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Archive for the ‘Minnesota’ Category

If you enjoy local history, culinary adventures, fun walks and meeting new people, we’ve got a great afternoon plan for you. We discovered this one when it showed up on “Crowd Cut,” an online service that offers deals around town. This deal provided 50% off “Twin Cities Food Tours.” One of the great things about these online services is that they’ve given us a way to try new things around town without spending a lot of money. We didn’t know anything about the tours, but figured that at 1/2 off, we’d give it a shot and we weren’t disappointed.

Laurie Rupe started Twin Cities Tours just over a year ago, but it was this spring that it really took off. She explained to us that she’s actually an engineer who works for a well-know local corporation, but her love for food and the Twin Cities set her off on this side business. While she gives a lot of credit to a class she completed in Chicago, Laurie is a smart young woman who has clearly put her good business intuition and creativity into this new venture.

We started off at “Local D’Lish” in the North Loop neighborhood on the edge of downtown Minneapolis. This establishment provides fresh, locally produced products and classes to inspire meals that use them. They served us fruits and veggies, urging us to recognize the difference between fresh product and the mass produced variety. We have also picked up a Crowd Cut D’Lish offer, so we’ll let you know about the class we end up taking.

We moved on to “Punch Pizza,” which is a personal favorite, making it a familiar but welcome stop. We enjoy the Northeast neighborhood of this particular location and toss around the idea of moving there one day. While eating at Punch this weekend, we joked that if we ever moved there, we imagined it would become our new Friday night pizza spot.

Next was a quick stop for Laurie to share some local history outside of the Art Godfrey house. One of our favorite parts of the tour experience was hearing the insights Laurie shared about each of the establishments. She gave a brief background on how the businesses started, something about the owners and one or two funny or interesting stories.

We crossed the street to Kramarczuk’s Deli and restaurant. Established in 1954, this family-run business offers delicious meat and Eastern European delicacies and we got to enjoy a few of them.

Completely new to us was Gorkha Palace, a Napali, Indian, Tibetan restaurant on 4th Street. We especially enjoyed the Vegetable Samosas, crispy patties stuffed with potatoes and peas seasoned with mild spices and served with mint/tamarind chutneys.

Our final stop and course featured dessert at the Gardens of Salonica. We agreed on this being a favorite on the tour. How can you miss with three samples of Baklavas? And it was clear that Anna (the owner) knows what she’s doing. She even does a little blog segment on her website, sharing recipes and interesting tidbits on the food and restaurant.

We had a great three hours tasting wonderful food, learning about new restaurants and some local history and stories. And because this was a walking tour, we didn’t feel too guilty indulging a bit. Always glad to support local businesses we enjoy, we highly recommend Twin Cities Food Tours. However, unless you’re fortunate enough to get a spot on a tour by the end of October, you may have to look forward to taking in the fun next spring when Laurie starts up the new season. Enjoy!

Twin Cities Food Tours

When: Saturdays, March 30-October 31
Time: 11a.m. & 3p.m.
How Long: 3 hours
How Much: $42
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With the Minnesota State Fair just around the corner, it seems rather timely to take a walk down memory lane – back to the early eighties. But let’s get things straight; I’m not proud of all the choices I made back in my youth. Don’t judge my music tastes on this one, because I actually bought a ticket to hear Air Supply at the Grand Stand. The only reason I even ‘fess up to this embarrassing fact is that the story is too good not to share. Believe it or not, it’s one of my most vivid State Fair memories.

If you were there (go ahead and admit it!), you’ll know just which concert I’m referring to. My friends and I found ourselves sitting in the midst of hundreds of young teenie bopper girls. They were screaming and cheering for this sappy, syrupy love song-saturated duo from the moment they entered the stage.

It was only two or three songs into the set when lead singer Russell Hitchcock stepped out onto the ledge in front of one of the oversized speakers at the edge of the stage – just when a throbbing base line pumped through it. Russell, in roughly five-inch heels, lost his footing and went flying off the stage. Really. There he was lying on the cement about 10 feet below.

The band finished the tune and then the second half of the duo came to the microphone and announced (in his very Australian accent), “I’m sorry Russell has fallen off the stage, I cannot go on.”

That was it, concert over. Teenage girls crying into their t-shirts as the ambulance pulled away.

Thankfully, Russell came out of it with no more than a broken bone. And we have a humorous memory of days gone by at the Great Minnesota Get-Together.

I know you’re probably all nostalgic for a little Air Supply now. No doubt this one is a favorite of yours.

That’s one of my more interesting fair memories. What about you?

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Ever since the jet stream turned course and started sending Canadian high pressure over the border into Minnesota, the relentless tornado sirens have seemingly been more quiet, the humidity has lifted for a couple weeks and Lisa and I have found ourselves coasting into late summer gear.

And that is to say, we have ignored blog updates for almost 2 weeks as we’ve reveled in some glorious Minnesota summer days that are priceless. Priceless because we seem to get so few of them and because the pain of last year’s long winter can still be felt. The local cadre of weathermen/women in the Twin Cities were happy to announce these last couple of weeks as they’ve born the brunt of bad news for months, either too cold or too humid or too stormy or too rainy. Some friends and co-workers just say things like, “I’m not going to complain after last winter, I’ll take anything as long as it doesn’t have anything to do with snow or freezing temperatures.”

I have the sense that they believe somewhere in their heart that if they say anything negative, the spell that is holding our momentary relief will be broken and Mother Nature will hurl us into an early fall and winter as punishment for a display of ingratitude.

Reality is sometimes best left unspoken, if not to hold onto our current spell of perfect days then at least to cherish these moments that will get us beyond the Holidays and through the three months that follow into another spring.

Gary's Cessna 180 sea plane

I will cut this post short so you can get outside and enjoy these moments as much as you can. We’ve kept some notes to build on the last couple of weeks. Here’s what’s been keeping us from spending time at our keyboard:

  • We flew with a pilot friend in his Cessna 180 on floats to a wonderful small town cabin festival.
  • We took time off from work to spend precious time with my sister and her family visiting from Billings Montana – last Friday I went to the Science Museum to see the King Tut exhibit. (You’ll like it if you enjoy history).
  • We’re volunteering at the church picnic today – stop by for free BBQ, kids games and a terrific jazz band.
  • We’re planning a trip up north to a cabin in the woods.
  • We fixed our first blown bike tires – all by ourselves! (Reveling in the small victories)
  • We’ve got tickets for Twins games in the hopes of seeing Thome hit #600!

Now get out there and enjoy the day – because the reality is that we’re losing 2-3 minutes of daylight every day. Ignore the last half of that sentence if you must !!

My sister and me!

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Looking for a roughly 20-mile bike ride with plenty to see and eat? We spent this 4th of July enjoying the gorgeous day and getting some exercise as we looped the Minneapolis lakes area. We took well-marked, nicely paved trails with very few steep hills as we made our way along Minnehaha Parkway from Lake Nokomis heading toward Lake Harriet, onto Lake Calhoun and then circled Lake of the Isles before cutting across the city on the Midtown Greenway to the West Mississippi River Parkway. We “put in” on the north side of lake Nokomis and circled clockwise, west on the parkway.

Punch Pizza (near Lake Calhoun) made a fabulous half-way point to stop for lunch. That worked for me since it’s one of my favorite summer spots to grab a bite to eat. It was fun to see the city from a new perspective with great people watching opportunities. The lakes were buzzing with activity and Minnehaha Falls was roaring.

We came home in time to put a couple steaks on the grill to accompany some sauteed brocollini, a caprese salad and iced tea. It was an excellent, low-key way to spend Independence Day! We hope you found a fun way to celebrate as well. Happy 4th and thanks to all who serve our country. We appreciate you!

Minnehaha Falls

Bike Trails
Midtown Greenway
Minneapolis Trails

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The weekend before last, there were four of us middle-aged white faces that set out in two canoes on a 2 day overnight camping trip in northern Minnesota. We had 3 rivers to choose from depending on water flow. We ended up putting into the Whiteface River at County Road 52 about a mile west of the town of Cotton. The river originates in the Whiteface Reservoir and flows southwest finally feeding the St. Louis River. We did not put in

Breakfast

These guys know how to make breakfast in the woods!

at the reservoir, although the fastest water runs between there and County Road 52. The main thing is that we were 4 middle-aged guys who packed to travel in comfort. We had 2 aluminum canoes, 2 large tents, 2 large coolers, 4 captains chairs and 4 backpacks. We just wanted to paddle, camp, eat, mix Jeremiah Weed lemonades and enjoy the outdoors for 36 hours. And believe me, we ate like kings!

Our drop in site on the Whiteface River near Cotton, MN

The real adventure began when we started about an hour late putting into the river. As it turned out the only other people we would see for the next 36 hours happened to come floating by as we arranged the boats under the county bridge. They were 3 guys, 2 in a canoe and 1 in a kayak…and they were traveling LIGHT. They had the real-deal equipment: light weight canoe, small packs and a water proof pack for food and tent.

They smiled, waved and gave us words of encouragement as the 4 of us loaded our gear like we were at a private campground and not sparing the luxuries.

Off we went, and I must say that once you’re on the river, it’s quiet, full of wildlife and peaceful. There were several class 1 rapids to navigate and we did pretty good. Although the flow coming out of the reservoir was reported less than optimal. So in several places we had to get out and push the canoe through rocky, shallow spots. There are very few county road crossings along the way. Much of the stretch has long expanses of state-owned land with no access, so there’s literally nobody around. There are spots with private land, a few houses with barking dogs and many hunting shacks buried in the woods. We saw mostly deer, geese, wood ducks, mergansers, beavers, song birds, and otter and raccoon tracks. This river is just one of 32 waterways totaling 4,400 miles designated by the Minnesota DNR as “water trails”. If you scout the DNR website, you’ll get references to books and online materials that provide phone numbers for water flow rates from dams and reservoirs that would affect your experience. If you go to the Whiteface, you can dial for discharge readings: 218-720-2777. A discharge of 150 cfs is enough to get by with a bit of scraping on the bottom of your canoe.

Most of the trees are maple, cedar, conifers, aspen, birch and pine. Most of the pine is gone. It was logged long ago, but you’ll spot the occasional red or white one standing tall amongst the rest. The forest is mostly made of large ferns that look like something from the forests of

Mark stuck

Mark learns that the shore isn't as solid as it appears!

Avatar. There aren’t any official campsites along the way. So part of the adventure is making your own. However that can be a bit tricky because you must respect the private property and then you must find someplace where you can access the river bank easily. And that is where the challenge is. Other than the rocky class 1 rapids, the rest of the river is mostly a weird mixture of charcoal colored sand and clay. This stuff sticks to you like putty and if you’re not careful will suck you in down to your knees. This leaves you wondering how you’ll extract yourself without loosing your shoes and not falling completely into the river.

Oh, if you go, beware, there are mosquitos. They fly faster than you can paddle. However, I was prepared. I had doused my clothing in permethrin before the trip and we all sprayed clouds of deet on ourselves. Amazingly, I didn’t have a single insect bite. They buzzed me incessantly, but I never itched from a bite.  And once the campfire was going, the bugs simply stayed away. I only had one tick find the palm of my hand as I was out gathering firewood, and he ended up in the fire.

Earlier I told you that you might see beavers on your trip. If you don’t see any, you’ll certainly run into their handiwork. Mother Nature does her best to add to the fallen trees through wind and erosion. There is a stated log jam about 3 quarters of the way toward where County Road 133 crosses over the river. This is a HUGE log jam. The maps list the portage around the log jam as 50 rods, but it is MUCH

Portaging the canoe over logjam #1

bigger than that. At a minimum, I’d estimate it to be 200+. The kicker is that you think it is the only one on the trip. Not so. We ran into 3 log jams. And the only way around most of it is by portaging through ferns and stinging nettles. The copper colored waters of the river feel really good after burning your legs on the nettles! Originally we intended to exit another 7 or 8 miles south of County Rd 133, but the log jams slowed our progress and we were thinking one of us would have to hitchhike a ride from someone to our van. But as luck would have it, the 3 guys that had passed us the day before

A collection of 2 groups gives each other a hand!

ended up behind us on the following day. We had set our earlier and they eventually caught up to us at the 3rd log jam. They rescued us as they had a ride waiting for them at County Road 133. In exchange we shared our 2 coolers full of food and we all exchanged stories of our trip and spent a few minutes enjoying God’s provision for us all.

Brent and Mark

Brent and Mark

Getting ready for supper!

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We’re getting home late from a long, wonderful day that felt like the first real taste of summer in central Minnesota. In order to do justice to our adventure, we’ll have to  insert some follow-ups to this initial post.

The adventure began with an email from Lisa’s friend, Peggy, a couple of weeks ago. Paraphrased, the email simply said, “I saw this and thought of the two of you. This seems like something you both would like.” Lisa started describing it and at first I wasn’t sure I understood what it was about. The bottom line is it was an open invitation for members and non-members to this year’s first Slow Food Minnesota event.

Focccacia bread fire baked with herbs and wild flowers!

What is Slow Food Minnesota? Good Question!

Slow Food MN is the local chapter of Slow Food International – [Slow Food USA Facebook]. In short, Slow Food was created as a protest against the ubiquitous nature of fast-food. The idea is predicated on how our accelerated lifestyles of western culture have separated us from our roots; our choice to live fast has severed cultural connections to land, nature, agriculture and the traditions derived from our local environment. Eating processed food and fast food while demanding it in our grocery stores has further disconnected us from where our food comes from; and it has changed our taste buds so that we don’t recognize what real, honest whole foods from our own environment taste like. Consequently, our demand for packaged and branded tastes not only affects our health, but affects our personal economy, knowledge and  appreciation for the people who grow food locally. This means that our choice to eat fast affects not only local growers, but the whole world. Slow Food is a grassroots effort to bring attention to these ideas and build a network to regain what we’ve lost, retrain our taste buds to accept, appreciate and enjoy local, sustainable, small-scale production of choice edibles. It’s a way of living and eating that seeks to build commitment to communities and the environment.

Samples of the wild edibles served at the meal including: Morels!

Let us whet your appetite for the follow up’s to this post by telling you that the meal we had was prepared by the owners of Broder’s Cucina Italiana and

Slow Food Minnesota Style!

Pasta Bar in Minneapolis. [Broder’s Facebook]. All ingredients for this fabulous meal were locally obtained. The meal featured a pig from Pastures A Plenty, foraged greens, flowers and mushrooms (fiddleheads, asparagus, garlic mustard, nettles, morels, violets, cress and other tender greens, depending on what’s in season). Shortbread dessert was included, as was local beers from Flat Earth Brewing Co., wines including the Frontenac variety.

In the follow ups, we’ll tell you about the wild mushroom discussions, farm tours and eco-tours of the land prior to the meal.

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Success!!

Our first foray into the wilds of Sakatah Lake State Park just west of Faribault, Minnesota proved fruitful! Ha! Sorry I couldn’t resist saying that. We were geared up for a fun day and we weren’t disappointed. There were plenty of foragers who joined us as the trip was organized by the Minnesota Mycological Society. Over 60 people arrived at the Park and were ready to forage by 10am. Our quarry was Morchella esculenta, or the common morel mushroom. And in case you didn’t know, it is the official state mushroom of Minnesota.

The season is still rather early as our winter hung around for an extra 3 weeks. The trees haven’t even leafed out yet. You can still see through the woods as if it were the middle of April. It made it a little easier to get low and see to the ground, however the ground cover is springing up pretty fast now. Another week and the morel mushrooms should be perfect. The group found quite a few, but they’re not very mature yet.

A word of advice, you will want to take precaution against ticks and mosquitos. The best way to do that is to treat your jeans, your shirt and your socks with permethrin. You can get it in the form of an aerosol at most camping stores or as a spray. We opted for the spray. Don’t treat this stuff lightly. Do NOT spray it on while wearing your clothes. You must treat the clothing and let your clothes dry for at least 2 hours before wearing your outfit. You do NOT want to spray yourself with this chemical. We purchased the Sawyer brand and treated our clothes earlier in the week. Tuck your pants into your socks and wear gloves. There are plenty of prickly shrubs and you will get scratched if you’re not properly covered. When we arrived it was overcast and had been sprinkling. This was a good thing because otherwise it could’ve been warm to be covered up as we were.

Not a bonanzaa, but a typical basket. Conditions should improve over the next week.

Finding the morels is not as easy as you might think. They blend into their surroundings as they are a grey to golden yellow in color. At this time of  year, look for dead or dying elm trees with a nice sunny southern exposure. The ground needs to warm up a bit for the fungus to fruit, so this year especially you’ll need to look carefully. Another item to carry is a long stick to bend ground cover over while you peer closely. Some folks used old ski poles, others had their favorite hiking rod. Still others had carved their own sticks with wooden morel mushrooms at the top of the staff. I opted for something provided by mother nature. I found two nice sticks each about 3 feet long. A used hockey stick works pretty well too.

Another find were hundreds of wild onions. These are similar to spring ramps or wild leeks. They are rather potent for their size, so you don’t need very many. But we can tell you how delicious they are! We sauteed the wild onions with our vegetable medley for diner tonight and it was terrific! Are you wondering about how the morel’s taste?

Early May Morels from Minnesota!

Well, we can tell you that we just sauteed them in a little butter with salt and pepper. They were outstanding! They are a very meaty mushroom. Eating them is like taking bites off of a steak. We’re looking forward to our next foray near Lake Pepin.

If you like biking, you’ll enjoy Sakatah Lake State Park too. The Sakatah State trail runs about 40 miles from Fairibault to Mankato. It’s an old, paved railroad bed and the biking is easy. There are plenty of rest stops with picnic tables. Bring a lunch and enjoy the fresh air. We biked for about 90 minutes at a leisurely pace and covered about 14 miles.

By the time we were ready to bike, the sun had emerged and warmed us up providing a little of the season’s first humid air! Spectacular!

Are you finding any morel mushrooms? Have you gone foraging before? If you’re willing to share a good location to find some, please feel free to type a tip or location in the comments below! We’d love to hear from you!

Other sightings today included a bluebird, early spring wildflowers (Dutchman’s Britches) and several species of woodpeckers.

Blue bird

Dutchman's Britches

Rest stop on the Sakatah State Trail, Minnesota

MMS - MN Mycological Society Members

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