People ask me why I moved from the City of Perpetual Sun, aka Phoenix, back to the Land of Winter. Well, two reasons. A - My religion forbids me to spend Halloween in places that can reach 100 degree temperatures that time of year and B- Like the song goes - nobody walks in LA, the only places that Phoenicians walk is either a golf course or a treadmill. My prerequisite for living now is having my home in a walking neighborhood. If I had to move, the area of St. Anthony Park in Saint Paul is high on my list. It comes complete with homes that have character, mature foliage, and a small but live downtown. On Como Avenue, St. Anthony Park's main drag, you can even get Sweet Science Ice Cream at the convenience store, Tim & Tom's Speedy Market. The library is there. So are restaurants such as Mufuletta, Colossal café, and The Finnish Bistro. And just last Saturday, my son and I stumbled upon the St. Anthony Park Art Fair while out on errands. Of course we had to check it out. I had been planning to investigate some of the shops anyway. Besides, who can resist this European charm?
First stop, Micawber's Books. The proprietor recommended the Pulitzer-winning book "The Goldfinch" last time I there (it wasn't a particularly hard sell, I heart Donna Tartt's works. STOP LISA). He always opens the handicap accessible entrance as he sees us coming. Our version of being VIP. He doesn't have a ton of books, but what he has is gold like he's King Midas. Want to buy me a birthday present? See below. Any book in the cooking section will do. Especially "How to Cook Everything Fast".
And then there was THIS. Did they know I was going to be there?
Next to Micawber's is The Little Wine Shoppe. Yes, it is little. But hey, what store takes the time to have cards underneath EVERY bottle describing the particular wine in the store. For sure not places like the Wal-Mart of wine, Total Wine. Did I mention that their prices are better than Total Wine? Yes BETTER. IN ALL CAPS. And when I asked for the Alexis Bailly Rose Noir, they didn't have it, but were going to see if they could put it in the shelf for me. First class service. Did I mention wine tastings every Saturday from 12-4, icing on the cake.
Am I trying to sell you on these places? OF COURSE I AM. Because I hate seeing THIS.
Unless it is at Total Wine. I kid. I don't like seeing it anywhere. Either it means people are losing their jobs or someone is losing their dream. Once upon a time, the toy store Peapods, was someone's dream where they would provide kids with the tools to make a tornado, or send each other messages in morse code while pretending to be spies. Basically letting kids of today on the secret of our summers when we played with marbles because we had only 4 channels on our TV and our mom had kicked us outside until September anyway. You wouldn't have found Nintendo DS's here. You would have found kites. Toy trains. Watercolor sets.
Old school marbles.
After visiting this place, I would have been a frequent flyer here. And not just because the best song ever, New Order's "Vanishing Point" was playing. And then "Under the Milky Way" came on which led to a conversation with the cashier about how I just happened to be going to see The Church with the Psychedelic Furs in August. I had found my people, for gosh's sake. But alas, they are closing. I didn't ask, but I would assume business is down due to online ordering and the big box stores. Or natural toys just aren't a big draw. Which is too bad. Because not only did the neighborhood lose one of its characters, but there is a loss of being able to spend your money without being overwhelmed by commercialism. The loss of the place that enhanced the possibilities of imagination. I said this was a cautionary tale. Think about where you shop. Not just want you are buying.
2238 Carter Ave St Paul MN 55108
the little wine shoppe
2236 Carter Ave St Paul MN 55108
Well this is out of character. I started this blog to support the small guys who need the publicity. So what do I do? Where do I go? Go to the trendiest place in town right now, of course. You know, that place who just got won "One of America's Best Restaurants" award by a few magazines you might recognize. But when my friend H suggested it, could I say no? Ridiculous. Of course for test reasons. Does the "best" place in town really rate? Here's a simple test. Don't order your favorite foods and find out. Like oysters. H loves them, I tolerate them. Unless they are made with whatever recipe Spoon and Stable uses. If they are smart, they will keep the ingredients secret. (Note to Spoon and Stable. We like the bread. But the above portion is too small for two people.)
Below is my entrée, the lamb. I usually only like lamb in a gyro. For people who really like lamb, I would totally recommend it. I ate it all. What really made the meal though was the creamy spinach cheese curds. I would never order creamy spinach on its own, but cheese curds make anything taste good.
Now who wouldn't want this in their house for their wine. Ahhh...a glass of rose on a hot, rainy summer evening listening to the raindrops - the cure for what ails you.
Spoon and Stable
211 1st St N, Minneapolis, MN 55401
I used to love fish. Sushi and Sake with the girls dominated many of my Friday nights. When I lived in Arizona I was a frequent flyer at Diego's Mexican Grill in Tempe because of their to-die-for grilled fish tacos. The highlight of vacationing for me in Puerto Penasco - besides the cheap tequila was the dollar shrimp tacos caught first thing in the morning right out of the Sea of Cortez. But after son #1 was born, I lost my taste for fish. Even the elite-but-taboo Chilean sea bass no longer excited me.
So on Mother's Day, during a trip to Minnehaha Falls, the prospect of eating at the restaurant at the park, Sea Salt, well, let's say I just thought. "at least there is wine." I ordered the crab cakes and they were actually decent. What we remember of what we ate that day was secondary to the 784391 public safety officers who were their to escort a man out from under the falls. (A bad idea to venture off in the restricted area at the Falls in case you are so inclined to make a spectacle of yourself). Dinner and a show. It was so exciting we took the fam back there a couple of weeks later.
This time I had the Calamari Tacos. Oh MG, they are the absolute best things on the menu. And as you can see, they have a few fish entrees. This is just art of the menu.
I could become obsessed with those tacos.
I didn't try the catfish basket, but my picky son loved it, ignoring the walnut burger I thought he'd eat. So there you go. Fish lovers will be into the place, and even if you are on the fence on seafood, there just might be something for you. Even if it is wine on the patio enjoying the live band on the weekends. Or watching all of Metro's finest deal with a maybe jumper. I kid. The views are really quite stunning.
4825 Minnehaha Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55417
A Minnesota native returns after 13 years away discovering a whole new food landscape.