Union Depot Holiday Bake Sale

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In the weeks before the holidays, one can certainly find oneself encountering all manner of treats and goodies, whether at holiday potlucks or family cookie exchanges. It can all be a bit overwhelming, especially as one is also scrambling to find those last minute gifts, if you happen to be or know people celebrating Christmas.

Popping up across the Twin Cities in November and December are a large number of holiday craft shows, a few of which I blogged about during the last few years. This year, Lindsay and I went to the St. Paul Union Depot for it’s European Christmas Market. Due to icy wind and snow on that afternoon, though, we soon went inside the depot to check out another event; the Union Depot Holiday Bake Sale. The 4th Annual sale, it boasts drawing the top Twin Cities bakeries to peddle cookies, candy, and other sweets. There were definitely some delectable and tasty treats on sale, in particular the T-Rex Cookie Company and Heavenly Treats’ toffee. We were able to get some shopping done, too! Unfortunately, I’m not sure I’d come back- the admission fee to get in to even browse the treats ($5 with a commemorative tote) seemed a little much, especially since so many other craft and food shows are free (including the Depot’s Christmas Market, itself). Only a handful of our favorite bakeries were represented, so it was definitely lacking quite a few of the best bakeries the Twin Cities can offer, and curiously, several non-baked good merchants were also on hand, almost as if the selection criteria had little to do with merchants offering the best desserts in town. There were some music and cookery demonstrations, but nothing was happening while we were there. May be best to plan ahead before visiting events with admission fees.  

Bell Museum Garage Sale

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The James Ford Bell Museum of Natural History is one of my favorite hidden gem museums in the Twin Cities, tucked away on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis. The U’s showcase for the natural sciences, of Minnesota, the world, and the cosmos, I loved exploring its detailed wildlife dioramas as a child and ducking in for a relaxing diversion as a college student. The handsome art deco building built in 1940 houses a great variety of specimens, hands on activities, and works of art, and is a great place to visit if you are interested in checking out exactly what type of creature a “golden gopher” is. However, if you want to visit it at its current location, you only have until the end of the year! After December 31st, the museum will close to prepare for a move to a new, state of the art location being constructed over at the St. Paul Campus. As the only natural history museum in Minnesota, it’s always been a special place to me, and I must admit some mixed feelings seeing it move. Still, I’m excited to see what the University has in store for the bigger, better building!   

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Waiting to enter, morning of November 25th.

This weekend is a great time to stop in at the Museum if you haven’t been or want just one more visit to the cozier old location before the great expansion. Until Sunday, the museum is hosting a garage sale, dispensing with a multitude of awesome museum ephemera that any museum nerd will just have to have. Lindsay and I stopped in this morning, braving a bit of a line to get inside where we dug through awesome t-shirts, posters, and display cards from special exhibits from past decades, and piles of books, among other interesting finds. There might still be fishing rods from the museums’ old summer camp, if you’re into that! While I think all of the lifesize fish silhouettes were snatched, there’s bound to be a lot more treasures to be found over the next couple of days, and at pretty good prices, too! Sunday, in particular, includes free museum admission and $5 for whatever you can fit in a grocery bag!

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Wolf diorama- Photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

After loading the car with our haul, it was nice to get to wander through the museum’s renowned dioramas one last time, watching people walk over the simulated bog and other old favorites, such as the touch and see discovery room, filled with all manner of bones, terrariums, and other fun stuff. What will the new location bring that we still can’t imagine?

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Our haul! Photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

It’s open tomorrow from 9 to 5, with an admission of $8 for adults (free for University students and staff), and 10 to 5 on Sunday, with free admission!

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A collection of stuffed rodents- Photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

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)

 

 

Madison Bound

 

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Stained glass, Winona County Historical Museum

Over the next few days, I will be tackling a small backlog of adventures I missed writing about back in February. The first adventure is a fun road trip for those times when you might require a change of scenery from the Twin Cities. Over Valentine’s Day weekend, Lindsay and I crossed state borders for a little trip to Madison, Wisconsin, a fun college town that makes a nice weekend getaway from the Twin Cities. Here are a few highlights and recommendations from the trip!

Taking the scenic route down the Mississippi from St. Paul, we stopped for lunch in the sleepy but interesting college river town of Winona, Minnesota. This is the town where my grandparents lived, so I spent a lot of time here growing up, but it had been awhile since I visited so it was fun to stop again, see how things changed, and introduce Lindsay to another weird Minnesota town.

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Riverboat exhibit, Winona Historical Museum (Courtesy of Lindsay Cameron)

We had a delicious lunch at the Blue Heron Coffeehouse, one of my favorite restaurants in the state. In addition to the yummy food and friendly, laid back artsy vibe, they share a space with a used and new bookstore, The Book Shelf, which always has good finds. We then explored the recently renovated Winona County Historical Society Museum, which I’ve found to be one of the best local historical museums in Wisconsin, displaying a variety of interesting artifacts from one of the oldest cities in the state. After climbing into a reproduction steamboat and marveling at some preserved storefronts, we then took the opportunity to explore some art in the collection of Winona’s ambitious and newest museum, the Minnesota Marine Art Museum. It may seem like an unusual location for the collection, but Winona does have a historic port supplying lumber and flour for shipment down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico and beyond. The Marine Art Museum explores the “historic human relationship with water,” an apt mission for a museum set on the banks of the Mississippi River. Featuring contemporary photography as well as work spanning the artistic movements from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries, including such luminaries as Monet and Picasso, it is one of Minnesota’s hidden gem museums.

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Capitol District Madison being transformed into a skiing track.

Crossing the border into Wisconsin, we were in Madison by early evening, where we had a date to catch comedian and actor David Cross perform at the Orpheum Theater, located on State Street, the epicenter for entertainment in Madison. The humor of Cross, of Arrested Development fame among others things, was a great way to kick off the trip, especially when he upset the more religious portion of the audience.img_20160213_133136

Madison, the capital city of Wisconsin and home of the University of Wisconsin, is always an entertaining place to visit. Situated on an isthmus between Lake Monona and Lake Mendota, with the Capital building sitting on top of a hill, it is a compact, walkable city that seems to pack a lot into a relatively small area. We were in town during the last big cold snap in the Upper Midwest, and it came just in time for the Madison Winter Festival, though a lack of snowfall required the city to haul in a layer of snow to surround the Wisconsin State Capitol building for racing cross country skiers. With folksy fiddle music playing on the loudspeakers and a few quirky little snow sculptures, downtown Madison became a wintery wonderland.  

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Spending the weekend exploring the isthmus area over the weekend was a fun and relaxing way to brave the cold and enjoy each others’ company. Particularly with the Winter Festival going on, parking was difficult downtown, but most things are in easy walking distance of each other. At the center of Capitol Square is, of course, the Wisconsin State Capitol building, a pretty impressive edifice of state government. They offer a free and quite informative tour throughout the building, visiting the executive, legislative, and judicial branches where we marveled at the ornate interiors and fossils embedded in the stone walls. It was pretty interesting to be standing right there behind the leather upholstered chairs where the Wisconsin state legislatures make laws (rather poorly, under current administration, eh?). The tour was full of the usual list of notable “bests” that Wisconsin’s capitol building can boast (taller than the US Capitol Building, largest granite dome in the world, etc.) Some of which seem a little questionable, perhaps, but now I am looking forward to touring the Minnesota State Capitol building, to see what we can boast!

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Wisconsin State Capitol building interior (Photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron)

In addition to the Wisconsin State Capitol, we also visited the Wisconsin History Museum and its entertainingly goofy exhibit on Wisconsinites in Hollywood. The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art is also a good place to check out, which hosted several fascinating collections, including a surreal and energetic collection of 1970s prints by Wisconsin artist Warrington Colescott inspired by Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice. That’s one for the reading list! The exhibit goes on until April, so if you’re in town, stop in!

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Sculpture Garden roof of Madison Contemporary Museum of Art, enjoying the snow

Strolling along State Street, we stopped in a variety of charming boutiques and shops, either just browsing or in full shopping mode. Of course, the bookstores were where we found the most to peruse. Browzers Bookshop is a maze of used books, with plenty of weird things to look at and you’ll probably get quite the deal there too! At the venerable independent feminist bookstore A Room of One’s Own, one can browse a very wide selection of new and used books. This was a very nice bookstore to spend some time hanging out and picking out a new book or two (or, hell, more).

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Some of Wisconsin’s fine beers, at the Old Fashioned

 

Of course, nothing says Wisconsin like enjoying an alcoholic beverage and we certainly had our fair share, so leaving the car behind was a wise choice. The charming, quirky, and rowdy bars of State Street and the Capital Square serve up some tasty Wisconsin beers and delicious cocktails. The Old Fashioned, a bar and restaurant specializing in Wisconsin’s food and drink specialties is a good place to start. Offering more than a hundred Wisconsin beers and a half dozen versions of the Old Fashioned, along with cheese curds, cheese plates, and many other tasty treats, it is a good place to go to be overwhelmed by choices. Just arrive early, the place is packed to gridlock by 6 on weekends. Breakfast, though, is a more relaxing time to visit. We had a perfectly decadent Wisconsin breakfast: A rich cheese plate, giant (and affordable) apple fritter, a breakfast old fashioned, and a pint of Tyrena Brewing’s Devil Made Me Do It Coffee Imperial Oatmeal Potter.  

Paul’s Club, on State Street, is another good place to stop in for a drink. Where else can you go to a bar that has a full side tree inside of it, along with a good beer and cocktail list?The Great Dane Pub is a pretty cool place to stop by in the Capital Square area as well, a brewpub that offers a nice rotating selection of brews, including the Stone of Scone scotch ale. Also come for the shuffle boards (Wisconsinites are super serious about this game).

If you find yourself famished while shopping on State Street, a nice place to stop by for very filling Laotian and Thai cuisine is at Vientiane Palace Restaurant, which has a lot of delicious food for reasonable prices, including some very tasty pad thai noodles. My eggplant dish was also very tasty. Graze is a romantic and atmospheric choice for dinner. A new restaurant specializing in farm to table cuisine, we had a very lovely meal here and I would recommend it for a fancy evening out, with nice views of the Wisconsin State Capitol and very good food. Again, the cheese plate is highly recommended, as is the oyster plate.

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Some of the collection of the National Mustard Museum (photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron)

On the way out of town, we stopped by one of Wisconsin’s many “quirky” attractions. Where else, for instance, could you visit a museum devoted entirely to a condiment? Located just outside of Madison in Middleton, Wisconsin, the National Mustard Museum is worth a stop for anyone with even a little appreciation for mustard. An exhaustive selection of gourmet mustard varities from across the world upstairs, and a tongue in cheek celebration of the history and art of mustard downstairs, it is a cool and funny place to stop to sample some tasty sauces. After picking up some mustard for upcoming gatherings, we left Madison for St. Paul. A quick stop in Osseo, Wisconsin, for some top notch pies at the Norske Nook  Restaurant and Bakery rounded out or trip (and our bellies). All in all, it was a great weekend sampler of a winter town in Wisconsin, and I am looking forward to returning.  

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Did you know Tony Shahloub was from Green Bay? Display at the Wisconsin History Museum (photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron)

 

 

Herbivorous Butcher

 

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A sunny afternoon in Northeast from the Herbivorous Butcher (picture courtesy of Lindsay Cameron)

A few weeks back, Lindsay and I drove over to the grand opening of the Herbivorous Butcher, the vegan charcuterie, the first in the United States, that’s been the subject of much discussion over the last year or so. Lindsay is a vegetarian, and, though I’m not a strict vegetarian (or vegan) I do tend to cook and eat mostly plant based recipes. My only weakness is seafood, so I guess I’m what people call “pescatarians.” In any case, siblings Aubry and Kale Walch have been selling their wares at local farmers markets for a few years, though I never had the fortune to pick up any of their wares. So, when they announced their flagship store in Northeast Minneapolis opening in January, I was there!

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Crowd waiting for vegan meats at the opening of the Herbivarous Butcher, January 23rd, 2016

It seems like half of Minneapolis had the same idea, though, so when Lindsay and I found ourselves in a three hour line, we opted to sample the Italian sausage (delicious) and come back at a more manageable time. It was awesome to see the attention the little shop had attracted. So a few days later we returned to pick up some vegan meats for dinner in the next week. The place was hopping on this late Sunday afternoon, and while the bacon was gone, we picked up some porterhouse steak, some maple breakfast sausage, and some sriracha brats. Next time, maybe the cheese!

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Some of the delicacies available at the counter- note that the Korean Ribs have just sold out. Next time, next time…

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Chopping some porterhouse for chili! (photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron)

It was easy to see why; with their small batch recipes made from local ingredients, it is a perfect opportunity to get people more interested in trying out a vegan diet, even if just for a “meatless Monday” thing, if only for the oddity factor. It is certainly a more sustainable one!

I tried out the porterhouse in Isa Chandra Moskowitz’ “Chili Sin Carne al Mole,” which turned out quite delicious (though I may have gone a little too much on the chili powder, this turned out to be a five alarm type!).

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Preparing breakfast sausage!

Lindsay made a lovely breakfast for dinner, using the deliciously mapley maple sage breakfast sausage with pancakes and eggs. A great way to end a day! I’m really looking forward to grilling some of those sriracha brats sometime soon!

Basically, I think it’s an awesome place to get anything for a party or a special recipe, and we are lucky to have them in Minnesota! Even if I haven’t converted to be a pure vegan yet, I still feel much more comfortable trying some kind of vegan bologna rather than whatever it is in the “real” thing! I imagine the pepperoni would go pretty well on a pizza, and be pretty well indistinguishable from the spicy, tasty little mystery meat pucks you usually have!

Herbivorous Butcher, 507 1st Avenue NE, Minneapolis, MN T-F 10-7, Sat 10-6, Sun 11-4.

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Photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

Favorite Twin Cities Bookstores

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Interior of The Bookhouse, Dinkytown

There is still a few shopping days until Christmas for those of us who celebrate the holiday in one form or another, and, for me, nothing makes a better gift than a book. For those of us who don’t, the time off can be used to curl up with a book. I’ve been meaning to post a list of a few of my favorite bookstores in the Twin Cities after poking around them all year, purchasing a few more books than I might need.

One of those things that people often cite about the Twin Cities is our high rankings in the “most literate cities” indexes published every other year or so. Both Minneapolis and St. Paul tend to hover in the top five, with Minneapolis often topping the list. Our only rival seems to be Seattle for this coveted spot. In addition to selling books, art, and other needed items, many of these locations offer interesting literary events as well, including author discussions, readings, performances, and more things that help give you fun things to do over the weeks. 

 Being a generally bookish person, this may be one of the reasons I feel so at home here. One of the gauges for judging the “most literate” cities is the number of independent bookstores, and the Twin Cities have our share. In fact, it can be hard for me to decide which to visit whenever I find myself needing to purchase a book. I always check the local stores before falling back on online options, to keep my consumption of literary materials local. Here are a few of my favorites and ones that I’ve visited recently, though they are by no means a comprehensive list, just some that I visit often. On occasion, I’ll also mention a good place to eat/drink nearby as well!

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The big one, the Twin Cities’ largest independent bookstore, Magers and Quinn is one of my favorite bookstores in Minneapolis, offering new and used books and consistently sponsoring all manner of authors, events, and concerts, so that there’s always something going or coming up there. I’ve written about their participation in the awesome Books and Bars, but last August, for instance, I saw New York researcher Richard Beck present on his new book, We Believe the Children: A Moral Panic in the 1980s, which included a local element that brought some very interesting discussion. Discussing the infamous “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s, I’ve yet to read it yet, but it looks to be an intriguing read with much to tell us today as well. I may not have heard of this book without the promotion offered by Magers and Quinn.

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Big Brain Comics, Washington Avenue

Big Brain Comics

For graphic novels, zines, comics, and any other combination of the literary and visual arts, Big Brain Comics should be your first stop. Definitely my favorite comic shop in the Twin Cities, it’s got everything you might want; from superheroes to my personal favorite, memoir comics. 

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Bookhouse Exterior

The Bookhouse

A maze like warren of used books on all topics, this is the place to go to look for reference material for your various classes at the U. Stocked with an utter sea of books on all topics, fiction and nonfiction, I love looking at all of hidden gems here. In particular, they have a great collection of books on folklore, mythology, history, and local topics, all fields of interested to me.  A fixture in Dinkytown for decades, I recall spending a lot of time browsing for folklore and mythology at its earlier basement location across the street. It’s great that they are weathering the great upset of Dinkytown going on. Last summer, I traded in a pile of my old books here as well!

If you stop by to browse books, you might as well grab lunch at one of my favorite quick lunches in Dinkytown, Lands End Pasties, located in “Dinkydale” right downstairs.

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Moon Palace Books, E 33rd Street

Moon Palace Books

My favorite new (open since 2012) independent booksellers in Minneapolis, Moon Palace Books is a great little store tucked away just south of Lake Street on East 33rd Street in the Longfellow neighborhood, I’ve stopped by a few times to get certain items I’ve needed when I’ve been in the area and I really enjoy the cozy ambiance here. A very fun place to browse a great selection of new and used works!

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Dreamhaven Books Mural, E 38th Street

Dreamhaven Books

A hidden gem in the South Minneapolis Standish neighborhood, Dreamhaven Books is happily back to regular hours since this summer, so I recommend heading down to and checking them out. Offering all manner of rare and mysterious science fiction, fantasy, horror, and other niche materials, they’ll help you track down the most obscure and arcane tomes, old and new, which in my case little known Lovecraftian pulp writers from the Twin Cities. You can really get lost in the shelves here, especially in the marked down sections. There are always surprises to be found at Dreamhaven and you’ll find things you must have that you didn’t even know existed. Make sure you come with plenty of time for browsing.

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Interior of Common Good Books, citing St. Paul’s superiority

Common Good Books

St. Paul’s preeminent independent bookstore selling new books, Garrison Keillor’s own Common Good Books is still a booklover’s paradise in its new location on the intersection of Snelling and Grand Avenue in St. Paul’s Macalaster-Groveland neighborhood, and it still includes Keillor’s old study furniture. They provided the materials for George Saunder’s visit last week!

If you get hungry while stopping by, it is just around the corner from one of my all time favorite Twin Cities restaurants, the Khyber Pass. Their lunch buffet is particularly great and affordable, as is their tea! If you haven’t had Afghani cuisine yet, it is a must try!

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Eat My Words Bookstore, during Northeast Open Streets last August

Eat My Words

A awesome new used bookstore in Northeast Minneapolis, Eat My Words also offers a lot of local authors rarely seen in other bookstores, along with an assortment of handcrafted zines from artists across the country. I’m excited to see the events that they offer here as well! Right across the street from Dangerous Man Brewing, I’d say that enjoying a local craft beer (the Peanut Butter Porter, say) along with a newly purchased local publication sounds like a pretty great idea!

A few other favorites include Micawber’s Books in the St. Anthony Park neighborhood of St. Paul, which I wrote about way back in March of 2014, and some that I’ve only been two once, though I really enjoyed them and can’t wait to return for another favorite bookstore entry, Boneshaker Books, and Uncle Hugo’s. In the end, all of this only scratches the surface of the Twin Cities bookstores and I apologize for totally prioritizing Minneapolis in this entry!

 

Holiday Craft Show Madness: A Reflection

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European Christmas Market at Union Depot, St. Paul

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Enjoying some Gluhwein at the European Christmas Market

Along with my family, I went a little wild on the craft shows last Saturday, hitting up a few I mentioned last week, along with another bonus one! In what has become a new tradition for us, it beats heading to the mall, that’s for sure. Here’s a taste of what we saw-

Starting in St. Paul, we swung by Art at Ramsey first. This one seems to be pretty much the same every year, and runs towards the pricier end of stuff.

Heading into downtown St. Paul, we stopped by Union Depot to see the European Christmas Market for the first time. It was the first time I visited the depot since it’s awesome renovation, renewing its place as a hub of travel and exploration. Made me want to jump on the Empire Builder to Seattle, or even a bus to Duluth! The market was held outside, in the unseasonably warm weather, and was quite small, seeming to deal mainly in food items, like some quality maple syrup and Surly brewing’s Glühwein.

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Grain Belt Brewhouse exterior

We then went over to Northeast Minneapolis to check one I missed the other day, the American Craft Council’s Holiday Hop. This was definitely my favorite of the day. Held at the Grain Belt Brewhouse, home of the American Craft Council, it was a great opportunity to visit this great local organization, visit their lovely library, and shop for vintage Minnesota stuff, as well as all sorts of other goodies, from local organic vegan barbecue sauce to local cheese. This one was also free to visit, and will definitely be one I’d recommend for next year.

 

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Finally, we finished up at my favorite, the No Coast Craft-O-Rama, which is always among the most interesting collection of cool stuff. I’m pretty set for gifts now, making for a less stressful finish to the year.

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Shopping at No Coast

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Midtown Global Market

Twin Cities Holiday Craft Market Bonanza

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Minneapolis Craft Market, at Sociable Cider Werks

It may have come as kind of a surprise to me, but it has become obvious everywhere you look that the “holidays” are coming. It is December now, unbelievably, so I feel I can brook the topic a little. It seems like every year, my family is all like, okay, this year we’re not doing presents, alright? Only for people to ask each other what everyone else wants for Christmas by the time Thanksgiving comes around again. I guess traditions die hard, especially for “the kids.” Fortunately, over the next few weekends, plenty of events are popping up all across the Twin Cities to celebrate local makers, artists, and craftspeople and support them through buying their wares.

Last Sunday, I stopped by a new one that just began this year, the Minneapolis Craft Market at Sociable Cider Werks, an event inspired by similar craft markets across the pond in London. Along with cidreries’ hot mulled wine, a few tents were set up in front of Sociable, making for an intimate and cozy little show, in spite of the chilly temperatures. Seriously, though, it’s been super warm this year, so far, hasn’t it? I picked up some nice gifts here, along with some of Sociable delicious Nice Ride rye cider, cider with a bit of body to it! There was plenty of parking available, whether for cars or bikes, and it will be continuing for the next few weekends, so take a look!

This Friday and Saturday in particular, there will be a veritable cavalcade of events around town offering all sorts of arts, crafts, and delicacies. I stopped in last year at a few of them, the Julmarknad at the American Swedish Institute and the Holiday No Coast Craft-O-Rama at Midtown Global Market. This year will be the No Coast’s 10 year anniversary, as it started way back in 2005! Wow, that was the year I graduated college. I’ll definitely be checking that out again this Saturday!  

I’m also planning to head over to St. Paul on Saturday for another one I’ve never visited before, the European Christmas Market at Union Depot, inspired by the Christkindlmarkts in various Germanic countries. It also boasts Glüwein, a spiced mulled wine. Nothing better than a little alcoholic beverage to help you through the madness, eh? It seems if you’re interested in Euro-style Christmases, you’ve got Sweden, Germany-Austria, and the UK to choose from in Minneapolis this weekend. I’ve always maintained the desire to spend the holidays in Europe some time, so this is at least a taste of that.

Finally, the Art at Ramsey event in St. Paul, held at Ramsey Middle School will be returning on Saturday as well, which I talked about last year. This one seems to have the “highest end” crafts, though plenty of affordable gifts as well.

Art at Ramsey, Saturday December 5th, 10-5, free

Ramsey Middle School, 1700 Summit Ave, St. Paul

European Christmas Market, Friday December 4th 2 – 9, Saturday December 5th, 10-9, Sunday December 6th 10-3, plus the next weekend at same times, free

Union Depot,  214 4th St E, St Paul

Holiday No Coast Craft-O-Rama, Friday December 4th, 3-8, Saturday December 5th, 9-5, free

Midtown Global Market, 920 E Lake St, Minneapolis

Julmarknad- ASI Christmas Market, Saturday December 5th 10-5 and Sunday December 6th 12-5, $10 admission

American Swedish Institute, 2600 Park Ave S, Minneapolis

 

Minneapolis Craft Market, Sundays in December, 11-5, free

Sociable Cider Werks, 1500 Filmore St. NE, Minneapolis

 

 

Farmers Markets on a Lunch Break

 

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Minneapolis Farmers Market on Hennepin.

In recent years, following trends throughout North America, the number of farmers markets in the Twin Cities and throughout the state are burgeoning like rhubarb in the summer heat. Providing conscious shoppers with fresh local, sustainable produce and goods from nearby farms and producers, whether for people into “locavoreism,” “flexitarianism” (and other such buzzwords) or those who just enjoy fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables for their cooking, it’s good to have them. I’m always impressed with what I find; in addition to the regional seasonal stuff the Midwest is known for (rhubarb, squash, corn, etc.) there are also rare and interesting things you don’t see at any grocery store; bitter melons and obscure pepper varieties, heirloom eggplants, or, at the farmers market in Mankato, ground cherries. Those were certainly interesting, and pretty tasty in a pie. 

However, sometimes it can be difficult to schedule a visit during a busy workweek. For those who work in downtown Minneapolis, though, a couple of options exist that you can make a quick stop at on your lunch break. The Minneapolis Farmers Market, which has organized a spin off on Nicollet Mall on summer Thursdays for years, has moved it over to Hennepin Avenue this summer while Nicollet Mall is undergoing some major construction. It’s always fun to grab some ingredients for dinner on your lunch; I got some really nice zucchini and eggplants for a couple recipes I’d wanted to try. I kind of like shopping for cheap, fresh vegetables on the busy sidewalks of downtown Minneapolis, with Hennepin Avenue being even busier and more exciting than Nicollet. The Hennepin Avenue Market is open Thursdays from 6 am to 6 pm.

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The Market, Target Field Station, on a sunny August evening.

There is also a market, called simply The Market, which is being held every Monday evening at the Target Field Station. I checked it out yesterday evening, taking advantage of the lovely weather to do a lot shopping (I needed more zucchini). To be honest, I’d never been down this way before, having no interest in baseball, but it was a nice area to explore. The Market, open Mondays for the rest of the month 4:30 to 8:30 pm, was a little bit more geared to fancier local artisan crafts and products, like salsa, honey, coffee roasters, and such, than the Minneapolis Farmers Market. Still, there were some nice produce stands, too and in coming Mondays, live music will be present as well. 

First Ever Northeast Night Market

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Night Market at Bauhaus Brew Lab, just after six.

The other day, I experienced one of those new events that pop up on occasion, the “first ever Northeast Night Market,” hosted by Bauhaus Brew Labs in Northeast Minneapolis. This is also the first time I’ve blogged on an entirely new event, too. The Night Market boasted a large group of local artisans and craftspeople, live entertainment, food, and, of course, beer. I was not disappointed.

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People begin to arrive, pausing to listen to music at the Night Market

Arriving just before six, people were already starting to filter into the old warehouses, airy tunnels open to the sky, atmospheric with rusty metal and weathered brickwork. The historic former industrial architecture has become home to various local businesses, not least Bauhaus, one of Minneapolis’ most popular and vaunted new breweries, and creators of the acclaimed “Wonderstuff,” a Neu Bohemian Pilsner. I started out by grabbing a pint of their seasonal offering, Hairbanger, a “Belgo-Style Pale Ale,” which made a great, refreshing summer beer. thinking that I should take advantage of the smaller line to grab one right from the bar. I had no way of knowing how prescient this spur of the moment thought was.

Sipping my beer, I walked around the premises, scoping out the food trucks, listening to the accordions and violins of local bands, I waited for friends to arrive. The arrived about a half an hour after I got there, and by that time, the lines had swelled, stretching down the parking lot and the warehouse interior had begun to fill up. Fortunately, I had the foresight to grab some delicious frozen lollies from Frio Frio first (the avocado-lime was particularly good) to pass out when people arrived. Why not have dessert first, right?

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Crowd at the Night Market just after 8:30, as the sun begins to dip low.

The lines for the rest of the beer and food, though, got a bit harrowing quite quickly. The crowd of people and dogs exploring, drinking, eating, and buying local cool stuff made walking a bit difficult, too. Still, enjoying one of Potter’s Pasties hot hand pies (Thai Veggie), sipping on a Sky Five Midwest Coast IPA and scoring some beard oil and an awesome print of the beautiful storm drains under the Twin Cities was quite worth it, overhearing amusing conversations and watching the free entertainment and music provided made it a great first event. As things wound down for me and I got ready to leave, around 8:30, the lines had not slowed down and, in fact, were even longer than before. I was amazed at how much food was being dispensed to the masses by the food trucks, though it seemed a few hot items were running low. People kept pouring in to join the festivities, and seemed a great success! It was a wonderful way to discover high quality, handmade local brands in person.

I’ll definitely come again, but I would stress arriving early- like, half an hour before official opening early. Also, if possible, bike, walk, or bus, to make things easier. MetroTransit Route 10 makes a stop at the nearby intersection of Central and Broadway every 15 minutes or so until midnight, The next Northeast Night Market is on July 21, and later on August 18, my birthday!

Bauhaus Brew Labs

1315 Tyler Street NE, MPLS

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Leaving Northeast Minneapolis, at sunset.