Fall is for Feasting, part 2 – October: MN & NY

October found my daughter and I having a much quieter travel month than we did in September. But that doesn’t mean we went hungry. Allison found two more destination eateries in NYC, and then we trekked to the shores of Lake Superior in northern Minnesota to check out the local fare.

Fruits de mer – Two nights, two opposite ends of the city (NYC), by Allison Malecha

I never thought I would get my dad all the way to Crown Heights—the Caribbean-bred, newly bohemian-infested Brooklyn neighborhood that is thirty minutes by express subway from Manhattan. Besides being the home of Silver Rice, which I wrote about in last month’s post [https://nomadicnarrator.com/2014/09/26/fall-is-for-feasting-part-1-september/], Crown Heights borders the monumental Brooklyn Museum, and its main drag, Franklin Avenue, is bursting with culinary life.

Owned by New York City native Lev Gewirtzman, Mayfield is the neighborhood’s most prominent fine dining staple—the first place my friends who live in the area take their parents for dinner. In a city of two-tops, this restaurant also has a whole array of hefty picnic-style wood tables that seat six. After attending the opening of the Brooklyn Museum exhibit “Crossing Brooklyn: Art from Bushwick, Bed-Stuy, and Beyond,” my dad and I walked the 15 minutes down Franklin Avenue and got right in without a reservation. Suffice to say, he was much more into the food than the art (his take: “I could make this in my garage”—I disagreed).

We missed the $1 fresh oyster happy hour but were happy to settle for the $13 fried cornmeal ones, served on a slick bed of smoked salmon and celery coleslaw and topped with big dollops of horseradish cream. We then had an unnecessary but 100% delicious Italian interlude of homemade ricotta gnocchi ($12) before moving on to the main courses: buttermilk fried quail ($20) for my dad and sautéed scallops for me. The quail, though striking the requisite balance between moist meat and crispy exterior, was shown up by its side of spoon bread: a ramekin full of hot, butter-sweet, perfectly browned goodness. My dish, a quartet of large sea scallops and a smattering of mini ones, was decidedly lighter fare, fortified by a sizable mound of corn-speckled risotto. The wine list here is also reasonable. We washed our dinner down with a $32 bottle of côtes du rhône. And after all that liquid, it’s worth a trip to the bathroom—the stall on the right is plastered with one of my favorite wallpapers, inspired by architectural blueprints.

Enjoying starters of fried oysters on a bed of coleslaw and smoked salmon, and   at Mayfield, in Brooklyn.

Enjoying starters of fried oysters on a bed of coleslaw and smoked salmon, and ricotta gnocchi at Mayfield, in Brooklyn.

Buttermilk fried squid with sides of spoon bread and sautéed spinach at Mayfield in Brooklyn.

Buttermilk fried squid with sides of spoon bread and sautéed spinach at Mayfield in Brooklyn.

Sauteed sea scallops perfectly browned and put to rest on a bed of corn infused risotto.

Sauteed sea scallops perfectly browned and put to rest on a bed of corn infused risotto.

The next night, my dad was kind enough to pony up for an even fancier affair—a full-on fish fête at Barchetta. Though the New York Times’ Pete Wells gave it only 1 star in September [LINK: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/10/dining/restaurant-review-barchetta-in-chelsea.html?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Aw%2C%7B%221%22%3A%22RI%3A8%22%7D], I was intrigued enough to book a table at the six-month-old brainchild of chef and restaurateur Dave Pasternack (known for Esca, in Hells Kitchen). The light-wood tables, soft lighting, and cream walls lined with a row of understated abstract paintings were a welcoming sight at the end of a grey day.

Cocktails to start: a traditional Manhattan for dad (fitting, for the location), while I tried on a “fiaschetta” for size (carpano antica, Campari, elderflower, and Woodford reserve). It fit quite well. Our first bites were many and varied—a six-part crudo tasting ($28), consisting of fresh wedges of fish, from tuna to Spanish mackerel, sitting in pockets of beautifully flavored oil. We were either lucky enough to hit the restaurant on a non “off night,” or my hunger for high-quality fish was too large for me to care. The server recommended that my dad fillet his porgy ($17) himself, but we both settled for having the hard work done for us. My de-boned black sea bass ($17) arrived glistening and flaky. The slightly dry side of acorn squash and lemon tart dessert were an ideal offset to the many bites of rich, meaty fish.

A crudo of varied fresh fish soaking in flavored oils at Barchetta in Chelsea.

A crudo of varied fresh fish soaking in flavored oils at Barchetta in Chelsea.

Freshly de-boned blackened sea bass with a side of acorn squash at Barchetta in Chelsea.

Freshly de-boned black sea bass with a side of acorn squash at Barchetta in Chelsea.

These were just two nights in a whole week of feasting while my dad was in town. I probably should have fasted for a week afterwards – but I didn’t.

Next:

Mid-October my daughter and I took a road trip to the North Shore, with my Dad and his wife. This large peninsula of Minnesota lines the shores of Lake Superior and many of the states 10,000 lakes dot the inland landscape.

We made a pit stop along the scenic North Shore drive at the appropriately named Scenic Cafe’. Talk about using fresh local ingredients; each dish at Scenic screams flavor by infusing unique food combinations like the special starter of the day – figs and walnuts bathed in a maple syrup molasses surrounding a tower of blue cheese served with crudités.

The specialty starter dish of the day used local Minnesota ingredients to create this abundantly flavorful dish.

The specialty starter dish of the day used local Minnesota ingredients to create this abundantly flavorful dish.

Further up the avenue we settled in the area of Tofte and Lutsen for a weekend of reading, walking, spa-ing and of course -eating!

The first night we headed to Lutsen for locally caught walleye and harvested wild rice, which make up the key ingredients to one of Lutsen Lodge‘s traditional menus choices at the Dining Room. The starter of Minnesota Wild Rice soup and finale’ of Swedish Cream round out this flavorful dinner selection.

Potato crusted walleye served with wild rice pilaf – a tradition along with a starter of Minnesota Wild Rice soup, served at Lutsen Lodge Dining Room.

If breakfast fare is more to your liking than head back down the road to Waves of Superior Cafe at Surfside on Lake Superior, spa and townhomes. Acclaimed Chef Judy Barsness, (my Dad’s wife’s sister-in-law) showcases her signature culinary style ‘Minnisine’ using locally caught, grown and handcrafted ingredients to make delectable Minnesota contemporary cuisine. The Sunday brunch is an absolute must after indulging in a relaxing spa treatment.

Chef Judy Barsness presents a Sunday brunch buffet to satisfy even the most discerning palate.

Chef Judy Barsness presents a Sunday brunch buffet to satisfy even the most discerning palate.

Next month I’ll showcase cuisine from our neighbor to the north – Canada. Butter tarts, perogies, poutine….. And of course Thanksgiving – American style!

North Shore, Minnesota – a/k/a a place of respite

This ones for you pops!!

Respite. A break. A breather. A lull. A reprieve. All definitions of respite – all words to define the desire that pulls me to the very northern tip of Minnesota – aka The North Shore.

Minnesota’s North Shore

Head North young woman - to the North Shore of Minnesota

Head North young woman – to the North Shore of Minnesota.

Non-Minnesotans would ask, “North Shore to what?” Answer: Lake Superior. Most resources list this most massive of the five great lakes as the largest fresh water lake by surface and third largest by volume – in the world. Reaching depths of 1,332 feet, this glacial lake swallowed up the giant ore boat made famous by Canadian singer songwriter Gordon Lightfoot’s song, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” based on the true life story of this ship getting caught in one of many magnificent raging early winter lake storms.

I have been coming to the North Shore for 45 of my 50 years. I have traveled extensively, but few places have drawn me back like the North Shore. My mother was born and raised in Duluth which sits on the most southern US tip of the lake – this bay being flanked by Minnesota to the west and Wisconsin to the east. Our family started making the trek to the North Shore back in the 1960’s, mainly a weekend trip, several weekends a month year round.

The famed draw bridge in the Lake Superior Harbor in Duluth.

The famed draw bridge in the Lake Superior harbor in Duluth.

This journey north was a respite for my parents to get a break from their busy lives in and around the Twin Cities. For my three older brothers and I it was a chance to perfect our hot-dog skiing skills on the slops of Lutsen Ski Resort. The views of Lake Superior were truly breathtaking from high atop the resort. In 1972, my skiing season was cut short when I broke my leg skiing. In those days there were no ambulances in that area, so I was taken to the hospital 30 miles away in Grand Marais, in the back of my Dad’s boss’s wood-paneled station wagon.

Other weekends found us cross-country skiing on the Gunflint Trail northwest of Grand Marais or along the backside of Moose Mountain; hiking the paths emanating from Lutsen Lodge or Cascade Falls behind the Cascade Lodge where they make the best blueberry pancakes; jumping off the cliffs into the warm waters of the Temperance River; fishing for river trout in the fast running Onion River or going deep for walleye in the tranquil waters of Tait Lake; golfing with the black bears at the little 9-hole par-3 course at Lutsen Lodge or across the street at Superior National.

Many an hour spent lounging, eating, swimming, hiking...at Lutsen Lodge.

Many an hour spent lounging, eating, swimming, hiking, golfing…at Lutsen Lodge.

The inclusion of the next generation began in the 1990’s and still continues today. Almost 22-years ago, my husband and I drove our 20-month old daughter and our 1-month old son through a raging Minnesota winter storm, to my Dad’s cabin which sits on the shores of Tait Lake, 13 miles off the main road, the last eight on a one lane dirt road – no cell phone. We arrived at the warm and inviting cabin, with two very anxious grandparents standing watch at the front door. After my husband and I were seated in front of a roaring fire with a glass of wine to calm our nerves, the kids were given a bath by the grandparents in the only tubs in the cabin – the two-sided stainless steel kitchen sink.

The one lane dirt road back to Tait Lake - think heavy snow. The leaning tree in the pic was nicknamed 'I-lene' by one of the grandkids.

The one lane dirt road back to Tait Lake – think heavy snow. The leaning tree in the pic was nicknamed ‘I-lene’ by one of the grandkids.

Last weekend found my daughter and I returning to Minnesota from our respective homes in New York City and Arizona to take ‘Grandpa’ up to visit the North Shore. Over the years this has continued to be his ‘go to’ place. The leaves were still in their fall finery – vibrant oranges and reds of Maples and Sumac; blinding yellows of the Aspen and Birch; all intertwined with deep green of the many evergreens that dot the landscape.

We hunkered down for the weekend at a condo at Surfside on Lake Superior. Our unit sat on the shores of the big lake the Ojibwe natives call ‘Gichigami’ – where we curled up in front of a warming fire; enjoyed smoked trout from Kendall’s Smokehouse where we have been buying smoked fish for 40 plus years; sipped a glass of wine while pouring ourselves into our book picks for the weekend. We also took advantage of the onsite Waves of Superior Spa by having a relaxing massage, followed by a delectable Sunday brunch spread presented by Chef Judy, sister-in-law to my Dad’s wife, at the Wave’s Cafe.

The Thinker a/k/a my Dad, Gpa, Grand-snappy - sits overlooking the shores of Lake Superior as he contemplates 80 years of amazing memories!

The Thinker a/k/a my Dad, Gpa, Grand-snappy – sits overlooking the shores of Lake Superior as he contemplates 80 years of amazing memories!

My daughter reading fireside. I spent the weekend listening to the two most well-read people I know - my father and my daughter - wax philosophical for hours on end as they compared their libraries of knowledge. What amazing minds!

My daughter reading fireside. I spent the weekend listening to the two most well-read people I know – my father and my daughter – wax philosophical for hours on end as they compared their libraries of knowledge. What amazing minds!

Waves of Superior Spa at Surfside on Lake Superior.

Waves of Superior Spa at Surfside on Lake Superior.

Chef Judy serves up an amazing fresh and locally inspired Sunday brunch spread: Belgian waffles  with Caribou Maple Syrup, Minnesota wild rice and sausage gravy over biscuits,  homemade granola, cheese blintzes, and other fresh pastries....

Chef Judy serves up an amazing fresh and locally inspired Sunday brunch spread: Belgian waffles with Caribou Maple Syrup, Minnesota wild rice and sausage gravy over biscuits, homemade granola, cheese blintzes, and other fresh pastries….

A little nostalgia was called for to relive some old memories to mix in with the new ones we were making. We had dinner at Lutsen Lodge where I spent endless hours of my youth playing in the game room or reading by the fire while the adults wiled away the hours in the bar after a traditional Minnesota wild rice soup and walleye dinner. We stopped into Sea Villa B-?, the condo we owned back in the 1970’s, and went back to visit Vennskaap Hyte on Tait Lake, the log cabin my Dad and his wife owned for many years. We stopped at a little shop that sold homemade maple syrup among other homemade Minnesota goods. The shop often incorporates the honor system to pay for goods, as the proprietor is often not able to be on site.

My dad and I reminiscing about all the great times spent at the Sea Villas at Lutsen.

My dad and I reminiscing about all the great times spent at the Sea Villas at Lutsen.

A cabin store full of many different local homemade goods like Caribou Cream syrup.

A cabin store full of many different local homemade goods like Caribou Cream syrup.

Only in Minnesota could you feel confident in relying on the honor system for your customers to pay for their purchases.

Only in Minnesota, where ‘Minnesota Nice’ is the mantra, could you feel confident in relying on the honor system for your customers to pay for their purchases.

More Minnesota-North Shore pics to come in the Global Gallery!

Traveling is exciting, but “There’s no place like home!”

We’re not in Kansas anymore Dorothy! Oh wait, yes we are. That’s exactly where all our moves have taken my husband and I – back to Kansas, for the second time. As Dorothy so eloquently said in the Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home!” and I couldn’t agree more. And for me ‘home’ has culminated in many different locations. I may not have a pair of ruby-red slippers to take me back home, but as much as I love to travel there is nothing better than coming back home.

I have been very lucky throughout my lifetime to have some amazing places to come home to: Minnesota, California, Montana, Kansas, Arizona, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Some of these places are a little better known to the masses, but I found out through living in all these places each location offers up a set up unique characteristics that make them very embraceable places to live AND visit.

Minnesota: My beloved Minnesota. This is where I grew up, and for me that means this will always be home. I was born in Northfield – town of Cows (large agriculture community), Colleges (St. Olaf and Carleton) and Contentment. Inside the city limits an academic nature prevails, but as soon as you hit the outskirts of town you are enveloped in perfectly aligned fields of corn and beans; orchards that are ripe with scents from spring to fall; and cows, horses and other livestock roaming the succulent stands of grasslands. If all of that doesn’t spell ‘contentment’ I don’t know what does.

I spent many weekends with my family “Up North“, along the shores of Lake Superior. Downhill skiing at Lutsen; cross-country skiing on the Gunflint Trail; walking the streets of Grand Marais; hiking trails with amazing views of Lake Superior; and having walleye meals at the Lutsen Lodge.

My husband and I moved back to Minnesota in 1991, and our son was born there a year later. Many of our family members still live there and to me there are fewer more beautiful states. Minnesota showcases the four seasons better than any other state I have visited or lived in. There is nothing like the scent of the spring bloom of the lilacs mixing with the flowering crabapple trees; the summer ripened lush green fairways and thick forests of trees of golf courses; a drive along the St. Croix or Mississippi Rivers showcasing the vibrant colors of fall; or a walk through the snow packed backwoods roads of Minnesota with evergreens draped with a fresh snowfall.

The lush green fairways and thick trees that line Northfield Golf Club, Northfield, MN - "The Money Tree"

The lush green fairways and thick trees of summer that line Northfield Golf Club, Northfield, MN – “The Money Tree”

The fall colors of Minnesota

The fall colors of Minnesota

California: My husband and I married in 1986, and our honeymoon was driving from Minnesota to California – our first home away from home. We lived in Stockton, CA. The best feature of Stockton was its location. We were an hour to San Francisco for fresh crab and strong coffee; an hour to Napa Valley to replenish our wine supply; two hours to Yosemite National Park to float down Merced River. In the one year we lived in Stockton, we had more family visitors than any other place we have lived within the same time frame. Locally we played several great golf courses; took walks along inland waterways fed from San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean; visited a burgeoning local wine industry; and enjoyed great weather year round.

The rows of grape vines in Napa Valley, producing some of the best wines in the world

The rows of grape vines in Napa Valley, producing some of the best wines in the world

Montana: Big Sky country! And until you visit this massive beautiful state, you can’t comprehend just how accurate that state motto is. Being based out of Great Falls, which sits along the Missouri River, afforded a great location to visit the many highlights throughout the state. Head northwest to the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park – be sure to try some huckleberries; continue west into the quaint small western town of Whitefish that sits at the base of Big Mountain ski area; turn south along the great boating lake Flathead Lake; continue south into the Bitterroot Mountains of Missoula; veer a little southeast to the mining (past and present) town of Butte; continue east to fish the Gallatin River or ski at Big Sky or Bridger Bowl outside of Bozeman; then work your way back north along the Missouri River as it cuts through some of the most beautiful Rocky Mountain settings in the country. And to the east are the plains of Montana where Lewis and Clark trekked back in the 1800’s.

Big Sky country, where the (deer) and the antelope roam, Montana

Kansas: I first lived here 25 years ago, and my daughter was born here in 1991. Having never visited the area, I was in awe of the lush rolling hills of Kansas City. When I learned we were returning to KS, I had no reservations in returning – especially since KC straddles the Kansas/Missouri line, so you are getting the highlights of two great states at your fingertips. The people are a mix of Mid-western nice and southern charm and take great pride in the care of their properties; strong family and work ethics; and great cooking. The unique Spanish architecture of The Plaza (great shopping and eating) is a draw, especially as outlined in lights for the holiday season; the stately mansions of Mission Hills are tough to be replicated anywhere; not being a huge fan of BBQ, even I have to admit the BBQ in KC is “…to die for!”

One of the areas most well-known BBQ stops, be ready to wait – but it’s worth it!

Four must haves at Jack Stack BBQ: pork ribs, burnt ends, cheesy corn bake and hickory pit beans.

Arizona: I have lived in Arizona, specifically the Phoenix area, a couple of different times and it will be where my husband and I retire, but Arizona has been the preferred vacation spot for my family, going back almost 40 years – my how this place has changed in 40 years. The dry warmth was always an appeal for a winter getaway from the humid cold of Minnesota. And being avid golfers it was a natural choice. As noted in my previous post I lived there as a junior in high school, when no major highways through the valley existed, and often Tempe and Mesa would be cut off from the rest of the valley when the monsoons hit and the Salt River bottoms flooded.

With the development of several major freeways, the city is now easy to navigate. Besides golf (albeit some of the best golf in the country) and an opportunity for a great tan, the valley has much too offer the visitor. Hiking trails abound throughout the surrounding mountain ranges providing spectacular views; floating down the upper Salt River watching wild horses drink from the shoreline; never-ending supply of great eateries; shopping to rival any other major city; a plethora of beautiful cars adorn the roadways; concerts, theaters, museums galore to satisfy the cultural palette.

The views from atop one of the surrounding high points that line that Phoenix Valley

The views from atop one of the surrounding high points that line that Phoenix Valley

The night skies from the Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, AZ

The night skies from the Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, AZ

Saskatchewan: The year 2000 found us moving northward. At this stage in my life I assumed I would be working my way south to warmer drier climates. Instead we headed north to one of the coldest climates known to man, that has a population of more than a few hundred. Regina, the capital of Saskatchewan was our landing spot. It didn’t take long to realize that as challenging as it was to survive the winters, the people held a warmth to offset even the coldest of days. It was a great place to bring up our children.

The standing joke in Saskatchewan is that you can see your dog run away for 3 days – because it is so flat there. But you have to give the pioneers of Regina a lot of credit for making Regina a/k/a the Queen City a place worth living and visiting. Every tree in the city was hand planted in this once desolate plain, and Wascana Lake was created to be the center piece of the city with the stately provincial legislature building sitting proudly at its shores, and walking paths that take you along the lake and out into the surrounding neighborhoods. The Queen of England and all of her children have been visitors, since Canada is a Commonwealth of England; and there has been no shortage of great acts (ie. Rolling Stones, ACDC, Prince) through this city that sits on the one main highway through Canada – the Trans-Canada 1.

Downtown Regina serves as a backdrop to Wascana Lake and the Legislature building

Alberta: My stay in Calgary, Alberta was short-lived, only two years, but it wasn’t hard to make a real go of it in a city that sits in the foothills of some of the most majestic Rocky Mountain ranges in the world. Our kids were off to university by now, and so my husband and I took the opportunity to live in a high-rise condo, affording us amazing daily views. The weekend we moved there I sat on our 25th floor deck and listened to an outdoor concert, that was being held along the banks of the Bow River. The concert was part of the world-famous Calgary Stampede, based two blocks from our apartment when the whole city of Calgary turns into a cowboy theme park for the better part of two weeks.

While the city itself has a lot to offer, the proximity to places like Banff and Lake Louise make it an equally appealing place to live. Summer golf and hiking and winter skiing await you on a beautiful drive through a greatly untouched Bow River Valley, on a well maintained four-lane highway, past Cranbrook – stop in for a helicopter ride to reach new hiking heights. On into Banff National Park to get your fill of natures beauty: glacier fed turquoise blue lakes; snow-capped mountains even in the middle of summer; wildlife roaming over manmade animal bridges; clean fresh crisp air year round.

One of the many turquoise blue water lakes in the Banff National Park, Alberta - with snow capped peaks in this July picture

One of the many turquoise blue water lakes in the Banff National Park, Alberta – with snow-capped peaks in this July picture