Category Archives: Out and about

Saint Paul stuff Dec. 3-6

My first visit inside the Minnesota Wild offices building off Rice Park (near the Herb Brooks statue) was to stuff all-you-can-eat finger food from various fine St. Paul restaurants into my beautiful mouth. Apologies, because the name escaped me, but the event gave me an excuse to try out my freshly-tailored Jack Victor, which was nicely slimmed by Tom’s Tailors on Grand (Bonus Fact: Tom actually has a second, less lucrative location in Woodbury “All my business (is) here” he says).

After dropping a napkin on the floor, made buddy Fred pick it up for me because of the nice fit to the pants. Perfect. Well done, Tom. Here’s a festive pic I took from a lobby chair, after eating several delicacies from the likes of Twisted Fork, Salut and Burrito Mercado among others:

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Thursday was hockey night. Snagging the Wild tickets required exposing myself to the elements. First, the car dig-out process after Wednesday’s heavy snow, then, the perilous drive to Highland Park to meet a Craigslist seller. It was 2 p.m., yet Snelling Avenue over 94 maintains a rush-hour worthy level of chaos. Game was fun. We beat the Blackhawks, and the tickets ($92 face, paid $90, oh well) were worth it.

As a wise friend (who is writing a book for his philosophy doctorate at Columbia) once said: "I'm here to watch (insert sport or live event), why would I want other people between me and (said sport)?"

As a wise friend (who is writing a book for his philosophy doctorate at Columbia) once said: “I’m here to watch (insert sport or live event), why would I want other people between me and (said sport)?”

Later on, Artists’ Quarter and Mickey’s for some repulsive (if you haven’t had several drinks) greasy spoon. Swinging into the Artists’ Quarter was quite a treat. If you haven’t heard, the venerable jazz club is set to close Jan. 1. I’ve been in there Wednesday nights where I was maybe one of four people in the audience. Thursday was a bit more busy, and the trio played a mix of Thelonious Monk and originals. What I love about the place: It’s underground. Visitors walk down a flight of stairs, which makes an immediate impression. The door guy has a huge Santa beard. It’s only $5 (most nights). It’s someplace to hunker down on cold nights and drink brown stuff. More than a few Thursday had such drink. I drank beer because of a 5 a.m. shift the next morning.

Hit a few more spots Friday. Ward 6 celebrated its one-year anniversary this week. Had something called Cicero stew, which is chickpeas, broccoli and potatoes in a tomato-based stew served on basmati rice. Another Bonus Fact: My pops grew up a neighborhood away from Cicero, which is a first-ring suburb of Chicago (At least it was a “suburb” when he was growing up). Ward 6 also has Surly Abrasive on tap at the moment. I usually splurge on the overpriced four-packs at least three or four times a winter, since the stuff is so exceptional. It’s like Furious, yet somehow more intensely bitter with an even more cerebral malt after-bite for balance (how do they do it?). Anyway, Ward 6 was moderately packed, with tables occupied, but not packed as in people standing around at the bar.

Louie at Cossetta was decidedly not packed, but there are people who go there Friday night and keep the bar open until around 11, it appears. A bright-eyed, eager-to-please head bartender type was making our cocktails like he invented the list (I think he did). They were good. One was called apple chider, or something close, and was very good and worth trying. I think the owner is trying to build a respectable craft cocktail list like Minneapolis spots such as Eat Street Social or Marvel Bar by putting one ace bartender in charge of them. Ward 6, actually, has its own new-school cocktail list, with Manhattans and other creative drinks for $6 to $8, like an East Side-priced version of those aforementioned MPLS bars.

Last stop was Hot Pants East (the other Hot Pants rendition is at Nomad on the West Bank) at Amsterdam. I love the music and theme, and I really want the Dam to do good, but it’s yet to catch on, like most shows and events I attend at the place. Around 11:30, there were maybe 10 to 15 brave (drunk? naive?) college-aged hipsters limply swaying to soul and funk tunes. The DJs play 45s all night, and they know their stuff and play choice cuts. I had to get out of there before 1. Here’s my formidable Christmas tree:

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Northern Spark house burn

Took some video of the house at Northern Spark going up in flames. It’s the first moments of the giant bonfire. The crowd was allowed about 100 yards clearance, and the heat of the inferno could still be felt.

I’ll post more photos and video of the all-night art fest later.

Metz @ 7th Street Entry

I don’t see many hardcore shows, but I’ll more actively seek them out after attending a pulverizing set by Toronto group Metz last night. It was another Entry showcase of an ascending band to a sparse crowd. Opener Buildings were just as loud, and looked to be hard to top, but somehow Metz came out tighter, stronger and more compelling. From what I’ve read they’ve been honing their craft in Toronto bars for some time, and the power of practice was evident. I shot this video stage right in front of the equipment box where everyone throws their coats:

Gin flight night

Forget beer or wine flights. Tried my first gin flight last night at Amsterdam in St. Paul and immensely enjoyed it. I was wise to order a “control” gin I was already familiar with to measure up how the others tasted. So the control was Bombay Sapphire, a gin I thought was reasonably good considering it’s top shelf at bars.

It’s not top shelf tasting. Compared to Bols Genever, Wisconsin’s own Death’s Door gin, and the exquisite, raspberry aromas of Nolet, the Sapphire tasted like gasoline. Also funny: Whoever wrote the gin descriptions (which are wonderfully helpful in the same way Bulldog and other pubs describe beers) for Amsterdam’s gin menu clearly holds disdain for Sapphire. Rather than focusing on what it tastes or smells like, the Sapphire description says “it comes in a pretty bottle.” Sounds like criticism similar to what tequila purists dish out on Patron and it’s masterful (nefarious?) marketing techniques.

There’s 20 or so other gins at the bar I hadn’t heard of before. Each gin on a flight costs $4 no matter if its bar pour is $5 or $10. Where else can you find a bona fide gin list in St. Paul? Scotch go to St. Paul Grill. Beer go to Bulldog LoTo. Vodka? Moscow on the Hill. Now Amsterdam steps up and gives us a nice gin list. I like it.

Anyway it all couldn’t have happened without the wonderful Nancy Ngo inviting me to a music/fashion show that evening at the bar. The space served well for such a production. Cool tunes, costumes and clothes.

Amsterdam does a fashion show