Twin Cities Talk A place to talk about all things Twin Cities! <![CDATA[ Wild On...]]>
As any hockey fan worth his salt can tell you, the Minneapolis/St. Paul area once had a hockey team called the Minnesota North Stars. Although they did manage to make the Stanley Cup Finals twice, they were generally terrible, but they were an established institution of the area. They were founded in 1967, and Minnesota is right where they stayed! Until 1993, that is, when they moved and became the Dallas Stars! Although the team moved in large part because the owners' weren't exactly deep, this wasn't sitting well among the people of Minneapolis and St. Paul, so St. Paul mayor Norm Coleman began a campaign to bring hockey back to Minnesota. It may be the only thing the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul have ever agreed on. On June 25, 1997, the NHL said it was time to create four new teams: The Atlanta Thrashers, Nashville Predators, Columbus Blue Jackets, and a team for Minnesota.

The team was named in one of those ever-popular fan contests. The six candidates were Blue Ox, Freeze, Northern Lights, Voyageurs, White Bears, and Wild. If you ask me, they're all fucking awful, but while I would have personally leaned toward the Northern Lights, Wild was the name picked out. Doug Risebrough was named the team's first general manager, and the first head coach was Jacques Lemaire. The Wild's first pick in the 2000 entry draft was Marian Gaborik, a solid pick who, except for a couple of stints in Europe, was a 30-goal guy for years in Minnesota. While the team actually showed a little bit of promise, it still didn't do especially well, though one nice highlight in the inaugural season was a visit from the Dallas Stars in which the Wild shut out the defending Western Conference Champions 6-0.

The Wild's second season started out strong, and the Wild picked up a point in all of the first seven games. That didn't keep them from finishing in last place again, though, with a record of 26-35-12-9. Or the way people SHOULD look at it, 26-44-12, since overtime losses are losses and the NHL was REALLY FUCKING STUPID about its standings back then. The next year, though, the Wild broke out. Gaborik spent a good chunk of the year in the fight for the scoring title. The Wild climbed into playoff position as the sixth seed, which only earned them a date with the then-powerful Colorado Avalanche. As heavy underdogs, the Wild let themselves fall into a 3-1 hole before pulling the mighty flip lever. They came back to win the series in seven games, which not only ejected the Avs but also prematurely sent their legendary goalie, Patrick Roy, into retirement without that triumphant Stanley Cup skate-off. In the second round, the Wild faced the Vancouver Canucks. Since their little game of spotting their opponent a 3-1 lead in the series before coming back to win in seven games had worked so well against the Avalanche, the Wild decided to try it against the Canucks too! And it worked! This put them in the Western Conference Finals against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. The Wild was now REALLY rolling on the spot-the-opponent-a-3-1-series-lead-and-win-in-seven-games strategy, so they naturally went out against the Mighty Ducks thinking it would work pretty easily against them, too. In fact, Minnesota wanted to challenge themselves this time, so they were even nice enough to let Anaheim go up 3-0 before coming back! Except this time, it didn't work. It was clear very early in the series that Mighty Ducks goalie Jean-Sebastian Giguere was keeping a tight lock on the cage. He allowed one goal to the Wild for the entire series - a series which, by the way, went only four games.

Marian Gaborik and Pascal Dupuis made sure the Wild began the next year short-handed. Why? They wanted more money and decided to hold out. So the Wild struggled for the first month of the season, but even after getting their two holdouts signed, Gaborik and Dupuis still hadn't spent a lot of their time during their holdouts working out. They were sorely out of hockey shape. After struggling through November, it was clear last year's Cinderella run wasn't a sign of things to come, so the Wild started planning for their future. They spent the year trading away many of their veteran players on the way to a record of 30-29-20-3, or as I put it, 30-32-20. (God, that's a ridiculous number of ties.) During the next year's lockout, the Wild faced a tragedy when one of their players, Sergei Zholtok, died from a heart condition during a game in the European leagues. He had had incidents with his heart in the past, and with five minutes left in one game, he left the game, returned to the locker room, and collapsed and died of heart failure in the arms of Darby Hendrickson, his former teammate.

The end of the lockout began a goalie controversy between Manny Fernandez and Dwayne Roloson. That ended when Roloson was traded to the Edmonton Oilers. The Wild didn't reach the playoffs again until 2007. They were defeated in the first round by the same team that beat them in their last trip to the playoffs: The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, who by this time had finally shed their embarrassing Disney connection and taken on the new official name Anaheim Ducks. In both years, the Ducks had gone on to win the Western Conference Championship, and this year the Ducks took home the Stanley Cup as well. It was in 2008, though, that the Wild finally figured out they couldn't get away with trying to play the Neutral Zone Trap anymore, and that new knowledge did them wonders. They won their division for the first time and easily slid into the playoffs as the third seed, this time to face the Avalanche again. They lost in six games.

During the offseason, Minnesota brought back one of their old anchors, Andrew Brunette, and they also signed Owen Nolan. But the next year brought new obstacles when Marian Gaborik suffered a rash of injuries, GM Doug Risebrough was fired at the end of the year, and Jacques Lemaire resigned. Gaborik ended up signing with the New York Rangers, but to soften the blow, the team signed Martin Havlat, fresh off a nice and productive tenure with the Chicago Blackhawks. During the first month of the 2010 season, the team announced their first-ever Captain: Mikko Koivu.

The Wild chugged along, continuing to disappoint, not making the playoffs. In 2011, Havlat was traded for Dany Heatley. In the 2012 offseason, the team picked up some high-priced, shiny new toys by famously signing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to 13-year contracts worth $98 million. Prior to this season's trade deadline, they added more firepower by trading a couple of prospects and draft picks to the Buffalo Sabres for their Captain, Jason Pominville. They're currently seventh overall in the Western Conference with a record of 25-18-3, so I'm not sure how much good all that firepower is doing them. Yes, the Western Conference this year isn't a place for sissies, but hell, the Wild are loaded by ANY standard. Seventh place between Parise, Heatley, Suter, and Pominville ain't gonna cut it.

Number one is retired in the Wild's hierarchy for the team's fans, and 24 is unofficially retired for Derek Boogaard. Even without Marian Gaborik and Martin Havlat, the race to acquire every current player in the NHL is on between the Minnesota Wild and Pittsburgh Penguins! Pens grab Jarome Iginla? Wild will raise you Jason Pominville! Pens trade for Brenden Morrow? Come on, we ALL know that was just a response to Heatley! And Parise and Suter are there for management to shake their fists at Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin! And just what the hell is Pascal Dupuis doing in Pittsburgh now, anyway?!

Rivalries…. Rivalries…. Okay, who do the Minnesota Wild hate more than any other team? What makes their blood boil? Christ, do I REALLY have to try to think up and research rivalries for a team that's barely made the ten-year waypoint? They haven't had the time to develop any! But, according to some blog I'm just reading right now on The Vancouver Canucks; Anaheim Ducks; Calgary Flames; Dallas Stars; and New York Rangers for some reason. I can virtually guarantee that, with the possible exception of the Stars, these rivalries are almost always mainly on Minnesota's end. As for their defining moments, the 2003 playoff run to the Western Conference Finals. In two of those rounds, the Wild was down 3-1 and came back to win. Now, we make a huge deal of teams that win series after being down 3-0, but that's because teams that do that are extremely rare - I think we're still at the point where teams who win after being down 3-0 can be counted on one hand. Winning after being down 3-1 isn't unheard of. It's still very far from common, though, which is why it's a big deal that the Wild did it twice in one playoff. They're the only team to ever do it that many times in one year.

The logo of the Minnesota Wild is one of the coolest in all of sports: A silhouette of either a bear or a wild cat (the bear is the most accepted theory) which is painted to make the animal's features look like a frost scene at dusk: A deep yellow sun as the ear, a shooting star as the eye. This logo has met with a lot of criticism too, but I personally think it's very original.

Unfortunately, I can't give the Minnesota Wild a high rating yet. Fans outside Minnesota still keep them on the backburners at best. Fans in the Eastern Conference can still afford to completely forget they exist at all. I hope all the money the team is shelling out to Parise and Suter turns out to be worth it. Otherwise, this team is going to be risking what seems to be more stability than the Minnesota North Stars ever had.

And that's all, folks. I've now officially completed the biggest project I've ever created for myself on a consumer website: I've reviewed every team in the big three sports leagues in the United States, plus the NHL! There are groups for football, baseball, basketball, and hockey that you can find all of them in. (I started the hockey group myself.) But does this mean I'm entirely done reviewing sports teams? Hell, no! There's the Premier League in England, which I'm becoming a big fan of. There are the women's leagues, college teams, minor leagues…. Way too many to count. So I'll still be coming by with the occasional sports review, although they won't be written nearly as often, as I go back to the designated roles which brought me to Lunch in the first place: Media! You can always catch me writing about a good movie, book, video game, or music album. At any rate, thanks for reading!]]> Wed, 24 Apr 2013 15:27:54 +0000
<![CDATA[ The Piranhas]]>
The team actually began back in 1894. They were a Western League team called the Kansas City Blues. In 1900, Washington had a team in the National League, but they decided to abandon The District that year. So when the Western League changed its name to the American League and started operating as a major league in 1901, guess what vulnerable city was there waiting with open arms for a new franchise! The Blues were the team that moved to Washington, taking on the name of the older team: The Senators. It was very early in their history that the expression "Washington: First in war, first in peace, and last in the American League" was used to describe them. It was coined by a San Francisco Chronicle columnist named Charlie Dryden. The 1904 Senators lost 113 games, and the owners tried for a fresh start the following season by changing their name to the Washington Nationals. It's important to note that this was an official change. Although the name Washington Senators was used by virtually everyone, Nationals was the official name, and the two were commonly used interchangeably. The name Senators did make a comeback, but not until 1956. Normally I review using formal names; in this review, I'm going to stick with Senators so no one gets confused.

In 1902, the Senators managed to pick one of the era's best and brightest, Ed Delahanty, from the Philadelphia Phillies. Delahanty, however, was in love with the bottle, and one night while on the train between Buffalo, New York and Fort Erie, Ontario, Delahanty was talking tough, threatening passengers, and brandishing a razor. The conductors had no choice but to throw him off the train, and no one seems to know what happened after that. Well, in the grand scheme of things, we all know exactly what happened: Big Ed turned up dead the next morning, washing up somewhere in the Niagara River after being swept over the Falls. What I mean is that no one knows what happened to Delahanty that caused him to plunge over the International Railway Bridge, which Delahanty had tried to cross on foot after being thrown off the train. A drunken accident, a suicide, and a robbery murder have all been submitted as the culprits, but the one person who knows for an absolute fact what happened that night wasn't able to tell the tale the next morning.

In 1907, the Senators managed to get very, very lucky. They got a player who was worth watching, a 19-year-old pitcher by the name of Walter Johnson. For the next 21 years, Johnson was the one unquestionably great name on their roster. In 1910, Johnson struck out 313, won 25 games, and posted an ERA of an incredible 1.36. Over the course of a 21-year career with Washington, Johnson won 417 games, second in history only to Cy Young, and struck out 3509 batters, a record which ran for over 50 years. He was nicknamed Big Train.

In 1912, Clark Griffith had been a manager some some time. He had managed the Chicago White Sox and New York Highlanders, so that year he decided the next logical career move was to go to Washington and help the floundering franchise. Believe it or not, the Senators did manage to get better. Their pitchers led the league in ERA and strikeouts. Walter Johnson won 33 games, Bob Groom added 24, and the Senators finished in second place, behind the Boston Red Sox. 1913 saw them repeat that same spot in the standings, only this time it was behind the Philadelphia Athletics. They performed well the next two seasons too, but in 1916, back into mediocrity they returned, and in mediocrity they stayed. Griffith got pissed off at the owners because they were the penny-pinching types, stepped won as field manager in 1920, and concentrated on presidenting the team.

The Senators weren't good again until 1924, after Griffith named Bucky Harris, the team's second baseman, to be the manager. Led by Goose Goslin, Sam Rice, and the now-36-year-old Walter Johnson, the Senators managed to shed their loser reputation briefly when they won the Pennant by two games over Babe Ruth's New York Yankees. In the World Series, they faced the heavily favored New York Giants, and their center jewel pitcher (I of course refer to Johnson) didn't exactly rise to the occasion. He lost both of his two starts, but the Senators managed to stay in the series to drag it out to the full seven games. In game seven, the Senators trailed 3-1 in the eighth, when Bucky Harris hit a ground ball which took a bad hop over third base. Two runners scored on that play. With the game tied at 3-3, Johnson was called in on one day of rest after losing game five. This time, Big Train finally stepped up and held the Giants to no runs, taking the game into extra innings. In the 12 inning, Senator Muddy Ruel hit a high foul directly over home plate. Giants catcher Hank Gowdy dropped his mask to field the ball, but he overlooked one ket detail: He didn't throw it aside. As it sat right on the ground beside him, he stumbled over it, dropped the ball, and Ruel suddenly had a new life at the plate. He doubled, and a short time later, scored the winning run. The Washington Senators were World Series Champions, and Walter Johnson finally had a ring to show for his individual successes.

The Senators returned the the World Series in 1925, but lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Johnson retired in 1927, and the Senators started losing once again. Johnson was then hired to manage, and the team went back to contending, only to finish in third in 1931 and 1932. Normally, that wouldn't be a bad finish in those days, but Clark Griffith had high expectations for Walter Johnson as manager. Johnson was fired, and 26-year-old shortstop Joe Cronin took over. In 1933, the Senators won 99 games and their third Pennant, but came up short against the Giants. By 1934, they were back in the second division, where they remained for most of the next 25 years. Harris returned twice to manage two different stretches, without avail. The Senators briefly crawled out of their hole to contend in 1943 and 1945, but those were war years that tend to be frequently written off by the thin talent.

In 1954, a new star finally came out of Washington in Harmon Killebrew. He was a bonus baby who had to spend the whole season in Washington, after which he regularly jumped around between the Senators and their farm teams for the next few seasons before becoming their regular third baseman in 1959. He went on to become one of the greatest players in the history of the Senators and Twins.

Notice that "and" there. It was the 50's now, and baseball was starting to change, and the American landscape was also starting to change. the baby boom was happening, people were starting to move to other locales, and things were looking up, striding confidently, and whistling cheerful Disney tunes. A lot of baseball teams were moving every which way. Clark Griffith died in 1955, and the presidency of the Washington Senators was taken over by his nephew and adopted son Calvin. Calvin's major act: Selling the team's stadium to the city, then leasing it back. Since the Washington Senators weren't exactly a big draw, this led to speculating about a move. By then, the Boston Braves had turned into the Milwaukee Braves, the Philadelphia Athletics left their city to the Philadelphia Phillies and became the Kansas City Athletics, and the Saint Louis Browns made the most extreme move when they cut off their entire history to become the Baltimore Orioles. Calvin yapped it up with San Francisco for awhile, but by 1957 he switched to the Minneapolis/Saint Paul area in Minnesota. The process was prolonged, and he actually rejected their first offer, but eventually he agreed. The American League opposed the move at first, but they let it happen when they decided to place a new, expansion Washington Senators in The District by 1961. The Senators moved to Minneapolis, which has a nasty rivalry with cross-river Saint Paul which came to blows over sports in the past. It is still widely believed that the reason the NBA's Minneapolis Lakers had such low attendance - which forced their move to Los Angeles - was caused largely by Saint Paul not wanting to support them. Wanting to avoid bad blood, the team took the state name, then to honor both cities in the area, called itself the Twins, for the Twin Cities. Thus was born the Minnesota Twins. The old Senators were replaced, eventually relocated again, and the subject of a musical called Damn Yankees.

The Twins were embraced immediately. They also had talent: Harmon Killebrew was still the big name, of course, but they also had Bob Allison, Jim Kaat, and Earl Battey. In 1962, they won 91 games, their most since 1933. In 1965, they did even better, taking the Pennant with 102 victories only to lose the World Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers in seven games. The Dodgers had chosen that game to put Sandy Koufax on the mound, and he shut them out, having recorded one shutout in that same World Series already. It was a heartbreaker, but the thing about heartbreakers in sports is that they tend to cement fans' relationships to their teams. This team was clearly not the Washington Senators anymore after that. They were the Minnesota Twins, to such an extent that after the infamous move of the NFL's Cleveland Browns in the 1990's, the Twins fashioned a deal with MLB similar to the one the city of Cleveland had with the NFL: If the Twins ever leave Minnesota, the name, colors, and history of the Minnesota Twins is going to stay in the area for any expansion team to take should one be placed there.

The Twins were great throughout the 60's. In 1967, they were a major factor in one of the closest Pennant races in league history. In the final weekend that season, the Twins, Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, and Detroit Tigers all had a legitimate chance to take home the Pennant that very weekend. Two games were left, and the Twins and Red Sox were one game apart. The two remaining games each team had to play also happened to be against each other. The Red Sox won both, and the Pennant. The Twins and Tigers tied for second, one game behind. The White Sox finished three games out, in third. In 1969, the Twins hired the volatile Billy Martin to manage. As Martin pressed aggression on the base paths, Rod Carew managed to steal home seven times that year. The Twins won the division, the first division title in the newly-realigned MLB. They also had the distinct displeasure of losing the first-ever playoff series to the Orioles.

The Twins started slipping after 1971. They went around the .500 mark for the decade. Harmon Killebrew retired in 1974, and Calvin Griffith didn't adjust very well to the idea of free agency. Other owners, you see, had made fortunes in other businesses, but Griffith was still running a family ship. Baseball was his only income, so his very livelihood depended on the team profiting. Two of the team's stars, Lyman Bostock and Larry Hisle, became free agents after the 1977 season, and Rod Carew was traded after the 1978 season. In 1982, the Twins were a fiasco, posting a 60-102 record which was their worst since their 38-113 season in 1904. Griffith finally decided he had to sell the team, which was bought by Minneapolis banker Carl Pohlad.

Pohlad had good fortune. Griffith left him with a nucleus of talented players like Gary Gaetti and Frank Viola. So the natural next step was to build, which the Twins did by getting Bert Blyleven by trade, Al Newman and Roy Smalley in free agency, and signing Kirby Puckett. The Twins were respectable by 1987. They won 85 games. The issue here is that the rest of the American League royally sucked, so the Twins were able to win the Pennant. In the World Series, they downed the Saint Louis Cardinals in seven games. The Twins' 85 wins set a record for the fewest number of wins by a team that won the World Series. Ironically, it was the Cardinals who broke that record in 2006, when they won the World Series after a regular season record of 83-79. Still, the 1987 Twins were a little bit odd because they were 56-25 at home, which was the best in MLB. That means that on the road, they were a putrid 29-52. Only nine of those road wins came in the second half of the season. In 1991, the Twins retired to the World Series and beat the Atlanta Braves. That was also a seven-game series. In both Series, the home team won every game.

The Twins slumped after that. For most of the 90's, they just weren't very good. Things started turning in 2001, and after that, the Twins compiled their longest string of winners since their move to Minnesota. They won the AL Central seemingly every year. In a lot of years, the division race came to a late wire between the Twins and the Chicago White Sox, resulting in a very heated rivalry. Although the White Sox haven't won as many division titles, they did take one in 2005, and they made it count when they eventually won the World Series. The Twins have rarely made it out of the ALDS. But their style of play resulted in White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen giving them a new nickname: The Piranhas, because of the way they keep biting away, or something. You get the idea. That's where the Minnesota Twins currently sit as I write this. They've been doing well most of the last decade, but they couldn't close when they needed to. Last year, they were among the worst teams in baseball.

The Senators and Twins both have four Hall of Famers who were given their jackets based solely on contributions to those teams: Goose Goslin, Bucky Harris, Sam Rice, and Walter Johnson for the Senators, and Bert Blyleven, Rod Carew, Harmon Killebrew, and Kirby Puckett for the Twins. The Senators also had Tris Speaker, George Sisler, Early Wynn, Lefty Gomez, and Whitey Herzog in their history, while the Twins had Steve Carlton, Paul Molitor, and Dave Winfield. Retired numbers include Harmon Killebrew, Tony Olivia, Tom Kelly, Kent Hrbek, Bert Blyleven, Rod Carew, and Kirby Puckett. You probably don't want to bring up Puckett's post-baseball life to a Twins fan. He's one of those people who turned out to be a bit of a douche. He was one of those guys who kept his nice guy attitude in public, but was privately not quite the nicest guy. He was charged with sexual misconduct and may or may not have attacked a woman. When placed in front of a jury, they found him not guilty. It seems possible his post-baseball indiscretions were a temporary meltdown, because plenty of people, including his fiancee, family, and friends had his back and still speak well of him despite his death in 2006. The team's current faces are Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.

The Twins' big rivals are still the Chicago White Sox. These two teams just don't like each other. Come a late-season division race, it's almost a guarantee that one will be standing in the other's way. 2008 was a particularly heated race. The Twins and White Sox were neck and neck with each other the whole season. The White Sox won three straight road games to close the year, which they needed to be tied with the Twins. The two of them then went head to head in a one-game playoff which decided the division title. The game was played in Chicago, and the White Sox called for a special promotion called the Blackout, encouraging everyone to wear black. Chicago won the game 1-0.

What else identifies the Twins? Well, they'll always be the team of Walter Johnson, about whom a great case can be made as the greatest pitcher in league history. There's also their inability to close, the Piranhas nickname…. The Twins are considered a small-time team. They've had their occasional moments of glory, with three World Series titles to show for it. Usually, though, being a fan can mean getting used to hating your favorite players, because they all eventually leave for big-market teams and World Series rings. Torii Hunter and Johan Santana did it, and you get the suspicion that Mauer and Morneau will be doing it one of these days. Hell, the Yankees will soon be on the market for a new catcher.

I wanted to rate the Twins higher, but the Senators are standing in the way. As with any other team in my Teams Series, you shouldn't let my grade stop you. The Twins do have a knowledgeable and devoted fanbase, no matter how small it is. At the very least, a small team like these guys at least keeps the fans free of any glory-seeking bandwagoners.]]> Fri, 7 Dec 2012 19:27:43 +0000
<![CDATA[ Howling in Sorrow]]> Minnesota wasn't even thought of as a go-to basketball destination for a long time, at least not since the departure of the Minneapolis Lakers ( in 1961. Until the 1987-1989 expansions, the place was barely even considered, and you can't blame the NBA for forgetting it. Back when the American Basketball Association was formed, Minnesota was given two teams, the Minnesota Muskies and the Minnesota Pipers, and they both lasted only a year.

After the Timberwolves were formed for the 1990 season, they named the team through one of those Name the Team contests. The two selected finalists for the name were the Polars and the Timberwolves, so all the voters went with the obvious Timberwolves choice by a margin of nearly two to one. The Wolves then began the season on the road in November 1989, losing to the Seattle Supersonics ( Five days later, they made their home debut against the Chicago Bulls ( and lost that too. They were a first-year expansion team, what do you really expect? The Wolves lost a lot, eventually concluding their first season with a record of 22-60. They did, however, manage to set an NBA record for attendance, drawing over a million fans that year in large part because their home stadium was the Metrodome, which is little more than an enormous cavern.

The following season, the Wolves moved into their ever-since home, the Target Center, and managed to improve to 29-53. They also blamed their poor standing on their coach, Bill Musselman, instead of on the fact that they were still an expansion team that hadn't yet gotten its feet underneath it yet. So Musselman of course got lopped, ex-Boston Celtics ( Jimmy Rodgers was installed, and former Detroit Pistons general manager Jack McCloskey was hired with the hopes the team would soon get itself together. Instead, the Wolves regressed and fell to a 15-67 record, worst in the league that year even with first-round selections like Christian Laettner and Isaiah Rider. Basically, the team was hoping McCloskey was recreate the era of the Bad Boy Pistons he had created in Detroit. How wrong they were.

After a near-sale to New Orleans in 1994 and a 21-61 finish in 1995 following the naming of Celtics legend Kevin McHale to general manager, in the 1995 draft the Timberwolves named Kevin Garnett as their first draft pick. They also named Flip Saunders head coach, and traded for Andrew Lang and Spud Webb with the Atlanta Hawks. Garnett was to be the team's go-to guy on the inside, but his career, for everything Garnett became, started off slow. Garnett averaged a mere 10.4 points per game as a rookie, and by some accounts the trade for Stephen Marbury in 1996 made a bigger impact initially. Garnett and Marbury played well together and became two of the league's fastest-rising stars as Kevin Garnett turned into KEVIN GARNETT and Marbury scored 17.7 points and 8.6 assists per game. They slowly began winning during this era, at least until the playoffs, where a first-round meeting with the Minnesota Timberwolves was a guaranteed ticket to the second round.

In 1998, the Timberwolves decided that Kevin Garnett was gonna be their guy. Now nicknamed The Franchise, the Wolves decided to splurge a little, following their good luck over the previous couple of seasons, and they did that by signing Garnett to a six-year contract worth $126 million. And seeing as how the 1998-1999 NBA season was largely wiped out by a strike and reduced to a mere 50 games, the Wolves then became the poster child of irresponsible spending. They also wanted to sign Marbury to a good long-term contract, but Marbury wanted a chance to be the head honcho somewhere else, so he refused a contract extension and basically forced a trade. Joke was on him, though, as he got sent to the New Jersey Nets.

In 2000, guard Malik Sealy was killed in a car accident, and his number was retired. Another event that happened that year was that the NBA voided a contract free agent Joe Smith signed with the team, because the team had violated proper procedure in the signing. The league punished them by stripping them of five first-round draft picks, but eventually rescinded just enough to reduce that to three picks. The team was also fined and Kevin McHale was suspended. In spite of all that, Garnett was his usual awesome self and the Timberwolves made the playoffs again, only to be eliminated in the first round again, this time by the San Antonio Spurs. In 2003, they made a couple of very strong moves: Trading Joe Smith and guard Terrell Brandon for Ervin Johnson, Sam Cassell, and Latrell Sprewell. During the 2004 season, the Timberwolves emerged as the team to beat, people started taking notice, and Garnett was given the MVP award. The Timberwolves went 58-24, were the top seed in the Western Conference, and finally got past the first round for once, beating the Denver Nuggets and Sacremento Kings before failing in the Western Conference Finals to the previous team from Minnesota, the domineering, all-powerful Lakers.

The Wolves missed the playoffs the next year despite hanging on to most of the players from their Western Conference Finals appearance the previous season and decided it might be in their best interests to get a new coach. Eventually they brought Dwayne Casey aboard, but they only kept him for a couple of years due to inconsistency. He was out by January of 2007. He wasn't the team's biggest casualty that year, though.

You might have noticed that I've been name-dropping Kevin Garnett a lot. If you're a fan of the NBA, you already know why. If you're an aspiring basketball fan or just a person reading because you're interested in my criticism, understand that the Minnesota Timberwolves are a very young team and, in their short existence, Garnett is the only player who had a long, defining career as a Timberwolf so far. The man was (is) a superstar; there's no mistake about that. He was a league MVP, which is no easy task in the NBA. It had to be rough on Garnett after the 2004 season, because after a dream year like that, it was reasonable for Garnett to have expectations for greater things. The 2005 season, when the Wolves went 44-38, might have come off like an abberation or hangover at first, but Cassell was traded and Sprewell turned down a contract extension. So at that point, Garnett began thinking the magical 2004 season wasn't a springboard to greater heights, but the very apex of what he would ever achieve with Minnesota. And when Casey was fired, that only confirmed it, and Garnett had been around for twelve years at that point, so he couldn't stick around and wait for greatness again as the team rebuilt. He wanted out. The Boston Celtics were happy to get him out, giving up a total of seven players - including two future first-round draft picks - for him and him alone. In the 2008 season, Garnett was a Celtic, teaming up with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce and winning his ring with a very jubilant Bill Russell in attendance.

The story for Minnesota since then has been losing, back to the old way. During one terrible two-year stretch, they compiled a record of 32-132. They have an up-and-coming player named Kevin Love who's looking like a great centerpiece, but the Timberwolves just can't seem to right the ship.

I've mentioned Kevin Garnett a lot in this story, but that's - again - only because he IS the story. No Kevin Garnett, no playoffs for the Wolves, who seem to perpetually be in the first year of their annual five-year rebuilding plan. Only five players from the Minnesota Timberwolves have received All-Star invitations. None of them have been Rookies of the Year, although seven have made the NBA Rookie First Team. (Even Garnett wasn't a Rookie of the Year!) The Wolves are now on their tenth head coach. Only one of their coaches, Flip Saunders, has a winning record with the team, and he's also the only coach who ever got the Timberwolves into the playoffs. He compiled an overall record of 411-326. After him, the majority of these coaches have records that are not only bad, but downright putrid: Kurt Rambis was the 32-132 guy. Randy Wittmen went 38-105. Jimmy Rodgers was 21-90. Kevin McHale and Dwayne Casey are the only coaches who really were even able to so much as approach success, McHale going 39-55 and Casey 53-65.

There's no way to give these guys style points, even. They're not mentioned in a lot of conversations about classic games or memorable series. They're just not very memorable.]]> Mon, 3 Sep 2012 15:24:58 +0000
<![CDATA[ Skol! (Good Health!)]]>
Professional football began in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area of Minnesota in the 20's and 30's with a team called the Minneapolis Marines, who later changed their name to the Minneapolis Red Jackets. They folded, and no one ever thought of professional football in Minnesota again until 1959, when the Twin Cities were given a team in the American Football League. Those guys forfeited their league membership and five months later, the NFL expanded and put the first NFL team in Minnesota. Since there's supposedly a little bit of animosity between St. Paul and Minneapolis, the original thought was that the team would be called the Minneapolis/St. Paul whatevers. It was soon decided to use the name of the state, Minnesota, instead. Among the proposed names for the team were Chippewas, Miners, and Voyageurs. On September 27, 1960, the new team officially adopted and announced its name: The Minnesota Vikings, as a way to honor the number of Scandinavian people in the area and their culture. In 1961, they named Norm Van Brocklin as their first head coach.

Fran Tarkenton was drafted that year too, and he was an outstanding first franchise player. Tarkenton anchored the team from 1961 to 1966 before heading off to the New York Giants for a spell from 1967 to 1971. He then returned to Minnesota, leading them to all of their Super Bowl appearances in the 70's, which covers three of the team's four. He retired in 1978 after racking up 124 victories as a quarterback and some impressive statistics, although his inability to win a Super Bowl has cost him a spot among the game's gods.

The late 60's and early 70's Vikings had one of the coolest nicknames ever bestowed upon an NFL defense: The Purple People Eaters. Throughout the 70's, they were the most dominating team to never win the Super Bowl. And in 1979, the state legislature approved funding for the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, one of the worst sporting arenas in the industry, but also one of the very, very few major league arenas to actually turn a profit for its city.

In 1983, Bud Grant, Minnesota's coach since 1967, retired. He unretired for 1985, then retired again. Grant had been hired in 1967 to replace Van Brocklin, and won 168 games for the team. Les Steckel was hired to replace Grant after the first retirement, and in his only year at the helm, the Vikes lost 13 games before Grant came crawling back. After Grant left again, Jerry Burns was hired to coach. His first year at the helm, the team went 9-7. In his second, they went to the NFC Championship. All in all, Burns 55-46 as head coach of the Minnesota Vikings. He did well, but never could manage to do any real damage with them. For most of his tenure, the Vikings always seemed to be one player away from the Super Bowl. Then in 1989, they really went all in to get that player.

Vikings then-General Manager Mike Lynn had his eye on Herschel Walker, the powerful running back for the Dallas Cowboys who, while popular in the community, wasn't getting along with Tony Dorsett, their other star running back. Walker looked like a fantastic pickup, but Lynn was more businessman than football man. Jeff Pearlman, in his book Boys Will be Boys, writes that had Lynn consulted Vikings management before making the trade, they would had put the clamps on it immediately because Minnesota's offense relied far more on trickery and gimmickry than the pure physicality Walker was known for. But he didn't, and so the Vikings took Walker and four future draft picks for what turned into a flat out heist for Dallas. Issiac Holt, David Howard, Darrin Nelson, Jesse Solomon, and Alex Stewart all went to the Lone Star State expecting to suit up as Cowboys, and some draft picks were thrown in as well. The exact details of this trade are a little tricky, and most onlookers believe Minnesota was giving up 13 players for Walker. So pay attention: Pearlman explains the draft picks were conditional. The five players who went to Dallas all have draft values attributed to them. In other words, one of them was worth X number of the draft picks Dallas was getting, another was worth X number of draft picks Dallas was getting, and so on. Dallas would only get the draft picks if they cut the players who were worth those draft picks before a certain date. Lynn made the trade with the belief that Dallas would keep all five of the players, thus waiving the draft picks. That turned out to not be the case, and Dallas coach Jimmy Johnson cut them all within very short order and used the draft picks to totally rebuild the team from scratch. One of the picks turned into Emmitt Smith, another into Darren Woodson. The Cowboys went to three Super Bowls in the next ten years.

For their part, the Vikings actually didn't do very badly themselves. Dennis Green became the new head coach in 1992, and over the next ten seasons the Vikings won four division titles, made the playoffs eight times, and appeared in the NFC Championship twice. By the time he was done in Minnesota, the Vikings had accumulated a record of 97-62 under his tutelage. In 1998, the Vikings began using their backup quarterback, Randall Cunningham, after starter Brad Johnson was injured. Cunningham had the best year of his career as he teamed with fast running back Robert Smith, his old teammate wideout Cris Carter, and rookie wide receiver Randy Moss as they put 556 points on the board, which was a record until New England broke it in 2007. They never scored fewer than 24 points in a game, and they became the third team in history to win 15 games. Their one loss was to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by three points. As the only two other 15-game winners in league history at the time - the 1984 San Francisco 49ers and the 1985 Chicago Bears - had both won the Super Bowl, you can't blame fans for believing the Vikings really, REALLY looked like a Team of Destiny that year. They went to the NFC Championship to face the 14-2 Atlanta Falcons. In one of the most epic football games ever played, the two fought a hard back-and-forth contest. With two minutes left in the game and the Vikings leading by seven, kicker Gary Anderson - who hadn't missed a kick throughout the entire regular season - had the team's aforementioned Wide Right moment when he missed the field goal that would have put the Falcons away. Atlanta tied the game, and Dennis Green opted to run the clock out instead of going for the win. In overtime, Atlanta won the coin toss and won the game on a field goal.

Minnesota was still good after that, but they weren't dominant. Their defense wasn't there in the head. Cunningham was benched for Jeff George in 1999, and the Vikes went to the playoffs but lost the Divisionals to St. Louis. The next year the Vikings had Daunte Culpepper at quarterback, who became Minnesota's reliable leader for the next few seasons. The team went 11-5 and made it back to the NFC Championship, only to be stomped and humiliated by the New York Giants in a one-team game which ended 41-0. In 2001, Dennis Green took the team to a weak 5-11 record before the Vikings bought out his contract. He would go on to coach the Arizona Cardinals in a few years, while the Vikes replaced him with Mike Tice. Tice endured growing pains, going 6-10 his first year, then starting the next season at 6-0 only to ultimately go 9-7. The next year, they went 8-8 despite Culpepper amassing statistics worthy of the MVP prize he didn't get. They squeezed into the playoffs and became only the second 8-8 team in league history to win a playoff game. That victory came a day after the first playoff victory of an 8-8 team: The St. Louis Rams.

Tice, Culpepper, and Moss were all gone by 2007. The Vikings drafted a running back named Adrian Peterson that year, who was the Rookie of the Year. He helped pick up the slack for the next quarterback, or rather, the next several quarterbacks; the starting quarterback position had become one of those unbearable carousels. In 2009, the Vikings landed a major deal at the position when they traded for the old but still potent Brett Favre, coming off his second retirement and two years removed from his signature gig with the Green Bay Packers. He felt disrespected by The Pack because they thought it was time to develop their younger talent, and Favre wanted revenge. Favre took them to their finest season f the millennium, going 12-4 and into the NFC Championship, another hard-fought epic that ended in overtime, this time against the New Orleans Saints. He didn't do nearly as well next season. In was a bad season and a debacle which ended 6-10, with Favre texting pics of his private parts to a reporter, and Metrodome roof collapsing, Favre's legendary streak of games started ending at 297 after a hard hit against Buffalo, and the resumption of a quarterback carousel which now includes Patrick Ramsey, Tarvaris Jackson, Gus Frerotte, and even Donovan McNabb, a possible Hall of Fame candidate. They now think Christian Ponder might be their guy, but I haven't seen anything to warrant that idea. It may be time to roll out the tattered carpet and welcome Vikings fans into their first stint of real, long-term irrelevance.

The Vikings are the babies of the NFC North, and the least decorated team in the division. That's not to say they're not successful; clearly they are. But they happen to share the division with the Green Bay Packers, who have won more NFL titles than any other team (13) and the Chicago Bears, who have won more titles than any other team in the league that isn't the Green Bay Packers (nine). The Detroit Lions are there too, and the formation of the Minnesota Vikings came a few years after the installation of The Curse of Bobby Layne. But the Lions do have four titles of their very own too, which are theirs forever. The Vikings have those NFC Championships, and that's definitely something, but it looks a bit lacking compared to all that firepower.

Norse imagery is used everywhere with the Vikings. One of the team's logos is of a blonde Norseman. The team's unique cheer uses the word "skol," a word used in Scandinavian languages as a salute or a toast which means "cheers" or "good health." The Gjallarhorn, a kind of Viking horn, in blown loudly at the Metrodome after every big play, first down, or touchdown. The fans wear "Helga Hats," purple hats with big horns protruding from the sides which are widely believed to have been worn by ancient Viking warriors, even though history itself says the Vikings never wore such things because the horns would have given their enemies something easy to grab onto. (This isn't imagery anyone seems to care about, by the way, which is exactly why I don't give the PC crowd the time of day when they talk about how sports imagery of American Indians is racist. They don't seem to give a shit about the prominence of Irish imagery in sports, either.)

Eleven players are in the Hall of Fame based primarily on their contributions to the Vikings. Fran Tarkenton is the most visible, mostly because he's the only one who played a glamor position. Three of their Hall of Famers are offensive linemen, and four are defensive linemen. John Randle was one of them, but the others aren't quite as transcendent. One funnier part f the team's lore is that their retired numbers include 70, which was the number of defensive end Jim Marshall. Marshall was a very strong player who played on The Purple People Eaters defense, played in all four of the team's Super Bowls, and recorded 127 career sacks. But he's best known for a major on-field blunder. In a game against San Francisco in 1964, Marshall recovered a fumble, but apparently had lost his sense of direction amidst the confusion. He charged down the field toward his own endzone and, thinking he had scored a touchdown for the Vikings, threw the ball away in celebration. It resulted in a safety for the Niners. Minnesota did manage to win the game 27-22, but Marshall currently owns what may be an unbreakable record for the shortest play in NFL history. The gaffe still stands in the record books, going for -66 yards.

It's funny that a team named after a tribe of barbarians would wear colors associated with royalty, purple and gold. But then again, the Vikings have been one of the most competitive teams in the league through most of their existence, so perhaps they are royalty in the respect. They're heartbreakers, but it's safe to believe they'll get that Lombardi Trophy someday and officially take their place among their division rivals as champions. I wish them skol.

On a side note, I've now officially completed my NFL series. Time to move to the other leagues. Also, I've made no secret of my disgust with the Buffalo Bills, for various reasons, including the Toronto Series, the fact that they'll move before much longer, and the fact that the city's obsession with them keeps Buffalo from turning itself into anything other than a dead Rust Belt city because we're trying to keep them despite not being able to meet the NFL's demands or afford them. I've been going over my options and have decided to accept the New York Giants. I haven't switched quite yet, and I'm hoping the Bills make one final, improbable run to the Super Bowl this year because the Giants are now officially waiting for the call-up, and another AFC Championship - and possible Super Bowl victory - would be a hell of a way to end my fandom.]]> Sat, 17 Mar 2012 14:13:56 +0000
<![CDATA[ Cozy Neighborhood Bar & Grill]]>

Decorated in funky artwork and crafted with sleek architecture, Washington Square is part bar and part restaurant. If you go during the winter and you can’t sit outside, the bar area is fantastic. Find a seat next to the crackling fireplace and order a glass of vino from their refined wine selection. Their homemade Bloody Mary mix or from-scratch Margaritas are also a must-try! The atmosphere is so casual and laid back you almost feel like you’re sitting in your living room.

And the food tops the charts! From your typical bar fare apps (Walleye Fingers, Quesadillas, Potato Boats and Pesto Pizza) to a small selection of gourmet entrees (my favorites include the Portabella Pasta and Tacos al Pastor), the menu is also packed with other yummy treats like Artichoke Dip, Hawaiian Chicken sandwiches, Chicken and Goat Cheese salads, Balsamic Chicken Wrap and pecan-crusted Walleye.

With summer around the corner (as I say this it is currently -26 degrees outside!) I am craving a seat on their outdoor patio which is always packed with patrons and has lively vibe. A restaurant so versatile that it's perfect for both hot summer days or cold winter nights!]]> Tue, 8 Feb 2011 16:10:06 +0000
<![CDATA[ Perfect for the Outdoor Enthusiast]]>
Located on Main Street, 45˚ is the epitome of a well-equipped sporting goods store, with all the benefits that local can offer: laidback, accessible and reasonably priced.

Body & Feet:

They offer a beautiful and quality selection of men’s and women’s outdoor wear (keeping you warm and dry), innerwear (for extra warmth), and even underwear (great for all day comfort!). Brands include Cloudveil, Ibex, and Mountain Hardware that offer options such as jackets, shells, gloves and hats. They have Horny Toad, Kavu, and Kuhl fleeces (which are basically my standard at home gear), sweaters, tops and pants. What I love about their appropriately sized selection is that these garments not only do their job – keep you warm and sweat free – but are equally successful in making you look sophisticated and trendy.

Trust me, if you are looking for a gift for your man (perhaps for Valentine’s Day) 45 Degrees is a superb place to shop. He’ll love the thoughtfulness of your gift and you’ll love the way he looks in one of their beautiful Merino wool sweaters! And if you’re going all out, you can literally dress him from head to toe. From Keen hats to Cloudveil gloves, Rab jackets to handy eco-bags, Vasque boots to Superfeet insoles, 45 Degrees has full-body solutions.

In terms of footwear, they offer a selection of trail shoes (hiking boots) and daily shoes (think UGG, Keen, and Simple) that are durable, comfortable and look good.

The Adventure:

For outdoor adventures of a more intense nature, 45 Degrees provides plenty of gadget and gear options like sleeping bags, back packs, dry sacks, filtration systems, compasses, first aid kits, utensils and even furniture.

Their website is especially helpful as it provides gear lists for a variety of different activities, so you’ll know exactly what is recommended for a day hike, and a boundary waters or a backpacking trip. They also tout their staff as local and global resources, so you’re encouraged to come in, explore the store, look at maps and ask questions.

At 45 Degrees you can enjoy a fun product selection at good value, as well as a comfortable shopping atmosphere. What makes this store different is that you can tell they truly care about the outdoors and the process of experiencing it in the best possible way. ]]> Tue, 18 Jan 2011 17:31:43 +0000
<![CDATA[ Cork's Irish Pub ~ St Paul, MN]]>

Cuisine: American, Irish, Pub Grub, Fish & Seafood, Steaks
Restaurant Features: Bar, Flat Screen TVs, Happy Hour, Hotel, Kids Menu, Indoor Patio, On-Site Parking (pay-lot at Embassy Suites)
Location: St Paul (Downtown/ Lowertown)
Address: 175 10th St E  St. Paul, MN 55101 651-224-5111  (Within Embassy Suites)
Hours: 7 Days 11am-11pm
Links: Cork’s Irish Pub Website Cork’s Pub Facebook Page *Google Map

Embassy Suites ~ St Paul, MN

Embassy Suites ~ St Paul, MN

Outside Cork's Irish Pub in Embassy Suites~ St Paul, MN

Outside Cork’s Irish Pub in Embassy Suites~ St Paul, MN

Atmosphere: Located within the Embassy Suites in downtown St Paul, Cork’s Irish pub is a fun place to enjoy a good meal or drink.  As the name suggests, the atmosphere is reminiscent of the pubs in Ireland  with wooden floors, a big wooden bar, and several wooden pub tables.  The theme is carried out through the traditional Irish fare, “pub grub”,  as well as a plethora of beers, scotches and whiskeys.  There are also multiple flat screen TVs hung throughout the restaurant, giving it the slight feel of a sports pub as well.

Inside Cork's Irish Pub ~ St Paul, MN copy

Inside Cork’s Irish Pub ~ St Paul, MN copy

Cork’s also has a patio area that looks out into the indoor courtyard of the Embassy Suites, where you can see tropical waterfall gardens such as these.  Who says you ned to go south to feel a touch of the tropics!?

Indoor Garden outside Cork's Irish Pub in Embassy Suites ~ St Paul, MN

Indoor Garden outside Cork’s Irish Pub in Embassy Suites ~ St Paul, MN

Menu: Appetizers at Cork’s include Scotch Eggs, Chicken Wings (Hot or BBQ), Fresh Chips (with cheese, bacon and green onion), Onion Rings, Chicken Fingers, Crab & Artichoke Dip, Fried Goodness Sampler, Crudite Platter (fresh veggies, olives, pita bread and hummus), 7 Layer Dip, Jack & Blue Sticks (blend of cheese and buffalo sauce battered and fried), and Cod Chippers.

Salad options are The Irishman (fingerling potatoes and corned beef on romaine with Guinness vinaigrette), Caesar, Grilled Salmon, Chicken Cobb, Bourbon Steak, and Country Chicken Salad.

Cork’s Sandwiches and Burgers include Club House, Hot Pastrami on Rye, Petite Steak Burgers, Build-A-Burger or Chicken Sandwich, The Downtowner (ham and cheddar on sourdough), Blarney Stone (corned beef, roast beef, and pastrami with swiss, cheddar and sauerkraut), Chicago Style Roast Beef, Asian Pork Burger with Peanut Sauce, Walleye, and Cranberry Turkey (turkey, swiss and cranberry mayo).

Cork’s also has Supreme Pizza, Irish Potato Pizza, and Build-Your-Own Pizza.

Entrees at Cork’s include 14 oz Sterling Silver New York Strip, Shepherd’s Pie, Pasta Vodka, Panko Walleye,  Fish N Chips, Sea Scallops with Corned Beef and Cabbage, Fettuccine Alfredo, Grilled Walleye, Grilled Salmon, Drunken Broil (grilled steak served with a splash of whiskey and au jus), Potato Crusted Chicken, Chicken Marsala, and Bangers N Mac (penne in creamy cheese sauce with grilled lamb sausage).

Kids Menu items include Hamburger, Cheeseburger, Grilled Cheese, Chicken Fingers, Cheese Pizza, Macaroni and Cheese, and Fettuccine Alfredo.

The heavenly dessert options are seasonal and this season include Carrot Cake, Creme Brulee, Pumpkin Mousse Torte, Hot Fudge Brownie Sundae (all year), and Pear and Dried Cherry Crisp with Cinnamon Ice Cream.

Click here to see the large selection of Drinks at Cork’s Irish Pub

Price guide: Appetizers $8-10  Salads $8-15  Sandwiches $10-13  Entrees $12-32  Desserts $5-7

Happy Hour:

  • Monday-Friday  4-6pm
  • Half Price Appetizers, Rails, Calls, Martinis and Specialty Drinks
  • $3 House Wine
  • $2 Standard Bottles and Taps
  • $3 Premium Bottles and Taps
Weekly Specials:
Monday 1/2 off Martinis all day
Tuesday- Free BINGO 8pm
Wednesday- Free Trivia 8pm
Thursday- 1/2 off Bottles of Wine  Live Music 7pm
Friday – Two 12 oz Sterling Silver Prime Rib Specials and a bottle of house winefor only $50. Hendricks and Tonic $4, All Day
Saturday- Silver Butter Knife Prime Rib served with soup or salad, veggie, potato, and glass of wine
What we ordered: My companion and I started with an order of Scotch Eggs, a must-order item for me if I ever see it on a menu.  I was pleased to see six halves of the delectable sausage-wrapped hard boiled eggs in the order, atop a bed of baby greens and sweet cherry tomatoes.  These eggs were some of the most delicious I have had to date!  The thin layer of sausage wrapped around the eggs was slightly spicy and full of flavor and the deep fried bread crumb batter added the perfect crunch to the layers of texture.  There were two spicy mustard sauces served with it for dipping.  I could probably eat these for breakfast several times a week!

Scotch Eggs at Cork's Irish Pub ~ St Paul, MN

Scotch Eggs at Cork’s Irish Pub ~ St Paul, MN

Our entrees both came with choice of soup or salad. One of the daily soups included Buffalo Chicken, so that is what I tried.  This was a hearty, spicy, creamy and chunky blend of chicken, celery, carrot, corn, and peppers.  I liked it very much, it is the kind of spicy soup that is perfect for a cold day!

Buffalo Chicken Soup at Cork's Irish Pub ~ St Paul, MN

Buffalo Chicken Soup at Cork’s Irish Pub ~ St Paul, MN

My companion tried the other soup of the day, the Steak Ranchero.  Every bite if this was heavenly! It was very similar to chili, but with more vegetables than just beans and several bites of tender beef.  Savory and delicious.

Steak Ranchero Soup at Cork's Irish Pub ~ St Paul, MN

Steak Ranchero Soup at Cork’s Irish Pub ~ St Paul, MN

Our meals also came with French Bread, which was light and soft on the inside and slightly crusty on the outside.  I loved it even more when dipped in the Buffalo Chicken Soup ;)

Basket of Bread at Cork's Irish Pub ~ St Paul, MN

Basket of Bread at Cork’s Irish Pub ~ St Paul, MN

There were many items that sounded wonderful (mix of Irish fare, pub grub and American) but the Scallops with Corned Beef and Cabbage sounded like a unique and winning combo.  At the base of this dish was the corned beef and cabbage (which on its own would be a hearty meal), then topped with at least a half dozen large, tender, seared sea scallops.  When I say tender, I actually mean melt-in-your-mouth.  These scallops were so good! In the center of the dish was a large serving of cooked, mashed lentils.  I haven’t had much experience eating lentils but they are similar to a bean or a pea in both texture and taste, and slightly earthy.  The texture of the mashed lentils was soft yet still firm enough to stay in a scoop.  A nice change of pace for a side dish! This meal was also served with a slice of fresh buttered rye toast.

Scallops over Corned Beef and Cabbage at Cork's Irish Pub ~ St Paul, MN

Scallops over Corned Beef and Cabbage at Cork’s Irish Pub ~ St Paul, MN

My companion ordered the Prime Rib Saturday Special, a 12 oz. Silver Butterknife Steak served with green beans, mashed potatoes, soup, and glass of wine for $27.  I tried several bites of this beef  and it was delicious! Although cooked slightly more than preferred, this cut of beef was extremely tender and flavorful.  The rind on the outside held all the flavor of the seasonings, each bite doing a little dance in my mouth.  The Silver Butter Knife steaks that Cork’s serves are the same as the steaks served at the best steak houses in town, including Wooley’s and Murray’s.

Saturday Prime Rib Special at Cork's Irish Pub ~ St Paul, MN

Saturday Prime Rib Special at Cork’s Irish Pub ~ St Paul, MN

I was almost too full to try dessert but this Pumpkin Mousse Torte was the perfect Autumn treat.  The cake was light and the pumpkin mousse was even lighter, and only slightly sweet. It had just a subtle taste of pumpkin but when paired with the sweet-tart cranberry chutney that accompanied it, it was like a beautiful duet of fall flavors. The best part of this dessert was its lightness, which may be a complete opposite of the richness of a chocolate cake.  Excellent!

Pumpkin Mousse Torte at Cork's Irish Pub ~ St Paul, MN

Pumpkin Mousse Torte at Cork’s Irish Pub ~ St Paul, MN

Service: We had excellent service at Cork’s Irish Pub at the Embassy Suites in St Paul.  Our server was very friendly and knowledgeable of the menu and despite my need to make my visit under an hour, the service never felt rushed.  Our food was spaced just right for each course, drinks were kept filled, and we left very satisfied.

Overall Impression: Cork’s Irish Pub is a hidden gem in Lowertown St Paul, located within the Embassy Suites which is just a few blocks from other popular area hang-outs.  Happy Hour is a great deal with nearly all appetizers and drinks at half price, plus the crew at Cork’s especially loves to take care of the downtown working crowd.  Both the food and the service stand out amongst other establishments in the area. I’ll meet ya there after work sometime ;)

Written by Kristi Sauer
If this information was helpful to you, please leave me a comment and let me know!
Related Posts with Thumbnails]]> Sun, 16 Jan 2011 14:43:14 +0000
<![CDATA[ Blue Door Pub ~ St Paul, MN]]> Cuisine: American, Burgers
Restaurant Features: Bar, Happy Hour, Kids Menu, On-Site Parking, Patio
Location: St Paul, MN
Address: 1811 Selby Ave     St. Paul, MN 55104    (651) 493-1865
Hours: 11am-Midnight
Links: Blue Door Pub Website Google Map

Blue Door Pub

Atmosphere: Located on Selby Ave at Fairview, Blue Door Pub is a small neighborhood bar/restaurant known for their Juicy “Blucy” hamburgers.  The inside space is divided into two sides; the Pub on one with the bar and a few tables and then there is the dining area with a few tables and three large booths.  The room is literally so small that I could not capture it with my fixed 50mm lens, but I was able to get a shot of the famous Blue Door which leads into the kitchen.

Namesake at Blue Door Pub


Namesake at Blue Door Pub by Kristi Sauer

Menu: Blue Door Pub has a brand new menu as of today and I have not yet seen it.  I will revise this menu (pre 6/5/10) as soon as I get a copy of the new menu.  Appetizers include Spam Bites (Breaded, deep fried Spam, cream cheese and pickle), Beer-Battered Green Beans, Hand-Cut Fries, Tator Tots, Chicken Wings, Cheese Curds, and Deep Fried Pickles.

Salads at Blue Door Pub include House Salad, Cobb, Blue Cheese, and Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps.

Specialty offerings are the Jiffy Burger (peanut butter, mayo, pepper jack, bacon and pickle), The Pub Sandwich (bacon, egg, pepper jack, lettuce and tomato on bread), Chicken Strip Basket and Black Bean Burger.

The Blue Door Pub is well-known for the many varieties they have of  “Juicy Blucys”, which are what they call their version of the locally known cheese-stuffed burgers.   Options include the Blucy (bleu cheese and garlic), The Luau (stuffed with mozzarella and pineapple, Canadian Bacon on top), The Classic (cheddar cheese), Breakfast Blucy (cheddar, bacon topped with fried egg), Bangkok Blucy (mozzarella soaked in coconut milk and topped with pickled carrots, cucumbers, red onions and ginger), Cajun Blucy (pepperjack and jalapeños), Mushroom Swiss, Bacon Blucy (cheddar and bacon), The Frenchy (swiss and caramelized onions witha  side of au jus), and The Merriam Park (bacon, bleu cheese, garlic and topped with red currant jelly).  Fries and tator tots are $2 extra.

You can also Build-Your-Own Burger (or chicken!) with a long list of cheese, toppings and sauces.

Kids Menu includes Grilled Cheese, Chicken Strips, Mac & Cheese, 2 Mini Cheeseburgers, PB & J.

Blue Door offers Pie Bites for dessert (homemade cheesecake bites)

Price guide: Appetizers $3.50-8.50  Salads $4-9  Burgers $6.50-8.50  Kids Menu $4-5
What we ordered: This was my first time to the Blue Door Pub and the long list of different stuffed burgers was very intriguing; several of them sounded like something I would try but I ended up going with the Merriam Park Burger.  This 1/2 lb of Angus beef was stuffed with bleu cheese, chopped garlic, and bacon.  It also comes with red currant jelly which I asked for on the side.  It seemed a strange combination but our server made me promise I would try it with the jelly because it was her favorite.  I was skeptical at first but with just one bite of the jelly on the burger, I became a believer! I actually ended up eating my entire burger with the jelly! The combination of the sweet with the stronger flavor of the blue cheese was a winner.  If you like the salad dressing combo of French/Bleu cheese, you would like this.  Even without the jelly it would’ve been an excellent burger.  Loved it.

Blue Door Pub Merriam Park Blucy Burger


Blue Door Pub Merriam Park Blucy Burger

My companion ordered the Bacon Blucy, an Angus burger stuffed with bacon and cheddar.  We were surprised to see that the Blue Door Pub did not make any of their stuffed burgers with American cheese, which is what a traditional Juicy-Lucy is made with.  That is fine with me since American cheese is the one food in the world that I have an aversion to and just simply cannot stomach, but my companion was disappointed.  This Bacon Blucy was still very delicious, with gooey sharp cheddar melted inside with thick cut bacon bites.

Blue Door Pub Bacon Bacon Blucy


Blue Door Pub Bacon Bacon Blucy

Fries can be added on to any burger for an additional charge, or you can get a basket of fries for half-price during Happy hour ($2!).  Was very happy when the server pointed that out to us.  They were fresh, home cut fries fried to a golden brown with a generous amount of salt.

lue Door Pub Basket of Fries


Blue Door Pub Basket of Fries

Service: My visit was on a Saturday in the middle of the afternoon and I was able to get a spot in the parking lot.  This was my first visit to the BDP and I wasn’t sure if they had a hostess or not but we were ignored when we walked in, so after standing there for a minute or two, I went and sat myself at the one of the few tables to choose from. It was starting to get busy by the time our burgers came out.  The drinks were a little slow to be refilled but the food came out within 15 minutes of ordering.  Our server was busy and only stopped to check on us at the end of our meal.  We were given our check and when I paid, the original receipt was missing so I asked for another copy.  The server came back five minutes later and said she had forgotten to add one of our drinks to the original bill ( a $2 soda) so she presented us with a 2nd bill to pay for that drink.  I was a little annoyed since I had already paid for our original bill and didn’t want to have to run my card again for a measly $2.  Thought it would’ve been nice to leave that one on the house and just reprint me my original receipt.
Overall Impression: I thought the burger was excellent and I don’t hesitate to say it was best “Juicy Lucy” that I have had around town (however remember I will only eat those that don’t include American cheese so I am biased).  The service wasn’t too great but the burgers made up for it.

Related Posts with Thumbnails]]> Tue, 4 Jan 2011 18:33:58 +0000
<![CDATA[ Brasa Premium Rotisserie ~ St Paul & Minneapolis, MN]]>

Cuisine: Creole: (American and Caribbean)
Restaurant Features: Bar (Beer & Wine only), On-Site Parking
Locations: St Paul & Minneapolis, MN
Addresses & Maps:

St Paul- 777 Grand Avenue  St. Paul, MN. 55105  651-224-1302

Minneapolis-600 E. Hennepin Avenue   Minneapolis, MN 55414  612-379-3030

Hours: Sun – Thurs: 11am – 9pm  Fri- Sat: 11am – 10 pm
Links: Brasa Website

Brasa ~ St Paul, MN

Brasa ~ St Paul, MN

Atmosphere: The St Paul location of Brasa is located on Grand Ave, near many other popular restaurants.  The inside of the restaurant is contemporary, with a mix of tables and booths.  The pendant-style lighting is comprised of long, skinny, transparent light bulbs.

Dining at Brasa ~ St Paul, MN

Dining at Brasa ~ St Paul, MN

The walls of windows inside Brasa are not actually windows, but rather garage doors that can be opened during nice weather.

Dining Inside Brasa

Dining Inside Brasa

I saw one little nook at Brasa that contained a large round table. Perfect, cozy little  place for a group to share a meal!

Inside Brasa ~ St Paul, MN

Inside Brasa ~ St Paul, MN

Menu: Sides of Vegetables and Salads at Brasa include Yams and Andouille, Collards with Smoked Turkey, Creamed Spinach with Jalapeno, Sweet Plantains, Fried Green Plantains with Garlic Oil, Crispy Yuca with Mojo, Romaine & Tomato Salad, Cabbage and Mozzarella Salad.

Grains and Beans include Yellow Rice and Beans, Rice and Pigeon Peas with Olives and Ham, Cornbread and Beans, Rustic Cheese Grits, Homemade Chips and Guacamole.

Side orders of bread include Cornbread with Honey Butter, Griddled Garlic Toast, and Masa Corn and Cheese Cake.

Sandwich options at Brasa are thePulled Chicken, Roasted Pork, Braised Beef, Vegetarian Bean Fritter, Smoked Sausage, Scrambled Egg and Chorizo, and Fried Catfish.

Meat & Fish Platters include Rotisserie Chicken, Pulled Chicken, Slow Roasted Pork, Braised Beef, Smoked Sausage (Mpls only), and Fried Catfish (St Paul only).

Dessert specialties include Pineapple Upside-down Cake, Chocolate Pudding, Rhubarb-Strawberry Shortcake, White Birthday Cupcake, and Big Cookie of the Day.
Price guide: Breads $2   Veggies $3.75/5/9.50   Grains/Beans $3.25/4.50/8.50   Sandwiches $6.50-9.50  Meat/Fish $5-20 (Served 1/4 lb, 1/2lb or 1 lb)    Desserts $2-5

What we ordered: We started with the Corn Bread Muffins with Honey Butter ($2/ea).  These were big muffins, moist and on the sweet-side from the honey butter glaze.  Very tasty!

Corn Bread at Brasa ~ St Paul, MN

Corn Bread at Brasa ~ St Paul, MN

The Pulled Pork at Brasa was delicious! It was seasoned with Mojo, which is a marinade of lime juice, garlic and olive oil.  The pork was tender and quite flavorful, the marinade was distinct yet subtle.

Pulled Pork at Brasa ~ St Paul, MN

The Braised Beef was out of this world!  The meat was very rich, tender and moist, cooked in a sweet and flavorful red sauce (made with brown sugar).  A pound of this delicious beef might not go very far, depending on how hungry you are!

Braised Beef at Brasa ~ St Paul, MN

Braised Beef at Brasa ~ St Paul, MN

I had never had Fried Yuca before, but so glad I tried these Crispy Yuca Fries!  They were thickly cut (like large steak fries) and then fried like potatoes.  The taste of them was similar to potato but with a hint of sweetness and more flavor! They were served with a delicious homemade cilantro-lime-garlic mayo for dipping.  So darn good!  I wish more restaurants would start serving these, they are a great change-up from the usual potato french fries.

Crispy Yucca at Brasa ~ St Paul, MN

Crispy Yucca at Brasa ~ St Paul, MN

Service: We were lucky to find a parking space that was relatively close, as parking on Grand Ave can be tricky sometimes!)  We sat ourselves as the sign indicated and were greeted by our server within just a few minutes.  Our server was very friendly and helpful with the ordering process; you could tell she genuinely enjoyed everything on the menu!  The food took awhile to be served but I have to admit I was starving and slightly impatient.  Everything was excellent.
Overall Impression: I had heard about Brasa long before I had the pleasure of eating there and can honestly say its reputation is well-deserved.  The ingredients are fresh, all natural and local.  The Roasted Pork is delicious and the Braised Beef is phenomenal.  Prices are a little high but the food is worth it!  Try the Crispy Yuca Fries!

Written by Kristi Sauer

Related Posts with Thumbnails]]> Tue, 4 Jan 2011 15:19:51 +0000
<![CDATA[ Crave ~ Mall of America, Edina, and St Louis Park, MN]]> Cuisine: American, Sushi, Seafood, Steaks, Pasta
Restaurant Features: Bar, Happy Hour
Locations: Mall of America, Edina (Galleria), St Louis Park (Shops at West End)

Addresses & Maps:

Mall of America-
368 South Avenue Bloomington, MN 55425 952.854.5000 (3rd Floor Across from Macy's)

520 W. 70th Street Edina, MN 55435  952.697.6000

St Louis Park-1603 West End Blvd. St. Louis Park, MN 55416 952.933.6500

Hours: MOA- Lunch 11a-4p  Dinner M-Sa 4p-10p Sun 4p-8p

Edina- Lunch 11a-4p  Dinner M-Th 4-10p Fri-Sat 4-11p Sun 4-9p

St Louis Park- Lunch 11a-4p  Dinner M-Th 4-10p Fri-Sat 4-11p Sun 4-9p

Links: Crave Website  OpenTable Reservation

Atmosphere: The Mall of America location of Crave is on the 3rd floor of South Ave, across from Macy's.  The restaurant is large and spacious, with a large bar off to the left side near the entrance and a sushi bar centrally placed along the wall in the middle of the main dining room.  Although the majority of seating is at tables throughout the dining room, there are also several high-backed booths that allow for more privacy.  The lighting is dim and romantic, with mood lighting created by the illuminated art behind the sushi bar and the softly glowing candles at each table.

The kitchen is open along the back of the restaurant, with subtle views of the place where the chefs work their magic.  The lighting from the kitchen also gives the nearby tables a soft glow.


Menu: The menu changes seasonally and features natural, organic and locally grown ingredients.  All beef is certified beef.

Appetizers on the new Fall Menu at Crave include Calamari, Chicken Satay, Lemon Garlic Wings, Pita & Spreads, Seared Scallops, Baked Crab & Artichoke Dip, Pesto Shrimp, Mini Burgers, Gingered Beef Eggrolls, Artisan Bread Basket, and Edamame.

Salads offered include Asian Noodle Salad, Atlantic Salmon, Steak Niçoise, Starter Crave Salad, Starter Caesar, Starter Roasted Beet & Walnut.  Soups include Hearty Tomato Pesto, Roasted Chicken & Wild Rice, and Leek & Potato.

Pizzas and Flatbreads at Crave are also quite popular.  Flatbread choices are the Roasted Chicken (with pesto, sun dried tomato and portobella mushrooms), Grape & Apple (with Amablu cheese and honey), Thai Chicken (a peanut sauce with cilantro, Asian cabbage and marinated cucumber), and the Napoleon (with garlic prosciutto). Pizzas include Pepperoni or Sausage, Margarita, Shaved Ribeye and the Chipotle BBQ Chicken.

Sandwiches on the dinner menu include Steak Sandwich, Ahi Tuna Steak and Crave Burger.

Pasta selections at Crave include Seas Scallop & Shrimp Fettuccine, Fettuccine & Roasted Mushrooms, Shrimp Scampi Al Fresco, Roasted Chicken and Penne, Baked Truffle Macaroni, Baked Cheese Penne, Spaghetti Pomodoro, and Ravioli Bolognese. Crave offers the option of a half-order of any of their pastas.

Crave has a nice selection of dinner entrees as well, such as the Grilled Petite Tender, Grilled Ribeye, Crab Crusted Filet Mignon, Tuscan New York Strip, Brined Pork Tenderloin, Chicken Stir-Fry, Crispy Half Chicken, Mango & Prawns, Grilled Ahi Tuna, Pistachio Crusted Salmon, Minnesota Walleye, Miso Glazed Sea Bass

The sushi selection at Crave is also pretty extensive.  Nigiri and Sashimi offerings include Crispy Rice Bars with Spicy Tuna, Scallops Poppers, Amaebi (sweet raw shrimp), Hamachi (yellowtail), Hirame (flounder), Hokki-Gai (surf clam), Maguro (red tuna), Mutsu (escolar), Sake (salmon), Suzuki (striped sea bass), Ebi (cooked shrimp), Unagi (cooked eel), Masago (smelt roe), Tako (octopus), Tobiko (flying fish roe), Wasabi Tobiko, and Seaweed Salad.

Maki Sushi offerings are the Tekka (tuna), Sake (salmon), Negihama (yellowtail and scallions), Unagi (cooked eel), Kappa (cucumber), Spicy Shrimp Cones, Chipotle Ocean Roll, Keilani;s Roll (shrimp tempuraavocado, wrapped with eel), Mexican Roll (yellowfin and escolar with avocado, cilantro,  jalapeños and spicy mayo), Number Nine (crunchy Spicy Tuna Roll), Dragon Wraps, Rainbow, Caterpillar, Spider, Veggie Roll, Tempura Roll, Spicy Tuna, California, Minnesota(cooked smoked walleye), Dynamite, Spicy Salmon, Crunchy Roll and Fire Roll.  There are alsoa  couple of sushi combos like the Sushi Sampler, Sushi Lunch Combo and Sashimi Lunch Combo.

Crave also has a delicious selection of desserts that changes seasonally.  The Fall desserts at Crave include Golden Raisin Bread Pudding, Key Lime Pie, Molten Chocolate Cake, Vanilla Bean Cheesecake, German Chocolate Cake, and Coconut White Cake.  The dessert menu also includes a variety of after-dinner drinks such as the Girl Scout Cookie and Buttery Bailey's, Ports and Dessert Wines, and hot cafe drinks.


Price guide: Appetizers $8-13 Salads $8-15 Pizza/Flatbreads $12-13 Pastas $14-24 Entrees $24-37 Nigiri/Sashimi $6-10/order  Sushi Rolls $7-19/order
Happy Hour Specials:


What we ordered: My companion and I started with a couple of the Crave specialty cocktails, the Cranberry Smash and the Blueberry Lemonade.  The Cranberry Smash was made with vodka, ginger ale, mint leaves and cranberry juice.  The Opulent vodka revved up the drink but it wasn't overly strong. The ginger ale gave it a pleasant sweetness that I wasn't expecting, but the cranberries were tart enough to counter the sweetness.  I loved that the cranberries were frozen into ice cubes and floated at the top.  The Blueberry Lemonade was also very good and slightly sweeter than the Cranberry drink.  Excellent blend of flavors.


The Pesto Shrimp appetizer came highly recommended by our server so we started with that.  What a great start to a great night of food! The sauteed tiger shrimps were served
on little slices of crostini toast that had been topped with oven-dried tomato, and then the shrimp toast was covered with pistachio pesto.  The shrimp was perfectly cooked so it was tender and complimented the crunch of the toast.  The pesto sauce was creamy and rich, a perfect sauce to go with the shrimp.


The Panko-Crusted Scallops also sounded really good so we tried an order of those as well.  These scallops may have been some of the best I have ever eaten! The scallops were large and coated with a layer of panko bread crumbs before being seared to a golden brown in the pan. They were cooked so that the meat was tender enough to melt in your mouth, yet the panko and seared edges gave it a nice crunch.  The scallops were served with a dressy arrangement of picatta buerre blanc and fresh field greens.  The butter and capers added the perfect touch of saltiness to compliment the sweetness of the scallop meat.


Sushi Chef Tony Lam brought us a special sampler platter that included a Mexican roll, ceviche, flying fish roe with quail egg wrapped in salmon,  amaebi (sweet raw shrimp), crispy rice bars, prawn heads, and three different fish mixtures atop cucumber slices.

The Mexican roll (pictured top right in photo above) is Crave's most popular roll and became my new
favorite after just one bite.  This roll is the perfect marriage of
Mexican and Sushi, two of my most favorite foods.  It had both yellow fin
tuna and escolar with avocado, cilantro, a slice of fresh jalapeño
and spicy mayo wrapped in rice and seaweed.  It is then topped with a soy citrus sauce (ponzu), and
chili oil with fresh lime juice squeezed on top. It was so good! I
loved the spiciness of the jalapeño, and the lime and cilantro gave it a
fresh citrus twist.  The tuna and the escolar inside the Mexican roll
were very tender and not at all fishy. Bravo!

The Crispy Rice Bars were also wonderful.  The rice cake was like a thick chewy rice cracker and had a lot more flavor than ordinary sticky rice.  It was topped with a heaping pile of spicy tuna mix, flying fish roe, and sliced jalapeno pepper. The combination of textures went together really well and I enjoyed it quite a bit.


The ceviche was one of my favorite items that Sushi Chef Tony Lam made for us to try.  A very thin slice of potato was fried with tempura batter and then topped with sliced raw fish that was marinated with a citrus soy sauce, scallions and fresh chili peppers.  It was packed with flavor and the tenderness of the fish paired with the texture of the tempura potato went perfectly together.

The sushi was so good we ordered even more of Sushi Master Tony's creations.  Clockwise From Lower Left: The Mexican Roll, Fire Roll, Number Nine, Dragon Wrap (top right), Hokki and Hamachi Sashimi, and Scallop Poppers (pictured in photo after the one below)


The Number Nine was filled with pieces of shrimp
tempura, spicy mayo, kaiware and yama gobo wrapped with salmon and
avocado and topped with a sweet soy based sauce. The Fire Roll was filled with pieces of shrimp tempura, cucumber, kaiware and yama gobo wrapped with
a spicy salmon mix and topped with chili oil.  This one was nice and spicy, just the way I like it.  The Dragon Wraps were also good.  Instead of rice, this roll is made with an egg omelet wrapped around  spicy tuna,
fresh water eel, avocado, fried green onions, crunchy flakes and miso
dressing.  Served in two big rolls.
  The Scallop Poppers were also excellent. The scallops were baked in spicy dynamite sauce then wrapped in salmon and topped with crunchy panko flakes. Loved the combination of flavors and textures. 


For my entree I ordered the Crab Crusted Filet MIgnon. This was outstanding! The filet was thick and cooked medium, as I requested.  It had a creamy crab and cheese mixture with just the slightest hint of buttery breadcrumbs baked on top and served on a bed of lobster cream sauce.  This absolutely melted in my mouth. The crab and cheese together created a rich flavor that went slendidly with the tender and juicy beef.  Herb roasted new potatoes and buttery seasoned baby carrots were also served, both were very good.

My companion had the Miso Seabass.  The perfectly-cooked Korean miso sea bass was served atop a bed of steamed white rice and adorned with baby bok choy and a crimson ponzu sauce.  Asian pickled cucumbers sat layered atop the fish.  This dish was delicious as well! The flavorful yet mild sea bass went really well with the sweet, fruity panzu sauce.


Despite being extremely full after enjoying all of this delicious food, we also tried a sushi dessert.  What an extraordinary creation this was! The middle of the the roll had homemade vanilla-bean cheesecake and a slice of fresh mango then wrapped with a thin layer of rice and topped with a thin slice of strawberry. The roll was arranged atop a drizzling of chocolate and vanilla sauce.  The cheesecake and rice were such a unique combo of flavors and textures and together it was like a thick, fruity, creamy and sweet rice pudding.  So different and so, so good!

Service: We had exceptional service at our first visit to Crave.  The hostesses were very friendly and our server, Dawn, was very knowledgeable about the menu and had some wonderful suggestions about appetizers, entrees and cocktails too.  We ordered a lot of food and took our time but never felt rushed since food was paced perfectly.  The restaurant wasn't too busy (nor was the Mall in general) on this pre-holiday-shopping-season Tuesday evening and we were able to get great customer service and attention from everyone all the way up to the manager.

Overall Impression: The culinary and sushi creations were outstanding. I tried quite a variety of foods and loved every single thing.  The Mexican Roll should win an award! There is quite a variety on the menu and the Happy Hour specials are a really good deal.  Great place to have a casual yet elegant dinner and worth every penny for the fine ingredients.  The service was exceptional.  I can't wait to go back again soon!

Related Posts with Thumbnails]]> Mon, 20 Dec 2010 19:52:05 +0000
<![CDATA[ Barrio Tequila Bar ~ St Paul & Minneapolis, MN]]> Cuisine: Mexican
Restaurant Features: Bar, Happy Hour, Nightclub,
Locations: St Paul and Minneapolis, MN
Addresses & Maps:

St Paul- 235 E 6th Street St Paul, MN 55101 651-222-3250

Minneapolis- 925 Nicollett Mall Mpls, MN  55403 612-333-9953

Hours: Mon-Thur 11am-1am   Fri 11am-2am  Sat & Sun  4pm-2am
Links: Barrio Website

Barrio St Paul -Outside
Atmosphere: The St Paul location is in lowertown, on E 6th St and Wacouta, next door to The Bulldog and across the street from Mears Park.  The space is big and open, with wooden floors and festively decorated walls and bistro tables throughout.  On the eastern wall there are also a couple of large, semi-circle booths that can seat up to six people.  The western wall has a very long bar running the length, holding at least 125 varieties of tequila in addition to the popular liquor brands they carry.


Barrio St Paul - Dining Room

Barrio St Paul – Dining Room

Barrio- Decorative Wall

Barrio- Decorative Wall

Menu: Tacos and Enchiladas include Pork Carnitas with Serrano Chile Salsa, Red Chile Enchilada with Chorizo and Fried Egg, Fried Mahi Mahi Taco with Citrus Cucumber Pico de Gallo, Grilled Skirt Steak with Roasted Poblanos, Potato-Chorizo Taco, Chicken Enchilada with Salsa Verde and Crema, and Spiced Shrimp Taco with Tomato-Mint Salsa.

Small Plates include Barbeque Pork Sopes, Diver Scallop Ceviche, Black Bean & Chicken Tostada, Fresh Corn Chowder, Jicama & Citrus Salad, Crab Empanadas with Salsa Verde and Avocado, Potato Sopes with Goat Cheese and Red Chile, Tequila-Cured Salmon with papaya and Avocado, Mushroom Quesadilla, Sugarcane Skewered Tequila Shrimp, Queso Fundito with Tortillas, Spicy Crab Soup, and Guacamole.
Price guide: Tacos $3.50-4 Small Plates $7.50

Happy Hour: 2-6pm Mon-Sat   10-Midnight Sun-Thurs

  • Small Plates $5:   Black Bean & Chicken Tostada,  Fresh Corn Chowder, Queso Fundito, Chips & Dips
  • Tacos $5:  2 Pork Carnitas, 2 Grilled Skirt Steak, 2 Potato Chorizo
  • Specialty Drinks $5: Barrio Margarita, Sangria, and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
  • Pitcher of beer $12:  Dos Equis, Summit Extra Pale Ale, Miller Lite
  • Carafe of Barrio Margarita $18
  • $1 off Rails

What we ordered: We started with a couple of the Happy Hour appetizers, including the Queso Fundito.  The hot, melted Mexican cheese was baked with green chiles and then served in the hot cast iron skillet with a side of warm flour tortillas.  Delicious but cools quickly and the cheese starts to harden again so eat it while its hot! Especially yummy with salsa or even guacamole.


Barrio St Paul - Queso fundito

Barrio St Paul – Queso fundito

We also ordered the Chips and Dips, which came with a large bowl of hot, thick crunchy corn tortilla chips, three different salsas and fresh guacamole.  Each salsa had a unique flavor and ranged in spiciness from mild to hot.  I loved the habanero one especially but the salsa verde was especially yummy too.

Barrio St Paul - Chips and dips

Barrio St Paul – Chips and dips

I also had a Barrio Margarita.  Tart and strong, just the way I like my margs. Have I mentioned how much I like margaritas? They are my all-time favorite drink.

Barrio St Paul - Margarita

Barrio St Paul – Margarita

When I saw that they had fish tacos, I knew I had to try them even though they were deep-fried.  Oh so glad I did, they were wonderful! The crunchy batter actually made it easier to eat the fish because it didn’t flake apart like fillets often do.  There were two mahi-mahi fillets in the order for $3.50 and I was able to make two tacos with the extra tortilla.  What a deal! I loved the fresh pico and jalapenos that topped the tacos, and also the crunch from the cabbage.

Barrio St Paul - Mahimahi Tacos

Barrio St Paul – Mahimahi Tacos

I also ordered the Carnitas (to-go for lunch the next day).  The pork was moist and flavorful, shredded yet tender.  They were served on white corn tortillas and topped with the traditional cilantro and onions, and salsa verde.  Try ‘em, you’ll like ‘em!

Barrio St Paul - Carnitas

Barrio St Paul – Carnitas

One of my companions ordered the Jicama Salad, which was a basic salad with thin strips of Jicama.  Have you had Jicama? It is kind of like a potato, starchy and very mildly flavored.  This salad was not a big hit.  At least not the jicama!

Barrio St Paul - Jicama salad

Barrio St Paul – Jicama salad

Another companion ordered the Tequila Shrimp Skewers.  There were 3-4 large shrimp impaled by the sugarcane skewer, topped with asparagus.  I did not try these but it looked great!

Barrio St Paul -Tequila Shrimp

Barrio St Paul -Tequila Shrimp

Another companion ordered the Chicken Enchilada, topped with salsa verde, fresh Mexican queso, and raw onion.

Barrio St Paul -enchilada

Barrio St Paul -enchilada

Service: I met with a group of friends during Happy Hour, arriving before the crowd when I could still find an open meter on the street.  After 4:30 meters are free.  There were still many tables to choose from and we picked one near the door.  Our server gave us Happy Hour menus and told us that dinner doesn’t start until 5.  Our drinks arrived pretty quickly and we ordered a couple of appetizers.  We had to ask for dinner menus so that we could order once dinner officially started.  Later as our meals were coming out, they brought each item out separately, spaced apart in time.  We thought that was strange, not sure why they couldn’t wait and bring them all out at once? Our group was there for several hours and we didn’t see our server very frequently.  We were not ordering many drinks so the server stepped back and let us have our social time (I will assume that is what she was doing, rather than just ignoring us).
Overall Impression: The atmosphere was great and so was the food.  The food menu is somewhat limited but they have over 125 different tequilas!! The service could be better but like I said, I think our server was just letting my companions and I enjoy our social time.  I’ll definitely be back.

Related Posts with Thumbnails]]> Mon, 20 Dec 2010 00:25:35 +0000
<![CDATA[ Freight House Restaurant & Nightclub ~ Stillwater, MN]]> Cuisine: American
Restaurant Features: Bar, Patio, Live Music, Night Club
Location: Stillwater, MN

Address: 305 S Water Street Stillwater, MN 55082 (651) 439-5718


  • RESTAURANT Sun-Thurs 11am-9pm    Friday & Saturday 11:00am-10:00pm
  • NIGHT CLUB  Friday & Saturday 9:00pm-2:00am

Links:  Freight House Website   Google Map


Atmosphere:  The Freight House restaurant is located near the St Croix River in downtown Stillwater, in a building that was originally built in 1883 as Stillwater's freight depot.  The inside of the restaurant has been converted into a lovely two-story dining room, with a selection of booths and tables.

Freighthouse-insidediningThe decks at the Freight House are vast and spacious, running the entire length of the Restaurant and Adjacent Night Club. There are enough tables to seat several hundred people and also a couple of outdoor bars. Great view of the St Croix!

Freighthouse-outsidedeckThe Freight House also offers Live Music on the deck over the weekends.

Freighthouse-livemusicThere is also a popular Night Club that is open weekend nights, with a full bar and DJ.


Menu:   Appetizers at the Freight House include Artichoke Dip, Buffalo Wings, Onion Straws, Mini Burgers, Pizza Sticks, Walleye Fingers, Zucchini Fries, Rough-Cut Fries, Sweet Potato Fries, Fruit Plate, and Chicken Wild Rice Soup.

Salads offered are the Steak Knife Chicken Caesar, St Croix Cobb and Bistro Salad (with candied pecans, dried cranberries and bleu cheese).

Freight House also has a large selection of 12" pizzas including Margherita, El Taco, Quattro Formagi, BBQ Chicken, Wild Mushroom Brie, Pepperoni, Sausage, and Smoked Brisket.

Sandwiches include BBQ Pulled Pork, Smoked Beef Brisket, Chicken Sandwich, Cajun Chicken, Grilled Reuben, Hawaiian Chicken, Veggie Wrap, Southwest Chicken Wrap, Walleye, Atlantic Salmon, Jumbo Hot Dog, and Fish & Chips.  Burgers include Freight House, MIni Burgers, California Turkey Burger, North Dakota Bison Burger, Black Angus, Swiss Mushroom Black Angus, and Black Bean Veggie Burger.

Price guide:  Appetizers $9-11  Salads $10-13  Pizza $11-13 Sandwiches/Burgers $9-11
Weekly Specials:  Wednesday Night Fish Fry -All You Can Eat Cod, Cornbread, Salad and Rough Cut Fries $12.99 (kids under 12 $6.99)  4pm-Close

What I ordered:  The Artichoke Dip came highly recommended, so my companions and I ordered that to start.  The dip was very good, with several chunks of artichoke throughout the cream-cheese based dip.  The dish was creamy and had cheese baked on top as well. The pita wedges were hot and slightly toasted, a great combo with the dip.

Freighthouse-artichokedip I also ordered a Spicy Bloody Mary, which came with a beer chaser.  I do not often drink Bloody Mary cocktails, but I thought this one was very good.  It was spicy, not too thick, and was garnished with olives & pickle spear.

Freighthouse-bloodymaryFor my meal I was debating between a couple of different sandwiches.  The server helped to make my decision easy when he explained that Freight House uses real corned beef form the brisket, so of course I went with the Reuben (please excuse this terrible photo, the photo I snapped at the restaurant was somehow damaged so this one was taken at home of my leftovers).  The Reuben was great! The corned beef was indeed the real-deal, slightly shredded and piled on top of the grilled marble rye bread, and the Thousand Island dressing and sauerkraut were plentiful.  I ordered my sandwich with the rough-cut fries and thought they were also very good; hot and slightly crispy.

Freighthouse-reubenOne of my companions had the Walleye Sandwich with Sweet Potato Fries.  The walleye fillet was large, lightly breaded and pan-fried.  The walleye had excellent flavor but wasn't very crispy on the outside.  It was served on a toasted & buttered hoagie bun.  The sweet potato fries that my companion ordered were awesome. They were thinly sliced and crispy, the best sweet potato fries any of us had tried before!

Freighthouse-walleyesandwich Another companion had the Smoked Brisket sandwich.  Wow!  This was a monster sandwich, with at least a half-pound of shaved beef brisket and caramelized onions piled onto the sourdough hoagie roll, then covered with melted white cheddar, served with a side of seasoned mayonnaise. Also came with a giant pile of sweet potato fries.

Freighthouse-brisket Another companion ordered the Freight House Burger.  This delicious, flavorful burger comes from grain-fed Black Angus and is topped with sauteed onions, wild mushrooms and white cheddar cheese then served on a toasted ciabatta roll.  Sweet potato fries were selected as the side.

Freighthouse-burger For dessert we shared the Turtle Cheesecake.  The cheesecake itself was very creamy and good, but when drizzled with caramel and pieces of cinnamon-roasted walnuts….. we have a big winner!  Extremely delicious and rich, perfect for sharing.



Service: Our service at the Freight House was excellent from the time we arrived.  The hostesses and manager were very friendly and the server was also great.  Our visit took place on a very nice, busy weekend day and my companions and I were all impressed with how quickly our drinks and food were served.

Overall Impression: The Freight House is the perfect place for patio dining, especially if you like a nice view of the water.  The inside is nice as well and the Night Club is a fun place to go on the weekends.  The service was excellent and the food was very good.  I would also recommend checking out the Minus 5' Ice Lounge that is temporarily located on the deck of the Freight House for just a little while longer!

Related Posts with Thumbnails]]> Mon, 20 Dec 2010 00:18:54 +0000
<![CDATA[Barrio Tequila Bar Quick Tip by KristiSauer]]> Sat, 4 Dec 2010 21:02:53 +0000 <![CDATA[ MN State Fair {2010 Edition}]]> Attending the Minnesota State Fair at the end of every summer is a tradition that I share with many other Minnesotans.  It is afterall, The Great Minnesota Get Together.  Here are some of my past entries about the MN State Fair:  20052007, 2008, 2009 (x2)

What I sampled this year:

London Broil Beef Sandwich

London Broil Beef Sandwich

Corn Dog

Corn Dog

Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry Shortcake

Scotch Egg at MN State Fair

Scotch Egg

Cheese Curds

Deep-Fried Cheese Curds

Roasted Corn

Roasted Sweet Corn

Fried Ravioli at Vescio's

Fried Ravioli at Vescio’s

Other Fair Photos:

MN State Fair

MN State Fair Midway at Sundown

DSC_6365 Midway at Minnesota State Fair Midway at Minnesota State Fair Ferris Wheel at MN State Fair Carousel at MN State Fair


 ]]> Sat, 4 Dec 2010 21:01:10 +0000
<![CDATA[Stillwater, Minnesota Quick Tip by Bethany_K]]> Wed, 3 Nov 2010 13:07:09 +0000 <![CDATA[Uptown Quick Tip by Bethany_K]]> Wed, 3 Nov 2010 12:52:23 +0000 <![CDATA[Longfellow Quick Tip by Bethany_K]]> Wed, 3 Nov 2010 12:45:34 +0000 <![CDATA[ The Great Pumpkin Weigh-Off: Featuring the World's Largest Pumpkin!]]>
It’s fun for both kids (who are encouraged to don their Halloween costumes and petition local stores for candy) and adults (who find pleasure in tasty brews and good music).

The most remarkable occurrence this year was the record-setting pumpkin contest. As you can see from the photos, these contestants aren't messing around with puny pumpkins, these babies are HUGE. In fact, the winner of the Stillwater contest weighed in at approximately 1,812 pounds and set a world record!! Beyond admiring these steroid pumped fruits, local artists please the crowd by carving and molding each of these giants into fun (and spooky) Halloween renderings.


Go early. Parking becomes an obstacle as the day goes on. I recommend avoiding the the downtown main streets and looking for a spot further up the hill. Neighborhood parking is available and free.

You can avoid paying full price for the micro brew tasting if you enter around 1 pm. The tastings only go until 4 pm, so they charge you $15 instead of $25. And you'll still have plenty of time to sample the alcohol. Remember as long as you have a bracelet on (given to you when you enter the tent) you can go in and out of the tasting tent as much as you like.

Stick around for the pumpkin smash. It's usually around 4:30 pm and one of the large pumpkins is hoisted from a crane in the park and dropped in front of the crowd. It's quite a hit!

Bring your camera. The size of the pumpkins alone are worth a snapshot or two, but the rest of the festivities, the river and fall leave change make perfect polaroids.

While you're there, don't forget to check out the local shops! Stillwater has an abundance to offer in regards to gift boutiques, antique stores and fine dining.]]> Tue, 19 Oct 2010 14:24:32 +0000
<![CDATA[ The Most Beautiful Urban Marathon in America]]> This weekend I had a chance to participate in the Twin Cities Marathon… as an observer (you were about to be impressed with me though, weren’t you?).  I had the pleasure of watching my fiancé run his second marathon. 

After watching him train for months, this was a highly anticipated day and certainly an exciting event to witness. Though this was not my first marathon (I’ve watched a couple in Boston), it was my first time knowing one of the runners.  That made the experience all the more meaningful and impressive.

The Twin Cities/Medtronic Marathon had over 12,000 runners this year and is said to be one of the most beautiful marathon courses in the country. It begins at the Metrodome, winds around the Minneapolis lakes, up the Mississippi river and ends at the Capitol in St. Paul.  It was a gorgeous day, with perfect running weather and outstanding scenery. With the fall leaves starting to turn and crowds out in droves cheering and encouraging, it was quite a sight to behold.


Here are my tips on participating as an observer:

It can be a bit crazy trying to find parking at some of the key places you might want to watch the runners. I saw a number of people biking and though I drove, it seems that a two-wheeled transportation method is certainly the way to go.  You can get a bit of exercise and also enjoy checking out the various hot spots for cheering without the hassle of navigating small streets and worrying about avoiding the race course.

It’s important to coordinate cheering spots with your runners (you know approximately when they will be there and they know where to look for you). Prime cheering spots include: Lake Calhoun, along Minnehaha Parkway, Summit Ave, John Ireland blvd (which is the last mile and also where most people go to watch the runners finish).

Bring snacks for the runners. They really appreciate it and it’s nice to feel like you can participate and help them in little ways. Great snacks include:  jolly ranchers, gum, bananas, oranges, beers (Believe it. People really do drink as they go!).

Cheer! I asked those I know who ran if it really makes any difference and they insist that the cheering is certainly motivational and gives them an adrenaline rush. Every bit helps!

One thing I found a bit frustrating is the finish line area. It was packed and difficult to see. And it can be hard to find people finishing the race. There is also secured post-race area for runners picking up their metals, re-hydrating, eating, resting, etc.  Make sure you communicate with your family and friends where you want to meet up once they finish the race. Some runners have cell phones with them, but most do not and you really don’t want to make them look for you after running 26 miles:)

Overall, I was impressed with the general sense of camaraderie that marathon provokes for runners and observers.  People of all ages and physical capabilities were out there giving it their all and I was proud of their efforts. It’s quite an accomplishment and I look forward to giving it a go myself some day down the road.

]]> Wed, 6 Oct 2010 18:54:23 +0000
<![CDATA[ If I was a professional chef, I'd shop here.]]> If you’re a foodie, aspiring foodie, wanna-be chef, a professional chef, or just enjoy standing in your kitchen admiring your pots and pans, then Chefs Gallery is your must-shop spot for all things culinary- related.  Not only is it conveniently located on Main Street in Stillwater, but this store has everything that William Sonoma does and more (at a better price!).

I’d like to say I shop here to ramp up my own stash of cookware and kitchen gadgets, but alas, I normally frequent Chefs Gallery for gifts.  On the bright side, I can pretty much do all of my holiday, birthday, wedding, or bridal shower purchasing at this one location (extremely efficient!).

The CG offers everything from high-end pots and pans, utensils, cookbooks, mitts, bake ware and cookware.  They have a beautiful assortment of china, wine glasses, and artisan crafted pottery that also make great registry gifts.  And their refined selection of gourmet foods, jams, spices, and mixes take your oh-so-average recipes up another notch. I’ve also found their olive oil product lines to be the most extensive in the cities, with a nice range of quality and price options.

Though Chefs Gallery is often extremely packed with both tourists and locals, their employees are always professional and usually available to answer you product questions.  And they will even teach you how to cook!  Each week they host cooking lessons featuring local chefs. Topics varying from knife skills to grilling seasonal veggies, mastering Spanish tapas to concocting fall soups.  Classes are fun for both dates and group parties.  Highly recommended for anyone interested in cooking, food, and fun!

Bon Appétit!

]]> Wed, 6 Oct 2010 17:38:01 +0000
<![CDATA[ A local treasure filled with exceptional artisan finds!]]> My home décor style sways between modern and funky to vintage and rustic. Having eclectic taste can make it hard to shop in the standard Crate and Barrel stores of the world (hello, overly expensive while also lacking distinctive products).  And on the flip side, the mom and pop shops often don’t have the depth and quality of product I crave.   So I was pleasantly surprised last weekend when I found a St. Paul staple for distinctive artisan gifts and furniture.

Artful Belongings, located just off of the hustle and bustle of Grand Ave., does a fantastic job of meshing handmade items with vintage home décor. The store is small and the owners create an intimate and personal atmosphere for shopping. Highly recommended if you are looking for funky items you won’t find in your best friend’s apartment! Some items I loved: Retro-printed posters (think Great Gatsby) and fun, bold color prints by artist Bonnie Taylor Talbott with titles like ‘Paris Calls Her” (they have a quite a large selection), vintage collectible glass bottles by James Dietrich, Kinzig lamps and cool kitchen accessories.  

Beyond personal home decorating, Artful Belongings will also be one of my new frequent stops for house-warming and gift-giving finds.  They have a healthy selection of vino-friendly accessories from bottle toppers to silver cheese labels in Brie, Camenbert, and Jarlesburg.  Plus their gift registry takes the pain and pondering out of gifting for friends that can be difficult.

I love shopping local and giving back to small business owners who are daily giving it their all to provide a product and service that their customers will appreciate. Artful Belongs is certainly one of those locations and tops for distinctive items at great value.

]]> Tue, 28 Sep 2010 16:02:31 +0000
<![CDATA[Minnesota Vikings Quick Tip by garydale]]> Sat, 29 May 2010 06:18:01 +0000 <![CDATA[ Art Deco Dream]]> When my friend invited me to her wedding in downtown Minneapolis I decided to check into the W Minneapolis – The Foshay for the event.  In typical W style, the hotel is dark, sleek and sexy, with 229 style driven rooms.  Housed in The Foshay building, which was for many years the tallest building in the city, the W retains the essence of 1920’s art deco design.

Not only is it cool to look at, it’s got great history!  Built in the 1920’s by entrepreneur Wilbur Foshay for his personal office space and home, the building opened with grand event attended by dignitaries from around the world. A John Phillip Sousa marching band song was specially written for the occasion.  Sadly, the building closed only months later with the stock market crash of 1929.  The Foshay Tower was fashioned after the Washington Monument and is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

Reopening several years ago, The W Minneapolis style is hip and trendy yet preserves the art deco façade of roaring 20’s, giving it an original feel that is symbolic of that era. The rooms are large, well appointed, with very cozy pillows and beds.  Each room has a 37” flat screen TV and lots of Bliss Spa products in the large marble bathroom.  

Of course, the location is fantastic, located right downtown. The W is position near the best shopping, theatres, sports event venues, and great restaurants.  If you don’t want to go far, the hotel is connected to Manny’s Steakhouse, a Minneapolis institution for red meat and potatoes.
I didn’t have time for the renowned spa facilities, but I did have a cocktail on the 27th floor Prohibition Bar and took a trip up to the 32nd floor observation deck for a fabulous view of the city. (Both are a must if you are staying at the W!).

Other fun perks: The hotel also has something called” Whatever/Whenever Service”, simply tell them what you want and they will try to find it in the Twin Cities.  And for dog lovers, the W is a pet friendly hotel.  With an extra charge per night, your pooch or cat can stay, have a walk and enjoy the same cool lifestyle as you.
]]> Fri, 21 May 2010 17:03:59 +0000
<![CDATA[Minnesota Twins Quick Tip by MichaelN]]> Fri, 23 Apr 2010 15:19:19 +0000 <![CDATA[Minnesota Twins Quick Tip by Bethany_K]]> Thu, 22 Apr 2010 21:11:45 +0000 <![CDATA[W Minneapolis Quick Tip by Bethany_K]]> Fri, 16 Apr 2010 23:33:07 +0000 <![CDATA[ The Nuer are Newer than You Are]]>
The Nuer are pastoralists from southern Sudan. Their language is Nilotic and they are closely related to the Dinka. As the second largest ethnic group in their region, they number at least a million people. The Nuer are probably better known to most students of anthropology than any other ethnic group in Africa, due to the very influential studies of them by E.E. Evans-Pritchard, beginning with field work in the 1930s and continuing into the 1950s. Africa has changed dramatically and often violently since those years, but Nuer life at home has maintained many constants, including poverty and a daily routine of cultivation and animal husbandry. Evans-Pritchard described a culture in which cattle were the center of most social interactions and of self-recognition. Needless to say, the Nuer who have fled the Sudan and landed in Minneapolis have not been able to bring their cattle, and thsu their culture, along.

At the time of Jon Holtzman's study, "several hundred" Nuer families were living in Minnesota, with others scattered in various cities of the USA. Since kinship networks were not and could not be transferred to America, most of the Nuer are essentially strangers to each other, and a tight, isolated, self-sufficient community has not developed. Rather, most Nuer have found themselves in a situation of anomie, with most of their focus on material survival. Unlike some immigrant groups, the Nuer did not leave much behind in terms of material goods. In the Sudan, their material possessions were minimal and utilitarian, aside from cattle. Hence, in Minneapolis, they have readily accepted the clothing and furniture and material accoutrements of the American Way, though chiefly in second-hand and shabby forms.

"Gender, Generation, and Family Change" is the title of chapter five of Holtzman's study. The title almost tells the story, and its the familiar story of crises inside the immigrant's most precious alliance, his own family. In their Sudanese homeland, Holtzman writes, "children and adults tend to operate in very different spheres." This pattern has continued in America. While small children spend MORE time indoors with their parents here than in Africa, Nuer parents are uncomfortable with American notions of adult supervision and discipline. Most of the Nuer who came to America were themselves quite young, so at the time of Holtzman's writing, there were few teenagers, most of the kids were small, and education in American terms was just beginning to become an issue. Already, I suspect, much has changed. There has been a dispersal of Nuer families from Minneapolis to less costly living places, small children have become American teenagers, and, as invariably occurs, further immigration has followed the familial grooves cut by the earliest arrivals.

Holtzman spends a lot of his time describing the interactions of the Nuer with their hosts and neighbors, some unpleasant and edgy but many remarkably generous and tolerant. Familiar stuff, really, to any reader whose parents or grandparents were immigrants with stories to tell. Minnesota is a culture where churches serve not only individual but also communitarian needs, and Holtzamn describes the earnest efforts of various Christian denominations to include and inculcate the Nuer. It's mostly an admirable effort. Economic inclusion of the Nuer has been more problematic, even in the church context. Holtzman touchingly describes the efforts of one church to hold together a Nuer "congregation" by providing transportation; the effort collapsed when there just wasn't money in the coffers to purchase a van. Almost all Nuer have spent some time on public welfare, but fortunately for them, unskilled jobs are numerous in Minneapolis, especially in meat packing and other food processing industries. Thus employment is surprisingly high. And waht does a Nuer want first with his American paycheck? A car, of course! The car opens better employment opportunities, but it also provides self-esteem and status. The Nuer come to the automobile, however, with little experience and no mechanical training. The cheap used car they buy tend to break down fairly quickly in the harsh Minnesota climate, to the mystification of their owners. As one Nuer told Holtzman, "the car is a bad cow!"

What importance does Nuer immigration have for America at large? So far, the Nuer presence has been small, but their story is multiplied by the experiences of numerous other immigrant groups from lands dissimilar to the United States in every way. The Nuer have been lucky in meeting a generally positive and open response from the old immigrant stock of Minnesota. Immigration is a "hot button" throughout the United States, however. A tightly focused case study such as this can shed more light and less heat on the issue.]]> Tue, 3 Jun 2008 12:00:00 +0000