Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Saturday in the Life of a Duluthian

Ladies and gentlemen (or the one person who reads this blog), I have taken up residence in a coffee shop this fine evening. I've had a perfectly pleasant day (well, since my shower anyway), but I feel the urge to start this entry by telling you about the coffee shop first.

Why? Because there is mild-to-moderate doucheyness afoot, mere feet away from me. I've been tucked away in my little corner for almost three hours now, in an attempt to finish some overdue freelance articles. There is a guy sitting in the next seat who has been here even longer than I have. He has removed his shoes and from time to time, he has been resting his stockinged feet on the coffee table in the middle of the nook we are sharing. Really, dude? I can understand the part where you hang around the coffee shop all day, half-assedly doing work/studying/book-clubbing/whatever the frick you are doing, because, hey, otherwise, I'd be the pot calling the kettle black. What I don't get is the part where you decide to make yourself at home, for the price of one cup of coffee, to such an extent as to rest your moist tootsies on the same table where people put their food. This is a public place, not your living room, mkay? Put those things away.

Reading over that last paragraph, I realize it sounds a tad hostile. I don't mean it to be. My little rant was written in a good-natured, laughing sort of way. Sock Guy, if you are reading this, please imagine me to be teasing you the way an older sibling would. "Dude, get your feet off the table. We're in a coffee shop."

Anyway, let me round out my reviews for the day, prior to finding myself in close quarters with a stranger's feet.

My first stop (after the couch and the shower) was Dunn Brothers. This is my favorite coffee chain. Starbucks and Caribou cannot compare to the delicious beverages, food, and good service I've always encountered here. It's no more expensive than either, but somehow manages to be infinitely tastier. I had my usual mocha and a cranberry-walnut scone. The Morning Glory muffin here is also excellent. There is free Wi-Fi, which is faster than what I have at home.

After my stop at Dunn Brothers, I went to the main Duluth library, downtown, between the Radisson Hotel and the Depot. It took a few short minutes to sign up for a card. The library itself was very tranquil, and everyone seemed so polite and willing to help. I was surprised and warmed by the librarian who tried to help me find a particular memoir. She looked not only on the shelf where the book was supposed to be, but on the surrounding shelves and through a cart loaded with books. She was genuinely remorseful about the shelves' unwillingness to present the book. Before I left, she took my information and promised to call me when they found it. I was struck by her thoroughness and dedication.

So go check out both the library and Dunn Brothers, if you haven't already--or haven't recently.

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Trip to St. Louis, MO - Part I - Jimmy's on the Park; Dolnick's Furniture

If you are reading this, you probably already know that I am aiming to create a blog that focuses on cultural delights available in Duluth. However, this Duluthian also loves to travel. Today, I would like to take you on a little journey to Saint Louis, Missouri. I was there over Memorial Day weekend visiting my grandparents and seeing the Spring to Dance festival.

Oddly enough, one of the highlights of this trip for me was a rug. This rug has become an obsession in my world. I saw it at Jimmy's Cafe on The Park, where my grandparents and I tucked ourselves away into a plush little lounge corner. Observe:

The one I saw was more made of tans and browns, but this is a good close-up for the sake of detail. Here's a better estimation of the color palette:

The rug, by Dream Weavers, is made of recycled silk neckties. My feet couldn't stop playing with the silky loops. What a smashing choice, Jimmy! I will not rest until I own a rug like this. That may be a while, though; the price of a 5' x 7' rug was around $700. Ouch.

Here is a shot of the restaurant/wine bar's exterior:

Check it out:

The service and the ambiance were impeccable here. In fact, Jimmy himself came over to our table at least twice to check on us. When I told the server I loved the rug, he told me he would find out where Jimmy had purchased it. Jimmy came over and told us: Dolnick's. Apparently, Dolnick's is the ultimate drool-worthy store. Opened in 1927, they are still a family business dedicated to beautiful modern furniture and design. When I made a stop in the store, still entranced by the Ties rug, I was greeted by one of the Dolnicks and spoiled rotten by their personalized, attentive service. For this lover of fine contemporary-yet-comfy interiors, this place was like a mecca. Please observe again:

Dolnick's website:

We didn't partake in a full meal at Jimmy's, so unfortunately, I can't offer a review of the menu's offerings. We did enjoy our glasses of Pinot Noir, however, as well as a substantial number of what Jimmy's calls Pasta Crunchers. Their website describes them thus: "flash-fried imported fettucini with a special blend of seasonings." They were salty, but delicious, and very addictive. The crunch as you bite into them adds to the addictive quality. We went through quite a few.

I also love that Jimmy's takes pride in the location they selected for their restaurant. What is now Jimmy's Cafe on the Park was once a neighborhood grocery store--one of those little standbys that have gone the way of vinyl records in the age of the mega-chain. The old grocery store stood on the spot for about 50 years, closing in 1994. I remember being eight or ten years old and having my grandmother send me down the block to buy a loaf of bread. It wasn't so long ago that a person could do that. The neighborhood was a safe one, and my grandparents' home is only a stone's throw from the place.

This reminds me: I need to do a blog entry about my grandparents' beautiful house in Clayton, Missouri. Stay tuned.

So, for anyone reading: where do you find your design inspiration? Do you have a favorite old neighborhood haunt?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Anchor Bar - Superior, WI

Warning: this post is meant for those over the age of 18.

The Anchor Bar is a dive, no doubt about it. In fact, the owner himself wears the badge proudly. I'm good with that. Don't let my love of fine cuisine fool you. I love a good hole-in-the-wall joint, too.

Here's the "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives" spot:

The Anchor Bar walls are covered with nautical memorabilia. My personal favorite is a plaque listing the names and portraits of the Titanic Orchestra, whose members "gallantly played on while the ship sank beneath the sea."


Are you f-ing kidding me?

What on earth was going on in the minds of these men? Did someone force them to continue? Or did they resign themselves to the fate of a watery grave and decide that making music was a good way to go out, if they were going? The official story is that they played to soothe the passengers, but there had to be more happening in their minds. Absolutely fascinating, horribly tragic.

Ahem. I digress.

I had the Reuben Burger, and boyfriend had the Olive Burger (it had both cream cheese and olives). Both were suitably greasy and delicious. Anchor's fries are quite good, too. Very fresh.

Ah, but I promised you the story of how the server got graphic with my drink order!

I ordered a Sex on the Beach. (No doubt some of you now know where this is going. I was blissfully ignorant until the day I went to The Anchor Bar.) When our server brought it to me, it was very white. It didn't have that swirly, tropical look yet. I was confused, but thought, oh well. They probably aren't used to these kinds of drink orders. It's more of a beer and whiskey kind of place. Then, server lady said, "The grenadine is optional; did you want grenadine?" I accepted, and in a few moments, she returned and poured in the red liquid. This looked a bit more familiar. Then, she said "See, it's because the coconut cream is like the cum, and the grenadine is the blood. You know, like, sometimes there might be blood, but maybe not."


Now, is it just me, or did everyone else think Sex on the Beach was just a fruity, tropical drink with a slightly naughty name to give it panache? Is it just me, or do servers usually refrain from talking about ejaculate in comparison to the drink the customer is about to consume? Is it just me, or is a nice Sex on the Beach ruined for you guys, now, too?

Okay, I'm half-kidding. I'll still drink Sex on the Beach, and I'll go back to the Anchor next time I'm in the mood for a good burger. None of this was off-putting enough to rock my little world. But it was funny. And slightly icky.

Later, I Googled the drink to find out what the official ingredients are. The mystery deepened. I couldn't find any white, creamy ingredients in any of the recipes Google had fetched for me. So I edited my search from "sex on the beach drink recipe" to "sex on the beack drink recipe cum." Apparently, there is a version called a Cum Loaded Sex on the Beach, which is what the Anchor Bar had served up on that fine June evening. On the East coast, we drank our Sex on the Beach without the cum; in Minnesota and Wisconsin, such is apparently not the case.

So there you have it. The Graphic Drink Order Story. Only in Wisconsin, ladies and gents! (Disclaimer: boyfriend was born in Wisconsin and he endorses this statement. It is meant in affectionate jest.)

Cash only. (There's an ATM next door, but it'll charge you $3.00 to get your money out.) The Anchor bar is open every day from 11 A.M. to bar closing time, though the kitchen closes around midnight.

GPS: 413 Tower Avenue, Superior, WI, 54880

Phone: 715.394.9747

Grade: B-

Monday, June 6, 2011

Warm Weather? Here?!

Finally! After a long winter in Duluth, Spring has made an appearance. I'm not going to get my hopes up that it's here to stay, though. By all accounts, this winter has been worse than usual, even for Duluth. (But since I plan to stay here awhile, that's good news.)

Like any patriotic American (insert dripping sarcasm here), I greeted the warm, sunny weather by spending money I didn't necessarily have. Observe:

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

The DSW in Duluth is as good as any I've seen, including locations in New York City. Go there. Miller Hill Mall. I haven't bought shoes anywhere else since moving to Duluth last summer.

Once I had these little numbers on my feet, I realized I probably needed a manicure. I justified this by telling myself it was only $40 for both pedicure and manicure, and that I hadn't had either in a year. On the recommendation of a kind barista at the Miller Hill Mall Caribou Coffee, I went to Diamond Nails.

Diamond Nails is at 919 W Central Entrance; phone (218) 733-5601. The service was very friendly and accommodating. The prices were reasonable. The mani/pedi wasn't absolutely first-rate, but worth the price. Diamond Nails prefers cash, but will take cards.

The sandals were easier to justify; I realized I had no sandals anymore, other than some very old flip-flops that had cost about $6 new. My feet were roasting in my flats. This had to happen.

Next up: The Anchor Bar in Superior, wherein the server gets graphic with my drink order. Stay tuned.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Review: Brunch at Pizza Lucé

Pizza Lucé is a Duluth staple, and it deserves to be. I've been to brunch there at least a dozen times since moving to the area, and I've rarely been disappointed.

Let's talk favorites. I've got the world's biggest sweet tooth, so I'm a fan of the Truly French Toast and the Chocolate Raspberry Waffle. My main complaint is that they don't provide pure maple syrup. The best I can surmise is that it might be a hybrid--part real syrup, part corn syrup/maple flavoring. It's much better than your average Aunt Jemima, though, and you'll only be disappointed with it if you're a total maple syrup snob (like yours truly).

But back to the entrées themselves. The Truly French toast is delightful--French Toast with brie cheese sandwiched inside. YUM. It's served with a banana-pecan syrup. Small drawbacks are not enough to dissaude me from ordering this dish about five times so far. Small drawbacks include: the aforementioned lack of pure maple syrup; the fact that I've received the dish almost cold once or twice; that sometimes, they don't dip it heavily enough in the egg mixture before cooking. If I can be extra-picky for a moment, I'd prefer a more substantial bread to be used (this New Yorker misses French Toast made with Challah). All that aside, order this. It's delicious. I've even gone so far as to steal the idea and make French Toast with brie at home.

The Chocolate Raspberry Waffle is good. If you like your waffles a little on the crispy side, you'll love this waffle. The raspberries are always good, the chocolate is plentiful, and the whipped cream is thick and fluffy.

If you like a little booze with your brunch (and I do), go to Lucé for the Bloody Mary Bar. At Lucé, they will bring you a pint glass half-filled with ice and vodka, celery salt on the rim, accompanied by a mini bottle of Miller, then let you go to town on the rest of the ingredients. You can choose from three different tomato juice options (one is spicy), olives, garlic, cucumber, celery, three kinds of cheese, horseradish, and more.

But this is mainly information gleaned by observation. Personally, I go with the Mimosa. The Mimosa at Lucé is a good, solid "Good." You get Tropicana Pure Premium orange juice--that's a high-five in my book, kids. I prefer a drier champagne than Lucé does, but that's a small criticism.

Now then. On to savory delights. One of the jewels in the Pizza Lucé crown is the Pesto Eggs Benedict (PEB). This dish is a masterpiece, and I'm not afraid to say it. The mating of tastes and of textures in the PEB is nothing short of splendid. The pesto Hollandaise sauce, spicy sausage, poached eggs, and part-crispy, part-soft bed of hash browns underneath all combine to strike perfectly-tuned chords in the diner's mouth and brain. If the ingredients were any fresher, this dish would make said diner's brain explode with delight, rendering him incapable of rational thought. A more authentic version of Meg Ryan's famous scene in "When Harry Met Sally" comes to mind. (Note: your PEB also comes with a side of clear conscience, as Luce uses only cage-free eggs.)

Bottom line: he service at Pizza Lucé is top-notch and very friendly; the food is definitely worth the trip. Don't miss this brunch!

If you go: It's best to arrive on the early side, as they do tend to run out of certain brunch ingredients after a certain point; additionally, you'll avoid a long wait for seating. Luckily, the crowd at Lucé is mainly low-key, which means you won't get the side-eye for rolling out of bed, into your jeans and sweatshirt, and heading straight in for breakfast. However, note that Pizza Lucé's full menu is available in the bar as well. If the dining room is crowded, meander over to the bar, and you'll often be able to plunk right down at a table. Also, take a trip to the restroom while you're there--trust me.

Recent sightings: Rob Giuliani, who oversees the kitchen at Clyde Iron Works. Rob is a CIA graduate and former sous chef at the restaurant at Marshall Field & Co. in Chicago, IL.

Grade: B+

Pizza Lucé is open for brunch Saturdays and Sundays from 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM. A limited amount of reservations are available for parties of six or more. Prices for brunch entrees range from about $8-$10.

On the web:

GPS: 11 East Superior St, Duluth, MN, 55802

Friday, March 25, 2011

Relocation and Crazy People

So, after six years of living in New York City, I've found myself in Duluth, MN. I'm still settling in, and in fact, I still have to go back to NYC this weekend to retrieve my piano, couch, and various other items I can't live without.

In the meantime, I'm occupying myself with learning my new job and obsessively comparing life in Minnesota versus New York. Dear readers, as far as I can tell, Duluth has just as many crazy people as New York with population of only about 90,000 to NYC's 8 million. How does this work? All I can think is that it must be a college-town thing. Not that I mind. The hippie vibe is part of what I love about my new home of Duluth, and why, growing up in Dearborn, Michigan, I always wished I lived in Ann Arbor.

Where have I witnessed said crazy people? I work downtown near a major bus stop, in a center with various shops and businesses. In a strange New York City-like fashion, our office is tiny, with two desks, zero outside windows, and no air conditioning. The company owner's sister has decorated the walls with personal travel photos. Big Ben, downtown Dubai, and various other seductive locations are beckoning me before I've even made it from NYC to Duluth. I never figured myself for a girl with wanderlust, but lately, I've been full of ideas. Atlanta, Maine, Italy, returns to Boston and Paris. Sigh. Someday!

One of the most important comparisons between NYC and Duluth involves something I didn't think through before the move: Minnesota Nice. Minnesotans are famous for it, and it's my secret pet project to find out if it's true. So far, so good. Even the crazy people are nicer. In New York, shady characters hanging around are apt to hurl insults at you if you ignore their bizarre requests, come-ons, or panhandling. Here in Duluth? There's a crazy lady in my neighborhood who has been methodically working her way around town with a shovel, edging people's lawns for them. Seriously. And I haven't heard a peep from anyone else.

In New York, I always felt my Midwestern politeness, such as it is, was a handicap. Maybe even something to look down upon. And gradually, my manners wore away. To make a long story short, I wasn't okay with that, and I found myself looking for a change in location, back to a place where I'd function more like myself. I had connections here in Duluth, but until I got here, it didn't hit me: I've moved from the city in the United States with the absolute worst reputation for politeness to the state with the best! Maybe I'm over-thinking this, but did my subconscious orchestrate this move?!

Originally written August 16, 2010.

Random Junk From My Brain.

Hyper. Hyper hyper hyper. Hyper brain, slothlike exterior. Hello, Friday!

I GOT A JOB. And I'm keeping my current one. Two part-time jobs equals one full-time income. Hallelujah.

I hope the next iPhone model doesn't completely blow. I need new, snazzy features. I still have a 3G, and it's slow.

I have nothing of very good use to post here. I think I'll go back and post a couple of draft entries I never got to finish. Yep.