2017 Highlights: Can Can Wonderland

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Hitting the links at Can Can Wonderland: Photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

Just opened in 2017, Can Can Wonderland was one of the most fun, weird, and wild nights out I have gotten the chance to experience over the last year. Buried deep under an old can factory in the industrial zone in the Midway area of St. Paul, it is one of those new uses for decaying industrial infrastructure that is making the city so interesting.

After hearing about it early in the year, Lindsay and I were excited to finally make it there with a group of friends for my birthday last August, and it was definitely worth the wait. In this case, literally, as the place was so popular we had to wait several hours to get into the much anticipated artist-designed mini golf course the place is becoming most well known for.  From what I’ve heard from others, arriving the earlier the better is advisable to get checked in for minigolf, as we discovered as we were the very last group to make it through the links late one Thursday evening after getting signed up before seven.

On the other hand, there is plenty stuff to of keep you occupied while you’re waiting, including vintage arcade machines, a variety of tasty comfort food (I recommend the grilled cheese), and delicious, bizarre cocktails. The blue cheese infused gin “Sailing the Seas of Cheese,” for instance, was a refreshingly creamy mix served in the gaping maw of a shark shaped mug, complete with fake blood. Wow! And, it is was quite tasty as well. Of course, Lindsay ordered me a wonderful Happy Birthday cocktail as well, a delicious birthday cakey drink which was served with a sparkler and a party popper let off by the bartender.

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Receiving a birthday sparkler from the bartender at Can Can Wonderland: Photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

In addition, another new 2017 brewery, BlackStack Brewing, shares the same location, in on old warehouse upstairs from Can Can’s subterranean factory space, allowing you to sip a few pints of Punch Press Belgian ale or Spare Parts dark lager while waiting for your queue in the Can Can line. The comfy, low key brewery offers plenty of seating and board games, too.

As for the mini golf, it was well worth the wait. Now, I haven’t played much mini golf for a number of years, so I was a fair bit rusty when the time came to hit the course. To be honest, I ended up swinging wildly at the ball and didn’t get very far in terms of progress. Maybe the beer and the cocktails had something to do with that, but the elaborate and innovative backdrops certainly made even losing fun. In addition to the cool surroundings, the whimsical holes allow for any number of strategies for getting your ball through the obstacles- attempt a delicate maneuver to roll it right up the tongue of the Blue Toad, or try to knock it over the pond? Take the bridge or brave the tornado in the Natural Disaster? My favorite was trying not to get the ball lost under the couch in Gramma’s Living Room, packed full with kitschy bric a brac and vintage knick knacks. After all eighteen holes, I was pretty tired.

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Taking a rest on Gramma’s Couch at Can Can Wonderland: Photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

Thankfully, we were responsible and came via Lyft, though on a less hot, muggy day, Can Can Wonderland is a convenient fifteen minute walk from the Fairview Avenue Station on the Greenline. I’m looking forward to making another expedition here.

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Holiday Cheers

 

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Having a merry Christmas at Lawless Distilling

It’s back to work for many of us Americans on Boxing Day, MSP Adventure Time included, so hopefully everyone has had a warm and cozy holiday season so far. Now that the big ones are over and a subzero cold has settled over the metro, I’m going to reflect a little on some of the fun things we got up to this busy holiday season.

There’s always the crop of local craft fairs and markets, as I’ve written about every year, great for picking up a few last minute locally crafted gifts. A new one we checked out this year was the Hoppy Holidays Makers Market at Urban Growler Brewing Company in St. Paul’s St. Anthony Park neighborhood, one of my favorite local breweries. Along with checking out some cool local craftspeople, we picked up a bottle of the Bourbon Barrel Imperial Porter, one of Urban Growler’s limited releases. Not as much of a beer drinker, Lindsay has discovered a tolerable liking for the rich, sweet, heavy stouts and porters. That’ll be a great, heady libation for our New Years celebration.

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Urban Growler

Along with the craft fairs, we had another fun, energetic evening down at the Eagles Club in Seward, as I wrote about earlier this year. The 7th Annual Kinda Kinky Holiday food raiser was, again, a good time. The same Kinks hits performed with joy and energy by a roster of guests, it is always a cheery experience.

The highlight of the holidays was definitely the Miracle at Lawless, Lawless Distilling’s hosting of a holiday themed pop up cocktail bar idea originating in New York. Here, they’ve transformed their cosy and intimate but elegant space into a Christmas lighted extravaganza complete with themed drinks and the comforting, nostalgic scene of pine. It was packed when we arrived but we quickly got a couple of tasty drinks, a Gimlet Who Stole Christmas and a Sipping Hot Chocolate infused with fragrant Bittercube bitters. This has come to be one of our favorite spots in the cities for cocktails and it was a great way to get a break from the stressful holiday season. They’re continuing the miracle until New Years, so I’d really recommend stopping by for a festive and stimulating beverage.

 

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Miracle at Lawless

Hmm, I notice that a lot our holiday outings involve a drink or two…

In any case, for the new year, we will be writing a little about some of our favorite distillers here in the Twin Cities!  

 

 

 

Urban Growler, 2325 Endicott Street, St. Paul

Miracle at Lawless, 2619 S 28th Avenue, Minneapolis

 

Light up the Night at the American Swedish Institute

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Rupert Angeleyes performs in front of Turnblad Mansion

Where does the time go? Last time I wrote, an entry for my “Where U Wanna Eat?” segment, I wasn’t even in Minnesota, but spending a couple weeks in southern California. Spring popped up while we were gone, and now it’s practically summer! We got back some weeks ago, and adventures were had, but what with the move to St. Paul and my goodbye to living in Minneapolis, I’ve had my hands full. Better late than never, over the next few entries I’ll write up accounts of a few fun things I’ve done recently, and some fun traditions and new things that I’m looking forward to in the next few months!

Last spring, I attended one of the elegant American Swedish Institute’s fetes, Cocktails at the Castle, an intermittent event in the spring. I attended again this year on May 6th with my girlfriend Lindsay, her first time visiting the American Swedish Institute’s “castle,” Turnblad Mansion. The theme this year was “light up the night,” and we arrived early and spent the entire evening there, eating Scandinavian delicacies like herring and potato salad and drinking some of ASI’s special cocktails on the mansion’s lawn. The entertaining local “music project” Rupert Angeleyes performed on the steps of the mansion, setting up an awesome vibe. Lindsay and I have seen them perform before and they always put on a great show, one that really suited the festive atmosphere.

 

After the show, we painted a watercolor together, explored the mansion from top to bottom, searching for clues for the scavenger hunt, and then got a tour of the entire universe courtesy of the Bell Museum’s traveling planetarium. It was a lovely, warm night and a great time. Like last year, though, it was definitely a bit on the steep side, with a ticket price of $22 each, not counting the food or drink.

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Our watercolor masterpiece! 

As the summer progresses, some of my favorite local events are coming up, many of which are free to experience! Northern Spark is approaching in just a few weeks and looks wonderful, as usual. I’m also looking forward to visiting the Floating Library again later in the summer, and to the many Open Streets events that occur throughout Minneapolis. There will be new events to report on this summer as well, and I’m so excited to experience all the great things Minneapolis and St. Paul pull out for these months of warmth in Minnesota.  

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Enjoying a Scandinavian beer at Cocktails at the Castle. Not a cocktail, I know! 

Du Nord Craft Spirits

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Exterior of Du Nord Craft Spirits

Saturday before last, Lindsay and I met some friends for a tour of another new, local distillery, Du Nord Craft Spirits. With Lindsay and I both enjoying gin lately, it has been very fun to visit these places in the community that are working to make local spirits. Located in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis right off of Hiawatha in an unassuming warehouse, Du Nord has a cozy cocktail room serving its own spirits and offering games and comfy seats.

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Some of the local corn used in the L’etoile vodka (photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron)

Founded a little more than a year ago, Du Nord currently offers three products, Fitzgerald gin, L’etoile vodka, and Apple Du Nord liqueur, all milled, mashed, and distilled on the premises from locally sourced materials. As we saw from the informative, energetic tour of the distillery, the people involved take it very seriously and are often improving their process. Watching the passion and expertise at Du Nord and seeing how they prepare their libations was quite educational. Apparently, for instance, many “craft distilleries”  don’t distill their own products, but rather import aged whiskey from other states and just bottle on premises (or hire out the bottling too), which can be identified by brand new distilleries selling several years aged products. Du Nord, in contrast, crafts all of the products on site. The gin, vodka, and apple liqueurs each celebrated aspects of Minnesota agriculture and history, and we were given delicious samples of each.   

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Some pretty tasty cocktails!

Du Nord is one of currently more than a dozen craft distilleries in Minnesota, a number that will multiply quickly in coming years and our tour guide at Du Nord was very passionate about educating consumers to be good connoisseurs of craft spirits. Again, due to archaic and puritanical Minnesota blue laws, we could purchase only a small bottle of their products and they were unable to serve liquors from any other local distillers.

 

The cocktails they did serve, though, were amazing, in particular the Mpls Mule, a vodka drink with delicious freshly squeezed ginger and the Bees Knees, a gin drink with rich, sweet local honey. Both were among the best I’ve had! In addition, we enjoyed an entertaining game of shuffleboard (first time playing) and some of the board games as well. Definitely a nice way to spend a winter afternoon!     

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Comfortable interior of cocktail room, with view towards the distillery (photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron)