Friday, March 30, 2012

Upper West Side

I am spending the next couple days organizing my New York trip, so here are more from my adventures from the other week. The beauty of the city is there will always be uncharted territory. I toodled around the Upper West Side and took the bus a hundred blocks to view the city from the top down.

First stop, Riverside Church.

Barnard campus.

The famous front from Seinfeld.

New York- the Heart of America behind spring blossoms.
Sidewalk sculptures.

Columbus Circle.

Central Park at 59th.

And endless architectural wonder.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Picky Eaters Need Not Apply

If love is a transcending experience, then I’m convinced food is the barometer for it.
I’ve theorized about this subject in the past, but pushed it aside when I stumbled upon dating prospects who lack an interest in food. I almost saw this as a redeeming quality, for perhaps I could be the one to give them a new appreciation. I now realize what a mistake that was.
My last few dating attempts proved this theory and could have spared me a lot of time and heartbreak had I recognized it at the time.
Most recently was Jim, your classic meat and potatoes guy- but way down at the Hamburger Helper and boxed mashed potato end. You all know him- this is the guy who orders chicken parmesan at a nice restaurant and it’s the most exotic thing he’s ever had. He refuses to eat anything green besides Caesar salad, but thinks he’s health conscious by drinking protein shakes and eating egg white omelettes. 
Being with him made me think of the cowboy’s credo from City Slickers, that food should be “hot, brown, and there’s plenty of it.” He cringed when I made him runny yolk scrambled eggs cooked in bacon fat. Even when he couldn’t deny how much more delicious they were than his bland, low cholesterol preference, I could tell he was calculating how many extra miles he’d have to run to make up for the damage.
He also hated dessert. I can’t even get started on this. 
Next was Adrian, who had the palate of a 5-year-old. Though I must give him credit for trying new things, he would squeeze his eyes shut upon tasting the tiniest speck of something unfamiliar as if it was burning his lips. He’d then promptly announce, “I don’t like it.” He hated everything.  
I must take responsibility, for even on the first date, I was forewarned. After singing the praises of cheese due to my Wisconsin upbringing, he paused before flatly responding, “I don’t like cheese.” This alone was worthy of being a deal breaker. As I let the statement fully resonate, he turned to me and reassured me, “But I do love pizza.” I ignored my intuition and forged on, since his snarky puns were priceless and mozzarella cheese is only four bucks a pound.
Danny was the most difficult to pin-point. He loved food and cooking new things, he was open-minded to food adventures and curious about trends and the buzz. For this, my hat goes off to him as he coins himself a “wannabe foodie.” Going out to eat with him was a blast, so long as I discreetly added a few bucks to his tip on our way out, but that’s another story. We never went to the same place twice, he was humble and not afraid to ask questions about the menu, and there was nothing he wouldn’t try. 
For me, the mismatch lay in how he ate. He was someone who would eat a candy bar with a knife and fork. When we cooked together, he would gingerly roll up his sleeves over his delicate corporate wrists and touch food with his fingertips to avoid getting too dirty. He hounded me when I added things to the pot, asking “how much salt was that?” or “is this considered a small dice or a brunoise?” I don’t know, it’s an 8-o’clock-and-we-haven’t-had-dinner-yet chop. He wasn’t amused.
And why did you continue? you ask. I have no excuse. Maybe I didn’t want to discriminate against anti-foodies or be a food snob. Maybe I wanted to be the mentor they needed to break the chain of being a bad eater. Or maybe I was just following my heart when I should have followed my stomach.
Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon, they say. Can you do one recklessly and not the other? If one can’t comfortably rub a chicken in butter or do blind taste tests when I hold out a spoon, how can they possibly love me when I come home from work with flour in my hair and chocolate on the backs of my arms? 
The beauty of love is in spontaneity and the adventure of the unknown. The beauty of food is trying new things, exploring another culture and breaking from pattern and comfort. In a busy world of routine, food can be the most accessible way to make each day different and memorable. What other way could a relationship deepen than with a dose of dining together with a little spontaneity in the menu? For many couples, breaking bread is the only quality time they can get on a daily basis.
So gentlemen, I implore you. Let her eat off your plate. Try what she has when she holds out her fork. Order dessert. Bring home that weird thing you saw at the grocery store. Even if it turns out to be terrible, you will probably have a new inside joke or learn something about your loved one.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Just Jazz

I'll be the first to admit that my alma mater spoiled me with good music. After four years being surrounded by musicians in one of the best jazz programs in the country (at a time when there wasn't even a jazz studies major, per se), you would be, too.

The great thing about being a music dork is that there are always people around giving you the hookup  to the best gigs. So when I was in St. Paul, Mitch's hubby just happened to have a gig at the underground club, Jazz Central Studios in Minneapolis.

This tucked away, basement performance space was created as a co-op for musicians to get together for impromptu jam sessions and collaborating. With a bass, piano, drum set, and a surprise vocalist, this was the perfect venue for an intimate evening of great music.

Though I was literally surrounded by close friends, I am sure anyone there would have felt the same. When musicians have the perfect chemistry, it's only natural for the audience to be drawn into that circle of familiarity.

Like them on Facebook!

At the door, admission is by donation only.

The highlight was hearing Nichola Miller sing a couple torch songs from the deep end of the standard pool- I wish I learned their names, but they were new ones for me.

Her voice= soul, edge, and sass smoothed out with butter. This gal is going places.

As if I needed more incentive to plan my next trip here!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Summit Brewery

What trip to the Midwest would be complete without sampling some local brew? Ever the organization pro that she is, Mitch scheduled a tour of Summit brewery for her husband and me while she put in a few hours of work in the morning. We were sad to leave her behind, but happy to drink at 10:30 in the morning. To Summit Brewery we go!

These machines fill the kegs, a little over one per second.

This is the giant fridge where all the beer is stored. It's about the size of a large barn, and they trusted us enough to let us wander around for a few minutes.

Can I have just a few extra minutes? Check on me in an hour.

The conveyer belt that leads to labels and packaging.

They don't bottle during the tours, so we didn't get the chance to do our Laverne and Shirley bit.

Our terrific volunteer tour guide, who said he works for beer.

The copper vats where every batch begins.

In the fermentation room.

In front of the mash vats.

On to tasting! My fave was the oatmeal stout, of course. (Do check out their website, it's terrific!


Monday, March 26, 2012

Painting With Pizazz

This weekend in St. Paul, I got to enjoy celebrating with my best friend on the signing of her new home. She got her keys the day I arrived. 

That meant lots of errands to run, rolling up our sleeves and diving into sprucing things up before she and her hubby move in. But first, celebrating the big day by christening the ice machine on the new fridge! I'm not sure I've ever seen Mitch this happy.

After our first day bringing a load of boxes over, hitting up Menard's and the paint store, and prepping the neutral walls with tape and tarps, it was time to get painting.

Mitch chose a warm, buttery saffron for the dining room and a toned down dijon for the living room to enhance the natural light.
The first strokes quickly turned to a finished corner.
And before we knew it, two rooms were ready to soak up their first coat.
Happy housewarming! Nothing like spring to motivate projects and new beginnings.