Thursday, July 29, 2010

Restaurant Week

I'm hoping to break the restaurant curse by going to Al Vento next week.

Where are you going for Restaurant Week?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Asian Food

The other night, we ate at Pei Wei, which I tend to like (for a chain). It was their 10-year anniversary, and everyone there had the same thing we did — a coupon for 2 entrees for $10.

They were moving people through pretty fast, and then we did the restaurant equivalent of crashing their server. All of a sudden, things just stopped, and the people before us, us, and the 5 parties after us all had to wait over an hour for our food. Nothing was coming out of the kitchen; they stopped the line of people waiting to order; time just stopped. Then suddenly we all got served and things picked back up.

I don't fault them for being overwhelmed, but along the lines of my previous post, it would have been a much more enjoyable experience if they had done something about it. Come around to talk to us and update us. Offered coupons or free apps. Given Beatrix (who was a trooper, but starting to freak out) a tour of the kitchen. Anything.

So another opportunity missed. Pei Wei, if you're reading — well, it will be awhile before I'm back there too.

HOWEVER, if you want Asian food, head immediately for Tanpopo in downtown Saint Paul. Light rail construction has really hurt their business, and they've been forced to cease lunch service already. This wonderful noodle shop is a true Twin Cities gem, and we can't afford to lose it. Plus, parking is really not as bad as it looks; there's free parking on Kellogg, the lots is only $2 ($1 evenings), and I know one un-named person who has been parking for months in the Farmer's Market lot without having to pay. Go!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Unsolicited Restaurant Advice

Don't get me wrong; I love eating out. I bear a deep respect for the food industry, which is a hard, hard business. But really, folks, there are a lot of restaurants out there and the economy is The Suck right now — in general, you just have to try a little harder. Some case in point from my last few days:

Sunday night (before Swell Season, which was awesome!), we went out to the Uptown Cafeteria. I had heard mixed things, but was very happy with our meal. Though our reservation put us at an interior booth (and I really wanted a window), our cocktails were lovely, our food rich but good, and our waiter excellent. Score one for the home team!

Our server gave us each a stamped "Parasole Passport," explaining that if we ate at the Cafeteria, Il Gatto, and Chino Latino we would each get a stamp at each and then we would get a free cocktail. We were still a little snacky, so decided to get dessert at Il Gatto, where the host and hostess were very friendly and encouraged us to try the desserts. Hmm, maybe not so much.

We asked to be seated outside, only to find that the table we had eyed on the way in was gone; the people at one of the other tables had decided to move to it. That put us directly on the line of their cigarette smoke, but again, tolerable. The fact that we had to wait about 10 minutes for the waitress to notice we were there and take our order (perhaps we should have tried smoke signals), not so great. The wait for 40 minutes to get one dessert — kind of ridiculous. By the time it arrived we had finished our cocktails (and never been offered water), the ice cream part of the dessert had completely melted, and we were hot and late and just wanted to get out of there. Though of course it took forever to get the check, and then the waitress said she would only stamp one of our little passports.

See, that's the problem. We had commented throughout how savvy Parasole was with social media, we liked the passport idea, there were a lot of good promotional ideas that made me excited to go there. But what do I remember? The bad service and the crappy dessert, plus the lack of a stamp on the passport promotion. Am I likely to go again, or to recommend Il Gatto to others? Certainly not. Despite all the social media and promotions in the world, they blew it with bad service.

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On another note, I had happy hour at La Grolla today with two lovely friends. It's been too long since I've been there; I used to go often. We chose it because my friends had never been there and wanted to see the patio, so even though it was 95 degrees with a head index of unbearable we wanted to sit outside. Only to be told that the happy hour was only in the bar.

See, this is what I don't understand. You have 3 people likely to order a few appetizers and drinks and talk about your place. the restaurant is empty — we were the ONLY ones there. There were 2 people staffing the empty patio. Would it have killed them to let us have happy hour on the patio, especially since we were long gone before the restaurant got at all busy? We very nearly left for somewhere else (in no short supply on Selby), and again, I have a nice memory of today, but it's colored by the restaurant's recalcitrance to allow me to enjoy myself. I don't know when I'll next be back.

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So here's the advice. I don't have to go to your restaurant. But if I like it, and feel welcome, I'm going to go a lot. I'm going to talk it up and send others. If you piss me off, I'm not. You'd like to stay open; what do you want to do?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Dream Car



For years now, my dream car has been the A4 wagon. I loved the functionality of my Impreza, and drove it into the ground. I have loved the power and handling of my mom's A6 that I inherited, but I'm just not a big fan of sedans (or "cars with butts" as I call them). My A6 is still in great shape, and I love that it reminds me of my mom and all the Florida drives we did in it, but it's just never seemed right.

This last weekend I found the dream car — a dolphin gray A4 wagon, beautifully maintained, and very similar to my A6. I jumped on it — isn't it great?

I'm naming it "Mary Lou"...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Milly and Tillie


FREE kids show
FREE ice cream

(do I have your attention yet?)

MILLY AND TILLIE opens at Open Eye Figure Theatre this Thursday 7/15, running Th-Sat nights at 7 through August 8. Half an hour long, designed especially for pre-school and under kids, and with free ice cream to follow — how can you go wrong?

We'll be there on Thursday, and if I know Beatrix, we'll go back again at least one other time. See you there?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Lazy Summer

Uh, well you've already noticed I haven't been posting much...

Most of my time lately has been spent in looking for balance. Work, family, volunteer commitments, the house, personal life, professional development, friends — it's tough to put everything together!

The summer has really been spending time doing things with Beatrix. Some highlights:

- The farmer's market. Rather than splurging on a CSA, we've been trying to hit the farmer's market every week. We get some vegetables and maybe some plants, and wander around people watching. Extra points if we do something like breakfast and the Neighborhood Cafe or Swede Hollow Cafe as well, but have to admit I am severely underwhelmed by Pizza Luce brunches (sorry, Erica!)
- Playgrounds. Beatrix's big thing. She would be happy if we walked down to he playground at Webster School at the end of our block every day, but truth be told it's a little scungy — a lot of the equipment is too big for her, and there are a lot of older kids hanging around kind of looking for trouble. The Holly Tot Lot remains unimproved. So the other day we headed to Mattocks park, which is so clean, neat and friendly — I think it's going to become a favorite.
- The pool. Beatrix is a little wary of that this year. Must work on that.
- Friends. Beatrix loves going to parties of all kinds, especially if they have cake or music. Lately we have danced to a DJ at Terri and John's, had anniversary cake with grandpa at Arlys and Terry's 50th, hung out at the pool with the extended Chank network, bounced in a bouncy castle with Geek Girl families, enjoyed the sprinkler at Ella's first birthday and the posh refreshments at Maude's first, sang with the kids at the Songs of Hope annual 4th of July BBQ, played with Sadie at lauren and Jimmy's, and more. She has a social life just like her mommy.
- Gardening. Beatrix likes to hang out in the garden and was a big help with finishing up the back patio. Today we planted a new butterfly delphinium and a pepper she picked out at the farmer's market. Yesterday we went on the Lex-Ham Garden Stroll and she loved seeing everything, and wants a fairy garden of her own.
- Sleep. She is a great napper, and has occasionally been sleeping through the night lately. I still fantasize about a vacation with a few nights of sleep in a row, though.
- Growing. Taller if not wider, outgrowing all her clothes!
- eating (see "Growing" above). Beatrix will try just about one bite of anything we make (the pumpkin sage flans were a recent winner), but generally prefers the toddler menu of hot dogs and mac and cheese. However, anything sweet is a huge favorite, especially (chocolate) cake and (chocolate) ice cream. Obviously this is genetic. She loves Cakeeater Bakery, but at $3 per cupcake we don't end up there much.
- Walks — well, we'd like to go on more walks but we always just end up pushing the baby doll down to the playground in the stroller (do you sense a trend here?)

So that's Beatrix so far this summer, I'll try to get some posts in about the other activities!