Food & Sex & Everything in between

Food & Sex & Everything in between

It’s been said, by some, that food is better than sex. Food is certainly not better than sex, but some meals can and do come (pretty) close. And the comparisons are apt. The sensations, yes, the appetites, the insatiable hunger for something so perfect you feel you cannot get enough. When something so delicious passes your lips and you grip your fork, your spoon, the sides of your seat in pure and unadulterated ecstasy. Like honey that rolls slowly, dripping down chins and fingers. The sticky sweet. Honeycomb. Along with rank cheeses that assault the senses: Époisses and Limburger. Or along with more subtle cheeses that sit delicate at the back of the palate. Appenzeller Swiss and white cheddar. It’s a sweetness that fills your smells, your taste, you smell, your touch, with a different sort of of sensation. Something you crave. But savory is most necessary (as a paradox, perhaps, of food: the sweetness of dinner comes more from the umami. A richness, sure, but more from the complex flavors of which pure sweetness of sugar/dessert can not alone compare). Breathe in the smell of onions cooking in butter. There is something so very sensual about that smell. Add a touch of (that) honey for sweetness. Add the onions to your steak, cut thin and cooked rare. Have vegetables on the side. Have asparagus, Brussels sprouts, broccoli cooked in oil with a little salt sprinkled on top. Have something from rivers or the ocean: Trout cheeks are the best part of the fish, as soft and nearly as rich as pork belly. Enjoy truffles and pickles and pate beforehand,...
When I think of food

When I think of food

When I think of food, it’s usually of the plate. The plate, clean. The plate, full. The plate, empty again but covered in crumbs, smears, leftover bits of whatever we were eating. Sometimes messy, sometimes elegantly so. The plate that will disappear to be washed and then used again. Washed by someone with wrinkled fingers forever reeking of sweat and the astringent cleaning chemicals. I think of the restaurant kitchen, and the long, often arduous journey that led to the plate in front of me on the table. Hands with knives attached down to the wrist as a natural extension of the arm. Chef’s orders. The cold line giggling, fryers spitting, everything so feverishly hot, everyone desperately sweating. I think about the food trucks lining on streets. 1: tamales, 2: burgers, 3: Korean steamed buns, 4: ice cream truck for dessert. A popsicle in the shape of Sonic the Hedgehog’s head and gumballs for eyes. Perkins was never the best brunch in town, but we went there anyway for 3AM unlimited coffee, 4AM omelets, 5AM bathrooms. This was in the Midway neighborhood. Midway is loud, dirty, fascinating, fun. Ethnic restaurants on every corner: Some of the best Ethiopian food in the city. Some of the best Thai food anywhere. My favorite (some nights) Chinese food at Peking Garden. And then Perkins, strangely, in the midst of it all against the backdrop of a decaying shopping mall and train passing by with heads leaned against the window. When I moved downtown it was Mickey’s Dining Car instead. I sit where Meryl Streep sat and imagine her there beside me. A man...
After we eat

After we eat

The meal, consisting of something from the garden, something from Lake Superior, and something that Ralf across the table killed with his hands for the pièce de résistance, is over. There was wine, but I’m drinking Alquimia Reserva tequila brought back from Jalisco. There was cheese; soft cheese, hard cheese, blue cheese with a funk that still lingers at the back of my teeth when I think about it. They say Chinese is the most sophisticated style of cooking, more so than French (the culinary gold standard in the West), Italian, Spanish… But it hasn’t taken hold in the Twin Cities. In Minnesota it is still mostly greasy takeout and fried rice. It reminds that the world is not so small yet that we have can anything and everything at our fingertips. Our general culture is still defined generally by city, state, region, country, and (all) the people living therein. And while big box grocery stores and delivery services have given us access to the things that don’t grow nearby (bananas, avocados, quinoa, walnuts, grapefruit…) much of the cuisine is still defined by what does. But humans are odd in their distinction of culture. Amish stores selling Amish wares, restaurants offering the “most authentic” to white people while calls of appropriation and insensitivity abound. We move around, and we take our culture with us. And then we take the culture of this somewhere new onto the next somewhere new. The Italians wouldn’t have pasta if Marco Polo hadn’t traveled east, and his descendants brought it through Ellis Island and across the United States. Now we have Asian noodles and Italian...
A taste of the good life | A philosophy of the good life

A taste of the good life | A philosophy of the good life

Life is short, they told us from the start. And, like the joke Woody Allen used in Annie Hall, “Two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of ’em says, “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.” The other one says, “Yeah, I know; and such small portions.” Well, that’s essentially how I feel about life – full of loneliness, and misery, and suffering, and unhappiness, and it’s all over much too quickly.” life is often viewed, perhaps sardonically, but with a certain modicum of truth, as something somewhat cruel. But, when utilized properly, filled with good food and drink, and good people on all sides to share it with, a moment can last a thousand years, each one better than the last.   Memory of a good life The smell of black coffee immediately brings me back to the childhood hours spent in airports across the world; flights to and from Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Reykjavik, Chicago. The fresh pastries; croissants with butter, raspberry cream donuts, kaiser rolls, and walnut snails ready to eat while waiting wide-eyed, watching a thousand people pass by, and then a thousand more. Getting together the last bit of change in my pocket to buy a fresh pretzel from the stand, or something warm to drink when the wind blows cold. A tall glass of orange juice reminds of the sun shining warm across the breakfast table. Three, four, five courses from some of the world’s most passionate chefs… It’s not just about luxury; not just about the foie gras with black truffle, or having caviar twice a day (though I would not object)....
Pajarito brings the heat to an already-sizzling West 7th

Pajarito brings the heat to an already-sizzling West 7th

The neighborhood Pajarito joins one of St. Paul’s oldest, now one of St. Paul’s hottest, avenues. West 7th was already cool, of course, peppered with great, if overlooked, places to eat and drink. There is no need to change West 7th or the West End neighborhood. But there was certainly room to add to it. The avenue is red-hot right now, from the Xcel Energy Center to Schmidt Artists Lofts. The success of new ventures, like Bad Weather Brewing Company, joins established hot spots like Mancinis and Cossetta’s, while looking to the future with Keg and Case Market, Stone Brewery, and New Bohemia coming this year. And Pajarito, which opened its doors during the final days of a tumultuous 2016, is making a name for itself in the midst of it all.   Pajarito, the restaurant We may have spent a few months lamenting the loss of the Glockenspiel (the space in which Pajarito is now housed), but the past is the past and the future is now. St. Paul is no longer lagging behind in creating neighborhood restaurants of note; in creating quality, awesome spots suitable for both a quick bite and cocktail or a nice sit-down-and-stay dinner. Pajarito embraces the fact that, on some level, it’s just a taco joint. The minds (and hands and hearts and souls) behind Pajarito don’t try and take on more than they can handle. This is evidenced by the beautiful simplicity of the menu. The tacos ($9) are great. The Carnitas is the best so far, and perhaps one of the best in the cities. You can truly taste the grill on the...
Is Twin Cities dining still exciting?

Is Twin Cities dining still exciting?

Twin Cities dining is on the up and up. Our restaurants have received a lot of love from press nationwide. Thrillest named the Twin Cities among the best US food cities, and 12 Twin Cities chefs were named semifinalists for the James Beard Award in 2016. We’ve been patting ourselves on the back for breaking the mold of Midwest boring. Look at us, we said, and all of our James Beard Award nominations. We’ve got Andrew Zimmern living here, for chrissake! But maybe too soon. Anthony Bourdain’s recent quote on unexpected foodie cities was lauded by local publications, but note the use of past tense: “…Minneapolis, for a very long time had really good food and a lot of great chefs.” We lost La Belle Vie, really the only restaurant of its type in Minnesota, to a simple lack of butts in seats. We lost Solera, Brasserie Zentral (and Foreign Legion), Vincent, Masa, Il Foro, Cafe Levain, Pilgrimage, and Workshop at Union within a few short months. And now Heartland, also the only restaurant of its type, is closing as well. Maybe too many places opened all at once. Maybe that’s why it seems like we’re hemorrhaging good, independent restaurants while Fogo de Chão and Kincaids thrive. We’ve heard it time and time again that we’re tapped for talent, that it’s near impossible to find top workers for both the front and back of the house. We know that bubbles can’t grow forever before they pop. Or do Minnesotans really only want burgers, steaks, and wings?   So is the Twin Cities’ dining scene still exciting? Short answer: Yes. Longer answer: But maybe not as...