Not quite enough to Crave

A restaurant review of Crave, Downtown Minneapolis. I give it *** stars.
Ah, yes, another great rooftop patio! Great, modern seating with a view of Hennepin Avenue, and the sun keeps shining for several hours at that height. One of the final 2014 World Cup games had just finished, so I thought I’d honor the poor Brazilians by having a Capirinha. Of course, my first Capirinha was skillfully mixed by a Brazilian so I knew how it should taste. The drink arrived in a hard plastic, tall glass with a lot of ice and a couple of limes. It smacked of pre-made mix; not a special house-made mix. Strong, but not good. My cousin arrived and she ordered a mojito. We basked in the sun and, much to our surprise, watched a very long Shriner’s parade below. For some reason, they had hundreds of go-carts driven by the old Shriners in their maroon felt caps!

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We ordered the fabulous Mediterranean platter which consisted of hummus, dusted with a nice smoky paprika, kalamata olive spread, whole kalamata olives, cucumbers and a zesty red pepper spread.  As the sun started to drop below the buildings, my cousin ordered her favorite Asian chicken salad and I ordered the Margherita pizza, sans mozzarella, with kalamata olives and mushrooms. The herbed pizza was very flavorful but appeared to be not just baked but fried on the edges.

This place could certainly step it up a few notches by replacing the fake grass wall by the lounge with wall plants and add a number of Palm trees throughout the patio. The food is good, but they really need to think about hiring a head mixologist!

All the smelly people

Where DO they all come from?

 

I went to a great performance at one of our local art museums the other night. We found our seats, sat down and anticipated the show we were about to see until, suddenly, I was overcome by a very pungent, sour smell which seemed to be emanating from the young guy a few seats ahead. His curly hair was kind of messy and his fingers were constantly twisting one lock of hair, as if he were creating future dreads.

My “knee-jerk” reaction was familiar, since I had experienced this smell many times before. I wondered to myself why he couldn’t just take a shower like everybody else. Couldn’t he smell himself? And what about his girlfriend to his right? What did she think about all his smelliness? Sure, I have some friends who bathe less who have that ever-present natural hair oil smell or a subtle, shall we say, mustiness. But this sour smell was most likely the result of not bathing for weeks, if not months.

I wanted to get down to the bottom of this curious state of being, so I Googled it. I typed in the key words, “stink punk body odor people who don’t bathe”, anxious to find the physical and perhaps the psychological reasons for not bathing regularly. The first page of results turned up the usual rants and judgements from a multitude of people complaining about the issue, but nobody really came up with a reason for why people would choose not to bathe.

“I’ve known plenty of punks who did not shower. I think the reasons for this is kind of obvious — environmentalism, rejection of consumer culture or wasteful Western-centric habits, mostly rich kids who wanted to piss off their parents…”

“I noticed a lot of people in art school went almost overnight clean-cut kids to fixed-gear riding, bike messenger idolizing, PBR drinking, tattooed, smell-you-from-a-block-away non showering types.”

“To me, it is common courtesy not to offend the olfactory senses of those who surround me.”

“There’s a big difference between normal human scent and stale, skanky scent. To really build up a good stink, you need a few days accumulation and a not-so-great diet, possibly including a lot of booze. It means your personal hygiene is lacking to the point you may be sticky to the touch.”

Physical

In the animal kingdom, some species produce a strong body odor to confuse a predator into perceiving that the prey animal has been dead for a long time and is already in the advanced stages of decomposing. There are several possible reasons for humans having noticeable body odor.

First of all, we all perspire, but perspiration itself does not smell, however the growing bacteria in it does. Bacteria feeds off of the moisture and heat found in armpits which can leave a distinctive aroma as it decomposes, leaving that odor known as B.O.

If someone has a serious medical problem, no amount of personal hygiene care will cure the body odor problem. Intrusive body odor can also be caused by hormonal changes in children who are going through puberty or women with menopause.

Diabetes. People suffering from untreated Diabetes may have an ammonia body odor and a sweet, fruity breath. This is particularly true when a person’s blood sugars are not controlled with medication and they develop the condition called ketoacidosis.

Kidney Disease. Bad body odor can also be a sign of liver or kidney disease. This means that the body cannot process or remove certain toxins due to the affected organ.

Thyroid Disease. Sometimes an overactive thyroid can cause body odor due to the tendency of the person to sweat excessively as a result of the overactive thyroid gland.

Trimethylaminuria, a.k.a. Fish Odor Syndrome. Trimethylaminuria is a rare disorder that causes a defect in the normal production of an enzyme called flavin. When this enzyme is lacking, the body loses the ability to properly convert compounds in food to aid normal digestion. As a result, the person’s sweat, urine, and breath give off a strong fishy odor.

Alcohol-induced cirrhosis of the liver. Alcohol-induced cirrhosis is the phrase used to describe deterioration of the liver that has been caused by drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, usually over many years. The liver normally produces bile, which helps digestion, regulates glucose, helps clot blood, regulates iron, produces amino acid and cholesterol and converts body wastes. Signs of liver disease include excessive sweating, foul body odor, red and swollen eyes, acne, a coated tongue, itchy and irritated skin. This body odor has a distinct smell of rotten eggs.

Tuberculosis. Tuberculosis is an infectious bacterial disease characterized by the growth of nodules in the tissues, especially in the lungs. Untreated Tuberculosis can produce a body odor that smells like stale beer.

Hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating. We have two types of sweat glands. Eccrine glands produce odorless sweat, made up of mostly water and salt, which helps cool the body. The other glands are called apocrine glands, which secrete a fatty sweat inside the gland, close to hair follicles on the scalp, underarms, and genitals. This type of sweat is excreted on the skin’s surface when we exercise, feel stressed, or become over-heated. Bacteria feed on this kind of sweat, and the odor comes from the breakdown of chemicals.

Psychological

Ablutophobia. Some people suffer from this disorder which is an extreme and irrational fear of bathing, washing or cleaning.

Bipolar Disorder. Bipolar Disorder is characterized by alternating periods of elation and depression. During the depressed state, the person may not get out of bed for days or weeks, cannot concentrate, and often avoid showering or changing clothes for days.

Diet

Eating certain foods like onions, garlic, spicy foods, fried foods, baked goods that contain rancid fats and oils, and drinking coffee and alcohol cause body odor.

Garlic and onions contain a substance called allicin that cause their odor to linger on for hours after we eat them.

Spices such as cumin and curry may also cause body odor and bad breath. The oils from the spices are absorbed in the bloodstream, are released through our pores and from the lungs when we breathe.

Broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. These vegetables contain sulfur, which the body breaks down into compounds that are similar to those responsible for the smell of rancid butter.

Red meat can contribute to body odor. A study published in the journal Chemical Senses, in 2006, found that people on a vegetarian diet had less intense body odor than those who ate meat. The amino acids in red meat leave a residue in the intestines during digestion. Intestinal enzymes break down that residue, which then mixes with bacteria on the skin during perspiration and intensifies body odor.

Processed food. Refined sugar in processed foods, as well as their high glycemic index are contributors to body odor. Sugars in the blood alter the make-up of perspiration in some people when combined with bacteria on the skin. Processed foods also lack chlorophyll, the chemical that gives vegetables their color and neutralizes the bacteria that causes body odor.

Fried foods. Fats and oils in foods that are fried and fatty become rancid over time, and can lead to poor digestion. Just think how many times that oil is used to fry french fries and other deep-fried foods.

Excessive alcohol. When you drink alcohol, most of it is metabolized in the liver into acetic acid. But some of the alcohol is released through sweat and the respiratory system. So if you overdo it, not only will your breath smell, but the odor may also come out of your pores.

Medications and supplements

There are a number of antidepressant medications that can cause sweating and subsequent body odor.

Other medicines used to reduce a specific type of fat in the blood and shut down the production of certain hormones for cancer treatment, as well as medications to treat seizures and epilepsy may cause body odor. Some people take supplements such as garlic, which may also cause body odor and bad breath.

Smoking. Cigarettes are a major cause of body odor, and not only does it come back through the lungs, it also comes through the skin. Nicotine, and the resulting smoke, mixes with the body’s chemistry to create a distinct odor.

Cleansing Reduction Trend

In modern day Western society, the idea of showering less than every day is unpalatable for most people. In the past, it was acceptable to bathe only once a week. While it may offend some of us who are accustomed to the scent of our overly perfumed bodies, showering less has been found to improve our skin and boost health benefits.

Better for your skin. Instead of bathing every day, some folks bathe once or twice a week on the grounds that too much cleansing can strip the skin and hair of essential natural oils. It has been said that we are also stripping ourselves of “good” bacteria that may have beneficial healing properties.

Better for the environment. A study conducted in the UK by consumer-goods giant Unilever patented a device attached to the shower heads of 100 households to monitor water flow and study the duration of 2,600 showers over a period of 10 days. They found that people who showered used a lot less water than those who took baths.

As for the hair-twisting guy two rows up at the performance, I still don’t know the reason why he was smelly. Was he suffering from a mental illness? Was he taking medication? Was he part of the cleansing reduction trend? Did he just have a spicy Thai curry? Or was he smoking and drinking all night long? I guess I’ll never know.

Bland Mexican: Nico’s Taco and Tequila Bar

Okay, I know it’s not fair to review a restaurant on its first day, but hopefully it will be more helpful than hurtful. I was sad to see the Birdhouse leave after such a short stint, but happy to see that a Mexican restaurant was swiftly moving in, with an emphasis on “tequila bar”.

We sat down in the new chairs and anticipated the spicy food and special margaritas. As I scanned the menu, I realized that it was probably thrown together very quickly, on account of all the typos. No big deal. It’s their “soft” opening and all the bugs will work themselves out over time. Our server greeted us immediately and talked about some key items on the menu. This attentive, sincere service was not expected, given the fact that this new Mexican venture was owned by Amore Victoria. Even though she pronounced the “lls” in tomatillo, I still thought she was very charming.

We ordered the house margarita and the special blood orange margarita. Our server reassured us that it was a “house-made” sweet and sour mix. It really was quite mediocre. My partner’s blood orange marg tasted like a suped-up lemonade. I’d stick with a safe Sierra Nevada or a more expensive tequila. By the way, most of their tequilas are blanco and cheap, if you know what I mean.

Then came the guacamole in a machine made molcajete. It was simply bland, made with mashed avocados and not so ripe tomatoes. What happened to the serrano chiles and fresh lime juice?! The salsa verde, with chips, was definitely from a jar and the chips had no flavor. I swear there were a few stale ones in there too. We both ordered batter fried cod tacos and shrimp tacos on flour tortillas. Our server must have seen us make a face because she came back immediately with two surprisingly spicy salsas.

I really hope they get it right at Nico’s Taco and Tequila Bar. They have a lot of competition that could very well wipe them out. I’m not sure I would go back for the food until then. For now, I only wish that I could have the same server at a better Mexican restaurant.

Running toward better health

6a00d8341f7e1253ef01901ca7a1d3970b-800wiI’ll have to say that my best workouts come from running. It’s the only aerobic exercise that makes me feel like I’ve been challenged and I’ve worked hard. I was introduced to running around the time I took part in track and field in junior high school. At the time it was just short sprints that were fortunately over and done with in a matter of minutes. I had always been on sports teams throughout junior high school and high school; playing tennis, soccer, cross-country skiing and running the 400 and 800 meter, and high jump. In my senior year, I started my regular running routine which meant getting up at 6AM to run two or three miles before school. Only then did I discover that euphoria you get during your run. It’s kind of like a drug, but one that’s healthy and makes you feel great.

To compete or not compete

I typically get asked the same question when people get wind of my running schedule. They ask, “So, have you ever run a marathon?” I consider running a part of my life and a regular exercise routine, so I don’t feel the need to compete against anyone but myself. My Mom ran her first marathon at 50, and 4 consecutive marathons after that. She wanted to do it, so, good for her. It’s just not for me.

How to best trod the path

I have had a number of different types of running shoes over the years. For a few decades, of course, I had the typical fully loaded, shock absorbing running shoes from New Balance, Saucony and Nike. For a while I was true to one Nike Pegasus.

A few years ago, I was allured by the idea of barefoot running. I wasn’t ready to run skin to the pavement quite yet, but I was open to almost flat rubber shoes with moveable toes. You know, like the old toe socks? I bought my first pair of Vibram FiveFingers®, founded by Vitale Bramani who is credited with inventing the first rubber lug soles on mountaineering boots that used to have leather soles and steel cleats. I tried to start slowly on these funny new rubber shoes. I ran shorter routes and tried to focus on running from the middle of my foot to the toes instead of the standard heel-to-toe that was always drilled through your head with the old style shoes. After a few weeks of running, I developed a problem with my right heel and always came back with bloody feet from the sides of my feet rubbing against the shoes. I took a forced break from running to let it heal and later resumed with my old running shoes. The Vibrams are now only used for kayaking the city lakes or working in the garden.

6a00d8341f7e1253ef0192aa6614bd970d-800wiErnesto began investigating new styles of barefoot running shoes on the internet. An avid runner himself, he wanted to truly evolve into the barefoot running experience. I will say that barefoot running isn’t for everyone. If you have any kind of irregularity with your feet such as pronating, I’d stick to the old skool shoes. Ernesto found a new barefoot running shoe that had just a hint of support. The two companies, New Balance® and Vibram FiveFingers®, joined forces to create a new barefoot running shoe that was just as flat with a minor amount of extra support and no separated toes! I found my color, bright orange with white piping, and once I got them in the mail, I resumed my barefoot running routine. This time I was careful. I started out slowly, landing in the middle of my feet and running only on softer surfaces like dirt paths around the lakes, and any patch of grass I came across; no concrete or asphalt if I could help it. To this day, I’m able to continue running in these “barefoot running” shoes.

Measuring my mileage

I’ve tried a few running apps, but the best one so far is Endomondo. It calculates your mileage via GPS, tells you in a computer voice at each mile how long it took you, creates a map and allows your friends to send you “pep talks”. It also gives you the option to post on Facebook, so all your friends and family know how active you are. It only works outside the health club though, so if you want to run around the indoor track, it just gets confused and your map will look like a plate of spaghetti!

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I hope to continue running as long as my legs will carry me. I think it’s the best aerobic exercise. It’s always a challenge and I never get home and regret what I just did.

Spill the Bill

I finally made it to the new Spill the Wine, now located on Bryant Avenue South and Lake Street. What a great location, compared to their last place on Washington Avenue where they were neighbors with Grumpy’s. The food I had at the former location was very good; mostly fresh pastas with a variety of ingredients to choose from. I took my Mom to the new one. I was anxious to see the new menu, even though it was brunch on a Saturday. I perused the menu that had many fonts and sizes and realized that I’d be requesting a handful of sides, since each item either had meat, cheese or eggs and sautéed with butter. I have a plant-based diet without any processed food or oils, but I usually make small compromises when I go to restaurants.

I noticed that they had collard greens, shiitake mushrooms, arugula and potatoes so I asked our server if the cook could put these items in one dish as a sort of makeshift vegan entree. All is well with the order, accompanied by a nice dry white wine. My mom ordered the big plate jumbo burger with pork fat and a side of tasty paprika fries. My food came in separate plates: first the potatoes brava, then the golden beets with balsamic vinegar and the grilled cauliflower with fresh arugula. The food was very good, despite the separate plates. My mom also enjoyed her burger and chose to take half of it home.

When the bill came, I wasn’t surprised at the usual price for two people: $55. But when I took a closer look, I realized that I had been charged for the equivalent of three appetizers. My vegan makeshift entree of separate plates came to $15 versus my mom’s big plate burger of $11. I’m not sure if this was a deterrant to vegan or vegetarian patrons, but I certainly felt cheated. I was confident going to the new Spill the Wine that it would be just as vegan-friendly with these items documented on the menu, but I was wrong. I’ll certainly think twice about going there for a meal. Perhaps I’ll just have to spill the wine next time.

Zorn Noir

6a00d8341f7e1253ef017eea0b4f7b970d-800wiJohn Zorn. I was thinking John Cage before I went to the Walker Art Center tonight to hear the first set of John Zorn’s “The Hermetic Organ”. So, since I had heard plenty of Phillip Glass’s minimal, almost meditative compositions, I was ready for just that. Then again, it couldn’t be John Cage since, well, he died in 1992. This was actually the first time I had heard John Zorn’s music. Better late than never, I guess!

The stage was set with a lot of instruments, most of them string instruments like a cello, violin and a stand up bass. To the left we could expect, maybe, to hear Zorn play the piano or the organ. A drum set occupied the back of the stage and a full set of congas to the right, accompanied by a huge drum on its side and a gigantic gong.

6a00d8341f7e1253ef017d42970655970c-800wiA young, 30s-ish dude entered the stage in a black t-shirt with some Chinese characters arranged vertically up the back and green fluorescent camouflaged cargo pants. He waved the cellist, Erik Friedlander, onstage for the first solo performance. The solo cello music reminded me a bit of Kronos Quartet at first, but they took on a very interesting Middle Eastern, sort of gypsy Klezmer sound.

The next set brought the bass player, Greg Cohen, cellist Erik Friedlander, violinist Mark Feldman, and the dude in the camouflage pants back to the stage. The dude in the camouflage pants simply sat on the floor with his back to the audience, alerting the musicians to begin playing. Okay, so now I realized that the dude was really John Zorn who is celebrating his 60th birthday with this amazing composition and fabulous ensemble of master musicians. Later on, percussionists Cyro Baptista and Kenny Wollesen and electric guitarist Marc Ribot entered the stage.

I’ll have to say that I was on the edge of my seat the entire set. I was expecting a musical contemporary of Phillip Glass, but found that John Zorn’s piece was part improvisational jazz, influenced by Klezmer music and taking full advantage of the many sounds of traditional Middle Eastern music. There were a lot of complicated half notes; thankfully no major keys. As the set evolved, It really sounded like a musical score for a Coen Brothers film, Lone Star or a classic spaghetti western. It turns out that Zorn has a twenty year history of musical scores for mostly art house films. I could certainly envision a Zorn musical score for the next season of Breaking Bad.

Too bad we didn’t have tickets for the set at 10pm when the organ and piano will be played and several other musicians will add to the mix. But we will catch the final set at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, across the street from the Walker Art Center. To top off his birthday celebration, John Zorn will be performing a free midnight solo organ concert at the church.


John Zorn became established in New York City in the mid-1970s and has composed and performed with a wide range of musicians working in diverse musical areas. He has an amazing way of borrowing musical influences from many cultures and transforming it his into his own unique mix. He spent this teenage years listening to classical music, film music, and, “listening to The Doors and playing bass in a surf band.” He taught himself about orchestration, transcribing scores and using them in his own compositions, a procedure he calls “plagiarizing, stealing, quoting, or whatever you can call it”, of collage and transposition into his own world, that he has been using throughout his career.

The Evolution of My Consumption

Part One: Meat

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I grew up eating what I thought was a pretty healthy diet. I had a variety of meat like pot roast, steak and hamburgers, turkey and on special occasions, chicken kiev. Meat was always accompanied by boiled potatoes, peas, broccoli or other vegetables. Then there was a salad with iceberg lettuce, sliced tomatoes and a store bought dressing in a bottle. The four food groups were addressed: meat, vegetables and salad, a glass of milk and perhaps canned peaches. Okay, in the summer we did have fresh fruit.

I was always doing some kind of sport like biking or playing tennis. When I got to junior high, I joined the mostly boy soccer team, then in high school I made the tennis team, cross-country ski team and took part in track and field. It was at that point when I really started running seriously. I’d even get up before school to run a few miles. But I had the same diet. I was truly a meat-eater.

I decided to wait it out a year after high school before going to college. I think this was a good idea. Although, one day my Mom insisted that I dust the living room furniture. At that point I had had enough and I wanted to live in my own place. I put my hands on my hips and said to her, “I feel like I’m living in a hell hole!” Late teenage angst. I called my friend Renee that day and we planned to start looking for an apartment to share in Minneapolis.

6a00d8341f7e1253ef017c383a8227970b-800wiMy new found independence brought on ideas about food and the environment in general. I got my second job as a nursing assistant at a local nursing home and started college at the U of MN. My roommate and I parted ways after six months and I found myself in a new apartment. That summer I got a job as a door-to-door canvasser for Greenpeace-Great Lakes. I met a lot of people concerned about the environment and specifically our great lakes.

I got to know Lincoln at Greenpeace. We did fun stuff like biking around Lake of the Isles at midnight and stopping at the dock to put our feet in the water. Lincoln had me over one day after canvassing and made me a sandwich. I took a bite out of this towering sandwich, which was delicious. I realized that it was different in some way. I said to Lincoln, “Where’s the meat? What, no cheese?” He told me that he was a vegetarian, so the sandwich didn’t have any meat or cheese; just vegetables.

Part Two: Lacto ovo-ness

At this time in my life, I didn’t have a whole lot of money since I was a student so I didn’t buy meat or fish. I became a lacto-ovo vegetarian which means I didn’t eat any meat, fish, turkey, chicken or pork. I ate eggs on occasion and always had milk in my cereal. Several six month leases later, I thought I’d introduce seafood back into my diet. I had some shrimp at an Italian restaurant which gave me urticaria. Urticaria produces itchy, mosquito-like welts all over your body. I let it take its course, since I didn’t have health insurance or a way to “Google” my symptoms, and it eventually went away after about two weeks. I chocked it up to a possible seafood allergy. It was actually reassuring because then I could say that I don’t eat fish because I’m allergic to it. Back to my lacto-ovo vegetarian diet.

Part Three: The Pescatarian

There comes a time when you just want to be like everyone else; eat like everyone else. Who wants to be that picky person who eats a certain way or tries to influence other people to change their ways? I dared to eat fish again. I didn’t have that same allergic reaction which was probably only because the shrimp I had eaten was bad. It’s all about “sustainability”. If only I could find out what fish to eat. What fish were sustainable in the ocean? Which fish should I avoid in order to keep them from being caught in nets or keep them from having their fins cut off and left to die in the ocean? I could protect them through my buying power. The Mediterranean diet is the best diet, right? Those omega 3’s with wild caught salmon or line-caught sardines would keep me healthy, and my cats happy.

Part Four: My plant-based diet

6a00d8341f7e1253ef017c383a8164970b-800wiI never really thought I was ever overweight until I started comparing photos of myself over the years. There is such a thing as a “junk food vegetarian”. If you have a “vegan” diet, what does that mean? There are a lot of processed foods that are labeled “vegan” or “natural” or “organic”, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are healthy.

About four years ago I was diagnosed with intermittent asthma and just two years ago with pre-diabetes. What was it about my diet, which was mostly vegetarian, supplemented with olive oil and fish once a week, that wasn’t right? My husband had started looking into what is called a “plant-based” diet. I was skeptical for a while, not wanting to give up my artisan cheeses, sardines, salmon and marinated mock duck. I’d always say, “What are we going to eat? Nuts and berries? How are we going to get enough protein?” Food is very personal and important to all of us. I love to cook. I had my favorite recipes that called for ingredients that wouldn’t coincide with a trial plant-based diet.

So what exactly is a plant-based diet and where did all of this start?

A plant-based diet consists of whole grains, legumes, a broad spectrum of fruits and vegetables and small amounts of nuts and avocados. Oils such as olive oil or canola oil are not recommended. All vegetables and grains have protein; yes, protein. Processed foods should be avoided at all costs.

There’s a really good book called the China Study, written by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, a well known cardiology doctor from the Cleveland Clinic, his son Thomas M. Campbell II, a physician and Jacob Gould Schurman, a professor of nutritional biochemistry at Cornell University. Dr. Campbell was also part of a food documentary called Forks over Knives.

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They conducted a 30-year study to find out how animal proteins affect the human body’s vulnerability to chronic diseases. They did several studies on mice as well to coincide with their human studies. Time and time again, they found that diet was the main cause of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, obesity, neuromuscular diseases and diabetes. They also discovered that these diseases could, in fact, be reversed by changing one’s diet.

I still don’t think that I am predisposed to diabetes or heart disease. I am not doomed to inherit these diseases from my parents. I think that diet has a lot to do with how healthy we are. Exercise is of the utmost importance. And most of all, stress can have a detrimental affect on our health.

I’ve been on a plant-based diet now for about two years. I no longer have asthma symptoms, I have yet to have my blood tested to see if I am still “pre-diabetic” and I’ve lost 25 pounds. I’m lean and mean and love my food. If you ask me, I’ll tell you all about it. I want to live a bit longer than my grandmothers who lived to be 95 and 96.

Master manipulator of character: Kevin Spacey

“The less you know about me, the easier it is to convince you that I am that character on screen. It allows an audience to come into a movie theatre and believe I am that person.” – Kevin Spacey

Kevin Spacey has indeed played a long line of dark, manipulative
characters; we love to hate his well executed villains. Here are some
of my favorites:

Se7en (1995)
His “John Doe” is mostly a voiceover. Do we ever actually see him? His mere absence from the film actually makes his
character all the more intriguing. Seven is a film about two homicide detectives’ hunt for Spacey’s serial killer who justifies his crimes as the world’s ignorance of the Seven Deadly Sins. John Doe’s victims involuntarily play a role in his version of the Seven Deadly Sins: Wrath, Envy, Greed, Pride, Lust, Sloth, and Gluttony.

The Usual Suspects (1995)
A boat has been destroyed, criminals are dead, and the key lies with the only survivor, Verbal Kent, and his convoluted story incriminating five career crooks in a police
lineup. The mysterious Keyser Söze, the mastermind of the big heist, remains at large until the end.

American Beauty (1999)
6a00d8341f7e1253ef017d4197968c970c-800wiLester Burnham is a middle-aged corporate cog in the middle of a mid-life crisis. He decides to turn his life around after quitting his job. He chides his wife, relishing in her dissatisfaction with his new attitude.

6a00d8341f7e1253ef017ee90b5d37970d-800wiLester and Carolyn Burnham appear to be the perfect husband and wife, in a perfect house with untouchable upholstery, in a perfect neighborhood. But Lester finally snaps when he becomes infatuated with one of his daughter’s friends. It’s refreshing, in a strange sort of way, to watch him rebel against this perfect suburban enclave.

House of Cards (2012)
Francis “Frank” Underwood is a conniving congressman from South Carolina who loses his chance at being the next Secretary of State. He does what it takes, with his wife’s undying support, to get what he wants, crushing everyone in his path. He develops a relationship with young Zoe who releases media scams along the way via social media, and contributes to their dysfunctional sexual relationship.

6a00d8341f7e1253ef017ee90b5e6b970d-800wiHouse of Cards is one of a handful of series put up by Netflix. The first 13 episodes were released at the same time to addicted series
viewers. Netflix’ twitter feed tempted us all with their tweet:“How far into House of Cards are you? Don’t forget to shower, eat something, stretch! #watchresponsibly.”

Kevin Spacey definitely has his roots in theater. In February of 2003, he made a major move back to the theatre. He was appointed Artistic Director to save the famous Old Vic theatre. His first production was the September 2004 British premiere of the play Cloaca. He also made his UK Shakespearean debut in the title role of Richard II in 2005. He starred in Eugene O’Neill’s A Moon for the Misbegotten along with ‘Colm Meaney’ and Eve Best, and in 2007 that show went to Broadway. In February 2008 Spacey put on a revival of the David Mamet 1988 play Speed-the-Plow.

“I was beginning to feel I just didn’t want to go through another 10 years of living in hotels, making three or four movies a year. I long for the ritual of theater. I adore it. And I want to do plays that challenge me. The movies are not my first priority – the theater is.” – Kevin Spacey

Whatever the case, he thrives in both theatre and films. I’ll be looking for his next villain – to love to hate.

Saving a furry friend

6a00d8341f7e1253ef017c371b03b4970b-800wiWhen I came back to work today, I passed through the Elliot Park clinic building. I noticed that the security guard had a pet carrier. As I got closer, I realized there was a beautiful black and white cat inside who barely fit. There was also a yellow plastic bag with a bag of cat food and a dish. On the side pocket of his carrier there was an orange slip with “Fluffy’s” known credentials. The security guard was about to call animal control until I said “No! They’ll kill him! Please call the Animal Humane Society.” She called, but they don’t pick up animals. In my shocked state I heard myself say “I’ll take him!” Fluffy had been abandoned in one of the clinic hallways. It was pretty clear to me that this person couldn’t take care of him. I took him to the AHS, petted him as much as I could, gave a donation and left all teary-eyed. I’m sure he’ll be adopted soon. He’s very cute!

Smokin’ the craft house brews

I really searched high and low for a good gastropub in Minneapolis. I wanted to find a pub that made its own beer and provided great pub food. Northbound Smokehouse Brewpub is a cozy pub with hardwood floors and sun pouring in its floor to ceiling windows. The staff is very friendly and helpful. The three of us started out right by ordering the 5-beer sampler; the best way to try out all of their well-crafted beers. I liked them all, but if I had to choose two of the best they would have to be the Honey Wheat (definitely NOT a “flavored” beer, which I detest) and the smooth Light Rail Pale Ale.
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Since most of the stuff on the menu was smoked, I thought it best to order the smoked trout wrap with granny smith apples and mayo, but opted out of adding Havarti. I’ll have to give the food another try, but I’m always disappointed when it comes out in plastic baskets. The onion rings were great, but the french fries were greasy, so the side of garlic oil wasn’t going to make them any better. I hope the food improves. Otherwise, I’ll just come back for the excellent beer.

Total rating for the food: 3
Total rating for the beer: 5