Workshop at Union, Minneapolis, MN

Uhmmm, this will be on of my shortest restaurant posts. In a nutshell, don't go.

The space is cool, no doubt. The food was good, to fine, to not very good (I think that's known as "inconsistent" in the food biz). The service was bored, as even during restaurant week it wasn't a busy night. The music was out of an 80's bar in Chicago's Boystown. But, on Hennepin Ave in downtown Minneapolis, you got to BRING IT these days. Things can't be so-so. There are so many top-notch options nearby that if you're not reaching for #1, you might as well pack up your knives and go home.

Aren't these just supposed to be in BBQ joints? Nothing says high-end dinner like a Ball jar turned into a water glass

  • Jicama & grapefruit salad with pancetta, pear stuffed gnudi
 - 2 pretty much didn't Likes - bitter, the gnudi was the star of this dish though
  • Potatoes & Gruyere with smoked bread - 2 Likes - like a fancy potato salad and the smoked bread really added some depth of flavor
  • Braised beef bavette with spiced potato puree & bok choy - 2 pretty much Likes - the bok choy was actually charred and smoked broccoli rabe

  • Slow baked salmon with shrimp fennel ragout  - 1 Like, 1 not so much Like - this was good, but nothing really stood out

Their dessert choice, which included a spiced ginger cake (with real, visible fibers of ginger in it), tart cherries, some sort of mousse and a small dollop of cinnamon ice cream - 2 Likes, pretty much
One final positive comment - they have a sister space known as Rooftop at Union on the roof of this building. It's a cool place for a drink, and I'm told, brunch. I would go back for the views, drinks, and to try the brunch. I mean, who can screw up brunch? Then again...

Black Dog Cafe & Wine Bar, St. Paul (Lowertown), MN

This is one heck of a spot for this neighborhood to have out their back door. They serve all manner of coffee drinks, plus beer & wine, and make solid simple food to order. I've been here a number of times now and never have reservations on going back. They even do live music.

Just go.

An almost perfect breakfast sandwich.... I just need to ask for some hot sauce

Concert: Taggart & Rosewood and Doomtree @ First Ave, Minneapolis, MN

Taggart & Rosewood
See those purpley-blue-hued guys on the left, that's Taggart & Rosewood
We arrived to the venue on a cold Wednesday night in time to see the 2nd act, Taggart&Rosewood, get underway. Do you recall the movie, Beverly Hills Cop? Well, you may want to go look it up on IMDB. The two main cops helping Axel Foley were named Rosewood & Taggart, played by Judge Reinhold and John Ashton, respectively.

But I digress, this duo, plus band is composed of... wait, I don't know this info as well as the blog Totally Gross National Product, they said...

Taggart & Rosewood is Zach Coulter (Solid Gold) and Ryan Olson (Polica), founding members of Gayngs.  After years in the studio and the addition of Jim Eno (Spoon) on drums, the new collaboration culminated in their debut album The Killingest.   Existing in a dream state, The Killingest is a rumination on something vast and powerful.  Made with precision and depth, it is filled with reason and purpose.  But of what, we don’t know.  

What we do know is that The Killingest was crafted unlike any other album.  With the help of an Emotiv EEG to USB brain computer interface conducted by Mark Mallman through the Logic MIDI Bridge, the synapses of their DMT-influenced brains were translated to audio and dispersed throughout the album.  The result is a deeply ethereal space that Taggart & Rosewood seem to have always filled, without us ever knowing.

The album was written at 55 beats per minute, and variations thereof.  An intentional pace, the tempo is a necessary choice to match the confused psychotropic universe the album invents."

If I'm being honest, I don't know what most of that means, or even if it's meant to be serious or sarcastic, but I do know that the show these two guys put on was one of the most visually interesting, musically unique, and just downright fun ones I've seen in some time. They didn't really acknowledge the audience during their set, which made their feat of staying "in character" all the more interesting.

I don't think I can describe the music, but I would definitely go see them again, especially if they headline their own show. I might have even liked them more than Doomtree... might.

They had full-on white suits plus a mesh, pull-over thing covering their faces. They drank from champagne flutes and had a real night club vibe to their little part of the stage.

Now, on to Doomtree. I had initially seen this show on Dessa's show schedule page, and for much of the week prior thought she would be performing solo. Once I had the 2nd-hand tickets in my hand, I quickly realized this was a show for Doomtree, with whom Dessa performs. Cool with me. I've heard about this "super group" for some time and was intrigued to see them live.

They do not disappoint. They have so much energy and motion on stage, not to mention the lyrics and crowd interaction, that it's very hard not to like them... and why would you try not to like them? I would have liked to have listened to their songs more prior to going to the show, but even that didn't make me feel like I was missing out on too much.

Unfortunately, as music-goers go, I'm an old, crotchety, good-for-nothing, and about an hour into the set the masses at First Ave started grating on my nerves... not to mention the beer can being thrust into the back of my head, and the head of the friend that attended with me, by some Caucasian, dread-locked, urban hippie chick. No thanks, time to bail. So, we left.

I'd very much like to see Doomtree again, and will keep an even closer eye on any solo performances for Dessa.


Lemon-Lime, in shoes

Some of the wackiest and most-unique shoes I've seen in some time... they're like literally hairy, er, furry. And no, I didn't buy them... but it wasn't easy.


Faribault Woolen Mills Factory Store, Faribault, MN

On a snowy Monday afternoon, I made my way, very much on purpose, to the Faribault Woolen Mills Factory Store in Faribault, MN. I'd wanted to stop for some time, and this was the perfect chance. Below you'll find some history about the company, see the products they have on sale in the store, and hopefully start thinking about your own trip to this historic place.

The History
Established in 1865, this mill has been providing much of America with warmth, comfort, and familiarity straddling three centuries. They started as a horse-drawn mill, but converted to water (seen below) some time after. They have made their name on a number of items that many people come to know and love, namely: military wool blankets, stadium blankets, and even to this day, fine wool merchandise like blankets, throws, scarves, and more. If you'd like to know more before you go, I would encourage you to check their heritage link out HERE.

After closing the factory in 2009, it was reopened in 2011 by Chuck Mooty, a former DQ CEO (yes, the ice cream company). This is a good thing as FWM is the state's oldest manufacturer and it would be a shame to loose that history, especially having seen it for myself.  To read a bit more on the topic, go HERE.

As I walked into the space, met some of their employees at the "front of house", and even dogs... I got the distinct sense that this was now being run as a fashion brand... something of high-quality that people aspire to purchase. A person in the city of Faribault, during my second stop, mentioned that George Clooney ordered a bunch of the blankets as gifts for people involved in the film Monuments Men... so they must be doing something right.

Need I say more?
Below this reproduced sign, you'll find a quick, thorough history of the brand and the building. It was very informative in a museum-like layout.
These big shots of their production greet you as you walk in the front door.
The Products
Man oh, man! Wool time is divine! If you thought you were going to be seeing silks, or some other material, you need to get your head checked. This place is chock o' block full of wool and wool-blend items. They're all gorgeous, not scratchy, and handmade in the USA.

Now rest assured, there are many regular-priced items in the store, as it should be. And prices can be a bit off-putting to those not accustomed to purchasing made in the USA products or quality. Blankets, in varying sizes, can run from $65 (for a recycled wool throw) all the way up to prices in the $400 range.

But before you write off the visit, know that they have a 40% off retail seconds area. You can find many of the same styles, patterns and colors as the first-run items, but perhaps with a small flaw in the pattern or finish. I say either way, you're going to get something that you will cherish, value, and keep for decades.

Some of their famous military versions... others services available in the store and online too

I liked the black-white-red one in the bottom middle

Wool cloak anyone?
Nothing wrong with a good herringbone pattern...
The Low-Down
Just friggin' get to this place! It's increasingly rare to see something like this in America, let alone in a small farming community in south-eastern MN. Why not make a day or weekend of it? You could get a small hotel room or B&B, check out the lovely downtown, spend the evening in a local saloon, and get brunch the next morning. This could be done in almost any small town in the US.

Final Thought
Can anyone tell me why the proper noun "Faribault" is pronounced as "Fair-bow"? I get the "bault" pronunciation, but not the "Fari" part... wouldn't that just be "fairy". Ho-hum.


Birkenstock Madness @ Nordstrom Rack

On a recent trip to the Mall of America, something seemed to be in the indoor air at this fun, discount retailer, though the outside air couldn't have been more winter if it wanted to.

I was a bit dismayed that The Rack, generally the purveyor of all things fashion cool, would even carry this ubiquitous if not purely functional sandal. I mean, not much says German tourist with dark socks or Phish Head more than the sandal known as "Lord Boards".

But on this trip, they had more styles and colors of Birk sandals than I think occur in nature. Take a peek and then head over to Nordies Rack for a sweet pair of summer fun...if you can pull 'em off...or have drawer-fulls of dark socks.


Broccoli Tots @ Firelake Grillhouse & Cocktail Bar in the Radisson Blu at the Mall of America, Bloomington, MN

I believe that's the longest title I've ever used on a post. What it means though is that you can escape the craziness of the Mall of America and head over to the attached Radisson Blu hotel for a little respite during any hectic mall trip.

The cocktail lounge not only serves delicious drinks, but they have a great menu of small plates and entrees. We decided on a white bean hummus plate and something new to us, "broccoli tots", made with honest-to-goodness, eat-what-your-momma-told-you-to, brocolli...and copious amounts of white cheddar.

They are an awesome bar treat...not too heavy, not too fried, and oh so tasty. I would highly recommend stopping at the cocktail lounge anytime you're in the neighborhood and grab an order of these tots.

Baker's Ribs, Eden Prairie, MN

You gotta get out to this place. Don't wait, just go. This is really good, oak-smoked, BBQ that you just don't get in most places, and not just in MN, anywhere. I had a half chicken dinner and some of the ribs below. It was all fall-off-the-bone good.

Great flavors, tender meat, very good sauce too.
I think they could have pulled this whole bird apart with their bare hands. As it was, I could part this half out with my fingers.


Glam Doll Donuts, Minneapolis, MN

Donuts are all the rage, and I've had my fair share of the local shops popping up where I live... but Glam Doll has taken to another level. They got your cake, they got your raised, they got your frosted, sprinkled, bacon-based... and then they go further.

Here's a smattering of their fried doughy concoctions:

I ordered two to enjoy the next evening during The Walking Dead and boy did I choose wisely. I grabbed a Femme Fatale and a Varga Girl. I don't know what the names mean, but I know what they taste like, delicious. I'll be back to try more in the not-so-distant future too.

How can you say "no" to me?

T'wer it me, I would not wait any longer to head over to Glam Doll... they'll do you right. You can even enjoy late night donuts on Friday and Saturday - check 'em out HERE.


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