Category Archives: Minnesota

Caffe Biaggio, St. Paul, Minnesota

Yes, another restaurant review!! I’m not sure why I’ve never written one for this place but no time like the present as it’s said. Oh! I’ve got to post an update because I HAVE previously written about it! Here’s a link to my other post.

This is another favorite of ours for dinner.  The food is great and we always leave satisfied. It’s on the busy thoroughfare University Avenue which stretches between both Minneapolis and St. Paul.  And Caffe Biaggio is on the St. Paul side fairly close to Highway 280. The Green Line goes right by it and the Raymond Avenue Station is close by. There is also a bus stop right in front. So many ways to arrive there!  They also have a parking lot with plenty of spaces but get there before the dinner rush to get a spot.  The restaurant is in a row of buildings so if you blink, you might miss it.

We’ve mostly eaten dinner at Caffe Biaggio but two summers ago when hubby had a day off he picked me up for lunch and we ate on their patio. It’s nice but a tad noisy due to the busy University Avenue. But it’s fun to see the world go by through the latticework that surrounds the patio for privacy.

Our most recent visit started off with a nice bottle of red wine and  deep fried olives. Wait, what? We ordered their fried calamari and the waiter delivered these fabulous olives. We got his attention and he was about to take them away but decided to give us a bonus.

I didn’t realize they had a grilled calamari option until our waiter asked which calamari we would like. It’s been a while since we had the fried calamari and it was even more delicious this time. It’s served with a mayo type sauce which is different than the usual marinara type sauce that we’ve typically had elsewhere. When the waiter removed our empty plate he commented that they had changed the breading. Aha! So it wasn’t our imaginations that it tasted even better than we remembered.

Next came our main entrees.  Hubby had one of the specials that night, a lobster tail risotto with langostino and I had their spinach gnocchi in tomato sauce, something new for me. Everything we have had there has been great and this meal was no exception. Here’s a link to their website for more information.

Small fun fact: Hubby worked for a very short time at Breakfast at Mama’s when he previously lived in the cities during the 70s. In the “about us” section of Caffe Biaggio’s website they mention Mama D’s. Mama is the mother of the owner of Caffe Biaggio and she ran both Mama D’s and Breakfast at Mama’s.

If you like Italian food and you’re in St. Paul, do stop by Caffe Biaggio.  Great food and great service and several ways to get there.

They adorn their tables with a small vase of fresh flowers. Nice touch!!

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Thanksgiving at the M Street Cafe

I didn’t get a chance to post this last year because, holidays.  But since I just posted a restaurant review of the St. Paul Grill I remembered that I had intended to do the same for the Thanksgiving brunch that the M Street Cafe had this past year. The M Street Cafe is another restaurant at the St. Paul Hotel. It’s only open for lunch and I had never been there before. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to handle making my usual Thanksgiving feast that we do every year because I was still recovering from my shoulder injuries, so I made reservations at the M Street Cafe.  They have an amazing spread with various stations all lined up. I didn’t get good photos of the meal courses because it was so crowded and I didn’t want to butt in line to get photos. The meal was good but I think my favorite part was the dessert room.  Yes, there were so many desserts, it needed its own room!

You can’t really compare a Thanksgiving meal out to a home cooked meal. There were lots of choices and I wish I had kept the menu of all those choices, alas, I did not nor can I find it online. But, there was something for everyone. If you didn’t like turkey, you could have ham, for example. Unfortunately I don’t remember all the food that was offered. But it was worth it not to have to worry about re-injuring my shoulders by preparing the feast, however, there were no leftovers and they didn’t allow us to take home our desserts.  Oh well. It was a nice meal nonetheless.  Following are galleries of the photos that I took. I’ve created a separate gallery just for the desserts. I think you’ll see why.

And now for the desserts:

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The St. Paul Grill

I love celebrating  at this restaurant. It’s one of my favorites. We decided to continue our Christmas celebration last year with a night at the St. Paul Grill.  It’s a restaurant on the main floor of the St. Paul Hotel and it’s a great spot for any celebration. We went all out and it was so worth it!!

We started with their shrimp cocktail. Oh my, best cocktail sauce ever!! But oops, I didn’t get a photo of it. There’s currently a photo of it on their menu but I’m not sure if it will remain there. Miss M and I shared a strawberry spinach salad described thusly: Baby Spinach topped with Sliced Strawberries, Creamy French Brie Cheese, Candied Walnuts and Raspberry Poppy Seed Dressing.  It was the perfect combination and delicious. And hubby had their French onion soup. There’s no description because it doesn’t need one. Ha!

On to the main courses. Miss M had their 6 oz. filet mignon, I had the scallops (Pan Seared Scallops over Butternut Squash Puree with a Root Vegetable Fregola and a Red Wine Glaze) and hubby had the crab cakes (Sweet, Tender Colossal Blue Crab with Citrus Tarragon Aïoli). We also had sides of mashed potatoes, asparagus and onion rings. Everything was amazing! And the service, always impeccable.  The two reasons I love celebrating at the St. Paul Grill. It is a bit spendy (that’s Minnesotan for expensive) but, to me, it’s so worth it because you get to feel like royalty and eat delicious food at the same time.

bread basket

filet mignon

scallops

crab cakes

To finish up we all shared a 7 layer chocolate cake. It’s not on their menu currently but I did get a photo of it! My last gallery here includes the dessert as well as a view of the wine list with some very expensive wines that we did not indulge in. And a couple photos of us enjoying the evening. If you’re in St. Paul and want to celebrate, do check out the St. Paul Grill. You’ll leave satisfied, I can just about guarantee it!

 

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Walker Sculpture Garden, Minneapolis – Autumn 2019

Back to a local treasure, the Walker Sculpture Garden. It’s been a long while since we’ve visited and I’ve been wanting to go since it reopened in June 2017 after a renovation. We went on a sunny, early October day a little over two years since its reopening. Hey, at least we finally got there!

I enjoyed our walk about but I’m not so sure I like the changes. It seems that it’s not laid out as well as it previously was and that’s hard to describe. Sculptures are mostly arranged in various squares with other sculptures surrounding the squares. So, you enter one side of the square to get a close up view of the sculpture in there.  When you exit you only get to see that side’s sculptures making it a long walk to see the other sculptures on the other two sides?  Yea, like I said, hard to describe.  There is one Alexander Calder mobile on the western edge that felt like it took a long time to walk to. There also used to be a green house and that is gone.  There are, however, nice gardens that probably looked better in spring and summer but I tried to capture some of those. There still was some beauty to behold gardenwise and several flowers still blooming.

The Walker Sculpture Garden opened in 1988 but the history actually goes back to 1906 when the land that would become the sculpture garden was donated to the Minneapolis park board by Thomas Lowry. Lowry was a real estate magnate and head of the Minneapolis Street Railway Co.  His home was where the Walker Art Center now stands, adjacent to the sculpture garden.  There is the Lowry tunnel as part of interstate 94 close by and now I know who that tunnel was named for. Interesting!  The gardens contain more than 40 works of art on 11 acres and is the largest urban sculpture garden in the country.  I learned most of this from the Minneapolis Parks website.  Check out more interesting stuff at this link.  At the Walker Art Center’s website is a page containing photos of all of the sculptures as well as the layout. I grabbed the names of the pieces and the artists’ names from this site.

I was also curious how the Walker Art Center got is name.  Instead of summarizing here I will direct you to this link for some interesting history of Thomas Barlow (T. B.) Walker, a Minneapolis lumber baron who loved art.

I hope you’ll enjoy this photo tour of our day in the sculpture garden. I didn’t capture all of the sculptures but I’m happy with my samples. And it was a perfect, sunny day with gorgeous blue skies.

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Autumn 2019 – Twin Cities Minnesota

I’ve been absent for a bit as I traveled to southern California for my niece’s wedding. It was a fabulous weekend full of love and sunshine, a perfect day for a southern California autumn wedding.  It was a great time!

I’ll be putting together a post about other things I did that extended weekend, as well as other posts that are in the queue.  For now, I wanted to post some autumn photos from the twin cities before autumn is over.  So, without further ado, please enjoy these photos.

More photos:

And a couple of autumn flowers.

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Minnesota State Fair 2019

It’s time for my annual recap of our trips to the fair.  We did opening day a little differently than most years where we all have the day off and go together. One big difference this year is that I no longer have a parking spot on the St. Paul campus which meant a different way to get to the fair. And I didn’t have enough vacation days to take the opening day off.  Instead, hubby and Miss M met each other at the fair and I met up with them a few hours later.

All the lots had filled up by before noon I believe but I know there is a first wave of people who went to the fair early and after lunch, they were ready to head for home. I timed it perfectly and found a parking spot about 3:00 on opening day. And the bus came five minutes later. On other trips we weren’t as lucky and had to wait for a bus for about 30 minutes once. Taking the bus is a great option for us as there are many lots nearby to park for free and the bus takes you to the fair for free. We even tried a different lot this year because we had volunteered for a 2 hour stint at my new department’s tables at U of M Central in the Crossroads building. And that was a Sunday which meant that all the church lots around us didn’t open until 1:00 and we had to be there at 11:00 so we parked in another lot not owned by a church. It went amazingly well :)

We had lots of fun at the fair again this year. Great food, great company, great art and great stuff in the agriculture building, as usual. Fantastic crop art again this year and you’ll see some of that in my galleries below. We saw some animals and old tractors too.

For the floral displays in the center of the agriculture building this year was a theme of  “Minnesota Grown”. Here’s the wording from the fair’s website:

This year’s floral extravaganza features large-scale handcrafted and personalized designs created by local florists to celebrate the lives of iconic “Minnesota Grown” hometown legends such as Judy Garland, Charles Schulz, Prince and others.

I really enjoyed this year’s floral extravaganza. I actually never knew it was called an extravaganza. The things one learns. Below is a gallery of those displays. I loved it so much I had to take a second and third look. See what you think.

Next, some scenes at the fair:

Another great year for art, both in the art building and the crop art in the agriculture building:

To end, here are some antique machines and some animals that we saw:

 

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Summit Avenue Walking Tour, St. Paul, MN, June 2019

Last weekend my friend Ruth and I went on a Summit Avenue walking tour in St. Paul and I wanted to share photos and what I remember. It’s a 90 minute tour of some of the biggest and oldest homes on Summit Avenue that starts at the James J. Hill house.  We walked maybe a mile total and heard histories of several homes.

We learned the James J. Hill house was the most expensive house on the Avenue at the time.  The enormous mansion cost $1,000,000 to build in 1891, about $2.7 million today. Throughout the tour our guide would tell us how much each of the houses cost to build and the James J. Hill house far surpassed every other house we viewed.  One can’t help but notice the dark stones on this house. It was due to coal being used to heat the homes at the time. Our guide spoke of an attempt to clean the stones using a sandblaster and how that damaged the stone, so they stopped doing that. It sounded like cleaning these stones was low on the priority list of upkeep for this house.

James J. Hill was the guy who created the Great Northern Railway between St. Paul, Minnesota and Seattle, Washington.  He made a fortune in the railroad business and was able to build the home of his dreams.  The tour of his ornate mansion is also worth a visit. I took the tour shortly after I arrived in Minnesota 27 years ago.  I think it might be time to take that tour again. These two photos were taken at the same time but I lightened up the second one:

One of the themes of this tour was money because all of the houses on the tour were owned by the wealthiest people in St. Paul.  Our guide told us how much it cost to build each of the houses on our tour. It’s so interesting especially in today’s market.  Towards the end of the tour we saw Hill’s carriage house(260 Maiden Lane) for the mansion across the street. It’s been converted into condos and one of them sold for $800k recently. We all wondered what Hill might think of this, that one third of his carriage house is worth nearly as much as he paid to build that huge mansion across the street.

Next door to the Hill house was the home he built for his son Louis, apparently the favorite son.  Along the way our guide mentioned the many styles of the houses and you could see that each owner selected styles that appealed to them.  I don’t remember all of the styles mentioned but Richardsonian Romanesque was one that was repeated a few times. The Hill house is in this style. Others mentioned were Queen Anne and Italianate.  The following gallery contains the first several homes that we looked at, including the oldest standing structure on Summit Avenue built in 1858 at 312 Summit.

There’s a bit of a story about these next homes. They are called the Leitner and the Leitner-Young homes. These two owners were lawyers together and our guide joked that they must have liked each other so much they lived in a double house together(322 Summit). Some years later, Mr. Leitner had another home built right next door. Had enough of Mr. Young and family? Hmmm.  There is also a tunnel between the houses.

The following gallery contains photos of the next homes that we viewed.  Our guide pointed out that on the left side of the large red stone house the carriage area had been converted to a garage.  She pointed out the white house across the street(365 Summit) as this one’s her favorite on Summit Avenue. She likes that it’s the only white house on Summit and that it’s the first house on Summit Avenue that was owned by a female, Martha Bass.

We rested a little bit at “Lookout” Park, or Summit Overlook Park, which offers a nice view of the Mississippi river valley below as well as The University Club, a very exclusive club. It was even more exclusive during the time all the mansions on Summit Avenue were being built. In order to become a member you had to be a white male with an Ivy League education. So James J. Hill, who had only an 8th grade education but was one of the wealthiest men in St. Paul, could not become a member. But his son Louis, who went to Yale because his father wanted him to have the best education, could become a member.  Irony of ironies that.

After our short rest in Overlook Park we crossed Summit and our guide took us down Maiden Avenue(parallel to Summit), so named because the female servants for the wealthy people along Summit Avenue lived in row houses here.  We passed the building named The Commodore  where F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda resided when their daughter Scottie was born. This was also where many gangsters lived during Fitzgerald’s time. Check out this interesting article about those gangsters that I found on MinnPost. I had never heard of The Commodore before but Ruth had been there for a wedding reception and said it was very nice. I think I may have to check out the restaurant soon!

The tour ends at the St. Paul Cathedral which was designed by Cass Gilbert, a prolific architect who also designed the Minnesota State Capitol as well as the William Leitner house at 318 Summit noted above. Both Ruth and I really enjoyed this tour and would highly recommend it to anyone that enjoys architecture and/or the history of  some of the wealthiest people of St. Paul.  While doing research for this post I came across several interesting articles that I’m going to link here for anyone that would like to do further reading. Within the first link there is a photo of the oldest house on Summit (at 312 Summit) covered in ivy, quite the contrast to how it looks today.

Summit Avenue History: The Story of Saint Paul’s Famous Street

Another Summit Avenue walking tour

 

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