DeKeersmaker me not so crazy

The auditorium grew silent all of a sudden. I’m not sure what triggers this. How do people know to stop talking? Well, there was an older lady behind me who didn’t get the cue, and she continued her conversation for all to hear. The stage was mostly black, with an almost blinding white light filling the space. Then the four male dancers appeared. They danced in tandem, then independently, all in the presence of silence. It was the kind of silence that makes you keenly aware of your fingers making noise against the plastic glass and what seems now to be excessive movements.

The performance is Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker/Rosas’s “A Love Supreme”, an interpretive dance of John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. The next part is very explosive when the music starts; very familiar music. I was trying to figure out if the music was driving me or if the dance was complimenting it. I believe they were complimenting each other, as if DeKeersmaker and Rosa were paying homage to one of our jazz greats. I’m not all that familiar with Rosa, but DeKeersmaker has been around the block. Her choreography puts me through so many emotions. There are quite a few of her pieces that rely on long lapses of time where the dancer doesn’t even move. There can be long pauses when nothing really happens. Her performances make me pause, make me angry, and sometimes relieved. I liken it to having to sit through a lengthy Lutheran church sermon, as if I’m glad that I got through it.

I really liked this piece. It appeared that, much like improvisational jazz, each dancer played a part. Each dancer mimicked an instrument in his movements. There was the bass, the drums, the piano, and the lead dancer played the saxophone. The modern movement was a sudden move in the opposite direction, moving with the beat. I like the fact that DeKeersmaker’s choreography is challenging. It’s not meant to entertain, but to be experienced.

A Second Taste: Trying Nico’s Taco and Tequila Bar Again

nicos-alpha-invertOkay, so it’s been 2 1/2 years since I first tried Nico’s Taco and Tequila Bar on their “soft” opening. Wow. Has it been that long? Every time I passed it, I swore I wouldn’t go back. As we were standing in line behind all the bachelors at Chipotle, my favorite and only “fast” food place, my partner and I looked at each other and pondered giving Nico’s another chance. Heck, they’ve had plenty of time to work out the bugs, so the food must be better. I’ll have to say that I was very impressed by the changes.

We started out with a Tecate, which is not a very common beer to find in local Mexican restaurants. The Mexican beer list was quite extensive. I’ll have to come back to try one of the many tequilas. Next, the trio of salsas took some deciding, among the available six, including: Pico de Gallo, Roasted Tomatillo, Chile de Arbol, Chile Serrano, Ancho Narranja and salsa Verde. I opted for the Roasted Tomatillo, Chile de Arbol and the deliciously spicy and “creamy” salsa verde. And here I thought that cream had been added, but it’s all on account of the whipped avocado.

tacosTwo orders of tacos came next; two vegetable and one camaron. Arroz and frijoles came with the tacos. I was happy to discover the soft corn tortillas, instead of the typical hard-shelled gringo tacos, accompanied by sauteed squash, red bell peppers and charred corn. The shrimp taco had sauteed garlic, chile de arbol, black pepper and lime served on a flour tortilla. The tacos were very good. The only thing I would change would be to have corn tortillas instead of flour for the camaron tacos.

It did take me a while to get back to Nico’s Taco and Tequila bar, but I’m glad I gave it another chance. The “soft” opening is all but a faded memory. I look forward to stopping next time and not just walking by.

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.

A comedy of errors, restaurant style

Whenever my husband and I are in Uptown, we often pass Amore Victoria and wonder if we should try it. We usually resolve that the food wouldn’t be very good and always end up at our favorite Barbette across the street. But this time, we were thrilled to see that Amore Victoria had a brand new rooftop patio! How wonderful! So, we crossed the street and entered on the street level.

Amore rooftop from frontNoone was there to greet us, except when we were able to flag down a server who gestured toward the back of the building. We made our way past the tables on the sidewalk, saw the parking lot and spotted an unpainted wooded staircase. Could this be the entrance to the rooftop patio? We climbed the staircase, took in the view, and tried to find a “greeter”, or someone in uniform. Two servers, who looked like deer in the headlights, hurriedly passed us without even making eye contact or saying they’d be right with us. Fortunately, the busser was very friendly and motioned us to a table with a big tray on it. We walked toward the table and waited until someone took the tray before we could sit down. The busser promptly brought two red plastic glasses with water and a lemon wedge. (Why plastic glasses when all the others are glass? How tacky. Are we at Chucky Cheese?) We waited for what must have been 15 minutes before our server greeted us, saying he’d be right back for a drink order. We watched, for the next 10 minutes, as other tables in this very large section looked around for their server. We casually looked at the menu, knowing we’d have plenty of time to decide before the server had time to take our drink order. At least, we thought, the food COULD be good and make up for all of this waiting. The menu had way too many items. I thought of the wonderfully simple quality menus that Gordon Ramsey usually put together after resolving a kitchen nightmare. We chose the same red wine to make it easy, bruschetta with heirloom tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella, foccacia with mixed olives, potato gnocci with gorgonzola sauce for me and seafood pasta for my husband.

In the midst of all this running around, I noticed one of the owners at the top of the stairs casually cleaning the menus, completely oblivious to the needs of the servers. I couldn’t believe it! Doesn’t he realize that all the servers are totally “in the weeds”?!

After watching our server race back and forth, and up and down the staircase, he finally approached our table when he was deterred by two ladies to our left who were wondering where one of their entrees ended up. He briskly moved down the staircase one more time, returning with her entree. He took a deep breath, pulled out his tablet and asked us if we were ready to order a glass of wine. We gave him our entire order. We continued to watch the chaotic scene and just laughed about it. What more could go wrong here? The wine came promply after we ordered and 15 minutes later the “heirloom” tomato bruschetta arrived. The bread was overly toasted and the tomatoes were small and nothing special. The foccacia was marvelous. Much later, as we were watching the sun go down over Lake Calhoun, our steaming entrees arrived. My gnocci was fabulous…soft potato pillows in a creamy gorgonzola sauce. My husband’s seafood pasta was also great, including the home made pasta. We felt bad for the server because he really was doing the best he could under the circumstances.

Even though most of our food was very good, we will not return to this comedy of errors. I can’t believe Amore Victoria is still in business. It’s too bad. They need a complete overhaul of their menu and they need to hire more servers! Gordon Ramsey, are you out there? This place needs a lot of shaking up!

The Great Guthrie

Ernesto and I went to the first show, the Great Gatspy, at the brand new Guthrie Theatre on the bluffs of the Mississippi and the former grounds of the old flour mills. I was really impressed with the architecture. On the outside, there are giant screen prints of the great playrights and Tyrone Guthrie. The view from the “bridge to nowhere” was the aquaduct-style Stone arch bridge, the mighty river, and the Gold Medal flour mill.

Guthrie600On the inside, it felt like a cross between a modern European airport and Kubrick’s 2001 Space Odyssey. I was thrilled to realize that the thrust stage was retained, the best part of the old Guthrie on Vineland Place. The Great Gatsby was well acted, although a bit week toward the end. This adaptation had a few jokes about Minneapolis and the lesser known Saint Paul where the main character grew up. We wanted to explore the place a bit more, so we headed up to the “bridge to nowhere” toward the narrow bar at the end. The ceilings became lower and lower as we approached the bar. We sat at the bar, staring at the others around the bar who were also patiently waiting for the one busy bartender to make eye contact. After ten minutes, we willingly offered our seats to an older couple and wished them luck. We made our way down to Cue, a beautiful restaurant on the first floor. They don’t serve food after ten, so we looked elsewhere. Fortunately we ran into the cozy Spoon River, one of Brenda Langdon’s latest successes. We had a savory smoked salmon salad with spinach and crostini with hummos, red pepper spread, and kalamata olives.
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Ecuadorian Sushi

origami2After an hour or so of figuring out where we were going to go out to eat, Ernesto and I finally decided to risk getting a table, or not, at Origami. We went to the second level bar for a couple of beers. Time just seemed to drag, and everyone around us seemed to be immediately summoned by their buzzing “table ready” devices. Hopefully we were next.

I began to salivate when our host drew us toward the sushi bar. We were all smiles, ordering warm and cold sake. Our sushi chef cordially introduced himself and coerced us to order only when we were ready. The other sushi chefs were gleefully bantering back and forth with the other patrons, talking about Japanese sushi rice versus Uncle Ben’s “Minute Rice”, a great difference in food culture, to say the least. We scanned the menu, feeling somewhat stifled by the Japanese names for raw fish. I was so used to other sushi bars that actually had the picture of each type of sushi. The obvious choice was the caterpillar, a sushi roll with salmon and sliced avocados. The other orders came easy since we relied on very good recommendations by our sushi chef.

By the time we delved into our spicy Special roll, we had discovered that our sushi chef was saying a few words in Spanish to the other chefs. He just looked Peruvian to me, not Japanese. Turns out he’s from Ecuador! So, we ended up speaking Spanish with our Ecuadorian sushi chef. That just goes to show you that you don’t have to be Japanese to make good sushi. On our way out, we said our arigatos and muchas gracias.