Archive for May, 2009

Vincent and Hell’s Kitchen

May 14, 2009

Looking over the last few posts, it’s been beer beer meat cocktails beer beer meat beer. And I wonder why I’ve gained several pounds over the last few weeks.*

However, that did not stop me from meeting my friend Andrea at Vincent in downtown Minneapolis. We’d both heard wonderful things about the burger, and it did not disappoint.

I ordered a glass of the Foxglove Cabernet Sauvignon, because I was in the mood for red wine. It was very good, especially for $3 a glass. I would have ordered beer, but they only had Summit Extra Pale Ale and 1664 on tap, and I love red wine with burgers or steak.

The burger was made of ground beef with short ribs in the middle, covered in melted Gouda cheese and a subtly tangy sauce, accompanied by two fresh slices of tomato, shredded lettuce, and onions. The bun was lightly toasted to perfection. The burger was outstanding, and I loved having a little savory pork surprise in the middle of each bite. The fries were also amazing. They tasted like McDonald’s fries (which to me is not an insult, and I feel much better about eating these fries than the ones at McD’s). They were hot and salty and fresh. For $8 on the bar menu, the burger is an incredible deal, and it’s the best burger I’ve had in the Twin Cities in a while.

Service was excellent. We had a very attentive (and attractive) waiter, who was always available but didn’t hover. The bar began to fill up, so we vacated the table and walked down Nicollet Mall, where we were pelted by wind and some flying debris. We sought shelter in a booth in the tavern of Hell’s Kitchen. I was tempted by their cocktails, but asked the bartender about their house beer. I believe it was called “Angel’s Demise” and it was from a brewery near Duluth, but I’m having a hard time finding it in The Googler. Based on his description, I took a chance and it was wonderful. It was a beautiful red color and had a hint of spice and the tiniest bit of hops. It was full-bodied and delicious, and I will be returning to learn more about it.



*Incidentally, did you know that if you wave your hands in the air for three hours, you’ll be sore all over for two days? I call it the Springsteen workout. If we could follow Bruce on tour, I could have all the food I wanted and I wouldn’t have to go up a pants size.


Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, and American Burger Bar

May 12, 2009

What a weird night.

A little background: If you haven’t been to a recent Springsteen show, they’ve been selling General Admission tickets for the floor, and they have a pit area up front. They hold a lottery every night to determine who gets into the pit for the best spots in the house. If you have a GA ticket, you can get a numbered wristband, and then they draw a number that represents the beginning of the line.

Tim and I had GA tickets, which we’ve had for Bruce’s three previous stops at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. The lottery hadn’t worked out for us the last two times, but we were hoping tonight would be different. We arrived at Xcel at 4:30 and got wristbands #754 and 755. We waited on the steps outside, counting Canadian Tuxedoes until they were ready to begin the drawing. (The count at that point? 16, including 3 men who got double points and were not named John Cafferty.)

We lined up in the RiverCentre, near a guy who was celebrating a birthday and was hoping for good luck. They had given away about 1150 wristbands, and they had room for 600 in the pit, so our odds were near 50/50.

Two very inebriated women stumbled up to us asking what our numbers were. We told them we were in the 700s, and they said they were in the 400s. They didn’t believe us when we told them they had to walk a few feet over to the next line. “But it’s so far!” they protested. It’s all about pacing, ladies. But we were amused.

Finally, at 5:45, they drew the number.


Seven hundred (ooh!)….

Fifty…. (oh my god oh my god!)

Eight! (D’OH!)

Everyone behind us immediately celebrates, including the birthday guy who was going to be in the front row. We stand there, stunned. Maybe mouthing a profanity or five.

So, had we arrived two minutes later, we would have been in the pit. I mean, it’s one thing to be several hundred people off. But to be that freaking close.

Did we mess up our karma by participating in the Canadian Tuxedo count? Did I disrespect the usher outside the arena by not high-fiving him? It just wasn’t meant to be.

I wanted to leave that room as quickly as possible, so we headed back out to the RiverCentre lobby. We noticed a guy who looked an awful lot like the manager of the music store where we’d first met fifteen years ago.

In the bathroom, I overheard two very drunk women, possibly the same ones we’d encountered earlier. “You have to pee.” “I’m trying!” It was probably a blessing in disguise for them, because I don’t know how much longer they would have been able to stand.

We wanted to find a place to sit and drown our sorrows, although we knew that the bars along 7th Street would be a complete zoo. (Plus, I didn’t want to take the chance of Tim running into Ron Coomer again and giving him some feedback on his broadcasting skills.)

We walked north on Kellogg Boulevard, through Rice Park, and along a side street until we found the American Burger Bar. There were two seats at the end of the bar, and we sat down, shaking our heads in disbelief. Tim ordered a Captain Morgan and Diet Coke, and I ordered a Cosmopolitan because it was still on special ($5) during happy hour. I was pleasantly surprised, because cosmos can be hit or miss, and the way my luck was going, it could have been a triple sec-fueled disaster. However, the drink was perfectly balanced.

This next part probably will only make sense to me and Tim, but I’m going to document it anyway. As we were sipping our beverages and poring over the menu, we talked about our ex-manager. He and his wife had just had a baby (and I just realized that baby is 15 now), but after we left the store, we’d heard that he’d been having an affair and they’d gotten a divorce. Feeling punchy, I tossed out the comment, “Who would hit that?” and Tim responded with “John,” who had a major man-crush on this manager. No sooner did he say that when we looked down and saw John sitting towards the other end of the bar! What are the freaking odds?

I broke down into a series of giggles not unlike Joy from My Name Is Earl after she’s had one too many margaritas. John left without incident (he either didn’t see us or had no desire to talk to us, and given the previous conversation, which he most likely didn’t overhear, was for the best).

We settled down enough to order food and a few more drinks. Tim stuck with his standby Captain and Diet. I tried the Pear Martini, on a guarantee from the bartender that if I didn’t like it, she’d finish it. She said she’d been experimenting with it for a long time to get the mix just right, and her efforts paid off. It was a light, crisp blend of pear vodka and sour mix, and again it was very balanced. I also tried a Basil Lemon Drop Martini. It took a while to make, but was well worth the wait. Every ingredient was in harmony– the lemon, the basil, right down to the sugar on the rim of the glass. If Gina is working, definitely order from the martini menu.

We ordered the onion rings, which were cut very thick. The batter was excellent, and they weren’t greasy, just bready and delicious. We also got the slider sampler. The Angus slider was just OK. The shrimp cake was quite good, but the Kobe slider was heavenly. I would definitely order a full Kobe burger the next time I return.

We talked to a guy who had been through some rough times in the past year. He’d had eight relatives die, including his mother. Last week was his first Mother’s Day without her, and it was very sad. It put my evening in perspective.

The bar turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It’s nice to have a go-to venue for concerts in the future. And, after all, you know what they say when life gives you lemons…

After a visit to the bathroom (which was quite impressive– it was decorated with blue tile and looked very nice), we headed back to Xcel. We found Tim’s brother, his wife, and our nephew at the back of General Admission by the soundboard. I figured we’d been there for our nephew’s baptism, his first Communion, and now it was only right for us to be there for his first Bruce show. Those are all the sacraments, right?

The show, as always, was an amazing experience. The band started the show with “Badlands” and finished with “Rosalita.” They did “Born to Run” at the end of the main set. Have you ever sung so deeply that you feel like you’re taking a breath from the tips of your toes? That’s what it felt like to sing that song– like every cell in your body was taking it in and then giving it right back.

The final Canadian Tuxedo count for the evening? 27, including 5 men who counted double, so 22 in all. I do have to say that people dress for comfort and not necessarily fashion, and I admire the practicality, especially when you’re standing for over three hours. So give me your blue jeans and t-shirts and Reeboks over your miniskirts and stilettos anytime.

Edited to copy Dave (whose review is spectacular, plus we got to live the pit experience vicariously) and add the setlist, courtesy of Backstreets:

Badlands (w/ Jay Weinberg)

Radio Nowhere (w/ Jay Weinberg)

Outlaw Pete (w/ Jay Weinberg)+

No Surrender (w/ Jay Weinberg)

Out in the Street (w/ Jay Weinberg)

Working on a Dream (w/ Jay Weinberg)+

Seeds (w/ Jay Weinberg)+

Johnny 99 (w/ Jay Weinberg)

The Ghost of Tom Joad (w/ Jay Weinberg)+

Raise Your Hand (w/ Jay Weinberg)+

Good Lovin’ (sign request)+

Prove It All Night

The E Street Shuffle (sign request)+

Waitin’ on a Sunny Day

The Promised Land

I’m on Fire+

Kingdom of Days+

Lonesome Day

The Rising

Born to Run

* * *

Hard Times+

Tenth Avenue Freeze-out

Land of Hope and Dreams

American Land

Bobby Jean


+ Indicates a song I hadn’t seen live before.

A couple additional notes: Jay was phenomenal and filled in admirably. Really glad we got to see both him and Max. I was thrilled that we got as many songs from Born in the U.S.A. as we did, especially “I’m on Fire.” And our nephew was lucky he was wearing earplugs, due to the two crazy people behind him who were singing in his ear for most of the night.

Weekend Beer Sampler

May 12, 2009

Apparently I have a new hobby.

I stopped into Cellars in Roseville, because I was running an errand at Chuck and Don’s and I thought I’d see what they had to offer. I was silly to think I’d walk out of there empty-handed. As I was wandering in the beer aisle, I started to talk to the guy restocking the bottles, and before I knew it I was leaving the store with a six-beer sampler with his recommendations. He did not steer me wrong.

I started with the Rush River Small Axe Golden Ale, and I was thrilled. It had a beautiful golden color, and it was light and crispy yet had some depth to it at the same time. I will definitely buy this again, along with some of the brewery’s other offerings. I just can’t get over how much I like this beer. It reminded me of some of the Belgians I’d been sampling. And they’re just a few miles down highway 94!

We went to Old Chicago for dinner, where I took advantage of the opportunity to try Boulevard Unfiltered Wheat. It was a light golden color. I had Boulevard previously in Kansas City and it was more of an amber, but this was quite pleasant, and it was nice to have it on draft. Despite being a chain, I was really impressed with Old Chicago’s deep dish crust. Deep dish can be really greasy, and this crust was soft and bready and almost pastry-like.

When we got home, I had some Goose Island Honker’s Ale. They describe it on the label as “A smooth drinkable English-style bitter for drinkers who want more from their beer.” Hey, that’s me! The beer was slightly more hoppy than my previous samplings, but still very enjoyable.

I finished, appropriately, withThe Bitter End Pale Ale from Two Brothers Brewing Company. It was another English-style bitter, even more hoppy than the Goose Island, but quite tasty.

Later that weekend, I tried a Victory Prima Pils. It took hops to a whole other level. I think it would have been better at the end of a sampler where I slowly worked my way up to it, but not something I would grab as the first option. But if you like hoppy, bitter-style beer, this is for you.

Happy Gnome, The Sequel

May 12, 2009

Patio season is finally (if inconsistently) upon us, and my friend Janeen and I took advantage of it at The Happy Gnome last week. We were able to find a spot in the shade for most of the evening, and although we were a little concerned it would be windy, it was perfect.

We each had the warm spinach salad, which really wasn’t warm at all. The waitress said that only the dressing was warm, but by the time we got the salads they were room temperature, which was just fine with me on an already warm day. The salad was a delicious blend of leafy spinach, shredded parmesan, pancetta crisps, and pecans, from what I remember. (I really need to take notes and bring a camera more often.) We also split the elk tart, which was a meat and gruyere cheese concoction served in a pastry crust. It was divine. We joked with one of the servers about licking the plate.

For beer, I started with the Belhaven Scottish Ale. It had a slight hint of toffee, and a smooth malty head that was Guinness-like, except that the beer was a dark amber color. I followed it up with the Left Hand Ju Ju Ginger, which was light and crisp and (as expected) gingery. The head was more foamy. It would go really well with Asian food. I would definitely order both of them again.