Twin Cities Time Travel: 1800s

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Fort Snelling at night: photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

Last fall, I had the opportunity to explore a few remnants of the Twin Cities’ early nineteenth century history, survivors of more than a hundred years of urban renewal and change the dynamic region has experienced as it enters the 21st century.

A history buff with a master’s degree to show for it, I appreciate the changes that have led to a world where we might question the appropriateness of naming one of our most popular natural landmarks after one of the nineteenth century’s foremost proponents of white supremacy, restoring it to the name given it by the region’s original inhabitants, the Dakota. In the mid-nineteenth century Minneapolis and St. Paul were beginning to come to prominence as a major agricultural hub, feeding the world. At the same time, they relied heavily on investments obtained through the buying and selling of human lives and planned the wholesale destruction of the people who already lived here. Also the region became the destination for thousands of immigrants who would bring their own cultural and political ideas here, making it among the most heavily immigrant states in the country. As these tensions and contradictions became untenable and the continued presence of slavery in a nation founded on equality led to Civil War, Minnesota was fast to join the Union cause in spite of taking in so much slaveholding investment to found various state institutions, in particular the University of Minnesota. The relics of these times that still exist can provide a little time traveling to these fraught and interesting eras, and I do appreciate the chance to delve into the past.

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Waldmann Brewery

One such survivor was recently brought back to life in the up and coming West 7th neighborhood of St. Paul. Waldmann Brewery and Wurstery is housed in the oldest commercial building in Minneapolis-St. Paul, originally built in 1857 as one of the city’s first German immigrant lager saloons. Established by Bavarian immigrant Anton Waldmann, the saloon operated until 1863, and survived the next hundred and fifty years as a rental property before being completely renovated as one of the St. Paul’s most interesting new breweries. The drinking culture of German immigrants was, at the time, a controversial and dangerous aspect of these foreigners, though people did take quickly to the new German innovation of lager beer as it was thought to be a less alcoholic alternative to the Yankees’ ubiquitous whisky. So Waldmann Brewery’s authentic

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Some artifacts at Waldmann Brewery: photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

recreations of 19th century German beer styles is particularly intriguing as they are both “old fashioned” to our current brewing techniques while being a “cutting edge” technology to the period.  A new innovation from this culture which was beginning to influence the current culture of the Twin Cities, and yet are also emblematic of the fears of immigration that always strike the country.

Visiting last fall, the little stone saloon was packed with people enjoying the painstakingly restored architecture and ambiance. With the wood burning stove, the flickering oil lamps, and the period decor, it really does feel like going back in time. It is quite a cozy place to enjoy some beer and comfort foods such as wurtz and smoked fish (if you are a meat eater), or pretzels and cheese, if not.

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enjoying our beers at Waldmann; photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

 

Just down West 7th Street is another nineteenth century survivor, the impressive home of Alexander Ramsey, first territorial and second state governor, completed in 1872. Ramsey was at the heart of the contradictions present at the founding of the state, being the first governor to pledge troops to the Civil War while also advocating the genocide of the Dakota people in response to the US Dakota War, started as a result of Ramsey’s and other white elites enforcing fraudulent and exploitative treaties against them.

Ramsey’s ornate home definitely reflects the Victorian splendor of the gilded age elite, with technologies that would be the top of the line at the time, including both hot and cold running water and steam heated radiators. Ramsey’s family willed the mansion to the state, along with ninety percent of its original furnishings, and it is maintained as a museum by the Minnesota Historical Society. Today, the MNHS hosts many educational and entertainment events in its lavish halls.

I had never visited the Ramsey House until last October, when my wife and I saw an MNHS “History Happy Hour” focusing on historical hoaxes, including nineteenth century “fake news.” Arriving after dark on a rainy evening, the old mansion definitely had a spooky ambience, an atmosphere not harmed by the oppressive Victorian opulence. It was definitely an interesting discussion, touching on historical falsehoods that, in the past as well as the present, reach fever pitch in the popular culture. The Happy Hours are held the last Thursday of every month, and are a good way to experience the house and learn some information about the Victorian period and other historical topics, along with a drink or two.  

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Fort Snelling; Photo courtesy of Lindsay Cameron

Of course, the most infamous and prominent historical building in the state is across the river at Fort Snelling, ground zero of these themes of oppression and site of many of the atrocities the state and federal governments were privy to; the genocide of native peoples as well as the enslavement of people throughout the United States. The site where Dred Scott was brought as a slave by an army surgeon who leased his work, leading him to assert his freedom only to be ruled against by the Supreme Court, and where hundreds of Dakota were imprisoned in squalid concentration camps before being driven from the state, it symbolizes much of the injustice of American history.

The fort was built in 1819 at a prominent and sacred location for the Dakota, near the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers by United States forces to consolidate their power over the indigenous population of this formerly French territory, sold recently to them by Napoleon in order to fund his wars of conquest. It is an interesting example of how the confluence of global history can converge on a single location, and emblematic of the Euro-American quest for domination of the continent. Interestingly, and perhaps in part because of this conflicted history, by the 1950s only a few vestiges of the old fort survived, notably the Round Tower and the South Battery. By 1960, the MNHS performed extensive archaeological and reconstructing work, restoring the old fort’s appearance to that of the 1820s, making it one of their flagship historic sites. The site of many school trips and events, traditionally emphasizing it’s military history.

The MNHS is, however, currently working on a major revitalization project at the Fort, hoping to better serve the “many voices, many stories” that exist there, but there is still a dark, ominous feeling at the place. Not that I believe in ghosts or anything!

This feeling was heightened when Lindsay and I visited the site one late autumn evening after the sun had already disappeared, the moon was hidden behind dark clouds, and the winter cold had just begun to set in. I had not been since I was a kid, but we visited to experience one of the MNHS’ “CSI: Fort Snelling” events for the Halloween season, an interactive mystery based on a historical crime that actually took place in the fort. A crime unrelated, of course, to the matters of slavery and genocide that are centered there.

As someone who has been known to engage in a roleplaying game or two, and drawn to the idea of time travel, the idea of this event appealed to me. Time travel is, of course, a much more appealing thought for someone who needs not worry about their safety in the past. In spite of my knowledge of the horrors that took place here, it did not occur to me, in my privileged place, how inappropriate such an event in so fraught a place might be. As I discovered later, there was some controversy regarding the CSI: Fort Snelling event as people called out its insensitive nature and, in response, the MNHS will no longer organized the event in the future as they strive to serve a more inclusive mission with their revilization. Even when one is primed for such awareness, it is all too easy to forget, which is why it is so important to increase the acknowledgement of these aspects of our history. As it was, we set out to the fort curious about what this story might entail.

In this scenario, “The Musician’s Secret,” set in 1827, we would be portraying members a crowd of Scottish and Swiss refugees from the ill fated attempt at at settlement in the Assissinobine territory, near where Winnipeg exists today. It proved to be an atmospheric but crowded event. We arrived with a large group of tourists, bundled up for the cold, and were handed info sheets to get us caught up with who we were and the various personages we would encounter. Entering the walls of the fort, we found quite a few people milling around bonfires drinking beer and cider while listening to period fiddlers. Most were dressed in in street clothes, though a few came dressed as time traveling vampires.

Organized by the Scottish Lord Selkirk, the colony was plagued by disasters, flooding and locusts, and many prospective squatters, including “us,” who had plodded down the Red River ox cart road in an attempt to return to Europe. Stopping at the fort, hoping to board a steamship at St. Paul to return to the coast, we were supposed to have become entangled in the story of a musician and fellow former Selkirker who, it was said, stashed some gold nearby only to have been murdered by person or persons unknown. Given the information we were presented as we were guided around the fort, we were tasked with unraveling the conspiracy, identifying the culprit, and assisting with the trial.

The actors, costumed in their historically accurate garb and portraying various soldiers, servants, travelers, and professionals, were exuberant and earnest in that community theater sort of way, through the large group of people being led around did not really lend to too much interactivity, or much investigation or questioning as it was difficult to make sure everyone heard everything. While I did figure it out in the end, it was more my knowledge of the tropes of the genre than any clues I managed to garner over the course of the investigation. As an RPG aficionado, it also would have been better to have had more of a motivation in our “roles” as well.

However, none of this even acknowledges the stories of pain and injustice that took place at the fort, centered with its function as an outpost of the will of the invading colonial forces. As the MNHS struggles to make this surviving bit of our past reflect all of the viewpoints and tragedies that it’s existence created, taking stock of such uses of its history is important. In the end, I am not sad to see the end of CSI: Fort Snelling, though it remains to be seen how the stories of the cruelty of the state and it’s government will be told.

Look forward to more time travel adventures in the future as I write about some places in the Twin Cities that will bring you back to the 1920s and ‘30s and the 1950s and ‘60s, two interesting periods of 20th century history here.

This will be my last update of my adventures in 2017, and I’ll shortly be recounting some of the adventures of the first few months of 2018, including why updates have been so sparse around here of late!

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Autumn Lū’au at United Noodles

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Dancing and Food at United Noodles’ Autumn Lu’au

United Noodles is an established Asian supermarket tucked away in South Minneapolis’ Seward neighborhood among warehouses and factory buildings. I remember first being introduced to it by students from a Japanese Student Association at the U of M. I recommend it for hard to find produce and grocery items as well as its delicious, and cheap restaurant, Unideli. My family liked to get huge sacks of rice to keep us supplied over the year, as well as treats like umeboshi and that Singaporean ginger drink I really like, Gold Kili. Importing products from nations across the Asian continent, and catering to the metro’s immigrant and expat communities as well as locals interested in trying some new recipe or food, I really enjoy stocking up for a staycation at United Noodles.  

On Sunday, the grocery store had a special event that made for a very nice staycation, their fourth annual Autumn Lū’au. This was the first time I attended this event, and it was definitely a fun one to visit. As I have not yet had the chance to visit Hawaii, I really enjoyed getting this sample of island cultures in the heart of the landlocked continent heading towards its months long deep freeze. Celebrating Hawaiian and Polynesian cultures in Minnesota, the event featured a special on Hawaiian specialties at Unideli and some demonstrations of hālau hula dancing and music from Keola Santos. Along with that Hawaiian specialty incorporating a beloved Minnesotan export, spam, spam musubi, and a plate of Hawaiian delicacies which really highlight the fusion of cultures in the state, the shoppers watched the elaborate dances, creating a cool beach festival like atmosphere inside a grocery store.

It was a very fun way to experience some things we might not have seen in the metro before. Keep an eye on the events hosted by United Noodles, and check it out sometime!

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United Noodles entrance

United Noodles, 2015 East 24th Street, Minneapolis, open daily 9-7, Unideli 11-6

Last Touch of Fall in Minneapolis (and some beer)

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Prospect Park Witches Tower, October 2015

As we move into November, we find ourselves a few weeks past the autumnal peak color here in the Twin Cities, though it was pretty spectacular around here while it lasted this year. Biking to and from various library branches for work, heading out on another local pub crawl, or just getting groceries, it seemed there was always opportunity for some quality leaf peeping (as they call it over in New England).

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Minneapolis, from Prospect Park

he urban forest we have going around here is one of my favorite aspects of living in the Twin Cities, this one last explosion of color as our deciduous foliage hits its reds and yellows and oranges before hitting the ground. November is always one of the dreariest months, the bare brown branches exposed in between the green boughs of summer and the white expanse of winter snow. We’ve got some weeks, it seems, before we even have to worry about that, so in the meantime, here are a few photos from the last few weeks of October.

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Minnehaha Creek

Speaking of the last pub crawl, we went out one chill, lovely moonlit fall night for my good friend Aaron’s birthday, taking full advantage of the awesome weather to check out a few of Northeast Minneapolis’ finest brewing establishments. Starting where we ended in August, at probably the premier brewery in Minneapolis, the fancy new Surly Brewing Destination Brewery, a great place to have a few beers. I was particularly taken with their Witches Tower Solstice Session Brown Ale. After hanging out under the Witches Tower itself earlier in the day, this was a hearty and atmospheric brew to drink under the moonlight. We next dropped by Dangerous Man Brewing, waited in line to get in with some visitors from Michigan, and had some delicious Chocolate Milk Stout. Finally, we ended up at what is probably my favorite in the metro right now, Fair State Brewing Cooperative on Central Avenue, with its focus on unique sour beers. I have really been enjoying this style more and more, I have to say. Along with some of El Taco Riendo’s extremely cheap and ample chimichangas, we finished off a good evening.

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Enjoying a few brews at Surly Brewing

MSP Reading Time: Talking Volumes talks Welcome to Night Vale

[Cross post with my BookLikes book blog, ReadingRainstorm]

Minnesota Public Radio’s nearly twenty season old program, Talking Volumes, always has some fascinating, inspiring conversations with some of the best authors working today. As the autumn begins, new shows begin to appear, marking the perfect time to grab some new books and listen to the authors expand upon their writing. Hosted by Kerri Miller with the help of the Loft Literary Center, I always like to attend at least one of them a year.

Back in 2013, I attended the thought-provoking conversation with everyone’s favorite Canadian speculative fiction rock star Margaret Atwood, getting a couple of my books signed. It was very interesting to listen to her thoughts on the use of science in literature, and writing about the apocalypse, which seems to have become a bit of a theme for me.

On Sunday, I attended the equally thought-provoking show with Jeffrey Cranor and Joseph Fink, creators of the super popular podcast Welcome to Night Vale and the new tie in novel, at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul. Perfect for the coming Halloween festivities, I’ve been listening to Cranor and Fink’s creepy, witty, inexplicable stories, utterly mystified by its popularity. The two writers’ voices mesh so seamlessly into one stylish, eerie whole, aided by the pitch perfect announcing of voice actor Cecil and the atmospheric music of Disparition.  How did something so weird, so admittedly inaccessible, become such a big thing? It was very informative to listen to Kerri Miller chat with the two writers about their philosophies and craft, especially in the portions where she disagreed with them. These were some of the questions I had with the show too, and I am very curious to see how it all translates into a novel.

It was an intriguingly appropriate venue to discuss the meanings of Night Vale and how the authors create such a memorable, intricate, and bizarre, every myth is true setting. After all, Night Vale is a radio drama in the form of a podcast, detailing the community news, eccentric personalities, tongue in cheek commercials, and musical interludes. Seems familiar, eh?  I have a deep interest in fictional towns, so this parallel made for some cool discussions.

In fact, the podcast has often been described to me as Garrison Keillor meets H.P. Lovecraft, or the Prairie Home Companion crossed with the X-files. This is, as Kerri Miller pointed out, we were sitting in “the house that Lake Wobegon built.” The show started off with a trivia contest, asking audience members questions of whether something happened in Night Vale or Lake Wobegon, which again hinted at the parallels between these two imaginary communities and the weird relationships they have with the “real world.”

I am captivated, obsessed with this theme that both radio dramas share, the fictional town or community set in our world, but just a little bit outside of our normal, everyday experiences. In some ways, they are able to express the feelings of place, and of region even better than an actual location. Fink, for instance, spoke about how he sees “the places often pretty clearly, the place is important, I feel, the setting” and mentions using the hometown library he remembered growing up, a weird, inexplicable place” as the real world inspiration for Night Vale’s own “unknowable” library and its dangers.

Throughout my attempts to dabble in fiction, I have always found myself captivated, obsessed with some of the ideas explored in Welcome to Night Vale and found myself drawn into these elements specifically. One thing that Night Vale seems to specialize in is a juxtaposition between the mundane world that we all live in, and the weirder, stranger world that exists just outside our understandings. Things are weird in Night Vale, and the people accept this.

Meanwhile, the music highlighting the show, original songs by Aby Wolf, were a great compliment to the eerie, beautiful atmosphere of Night Vale and is definitely worth checking out by itself. After all, one of my favorite aspects of the Welcome to Night Vale podcast is being exposed to new, local music scenes.

I’m looking forward to reading the book!

You can listen to Sunday’s show here right now, and keep an eye on the future scheduled shows as well!

Expedition into the Haunted Basement 2!

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Signing wavers before entering the Soap Factory’s Haunted Basement. Wavers? Oh yes…

Last night, on a grim, rainy evening, myself and a few other brave souls again delved into the horrors hiding underneath the normally placid facade of Northeast Minneapolis.   

In order to prepare and fortify ourselves, we met up for a few beers at the Bulldog NE before making the short trek to the Soap Factory, where we were set to once again descend into the depths of madness and experience the Haunted Basement.

After braving the the Soap Factory’s acclaimed artistic haunted house last year, I was eager to try it again. Every year is different, so you really do not know what to expect as you are lead down the stairs into the pitch blackness of the maze. I will not say any more, as you should experience the Basement for yourselves. One word of advice, though. If you are interested in going, choose a night and a time and purchase tickets well ahead of time; like, weeks ahead of time. They sell out quickly, and seem only to be getting more and more popular. There are still a few tickets left, though and it is well worth it!

As we waited to enter the maze, the ambiance and mood was enhanced by the hilariously gross, grotesque taxidermied animal sculptures, and the mysterious bangs and shouts began to filter up from below. The exploration would soon begin.

As I mentioned last year, I, myself, tend to be rather squeamish and easily disturbed, but I have found the Haunted Basement to be an awesome, overwhelming ordeal to go through. In my experiences these couple of years, the horror is not one of gruesome, violent scenes but rather psychological. After you get all psyched up by the reputation and ambiance, you are then confronted by a whirling, confusing labyrinth of situations.

I think the true terror of the Haunted Basement, and what the designers are going for, is an attack on the typical Minnesotan cultural tendency against confrontation and the physical closeness of strangers. They do not respect space or boundaries, social or physical. The actors will touch you. They will get up in your grill. Cramped, disorientating environs and odd smells will accost you as you stumble through , unnerving and eerie scene to the next, never knowing what to expect.

You will hear, and experience, screams, shrieks, and bouts of uncontrollable, uncomfortable laughter. This is what many of us Minnesotans dread; close, unpredictable encounters with strangers who invade your personal bubble and demand things of you you are not sure how to give. They are not logical and they don’t play by the rules of daily life. Some visitors freeze up, some grin weirdly, some try to take things in stride, and some simply cannot take this assault on their senses and cry “uncle,” escaping back to the light and fresh air of the surface. Some relish the opportunity to push their boundaries through forced interactions. In any case, it is an experience I would recommend!

A Diversion to Door County

 

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Lake Michigan shoreline, Peninsula State Park

Last weekend, I accompanied my family on our traditional local weekend getaway my parents have been doing since the early ‘70s; the annual trip across state lines to Door County, Wisconsin. It may just be my own nostalgia for camping trips, hikes, and campfire stories of childhood, but I would still recommend the region to Twin Citians looking for a local weekend adventure, especially during the fall. Why let the Chicagoans have all the fun, right?

Door County is that little peninsula that sticks out into Lake Michigan from the eastern side of Wisconsin. From St. Paul, it takes about five hours to get there. Usually, we leave at four in the morning and arrive in time for breakfast. It is a quaint, rustic type of place, with rocky shorelines, thick deciduous forests (particularly dramatic with the changing leaves), along with plenty of farms and orchards offering a nice selection of produce. For the most part, we’ve stayed in the campsites at Peninsula State Park, a thickly wooded and hilly park tucked into the center of the region, making it a convenient place to access most of the fun stuff in the county. Plus, it has some nice hiking trails up bluff ridges and down to the rugged Lake Michigan coastlines. It’s probably the best deal of places to stay around, but make sure to make reservations early.

For those of us who do not have our own boat, a car is probably the most convenient way to traverse the peninsula, though there are plenty of scenic bike routes as well, and I’ve been wanting to try that out sometime as well. Numerous places offer bike and kayak rentals, and I’ve even seen a few of the towns offer free bike “borrowing” at the community centers. Pretty fun!

Along the county’s shorelines are a variety of little villages and hamlets, formerly farming and fishing communities, now each with their own little restaurants and shops. It’s pretty touristy, even if by October the large crowds of summer have begun to thin out a bit (I guess I wouldn’t really know, I’ve never been there in the summer). Still, there are plenty of high end shops offering works of art, camping supplies, clothes, and various trinkets- though there are bargains to be found as well. In some places, there’s a definite funky, DIY ambiance in the county that I really enjoy.

Here are a few of my favorite spots, aside from the celebrated tourist institutions of the peninsula, your Al Johnson’s and fish boils, say.

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Hands on Art Studio silo

For the last few years, one of the highlights of the trip is the Hands On Art Studio, also known as the “Art Barn,” in particular the Adult Night on Friday Evenings. A variety of studios housed on a working farm in the interior of the peninsula, the various artists allow visitors to try their hands at making a variety of DIY projects, including fused glass, mosaics, painting, and metal work. Very fun to come home with your own piece of art, especially the fused glass. It’s good to come with some ideas, of course, so start coming up with a plan before you go. Of course, being Wisconsin, there’s a nice variety of beers available to spur the creative process.

After letting your creative juices go, you may be hungry. There’s certainly no shortage of places to eat around the county, but my favorite is probably Czarnuszka Soup Bar in Ephraim. A tiny little storefront, Czarnuszka offers just hardy, Eastern European style soups, three or four varieties a day from a constantly changing menu. Including both vegetarian and non-vegetarian items, my favorite has to be the Bohemian Potato Soup, a constant. A bowl of soup, a roll, and maybe a drink is a great lunch, and extremely affordable too. Bring cash, though. Also, a bowl of soup is a great lunch as well, as it will satisfy you but allow you to save room for the other things you know you’ll be eating later in the day.  

Things like Sweetie Pies, which, admittedly, we stop at more than is probably healthy. But hey, we don’t eat pies everyday! This may be a bit more touristy, but it must be mentioned. When you find yourself in Door County, you will probably find yourself wanting pie. This is especially true in the fall. This place has the best selection and the best quality, I feel. If you want your rhubarb pie uncontaminated with other fruits, go here. There is also pumpkin, pecan, and a variety of other fruits and mixtures as well, including a delectable caramel apple.

The Door County Brewing Company seems like a lively and interesting place to try various microbrews. Went here for the first time last year, and it was a very nice craftbrewery. They specialize in Belgian style ales as befitting the culture of the Belgian immigrants who moved into the area, so there is a lot of interesting saisons and farmhouse ales. My favorite, of course, was Bare Bottom Madness, a Pale Ale brewed with oats. I like hoppy beers and I like oats, so together they were great! I’d recommend checking them out, having a flight, and picking up a growler for the next gathering.

Autumn foliage at the Ridges Sanctuary

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Autumn foliage at the Ridges Sanctuary

If you don’t have time to go on an all day hike up to the top of the bluffs at Peninsula State Park, but you would still like a little walk through nature, a visit to the Ridges Sanctuary, Wisconsin’s oldest land trust, founded in 1937. Some lovely walking trails, meandering through the thick conifer forest, among marshy swales created over a few millennia by Lake Michigan, make for some very nice nature walks, and you can be done in an hour or so. If you want, you can also walk down the the Lake Michigan shoreline and look at the zebra mussels! 

Looking forward to my next visit already, and who knows, maybe next time I’ll experience it during the summer (or the winter, that would be interesting as well!)

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Sunset over Green Bay, Door County, Wisconsin

 

Oktoberfest at the Black Forest Inn

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Black Forest Inn

It is good to be back in Minnesota for my favorite time of year. The leaves are starting to turn, pumpkins, apples, and other fall produce are at the markets, and it’s beginning to cool off. Many fun things are planned for the next few weeks!

Here in the Midwest, there is a strong German influence and a variety of German cultural and culinary institutions can be found in Minnesota. Like much of the rest of the Northern US, people descended from German immigrants are the largest European ethnic group in Minnesota. In late September and early October, several communities across the state offer Oktoberfest celebrations, playing tribute to the great funfest in Munich. Of course, the major component of Oktoberfest is beer, and we certainly have some of that!

A few places in the Twin Cities have Oktoberfest events as well, and this year I checked out the venerable Black Forest Inn’s Oktoberfest on Eat Street, i.e. Nicollet for the first time. I stopped in with some friends last Thursday for the Weisenheimer Night, one of the themed nights the restaurant offered, each with its own activities and vibe. It seems to play host to many literary and music events, and I will definitely keep my eye on their calendar. To be honest, I was too busy chatting, drinking German oktoberfest beers, eating hearty German fare, and listening to the jaunty tones of the accordions to hear the jokes, but that was fine, it was a fun time in any case. I must confess, German food is not my favorite in general, much too heavy on the meats and gravies, but as comfort food it can hit the spot on a chilly autumn night. It reminded me of my own trip to Germany a few years back.

A few vegetarian offerings were on the menu as well, such as a delicious autumn squash dish, counting the desserts, of course. If there is one thing I can get behind, it’s a German dessert. The beer, following quite freely thanks to the happy hour Octoberfest prices, was good, as well. I will definitely return next year, especially if they have the haunted Black Forest Night.

Obligatory Super Blood Moon Eclipse Post

 

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Blood Moon on Lake Minnetonka, September 27, 2015

It’s been a few days since I’ve gotten back from my trip to Japan, and I’m still processing it all. Starting to recover from the jetlag, getting back into the daily grind of everyday life, remembering how it is to be at home.

It was an awesome trip, and I’ll post more about it shortly, but I’m glad to be back in time for my favorite season in Minnesota. This weekend, I spent some time at my parents’ in my home town, the western suburb of Mound, which was a great place to observe the big astronomical event of the month, the Super Blood Moon Eclipse. We won’t have another of those until 2033, and Minnesota was among the westernmost regions able to see the full eclipse, so it was definitely worth taking some time to watch. A perfect night for astronomy, I went kayaking on Lake Minnetonka with my sister, under the light of the abnormally large and glowing orb in the sky, it’s light reflected in the rippling waters of the lake. The lake was quiet as we watched the moon go dark behind the shadow of the Earth itself, a breath taking sight. It was also nice that it was happening at ten pm, rather than 2 or 3 in the morning (of course, I’m still feeling most awake at those times).

A memorable way, for sure, of coming back to Minnesota. After two flights lasting upwards of fifteen hours, getting out on the lake made a great way to stretch a bit and get some physical activity. As the waters lapped against the sides of our kayaks and we bobbed along with the wind, we watched the moon rise and then begin its dramatic disappearance before returning to shore. It’s great to be back!

 

Black Friday Alternatives: The MIA

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Morning at the MIA

So, it is the day after Thanksgiving, which, over the last few years, has become synonymous with overconsumption and consumerist lust, with stories of people being killed over cheap consumer goods, fighting each other for the chance for some paltry savings after bloating themselves on poultry. It’s all over the media, so much so that this year, my grandmother was literally frightened by these menacing reports on “Black Friday” and the violence that was sure to result as big box retailers goad people to buy. That much of this is over reported hype and the that real story may be the loss of family time as employees and consumers alike abandon the holiday early to work or buy in the big box stores. In the Twin Cities, there are strikes at WalMart and other retailers to rally for employee rights and higher wages, as exemplified by being open on the holiday itself. It is a definite good idea to stay in today, relaxing, eating leftovers, and doing some reading, and after all, the libraries are open!

However, for those looking for something else to do early on Friday the 28th, support local institutions on top of maybe getting a few savings on a gift, or just take advantage of cool stuff, there are definitely some fun things to do to avoid the crowds. The Minneapolis Institute of Arts holds a Black Friday event for an hour, from 6 am to 7 am, offering discounts on the museum store and free admission into the special event, this year the intriguing Italian Style: Fashion Since 1945.

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My sister and I showing off our fashion at the MIA. The hats were provided.

 

As one of my favorite places to explore in the Twin Cities, it was great to support them. Arriving before dawn, the museum building was lit up and the awakening skyline of Minneapolis glowed through the glass windows. With some complimentary coffee and cookies, we explored the beautiful and interesting fashion designs currently on display, chatting with a Star Tribune reporter interested on why people were here this morning, rather than Target. As we left, dawn was breaking and we had breakfast nearby at another favorite place, the French Meadow. Kind of an institution itself in the Twin Cities, the cafe and bakery is probably my favorite place to get breakfast, it offers plenty of vegan and vegetarian offerings for those who don’t care for bacon and eggs (though they do have those too). After a hearty breakfast we got back home before ten and have the rest of the day to relax. I would highly recommend this as a choice for next year!

 

Minneapolis Institute of Arts: 2400 3rd Ave S. MPLS, Tue-Sat, 10-5 (normally), Sun 11-5, admission free (except for special exhibit)

French Meadow Cafe and Bakery: 2610, Lyndale Ave S. MPLS, Sun-Thu, 6:30 am-10pm, Fri-Sat 6:30-11

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Snowy morning at the French Meadow.

 

Indeed Brewing Hullabaloo 2014

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Enjoying some of Indeed Brewing’s many delicious beers, Indeed Hullabaloo 2014

November always strikes me as a strange month, a kind of dreary nether period in between Halloween and Thanksgiving that seems not to belong to any specific season. Not unlike March. The chaos of the “holiday season” has not truly arrived (try as it might), the trees are nearly bare. However, add a little snow and suddenly winter is here. Staying warm while I write, I’d like to recall a few more memories of my favorite season this year.

Now that it seems that winter has taken up full time residence in Minnesota, one can find themselves missing those fleeting, ephemeral days of fall, just a few weeks ago. As the snow to drift through the air on icy, grey afternoons (not unlike today), we can think back at some of those fun times back in distant October. Think back a few weeks ago, a sunny, breezy Saturday exhibiting the best of the Minnesota autumn. Temperatures in the 60s, trees in their full autumnal splendor. A perfect evening to enjoy the weather with some food and drink among friends; what better example than Indeed Brewing’s 2014 Hullabaloo?

A few weeks ago friend had her birthday at the Hullabaloo, Indeed Brewing’s free celebration of autumn (and their beers). It was definitely a good choice for a fun time. Indeed, one of the great, recently opened craft breweries in Northeast Minneapolis  has a great selection of brews, and, I guess it’s true, I tried a majority of them. The popular Blue Door Pub, known for trademark juicy lucies (spelling?) and brats was on hand to offer food. Crowded, but still easier to get into the Blue Door on a Saturday evening.

In the courtyard behind the brewery building, live music from a variety of local groups drifted through the milling crowd, mixing nicely with the occasional rumble of the NorthStar Commuter Line roaring by. The place was packed, and it was amazing how many people I knew we bumped into. The beers were all definitely worth checking out; the Rum King was debuted, an Imperial Stout aged in rum barrels for a rich, deep flavor. Of course, I had to have their Octoberfest as well, which was a very nice one as well. The sage infused Sweet Yamma Jamma, a special variant of Indeed’s popular sweet potato beer, which flavor melded well with the savory notes of sage, was probably my pick of the day, though

At one point, there was a movement to head over to the nearby Sociable Cider Works for some hard cider. Sadly, it was not to be. In spite of being just across the tracks from Indeed, whatever they’re doing on Central (seriously, it looks like they blocked the whole road, a solid wall right across it!) proved an impenetrable barrier without going ten or so blocks out of the way. Instead, we headed back to Indeed for another pint or two. Indeed’s Hullabaloo seemed like a good choice for an evening of beer tasting and food, and, while crowded, it was a lot saner than the madness happening across the river at the Zombie Pub Crawl, and a lot cheaper, too. Still, there were a few zombies wandering among the Northeast crowd, too. I would definitely recommend going next year, and maybe make it to Sociable as well.

Indeed Brewing, 711 15th Avenue NE MPLS

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Festivities continue at Indeed Brewing’s Hullabaloo into the evening.