Saturday, December 4, 2010

A "City" Girl in Pine City, Part Deux

As I alluded to in my last post, the second part of my Pine City excursion this fall found me in a truly unique experience. Friends and I trekked out to the North West Company Fur Post for its annual "rendez-vous" fall gathering event. The fur post is a voyageur camp with exhibits on the fur trade, located along Snake River outside of Pine City.

There's a small museum in the visitor center where you can explore the history of the fur trade.

And when you step outside, you leave 2010 and travel back in time to 1804...
Our tour guide, the French Canadian voyageur, explained the ins and outs of the fur trade. The hottest commodity was beaver, which was used to make stately top hats.
We then learned a little bit about the Ojibwe encampment while hanging out in a tipi.
And met a navigator, who explained his role within the process.
Later, we encountered Mr. John Sayer, a partner with North West Company and head of the crew.
Then we toured the shop, where the Ojibwe came to trade their furs for blankets and other goods.
We got to see where Mr. Sayer and his family live.
And then we headed to the camp, where people (hobbyists who travel to these type of events, placing themselves back in the early 19th century) were playing music, selling goods and making their own grub.

I bought this adorable, hand-painted little bowl (so far, it sits all pretty-like on a shelf and sometimes holds very important things like chocolate candies - any suggestions for other purposes are welcome).
As we toured the camp, we found children working...
And strapping young lads hauling water.
We saw families set up in groups, displaying the fruits of their labor.
And preparing their dinner.
We also took in the sites of the beautiful river, glistening on a crisp, sunny fall day.

All in all, it was a fun and interesting outing. I'm heading back to the fur post later this month for a Christmas concert in the visitor center. I'm thinking the facility will be beautiful at night in the winter.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A "City" Girl in Pine City, Part Une

Paying tribute to my cherished Sex and the City series, the title for this two-post series is entirely fitting, if not slightly deceptive. Having grown up in a small town of 2,000 in greater Minnesota (not far from Pine City), there will always be a little "country" in me. But having lived in MSP for more than 10 years now (eek!), I've come to identify myself as a bona fide "city" girl.

And so begins my lovely weekend with friends exploring the wonder that is Pine City.
First up, the Pizza Pub, a local institution.
With its medieval-inspired decor, plethora of games and fun wait staff, it's easy to see why the Pizza Pub is the Friday night hot spot.
The pub features a number of unique specialty pizzas. Our group shared the asparagus pizza, with asparagus, Italian sausage, Canadian bacon, mozzarella and cheddar cheese...
As well as the alfredo pizza with alfredo sauce, chicken breast and mozzarella.

I loved the chicken alfredo pizza, especially with the delicious white sauce. I also enjoyed the asparagus pizza, but it didn't stand out as particularly special to me (though my friends may disagree with that assessment). I generally prefer a little more sauce than it offered.

I had a great time at the Pizza Pub with good company, good food and good people watching :)
Next up, Sauser's Hardware. If the Pizza Pub is a Pine City institution, Sauser's might just be a landmark. In describing the grandeur that is Sauser's, my friend explained that they have everything. And, if they don't, they'll get it for you. That level of customer service, might just be my favorite thing about small towns.
When I first stepped into Sauser's, I immediately realized she was right...they do have everything. From power tools and outdoor landscaping...
To gift-giving and home decor. It was quite precious.
From Sauser's we headed through town, stopping at various little gift shops and antique stores, including the darling little Chicken Koop, filled to the brink with antiques and goodies.
I found some candlesticks and napkins for my dining room. Neither were antique, but they're cute nonetheless.
We finally made our way through town to the A&W, perhaps my favorite place in all of Pine City (in fact, I briefly held the Foursquare mayorship of this, my beloved little restaurant chain). I don't know why I have such a fascination with A&W...maybe it's because they're now somewhat of a rarity in Minnesota. Or it's just my love of root beer.
Mmmm. Yummy.
Double yummy!

That's it for my first look at Pine City. Next time, I'll highlight an annual event that makes Pine City truly unique. Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Friday Fun Day

Well, it seems the last several weeks have really taken a toll on my blogging abilities, and I find myself in catch-up mode yet again. The good news is I have several updates to share over the next couple of weeks!

I took one recent Friday off to enjoy an afternoon about town with a friend. First up, lunch at View.
View is located in a B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L. building just across the street from the equally beautiful Lake Calhoun. I'd always wanted to try it, and thanks to my friend's coupon deal, I now had the perfect reason.

I really liked the restaurant's decor and the use of the color orange throughout. The lighting cast a rich hue over everything even during the middle of the day.

The one thing that struck me as odd though was that we basically had the whole place to ourselves. There were probably six other people there the whole time. Perhaps it was the chilly weather, because I found most of our experience to be quite good.
I had delicious strawberry lemonade to drink, which really shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone at this point. I've jointly become addicted to strawberry lemonade and root beer. Both of which, I hope to cure myself of in the near-term. ;)
To start, we shared the Mediterranean style grilled chicken wings. These were amazing. With a seasoning rub to die for and a splash of lemon juice, they were incredibly flavorful.
I then had the smoked turkey and avocado melt, which was served on multi-grain bread with mesquite smoked turkey, avocado, lettuce, tomato and cheddar cheese (note that it generally comes with Swiss). It also came with french fries and a pickle.

The french fries were awesome. Crispy and perfectly salty. The sandwich was also good, but nothing spectacular. While the turkey and fixings were great, the bread was kind of dry, making it a little less delicious.

Overall, I found View to be quite enjoyable. I'll definitely go back, at least for the wings.
After lunch, we headed to The Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis, the only museum in North America dedicated exclusively to Russian art. I've always wanted to check out the museum - as any locals know, it is simply one of the most exquisite buildings in all of MSP.
With quite lovely landscaping...

Unfortunately, photos weren't allowed inside. But, the interior is just as breathtaking as the exterior. While we were there, the main gallery featured elegant works of Russia's countryside and touching portraits of the country's people.

There was also an enchanted art exhibit, displaying beautifully detailed Russian lacquer miniatures. The pieces were magical and showcased the rich history of the artistry throughout a number of Russian villages.

Admission is $7 for adults, however, you can score free passes through the Museum Adventure Pass offering at local libraries...probably one of my favorite things in life.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dinner on Joe's Patio

I recently took advantage of a beautiful Sunday evening and grabbed dinner with friends on the Joe's Garage patio - one of the best patios in all of MSP (as evidenced by the view of the Basilica in downtown Minneapolis below).
The ambiance on this breezy and lazy Sunday was carefree and relaxed. Nearly every table was filled with leisurely diners enjoying every last second before the weekend came to an end.
I ordered the Homemade Chicken Fingers basket, served with chipotle ranch and shoestring fries. It was well-priced at $8 and almost surprisingly delicious. I don't know why I didn't have much in terms of expectations (since I've always found the food at Joe's to be very good), but I was quite pleasantly pleased with the tasty chicken fingers and their zesty sauce.
After dinner, we took a stroll through the loveliest alley in the city. Not the greatest picture quality, but you get the idea :)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dinner at Il Gatto

On my way to work one morning last week, I heard Minnesota Monthly food critic Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl, offer her take on Il Gatto during a segment on The Current, which reminded me that I had a recent visit to report on.

She was talking about Italian options in MSP, and the news that respected chef and James Beard Award winner Tim McKee was recently put at the helm of Il Gatto (which is very exciting news indeed). She also offered her assessment of Il Gatto in its current state - a less than favorable critique.

What I caught of Dara's review focused mostly on the seafood-driven items on the menu, which I'm admittedly not very well-versed in. But I have to say that the couple of times I've been to Il Gatto since its introduction last year (locals will remember that it replaced Figlio), I've actually been quite impressed by the menu.
On this most recent visit, my friend and I shared a few plates. The first of which was a prosciutto and fig bruschetta. It was phenomenal. My friend and I both agreed that the prosciutto was well-paired with the fig and brie. It was a little difficult to eat with so much piled on top, but the struggle was well worth every bite.
We also ordered the calamari, which comes with spicy peppers and lemon mayo. The peppers were an interesting addition, and the calamari was very good. Not really a key differentiator though.
Lastly, we ordered the meatball pizza. Wowza. This was fantastic. Fresh out of the wood oven, it had large, delicious meatballs. Again, a little difficult to eat (especially with your hands), but totally worth the extra effort.

In revisiting Il Gatto's menu online, it looks as though some of my favorites have already been replaced with the new direction. However, I will note the Tortellini Baronessa (prosciutto, peas and mushrooms in alfredo sauce), which is still listed. I had this during a previous visit, and I think it might still hold the title of my favorite pasta dish in Minneapolis-Saint Paul...for now anyway.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Summer Brunch and an Afternoon Treat

During a friend's visit to MSP this summer, we spent a couple days dining at some old favorites and trying out some new hot spots. One particularly beautiful day, we went to French Meadow on Lyndale Avenue in Minneapolis, which falls into the old favorites category.
The atmosphere at French Meadow is relaxed and welcoming. During the day you place your order at the counter, choosing from delicious dishes made with fresh, local and organic ingredients. At night the ambiance is more intimate, with candlelight and many tables for two.
I ordered the breakfast burrito - an organic tortilla filled with organic eggs, black bean chili, cheddar, scallions and hash browns. It was served with chipotle sour cream and French Meadow's homemade salsa, as well as organic toast.

The burrito was very good. It was fresh and filling and had just a bit of a zip.
Later that afternoon, we tried out Patisserie 46, a new bakery in the Kingfield neighborhood in Minneapolis. The space was darling and busy. So busy, in fact, that the bakery case was running low on goodies by the time we arrived.
I was, however, very excited to see there was still one eclair left. I'd heard good things about the eclair from The Heavy Table, so I knew immediately that it would be my selection.

And, it was amazing. Crunchy and textured on the outside, rich and creamy on the inside. I really loved it. Paired with my bottle of root beer, it was a wonderful afternoon treat. I'm looking forward to my next visit to the tasty bakery.