Friday, December 28, 2012

Restaurant Reviews

I've been trying to enter reviews in "Opinionated About Dining" — well, because it's fun and I was hoping to earn a gift card. But their system seems to be having a glitch, so I thought I would enlighten you all! Maybe I'll still get the gift card (or you will take me out to lunch...)

Al Vento
Consistently good food at very reasonable prices. Sometimes the plethora of discount options can be confusing ("can I use the Groupon with the prixe fix option?"), so just skip on the planning and go for reasonable food with fine service. Avoid the patio though — it's kind of hot and soulless. Don't miss the olive oil cake!

Have been going here more lately to support them during University Avenue construction. Really lovely atmosphere, and I appreciate the commitment to sustainable food. That said, the meal sometimes feels lacking *something,* — maybe I need to get to know the dessert menu better.

I know this place is the darling of Minnesota dining, but I say "meh." Perhaps too convinced of their own popularity, I find portions small, seasonings so-so, and service rushed. And don't even get me started about the wild inconsistency of their truck!

Blue Door
Consistently good food (and great beer!) And what's not to like about tater tots? The only downside is that you have to eat at truly weird times (like lunch at 2:48pm), in order to get a seat. Though this *should* be kid-friendly due to the food, it's not due to the crowding.

La Grolla
Not a trendy, flash in the pan kind of place, but instead consistently good food and a lovely atmosphere (and one of the best patios in the Twin Cities!) Large appetizers, so beware of getting filled up in advance. Very reasonable pricing, especially at lunch, and a romantic date night venue. Try to talk them into making the gnocchi with 4-cheese sauce, though you may have to diet for a few days afterwards....

Red Stag
Another sustainable, consistently good place (and the easy parking is a nice plus.) An especially greta place for a lunch meeting, where the menu is reasonably priced and they don't rush you. I dream of the lobster. Plus extra props for the summer block party!

Mai Village
In all the buzz this place has had recently about possible closure due to light rail disruption, there has been a lot of recent backlash. I have to agree with many that the food is fine, but not amazing, and significantly more costly than nearby, hole in the wall Asian places. But the lovely interior really is worth it, especially with kids.

I always end up liking Brasa more than I think I will. As a non-red-meat-eater, they did not have much to offer me in the beginning, but they have expanded that (especially on Grand Ave.) I have heard good things about their catering as well. But somehow, the ala carte nature can mean you have to keep a close eye on the bill.

Ok, well any bakery is bound to be good, right? But Rustica would win more points with me if they didn't overcook all their baked goods. The first bite of the crusty treat is nice, but it grows old fast.

St. Paul Cheese Shop
The cheese is delicious, but do yourself a favor — but the cheese, and some bread, and go home and make a sandwich. It's a chilly, drab place to dine in, and the sandwiches are rather expensive for what they are. Still, their blue cheese — mmmmmmm.....

Oh, how I love Tilia. The perfect food, the changing specials, the delicious breakfasts, the perfectly satisfying meals. The lovely toy box for kids. The warm coziness of the space. Unfortunately, everyone ELSE loves Tilia too, so we never end up going because of the wait.

Famous Dave’s
Remember when this place was new and super big? Everyone would go for the big plastic bowls of meh barbecue and feel all in touch with their inner farmer? Well, it's no longer new, and there are much better places to go for barbecue. Really not worth leaving your grill.

My love of Punch is well-documented on the internet. Sure, the pizza is not for everyone — some really hate the olive oily mess that the inside of the pizza becomes, or the salty blackness of the crust. I, however, love the salty-sweet mix, especially of the margarita pizza. I think we eat here weekly.

This is the kind of restaurant you anticipate more than love. The small plates are lovely, the intimate feel of the room charming, but it always leaves me feeling a little cold, and with a big bill.

Bar la Grassa
There's a reason this place is so popular and keeps packing them in. From the delicious pasta, to the variety of foods, to the great service, to the see and be seen atmosphere, it's still one of Minneapolis' top places.

If I could eat every meal at Heartland, I would. Out of all the places that have a great commitment to local dining and sustainable food, Heartland tops the list. The prix fixe menu always feels like an occasion, but if you don't have enough time for that, there's always the bar.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Where We Are Really Broken

Like everyone else I know, I can't stop looking at my daughter today. I can't stop wanting to hold her close. I can't stop the nagging worry about taking her out, to places she knows and loves, because something might happen to her. And if that's how I feel, I can't even imagine what it feels like to be closer to the Newtown tragedy, or god forbid, someone involved with it. That level of searing pain is just beyond comprehension.

I respect my friends who are incensed enough by this to focus on gun control, on solving a system that is not working, and I wish them well.

But I will posit that this kind of reform is completely and utterly ineffective unless we take on the much deeper task of healthcare in this country, and by that I mean particularly mental health. Until access to all health resources, including mental health, is free, and easily available, and not stigmatized. Until people throughout the system are trained to realize potential crises, and empowered to take action and assist on them. Until we treat this with the kind of gravity that it deserves.

(these are just my quick thoughts, and I am sure Patrick will have a more eloquent post on it later)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Post I Meant to Write Yesterday

This is the post I wanted to write yesterday, but then I got too caught up in righteous traffic indignation to do so. It's probably a more important post, but less ranty so likely not as fun.

My friend Laura wrote a really brilliant post earlier this week called "In defense of yes." Go ahead and read it, it's short and I will still be here when you get back.

That's why Laura is brilliant. Because she can say, in just a few well-crafted and evocative words, what I have been trying to express.

I've been oft-criticized for how much I take on. For agreeing to do too much. For (sometimes) putting myself out to do something for others. For not saying no.

I've been told, perhaps too often, that "Saying Yes is just saying No to other things."

And sure, often those comments are correct. And of course, I can't say yes to everything. And of course, if I do one thing it means I can't do another.

But I'm going to say this. Every time I agree to sit on a task force, or do a favor for a friend, or even put myself out for a family member — every time I make a meal for someone who is sick, or agree to do a project that I might not have time to do, or even just spend a few minutes doing an extra task, I did consider the equation. I did think about what I have to do to say "yes." And for my community, and my friends, and my family, and especially to teach my daughter to be the kind of leader I want her to be, I often say "yes."

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Road Rage

Dear City of Saint Paul,

Anyone who knows me knows that I am fiercely loyal to, and proud of, my city. I extol your merits constantly, and in general I can overlook your issues (such as a lack of single-sort recycling.) But you have messed-up mightily, and you need to make amends.

Yes, it was a Big Storm. Not ridiculously big, but the first one of the year. Sunday everyone snuggled at home in their pajamas and made soup and thought "snow day!" Yesterday, we all knew it would be a little hairy. But TODAY? 48 hours after the snow? You've been ridiculous. I don't honestly remember the road ever as bad as they were today — so slick at intersections that people can't help but slide through, tutted and washboarded in between — and those are the snow emergency routes. The regular streets are 8" deep still in snow.

Various city folks have been making excuses all day, blaming it on the warmth of the roads when it started snowing, the cold that followed the snow, how they are putting out 3x as much salt as usual, blah blah blah. Frankly, I'm not mollified. We are in Minnesota, where it regularly, this time of year, snows and gets cold. Every other municipality around us seems to have gotten their streets plowed. You are making the kind of excuses that people make when they did it all dramatically wrong the first time.

So this is the deal. Fix it. Stop explaining how you are doing all you can do, re-call the snow emergency, and PLOW THE EFFING STREETS.


-  Bethany