Friday, March 28, 2008

Wood fired pizza and bunny dumplings

We just spent a few days in the Twin Cities for the public library association conference. We ended staying right downtown, in a newly opened luxury hotel, with a soaking tub, a glassed in shower, and $15-per-day Internet.

The first night, we met up with a librarian friend from Seattle, and went to a French place on Nicollet Mall (in the Twins, not only do they say Nicolet wrong to WI ears, they spell it wrong to our eyes, as well ...) called Vincent, that was quite nice, I had Coq Au Vin: Larry Schultz Organic Chicken Braised in Red Wine, Cipollini Onion, Smoked Bacon, Button Mushrooms, Potato Puree that came in its own copper pot (and follows the new, locavore, foodie convention of "named" food); the guys had the tasting menu, which included salad and beef, with a square of potato gratin. We were already noticing the prevalence of gigantic SUVs in the Twin Cities, and we rode down the elevator in the hotel with a couple who were handed into a huge black Escalade. The gentleman said something about looking forward to some good seafood, and I wondered out of their hearing if they'd had the valet bring their hugemobile around to drive the less-than-two blocks to the Oceanaire, one of the retaurants in the Hyatt. Coincidentally, they were returning the same time as we were, and on the ride back up in the elevator, we found out that was exactly what they'd done.

The 2nd night, we walked over the Hennepin Ave. bridge to get to the downtown Punch for wood-fired oven pizza. We'd been to the Eden Prairie Punch, and this was just as good as ever, chewy thin crust and great salads.

For dinner our last night, Tincher & Cynthia picked us up and took us to a Vietnamese fusion kind of place in St. Paul, Ngon, where the food was great, but the service left a good bit to be desired, and the first beer I got, a limited craft brew, was spoiled - although I needed their more sophisticated palates to tell me. I subbed a Surly Furious, comes in a can that looks like an energy drink (you can play at crushing one at the web site). We got a bunch of appetizers to start, crispy rabbit (sausage) dumpling, kind of like a giant fried wonton; shrimp and sweet potato croquettes, that were tasty, but much smaller than expected, and came with a zippy mayonaise; and duck spring rolls, the most disppointing of the bunch - all the usual spring roll ingredients, but the duck could've been any meat (or tofu). I got oxtail Pho, the noodle soup of Vietnam - Ngon, and I think traditionally, Pho broth is beef - with anise, cinnamon, cardamom, stuff like that - and rice noodles. It was delish, even if it took along time to get. And, when we got the bill, we thought, oh they are acknowledging their shortcomings by giving us free drinks, but after we handed over ou credit cards with splitting instructions, the waiter came back to say shamefacedly I forgot a whole round of drinks, so this is the real amount ... shucks, smaller tip for him ...

The drive to St Paul was fun - Cynthia is in landscape architecture/city planning school, and another student from the Netherlands, Rea, was visiting, so we got the sustainable development scoop the whole drive over.

Finally, Saturday morning, breakfast at Hell's Kitchen, legendary breakfast & lunch spot with art & graphic design by Ralph Steadman. We put our names in, and then took turns going back to the hotel to pack up. I got eggs & black beans, Mark had eggs & toast & potatoes and the buffalo sausage - he had already decided that the Minneapolis area is just enough further North that there is more game. If I ever get to go there again, I'm having Huevos rancheros for sure.


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