Sunday, January 3, 2010

the cities

After working hard for the holidays, I got a few days off from work. So Sam and I decided we'd go to that magical place that people around here call "The Cities." (That's Minneapolis-St. Paul to everyone else.) We made a list of things to do, then we went. Here's a brief narrative of the outcome.

Stop 1: University of Minnesota/Dinkytown
I must have heard that Dinkytown was a cute place for food and window shopping from a college student with limited means, because Dinkytown is just what it's name implies- dinky. We were hoping for some cheap but tasty Indian food, but the few blocks of options turned up nothing.

Stop 2: Hennepin County Library, Dinkytown branch
Luckily, there was a public library nearby. The helpful librarian pointed me to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Magazine's "Best Of" guide, and a patron chimed in with a few suggestions for tasty ethnic vegetarian food.

I don't know why the use of mock/fake meat isn't a widely accepted practice, because the things you can do with it are amazing. This hole in the wall restaurant offered mock options for almost everything on the menu, and it was delicious. My pepper-fried mock pork had the taste and texture of meat, and Sam's mock duck was melt in your mouth. I recommend this restaurant for any vegetarian who craves the texture of meat protein or any curious meat-lover who is willing to be convinced that a vegetarian fare need not be just vegetables.

Our initial plan involved outdoor ice skating on one of the many frozen ponds in the Twin Cities area, but a temperature of -13 with a windchill of -30 meant that the rinks were closed. Instead, we headed over to the large and newly built Central Library with its bright and airy stacks, huge windows, and general happy feeling. We found that the Walker Art Center is free on the first Saturday of the month, and decided to meander in that direction.

I have a love/hate relationship with modern art. Some installations I can get a feel for what the artist is trying to convey. Others, I see and wonder how I could become famous by hanging some tinsel and throwing a few cigarette butts on the floor. We had only an hour before the Art Center closed, so we made a quick tour of the galleries. Since most of the installations seemed to be in the "what the heck?!" category for me, I was not too sorry our trip was rushed. I did enjoy the architecture of the building, though, and the fact that I stood in the lobby of a Wolfgang Puck restaurant.

Sam and I found ourselves more at home in the Sculpture Garden. We posed with the spoon and cherry (above, although I cut off the cherry's top), walked through the beautiful greenhouses, and managed not to get a parking ticket.

Every day at work, I ask each customer if they are a member at the co-op. At least once a week, I get a, "No, but I'm a member of the Wedge..." It began to annoy me a bit, because I was certain that the La Crosse Food Co-op was pretty much the biggest and best co-op in the region, and they should appreciate it's presence. I still believe that is true, but Minneapolis should not be considered to be in the same category as La Crosse.

And so I will say it: The Wedge is pretty awesome. It had three major selling points for me.
1. All of the local suppliers of their produce were featured along the walls of the produce section with a picture and a short paragraph explaining their operations. The customer could see exactly where their food was produced.
2. They had a very large dry and wet bulk section. I love the idea that I could, if I wanted to, get bulk Japanese pickled plum vinegar.
3. The cashier was explaining to me that the Wedge is organic certified. That means that every organic item they carry has a paper trail to all of its ingredients, and this can be shown to the customer at any time. It also means that they guarantee that no conventional items touch organic items. I don't know if my co-op does this, but I'm leaning toward no.

Stop 7: Moto-i
While searching the internet for brewpubs in the Minneapolis area, I came across the site for Moto-i, a Japanese style restaurant which also claimed to be the first sake brewery restaurant outside of Japan. Of course, I had to check it out. I'm not sorry I did, but only so I could recommend no one else goes there. The atmosphere and the sake were fine, but nothing else was.

First, the service was not good. Sam's beer arrived thirty seconds before our entrees, which arrived five minutes before our appetizer. Second, the food was poor. We each ordered ramen, Sam a mushroom vegetarian and I a pork ramen. Both were not hot enough and lacked the abundance of broth which makes ramen good. Sam's tasted too much of mushroom and not of anything else. Mine had no taste, and the noodles were improperly cooked. The worst, though, was the yaki-mochi which was burnt and had obviously been cooked on a grill with beef.

Stop 8: The Herkimer
After a disappointing dinner, we were glad to have a brewpub available on the same block. We enjoyed their tasty German-style beer while watching a very sad Bowl game between Arkansas and E. Carolina. The poor E. Carolina kicker missed four of five fields goals, three of which would have probably won the game for his team at the time.

By the time we got into the car to go home, the temperature was down into the -20s and we were ready to be in our nice warm beds. I think I'll wait until the spring to head up to the Cities again.

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