Monday, June 29, 2009

Milwaukee, Day 3

Our only plan for the day – beyond the 5.5 hour drive home – was to go to brunch and hit up Kopp's Frozen Custard, which is apparently famous in the Milwaukee area. I had initially picked out Milwaukee Ale House for lunch, but Josh thought we were hitting up too many pub-type places, so I chose Bartolotta's Lake Park Bistro instead. Turns out it was an excellent choice!

We get there and it looks like it might be part of a country club/golf course, but it is situated along Lake Michigan and it looks pretty nice. We walk in and it has a good vibe, plus there are signs announcing the chef is a James Beard Award winner. Yes – the food should be good!

When we first got there the porch-like areas were pretty full but the main dining room was practically empty. The gal took our info. and asked us to wait at the bar, but then seated several groups who came after us. Just as I was feeling feisty about it, they sat us out on the porch, and all the other groups had been seated in the main dining area. We were happy to be out on the porch with a nice view of the lake!

Once again, we were probably underdressed, but it seemed to be the theme of the weekend, so what the heck?! We open our menus and there is a short listing of appetizers and desserts, none of which have prices, and about 8 items on the entrée menu – all of which were somewhat pricey. I was starting to wonder if we had made a bad choice, since even the French toast was $22.

As luck would have it, it did turn out to be a good choice! The server came by to ask if we had been there before, and when we said no she explained that the entrée price was the price of your entire meal, which included an appetizer, entrée and dessert, as well as your choice of a bloody mary, mimosa or champagne. Suddenly this wasn't sounding bad at all!

For day three in a row, I had champagne and Josh ordered a mimosa. For appetizer Josh had a corn chowder and I had brie with grapes and toasted bagel rounds. For entrée Josh had crab cakes and I had divine brioche French toast with bacon. What made the French toast so amazing was the "syrup" - allegedly some maple and vanilla concoction, but I would have sworn it was a homemade caramel sauce. It was so good I a) considered drinking it directly from the gravy boat, and b) it instantly made my "Food that's better than sex" list. I definitely think they should consider bottling and selling that stuff, because it was awesome! For dessert, I had the profiteroles (and the waitress commended me on my pronunciation of it, which I found hilarious) and Josh had a banana bread pudding.

Overall we would definitely recommend this place to anyone, though service was exceedingly slow. Our server said the kitchen had a mix-up, but it probably took us two hours to go through the meal. We were assuaged by the extra glasses of champagne/mimosas and the fact that they served an endless supply of warm, flaky, buttery croissants.

Even though we could barely move at this point, we decided to hit up Kopp's. I was expecting more of a Whippy Dip-type corner stand, but it's a pretty big building and it was packed. Luckily, we just wanted custard and our line was short. Since we were so full we got the smallest size they had. I got cherry amaretto cheesecake and Josh got turtle. Both were very good – very creamy – but I don't know that it's something either of us would travel many miles out of our way for (unlike the stories we had heard from several friends). Perhaps we were too full to appreciate it properly!

Milwaukee, Day 2

This trip changed my mind some about Milwaukee. I think I had dismissed it as just an industrial town, but it has many lovely buildings and neighborhoods. A couple of things I do find strange – 1) There are "No U-turn" signs everywhere, and people willfully and constantly ignore them. 2) At four-way stops, there are stop signs on both sides of the post. Odd.

Anyway, we slept in until about 9 a.m. and weren't meeting Ken and Karen until 11:30 for lunch, so we decided to walk down to the Milwaukee Public Market, again about a mile away. On the way we passed a small park with an outdoor market of sorts, and eventually made our way down to the actual indoor market. It reminded me a lot of the Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis, except smaller and less ethnic/more yuppie. Basically a great place to go if you were having a party and wanted to pick up cheese and breads, wine and spices, that sort of thing. Josh had a chocolate croissant and I had a very chocolate-y raspberry brownie. Also a bottle of brambleberry Tazo that tasted exactly like pie.

We then headed over to Water Street Brewery to meet Ken and Karen. It was good to see them, and we figured it was at least a good 8 years since we had seen each other in real time. Odd how things pass you by. I had a raspberry wheat beer (too raspberry) and Josh had ? We both ordered the jambalaya, which was very good – especially as it had no seafood in it – and it came with yummy corn fritters. Ken also ordered the table a round of soft Bavarian pretzels.

Afterwards Ken and Karen dropped us off at Lakefront Brewery so we could do the tour, which was nice since it was about a mile and a half from the restaurant. We ended up being especially grateful since, when we got there, the tours were full for the day and we basically had to turn around and walk back again. We did stay for a beer, but it was $4 for a small glass, which seemed a bit much to me.

Headed back to the hotel and took a nap before heading over to Summerfest. On our walk over we saw three different wedding parties getting their pictures taken along the waterfront, which was kind of fun.

Summerfest was kind of a disappointment. Our initial plan was to go both Friday and Saturday nights, but we ended up going only Saturday. And, even then we only stayed two hours and didn't stay to see the band we had originally intended to see. The Summerfest grounds are long, situated along the lakefront, but they are not wide. There are several stages with music and lots of food and beer vendors, along with your random arts and crafts booths, Tshirt and sunglasses vendors, etc. We did ride the skyway tram and stopped to listen to a band for a bit, but I was tired and over it all pretty quickly. BNL didn't come on until 10 and I was ready to go before 7 – so we did.

I will say that Summerfest has a few things I would suggest to the Minnesota State Fair. 1) The restrooms are clearly marked and you can see the signs from a distance. 2) They had these funny little electric foot massager things that I think could make someone some serious cash. 3) They had tables everywhere so you could sit and eat, or rest your feet or wait for someone. The MN State Fair does not have much for seating unless it's in a beer garden, and I think it would be a nice addition. I have to say I did not notice ANY food on a stick, which is very weird when you come from Minnesota where almost all food comes on a stick.

Our next stop was Cuvee, a champagne bar (as opposed to a wine bar) that I had wanted to check out in the Third Ward but didn't think we'd have time for. We had a brief glimpse at the Third Ward when we went to the public market that morning, so I was glad to head back in that direction as it seemed awfully cute. And, it is – lots of turn of the century brick buildings and boutique-style shops. Cuvee was on the third floor of a building and as soon as we stepped off the elevator I got nervous – here we were again in shorts and Tshirts and everyone else was very dressed up. Turns out we had walked into a gathering wedding reception. Once I realized that wasn't the standard dress code, I felt more comfortable and we made our way inside.

We loved the vibe right away. Small, dark, brick, comfy round loungers with pillows, etc. They had about 8 champagnes by the glass, and Josh ordered a prosecco and I ordered three different ones in a 2-ounce flight size. They also had an extensive champagne cocktail list that seemed pretty creative; Josh had a ginger-based one and I had one called a "French Caribbean" with passion fruit, pineapple and cherry juice. Yum! Both were very refreshing! I actually ended up wearing half of mine, because Josh was telling a story and gestured with his left hand just as I was raising my glass to my lips – champagne cocktail everywhere. Beyond the beverages we ordered the cheese plate and a pizza. It was a good detour, and we have decided that Milwaukee has some pretty nifty places!

We decided to head back to our hotel after that; it was only about 9 o'clock but it was misting and I was tired. Got back to our hotel and considered stopping by the hotel lounge, but by the time we got to our room and dried off from the rain, I was ready to crawl into bed. ZZZZZZZ...

Milwaukee, Day 1

Josh and I had a really great trip to Milwaukee this past weekend. In fact, I think I'm still full ;)

We planned our trip primarily to attend Summerfest, which I had always heard was a good time. Plus, I was excited to see two bands that were playing Friday and Saturday nights – Keith Urban Friday night, and Barenaked Ladies Saturday night.

We both took the day off work so rolled into Milwaukee around 4 p.m. Dropped our stuff at the Astor Hotel and headed over to the Harley Davidson Museum. This was our first lesson of the weekend on how unreliable Mapquest can be, since it took us at least 4 miles out of our way in a circle before it landed us back not so very far from our hotel. Sigh.

But – the museum was pretty cool. Tickets are $16/person and then another $5 if you want the audio tour. But, things are pretty well signed if you don't want to go that route. Now, I'm not a big bikehead like Josh is or anything, but I found it pretty interesting. We spent a fast two hours there and didn't even get over to the archives area.

You enter on a top floor and the main room is various bikes from over the years (the company was formed in 1903 by two young guys in their early 20s). On the right is a bunch of memorabilia, advertisements, documents, etc. On the left are two rooms – the first is the engine room, where you can see how engines work and what parts make a bike go, and you can use these screens to listen to what various Harley motors sound like. The next room is more about racing and the formation of bike clubs. Down the hall is also a display of bike tanks with various paint/decoration.

Downstairs is more bikes through the ages, right through to Buell sport bikes, which I didn't even know were related to Harleys. They also had some replicas of "famous" bikes, as well as a two seater and one that had been blinged out with rhinestones. Pretty hideous! There was a smaller room with some research and development displays, and then a room as you are leaving with maybe eight different bikes that you could sit on and get a feel for. I'm a big fan of the tractor spring seats!

I thought it was really well done, museum-wise, and feel like I learned some interesting things.

After swinging through the HD store, we drove back to our hotel and parked the car for the rest of the weekend. We did a ton of walking since pretty much everything was within a mile or so. We walked over to Mimma's on Brady Street, a pretty little Italian restaurant that I had been to once years before but really loved. We walked in about 7 p.m. Friday night and it was absolutely dead in there – maybe one other table was full. We were thanked repeatedly for coming! I'm sure with the economy and all, plus it was Summerfest, that business has taken a hit, but it was pretty shocking.

Josh ordered a glass of wine and I ordered champagne, I ordered a caprese salad and Josh ordered some bruschetta. Neither were anything special, and I thought maybe that's why the place was so empty – that the quality of food had taken a nosedive over the years. However, then Josh got his ciopino and veal, and I got my chicken sausage rigatoni with cream sauce, both of which were out of this world delicious. I take back anything I might have said! Josh had a couple of glasses of barbera, and I ordered a glass of tasty valpolicella. For "dessert" we ordered a glass of moscato-flavored grappa. What were we thinking?! Thank goodness it came in a cordial glass since we could hardly choke it down between the two of us.

After Mimma's we hoofed it down Brady Street, which reminds me quite a lot of Uptown in Minneapolis. We ended up at Lake Michigan and walked the shoreline for quite a ways before we decided to turn back through downtown. We ended up at the Blu bar, located on the 23rd floor of the Pfister hotel. Fabulous view, good martinis and a really nice vibe overall. We managed to snap up a table by the widows and kicked back and enjoyed the night a little. They had a lounge singer who sang your typical Frank Sinatra/Etta James tunes, but she was pretty good. Turns out we were woefully underdressed in our tourist Tshirts and shorts since they were promoting a fishnets-and-fedoras night, but all in all, a nice addition to the evening!

As we were leaving, Josh asked a bartender for a business card because he likes to collect them from places he goes. Apparently the request startled the bartender, because as we were waiting for the elevator our server came running out to ask if everything was okay. We were confused, and I was thinking – man, didn't I tip her enough?! Apparently Josh's asking for a business card was equivalent to him saying "I'm calling the manager and you will all be fired tomorrow." Or something!

After that we headed back to the Astor, which is a quaint and quirky little hotel, but accidentally got sidetracked by the County Clare Irish pub across the street. We stopped for a pint and then headed home for bed!

Thursday, June 25, 2009


I am certainly enjoying having a little more free time now that I don't work at Bibelot anymore. Tuesday, June 16, I met Michelle Goryl for happy hour in a part of E.P. I hardly knew existed. We met at Woody's Shady Oak Grille, which was pretty hopping for a Tuesday night in the suburbs. The manager must have been new, because he stopped by several times to say hello, ask if he could do anything for us, etc. He even offered to buy the next round, but we were ready to go at that point. He did give us coupons to come back again, which was nice.

Friday night we met Chris and Mark at The Bulldog in NE Minneapolis. I had been there before for a drink or two but never had their food. For appetizers we got bacon wontons (tasty!) and Bavarian pretzels. I had the Bulldog martini but it tasted like orange cough syrup, so I switched over to Strongbow. For dinner we all had burgers.

Saturday afternoon was Melissa's baby shower, and then Chris and Brett came over for dinner. We camped out in our side yard and had beer and burgers on the grill.

Sunday we went to the Stone Arch Festival, which I try to go to every year. It is mostly artists, but they also have a classic car show of sorts, a kids' area, food booths, a performance stage and a beer/wine garden. We were in and out somewhat quickly as rain was pending – it started to sprinkle just as we were leaving. The cool thing is there were a lot of artists that were different from last year, but there were also a lot of artists whom we had just seen at the Edina Art Fair a few weeks ago. I believe we are good on art fairs for a while!

I did buy a small, fairly simple piece of stained glass that I really love and felt was priced well. Granted, we don't really have a place to put it right now, but that's never an obstacle in my world ;)

Last night (Wednesday), we went to something called "Power Balladz" at the Lab Theatre in the Warehouse District (Mnpls). Tickets were half price this week so we paid $15 and the show was well worth the price of admission. There were basically three performers – two guys and a girl – and they had a five piece band, and they played your typical power ballads – Poison's "Every Rose Has Its Thorn," Ozzie Osborne and Lita Ford doing "Close My Eyes Forever," Motley Crue's "Home Sweet Home," etc.

People really got into it, dressing up '80s style, whipping out lighters and singing along. If you grew up in the '80s and listened to music at all, I think this show is a pretty good bet.

Prior to going to Power Balladz we hit up Emily's Lebanese Deli in NE for dinner. It was featured on a Food Network show a while back and I've been wanting to check it out ever since. The food was all right, but I prefer Christos. It is a super-small room with zip for atmosphere and the servers certainly aren't there because they love their jobs. You do, however, get a lot of food for pretty cheap, and if I lived in the neighborhood I'd probably swing through on occasion and grab some food to go.

Friday, June 19, 2009


Friday night I had a mystery date planned, but it's an outdoor thing and the weather wasn't really right. Fortunately, we can reschedule. That left us with no plans for the night, so Josh suggested we draw out of our Bowl of Fun. He drew Lucia's Wine Bar in Uptown, and away we went.

As we came in to Uptown we noticed all sorts of roads blocked off but couldn't figure out why. Turns out there was a crit ride – the Nature Valley Grand Prix or some such. I had never seen such a thing and so it was a happy accident that we came upon it. It was fun to get a glimpse into the whole bike culture thing.

It took some maneuvering, but we got to Lucia's and found a table. Just outside on the street was a bicycle ramp where people were performing tricks, so we got a free show. Their menu was pretty limited, but we got the cheese platter, which had a blue cheese, a marinated goat cheese and a gouda. They were all gouda ☺ I got a carafe of the white sangria, which I'm pretty sure was just lemonade. Josh had a fantastic tempranillo and then a barbera. Good stuff. I don't know what it is about Lucia's – it's not like it's my favorite place in the world to hang or anything – but I felt very urban sitting there.

After Lucia's we decided to walk over to another wine bar in Uptown located on the other side of Lyndale, but we got distracted on the way and hit up Moto-i instead, a fairly new sake brew pub located in the former Machu Picchu space. My experience with sake is limited and unfavorable so I got a glass of wine, but Josh picked a sake that was really quite tasty. Very light and almost had a honeydew taste to it. Our bartender was nice and friendly, chatting us up, so we asked him for food recommendations. We ended up getting the sweet potato croquettes, a chicken bun and Thai basil meatballs, all of which were good. We decided if we ever open our own wine bar in E.P. that we would hire him to bartend for us.

We decided to walk over to the wine bar afterward since we were so close, but it turns out it is no longer a wine bar. It is now a little restaurant called Risotto. It's cute inside, small, and we stopped in to peek at the menu. Several delicious looking risottos on it – I think we'll be back!

Saturday we met Chris and Melissa for Famous Dave's BBQ Ribs and Blues Fest down on Peavey Plaza. Perfect day to spend outside and lots of people were out and about. We camped by the bands for a while, had a few Sam Adams and some pulled pork before snapping up an outdoor table at Brit's. We could still hear the music and were much more comfortable. It was good to see Chris and Melissa again as it has been a while.

Sunday we took the motorcycle out for a while, and then set up our front yard as a bistro with table and chairs and wine and snacks. Even took a nap on the lawn for a while – I love summer!

I finished out the day at Bibelot Book Club at Sarah's house. We had a great discussion and I'm looking forward to seeing what the next book will be!

Catching Up

Okay, I admit I'm a little behind on the whole blogging thing, but it's hard to find time to write about what you are doing when you are always doing stuff!

Wednesday, June 3, we returned to Vine Park Brewery to bottle the Windy River Wheat we had brewed two weeks ago. Bottling goes pretty quickly, and we willingly shared samples of our beer with other people who were there either to brew or bottle. The guys bottling next to us also shared their beer with us, which was nice and a fun part of beer making – everyone is pretty friendly.

There were two couples there – the guys were making beer and the girls had just finished the 5 minute task of brewing wine. We asked what kind of wine they made and inwardly turned up our noses when they said white zinfandel. Bleah.

Friday, June 5, we had a Bibelot gathering at Ann Kraker's house, partly in honor of Sue's birthday. We started out in the backyard but ended up in the house once it got chilly. It was a good group – Ann, me and Josh, Nancy Lee, Sue, Lena, Sarah and Michael, Jerry and R.T. Maybe that was it? Everyone brought good snackies – I brought that Asian salad recipe I got from Jill Lindeman – had a few drinks and generally chilled. Naturally, Bibelot and its goings on were a hot topic of gossip.

Saturday morning, June 6, was our garage sale and it was dismal. Cold and rainy and, therefore, pretty slow traffic. Josh ended up rounding up our space heater, and I made hot chocolate and wore my wool hat. Needless to say, we didn't exactly cash in! We closed up shop around noon and took a nap before heading over to Ted and Natalie's.

Ted and Natalie were supposed to have a backyard garden party, but we wound up inside since the weather was still not cooperating. Stupid Minnesota! They have redone their kitchen and it is really nice – beautiful cabinets and floors, etc. We didn't know too many people – I knew Tina Chong and Adam Hollenbeck, of course, but Ted and Natalie were busy hosting. I was hoping to see Jag and Jisha, but I guess Abhi is sick.

After we left we stopped at Famous Dave's in Uptown for a beer and pulled pork sandwiches. Yum!

Sunday, June 7, the weather still wasn't that great but we decided to brave it anyway. We decided to check out Patrick's Bakery in Edina for breakfast, where I had a quiche and Josh had a ham and cheese croissant. More importantly – the desserts! Their case is beautiful, and we ended up bringing 5 desserts home! I bought a raspberry macaroon, which was okay, and a chocolate raspberry cake, which was awesome, and a big chocolate blobby thing, which tasted like a Chunky candy bar and was oh-so-good! Josh got a tiramisu and some chocolate cake thing. If Barb ever comes to visit, I will be taking her there. Very reminiscent of the fabulous patisseries we loved in Montreal, though I will have to reserve final judgment until I try their hot chocolate.

Next we hit up the Edina Art Fair. I felt bad for the vendors because they had crappy weather all weekend. Though, fortunately, there were plenty of people out and about; I'm sure Saturday was an entirely different story. I bought a Christmas gift for someone and a pottery bowl for me. We picked up some hot chocolate at the 'Bou and I continued my campaign to get a dog by pointing all the cute dogs out to Josh. I'm pretty sure I am no further in my mission.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Alexis Bailly Vineyard

Let’s see, since I last blogged it was Memorial Weekend, where we had friends over to watch UFC, I painted our office and we spent that Monday at Canterbury Park in Shakopee. Canterbury is a great, cheap date because you can usually track down free admission and you don’t have to even place bets on the horse races if you don’t want to (though your beer will cost you a little). You can have just as much fun making predictions amongst yourselves based on horse name, colors of the jockey’s shirt, etc. Luckily for us, Shakopee is just a short jaunt down Highway 169.

On Saturday Josh and I took the motorcycle out for a while and he took me to the Japanese Garden at Normandale Community College. Such a cool little place and probably largely underutilized. If you haven’t been, I definitely recommend checking it out. And, if you are looking to have a small, elegant outdoor wedding, this would definitely be a great place for it.

The rest of the week included going to a dress fitting for Dee’s wedding dress, followed by guacamole and chips and mango margaritas at Boca Chica. They have such a nice little patio, great food and good prices. Friday night we BBQd out at Dave & Jill’s for a pre-Seidelcamp get-together. Maybe 20 people there and lots of good food. Seidelcamp should be another great time this July.

Saturday was Dee’s Bachelorette party, which included boating on the Mississippi, hanging out with the girls, having a few drinks and lots of food, gifts and the occasional penis silliness.

Alexis Bailly Vineyard… “Where the grapes can suffer”

Alexis Bailly Vineyard is outside of Hastings and each year they hold a spring open house the last weekend in May and the first weekend in June. I manage to go almost every year on one of the weekends, even though you can, of course, stop by any time and do a tasting. The Open Houses are fun because there are a lot of people there so it feels very festive, plus there is free (yummy!) cheese and usually a band or music of some kind.

This year Kay and Chris were able to meet up with Josh and I, which was great fun as we have not seen them in several months. We set up our camp chairs and snacks outside, then went in to do the tasting. To taste it is $10 but you get to keep your souvenir glass, and then you try maybe 8 different wines. Interestingly, I have noticed I like a lot more wines this year that I wasn’t as fond of in the past. Perhaps my palate is broadening.

Once we did the tasting we picked a couple of bottles we liked, purchasing the Seyval Blanc and the Voyageur. After that, we kicked it under a tree for about 3 hours, drinking wine, talking smack and enjoying the sun and being outdoors. We brought a lot of food, from cheese and crackers to hummus and soprasata, fruit and more.

Alexis Bailly has come a long way over the years. When I first started going I think it was $3 to taste and it was pretty basic. Over time they have added a lot of outdoor seating areas, bocce ball courts, a wine/gift shop, additional bathrooms, etc. There are also plans to build an ampitheatre; perhaps they will regularly have live music out there? They also added these super-cool cocktail tables in the tasting room that are made from barrel staves/lids. I found them online and am seriously considering a purchase.