Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Grey House - Farm to Table Uptown Minneapolis

The fixed price menu is a great way to sample a chef's skills.  Today, I walked by The Gray House, in Uptown Minneapolis, where Chef Ian Gray, personally greeted me and talked about his technique, good food and sourcing his seasonal menus from as many local farms and food cooperatives as possible throughout the year.  Though, during our harsh winters, he does source with farms out in California.  It was before dinner rush and he looked fresh for battle.  It had been a long cold winter and everyone is ready for spring.  So are the local businesses.

Chef Gray
Drinks are priced well, with an excellent selection of IPA beers that are handcrafted in Minnesota and Wisconsin.  The wine list was a good mix of domestic and international blended, white, red and sparkling wines.  I am sure I could have asked for a pairing recommendation, but I felt in the mood for a nice Italian sparkling white wine.

 Though the space is small, it feels wide open and the interior is kind of designed like an exterior of a Gray house.  It's simple, clean, almost zen-like, but not in an antiseptic kind of way.  You feel like you could come here with a group of friends and just hang out or have a business lunch/dinner here.  It's intimate enough for a date-night and casual enough to wear jeans.  That's hard to pull off.

Tonight I decided to try the three-course for $20, for a couple of reasons, it's economical and I wanted to see what $20 will get you in terms of a high quality chef and I wanted to see what kind of ingredients he would use.  That's tough in this industry when you are trying to keep your doors open and at the same time, attract new clients.
 The first course is the same.  You have your mixed greens in a vinaigrette.  As more people are getting educated about their food and the technique that goes into making a salad, I can tell you this is not a sloppy salad.  The knife cuts that demonstrate technique are as precise as a surgeon with a scalpel.  Paper thin textures of assorted root vegetables that showcases skill, fine julienned red onions danced with the brussel sprout leaves and greens.  This salad was not drenched, but perfectly coated with vinaigrette.
This was the perfect opener.

My palate was clean and ready for the next course.

 The next course was a savory sausage over a bed of cheesy polenta.  The flavors just complemented each other incredibly well, great mouth feel and the portion size was good for a hearty lunch or a light, but substantial enough, dinner.
The final act in this play is a hand crafted gelato. Pictured is the salted caramel, which was sinful enough to want more, but it does satiate the sweet tooth.

For $20, yes, you can have a gourmet experience and have quality service.

Of course, The Gray House does have a full menu, with an incredible assortment that is always changing as the seasons change.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Sex, Love and Craigslist

A single woman posted an ad on Craigslist today that caused a huge response in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. I know, because I was that poster that happened to browse through the personals.  Blame it on a long winter, or a touch of Spring fever.  Whatever that fever was, I had a Jerry McGuire moment at around 2 am.  The headline was "What This Woman Wants".  Two hours later, my email alerts were coming in like popcorn.  First slowly, than as the Twin Cities woke up, my email account exploded.
"I just checked the posts and there was something rather depressing. Some people are so jaded, only posting about what their needs are and giving a whole list that when you sum it up, they might be better off with a prostitute to service them. To be incredibly honest, no one is looking for anything lasting. Perhaps a bandage for their emotionally mangled lives. If it sounds like I am being judgmental, I am. We all are when we read these posts. The real questions we should be asking is do we really even know how to love? Seriously, if all you are looking for is sex, you might have a great relationship with your hand, but another living, breathing person who is this illusion of who your ideal might be isn't really going to cut it for any of us looking. We grow intolerant as the years go by, perhaps less forgiving, less patient and the honest truth is we are incredibly selfish people who are basically trying to find our own reflection in a stranger's eyes. I have my ideals, you will have yours, but what if we tried to be the kind of person we were searching for? Or are we trying to find a person that compliments our shortcomings? Chances are, if there is a person I don't like, I can't image doing anything with you. If you are a person I want to get to know, I would go through hell and back just to be with you. That's how it works. I wouldn't have to like what you like, or live the way you live, but I would have to feel some incredible force that would draw me to you and THAT is what I am looking for. To be honest, it's rare, but it's real. I don't settle for anything fake in my life. I don't have time for that kind of crap and neither do you. I don't care what you believe. I only care that you are in possession of a heart. Who we are, essentially is what we decide to reveal to the world, and frankly people mostly lie or identify solely with a title of their choosing to create an identity because they have forgotten long ago what has given them life. The type of man that I have been attracted to in the past, well, he's a man. I have had long term relationships, they tend to teach me more than having a high body count (that was when I was young, and I wouldn't qualify those as relationships, more like editing along the way the kind of man I don't want to be with). So, if you are still out there, in this city, and you happen to be reading this, it's your choice. Either we find each other in the most serendipitous way possibly, or you reply and start a conversation. For the young men who are looking to fulfill some "Mrs. Robinson" fantasy, no thanks boys. I have a son who is older than you, and for me, that is NOT a fantasy I am going to enact in this lifetime. AGE: 48 -58. Fellas, I have only one physical requirement. Be in shape (mentally, emotionally and physically). I have one relationship requirement: Be unattached (I am not looking for a Duece Biggalo). Be yourself. I may have to face the reality that a lot of you are married and that I may be single for the rest of my life. That's fine. I am OK with that. However, I thought I would toss this note in a bottle for one last attempt to try to meet you. This imaginary person in my head, the construction of my own imagination or somewhere out there. Don't worry, I am not looking for someone to save me. I most certainly am not going to try to save or change you." That love...that ultimate intangible."

The response wasn't that I was necessarily looking for attention, but I was expressing what I was seeing.  Had we really just come to a point where we stop seeking relationships and just use message boards to hit up each other for sex, because no one is willing to risk their hearts?  I considered my own life. Seriously, I hadn't WANTED  to open up myself.  I hadn't wanted to be vulnerable.  By being anonymous, I found that I was feeling the freedom to simply express the observations of what I was seeing.  From 2 am - 10:21 am today, I received 50 responses before my ad was flagged for being 'inappropriate'.

I only received three replies that unleashed a world of hate towards me, waiting to bait me with the ever popular C--- and unleashing assorted personal attacks.  Sadly, they personalized my observations and didn't realize that they were about the general quality of Craigslist posts.

47 messages were incredibly encouraging.

"im 25 years old and I AM NOT LOOKING TO HOOK UP WITH YOU !!!! i just wanted to wish you the best in finding someone to love and spend the rest of your life with, i was in a relationship for 6 years, and ive been single for a little over a year now and i have pretty much givin up on even trying to find anyone..."

That means the MAJORITY are also tired of the meaningless kinds of 'relationships' that are advertised on Craigslist.  

"I sincerely hope you connect with someone worthy of the mind and heart you so obviously have. 
I don't do online dating at all and have only recently perused the CL lists out of lonely curiosity, originally only looking for a cheap bed (the furniture kind, that is), but from the few days I've peeked in on these personals I can heartily agree with how sad so much of the people's atittudes are towards approaching a relationship. 
We've both made it through a very hard winter that is perhaps a good metaphor for the state of our hearts, and I wish you luck and hope the Spring finds you some joy."

"What you said in your post so eloquently describes what's wrong with many of us, men and women, in today's society. I'm 25, and I hate how my generation defines Love and Relationships. I can't find anyone compatible because I get labeled "Old-Fashioned" and "Desperate" because I'm paying attention to what emotions a person invokes in me and vice versa. Your words stated that perfectly and it's refreshing to read. "

"(Begins slow clapping)
Good morning,
I'm glad that someone has FINALLY had the guts and nerve to address the issues with a lot of these posts and the impossible matches they're looking for.
I agree that almost all men on here are looking for sex and that's it, there's nothing wrong with wanting to have sex but it doesn't compare to making love with that special person who you connect with on multiple levels. I've had two partners in my life and it's by choice, I'm a gentleman who takes the time to know someone before just jumping into bed with them.
I wish you the best of luck on your search and wish you happiness."

But mainly  this response was what I was seeking, a confirmation that I wasn't the ONLY one who was seeing this.

"Enjoyed Reading your posting!
I am a bit too old for you at 59, But yust wanted to let you know
there are guys out there looking for the same things.
   Again Well Said! and Best wishes in your search."

No, I really am not seeking anyone through the virtual world and I am NOT criticizing people who do find love that way.  If it happens for me, I want it to be in the real world through an imperfect situation in the course of everyday life.  That's how I would love for it to happen.  

However bleak it may look, there are others out there wanting to believe again, but this time, I think we are all realizing that a list doesn't really work.  What does work is being that person that is loving and kind in order to attract the good in the world.  Or something like that.  We are NOT alone.  

Here's to love and not giving up.  Love still exists, with or without someone to share it with.  

Friday, February 7, 2014

A Chateau in France for 10 Euros

In France, to love money is evil.  To give the poor a chance of owning a home for 10 Euros (approximately $14 USD based on today's rate of exchange)?  A beautiful woman who was trying to sell her home for what she needed/wanted wasn't able to secure her asking price.  So, she consulted with her lawyer and decided to hold a contest.  You pay 10 Euros via PayPal.  She sends you two questions.  If you are the winner, you get the home 

Sounds simple?  Well, it reminded me of the classic mythology where you are asked a question.  The wisest answer will win, not the smartest one.

If you feel like helping this lovely woman out, enter the contest.  Use your best French.

And, for a moment, be like me, a co-owner in this house with a vested interest until that day when a winner is declared.

Bon Chance!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Not an "Appetite for Destruction" nor is it "Eat, Love, Pray"

Paul Moeschell's Pope Soap and Candle
It's been a very busy time in my life.  It's kind of like turning soil to get the oxygen back into it.  I decided to update this blog with a visual representation of things I have been involved with or acquiring sans the philosophies I tend to regurgitate here.
My Hippie Self

Also I would like to thank the 40,000 global visitors to my little world.  I tend to think of myself as a global citizen, since I have walked down some of your streets, been in your valleys and have seen some of your mountain tops.  By no means am I done exploring.
Chicken Chausser, Rice Pilaf and Glazed Carrots
 This summer, I decided to return to school, to do something I love, for the benefit of others.  I am in culinary school, doing well, and I thought I would share some of the things I am learning.  As one of the chefs shared with me, "you must learn the rules---then you can break them."  How many things does this proverb apply to?  Countless.  At least for me, I found a number of times in my life where I followed everything to the letter only to scrap all of the 'rules'.

Winter Approaches
It's winter.  It's Christmastime.  It's the end of a year where you shouldn't really ever look back, but look at where you are right now in order to see where you will be in the future, and ahem, not really so damn much about the future IF you are happy doing what you are DOING right now.  The future does take care of itself.  I didn't get that  for a long time.  I was so damn busy planning my life, I don't think I was really living my life.  The consequences, well, I may have slept through about 17 years of my life.  Maybe that's a bit harsh, but when I think about it, I may have been operating on auto-pilot for a bit there.  A living coma where one day bled into the other and I forgot how to live.  There were so many promises I made to myself that I almost forgot about them.  (I know, good for me...yadda, yadda, yadda).

Primal pork cuts

A nice transition point, just doesn't seem to be found.  There was a lot of taking dead animals, processing them into beautiful meals to nourish others.  I had been a practicing vegetarian, most of my time abroad.  I started thinking about life, death, the way we deal with death as a culture and how we tend to judge others by what we eat.  Everything has life.  Everything dies.  We sometimes have different experiences that take us into  different experiences.

Gnocchi and Pork


Dinner at French Meadow


Brussel Sprouts


Lapin with Risotto 

Liver and Onions

There I was, eating meat again.  I made the decision before I went to culinary school.  However, there was a difference in my approach.  I held a deeper respect for what I was consuming, whether it was plant or animal.  Their lives were sustaining mine and made me think of how we all sustain each other.  It's a very intricate system of life/death.  It made me a lot less judgmental, yet, that doesn't lessen the need for us to be more respectful  and balanced in our utilization of our resources, no matter what they are.  Some people eat the way they do for a reason or a season.  They change for a variety of reasons they came into on their own.  We all own our decisions, live with the consequences and go from there.  If we really tried to please everyone, we please no one, not even our fragile little ego is horribly damaged by catering to others.

So I came into this experience, telling myself, "I know  nothing."  I ate everything, even things I would have never dreamt of ever eating again.  

It was a slaughter of indulgences.  However, I was careful to keep track of how much I was eating.  And it was A  LOT OF FOOD.

To be fair, I did give a lot away because I did listen to my body and cut myself off before that critical explosive point.
Veal Blanquette

First Avenue
Complete emptiness 
Mayor R.T. Rybak's Farewell Bash
Chastity Brown

In the midst of all of this creating and replicating I was discovering all of the rules I wanted to break in the future.

I was really learning about was our bodies have for wants and needs.  Like realizing we really do need protein and there are things that animals to give our bodies to help them heal.

I also had the pleasure of meeting a local Minnesota Folk Singer, Chastity Brown.  I actually didn't really know who she was when I met her, which is good.  We had a nice conversation about literature, words and Ernest Hemingway.  I was talking about myself, which more about my excitement about being home and how bizarre it seemed to me.  It's kind of like waking up from a coma, though I was away for 23 years, my friends are older, the places have changed with time and I wasn't here to see it all.

First USA Edition Acquired
Chastity was gracious and patient as she listened to me quote Hemingway's theory of life, as being a "moveable feast".  Perhaps  there is a certain bit of gluttony on my part.  The same kind that Henry Miller had about life, wanting to experience the zealousness of the eternal moment.  In any event, I am glad I discovered the music of Chastity Brown.  I liked what I heard, she uses and choses words well and has a powerful voice.  It's authentic.

So much great food

 So  as I go through the pictures of some of my culinary productions from this year, I pinch myself because I have never worked in a professional kitchen and I realized that not once did I say to myself, "I can't do this."

Perhaps I said to myself, "don't know a damn thing."  When I realized I wasn't the expert I was able to do by 'not doing'.  "The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing."  -- Socrates                  
Writing Again
So, after all, of what I could, or should, or would be doing is right in front of me.  Lessons or no lessons.  The action of inaction was my teacher during these wonderful months of learning how NOT to know it all, and meeting a lot of wonderful people along the way.  It's a break for a season.  In the depths of the cold snows of Minnesota, where life is just waiting under the surface to be reborn.  
Looking forward by looking at my present

That really is why I love being here.  You witness rebirth every year.  A clean slate for the world.  Isn't that beautiful?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Culinary Photo death

This is the very last image my Nikon shot.  I squeezed every bit of life out of my camera I could.  This object, that was a companion in South Korea, China, throughout Europe, in Washington DC, New York City, and now home here in Minneapolis threw itself into spasms while I was taking photographs of a duck that I had respectfully fabricated.

An object that ceased to be useful, yet I was accustomed to its usefulness.  That is how technology has been for me this year.  I was really impressed with how it lasted.  Almost all of the images on this blog were taken with that camera which I had purchased in South Korea, when my other camera could no longer handle the task.

I have to say, I haven't wanted to migrate to a smart phone.  I spent hours looking it over, and each time, I close the window without a purchase.  It's just not the same.  I don't want to post every picture.  Sometimes, I just want to look at something differently.  Sometimes, its a random moment that I am trying to capture.  Sometimes, I learn from the simple things, by how they stack up and I just stare and I think about what I learned through those pixels.

Those are my lessons.  I chose to learn something for the moment that made it tangible to me.  Just as all of you, out there, do for yourself.  I opened the cart, looked at the new phone, with built in camera, but I don't have that same excitement.  I made a realization, that I don't want that jazzed up phone.  I realized in a moment, when my camera died, why I loved my camera.  The editing I can do and though I don't have to 'share' those images, I just don't want them on a phone.  I think it's kind of strange to all of a sudden feel this strange aversion to technology I normally love.  I just can't explain it.  So I opened the cart and closed it a few more times this week.

And I realize I just want another camera.  I don't want or need the other gadget.  I am thankful for what I already had.  So I will pick up another camera.  One that I feel good about using.  That if I drop it, it won't shatter on me in tough times.  I need a workhorse.  I need a good shot.  Down to the last kill, with over 48,000 miles under its belt, through x-ray machines, ceremonies, artists homes, strangers on the street, to solar eclipses on the other side of the world.  It was a well used, and somewhat abused piece of equipment that served me well since 2009.  It died in the presence of me.  One knows the difference between a low battery and equipment failure and this was equipment death, the screen went black.

I tried to coax it back to life, pushing the power button, taking out and reinserting the battery, and it flipped open its lens for one last shot, I photographed my efforts and then the screen went into all assorted colors, withdrew its lens and closed up for good.  It was dead.  Even mechanical things die.  We also die.

I recently got news that I wasn't so excited about hearing.  I have a growth.  I have to have it removed.  I have to make other decisions.  The last thing I wanted to die around me was an object that had nurtured my global voyeurism.

I am going to be fine.  So many of my friends have survived so many forms of cancer, it's become an expected thing to go through it.  As I told one of my friends, "death has kissed both of my cheeks and forehead, it has yet to kiss my mouth."

As many of you, who have taken the time to read my blog, by now realize that I like to use everything around me to tell a story.  Sometimes it's in a very old parable sort of way.  Sometimes, you get the point right away and sometimes, I just let you figure it out for yourself.

Truth, will, for most of our lives, be debated as absolute knowledge.  It's never that way because life is always changing.  We one were babes who couldn't walk.  One day we could run for miles and never tire.  Nothing is wholly one thing or another forever.

I am enjoying my culinary life.  I am taking pictures.  I am making wonderful food and I am writing again.

This blog was special, because it was my note behind to let friends and family and whoever else was interested, that I was OK.  I am horrible with talking on the phone.  Always have been.  I wanted them to know what I was seeing and learning along the way and that I loved them very much without ever having to say the words.

This is going to be my only public confession of my struggle, because I don't want to talk about it.  We all die, but a friend of mine said to me, dying is easy.  Not everyone really lives.
This is what I am taking with me, my heart and my memories.  I have already had an intense life and it's going to be that way until I die.  It's too easy to love sadness.

I recently received a ring, with my birthstone,  the inscription simply says "Life goes on with you or without you."  Life is life, and for many, it's not really a full comprehension of what it really means to get this experience of actually being.

I cannot afford to be negative.  I remind myself of a very important fact.  Without death, there is no life.  It would be merely, existence.  That is why everything will always change.  So even if I win or lose this battle, it really doesn't matter.  It's inevitable.  Death is coming because we all live.  We aren't merely existing.

One of my favorite lines is, "The darkness doesn't last forever."

To be able to do what you love with complete enjoyment is a rare and treasured gift.   Perhaps that is a horrible way to end this piece, but when you start trying to think of a profound thought to finish with, it just comes out forced and preachy.  We all go through something.  Big things, little things like paper cuts on our hearts.  It's the little things we ignore, that we shouldn't.  They set the tone for our life.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Joy of Art and Supporting the Artists You Love

The Bride - By Paul Moeschell
Recently I came into possession of a wonderful watercolor by Paul Moeschell, an artist, whose career I have been following for around 5 years.  What fascinated me about Paul, was that he loved art and he creates art because he LOVES his creations.  When I met him in Denver, Colorado for an interview, one thing immediately struck me, he also wanted to make his art within reach of people who loved his work.  Money was not a huge driver in his life.  He was prosperous, but not greedy, not arrogant, very approachable and you get a feeling whenever you look at his world of work, you are looking through his eyes at how he would imagine the world.

I had been waiting and waiting for that one work that he would post on his facebook page that said I had to have.  This beautiful relationship of how an artist connects and creates their work multiplies when the viewer comes in and then that work connects to them.  I knew the second I saw Paul's posting two things; I wanted to support his work and I wanted to look at this work on my wall.  Something about it excited me.  It was more.  I was excited about the acquisition for so many reasons.  Paul had survived a stroke this year.  I wanted to tangibly not just give lip service to someone I genuinely believed in.  His brush with death reminded me of how often we take for granted all of those who are around us, that create on a daily basis.  It's not enough to tell someone you really like their work, their art, their creation (no matter what it is).  Instead of buying prints from a large nameless corporation, search for that local person that inspires you with their work.  What would you like to see on the walls of your home??  Original works from artists within your community or a boring mass-produced print that is little more than a corporate inspirational poster?

I think why people are afraid to buy art is because they think they have to know what art is supposed to be.  The truth is, art is just a word that gets in the way.  Anything that you make a connection to, for whatever reason and is something that provokes you, inspires you, thrills you is something YOU have made a connection to.  YOU are the one 'getting' whatever you are looking at.  The rest of it, doesn't really matter.  That's the deep truth about art, "beauty is in the eye of the beholder.'

For me, the multi-eyed Bride has a significant meaning.  For Paul Moeschell, it was a vision he had during a period of time and he just created what he saw.  There didn't have to be a meaning, but he did have to just go with the flow.

There's a framing shop two blocks away,   I realized I am going to be more acquainted with them and I am going to be looking for more work that I fall in love with, to put on my bare walls.   Happy Hunting.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Photo time and Random Thoughts, Just because it's My Thing

Downtown Minneapolis on a Summer Day 2013
Where's my camera? I am sorry.  I still love my camera and I KNOW there is a camera on my phone and it can do all sorts of wonderful things, but I love my camera.  I have taken my Nikon with me around the world.  I have edited my own imperfect pictures because it was as it happened, while I was out and about doing whatever it was that I was doing, seeing, perceiving, observing...you know, those action word things, called verbs.  I didn't say I did it well, good, or qualified the quality.  I was using and living those -ING words.  The chant of "ING".  Today, I felt a hunger for my camera.  It started again.  I saw moments that I was livING, that felt the familiar crush of words,  'Haya YOU!  Take a picture it's gonna last longer!'  Really, my skull screams at times.  So, I fished it out and realized with incredible sadness that my camera is dying.

The Urban Art of Lake Street
I retrieved the memory card and saw images I hadn't played with yet.  A forgotten walk, with a few pictures that actually warmed me up when I saw them.  The active walkING, the Art viewING, the doINGs of LivING.  
 So why is there this emphasis on the INGs of LivING?  Two words:  "I WISH".  I hate "I WISH".  I read a piece that has been circulated on the webisphere for a few years and I happened to see it again.  The first time I read it, I thought it was so-so.  I shared it.  I became part of that blase meme by sharing it.  I saw it today.  I shared it again.  Top 5 regrets of dyING people.  Notice the action...even in death there is a process.  I stopped and READ it, which means to actually CONSULT, CONSUME, to INGEST the contents.  Not just to let the words flicker, but to let it finally reveal itself to some dark recess in my mind.  And in my case, the nut finally cracked open with a mustard seed of truth.  Two words.  "I WISH".
Minneapolis to the Left and St Paul to the Right.
Wishes are like prayers.  Prayers are like wishes.  "PLEASE, SOMEONE ELSE..."  wait, are you following this train or are you ON the train yet?    Chuga-chuga, chuga...wait.  The whistle is going to blow...

"I wish I had..."  Nothing is more annoying than a person, who had all of the time in the world and didn't realize they didn't come to the understandING that life is NOT about a passive experience.  ExperiencING life means you GOTTA GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY.  
Leaves for Pressing
You can't be afraid.  You have to talk.  You have to act.  You have to stop on the side of the road and pick up the leaves out of the dirt.  You have to OPEN the door and get out there.  Those words are FOR ME...

Do whatever YOU want to do.  I found my camera, my dying camera.  I recharged the battery, but it's still dying.  Even my camera doesn't have to wish.  It traveled around the world with me and it helped me to remember that I didn't wish to live.  I smiled.  I hope I find a really good camera that can take as many pictures as this one did, suffer being dropped without breaking, and an ever faithful companion in strange lands and questionable venues.  

-ING doesn't include wishING.  wastING nor wantING.  That's the way I am goING to think about it. That's my choice.  It's not an absolute truth...there is no such thing because life constantly is movING.