practical. That's exactly what there is to be found at Buster's. It's reasonable and good. I do hate the seating thing, though. I want that to change. I had dropped my sweatshirt on the floor and almost forgotten it. When I went back in I got the hairy eyeball from the girl who took my still warm seat. Dude, back off. You can have the table. Jeez.
Busters seems a lot like the Bulldog NE of South Minneapolis. The last couple of times that I've been to Bulldog, it does seem to be slipping a bit. I'd better go check it again. Tonight, Bulldog, tots, Candy and Bobby. I'll let you know what we think. If I make it all the way until 8 o'clock when the Wildman Wizz shows up. There is a very real and sad possibility that I'll be on my way home and in bed. I was swathed in chill pants by 8:15 last night. What are you kidding me!? With this weather and the young kids today - ahhh! Who needs the hassles? Am I right?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

T - Express

Yesterday I met up with Aisha for a quick lunch to recap the dinner party that Andy had thrown on Saturday night. It had been such a great party that it actually inspired new in-jokes. From here on out, I say rate something on a scale of 1 - 17, every one of those in attendance are likely to say either 9 or TUNA'S! And much hilarity will ensue.
Of course, when I tried to explain it to Aisha, the whole story falls flat in one of those "Guess you had to be there..." moments - so I'll spare you. It was funny, though. ( It's a big hat. It's funny. )
We had to figure out where we were going to eat and since I was (shocker!) trying to skimp on money, I suggested the new T Express Chinese take out place. It's located in the same building as Kieran's. It would be an easy two block walk in the summer, but since yesterday's temperatures was hovering around the subarctic level, we took the sky way. The winding and turning of trying to get there shaved 20 minutes off our lunch break.
The people working there were enthusiastic and friendly, offering free samples of anything you might want to try. This meant that I, of course, had to sample everything.
The Tea House in St. Paul has been garnering top reviews from all over the place. It seems like everyone who has gone there has fallen in love with their food. Because it's all of a 10 minute drive, I haven't made it over there yet. It's because it's to the East of where I live. If I'm going in any direction, it's Westward, back to my beloved Minneapple. I hoped that their new fast food place would at least come close to the flavor experience of the real thing.
On our epic journey, ring slung around my neck as Aish urged me onward, we passed no less than a dozen Chinese places. Where have I been? I didn't know about any of them other than Ah Sa Wan, which has made me want to Ah So Die the last time I ate it. It's going to be a bit of a tough sell for these guys to make a go of it. Their location is pretty bad and the competition is fierce. The one thing they have going is that it is the only authentic Szechwan food that you can get downtown.
I sampled the Chung King chicken and it was good, but a little closer to Lee Ann Chin's Peking chicken than I would have preferred. It wasn't as good as what I had at Little Szechwan (my new standard in Szechwan and current food obsession.) There were a couple of more standard Chinese food items, chicken and mushrooms, Broccoli Beef and Kung Pao chicken. I looked over the Family Tofu, fried, brown, but somehow desolate looking. I decided to order the Spicy Beef. It was covered in peppers and looked blazing hot.
"You like spicy?" the woman behind the counter asked me.
"Yes, oh yeah."
"This really, really hot."
I smiled and nodded.
"Have you had these?" she gestured towards the wrinkled green beans.
I shook my head, "No, I haven't - I just want the one thing."
"You should try these. They're really good. Here, just have one."
Okay, okay, thrust you free food upon me. I'll take it if I have to. She was right, though. They were really, really good. Salty and garlicky. "You're right. I'll have those, too, with the steamed rice."
Aisha got the beef and broccoli. It looked too innocuous for me. That was clearly not something that she, or her coworkers would regret her ordering. Pssh - wuss!
I greedily dug in to my dish. They weren't kidding. This stuff was really spicy. My nose threatened to run. I couldn't stop, though. I scooped up another bite with a bit more white rice. It was hot, tender and flavorful. The beef was flecked with tiny studs of searing Szechwan peppers. It had been sauteed in oil with bok choy and bean sprouts. It was good and not nearly as greasy as the same dish at Little Szechwan. It seems wrong comparing the two, though. It's the same dish, but different. All in all, it was tasty, but suffered from being sold as take out. The flavor and textures made evident that this dish had been sitting on the warmer for a while. The beans, too, but the flavor was so new that I didn't even care.
They seemed to have been cooked at high heat with soy sauce, sesame seeds and lots of fried crispy garlic. The texture was still full and chewy, they weren't limp at all. Fantastic.
I inhaled almost everything before I even got Aisha past the appetizer portion of our dinner party story. I couldn't stop. Plus, I'd skipped breakfast and was pretty famished.
Also, I can never get enough of the people watching in downtown Minneapolis. One woman walks by in Louboutin boots with perfectly coiffed, edgy hair cut and then a homeless fellow in a top hat follows. There's the lady that yells out God's take on current events in the Target skyway and the guitar player that roams singing breathtaking covers of Dylan or the Indigo Girl's Gallelio. This wold is crazy and it all seems to be encompassed in these few blocks that surround me. I only hope it's a one way mirror and no one is gasping, "Oh my God, did you see that!? She totally just shoved an entire fistful of green beans into her mouth! Sick!"

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

This Ever Happen to You?

I got up a little early this morning and took my time while leaving the house. I changed the cat litter, brought Matt some water now that he's picked up the Death Cough I'd been suffering with over the weekend. I thought about making coffee, but didn't. I stared into the refrigerator, waiting for it to reveal its secrets to me. What is in that bowl? Are those ramen noodles and ... ham? What the hell is that? I pulled out a congealed bowl of goo, thought better of it and then set it back down. Wiping my hands off on my skirt I figured it was about time to go.
I pulled on my green Anne Taylor coat and slid on my new cashmere lined gloves. I love these things. I kicked the cat away from the door and tromped out to the garage. I slid the key into the car door and easily popped up the lock. I reached for the door and pulled. Nothing happened. I frowned at the lock and then tugged again. Okay... I locked the door and unlocked it again. Still, the door wouldn't opened.
I peered into the car trying to see if the seat belt had gotten jammed in the door. No, that looked fine. I whacked at the lock with the heel of my hand. Not only was it obvious that this did no good, but it hurt. So, I employed what my Mama gave me and took a swing at the door with my ample hips. The car rocked back a bit. Nothing.
I took a more aggressive approach and kind of put my whole body into whacking against the door. I don't understand what happened. I washed the car, but that was on Saturday. How could the door be frozen shut? Giving up on the driver's side, I squeezed around the disgusting contents of my garage.
When we'd moved in, the people who own the house took nothing out of the tiny garage. I had to artfully stack three chairs on top of a dryer with all sorts of odd car parts, laundry sorter, Rubbermaid tubs full of papers and empty Heineken mini kegs. There's all this saw dust and mouse evidence on the shelf by the front passenger side of the car. I ew! ew! ew!ed my way around and tried that door. Again the door unlocked easily, but wouldn't budge.
Well, what the hell. I'd be damned if I was taking that stinky bus ride that lasts about two hours. There had to be a way to get in.
I tried locking and unlocking the door over and over while gently coaxing her into submission by whining, "Come OOOOOOOONNN!!!" The last time I turned the key all the way to the left suddenly all four of the windows of the car rolled down automatically.
That's new.
I turned the key back and the windows went up, and the lock went down, car beeped, alarm engaged. What the hell kind of a safety feature is that?
So, I did it again, and the windows all rolled down obediently. I wasn't exactly sure how I was going to get out once I got to work, but I knew how I was getting in the car.

Friday, January 04, 2008

In the Loop in Minneapolis

You know, I don't even care that I'm still wearing buffet pants. I don't care that my throat is raw, my hair is limp and eyes are puffy. These holiday days have been so worth it. We finally had our last hurrah on Sunday with Matt's family. His mom was kind enough to wait a week for their family's Christmas. There were toddlers running rampant and the food I made turned out beautifully. (Pork Roast, a creamy potato casserole from Cook's Country magazine and salad with clementines, pomegranate seeds and crystallized ginger.) Best of all I won the Inappropriate Snowman in our white elephant exchange. It holds beverages and has a spigot placed about two thrids of the way down his body. It's sick. I developed an intense and powerful craving for Eggnog.
You would think with so much fun and revelry that I'd be ready to jump on the diet bandwagon and ask penance from the Liquor Gods for all of my sins. But you would be wrong. Oh, no - the good times don't stop rolling for this chicky.
Twice now I've gone to the Loop for happy hour and I'm happy to report that it's a nice spot for it. It's too far from the heart of downtown to walk to - for me, anyway. It's located where Mel's Beauty bar used to be. It's sort of across the street from Cuzzy's.
I met Laura there one night - right before her big trip to Europe and last Wednesday for a little holiday recap with Cands. While I was there with J.Lo the service was abysmal. I don't blame the young waitress. She was the only person working the entire bar on a Thursday before the holiday weekend. Cands and I sat at the bar and the bartender was incredibly attentive and smiley. I think he loved me. Poor soul. But I digress.
The wine list is heavy on the Barefoot wines. I had one glass once and that was plenty for me. It might have been subliminal, but I swear it tasted of feet. The tap beer selection was average and they do have a specialty drink list. Laura ordered the Apple martini and it took her about an hour to finish. This is remarkable when you consider that she's from Nordeast. I've never seen a beverage so delicately sipped through those pursed lips. I tried a taste. It occurred to me that there is a reason that cough syrups aren't entirely tasty. Anyone who's wandered around on too much 'Tussin knows why. I don't understand why anyone would intentionally flavor something ordered from a bar with that distinctive Tussin flavor. God bless her, though. She eventually muscled it down and we both switched to rum and cokes.
All of the food that I've had there was been good. It's what I think of when I think of happy hour foods - heavy on the fryer and pizzas. Thankfully, though, it wasn't the same Sysco manufactured frozen poppers and chicken fingers that so many other bars serve. Their food does appear to be made on the premises and it's a little more imaginative than fat French fries and cold ketchup.
On the two occasions I ordered the wings with bourbon sauce, beer battered chicken fingers with fries, grilled tofu skewers and the crab dip. That is correct. I have no shame. Also, on the Laura trip - Bobby and a friend of his joined us briefly. They each ordered pizzas and raved, but I felt a little Violet and turned down their gracious offers to share.
The wings were perfectly crispy and impossible to eat in any sort of lady like fashion. While the sauce I had selected promised to be bourbon, it was much more like a simple barbecue sauce. TGIFridays may have warped my impressions of a bourbon sauce anyway. They were slightly sticky, sweet and smokey. They reminded me a bit of the Kalbi wings at Fabulous Fern's. Fern's have a better sauce, but these Loop wings were much more meaty and crispy. A better wing over all. I want to go back and try another sauce on them.
The crab dip was the first thing that Laura and I had last time I'd been there. We had been waiting forever. It was pretty obvious to us that the waitress forgot to put in the order. Once it did finally arrive, we descended upon the molten cheese like turkey buzzards on a song bird. There was no talking - no time to talk! Eating! It's an achingly familiar appetizer, but they've managed to give this one a little tweak, too. It's pleasantly crabby - there was a ton of crab meat in there. And it wasn't that Swanson's fake-you-out grab stuff. This was actually once found int he body of a crustacean. There were also little bits of chopped up shrimp mixed in with the gooey sauce and covered under a crispy cheese shell.
The grilled tofu arrived next. It has the distinctive texture of French Toast. It was crispy and browned on the outside, but gave way to a creamy, fluffy texture when bitten in to. They were served on a tasty bed of coconut rice mounded into a pineapple ring. I thought the pineapple was a bit much, but Laura disagreed, declaring the rice the best thing on the plate. I loved those skewers. It was so nice to have something to much on that wasn't completely guilty. There wasn't any batter and it wasn't fried. It was just virtuous that I didn't feel guilty about the next plate that was place before me.
Big, thick, light beer batter encrusted chicken strips. They were wonderful. The batter shattered as I bit into my first piece, tender, white chicken nestled below. There were only three of them, but oh, how I delighted in our time together. The fries were good as well, as was the delicious ranch dipping sauce (because I needed more calories in this snog-fest with food.) I say, without shame, that I ate every last fry and would have licked the sauce ramekin had Bobby and friend not just arrived. Nobody wants a greeting hug from a person with ranch dressing dripping off their nose.
That was when it hit: maximum capacity in the skinny jeans! And this was before I even left for the SeaquistMcNeilGiblinFamilyFoodFest. So, yeah, spandex is my friend. And I'm not going to feel ashamed! No. Those Weight Watcher contemplating days are behind me. I've moved on to a more comfortable, squishy pasture. I will sit and my couch and spread! I will define lethargy and no man, woman or child shall be able to surpass my channel flicking abilities! Well, at least until the next happy hour is scheduled. And when that happens, here is where I'll be:

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Club the Was

Matt just called me with some terrible news. Mayslack's has changed their club sandwich! The sandwich that we shared and found love over is no more. Now, when you order a Club you get that generic thing that every other restaurant has on their menu.
Once they had the most brilliant sandwich creation ever graced by bacon and now they have nothing! I'm never going there again. No! I don't care what you say! Besides, Maverick's beats Mayslack's meat every day of the week (except Sunday, when they're closed.)
What they used to have was a sandwich that Matt and I held so dear to our hearts. It was after that meal that we knew we were destined to be together. The stars aligned and heaven shown down upon us and our greasy basket of goodness.
I feel like I should tell you more about what was so wonderful about this sandwich, but why? Why bother? It's not even THERE. It's like it never even EXSISTED. They killed Sammy!! You BASTARDS!!
Sometime, when the pain isn't quite so fresh, I'll explain the brilliance of separating the hot meats from the cool crispy shredded lettuce and mayo with thick slices of Swiss cheese. I'll rhapsodize about the grilled, juicy meats and the thick, smokey bacon. I'll try to conjure the crunch the cripsy bread produced. Maybe I'll even find a way to share the soft words my beloved blessed his meal with. And I'll recall how his friend Mark disgustedly turned to him later, upon hearing the retelling of our tale and said, "Dude, you found a girl that talks to her food, too? What!? You're going to marry her, aren't you?"