Stillwater, located on St. Croix River, is Minnesota's birthplace with a history of lumberjacks. I flew into the St. Paul/Minnesota airport to get here. Like many other cities, Main Street is the heart of it, full of art galleries, antique stores, restaurants and specialty shops.
I met up with Kit Shoop, one of the artists that shows her wares at the Art Guild Gallery. She's noted for miniature water colors that focus on birds and cats. At her home, she has dogs, a horse, and her studio. It's the bird feeders that assists in inspiring her. Her husband, Wally, does bronze sculptures and most noted for his eagles. He also plays the guitar and composes as a hobby.
Kit and I ate at a restaurant called Green Room. I had a Minnesota Salad of mixed and dandelion greens, blueberries, hazelnuts and turkey confit with a maple syrup vinaigrette and wild rice waffle. Had to have wild rice, being in Minnesota.
Walleye being another "must" I chose their Manchengo Almond Walleye. The native fish was covered with manchengo and almond, oven roasted and served with lemon and thyme Beuree Blanc.
Kit went for the Indian Seafood Congee of mussels, shrimp, scallops and some other fish with rice and vegetables in a vegetable ginger stock. I did taste it and was just a bit spicy but good. In fact the food at Green Room is quite delicious.
Their pastry chef presented our dessert, which I just remember it to be a chocolate lovers decadence!
Kit and I then walked across the street at 208 Main Street South to check out Stillwater Olive Oil Company. They have several oils and vinegars and you can taste all of them if you so desire. I particularly love the flavored oils and tasted basil, lemon, cilantro with roasted onion, blood orange, butter flavored (great for popcorn)amongst others. They have an authentic balsamic vinegar that is aged and not mixed with a wine vinegar, which you would tend to get at your grocery store. Choose what you want and they bottle it right there.
Kit had to head home so I took a trolley tour to hear about the history and view some of the old homes and museums. Didn't really like the tour as the guy running it told us all not to talk or ask questions as well as seeming to put on some sort of character and sounded as if it was all memorized. He didn't seem to have a problem telling us about his personal life prior to departing. If you don't have a walking issue, grab info from tourism and go to it!
You could see the historic Lift Bridge on the St. Croix River, one of only three in the United States.
Due to the season and time constraint I missed the gondola ride, hot air balloon, paddlewheel excursion and LumberJack Days as well as the Joseph Wolf Brewery Cave Tour and Northern Vineyards Winery. www.discoverstillwater.com.
An architecture of bright colors, a waterfalls and tall windows span the walls of Rosa Mexicano, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The location at 609 Hennepin Avenue, in the Minneapolis' entertainment district, is one of twelve in the United States where you can expect true Mexican fare that is far from Tex-Mex. I was looking forward to partaking.
Behind the waterfalls was a lounge that had a bar as well as tables and chairs. Abutting one side was another room which I understood used for the overflow of customers or private events. I was seated in the main dining room.
Although a Frozen Pomegranate Margarita is their signature drink, I opted to save my alcoholic intake for after dinner. The menu gave a detailed description of the food along with a marking so that I would get the caliber of the heat. "Mild" is my choice!.
Guacamole en Molcajete is prepared dinnerside. Since 1984 they have been serving freshly made guacamole with avocado, jalepeno, tomato, onion and cilantro. If there is an ingredient that you are not particularly fond of and want eliminated, do not hesitate to share this. Warm corn tortillas, tortilla chips, salsa pasilla de Oaxaca and salsa de tomatilla y habanero accompanies this appetizer.
Well, let's call it a pre-appetizer as I had another one. Tartar de Serviola. Pacific Yellowtail aka Hamachi Tartare composed of diced yellowtail, watermelon, cucumber and jicama served with a tomato habanero sauce and jalpeno ice.
Next course. Filete Con Hongos, a sliced up filet mignon covered with a wild mushroom, tequila cream sauce and sauteed red and green peppers. Black beans and yellow rice accompanied this savory delight.
It was quite difficult choosing a dessert and the one that won out was the Tres Leches de Zarzamoras and Blackberry Three Milk Cake. The sour cream pound cake is soaked in three milks, lemon and lime,topped with an assortment of berries as well as an hibiscus glaze and toasted meringue.
Having chatted with Ryan, one of the managers, he had suggested the after drink. It was a shot of tequila with a chaser of Sangrita, made with a fresh tomato juice, worchestire suace and chaula. Totally tasty. www.rosamexicano.com
Queens Theatre, formerly known as Queens Theatre in the Park, is now presenting a staged radio version of It's A Wonderful Life. There's are five actors and one sound man doing all of the work as one actor may be portraying more than one of the famous characters.
It is clear that you are part of the studio audience including the "applause" sign and each of the actors is talking into a stand up radio mike as they read from a script. The show, It's A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, is being directed by Ray Cullom, the newly appointed executive director of the theatre.
All seemed fine with the acting and staging until about the time that George gets rescued by Clarence. I see the actor's script on the floor in front of the mike. It looks as if he is about to pick it up but then "goes off book". At first I thought that being the first performance that the stage manager goofed up. The actor continues with the lines and I'm thinking how smart that he memorized the script just in case. He continues and walks about the stage as if the show was now a staged production. Every other actor is walking up to the "mike" and reading from the script. Then he talks with Mary and she is "off book" and joining him at one point.
Now, here's the thing. If they are doing a radio show with sounds and all how would people be able to hear the dialogue listening to the radio if they are not talking into the microphones regardless of that the radio cast gets that there is an audience in the room. Then during this period (they later go back to the radio vs stage version after Clarence leaves George), there are special lighting affects...for who? Did the director take these things into consideration or did he just think that the audience would just be happy with the acting, etc.?
The actors do a wonderful job. Now, I will be curious as to whether any of the reviewers catch this.
Despite the December 30, 2011 closing, I thought I'd speak my mind. When I attended a performance of the musical Bonnie & Clyde,at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre,I heard much of the audience giving positive feedback to what turned out to be a romanticized view of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde.
The show is based on the movie and gave more detail to the lives of the leads from when they were children in a poor area of Texas, when and how they met, and why they stayed together through it all. I don't have to relate the plot as I'm sure you've seen the movie version.
Laura Osnes and Jeremy Jordan head the show with music by Frank Wildhorn and lyrics by Don Black. I had no problem with the score, in fact it's now a waste unless you can get a cd somewhere of when it was performed in La Jolla, or on youtube.
There were no huge production numbers since it was not a huge cast. The talent was fine and many of the actors even looked like the historic Bonnie & Clyde folks. At times, movies or photos of the reality version flashed on screens and a half car was on the stage.
I guess I did have a concern that Broadway is making historic killers look good and sitting near the front got a more detail view of the blood and gory. I didn't really think about that as I watched, rather was I enjoying a piece of entertainment and I did. Heck, go get a half price ticket and see it.
The Feast of the Seven Fishes (festa dei sette pesci), celebrated on Christmas Eve, also known as The Vigil (La Vigilia), is believed to have originated in Southern Italy and is not a known tradition in many parts of Italy. Today, it is a feast that typically consists of seven different seafood dishes. Some Italian American families have been known to celebrate with 9, 11 or 13 different seafood dishes. The celebration is a commemoration of the wait, Vigilia di Natale, for the midnight birth of the baby Jesus.
At New York City based Fairway Market, the fishmonger, Tony Maltese, reigns over the fish market area with a multitude of seafood to chose from. A sign above reads, "Festa dei Sette Pesci" and lists seven suggestions: Baccala (Dried Cod) Fritte; Fried or Boiled Calamari; Baked Flounder; Boiled Whole Crab or Lobster; Sauteed Shrimp; Steamed Mussels; A Classic Spaghetti with Clams.
I met Tony to inquire about the various seafood offerings. Baccala is quite common in Italian cuisine. Perhaps you may not want to settle for the dried ilk an opt for fresh cod. For years I did not know that Calamari was squid. My Italian friend used the term "calamar" and only saw it cut up. Here, the squid is all cleaned up and ready to go.
Tony gets the fresh flounder from fishing boats on Long Island. In fact, Tony never buys seafood from Fulton Fish Market. Crab, mussels, clams and a variety of shrimp are also offered for the feast.
Go after more than seven! Have pasta with salmon. Go wild or farm raised. The difference is in the "marbling". Get both and taste the difference.
What may bring you back to Italy is the fresh sardines from Sardinia. If you wish, they will clean them up and all you have to do is deep fry them. For those who have never viewed fresh sardines, they are much larger than the size you see in a can! You know you're making a tomato sauce (gravy) so use some over the sardines or simply add a bit of sea salt and lemon juice.
Pick up some "dry scallops". It means that the scallops haven't been sitting in liquid and getting puffed up. They are not actually "dry" like baccali and you will certainly taste the difference if you usually get the ones from a grocery store or perhaps many fish markets. Keep in mind that water not only puffs them up but makes them heavier.
Perhaps you may not have the time to prepare many of the "fishes dishes". Fairway has a fresh Seafood Salad, that is filled with taste and texture. This will take care of: mussels, scallops, shrimp, squid, and baby octopus.
Head over to the cheese department for some freshly made mozzarella. Pick up some meyer lemons in the produce section and make your own limoncello. As for dessert, you and your loved ones can indulge in a box of holiday cookies. Five different flavors and shapes including chocolate, ones with pecans, and a butter cookie shaped like a Christmans tree with green "sprinkles".
Fairway presently has nine markets in the Tri-State area. www.fairwaymarket.com
No, I'm not talking about cookies as in computer cookies. I bought a container of cookies that looked like the tri-colored sort. It read, "Rainbow Marzipan". They are "tri-color" but with an added layer of marzipan on top and on the bottom. It came from a kosher bakery called Continental Cookies in New Jersey. The "kosher" only means that there are no meat by products used. However, they do use dairy products, which only means that for those who keep kosher at home...no mixing of meat and milk...you have to wait hours before eating a dairy product after having a meat product. I don't keep kosher. For me, I happen to love the chocolate used in the kosher bakeries. They tend to use a dark chocolate.
Back to the Rainbow Marzipan. I want to have almond paste in my tri-color cookies...not a flavor of almond paste or a hint of almond paste. Here are the choices to buying them. Go to there company in Hackensack, New Jersey. Find their products at a store. Go online and order them. www.continentalcookies.com under "gourmet cookies".
It's the final evening in St. Louis and having had great weather it did not lack experiencing a 360 degree view while meeting with members of the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission. If it weren't for people such as Donna Andrews, Nancy Milton and Mary Hendron, I would have never gotten all of the information that I needed to take this all in. Here we are having cocktails at 360, the bar at the Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark on South Broadway. The location is near the Mississippi River. Great for a photo op.
Dinner was at Mike Shannon's Steaks and Seafood owned by retired St. Louis Cardinal player and long-time radio "voice" of the team. I sampled the beef carpaccio, shrimp cocktail, a steak and side of creamed spinach.
Picture it. The Peabody Opera House (formerly the historic Kiel Opera House)is holding its grand re-opening. This 3,100-seat theater in the heart of downtown St. Louis had undergone a $78.7 million renovation. Cameras and spotlights are focused on the entrance as we make our way to the orchestra seats.
Pure elegance! Speeches, bands and vocalists warmed up the gala as we had the pleasure of seeing comedian Jay Leno and singer Aretha Franklin perform. As a souvenir, we received a switch of the original curtain from back in 1933.
We're outdoors for awhile as we ride through the Missouri Botanical Garden said to be the oldest public garden in the United State and founded by English immigrant Henry Shay. It's also considered as on of the top three public gardens in the world. The New York Botanic Gardens is one of the other three. The landscape houses a collection of important sculptures from around the world. Highlights of this 79-acre-Eden include: a tropical rain forest inside the Climatron geodesic dome that features endangered plant species: a Victorian garden; Chinese garden; Seiwa-En, the largest authentic Japanese garden in North America and an elaborate Missouri Adventure-themed Children's Garden.
Laumeier Sculpture Park is a 98-acre park containing a collection of more than 80 contemporary sculptures in internationally acclaimed artists. It specializes in interpretive exhibitions and education programs. Hiking trails will take you to many of the works. As for me, I toured areas around the main entrance.
One more art museum, the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, located near the Fox Theatre. On the first Saturday of every month they host, "Feast Your Eyes", to combine art and food that features creative, art-inspired tastings by a local chef. Then we got to view the connection between the culinary dishes and works by CAM's current exhibiting artists.
Then there was this movable chess board with white pieces having something to do with Yoko Ono.
The night that I dined at The Hill, I went to see Victor/Victoria at a theatre company called Stages, in the Chesterfield area of St. Louis. The show itself is entertaining in regards to the book and music. I mean you have the music by Henry Mancini and Frank Wildhorn with lyrics by Leslie Bricusse and Frank Wildhorn. However, I can't say that the performance lived up to my expectations in regards to talent. Many were good but the leading lady ruined it for me.
One other side trip was a quick view of the LGBT area known as The Grove. For those who are couch potatoes, it's also the locale for a show called Sweeties, a soul food restaurant. I'll be back next year to take in the Pride Parade.