Bah Humbug!...A Christmas Carol in Minnesota, Part 2
Where we conclude our trip to Minneapolis to see A Christmas Carol.
Saturday, Day 2
We had every intention of waking up early to go running. We really, really did. We packed our workout clothes and everything. We even brought heart rate monitors with us just in case there was an Orange Theory Fitness close enough for us to get a workout in while we were gone. But sometimes you just need to sleep in then go out for a big breakfast. That is exactly what we did.
Now, in our defense the restaurant we chose was about a mile away and we walked in, what Rizzo thought, was the bitter wind and cold so we were getting some exercise. I thought the weather was outstanding. The cool breeze was refreshing and the fact that I could wear a large, fashionable coat without sweating like an animal made me feel right at home. For a long time, I thought that perhaps losing some weight would make me sweat less but, unfortunately, I’m a sweater so I just need sub-freezing temperatures to allow me to wear a coat.
We made our way to the Hen House Eatery for a taste of local food and drink. The first thing I noticed was the continuation of the wonderfully pleasant tattoo and piercing covered people of Minneapolis. I hope you don’t think that I have a presumption that all people with tattoos or all people with piercings are somehow assholes and shouldn’t be friendly. I just thought that the likelihood of every person we meet being the nicest person on the planet and covered in tattoos and piercings seemed mathematically improbable but that is how it works in Minneapolis.
Rizzo guided us to this particular breakfast establishment because (1) it is a local place serving local food and (2) there was a prominent spot on the menu for a cinnamon roll. Rizzo ordered the cinnamon roll on the side of her Fat Hen Omelet. She got the Fat Hen Omelet hoping for a slightly healthier option since she already had the cinnamon roll on the way. The Fat Hen Omelet is made with quinoa, goat cheese, spinach, onions, tomatoes, and egg whites. However, as you can see from the size of the omelet, it wasn’t quite the healthiest option in the world.
I went with a breakfast sandwich of sausage, egg, and cheddar on sourdough bread with a side of hash browns. To say our breakfast was good was an understatement. For my side of the table the bread was delicious (I turned it into toast), the sausage was cooked perfectly, the egg was tolerable (I’m not a big egg fan), the cheese was local and sharp, and the hash browns were fried to perfection. The Hen House was hospitable with lots of friendly faces. They were so friendly that as we were leaving our waiter made sure to bring me a to-go cup of coffee for the return walk. I didn’t even ask. Rizzo and I both left full and content.
Our next stop was a local coffee shop to spend some time relaxing and reading. One of our favorite things in the world to do is to have coffee or tea and relax with a good book. This is a tough thing to do when you have a young kid. Finding the time between work and hanging with Cece is challenging so we wanted to make this a priority on this trip. Right across the street from our hotel was a coffee shop called Dunn Brothers Coffee so we made our way inside and settled in.
I’m sure you know that I’m a big fan of everything local and local being from where you are wherever you are so we hoped that this would be a local coffee shop. We were right and wrong at the same time. Dunn Brothers is a franchise coffee chain but it was founded in St. Paul, the sister city of Minneapolis. Another positive for this chain is that they roast their coffee right there in the store. As we sat sipping our beverages I was watching one barista teaching another how to use the roaster right out in the open so we could see the process in action. The concept seemed like an attempt to pair the business model of a franchise with the artisanal and local/fresh products of your local coffee shop. This seems like the kind of coffee shop I could get behind.
You would think after the infusion of caffeine from breakfast and coffee/tea that Rizzo and I would be hopped up and ready to go but you would be wrong. I suppose the decaf beverages that we were drinking at the coffee house (we aren’t crazy) didn’t give us the pick-me up and Rizzo really wanted some recovery time from the long work weeks past so we decided on a nap before the real reason we made the trip. I’m not much of a napper but I can see the appeal especially on an overcast and cold day in the north. So, Rizzo grabbed a few minutes of shut-eye while I continued reading my book and it was very relaxing and energizing before heading to the Guthrie Theatre to see A Christmas Carol.
After napping and getting dressed up for the show, we made our way conveniently across the street from our hotel, to the Guthrie Theatre and upstairs to the café for some lunch. Let me tell you a bit about the Guthrie so you can get an idea of the size and scope of the show.
The Guthrie is a massive complex that is located in the heart of Minneapolis and right along the banks of the St. Croix River. There are several performance spaces in the theatre including the 1,100 seat Wurtele Thrust Stage where we would be seeing our show. There are many educational rooms for workshops and two different dining options within the theatre. It really is a one-stop shop for theatre goers in Minneapolis with the ability to put on big, Broadway-worthy performances as well as small, experimental type shows you may see in a black box performance space. If you are reading from the Washington DC area, the Guthrie is to Minneapolis what the Kennedy Center is to Washington DC. It was a beautiful theater.
Rizzo and I went to the Level Five Café for lunch before the show. Level Five Café is located, oddly enough, on Level Five of the Guthrie Theatre. It is a nice little bistro that offers sandwiches and other smaller options. It was bitter cold outside so we both got a cup of soup, which isn’t a common thing for us but as the weather turns colder I definitely feel more like soup. Rizzo had a grilled chicken sandwich because it included a topping of double crème brie cheese. Rizzo would eat brie if it was slathered across a piece of tree bark because that is how much she loves brie. I was feeling pretty full from the eating we had done so far over the two days so I had a cheese plate. Classy, right?
There were also specialty beverages available to celebrate the show. I don’t remember what Rizzo was drinking but I was instantly drawn to a drink called Dickens Cider. This concoction was a mixture of Dewar’s, honey, lemon juice, cider, and cinnamon. I was hoping for something spicy and festive. The fact that it was named after my favorite fiction writer didn’t hurt the prospects. What I got was the flavor of Robitussin but just a slightly lower ABV. At least I didn’t have to worry about getting sick for the next decade.
It was finally time for the show and I knew it would be a good one from the looks of the stage. A massive stone structure towered over the entire production that was the external set of Scrooge & Marley’s counting house. I tried to snap a quick picture of the set for posterity but was quickly chastised by the usher because photography wasn’t allowed. I bit my tongue even though I wanted to point out the dozen or so people that appeared to be filming a short documentary about the show from how much video and photography they were taking but, you know, my one picture would make all the difference.
I won’t take the time (I’m sure you are already quite tired of my accounting of every minute detail of our trip) to recount the story of A Christmas Carol. I love seeing the show every year because it is a beautiful spectacle and an inspiring story. Life can get away from us. We don’t have to be to the level of an Ebenezer Scrooge, with his downright hatred of the world and lack of hope in humanity, to lose sight of what is truly important in this world. The show is a story to remind us to be thankful of what we have and to do what we can to help those that aren’t as fortunate. It is a great way to “refill the tank” and it always inspires me take an inventory of the great blessings I have in my life and to renew my desire to help those in need and live my own life to the fullest. And if you don’t get a little glassy-eyed when Tiny Tim shouts, “God Bless Us, Every One!” then you are truly a Grinch that will be stuck in purgatory with Jacob Marley carrying your heavy burden.
This show in particular was probably the best I’ve seen in the nine years that I’ve been making this pilgrimage. The set design and movement was so big it would have fit right in on a Broadway stage. I certainly didn’t expect the building to move and spin to transform the outside of the counting house into the interior of the counting house and Scrooge’s home. I wasn’t anticipating the Ghosts of Christmas Past and Present to fly through the air into Scrooge’s window. The songs were festive, the voices were beautiful, the story was touching, and Scrooge was redeemed. He always is but it never gets old for me.
If you have the chance I would suggest finding a performance and making the journey to see this on stage during the holiday season. If you are in the Washington, DC area, Ford’s Theatre performs A Christmas Carol annually and it is a great show. There is bound to be a performance in your area whether or not it is a big budget production like the one we enjoyed at the Guthrie this year or a small local theatre like the show we saw last year in Alexandria, VA. Seek it out and take a couple of hours to bring out your Christmas spirit. It will be worth it.
After the show, we made our way over to Izzy’s Ice Cream to fill Rizzo’s obsession with finding some ice cream no matter where we go and what the weather. Sub-freezing temperatures were no match for Rizzo’s desire to consume this frozen treat. Izzy’s is a local place that makes over 150 flavors by hand in small batches. Not only that, every single or double scoop order comes with an izzy scoop, which is a super tiny scoop (3/4 of an ounce) that goes right on top of whatever you are eating. It is perfect because I got mint chocolate chip as my single scoop but was able to get a nice taste of a flavor called PB&Yay just to taste the local goodness. It was a nice treat after a great show.
After an inspiring show and some ice cream there is only one thing to do; find the local brewers and taste some delicious craft beers. With the list in hand given to us by the barkeep at Town Hall we called for an Uber and made our way to our first stop across the river. Ten short minutes later we were bellying up to the bar at Indeed Brewing Company.
Now let me tell you a little story that can provide some insight into the drinking proclivity of those living in Minneapolis. You see, it is cold in Minnesota. Very cold. Bitterly cold. It’s so cold that I was wearing an overcoat and a scarf. I didn’t even wear a scarf when it snowed 36 inches in Virginia because it wasn’t really cold enough. It was cold enough in Minnesota. So, what do you do when it is so cold you don’t want to be outside for 8-10 months? Well, you drink, of course.
This fact came crashing into my mind when we arrived at Indeed and asked if they offered flights. We were told that they don’t serve flights (which we found at a few craft brewers in Minneapolis which I found unusual) but we could make our own flight be combining a few 10 oz. pours. Seriously? If you combine four 10-ounce beers to make a flight you will be on the floor slurring your words and then soon vomiting profusely. But not if you are from Minnesota. She didn’t bat an eye. I suppose there are plenty of folks at Indeed that make flights in this manner. Well, more power to them but I just went for a small pour of Old Friend Winter Warmer because I wanted to be able to taste more beers from other brewers and still be able to spell my name.
Old Friend Winter Warmer was a great beer that is perfect for the cold weather and for the season. Heavy on the malt flavor and brewed with ginger and honey to give this beer the type of flavor that would be best enjoyed in front of a fire reading a heavy, leather bound book. This beer is what a Christmas beer should be with delicious spices and higher alcohol content (7.5%) to keep you warm during the season. I gave this beer 4 out of 5 stars.
We were once again starving at this point so we asked the barkeep for some suggestions that were within walking distance. We made our way into the arctic blast and sped our way from suggestion to suggestion hoping to find something reasonable but everywhere we went on the suggested list had long waits and we didn’t have the patience to wait. So we hoofed it over to our next brewery (we will get to that) hoping that the last suggested location would have some availability.
Young Joni is the hippest of the hip. The place was packed and reservations were required if you needed a table in less than two hours. However, if you were brave, you could stalk the bar hoping to find a bar seat. We did just that and within 15 minutes we were seated comfortably sipping our respective beverages (beer for Rizzo and cider for me) while waiting for our wood-fired pizza to arrive.
We soon learned through our favorite activity (eavesdropping on other people’s conversations) that there was a good reason it was so packed. It turns out that this restaurant had opened after much anticipation just three-days prior and this was the very first Saturday it was open for business. In fact, we heard a glass crash to the floor and the bartender (not a barkeep, in my eyes, but a bartender) was excited because that was the first broken glass so they were now officially a restaurant.
The beer list was respectable. The tiles adoring the restaurant were hand made by local artisans (I know because the bartender kept talking about it). The light fixtures were all hand selected by the owner (which was also the bartender). The bathroom was adorned with copper pipping to make it look like it was old-world and classy. The bartender’s facial hair was well trimmed and stylish. There were lots of employees wearing skinny-jeans with rugged boots and flannel shirts. This restaurant was a hipster’s wet-dream. The food was great but we had other places we needed to be, such as right next door at Dangerous Man Brewing Company.
Dangerous Man Brewing Company is yet another wonderful craft brewer in the great state of Minnesota. I knew this would be a good place when they had a picture of me (a man with a full beard) as the logo. They also had a beer list heavy on the malt and low on the IBU so this place was going to be great. It was packed with people getting out of the cold as quickly as possible so we pushed our way to a small spot at the bar and ordered our beverages. Dangerous Man was another brewery that didn’t offer a flight option so I went with the Scottish Ale and wasn’t disappointed. The red color was a perfect complement to my red beard and the caramel flavor and rich malt tastes were wonderful.
Rizzo and I started talking with the barkeep about the various beers and how I was excited to see so many malty beers on the tap list. We chatted for about 20 minutes. The barkeep was happy to talk and she stated it wasn’t often that the place was quiet enough for her to have time to talk with the patrons. I would have begged to differ as it was wall-to-wall people but who am I to judge? During our chat she brought over a peanut butter porter just because it was something she wanted to share. It was like drinking a peanut butter cup and was a perfect malt sweetness.
While we were sitting there we noted that above the bar were a collection of growlers from other brewers. Amongst them was a growler from Blue Mountain right here in the great Commonwealth of Virginia. We pointed that out to the barkeep and she said that the various staff get growlers when they visit a new brewery to display in the tasting room, so one of them had been to Virginia to Blue Mountain. It was very cool seeing Virginia craft beer on display all the way up in the great white north.
In the end, Rizzo and I enjoyed this brewery free of charge. I’m not sure how that worked out but we kept trying to pay the tab and the barkeep kept telling us that we are good. Maybe it was a miscommunication that we were just getting a free tasting of the peanut butter porter but in the end we got all our drinks for free with a smile and a nod. The tattooed people of Minneapolis are fabulous.
Our last stop on our brew tour of Minneapolis was Able Seedhouse & Brewery. The short walk (maybe a mile) from Dangerous Man to Able was perhaps one of the longest of my life. I needed to use the restroom more than Sean Connery needed the water from the Holy Grail at the end of that Indiana Jones movie. I considered peeing on the side of many houses and in many ditches along the way. We stopped into a gas station that did not have a bathroom. It was awful and upon arrival at the brewery I’m pretty sure I punched several elves in the face to get them out of my way so I could pee for approximately 27 minutes.
After emptying my bladder we headed to the bar of this massive facility (was a General Electric light bulb production facility back in 1913 so it had lots of space) to find another location without flights. Like I said, those in Minnesota don’t waste their time with 4 ounces of beer. Why taste five 4-ounce beers when you can drink five pints? I certainly can’t drink that much so Rizzo and I each got a pint to finish off the evening. I went with the Propers Pub Ale, which is a typical British beer style that is light, crisp, and clean with low alcohol and low IBUs. It was a nice clean finish to the evening that complemented the tater tots that Rizzo got from the food truck parked outside. There was some cool live music from a trio consisting of a stand-up base, a guitar, and a fiddle, that was playing some great tunes. It was the perfect ending to the perfect day so we made our way back to our hotel and laid down for a long winters nap.
Sunday, The Final Day
Rizzo and I were both sad to wake up on Sunday because we knew we were on our way back to the real world. We had some time for breakfast before we had to make our way over to the subway stop for our ride to the airport so we got dressed and made our way out for another wonderful breakfast. To our surprise, we woke up to find a dusting of snow covering the streets giving us a white last day in our cold temporary residence.
Not wanting to suffer from frostbite we decided to Uber to our breakfast location instead of walking in the snow and cold. We arrived just as Keys at the Foshay was opening the doors so the timing couldn’t have been better. Keys is a local café-style restaurant with seven locations around the twin cities. The place is locally owned and not a chain so it still has all the great food and hospitality. It is also located in the Foshay Building, which is a skyscraper modeled after the Washington Monument that is currently a W Hotel in town. The building has the amazing architecture of an early 1900s building you would imagine finding in New York City which give the place lots of class.
I wanted to get in one last big meal because after this it was back to the real world of healthy living so I decided to go with Key’s Everything. This is a massive omelet that is stuffed with, well, everything. To be more specific, it is a three egg omelet stuffed with bacon, sausage, Italian sausage, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, green peppers, broccoli, cauliflowers, and cheese. It made Rizzo’s omelet from the day before look like a single egg white. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t finish the entire thing which was a good thing because I may have died from a heart attack (and happiness) if I had completed the meal.
After breakfast we packed up our luggage, made our way to the airport, and proceeded to travel back to the Commonwealth of Virginia. Our trip had ended successfully. We ate lots of good food. We drank lots of good beer. We met lots of good people and we enjoyed a show that has been the best performance of A Christmas Carol that I’ve seen in ages. Rizzo and I both returned home rejuvenated and relaxed. It was a great weekend away and one that will not soon be forgot.
P.S. A special thanks to my Mom and Dad for watching Cece for the weekend. It was well appreciated. I know Cece had an amazing time with Gege and Dede and I just hope you did too.