Craft Breweries, Football, and some Guess Who

A couple of weekends ago, some besties from Milwaukee (aka cousins/collegefriends/soulfriends and their adorable snuggling pup) came to visit.  You know. I love having people visit. I look forward to weekend visits with happy butterflies.  So does Huckleberry. He barely slept a wink on Thursday night.

It gets us out and about, away from the humdrum of daily life.  I’ve found we are more apt to explore this beautiful area and all it has to offer if we have someone here to show it to.

So, upon their arrival, we ate at the Nook.  Highly recommended by Guy Fieri, St. Paulians since forever, and now all four of us. We ate next to the bowling alley (yes, the bowling alley). Summit on tap and some juicy nookie burgers (stuffed with cheese and topped with caramelized onions) were the order of the day. There was an hour wait when we arrived, but they got us to our table in half that time! Great company, excellent food – they got our weekend off to the best start!



Literally the hottest wings I've ever eaten. Correction: wing. I stopped after one so that I wouldn't have second degree burns on my lips. Please serve these with ice cream, Nook friends.

Literally the hottest wings I’ve ever eaten. Correction: wing. I stopped after one so that I wouldn’t have second degree burns on my lips. Please serve these with ice cream, Nook friends.


What else is there?

What else is there?

Cousins. Love.

Cousins. Love.


Our view throughout dinner.

Our view throughout dinner.

On Saturday morning, we watched my cousin’s peewee football team take the city championship. SO EXCITING! They got medals and lifetime bragging rights and we got a chance to sit in the stands of Midway Stadium, home of the St. Paul Saints before the stadium is no longer used – they’re moving downtown!


Rooting from the stands! Go Red!

Rooting from the stands! Go Red!

Cutest cheerleader ever.

Cutest cheerleader ever.

Surrounding their championship plaque!

Surrounding their championship plaque!

This stadium is old-fashioned and has a small-town feel. I hope we can see a Saints game before they move to the new stadium!

This stadium is old-fashioned and has a charming Baseball-is-America’s-sport small-town feel. I hope we can see a Saints game before they move to the new stadium!

We headed to Northeast Minneapolis next, and grabbed a bite at Spyhouse Coffee before dropping in at 612 Brew, the first of our brewery visits.

Spyhouse. Knock if you want killer lattes and hearty sandwiches.

Spyhouse. Knock if you want killer lattes and hearty sandwiches.

Ham and Brie!

Ham and Brie!

We loved the tasting room as they had old Trivial Pursuit cards in the middle of the tables {which happened to be constructed from repurposed bowling alleys, in all that’s coolness}. The ladies shared a flight of their craftiest craft brews. We were all rocking On Wisconsin red, which helped the Badgers win, by the way.  We discussed notes of mint, agave and coffee {though Joe actually does home-brew, and knows his stuff – the rest of us were just hypothesizing} and declared our favorites from the flight.


IMG_2321 IMG_2330

In Pursuit of 1970s Trivia.

In Pursuit of 1970s Trivia.



Slainte! Prost!

Slainte! Prost!

A little ways up the road in Northeast, we found Dangerous Man Brewing Co.  Both of the guys were on board when they discovered the logo was a man with a beard. Also, they encourage bringing in your own food, since they don’t serve any.  Lots of cute local restaurants – I highly recommend Maeve’s Cafe!




Back to the brews. This was my favorite of the breweries we visited since it was sunny and decorated in a hip, exposed bricky way, with driftwooden accents.  There is a mural of a bearded musky fish.  I mean, what’s not to love? The stools were high school chemistry lab-ish.  The pumpkin ale that I had was DELISH – a little sweet and just spicy enough to keep me pumping my autumn fist in a “yeah buddy!” Bring on the flannel.

Sunshine and Flannel.

Sunshine and Flannel.

Pumpkin Ale.

Pumpkin Ale.

Reading up on crafty craft brewing.

Reading up on crafty craft brewing.

More sunshine.

More sunshine.

A cozy stout.

A cozy stout.


Also! They have a cupboard FULL of old school games. We spent about a half hour losing to our friends in round after round of Guess Who. Then, we made a comeback when the McCanns used strategy beyond belief in a rousing, ship-sinking game of Battleship.  Scores even, we headed home for an afternoon nap and some cheese and crackers. Because, as our guests are also Wisconsinites, they understand and appreciate cheese’s importance to a balanced diet.

Guess who won. Yes, these two scholars. Must be their intense gaming skill, as seen here.

Guess who won. Yes, these two scholars. Must be their intense gaming skill, as seen here.




Thank you, DM!

Thank you, DM! Also, look at that bright cerulean sky. I love autumn days when colors pop like this.

The girls went shopping for a bit {danger, we hit up Madewell!!} and the guys rested up before taking the pups {YES!} to Flat Earth Brewing Co., right here in our West Seventh neighborhood. The dogs weren’t allowed on the tour, but they were totally the stars of the tasting room!  We joined them {and some other family who met us there later} for a sip of an autumnal ale.  Flat Earth is heading to a much bigger facility next year {the old Hamm’s brewery} and we’ll be sure to visit them again when they’re all set up.

We really did all of these things in one day. Energy flows out of me when loved ones are near. There’s more. Isn’t there always? The writer’s dilemma. I’ll try to be brief.

We got all gussied up and headed to Chino Latino in Uptown for the dinner to end all dinners. There was my kind of dance music playing when we walked in – read: latin/salsa/eclectic. There are guests who had ordered whole roasted pigs!  The entire bar area glowed red-orange.

I don’t even remember  most of what we ate. I know there was some banana boat chicken, some queso that blew my mind {chorizo added}, and bacon wrapped pork tenderloin served on a sword. Schwingg! {that is the sound of my fancy sword emerging from mmy fancy scabbard, in case you were wondering.} Then, for dessert we had some seriously amazing tres leche cake and fried ice cream, both with toasted coconut infused somehow, and the latter capped off with a sparkler.  Most importantly to me, my heart was happy throughout dinner since the company was especially superb. This place has a big city vibe, with glitter and spicy foods. My kind of evening.


Banana boat chicken with a creamy, sweet, curryish sauce.

Banana boat chicken with a creamy, sweet, curryish sauce.

Stuffed to the gills, yet I made room for this dandy in my extra dessert compartment.

Stuffed to the gills, yet I made room for this dandy in my extra dessert compartment.



More family outside of C.L., with sparkles behind us, naturally!

More family outside of C.L., with sparkles behind us, naturally!


Saying goodbye is so hard to do. But  Sunday morning pancakes from {Love and Cupcakes} made it a little easier.

Until next time, friends! xo


Lake Calhoun Lovely.

I don’t want to brag or anything, but here is some honest real talk. My sister is the best. She and her husband came to visit this weekend. And. I could hardly wait to edit and post these photos because they are 1. lovely; 2. happy; 3. memories of my favorite people; 4. autumnal; and 5. so stinking cute that I can’t handle it.  Right after they headed home and we had a {teary, huggy} goodbye, I pulled up my big-girl bootstraps and got down to photo editing.

Come Sail Away.

Come Sail Away.

We had the best. weekend. Complete with a French Meadow visit, a Lake Calhoun visit, a Trader Joe’s and MOA visit, a trip to Minnehaha dog park with Huck {a whole post, complete with photos, will be coming up on this wonder of a doggy heaven soon}, an interior decorating brainstorming session at Ikea and then continued at Patina (Click this link. you’ll be glad you did. And this one too: my new iphone case).

In addition to sharing what’s been up in our long-distance lives, suggesting new books to read and movies to watch, as well as planning our next visit and life goals and dreams, Kristin and I also decided to both we are both adding photo collage walls to our homes.

I’m just getting started.

We also had a round of Shamrocks Juicy Nookie burgers and “Wisconsin” Cheese curds.  Then we indulged in two ahh-mazing pizzas from Pizza Luce – “loaded baked potato” and “the bear,” a meat-lover’s option, of course. YUM!



Having our siblings visit means so much to me.  I feel so at home when they visit!  We had endless great conversation, watched Argo (see it!) and Now You See Me (what a twist at the end!) and drank lots of Copper Rock coffee (Freshly roasted coffee beans are hands down the best hostess gift ever!) and pumpkin beers.  We also got them some sweet NWHSU swag to represent on the east side of the Mississippi.

To top it all off, we sisters continued our epic winning streak as we {nearly} swept the series of several very rousing rounds of Catch Phrase. Note Bene: we won the sports and games round {Humble-brag}.

No big. Just a little tired today. But not, however, too tired to share these lovely photos from the lake.


These photos were taken at Lake Calhoun {my first time visiting this Minneapolis oasis, but will be sure to return!}.  I’m always on the lookout for nice locations to shoot at. My sibs happily agreed to be my lovebird models on Friday as we visited the lake.  Apparently they are not often asked at work to model for photographers. Weird. They are naturals.



True Love.


We first had the bright idea of walking around the whole lake. HAH! That’s a long way. Miles, even. So, we walked a quarter of the way around {on the trail marked bikes, mind you… oops}, took some pretty pictures, got our long hair stuck in our lipgloss due to the crisp, sudden gusts of lake breeze, and walked back to the car {this time on the trail marked ‘pedestrians,’ thank you very much}.












Sketchy photo effects!

Sketched Sepia photo effects!

This posing was all for a teeny beef liver treat. He earned it!

This posing was all for a teeny beef liver treat. He earned it!

to the left, to the left!

Tall and regal pup!

Superhero pup!

Superhero pup!


I know I say it all the time, but, THOSE EARS!!

I know I say it all the time, but, THOSE EARS!!

More photos of Kristin and Bradley. Two years of marriage down, a lifetime to go!



Why hello there. Yes, I do this often, why do you ask?

Aww, our shoes!

Aww, our shoes!

When I asked Kristin to step into the sunshine for better lighting, this is what she did. Beautiful.

When I asked Kristin to step into the sunshine for better lighting, this is what she did. Beautiful.








Also sassy. Cute though, right?



Whitewashed exposure. ISO was too high, but I love the effect!


Sailing off into the distance. Sort of.

Sailing off into the distance. Sort of.

I am always amazed at the stark contrast between the bluest sky and the puffiest of cotton ball clouds. They are an eternal fascination of mine, and both subjects I like to include in my photos.




Here are some girly/ sisterly love shots. Thanks to my photographer brother in law Brad, we were able to capture these precious moments.
Sister love.

Sister love.

True sister love.

True sister love.

It's not easy modeling while the pup is chasing a squirrel scent.

It’s not easy modeling while the pup is chasing a squirrel scent.

More love.

More love.


As good as it gets!

After our beachy photo shoot, it was on to the cheesiest of all lunches. This hot little number warmed us up, body and soul, after the aforementioned chilly fall off-the-lake breeze. Thank you, French Meadow for your continued excellence!

Mac N Cheese

I am so excited to see these two again soon, and photograph them at Thanksgiving. WITH THEIR NEW PUPPY! Abraham. He and Huckleberry will be the cutest of subjects.

On a side {but sortof related} note, I am entirely excited to be taking photos of a dear friend’s little ones this week. Pray for lovely weather, the grace to know which camera settings to use at which time and the sunshine and lighting of these photos. Here we go, photographer-girl!!


An Apple a Day.

We’ve been eating apples a lot lately. Like it’s our job.  In lunches, as after school snacks, and smeared in apple butter form {a serendipitous moment of “I followed the recipe for overnight crock pot applesauce, but woke up to one overcooked, browned batch of newly named apple butter”}. A peck {or so} of macintosh apples made its way home with me after visiting Pine Tree Apple Orchard in White Bear Lake last week.



Makes me think of the song from Guys and Dolls, “I love you, a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.”

You’re welcome for that.




Back to the orchard. I was hoping we’d get to pick our own apples. My family used to drive our red minivan out into Star Orchard’s cortland and macintosh rows to pick the choiciest, juiciest brown paper bagfulls of apples. Applesauce making and apple pie baking ensued. Nothing like breaking out the apple peeler-corer-slicer.  I can feel the spicy, warm cinnamon and nutmeggy scent wrap me up in a cozy plaid flannel blanket of warmth.



While Pine Tree Apple Orchard didn’t do pick your own {or they did, but it was much easier to pick up a couple of bags in their apple shop considering how busy the place was}, we still had a lovely time crunching through leaves, traipsing down the rows of trees and photographing it all, to every last cartwheel, caramel apple, and cornstalk.




My lovely hometown girl Emily and I usually spend some Sunday time together. This past Sunday we planted ourselves at the farm for some girl time. She happily agreed to be my apple orchard model.

I wish you warmth and crisp apples and a house that smells like autumn.  Happy October!


A bushel and a peck. and a bushel and a peck. and a bushel and a peck...

A bushel and a peck. and a bushel and a peck. and a bushel and a peck…


Waiting in line with the other apple-obsessed Minnesotans.

Waiting in line with the other apple-obsessed Minnesotans.

Sorting the pretties from the baking apples.

Sorting the pretties from the baking apples.

The half inch of caramel envelopping this apple made for a perfect energy-spiking lunch.

The half inch of caramel envelopping this apple made for a perfect energy-spiking lunch.

Knotty picnic table.

Knotty picnic table.

Autumn sunshine.

Autumn sunshine.

Apple picknickers.

Apple picknickers.

White Bear Lake and Shore.

White Bear Lake.


This makes me want to climb halfway up, pick and apple to eat, and swing my legs while sitting on the branch.



Sun and Shadows.



Golden Delicious.





By the corn maze.




Some yoga happened.

Some yoga happened.

Em has some serious balance!

Em has some serious balance!

Obligatory selfie. Not so easy with a Nikon D90.

Obligatory selfie. Not so easy with a Nikon D90.

Cartwheel 1.

Cartwheel 1…

...and cartwheel 2.

…and cartwheel 2.

More knots.

More knots.




Love how her blue earring pops.

Homeward bound. Country in the city.

Homeward bound. Country in the city.

Somepup was really pumped to snuggle with me when I came home.

Somepup was really pumped to snuggle with me when I came home. Talk about cozy.


The State Fair!

I’m a little late on posting about the state fair, but, mark your calendar for next end-of-August. It’s sunny and delightful and street after street of food booths and music and animals and art.

Minnesotans {in general} wait 11 months for this event-of-the-year.  They save change, collected from pockets and under car seats and between couch cushions to have an extra bit of fair spending money.  They plan their routes and essential stops as if they’re on a safari hunt. For cheese curds.



One of the first things we did after moving here last summer was go to the fair with my aunt, uncle, and cousins. Welcome to Minnesota!



This year, my love and I went solo, but ended up meeting some friends who happened to be going to see the Macklemore concert that night at the grandstand.  We shared Australian potatoes. DELICIOUS.




The fair prides itself on being in competition for the biggest state fair in the nation {Texas is our biggest competition}. You could walk around for days just eating deep fried food on sticks. Some people do! One afternoon was just perfect for us, thank you. 🙂 A lovely date that involved people watching, our beloved cheese curds, and about four miles of walking.


Our day took us to a few favorite spots:

The only cheese curds booth to stop at.  None of the others know how to deep fry them right.




Tip – bring a camelback full of water. We were so glad we did… it was in the nineties that day!

Local craft beers and garlic fries.



The dairy barn and this strawberry rhubarb malt. {it’s not tomato sauce, promise.}



They also have dairy princess busts carved into blocks of butter. Yes. You read that correctly. One per county.



The miracle of birth barn. There are fluffy, downy chicks, piglets, sheep, and calves. Adorableness. {Side note and little known Aly fact: As a little girl, I actually wanted to grow up to be a farmer.  Except for the getting up at 4 am daily and the constant smell of manure and the fact that I can’t really keep plants alive for longer than a couple of months it’s not a bad career choice…}


The local artists building. A good break from stuffing our faces with deep fried deliciousness.



An old timey dinner and a movie joint. Which included roasted corn scallion cream sauce wood fired pizza as well as sweet corn ice cream topped with bacon brown sugar syrup and toffee popcorn. Also, the Addams Family was on. We sat and feasted on our corny dinner and dessert. Watched some corny oldschool tv. The seats were old mini-van benches. Took me back, friends.





Then, the rain started. We ran the couple miles back to our car {parking is in neighboring Como parking lots and streets – we parked at a local school. Always love to support schools when I can!}.


I am not entirely sure that all of the walking we did canceled out our deep fried/frozen dairy treats/beer caloric intake, but I’d like to think every now and then having some quirky eats is entirely worth it.

Some other sights we took in:

Shoutout to my friends at the French Meadow!

Shoutout to my friends at the French Meadow!

Beergarita! Authentic, I know.

Beergarita! Authentic, I know.

O'Gara's at the fair. Love the irish flair, and the misters!

O’Gara’s at the fair. Love the irish flair, and the misters!


The most handsome fair-goer.

Leinie's Lodge - folksy musicians play here all week.

Leinie’s Lodge – folksy musicians play here all week.

Sweet Martha's cookie buckets were everywhere!

Sweet Martha’s chocolate chip cookie buckets were everywhere!

Next time...

Next time…


Probably never.

Spin in a capsule at a zillion miles per hour and hundreds of feet in the air and then plummet towards earth only to be thrust skyward again? Probably never. No probably about it. Never. Buuuuut, Fresh French fries? Most definitely.

A girl and her pony. Also, love the braids.

A girl and her pony. Lovelovelove the braids.

Hot dish on a stick. Is that possible? Also, Deep Fried Banana Split? Seriously. Only at the fair.

Hot dish on a stick. Is that possible? Also, Deep Fried Banana Split? Seriously. Only at the fair.

Love the Summit!

Love the Summit!

Most definitely will have one of these next time.

Most definitely will have one of these next time.

Everyone in the state. Here with us. F.U.N.!

Everyone in the state. Here with us. F.U.N.!

Places to Go, Things to Do… Lake Harriet!

As we continue spending time embracing all that St. Paul’s twin city has to offer, we spent one Tuesday evening in late August at Lake Harriet.  If you’re hanging on to summer and need some last-minute lake time, check it out! Harriet has two beaches, plenty of greenspace acreage and dog-walking/running/biking paths. We met some friends on the hottest day of the summer {heat advisories in full effect} for a picnic.  We know how I feel about hot days: they’re akin to Friday afternoons and freshly brewed coffee and snuggling my niece and phone calls with my loved ones and new shoes. Also, who doesn’t LOVE  a picnic?!


Our evening started with picking up subs from Which Wich, then plopping down on a Mexican blanket near the bandshell with two great {recently engaged – YAY!} friends. They’re hilarious and dear to us. Merriment ensued, naturally.




My turkey sub had cranberry sauce and stuffing. Embracing fall a little too early? I like the juxtaposition.

Scores of Minneapolites bring picnics and their puppies to the Lake Harriet bandshell to spend an evening enjoying Music and Movies, the free entertainment summer series put on by Minneapolis’ Parks and Rec Board. You watch the sunset, share a drink with great company, and listen to lovely tunes. All ages welcome!


Concerts and movies are FREE!


Cucumber Tomato Feta Greek Pasta Salad. Sometimes I get busy in the kitchen.


We gave Huck something to chew to keep him from going bonkers. Lots of new people, smells, and sandwiches to sniff out.

The band when we went was a community band of sorts, which delighted the band geek in me, for sure. I even recognized {my friends and husband rolled their eyes} one or seven of the pieces and eye rolls replayed when I cheered as they announced the band would be playing a Maynard Ferguson piece. Geesh.


This listener has the back of the bandshell to himself. Right idea, sir. What a nice way to listen to music and appreciate the view, simultaneously!


Besides orchestral delights for us french horn aficionados {I really mean just me, band geek, party of one}, the evening provided a lovely stroll along the lake, during which we passed at least a hundred sailboat slips, kayak and SUP board rentals {totally on my life to-do list!}, and rocky, up-northy-reminiscient shorelines.


Walking around the entire lake would provide nearly three miles of exercise. We probably should've thought harder about this option, considering the double scoops we had after the concert.

Walking around the entire lake would provide nearly three miles of exercise. We probably should’ve thought harder about this option, considering the double scoops we had after the concert.





We topped our evening off with some Sebastian Joe’s Ice Cream.  The 95 degree heat didn’t stop us from indulging in homemade flavors like Salty Caramel, Nicollet Avenue Pot Hole (Chocolate ice cream w/ fudge, truffles, heath bar & sea salt) and Oreo. There were drips everywhere and a laundry load when we got home, but the best picnic evenings end that way, don’t you think?


Not pictured: Huck, licking up our ice cream drips.

I’m holding on to summer as long as possible on these sunny, yet crispy-cool weekends, avoiding for the moment the impending seasonal pendulum swing toward falling leaves and wool sweaters.  Thinking about drippy ice cream cones and picnics helps. 🙂


The Veggie-Table Farmstand

Take a lemonade stand, switch the sweet summery drink with crate-fulls of vine-ripened tomatoes, peppers, and state-fair-sized potatoes, and ramp up the cute factor by 1000%.


That should give you an accurate mental image of my Labor Day weekend visit with some friends in Maplewood.  They moved to the twin cities from Wisconsin too, and have a lovely home with their four children right next to a park with trails and plenty of yardspace for gardening!  {I’m not jealous, I swear!}



Maybe a little.

We were able to get our veggies for a steal, and the company was lovely too!  Inside, Jon was making tomato paste from scratch, and I’m pretty sure their entire pantry is full of canned vegetables and sauces that will keep the family of six full all winter long!  What a beautiful way to care for the earth surrounding their home as well as their little ones.






Surprise! When they composted last year’s Halloween pumpkins, no one expected the compost pile to sprout a pumpkin patch!





Love the green and gold. It’s football season, after all!


As a teacher, I was equally impressed with the little ones’ ability to interact with customers {and create adorable veggie marketing strategies – colorful signs welcomed passersby, and dancing with peppers in hand never hurts.} Their smiles were enough for us to purchase a bag full of home-grown goodies, supporting these entrepreneurs-in-training.













Thanks for a fabulous farmstand visit, Martens family!


Cherry on Top


Having company makes me want to show off the quirky delights and best kept secrets of the cities.  This past weekend, after we returned from a beautiful Milwaukee wedding, my parents drove over for a summer’s -almost-over visit. Topping off a busy, sweet summer with some pre-colors-changing-cooler-temps-coming-sweater-weather-wearing-pumpkin-flavored-everything family time.



The weather was sweltering, to say the least. We’re talking shorts can’t be short enough to beat this heat. Constant cool beverage in hand kind of heat. Sunglasses slip down your nose every ten seconds heat. I LOVE  this kind of heat.  I also know how this kind of heat is fleeting in our beautiful, snowy state, so I try to appreciate every second of it.


So, naturally, I took my family to the artsy gem of the cities: The Walker Art Museum’s sculpture garden in Minneapolis.


This is the largest (eleven acres) sculpture park in the country, and includes a conservatory, flower garden, and dozens of 20th century modern art sculptures. Also, it has what so many citydwellers crave: greenspace. It’s an oasis of flora amid scyscraping architecture.


I’ve wanted to check out the famed “Spoonbridge and Cherry” sculpture that juxtaposes itself with both the formal Versailles-like garden setting and the Minneapolis skyline in the background. Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen designed and built this sculpture in two New England shipbuilding yards as a project for the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden in the late eighties.



Spoonbridge and Real Bridge.

The best creations came from that decade.




I tried to capture some traditional and not-so-traditional angles and compositions of the Spoonbridge.  I most definitely wanted to get close enough to feel the fountain’s spray in hopes of a cool down, but it. is. HUGE. And in a pond. Plus, there were segway tours happening simultaneously.  Makes climbing up the artwork impossible.


Good art makes you want to jump in, and participate. To eat the cherry on top. This sculpture captivates me.



We meandered throughout the rest of the garden, my dad and I taking pictures, and Huckleberry curling up under a shady park bench whenever possible.











Tip: no need to spend more than one minute in the greenhouse when it’s 95 degrees outside.



I most definitely recommend spending an hour or two here with family or friends; you can bring a picnic or cross the artsy bridge over the highway into Loring Park and visit some restaurants on your artsy afternoon.  We went to {of course} the French Meadow for brunch.


Photo Credit: Scott Rezin. He rocks at beautiful composition. And he takes the photos for my mom’s incredible glass art business {Rezin Studios}.





Optical Illusion/ Photobomb combo.

Parking only costs $3.50, admission is free, and they’re open to the public daily.  Also! Mini-golfers out there: to commemorate their 25th year of existence, the garden has an artist-designed mini-golf course. Talk about participation-art.


Having taken art history classes in college, I was able to appreciate the elements in the sculptures. Angles, colors, spaces and voids, deconstructions. I find it easier to appreciate classical and impressionistic forms in art, but this interaction was a lovely way to spend a summer’s afternoon.



The guys taking a break from appreciating art and the blazing sunshine.


Enjoy the last few days of summer!


Places to Go, Things to Do… The French Meadow


Encouraged by a lovely hometown-bestie-now-Madison-native-Twin-Cities-expert, I spent a lovely leisurely lunch a little while ago at The French Meadow. It’s in uptown, which is in the southern part of Minneapolis.  I’m still trying to figure out why they call it UP-town. Probably has something to do with the zillion and a half up-and-coming delicious restaurants they have. On Lyndale, this gem of a cafe is, however, not up-and-coming. It’s legendary. Everyone knows about it.  Everyone’s been to and gushed about it.  My East-of-the-River eyes have been opened and taste buds, therefore, have reaped the benefits: every Farm-to-Table, organic, locally-grown, wholesome, and delicious grain of benefit.


The French Meadow has been a Minneapolis staple since 1985, gracing the market here since before cell phones, the internet, and Green-living, thanks to pioneer Lynn Gordon, founder, baker, and now co-owner.



She and her crew have “led, articulated, and demonstrated everything right and good about food in America in the last several decades: championing organics before there really was such a thing; promoting sustainable agriculture; making and serving slow foods; and generally providing a tasty little oasis of thoughtful and healthy living since the dawn of time. Or 1985, more specifically,” as Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl, a Minneapolis-based food and wine writer said.


And! They’re opening a location on Grand Avenue this fall! Yes! Additionally, they have recently opened a wine-bar called Blue Stem.  Attached to the cafe. What more could you ask for? I’ll continue.


All of their bakery is made in house, which is hard to find in a city where space is premium. I felt like I got a great value with my sandwich: the Wild Acres Turkey Bacon Croissant. My lunch-mates had the Curried Chicken Croissant and Grilled Tempeh Reuben.



Their newly expanded location on Lyndale is quaint and airy, with blackboard menus and a farm-city decor juxtaposition. I wanted to stay all afternoon. It would have taken me that long to take all of it in. You eat with your eyes first, they say.



Your senses will be overwhelmed, in the best sense of the word. Baskets, cakes, tartlets, brown paper boxes, tall frosty glasses with fruit gracing the top. Case in point: our muppet-themed table number:


The Meadow’s vegan and vegetarian options, as well as countless other dietary specifics are accommodated with their extensive and colorful menu. Also, they serve chips and salsa with your meal. What is not to love?


I lunched with some dear friends; we found the service so great that we went back for dessert. You must. go. back. for. dessert. Or, if your fancy is caffeine, try something from the espresso and tea bar. I myself had a hibiscus iced tea. Summery and refreshing!



As we went mid-week, we found a table outside with no problem. I hear breakfasts/brunches, especially on the weekends at the French Meadow, are line-out-the-door kind of busy, so plan ahead. Bring an appetite for healthy, keep-coming-back-for-more foodie-caliber food.



The French Meadow Bakery and Cafe  gets four stars from the St. Paul girl, dipping her toe in the ocean of dining delights on the other side of the river!





This time last year we were unpacking boxes and getting lost on the streets of Saint Paul! My how time flies. Here’s a little list of {12} things I’ve learned during my {12} months of city living!


{1} Try new things. This means visiting all the grocery stores till you find one {or three} you like/fit your budget. This also means taking a class or two. Eat at restaurants that have menu items you can’t pronounce. Try said items and be pleasantly surprised. This is cookie monster ice cream from Grand Old Creamery. A must.


{2} Face time is a beautiful way to keep in touch with family and friends {and nieces as they grow!}. Schedule it in so you stay connected!

{3} Save money for special occasions {We celebrate each trimester of my husband’s schooling being finished with burgers at BlueDoorPub!} or for everyday occasions. Date nights out make working worth it and keep you balanced.


{4} The zipper merge is bonkers. So is parking near Grand Ave during the winter months. Or driving anywhere during the winter months, for that matter. Icy! Be careful out there, Twin Cities drivers. {How I got licensed}


{5} Meet friends in your neighborhood. Chat for awhile. This makes any new place a home. I love our dog-friendly condo and the many many neighbors who remember Huckleberry’s name!


{6} Jump in. Both feet. Wholeheartedly. Being grownup {relatively} in a new place can be scary. But within the scary lies infinite possibility. Like finding your favorite coffee shop or route to work or park or choosing a new hairstylist or dentist or mechanic or going for it at your new job.


{7} Downtown Minneapolis is confusing. But filled with oh so many funky delights. Next year I vow to cross the bridge and explore more. Including this donut shop.


{8} There is a little bit of country in this city. Parks are lush and lakes are everywhere! There is nothing more re-centering than sunlight through green leaves.


{9} When we move next, I plan being a little bit farther from the highway.  I appreciate peaceful moments.  Falling asleep to speeding cars and rumbling trucks has a relaxing, white noise-y quality, though, once you get used to it.


{10} Blue Door Pub is the best burger joint in the city.  We are working on finding the best coffee shop. Lots of lattes lately.


{11} Walking around the MOA is good exercise. It also provides excellent people watching and wallet denting opportunities.

{12} Call your mother. Moms are good at loving and listening and grounding {as in, bringing you back to the ground.  Not the stay at home because you’ve been naughty kind}.


Hope your week is as delightful as a freshly baked oatmealpeanutbutterchocolatechipcookie.



Places to Go, Things to Do… Saint Paul Farmer’s Market

Whoa. In this family, we love veggies. Not quite enough to become vegetarians, because, let’s be honest, nothing beats bacon and eggs on a Saturday morning. Except maybe going to the Farmer’s Market on a Saturday Morning.


One of these days, I’ll make it to Seattle’s Pike Place market. {Dreams are made of it!} For now, though, I could wander up and down the three main aisles of St. Paul’s downtown market for hours.

With friends at the market last weekend!

With friends at the market last weekend!


This was in early October of last year; in July and August, the market is like a mountain river during salmon spawning season.

Which we have been doing lately!  During the summer months {when there’s not an out of town wedding – and even when there is – we plan on hitting up Madison’s capitol square farmer’s market next weekend}, fresh, locally grown produce procured at the farmer’s market brings happiness to my heart and peace to our grocery budget. The sheer volume of basil one can procure for $2 is beyond incredible. And, it’s fresh! And, produced organically! Usually in Minnesota!

Tally ho, to your local farmer’s market. These farmers are bringing Americans back to the source of our food {or relatively close, for that matter}.  Goodness.



Choosing where to buy your food, as well as what you buy, is paramount. Michael Pollan said, in his book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, “’Eating is an agricultural act,’ as Wendell Berry famously said. It is also an ecological act, and a political act, too. Though much has been done to obscure this simple fact, how and what we eat determines to a great extent the use we make of the world – and what is to become of it. To eat with a fuller consciousness of all that is at stake might sound like a burden, but in practice few things in life can afford quite as much satisfaction.” 


Small changes in our daily diet at home have made us feel like we are doing our {little} part to purposefully eat well and do good. More fruitsandvegetables, buying organic produce when we can afford to do so, shopping around the exterior of the grocery store and avoiding the aisles in the middle, all guide our food shopping. Though we don’t have much sun-space to grow our own garden {someday!}, living in this big beautiful city offers so many options for thoughtful consumers {Hello, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s and Lund’s and Kowalski’s and even Hello Cub Foods!}

Including the farmer’s market. There is at least one or two farmer’s markets to visit in the city on any given day of the week  {Schedule}. I plan on visiting at least two or three more before the summer’s up and taking some DSLR photos home with my overflowing basket of veggies.  For now, Saturday morning market is kind-of a fresh newlywed date for us. Fancy, I know.


Let’s break it down à la senses, for that is how food should be experienced. Virginia Woolf, in her common reader, said, “For ourselves, who are ordinary men and women, let us return thanks to Nature for her bounty by using every one of the senses she has given us.”

Sight: When you walk in {in? It is an open market; inness and outness are nonexistent}, colors abound. Blissfully cherry-red tomatoes, sunshine yellow zucchini in blue baskets, soft-amber mason jars upon mason jars of honey, deep purple eggplants waiting to tumble into your basket. Bouquets of rainbow-hued lilies and zinnias, daisies and hydrangeas sit in water, ready to delight the hostess at the party you’re going to tonight. And the greens! Yeesh. Bundles and bundles of grassygreen chives, cilantro, and basil.

{*Side note: if you’re into people-watching, this is THE. PLACE.} I love checking out farmer-fashion, handmade skirts {got mine here}, Saturday-morning still-wearing-my-glasses sleepy eyes peeking open with a cupofcoffee, and the baskets and totes customers bring in which they place their green treasures.}

Sound: I wish there were real live chickens squawking and pigs oinking. That’s what I picture in my idyllic farmer’s market dream land. Here, though, little ones squeal with delight when they get a honey stick or a strawberry to squish between their sticky fingers or a fresh-baked blueberry muffin. Farmers ask “Which bundle/dozen/bunch/pint would you like?” and customers reply with grateful pointed fingers, whooshing toward the prettiest, most scrumptious looking bundle/dozen/bunch/pint.

Touch: Smooth onion bulbs have stalks that go on for days. Feathery dill tickles the tips of your fingers. Sharp rose thorns juxtapose with their gentle, pillowy pink petals.

Smell: Stick your face in the basil plant, my friends. Just do it. THAT is summer goodness. Or, take a whiff of the sweet strawberry crates intoxicating passersby into taking a closer look. Real strawberries, farm strawberries, have a smaller body but a richer, redder, sweeter smell than any strawberries at any grocery store. Can’t say no to it.

Taste: Other than the cheese/sausage/honey/jam samples {to name a few} and iced coffee stand, most of the tasting happens in the kitchen once we get our loot home. Except when I buy raspberries. We’re lucky if they make it home. The tasting that does happen at home is rich, juicy, peppery, bitter, sweet, balsamic-y, garlicky, sometimes sour, usually sugary, and always more flavorful and satisfying than we could have imagined.


Here’s a look at some of the dishes we’ve prepared using our STP Farmer’s Market goods this week:

Cherry Tomato Balsamic Chicken with Basil:


Garden Salad with Snow Peas, Garlic Chives, and Fresh Mozzarella:


Stuffed Peppers:


Zucchini Spaghetti with Sauteed Mushrooms and Sweet Peas in a Basil Pesto Cream Sauce from {Top With Cinnamon},


and Fresh Mint Mojitos!


See you at the market!