There's something to be said about the joyful expression on the face of a dog that has the opportunity to run free, off-leash, with a group of other dogs, as evidenced by Victor in the photo above.
It was a good weekend here in the Twin Cities for Misplaced.
Friday dawned mild, but cloudy, and as the day went on the skies slowly turned darker, eventually turning into that precipitation that's more than mist, but not quite rain. Added to this was the fact that I was suffering from a mild sinus headache, and was MORE than mildly cranky.
Around 5PM, I quickly fed Victor and Roxie, and took them out for a quick walk to get them their daily exercise before it turned into full-on rain. A few moments before I headed out the door, I got an online message from Wonder Woman (Tara) asking if I wanted to accompany her and run over to Trader Joe's in St. Louis Park to pick up any groceries I might need for the weekend. I had heard about Trader Joe's, but never set foot in one before, so I jumped at the chance to check one out even though I wasn't really in the mood to deal with the public, or shop for that matter.
After a quick ride to St. Louis Park (which was MUCH closer than I thought... I wasn't even aware that we had left Minneapolis when we arrived), I walked into the store, and was pleasantly surprised. Trader Joe's is actually very similar to the Premier Center on Delaware Avenue back home. Groceries on one side, wine on the other. The main difference between the two entities, is that the grocery side at the Premier Center tends to put the "gourmet" tag on everything on the shelves, and reflects this attitude in the prices on the products.
Trader Joe's, on the other hand stocks the same high-end products, but does so under their own private label, and since it's a nationwide chain, they are able to purchase in quantities large enough to increase their margins, while providing a rather substantial savings to their customer base. I was honestly pretty impressed by the knowledge of the staff, and will probably do most of my grocery shopping there from now on.
Unfortunately for my readers back home in Western New York, the closest one to you guys is in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Might not be a bad idea to check out their website, and start demanding one in the Buffalo area... just make sure they build it in the city, and not out in Orchard Park, or somewhere else that it would become a "suburbs only" entity.
After leaving Trader Joe's, Tara spoke eight of the most wonderful words that Misplaced has heard in ages:
"Any chance you're in the mood for sushi?"
My nipples got hard when I heard that. I am not kidding.
It's been months since I had sushi here. The last time I did was at a place on Chicago Avenue I had been to a couple of times before called Ba Gu. The sushi at Ba Gu was nothing short of awesome, but my last visit was slightly marred by the fact that my companion and I were seated close to the door in a nearly empty restaurant on a frigid night, and each time the door opened, I was reminded that it was Winter, and I was indeed in Minnesota. As if that wasn't bad enough, it was also apparently rookie staff night for both front and back of the house as was evidenced by the fact that the entrees arrived at the table at the exact same time as the appetizers... and neither the kitchen staff or our server seemed to think that there was anything wrong with that, and the server seemed puzzled when I asked for my Maki Rolls to be returned to the kitchen until I was ready for them.
Considering that it was chilly, rainy, and I was cranky, Ba Gu was not an option for this Friday night. I will certainly eat there again, but it will be on a fully-staffed weekend night during warm weather.
Instead, Tara suggested that we go to Tiger Sushi, a place that she had gone to with her daughters... her treat.
Misplaced is not stupid. When a woman offers to buy you dinner, especially sushi, and you don't have to put out after, you take her up on it.
Tiger Sushi has two locations here in the Twin Cities area, one in the Mall Of America, that I had passed by and drooled over on a few occasions, and one closer to home in Minneapolis' version of Buffalo's Allentown neighborhood known as Uptown. Since Uptown is only a few blocks to the northwest of my Kingfield neighborhood that location was the obvious choice.
For a few minutes, I was concerned because we didn't have a reservation and it was 7:30, but my fears were unfounded... after all, this is Minnesota and eating dinner later than 7:00 pm is still a foreign concept to most of this states natives. We had the choice of one of the several available tables, or sitting at the sushi bar itself. Of course we chose to sit at the bar, and were introduced to the one and only J.R., a forty-something Japanese man who is something of a sushi god here in the Twin Cities... not unlike Buffalo's Kuni Sato of the late, great Kuni's on Elmwood, and his new location, or his gaijin counterpart, the one and only Mike Andrzejewski of Sea Bar.
J.R. was a one-man show, expertly wielding his knives as mouth-watering creation after mouth-watering creation was assembled under his fingertips and whisked off to the waiting patrons. He also engaged us in conversation, as we were sitting right in front of the station he was working at. (For those of you who don't eat sushi, the opportunity to watch what you're about to eat being made right in front of you makes the whole experience more enjoyable...)
We had a sashimi appetizer of Hamachi (Yellowtail) that was just as good as anything that came from the knives of Mike A., or Kuni, followed by two platters of different Maki Rolls. J.R. engaged us in conversation as he worked, and when we were finished, asked us if we'd like anything else. Since there's always room to eat a few more pieces we said yes. He asked what we'd like and we told him to surprise us. I'm still not sure exactly what it was that he gave us, but it was two different types of tempura seafood, wrapped in sticky rice and nori, stacked up vertically, and dressed with some type of spicy cream sauce.
Tara asked J.R. "What is this?"
J.R. shrugged, said: "I don't know" and set about preparing his next order for three twenty-something guys who had taken the seats to our left. Apparently, they are Friday night regulars at J.R.'s station. They said they come in, give him fifty bucks and let him decide what they eat. He set a large platter with what looked like five or six different types of amazing Maki rolls in front of them.
Now that's the way to do it. I was tempted to reach over with my chopsticks and snatch something from their platter. Guaranteed I'll order that way next time.
Instead, I concentrated on the new platter J.R. had set in front of Tara and myself. I have no idea what it was, but it was good. I sat back, sipped my Kirin Ichiban (probably the best Japanese lager that exists in my opinion), looked around the restaurant, and suddenly became aware of something I haven't seen since I left New York.
Every person in the restaurant was using chopsticks.
There wasn't a single fork in use anywhere. There wasn't even any silverware at any of the table... just chopsticks. I was stunned by this, because in my two prior Twin Cities sushi experiences I was the only person in the place who was using chopsticks. At the Thai restaurant I had eaten at the previous year, I actually had to ask my server for them. The fact that there wasn't a single person present using a fork further affirmed that there are indeed pockets of what I consider normalcy here. I watched most of Peter Gabriel's "Secret World Live" concert to finish out my night and went to bed fairly early.
Saturday dawned sunny and clear, with no hint of the previous nights drizzly misery. I took care of a couple of minor things at the house, but quickly found myself being drawn to do something outside. I decided to push my luck with Tara and see if she wanted to accompany Victor, Roxie and I to the MAC Dog Park again and she agreed. I figure if this neighbor gets sick of me, I can just work my way around the block until I run out of neighbors with dogs... then I'll move on to the next block. It was still sunny, but FRIGID, with the wind chill easily in the low 30's. Two laps of the dog park, then it was back home again. The above photo seems to indicate that Victor did enjoy his time there, short as it was.
Saturday night brought a neighborhood bonfire at King Park, that I attended for a little while with Tara. It was a good opportunity to meet a few more of my neighbors and their kids, and there were also a couple of people present who are involved with the Kingfield Dog Park Committee I recently joined. It looks like I'm going to be the committee member who gets to butt heads with the Parks and Recreation Board and Minneapolis City Council. That's going to be amusing, as the members of the Parks and Recreation Board and City Council members have no idea that someone well-versed in New York politics is about to be dropped into their "Minnesota Nice" midst. A staff member of the Parks and Recreation Board that attended our first dog park meeting was stupid enough to make an inflammatory statement about who would be using the park... and didn't notice the college-educated black guy in the room... who used to be the General Manager of a law firm.
Looks like it's going to be pretty easy for me to get the Park Board to sign off on a few things once I suggest that I mention that little statement made by one of their employees to the media... not to mention the city council member who was present when the statement was made... and said nothing.
Sunday started off like Saturday, sunny and full of promise. Once again, weekend household tasks I should have been concentrating on took a backseat to staying in bed much longer than I should have, followed by my typical bagels 'n' coffee routine. Instead of doing laundry, I ended up back at the MAC Dog Park, this time with Tara and her significantly smaller dogs, one of whom I am petrified I am going to accidentally step on, and the other, who runs fast enough that I am convinced that she's going to actually achieve warp speed, and disappear across the galaxy a la Star Trek.
Not being motivated to do any real work (hey... it was Sunday... even GOD took the day off!), I eventually ended up in the Longfellow neighborhood and visited my old friend, Minnehaha Park. It's my favorite park in Minneapolis because it reminds me of Delaware Park back home in Buffalo. After that, I ate a late lunch/early dinner at the Highland Cafe & Bakery across the Mississippi River in St. Paul's Highland Park neighborhood, followed by a movie at the Highland Theatre... an old-school movie house where they still use real butter on the popcorn. (I saw "Men Who Stare At Goats"... by the way you were right Susan Richardson, I did enjoy the movie, thanks for suggesting it.).
In all, it was a weekend that was pretty much all play and no work.
Misplaced is certainly not a dull boy.
See you tomorrow.