Mill City Farmers Market

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Mill City Farmers Market crowd

I had a relaxing long weekend for Memorial Day, enjoying the nice weather. I did some kayaking and enjoyed some delicious treats made for my sister’s birthday, rhubarb upside down cake, after picking up ingredients at another great sign that summer is coming here in Minnesota.

It’s always more fun shopping for the week’s dinners at one of the state’s many great farmers markets. It seems that just about every town has them and they are great for picking up interesting local produce and crafts, along with some breakfast. The Twin Cities, in particular, have a lot of great choices. While nothing beats the venerable Minneapolis Farmers’ Market for variety, choice, and affordability, the newer Mill City Farmers Market offers a bit more of a compact setting and a very interesting location in the shadows of to other great Minneapolis institutions, the Guthrie Theater and the Mill City Museum (both worth checking out and either may well be the subject of a future entry at MSP Adventure Time). Since 2006, the market has offered sustainable, local food to the old Mill district.

Arriving in the mid morning, we found the market was crowded but not impossible to navigate, with people strolling about sampling food and examining the wears of a variety of stalls offering a variety of items. A young woman played the violin as the smell of crepes and coffee filled the air, it was a fun place to people watch on a fine Minneapolis morning. Occupying the alley between the Mill City Museum and Guthrie, looking up you find yourself directly under the Gold Medal Flour sign and can enjoy your street food looking over the Mississippi River. The stalls continue into the Washburn A. Mill building,  huddling nicely under the rusty girders of the old mill factory, highlighting this wonderful use of these urban ruins. Even it such a small space, I found myself overwhelmed by sights, smells, and sound.

It seems that the Mill City Market offers a lot less produce than many farmers market and focuses on gourmet (and delicious) street food and local crafts, including baskets, artisanal cheeses, honeys, wild rice, and other such things. You can choose fresh crepes from the Spoon River stand or something eggier from the Chef Shack.  Produce is not totally lacking, though, and we picked up some great, fresh stalks of spring rhubarb, my sister’s favorite, for $5 a bundle. I also got a few pounds of bulk mung beans for use in a few curries over the next few weeks.

Of course, my sister and I had to purchase some loose leaf tea, including some very nice blends from the diverse and affordable selection of Miss Kelley’s Tea, one of the Twin Cities local tea connoisseurs. We also purchased some more loose tea, and some lychee kombucha, from the newest tea merchant in town, Verdant Tea (the subject of an entry back in February), who also have a kiosk at the Mill City Market.

The kombucha, which Verdant offers in three flavors including lychee, is a frothy concoction brewed from fermented tea, known for boasting a lot of health benefits (as well as maybe killing you if made wrong). Verdant’s brew was, to me, quite refreshing, the best I’ve had. Slightly carbonated, cold, and tangy, it makes a nice summer beverage. My sister, though, has never really formed a taste for it, its smell being honestly a little vinegary. I guess it’s a bit of a love it or hate it thing. Still, this was far superior to the bottled stuff you can find in grocery stores, in my opinion. Verdant offers it in bottles which can be brought in for a refill.

I will definitely be back, as one can not experience everything here in one visit. The Market, which opened on May 10, will continue until October 25 on Saturdays from 8 to 1. Parking is quite plentiful in the area, with a ramp right across the street, but it is in such a picturesque area, biking is probably the best way to get there. Still plenty of time to check it out this season!

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Gold Medal Flour

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Thinking of the Future: Summer in the Cities!

I think it is finally safe to say that summer is on the way here in Minnesota, and we are probably out of the danger zone for any freak snow storms for the foreseeable future. I took a nice long bike ride this afternoon, smelled the blooming lilacs and river smell, enjoyed the breeze, ate some gourmet ice cream, and I was totally thinking about all the awesome stuff that’s coming up this summer. Of course, summer may a little less fun now that I don’t have any school breaks, but, oh well, there is still something about that encourages laziness. It may be the heat. I may really be more of a fall/winter person after all, but after last winter I am looking forward to some warmth. Well, as long as its not too warm, that is.

Lazy though the summer is, I am looking forward to all the fun events that pop up in the Twin Cities summers so I thought I would share a short list of my favorites.

I’ve been to two great evenings of Northern Spark, 2012 and 2013, and it is probably my favorite arts festival in the city. Back in Minneapolis after a jaunt across the river to St. Paul, it seems as if half the metro is there taking advantage of the balmy temperatures to stay up all night. There were so many different things to do, it was hard to decide on which ones to do next, and so much creativity on display I was left breathless. Can’t wait for 2014, in which so much is going on across the city that it will take me some time to decide what to do!

The same weekend is the Stone Arch Bridge Festival, which presents art and music in the shadow of the photogenic and atmospheric Stone Arch Bridge. I went last year for the first time and it was a fun event in a great location. Worth checking out before Northern Spark!

I will be gone on an adventure to the Pacific Northwest for most of July, so moving forward to the end of July and the beginning of August, we have the ever intriguing Minnesota Fringe Festival. It’s the Twin Cities, so we’ve got to include some performing arts. We do have the second number of theater streets after New York City, you know! You would be hard pressed to find the level of innovation, experimentation, and just plain weirdness that comes out at the Fringe even in NYC. I’ve been attending Fringe plays since 2007 (a small section of its 21 year run), and have seen everything from adaptations of obscure works by Robert Anton Wilson to audience interactive mystery stories, to musicals involving the world’s largest ball of tinfoil. All great. They do not have a list of this years shows yet, but keep watching!

Finally, not to neglect St. Paul in my list, I am looking forward to my yearly hit of Japanese culture at Como Park’s Japanese Lantern Festival on August 17. It is always fun to relax to the sound of Taiko drums, eating some Japanese street food, and watching people dressed as their favorite anime characters, and then the lantern lighting section is just breathtaking.

So, anyway, as I was looking forward to the future, this article from the City Pages by Tom Vandyck came up today and it was definitely an interesting and thought provoking read, too, great for when you are looking ahead. Check it out!.

 

 

 

A round of disc golf…

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Launching

Last Saturday, a few friends and I took advantage of the amazing spring whether to indulge in some outside activities, after a long winter of being cooped up inside. Fans of the high competition, grueling sport of disc golf (you can call it frisbee golf, or, perish the thought, “frolf,” if you must), my friends drove out to the disc golf course at Acorn Park, up in Roseville to amble through the grassy wooded hills and marshes of the park, tossing disks with names such as “the beast,” or “the shark” at distant baskets.

My disk, borrowed from a buddy, fallen where it may...

My disk, borrowed from a buddy, fallen where it may…

It really was a beautiful day, around seventy, a refreshing breeze, spring peepers calling from the marshes and ponds nearby, I almost forgot how terrible I am at the sport. Plus, I never can remember how many tosses it takes to me to get my disc, borrowed, into the basket, let alone the scoring system. Hmm, there’s probably an app for that!  This was the second time I’d been to Acorn Park, a multi-use park in Roseville which boasts an “18-hole” disc golf course, offering many challenges, including trees, hills, and, of course, ample ponds to devour your discs. The volume of rain we have been getting in the Twin Cities lately has swelled these and it seems inevitable that someone in your group will toss one into the drink. Fortunately, we had among us someone eager to retrieve these and other discs lost in the murky depths, including a mysterious “Disc of Joe,” which after a few tosses, soon returned to the pond from whence it came, not to be seen again. For now, anyway.

As a casual interloper to the sport, if it can be called that, there seems to be quite a following in the Twin Cities. It is not too hard to see why, as an inexpensive, informal group activity that is friendly to all skill levels it can be a nice way to spend a warm spring afternoon. There is a stoner quotient maybe slightly less than hacky sack, but at least it is a way to get outside a bit. There are fair number of courses throughout the Twin Cities, at least  a dozen or so, and every time I’ve gone, I have seen quite a few other groups of millennials, mostly men, strolling around casually, attempting fancy tosses, a few even dragging elaborate caddies to organize their frisbees. Seems like it is a perfect low key activity to putter around at, chatting, and is fun even for those who are wretched at throwing, like myself. The expense cannot be beat too, as most courses, including Acorn Park, are free. The discs are pretty affordable too and you can always salvage one or two out of the ponds. I am not sure if disc golf has become more popular in Minnesota, but it might be on the rise along with craft breweries. Much cheaper and more relaxing than “real” golf, with its acres of manicured, artificial land, the Twin Cities disc golf courses are tucked into parks that can be enjoyed by all, allowing you to get a feel for the various suburban habitats of the metro; from wooded hills, to flat prairie, to marshland.

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An intrepid disc golfer attempts a recovery

I am probably not too qualified to rank the course accurately, but at 18 holes, Acorn Park is a pretty long one (not that you have to complete it all, of course!) and fairly wooded, so there are less opportunities to throw for distance without risk of losing your disc in the trees, let alone the rain swollen ponds that punctuate the terrain at Acorn Park. A day of disc golf can really build up an appetite, so I’d recommend some grub and a craft brew afterwards. Barley John’s Brew Pub, in New Brighton, is not that far away and, with its outdoor seating, would be ideal for a post-game stopover. More on this later!

Minnesota History Day!

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Interior of Science Teaching and Student Services Building, University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus, with Minneapolis skyline

For the last four springs, I have participated in a very interesting, humanity affirming type of event, the Minnesota branch of National History Day contest. Just the sort of thing you help out with in order to feel more connected to the community. A program for grade and high school students to research and present upon a historical topic, Minnesota seems to have a particularly strong following with thousands of students from schools across the state choosing a topic and exploring its importance in history. Thanks to the Minnesota Historical Society and the Univeristy of Minnesota, among other sponsors, Minnesota History Day is a great way to get involved! A general “feel good” type of situation that really warms my library history major heart to see so many diverse youth interested in the importance of history, exploring such things as the labor movement in Minnesota, civil rights, and environmentalism.  Among many others, I volunteer as a judge, to evaluate the student’s works for the national events later in the year, and help them to brush up their analysis and presentations. As always, one of my favorite things is learning all of the totally new things every time I judge, in such a wide variety of topics and I never know what interesting ideas will be presented next.

Last Saturday, the final State History event convened at the University of Minnesota. I love having the chance to visit the campus of my old alma mater. Most of the exhibits and presentations are held at Coffman Union, where I judged in the past, but this year I was judging websites for the first time, which turned out fascinating. These were hosted in the shiny new Science Teaching and Student Services Building, which a few years ago replaced the frumpy little Science Classrooms Building I remember from my time at the U. I can admit to a certain, deep seated sense of nostalgia and melancholy that often comes over me whenever I have an excuse to hang out on the U campus, I thoroughly enjoyed the years I spent at the U of M, taking history and philosophy classes over on the West Bank, than strolling across the Washington Avenue Bridge, checking out the student group murals along the way, to take Latin or Scandinavian Folklore on the East Bank. There is much that has already changed since my time at on the campus, the new Science Teaching Building just one thing.

Well, to get back from speaking of my own history to History Day, there is always a theme in National History Day. This year, it was “rights and in history,” which made for some very heady presentations. It was very cool to see how students interpret the use of the internet to tell their stories. It is particularly interesting for me as a librarian to see where students go for their information- they do seem to hold books in high regard, still, especially when they discover that they don’t even have to buy them! Quite revolutionary, eh? It is all worth the cool free T-shirt or coffee mug you get for helping out!