Has it really been a week since we were hiking in Jay Cooke State Park, on the St. Louis River, in Carlton, MN.? Not for nothing is this park reportedly one of the top ten most visited in Minnesota. It was a logical spot to stop on our return from the North Shore to Minneapolis, because it’s about 10 miles southwest of Duluth, and we were reminded of my beloved Ithaca when we cross a suspension bridge over raging falls (although the water was an odd yellow-brown, reminiscent of root beer, which I later learned is caused by tannic acid, a natural plant compound used to tan hides – and make wine.) We hiked on a muddy but scenic trail along the falls and into the birch and pine forest on a drier trail until a rainstorm suddenly blew in. Fortunately we didn’t get totally soaked – we found a shelter on the trail and the rain soon stopped but we ended up eating our picnic of smoked fish and cheese inside a rustic park lodge, completely with roaring fire (nice touch)!
Back in Minneapolis, we took “the kids” out for a quick Vietnamese meal at Quang, on “Eat Street”/Nicollet Avenue, which was packed with customers but the servers did their best to get the food to us quickly.
Another great Airbnb (unlike the one I booked in Minneapolis where the weird host cancelled at the last minute). We are in a airy blue-walled room on the second floor of an old wooden house in a neighborhood high on a hill above downtown and the blue waters of Lake Superior. Some nice touches including a Polaroid camera to snap a few shots (haven’t used on in years) and a white noise machine. Pretty little botanical prints on the wall, a map with pins to stick in to show where we are from (other Des Moines residents have been here, as has someone from Tehran and another from Hamburg.) We share a bathroom with the two other rooms, one of which is booked.
After a brief stop at The Minneapolis farmers market downtown on Lyndale near the Twins stadium to pick up huge red dahlias, raspberries, strawberries, scones and banana bread to take to Noah and Rachel’s new apartment on Emerson Street, we drove two hours or so to Duluth (not too much traffic) and tried our first batch of smoked whitefish at Northern Waters Smokehaus, a hip, foodie sandwich shop inside an old brick warehouse renovated into a marketplace with nice shops. I ate the fish on saltines with a smear of cream cheese, as directed.
When we were riding our bikes along Nicollet Avenue near our airbnb in the Whittier Neighborhood (26th and Pillsbury Ave. S.), I noticed that there were a lot of restaurants but we needed an insider (albeit a fairly recent 20-something arrival, our pal Conor) to tell us the area was called “Eat Street.” (I had noticed earlier an office that read “Eat Street Dental” which I found curious.)
We had lots of options – especially ethnic, including one Vietnamese restaurant (Quang?) that I think we went to over a decade ago) but we settled on Malaysian food at Peninsula since I so rarely see or get that food. We counted on the server and a nearby table of what may have been Malaysian diners to figure out what to eat and it was good, especially appetizers (Malaysian pancake and sauce; spicy spareribs.)
Our local-in-the-know also took us to an artisan ice cream shop, MilkJam Creamery , nearby on Lyndale where we seemed to pick the few concoctions that didn’t feature coriander. (Cashew Ousside – malted sweet cream with caramel cashew bar and chocolate chips; Hard Knock Life – dark chocolate w/ salted pretzels, brownies, and chocolate fudge.) Also very good. We skipped the Doo Wop (avocado lychee.)
Guthrie gift shop finds
Another surprisingly gorgeous day and we used it well, spending most of it on our bikes pedaling Grand Rounds Scenic Byway from one lake to another, (Lake of the Isles, Calhoun, Harriet, all the way to Minehaha Falls.) Much of the city seemed to be on the trail, as they should be and we again appreciated the orderly layout of the trail, with separate trails for bikers and walkers and the cycling trail divided by direction. We also found a perfect diagonal Street with a clear bike lande (Minehaha Avenue) to get back to the Midtown Greenway and our Airbnb, doing a great loop.
At the Midtown Global Market, we all tried various ethnic foods (excellent baba ganous which I don’t always like at the Holy Land; brioche for breakfast from Salty Tart Bakery; Indian tacos from a stand in the southeast corner etc). dinner was at Spoonriver, next to The Guthrie. Very good salads, burgers, desserts. (The Vietnamese Salad with grilled shrimp and lemongrass was a standout).
The play we went to see was odd (Refugia) but it was a treat to be in that building again. High drama decor with a blood red theater inside a dark deep blue glass building. Next time, I hope we can go up to the ninth floor observation area. (It was closed for a private event.)
At intermission, nature produced even better drama as we watched a storm move in over the city from the deck out side the cantilevered portion of the building. We capped things off with a drink at a Westin Hotel that was once a bank, with Art Deco reliefs, fixtures and carvings beautifully restored. So happy Noah gets to live here!
Westin hotel lobby for drinks
Biking to Minehaha falls
Fun day riding bikes with our friends Polly and Jamie who flew here from Traverse City (we drove from Des Moines.) The Midtown Greenway trail was busy with cyclists and walkers but easy to navigate and nice to not be riding in streets, some with dubious bike lanes. We did find the bike share program a little cumbersome because it’s not really set up for daily rentals and although you can buy a day pass (for only $6) you have to stop every half hour at a bike docking station to re-up which is awkward. you get charged $3 per half hour that you don’t re-up but which can add up.
The bachelor farmer
we ate well, first at Lucia’s in Uptown and at The Bachelor farmer, where I had the best meal my vets had in a long time. Not for nothing did this place win a James Beard award. Duck confit, porker belly appetizer, pork meatballs, lemon mouse cake with orange sherbet all excellent, good service, rustic chic industrial decor. Must try the casual cafe next.
we really like our air bnb in the Whittier neighborhood at 26th and Pillsbury. Huge, lots of craftsman furniture, art posters and this dream of a sun porchnadjoin our second floor bedroom.
We were very impressed last weekend with the Midtown Greenway, a 5.5 mile former railroad bed that runs across the southern bit of Minneapolis. It’s largely hidden from view (we had a hard time finding it from the trail along the Mississippi river) but is packed with people and runs parallel to Lake Street, past some cool places worth jumping off to visit including the Midtown Global Market. It took us right to South Bryant Street, where our b&b is and where we also found that by heading north, you go over a very handy bike bridge that leads right to Loring Park and downtown.
The Midtown Greenery on a brisk Sunday morning was full of bike riders, from older folks to families to hipsters with the prerequisite full-arm tattoos and pierces.
We followed a Volvo into the parking lot and parked our Ford next to a Saab – which seemed like an appropriate way of arriving at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis. The museum is a hybrid of an elegant over-the-top 19th century Turnblad Mansion with rococo ceilings, elaborately carved mahogany woodwork and the most remarkable assortment of tiled stoves I’ve seen, plus an equally elegant but very spare Scandinavian modern wing with pristine white walls and spotless floors and pale wood.
As expected, the exhibit we saw of exquisite papercuts (the art of “psaligraphy”) by Danish-Norwegian artist Karen Bit Vejle were remarkable – huge, intricate, lovely, I cannot imagine how she does such lovely things with a small pair of scissors. The papercuts were exhibited in both the modern wing and scattered around the mansion, which was cool. We also were impressed with the paper cuts (see below) of St. Paul artist Cindy McKeen, who studied at Grinnell and at Drake and whose work was reportedly influenced by her rural Iowa childhood. I found out later her work is on sale at Ingebretsen’s, the well-known Scandinavian Gift shop in Minneapolis.
The day before, we went to the Room and Board Outlet in nearby Golden Valley – and I found EXACTLY the chair I was looking for (or pretty darned close!) for $600 off the catalog price. How amazing is that? We saved an extra $100 or so on shipping. I am a longtime fan of Room and Board but never knew there was an outlet – this is the only one in the country and it’s only open on Saturday and Sunday. The place was packed and as I wandered around looking for “my chair” – I suddenly spotted it in a remote area of the cavernous warehouse, surrounded by couches similar to the I bought for full price a few years ago. But another woman spotted “my chair” too and promptly sat on it. I waited nervously for her to leave then jumped into it and held on for dear life until my husband arrived and could go fetch a salesclerk. It was the only one in the whole place!