Archive for October, 2008

Meat at Manny’s

October 19, 2008

We celebrated a special occasion in our household this weekend, and we were in search of a good steak, so we decided to go to Manny’s. We bandied about many options (Strip Club, Murray’s, Ruth’s ChrisMorton’s), all of which I want to try eventually, but Manny’s won in the end. And that was even before we saw the meat cart.

The meat cart is a sight to behold. The server discusses each piece of meat to guide you in your choice of entree for the evening. The cart included everything in the online version, plus a baseball steak, which was a round cut of meat a little larger than a filet.

We ordered the filet (10 oz for me, 14 oz for Tim), accompanied by loaded mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese. While we were waiting for our entrees, we had a couple pieces of bread to absorb our pre-meal beverages (vodka/soda for Tim, manhattan for me). There were two types of delicious bread in the basket– a salty white bread with a peppercorn crust, and a dark brown bread with raisins. 

Our entrees arrived, and we were in meat heaven. The filets came with bearnaise sauce, but I only dipped into it once because the meat was so flavorful and I wanted to savor it. The macaroni and cheese was perfect– warm and comforting, with several types of cheeses and a slightly browned crust on top. The loaded mashed potatoes were fantastic, with chives, sour cream, and bacon on top. We completely devoured the mac and cheese and made our way through about half of the potatoes. They were much richer and harder to eat in large portions, but they were still good. Plus, we wanted to save room for dessert.

We ordered the Bailey’s cake, which was the smallest dessert on the menu, and it was still huge. It consisted of a brownie on the bottom topped with Bailey’s chocolate mousse, whipped cream, and hot fudge sauce. We took about a third of it home for leftovers the next day. 

Our server was really friendly and came by to check on us regularly. His timing was excellent– he always seemed to come by when we were ready to clear our plates. He had great recommendations and made our first experience in the restaurant a pleasant one.

There are several booths along the walls of the restaurant. We were seated on the end of a series of small tables with chairs on one side and a booth on the other. I was glad we were on the end so we could have a little more privacy and we weren’t sandwiched between two other parties. I’d request a small booth next time, just to have our own space.

The bathrooms were impressive, if a little hard to find (go right, go right, go left, go right– it was like a maze, and I was glad I just had the one drink). The stall doors went from the floors to the ceiling, although the barriers between the stalls left a little space underneath, in case of a toilet paper emergency. The floors and walls were made of gray marble, and the sinks were silver and modern. 

After our meal, we took the elevator to the 27th floor to check out Prohibition. There was nowhere to sit, so we left. It was small and dark and crowded, although the views were impressive. I’m not sure it was my kind of crowd, if this overheard conversation was any indication: “I’m cashing in my life insurance to get plastic surgery.”

Parasole, the bar in the hotel lobby next to Manny’s, looked impressive. A friend of mine mentioned that it was a much better place to get a drink. There was a lot more space to move around, and it had a cool decor and vibe. 

We stopped into Barrio, the new tequila bar on Nicollet, but we left because there was nowhere to sit or stand. We went next door to The Local, which was still busy, but we were able to grab a couple stools by the bar. Tim got another vodka/soda, and I ordered the JJ, which is made with Jameson, mint, and black currant. It was refreshing and sweet. We didn’t stay too long in The Local because, again, we were getting a little claustrophobic (note to self: time our meals when happy hour is not occurring). 

On the way back to the car, we saw a guy pushing a 10-speed bike along Nicollet Mall. He was wearing a windbreaker and a blue Speedo. I’m assuming it was a Speedo because of the generous view from the back, but that was more than enough. I didn’t need to run around to the front for proof. Last year, we saw a similar sight– two guys in Speedos on rollerblades downtown in front of Gaviidae. I guess if that’s your fashion choice, Nicollet Mall is the place to let it all hang out.

Go with the Flow

October 17, 2008

I’ve been a little obsessed with flow charts lately.

My awesome friend Andrea just sent me a card with one on the cover. It looked something like this:

 

The story of my life, right? I giggled for about five minutes after I opened the card. So simple, but so true.

(Apologies to Hallmark. I’m only posting this in the hopes that others will buy this card. Also, the above graphic gave me a chance to expand my meager Photoshop skills.) 

Anyway, it made me think of all the other hilarious charts and graphs I’ve seen lately, and I thought I’d post them here. 

Town Talk Diner

October 8, 2008

My friend Dave and I visited the Town Talk Diner on Tuesday. They have attentive servers and excellent food. We started with the calamari and thai chili sauce. It was on special for happy hour, which runs from 4 to 6 p.m. on weekdays. The calamari was quite spicy, but delicious.

Dave ordered a Catcher in the Rye, made of Sazerac Rye, apple schnapps, kirsch, and a few drops of balsamic vinegar. It was served in a mini martini glass with an extra serving or two in a shaker. The drink was deep red in color and quite flavorful and complex.

I ordered a Dark Storm, made of citrus-infused dark rum, ginger ale, and bitters. It was light and refreshing, and it served as a nice accompaniment to the calamari, taking a little of the heat off. The bitters were colorful and sprinkled across the top of the drink like confetti, giving the beverage a pleasant appearance. It was also served in a mini martini glass with a couple extra servings in the shaker.

For our main course, we each had the turkey burger, an old standby. The burger was cooked to perfection– crispy on the outside, but juicy on the inside, and the raspberry barbecue sauce was out of this world. Dave got the garlic parsley fries, and I ordered the regular fries. The garlic fries are excellent, but strong.

We always sit at the bar, both for the ambience and for the occasional free beverage. When the bartenders make malts, there’s usually a little extra and they hand out samples at the bar. Last time, we got to try the Silly Rabbit and ended up ordering that for dessert. Because it’s fall and we’re crazy for anything pumpkin, we already had our dessert picked in advance– the pumpkin pie malt with brandy, pumpkin, spices, and ice cream. However, we got two samples of our old favorite, the Monkey Business malt with banana liqueur, chocolate, peanut butter, and bourbon.

There have been rumors that the restaurant will close because it recently changed ownership, but I hope that’s not the case. Town Talk is one of our favorite haunts in the Twin Cities, and I’ve already lost another favorite (Rossi’s) this year. We’re trying to do our part to keep it in business.

Double-booked

October 6, 2008

Kathy Griffin, Orpheum Theatre, 10/3/08 7:00 p.m.

Weezer, Xcel Energy Center, 10/3/08 7:00 p.m.

Notice the problem above? Other than cloning ourselves or defying the space-time continuum, we would not be able to be in two places at once. Due to a complete lapse in memory when we were buying the Weezer tickets, we didn’t realize that we already had Kathy Griffin tickets for the same night. Rather than trading the KG tickets for a different show (she was doing 5 different shows at the Orpheum over several days), or selling one of the pairs (it was a down market, to say the least) we decided to try to attend both events.

Kathy’s set was hilarious, as usual. It was part listening to your girlfriend dish the latest gossip, and part revival, considering the crowd’s adulation. We went “from Palin to Gaiken and back again,” as she promised at the beginning of the show. Our timing was excellent: the Vice Presidential debate had occurred the night before, and that week People magazine had featured Clay Aiken with his shocking proclamation that he liked dudes.

She told several endearing and funny stories about her mother, always featuring the box of wine. She also shared a play-by-play of the Schmemmys (the creative arts Emmys), as well as the actual Emmys. Kathy kept going on tangents during the story, dishing about the Lohans in particular. The show went until 9:15, but the time flew by. We were surprised she went a bit over, considering that the next show began at 10:00.

We were still laughing as we rushed to our car to catch what we could of Weezer’s set. We missed the two opening acts (Tokyo Police Club and Angels and Airwaves), although we’d heard really bad things about the latter so we weren’t too upset. We arrived just in time to see Tom and the drummer from Angels and Airwaves join Weezer on “Undone (The Sweater Song).”

We were thrilled that people hadn’t taken our seats despite our late arrival– they were still wide open and we didn’t have an altercation. (It was better that the Xcel gig was second– there were some major seating mixups in the two rows in front of us at the Orpheum due to the weird labeling of the chairs.)

Unfortunately, we missed the beginning of the set which included “Perfect Situation,” “My Name Is Jonas,” and “Say It Ain’t So.” This might have affected our perception of the pacing, but for some reason it seemed a little off. There were long gaps between songs, and the show didn’t seem to find a steady rhythm. The mosh pit was still pretty crazy, but subdued compared to the last show we saw when Weezer opened for the Foo Fighters on the Foozer tour. There had been bodies flying everywhere, and it was fascinating to watch. There were still a large number of people crowd surfing, but it seemed to be concentrated in one section of the floor rather than permeating the entire GA section. I also wondered if the band was a little disappointed at the turnout. The upper levels were completely empty, and the lower level was only about 75% full.

The crowd responded well to the new album, especially “Pork and Beans.” They threw in a cover of “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory” by Oasis, which has me excited for our next rock gig in December. The band switched lead duties around, and all of the band members got to take a turn on lead vocals. They were dressed in matching red tracksuits with “Weezer” on the back, and their look was very late ’70s/early ’80s especially with the moustache Rivers was sporting.

The first encore consisted of a hootenanny with local musicians on everything from the kazoo to the accordion to the washboard to the oud, which looked like a large lute. (Coincidentally, I’d like to add that all the preceding instruments rock so much harder than the flute, which has no place in rock and/or roll. But that’s a subject for a different time.) The band and the 50-odd people on stage played “Island in the Sun” and “Beverly Hills.”

The show ended with “Buddy Holly” and it was the highest point the band and the crowd had been at all night. Again, maybe it was us missing the first part of the show and all the rushing to get there, but I was left wishing the rest of the set had been that energetic.

Envy? Not Really.

October 1, 2008

I didn’t want to ruin the feel-good vibe of the James post with this, but as we left the show, we were treated to a new development in Minneapolis nightlife: the ultralounge. Two houses of douchebaggery called Envy and Aqua have sprung up on First Avenue. There were striped shirts and Ed Hardy logos galore. The line was also a good place to play Pro or No.

I don’t see the point. I can understand visiting a club in, say, Vegas or L.A. or New York, but Minneapolis? Really?

You’re not going to leave with a good celebrity story (especially if one of the Vikings is involved). It would be better to save the bottle service money and stock your home liquor cabinet, especially when it gets to be November and waiting in line in a skimpy outfit is hazardous to your health (and I know this from several misspent youthful experiences waiting outside Paisley Park for hours in the winter months). That way, you don’t even have to leave your house to enjoy your Grey Goose, and you get to keep all your extremities.

James at the Fine Line, 9/27/08

October 1, 2008

Let me start out by saying that I have had some bad experiences at the Fine Line, and I do not take the decision to go there lightly. The last time we were there, we saw Soul Asylum. The place was absolutely packed, and nobody was paying attention to the band, and my husband had to ask a guy to unhand me at one point. We left early and in a foul mood. The only club lower on our list is the 400 Bar, which not only attracts the loud talkers, but has horrendous sight lines as well. But, because we hadn’t seen James since their tour promoting “Laid” in 1994, we psyched ourselves up to brave the chatty crowds at the Fine Line.

One of my biggest pet peeves is people who feel the need to carry on conversations while a band is playing. If it’s so important to catch up, why not head to a restaurant, or if you still want musical ambience, move closer to the bar area. We’ve become more bold in recent years by telling people to politely shut it, to varying degrees of success. You have to evaluate the situation. If it’s out of control, as it was at the Soul Asylum show, you just throw up your hands, reinforce your earplugs, be grateful the band is loud, and deal with it the best you can. But if it’s one group of offenders, you can try giving them the stink-eye (best for theater shows) or politely asking them to keep it down because you’re trying to hear the music. Sometimes it works (R.E.M. at Midway Stadium), and sometimes it doesn’t (Liz Phair at First Avenue, and I will never see her and her obnoxious giggly sorority girl “tee hee, she said ‘fuck'” fans again).

However, we were pleasantly surprised by the James crowd. They were one of the most polite crowds I’d ever experienced. People were really into the music (in a way, it helped that the fans were older and weren’t drawn out by a hit single). Despite being in the back of the club, we still felt like part of the show. And, for the most part, people were hyper-aware of the others around them. They said “excuse me” when they needed to pass, and they were careful when they moved so they didn’t block other people’s views. It gave me hope for humanity.

My husband and I had listened to “Hey Ma,” the new James album, and enjoyed it greatly, but were wondering how Tim Booth’s voice would hold up live. He did not disappoint. His voice was as strong as ever, and during the encore, he held one of the longest notes I’ve ever heard. And James is definitely a band that needs to be seen, with Booth’s enigmatic dance breakdowns during each fast song. The effect was amplified by the occasional strobe light. The lights were fairly elaborate for a club show– there was a backdrop like a large fishnet of beaded lights across the stage.

The band played a mix of old and new material, and it was great to hear both. Again, it was nice to be in a crowd that didn’t have an attention deficit when the band played new songs. Before the show, the title track to “Hey Ma” had been my favorite, but I left appreciating “Upside Down” even more.

My favorite memory of the show was during the encore at the end of “Sometimes,” when the crowd sang the chorus over and over again to Tim on stage, and he stood basking in the glow of the music coming back at him. He looked like he was really enjoying the moment.