The Year End Auto Issue. As often happens with vehicles, they can seem as though they’re more like gift ideas than utilitarian tools for life. What we want versus what makes sense. I’ve been happy to find vehicles that are both fun to drive and make sense, but there’s still a part of me that says, “This one. Put a big bow on it and leave it in my driveway, please.” But this issue is even more intentional in its gift flavor in that it not only features a luxury sports car, but it also gives us a great idea for a gift of driving somebody else’s luxury sports cars for a while…as well as a way we can give back to help others with their vehicles.
How can we give back to help others with their vehicles? I was already familiar with donating cars for tax credit so they can be refurbished and sold, but The Lift Garage is a completely new concept to me. It’s the surprise inside this issue. We have clinics with sliding-scale fees, we have food shelves, we have places for affordable clothing, but what do we have for vehicle repairs? I can’t emphasize enough what an intriguing business model and organization The Lift Garage is: it reminds us all that something that might be fun and helps us get through our days is also what can make or break someone’s ability to make a living, stay employed, and keep a home. It’s humbling and it’s something more people need to know about.
As for the rest of the issue, I can tell we’re getting close to the end of the year when I’m stuffing in content to make sure we fit it all into 2016. This community is an active one, so this issue has a whole lot of Lavender Lenses in it showing off photos of people at events that celebrate and honor each other and what everyone’s doing. They’re both an archive for what this community cares about as well as a reminder to keep recognizing each other and what you work to achieve.
What we’ve got coming up for the rest of the year is some pretty fun stuff. The Holiday Gift Guide is both fluffy and resourceful, whether you’re looking for something for yourself or someone on your gift list. I get a lot of guff for going shopping and coming home with things for myself because that’s when things are on sale. Are you kidding me? Get it. The Guide is also when we get to highlight some local makers, items that are of specific interest to this community, and vouch for particular products that would make any consumer satisfied.
Then, after the Holiday Gift Guide, we’ll have the issue that ends the year with best-of recaps and the Lavender Community Awards. It’s a feel-good issue full of recognition and respect. We’ve had some great nominations rolling in but the nominations will be closed by the time you’re reading this. If you don’t want to miss any future opportunities to nominate people for awards or submit things for the publication when I ask for them (like for weddings or pet photos or things like that), be sure to follow us on Facebook (search “Lavender Magazine”) and check in on our website as you’re making your internet rounds. That’s where we have the flexibility to inform you of more things and publish exclusive content that can’t be found in the print issue.
Another way we can remind you of our fresh website content and events is through our e-newsletter, Lavender Link. Want to find out what’s in print and online on a weekly basis? We don’t spam you or do anything obnoxious in your inbox, we just tell you what’s going on, what you can win in our contests, where you can find our events, and what new stuff has appeared on our website recently. Go to www.lavendermagazine.com/lavenderlink to sign up and stay informed.
To piggyback off the topic of where you can find us digitally, did you know that our circulation every two weeks is over 33,500? It is. Between the print copies you can find at the distribution sites, the iPad installations, and the iPhone installations, we reach quite a few people and places. And all for free. So, find us in Newsstand or the App Store and install Lavender Magazine to get it delivered directly to you when each new issue comes out. It’s all to make sure this community gets access to content about itself, without barriers or cost.
Also online and on your devices is Big Gay News. If you’ve been following us through the years, you know that we’ve had a daily presence in posting, tweeting, and podcasting news for this community from around the world. Linda Raines and Shane Lueck find the news, Shane and I record the daily podcasts. So, if you want to keep up with just a smattering of stories a day (or if you want to hear my rather thick Minnesota accent…at times, not all the time), follow us on Twitter at @biggaynews for the daily headlines and find us on iTunes to get the daily podcasts.
Lastly, our events year is winding down. We’ve had two events a month — First Thursday for the happy hour crowd and Score Thursday for the sports crowd — and we’ve held them at various places, from hotels to furnishings stores to bars to the only gay sports bar and restaurant in town (that’s going gangbusters!). Check your calendars and clear the nights because the next Score Thursday is going to be at Betty Danger’s Country Club in Northeast Minneapolis followed by the next First Thursday at The Intercontinental Hotel in Downtown St. Paul. We get around.
And I do hope to see you around. As the days get shorter and colder, let’s be sure to find each other and celebrate this community whenever we can.
I was born in St. Paul, near the Capitol. My parents took my brother and me out to the country to raise us, but I am pretty sure I’ve been magnetically attracted to St. Paul my whole life. I can leave it, and I’ll come back to it.
While a wee lass in the country, I’d idealized a magical place called “Grand Avenue” where the buildings were old, the streetlights were streetlamps, and there was always ivy growing on brick walls. Its street blocks were probably scented like the Aspen Mulling spices that the Victorian Homes magazine always smelled like in the 1980s.
But, what I had yet to learn about was Cathedral Hill. Grand Avenue is grand, but Cathedral Hill has even more of what I wanted. Churches and business buildings and restaurants and shops all mixed in with houses that make me swoon. There are books published about these locations. There is a bus tour that shows us where the gangsters lived. There’s an air of romance to the whole neighborhood. And, there was a man who called this area home named F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of The Great Gatsby. A man for whom the newest restaurant at Western and Selby is named: Fitzgerald’s.
Everyone’s got a few versions of who they are, from more buttoned-up to playful to downright raucous. The idea behind this new bar and eatery is to present a restaurant that’s the more casual (yet still fully deserving of its place in the crown that is Cathedral Hill) version of something that’s become more of an ideal than a person. But lest we forget, F. Scott Fitzgerald was once Scott. This is where he might have caroused. It’s where he may have stayed long hours, eating good food and getting (or remaining) properly soused. It’s where I can imagine a man with a look on his face of someone who has been fed to great satisfaction. Okay, that was me. I’ve had that look. Twice.
You may remember the space as being the Salt Cellar, where steaks and tableside-made salads happened for a while. Much like the man for whom this new destination is named, the restaurant on the corner has reinvented itself. The team behind it has been a prolific one in St. Paul in recent years with restaurants including Public Kitchen + Bar, Handsome Hog, Ox Cart Ale House, and Eagle Street Grille. This one pulled some tremendous talent from Ox Cart to bring it to fruition: chef Graham Messenger and general manager Joe Paton. And the whole space has had some work done, both structurally and cosmetically. The team listened to what the neighborhood was asking for, and doubled the bar to become one large rectangle, added a bunch of hightop tables, and made a more clearly defined auxiliary area for more space or private dining if the large barn door is utilized to separate it from the majority of the restaurant. The space looks smart; it makes sense. I give high marks to the improvements.
While the neighborhood was asking for casual, we also know that it’s a neighborhood that expects things done well. The neighboring restaurants have set the bar pretty high for what goes at Western and Selby and we’re the ones who benefit from those standards. So, while you might be wandering in for a late lunch while watching the game, know that you can order bar food, and it will be so good.
The lunch and dinner entrées span from pizza to sandwiches to burgers to chicken and steak and fish dishes, while the brunch looks inviting with favorites like hash, bennies, omelets, or even ribs. I was able to get a few bites of the fried egg sandwich from the brunch menu and know that I will be back to explore more. All of the baked goods are from St. Paul’s own Saint Agnes Baking Co. and I’m a sucker for the egg sandwich on a milk bun with bacon, American cheese, a sweet and briny pickled red onion, and a harissa mayo that has more sweet than heat.
I can attest to eating some sumptuous dishes, myself. For starters, the jalapeño and cheddar croquettes are a reimagined version of poppers. These fried fingerlings of cheese and heat give the same mouth-feel as a conventional popper, with a much more satisfying center of cheese with the ambient flavor of jalapeño. Smear them through the swoosh of béchamel to make each bite more than you knew you wanted from a bar app.
If you’re more in the mood for soup or salad for your mealtime warmup, I recommend the french onion soup and wedge salad. The french onion soup is the standard and satisfying savory brown broth in a crock that is chock full of onions and croutons and oozy melted cheese. I took a picture of it to warm me up when I’ll need it in the upcoming winter months. And the wedge salad with red onion and sunflower seeds has the most inoffensive blue cheese dressing I’ve ever encountered. Not being a fan of blue cheese dressing, I was pleasantly surprised that the creamy base was absolutely delicious first, then punctuated by the crumbles of blue cheese second. I think this is a winner for those who both love and mildly dislike the funky stuff.
You’ve got a few options for how to approach your entrées. There are sandwiches and burgers, pizzas, and full-on entrées for your consideration. And I’ll be honest, of what I’ve tasted, you’ll find me hanging out in the sandwiches and burgers portion of the menu because that’s where I’m happiest. Oh, the pizza with Spanish chorizo and caramelized onion was delicious and the pappardelle with Italian sausage and beef ragu is very pleasing (the ragu could use a touch more garlic, methinks), but the stars of my constellation are the Philly cheesesteak and the Fitz burger. The cheesesteak is a salty, unctuous sandwich made with sliced ribeye and house-made Cheez Whiz, making it a glorious mess of a meal. And the Fitz burger has not only a well-salted, flavorful burger patty, but enough Russian dressing, cheese, and pickles-per-bite to make anyone say, Big Mac who?
Finally, for dessert, you may not have many options, but you have good ones. There’s Izzy’s ice cream and then there are a few selections that Chef Graham is quick to point out were concepted by Cheyenne Broughton of one of the other restaurants in the family, Handsome Hog. They needed to be good and they needed to be doable in the fast-quality environment and they pulled that off with aplomb.
The chocolate brownie comes in slabs that defy reason in that they’re so soft and gooey but still retain their structure. With a dark cocoa sauce, toasted nuts, some crisps (that are actually called feuilletine, but let’s not get too fancy), the dessert is a hit for those who love the cacao. I’m the one who’ll be hoarding the cranberry custard all for myself. I’m a goon for the puddings and flans and crème brûlée and pots de creme, but this is actually a posset and I could not be happier to add that word to my lexicon. And daily diet. A fine, smooth pudding with a hint of cranberry is the light-pink base that carries a bit of compote and brown salty-sweet crumbles. (Not to be confused: Graham’s the chef; the flavorful topping is brown-butter streusel. You’re welcome.)
If you’re stopping in for a drink around the massive rectangular bar, be sure to check out one of the many beers on tap. The cocktails were concocted and give both playful ingredients and flavors as well as location-centric names. And, I’m happy to report, that they were more than happy to provide on-the-spot non-alcoholic drinks for me as a non-drinker when I said I’d like “something tasty with ginger.” Next time, I’ll probably try “something delicious with cherry” or something equally ambiguous because I know they’ll give me something good.
When I asked Chef Graham what was different between what he had been making at Ox Cart Ale House and Fitzgerald’s, he said that in addition to the local ingredients being similar in importance, so is the speed of execution. Ox Cart is positioned near the baseball stadium in Lowertown and required fast foods including sausages. The concept up the hill at Fitzgerald’s maintains the fast foods that rely heavily on the prep but are able to be completed and plated quickly. So, even though I might joke about moving in and taking over a table or booth for an afternoon, know that you can get in and out easily if you need to. It’s a neighborhood joint that wants to make the people happy, whether you’re lingering like Fitz or on your way elsewhere, but want a good meal in your belly in the meanwhile.
Fitzgerald’s is already proving itself to be a popular addition to the neighborhood with the crowds I’ve seen packed in there so far. I wish the team well and am happy to welcome it to the grand collection of restaurants at that intersection. Leave time for parking, save room for the custard, and I’ll see you on the Hill.
Sometimes what I like most about my home is leaving it. This home and garden issue covers three aspects of leaving home with a theme of “Homes Away From Home,” so we’re looking at pets, hotels, and personal property as vacation rentals.
The cover story for this issue is all about this new trend of renting out personal property for vacationing people, people who need temporary housing, and people who are looking for spaces for special events. They tend to be unique and neighborhood-oriented. I’m excited to see where this trend goes. The project we show off here pleases me in a number of ways: it came about because of an article in one of our previous home and garden issues; it’s a brand new concept to the city of Minneapolis and this project was designed by the architect who quarterbacked the process of getting ADUs approved; it’s owned by a member of this community and is a concept that is particularly appealing to this community that tends to take care of (and make space for) their family members; and it’s an appealing business prospect for a community that tends to grasp entrepreneurial opportunities such as this.
Also of interest to our readership are the new hotels popping up in Minneapolis. Design-forward, food-oriented, locally sourced, the new properties are not only beautiful but also provide great opportunities for us, our travelers, and our special events. Suites, rooms, full-service, self-service, small, and large, there is plenty to choose from and our city is all the better thanks to these additions. I’ve got my eye on the pet-friendly one for a staycation, myself.
Lastly, with pets in mind, one of the most important things I do when making travel plans is make sure my dog, Grendel, is all set. He’s almost 11 years old and the last time I boarded him, I learned that he is the proverbial old dog who can’t learn new tricks. Our usual “camp” is out in the country, about an hour away. I decided to try some place near my loft in St. Paul for a quick two-day trip and he responded by eating his foam bed the first night, he was so upset. Being fluent in his language, this told me that he’s going back to camp in the country, because that’s not only where they know him, but he knows them. It’s familiar. It’s part of his “territory.” But I still have great guilt over it. So, it was good timing for me to read the piece about Downtown Dogs in this issue in which Ralph Bernstein says, “That’s exactly why places like Downtown Dogs exist and why we all love what we do.” When we find a place that works for our pets as a home away from home, we can relax and let ourselves off the hook, knowing that they’re somewhere they’re known and wanted. Phew.
While I love to stay at unique properties and luxe hotels, what brings me home is the four-legged guy who prefers the company of me, and only me, in our four walls. May our wanderlust always find balance with what calls us to return.
I went to a wedding a couple weekends ago. It was an idyllic cusp-of-fall day at Mayowood Stone Barn in Rochester. The whole afternoon and evening seemed like it granted the couple an extra-long golden hour, when the sun hits everything just right. The choices of songs and readings struck my fancy perfectly with a nice mix of current affairs, social commentary, romance, and spirituality, while there was plenty of fun to be had with a taco bar, a mish-mash of colorful cake selections, and a retro VW Blue Bus Photo Booth parked outside the barn that used to belong to the Mayo family of Mayo Clinic fame. What struck me that afternoon is that the wedding was perfect for my preferences as a 39-year-old in 2016. The rituals were present, the event pulled in the traditional and the trendy, the readings resonated with my more mature mind and heart, and it was obvious that the couple was celebrating the fact that they had, as they put it in their vows, found their “person” in each other. There was a timelessness to the affair and an endlessness to the love.
When I was younger, it seemed that a wedding would be the beginning of a to-do list: house, pet, kids, retirement, death. As I’m getting older, my checklist might be down to just one thing: someone to hang out with for the rest of my life. A beloved who doesn’t have to do or be anything but mine. Less of a checklist love, more of a steadfast love. And if a wedding that makes that bond official can somehow capture the endlessness of our love today, tomorrow, and forever with golden-hour aplomb, I’ll consider myself and my beloved to be particularly fortunate.
This wedding issue has a mish-mash of traditional and trendy. I’m thrilled to present a large section of Real Weddings, because seeing people in this community commit themselves to each other is something of which I’ll never tire. You celebrating your love in your own ways with your people is what makes each of these wedding issues a public record of sorts; evidence of both what makes this community unique as well as an archive of how you did it for those who follow your steps. Also in this issue, we talk about new practices in throwing more casual events, we show off new trends with the most delectable and decor-oriented cookies, and we talk to two couples who married each other after taking their time, whether due to life’s circumstances or legalities or a mixture of all sorts of things. But, their love waited. And their bonds will last. And their love will be endless.
While weddings and events change with time and trend, we’ll always have endless love as the goal, the hope, the ever-after.
Have I mentioned before how what we see in media — on the screens, in the magazines, in images both moving and still — is representative of only about five percent of what our population actually looks like? That means that 95 percent of us don’t often see ourselves in what’s presented to our eyes. We’re taller, shorter, bigger, slighter, with longer torsos, with longer legs, with shorter necks, with bigger feet, with chubbier cheeks. We’re diverse. And we’re suffering from our own erasure.
This does not mean that the five percent we see is bad. It does mean that they’re not representative of us. If we can find ourselves in them, great. If we can’t, what do we do?
We need to look elsewhere. And I recommend Instagram. Instagram is an app that you can install on your smartphone or, if you don’t have a smartphone, you can go to Instagram.com and join it via its website. What you have there is a collection of self-taken and self-published photos of people. Selfies. Fashion shoots. Promotional photos for items of clothing we don’t often see in the five percent of the population’s images that surround us. It’s a grassroots way of finding ourselves as well as showing off who we are. Fighting our own erasure. I recommend joining it and then searching for people you want to surround yourself with; once I found people who look like me, my whole way of seeing changed. My Instagram feed became empowering.
Need suggestions for who to follow? Here are a handful of options…and then have fun exploring the wide world of Instagram. Take pictures of yourself to add to the array of beauty out there. Show off your personal style. Be present and expand the five percent to become more like 10 percent. To include you. Us.
With you and with power,
Harnaam Kaur: bearded dame, body confidence activist, @harnaamkaur
Bear Skn: comfortable underwear for brawny men (founded by former Minneapolites Bjorn Ryan-Gorman and his partner Jody Koenig), @bear_skn
Beth Ditto: “fat, lesbian feminist” with her own clothing line, @marybethditto
The Invisible Tomboy: promoting and encouraging the gentlewoman/mxn tomboy, @theinvisibletomboy
Just last week, I escaped to the North Shore for a midweek getaway. It was a spur-of-the-moment thing, a magical gap in my calendar, and a new-but-old accommodation destination that had a rare vacancy. I found a friend who could make the trip with me, sent the dog to camp, and pointed the Fiat north to Breezy Point Cabins on Lake Superior, which are found on “Scenic 61” which is the original, lakeside version of highway 61 between Duluth and Two Harbors. Not to be confused with Breezy Point Resort on Pelican Lake in north central Minnesota, these cabins were built in the 1930s on a stunning rock perch on Lake Superior. Worlds away, but yet so close.
It surprises me how close Duluth and Lake Superior are to the Twin Cities. On a clear day with a good podcast to listen to, it seems like I just left St. Paul when suddenly I’m cresting the hill from which we can first see our beautiful Great Lake. That’s a golden moment of each trip. And it’s a trip that a number of people from the Twin Cities make at least on a yearly basis, to attend Duluth-Superior Pride each Labor Day Weekend, which celebrated its 30th anniversary this year. A number of people who belong to this community as members or allies live in Duluth all the way up through Cook County and into Grand Marais (also called “Gay Marais”) and they make this beautiful part of our state even more welcoming.
When I travel, I tend to go until I can’t. That means I get some coffee in me, I map out the day, I go, I see, I eat, and I finally stop. It’s a getaway, but a recreational one. Having a place of respite for the rest is crucial in order to achieve some kind of balance. And our three days/two nights of getting away was going to be chock full of get up, go, and stop. After I got the green light from my friend that he could take the time and accompany me, I had an itinerary set to go in a matter of minutes. I think I’m always in a state of being ready. Just give me a reason, some time, the means, and a direction and we’ll be off and running. Three days, two nights…it’s go time.
And off we went. Our first destination was the only reservation I made for the entire trip: New Scenic Cafe. It’s like visiting an old friend. Knotty pine walls are warm and bright, the colors are plentiful, and the food and drink are top-notch. Chef Scott Graden’s place, complete with a blue yurt on the property, is a North Shore jewel. The choice to eat there is never one I’ll regret, but having to narrow down my choices of appetizers and entrées is always something that takes some consideration. We started with an asparagus galette, which was a large square of puff pastry that framed what looked to be a landscape painting of stalks of asparagus over gruyere with a mound of prosciutto and a sun in the sky of a split soft-boiled egg. Absolutely divine in its salty-nuttiness. I thoroughly enjoyed my sandwich, a cochinita pibil, of pork shoulder, spices, avocado, and queso fresco with buttermilk creme fraiche, but the table’s entrée of the evening was the special, the Niçoise, of seared tuna, olives, tomatoes, green beans, and a light sauce, all of which was “Perfect, perfect, perfect.”
What I didn’t expect was that dessert could possible beat the thrice-announced perfection of the entrée. But it did. When I heard that there was huckleberry mousse on the dessert menu, I had to order it. And after I tasted it, I became angry, it was so good. No, that’s not the accurate emotion for the situation, but perhaps I was upset that I’d never had it before. Or might not have it again. Regardless, there was no getting around just how pleased we were by New Scenic Cafe. Again. As usual. And, alas, it was over.
The part I didn’t mention is that I made the dinner reservation for 5:30. There’s no getting around it, that’s an early dinner time. But I had good reason behind this planning. The days are getting shorter and the sunsets are getting earlier, and there’s no way I wanted to miss the sun setting on Lake Superior from our place on its shore. So, fed and happy, it was time to “get thee to Gitche Gumee.”
Upon checking in, I was sent off to the cabin with an armload of split logs, a kit of graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows for making s’mores, and plenty of kindling for building our own fire. The light was getting lower, the breeze was languid, the directions were given, and we took our place in the cabin next to the “one with the gal with the Subaru.” (I’m sure if I’d ever met her, I would have liked her.) We parked, moved into the cabin, and immediately built a fire at which I made sure to take a bunch of photos, videos, and selfies, because the setting was stunning and it needed to be shared with the world on Instagram.
Recently reopened in June by Odyssey Resorts, Breezy Point Cabins on Lake Superior have been revamped to keep the rustic charm where possible, with twists of modernity. Our cabin was the 12th of 12, on the northernmost end of the property. A “studio” cabin, it has a modern kitchenette, a king-sized bed, two lounge chairs, a fireplace, a two-person granite-topped bar table with stools as a dining area, a bathroom with a sizeable shower with subway tile walls, and not only its own deck but also its own firepit and seating area on the lawn above the lake. The decor is Pottery Barn-meets-Fair Isle and trapper blanket stripes. When lying on the bed, the windows and the cabin’s proximity to the lake make it seem like we’re on it, rather than next to it. And the sounds of the waves lapping the shore only assist and reinforce that daydream.
It was the perfect place to call home base for a few days along the lake. But, more than just a place to land, it was a location at which we could spend time. Time, being something that needs to be grabbed and hoarded and consumed wisely, is not squandered here. Any moment spent yields great returns in peaceful moments basking in the sun, feeling the breeze, smelling the water and pine needles and campfire smoke. Our nighttimes were for chatting by the fire as we watched the lake disappear into darkness. The mornings were for reading and drinking coffee, taking time to be present in this place.
But the days? The days were for going. And both of them started at Mocha Moose with a large miel, the honey-sweetened cinnamon-y latte that was obtained just across the highway from the cabins. The first day took us north to Two Harbors, where we drove through the historic district and saw the first lighthouse of the trip, followed by a quick hike at Gooseberry Falls State Park to the middle falls, accessible for free with a state park sticker on your vehicle and open at 8:30 in the morning. When given a limited amount of time, it’s prudent to skim the cream off the top and that meant a quick stop at the highlights, the next of which was Split Rock Lighthouse.
Though our actual destination for the day was Judge C.R. Magney State Park, about 20 minutes north of Grand Marais (and, therefore, 2 hours and 20 minutes north of our cabin), none of the state parks or scenic stops are terribly far off the beaten path of Highway 61, so they’re all doable on an abbreviated schedule. The one that may give you pause if you’re a person who’d like to get more bang from your buck could be Split Rock Lighthouse since, though it doesn’t require a State Park vehicle sticker, a vehicle sticker does not get you out of a $10 entry fee. We gladly paid our way to be some of the first people through the iconic and pristinely preserved landmark at 10:00, while taking a quick hike along the edge of the cliff for some photo opportunities. Climbing up into the lighthouse and seeing both the view of the lake as well as the lens and mechanism up close was something I don’t recall doing in my earlier years and is, literally, worth the price of admission.
Hopping in the car and heading further north, we ended up passing on some rather irresistible stops, like Tettegouche River State Park, Temperance River State Park, Palisade Head, and Cascade River State Park, but our destination egged us onward and upward. Before our afternoon of hiking, we required lunch, and I chose the perfect spot for it. Pretty much across the street from Judge C.R. Magney State Park, where we’d spend the first half of the afternoon, is Naniboujou Lodge, which had been on my list of places to go for some time. And, since going there last week, it was published in the Star Tribune that the lodge is up for sale. So, while I joked with friends about checking out real estate north of Grand Marais (I was referring to Croftville along the lake), I do not have a spare $3.295 million lying around for this healthy dose of artful history. I did have $11 for lunch, though. And it was delicious, though the dining room is the showstopper for this destination.
Naniboujou is the Cree god of outdoors. Opened in 1929 as an exclusive lodge, Naniboujou Lodge has been a retreat place for respite and recreation for many travelers and diners. The centerpiece of the property is the dining room, a tall and colorful space that has a 20-foot high domed ceiling, reminiscent of a canoe, and colorful Cree designs painted on the surfaces of the 20-by-80-foot room, which is crowned by a 200-ton stone fireplace, the largest in the state of Minnesota. The lodge is on the National Register of Historic Places and is open to the public from the third week in May through the third week in October, but is also open for special events during the winter months when renovation and preservation take priority. After taking a number of photos, we finally sat down to take a look at the menu and were delighted to have what seemed to be a bit of a throwback of a meal for lunch, suitable for such a place steeped in the olden days. We enjoyed a chicken salad, some carrot soup, a superb sandwich called Kara’s Grilled Turkey and Swiss that also featured pear and honey mustard with orange raisin bread and a side of Babe’s Bean Salad that had a stunning and subtle cumin vinaigrette. It was an absolutely delectable sandwich and a nice hearty foundation for the hardy hike ahead of us.
Speaking of hikes, our afternoon plan to hike in to Devil’s Kettle along the Brule River in Judge C.R. Magney State Park was not a lofty one. My pro tip is to make sure you’ve got water as well as have visited the restroom before heading to the park because there are no such facilities there. What’s somewhere between a 2- and 2.25-mile hike to the falls and back is a bit deceptive. Sure, it’s less of a jaunt than walking around Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis, but it’s all hills with very little level ground and 175 stairs to climb both up and down. Years ago, I’d gone to the park to do the same hike with friends and had just plain given up on it. So, it was my dragon to slay. Or my white whale. Or just a really challenging hike that I wasn’t going to let get the better of me this time. And I’m so glad I didn’t. As it so happens, there are plenty of people who take the jaunt up and down the stairs and the hills with questionable footing quite easily. There are also plenty of people who aren’t accustomed to being active in such a way, but are doing it anyway, and the sense of camaraderie and goodwill is pretty palpable. In the stretch that is one long and steep stairway, there are a few places to step aside and sit on benches built into the wooden stair system, thank goodness, which means pacing is key. And the payoff is not only seeing some sights that few people get to behold, but also witnessing the mystery of a waterfall whose cauldron drains somewhere only the devil knows. Kind of like a toilet flushing to nowhere. Fascinating nature. See it for yourself.
After swapping out some sweaty clothes for clean ones, we went south again and grabbed the largest cold press coffee at Java Moose before romping around Grand Marais for the rest of the afternoon. Unfortunately, we got there just after World’s Best Donuts had closed (it opens at 6:30 in the morning and closes when it sells out), so heed my usual life advice and always eat the donuts first; we should have nabbed some on our way through town the first time. But, as it so happened, our timing served us well for not only being able to take a leisurely stroll and scramble out on the rocks of Artists’ Point, but also get an early table at the Angry Trout Cafe, something which is in such demand during the summer season that I considered this feat and victory to be akin to defeating Devil’s Kettle. It was a banner afternoon, to say the least. Artists’ Point looks to be an island just past the Coast Guard station at the harbor, but it’s actually a tombolo, which is an island connected to shore via a gravel bar. Also past the Coast Guard station is a rocky route out to the Grand Marais Lighthouse, which always gives us incomparable views of both Lake Superior and the little town that is so lovely.
Seated on the deck looking out on the harbor at Angry Trout Cafe, the skies were blue and the breeze was light. The sun was shining, but not beating down upon us. The day of hikes and scrambles was catching up as I sank into my chair and just looked out at Lake Superior. We’d done enough talking so that silence was just as suiting, he with a glass of sauvignon blanc, me with a glass of maple cream (a cream soda made with maple syrup). Known for its dishes made with fish that’s pulled straight from the lake that day, the Angry Trout’s menu was brimming with options that are healthy not only for our bodies, but also for our consciences. They were also a feast for the eyes with my maple barbecue grilled chicken breast entrée that came with a side of wild rice pilaf and a colorful salad that included fresh wild blueberries, carrot and beet shreds, cheese, onions, sweet corn, and an edible flower. Luscious and gorgeous. We lingered and shared a piece of avocado cheesecake before taking the sunset trip down the shore back to Breezy Point Cabins to enjoy the rest of the evening by the fire and the lake.
We hit the hay that night, me more tired than usual, with the windows open. I thought I’d sleep like death after a day of fresh air, sunshine, activity, and food, but Lake Superior pulled one of its tricks on us and the gentle lull of waves lapping the shore turned into a dull roar as the wind picked up during the night causing water to crash against the shores, relentlessly. Wide awake, I smiled at the lake and its mischief, but refused to close the windows to the roar. After all, I sleep to the sounds of the light rail transit system at home. If I could bring the lake with me as my soundtrack instead, I would. It was just one more reason to treasure the experience of that cabin on that lake at that spot at that time. Perfect.
In the morning we checked out of our cabin after spending some time reading and basking in the early sun, the waves loudly heralding our departure. The plan was to spend half the day in Duluth before driving back to the Twin Cities. If I were to do one thing differently on this trip, it’d be to schedule a third night to have a full day in Duluth to be able to get a bit more than just a taste of that fine town. But, as it was, the taste was still sweet, no matter how short.
I’ve heard for some time that the place to go for excellent food, that’s not found where the rest of the tourists are, is At Sara’s Table Chester Creek Cafe in the Chester Park Neighborhood. We were hankering for a good and wholesome brunch, and we were not disappointed. In a prime corner location with plenty of parking and both indoor and outdoor dining spaces, owners Barbara Neubert and her wife Carla Blumberg have been making people happy with their brand of “creative cuisine with a conscience” since 2002 (be sure to read up on the “conscience” aspect of their business on their website in the blog entries full of insightful thoughts about food and the times we live in). The menu is brimming with choices for people who identify as vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, or omnivorous (like me) with a preference for local and ethically sourced food. I had a difficult time deciding between the sweet and savory crepes, but eventually went with the savory, filled with Canadian bacon, raclette cheese, caramelized apples, and tarragon, while my friend was quite happy with the “Hippy Farm Breakfast” of basted eggs, sautéed vegetables, garlic, monterey jack and cheddar cheeses, sliced almonds, potatoes, and toast with raspberry jam. We were fed and fortified, ready to hit the waterfront.
I take Duluth’s waterfront for granted. It was the first vacation my family ever took, my parents had to make sure my brother and I wouldn’t kill each other if they took us in a car for a trip any longer than an hour. As it just so happens, we still haven’t killed each other over 30 years later and Duluth still holds a place in my heart and memories. In the short half day that was full of sunshine and blue skies, we ventured out across the lift bridge to Park Point Beach and wandered in the sand a bit. Then, we parked the car in Canal Park and went shopping for both art and activewear at Siiviis, a smaller gallery by the same people of Sivertson Gallery in Grand Marais, and the Duluth Pack retail store, a place that is so very Minnesota. Canal Park and its walkability makes for easy decisions and destinations. We just follow our feet and suddenly we’re at one of the lighthouses or in the Dewitt-Seitz building ordering sandwiches to go from Northern Waters Smokehaus. And, just before we left town, we made sure to hit Vikre Distillery when it opened at 2:00 p.m.
I’m not sure if we appeared a bit sad or just plain dedicated to be waiting on the sidewalk for a distillery to open; I’m not sure if I care, either. We were glad to walk into the historic building holding Vikre Distillery which has been refurbed for making and tasting spirits that are crafted from our northern surroundings. Cedar, juniper, and other botanicals from the watershed give the spirits their flavors. As said so poetically, Vikre is all about “a town still hiding rumrunners tunnels from prohibition. A lake so compelling that people tattoo its outline on their bodies. A Norwegian girl who dreams in flavors. And an American boy who can distill dreams into reality.” We bellied up to the bar, got friendly with the bartender, Ellen, and learned and tasted all we could about the various offerings of the distillery, from a meat and cheese plate that included caramelized caraway sweets to a flight of Boreal Gin for him to a lingonberry-lime soda for me. It was a shame we couldn’t stay for the daily tour at 5:30, but a flight of booze and some witty repartee was the most fitting way to end our flying trip to see our Great Lake and I give Vikre thanks for that.
Then, as quickly as we got to the North Shore, we were back in the Twin Cities. I dropped off my friend, picked up my dog, and sat in my loft on the light rail line thinking about the trip as I scarfed down a Big Dipper sandwich from Northern Waters Smokehaus, trying to extend the mini-vacation a little longer. As I savored the unctuous handheld porketta feast, I thought about the last 56 hours. These are the times when I want to repeat an experience like the one I just had. Immediately. For the rest of my life. I get an urge to own. And, if all my stars aligned, I actually could own a piece of Breezy Point Cabins on Lake Superior through the concept of “fractional ownership.” Or, do what is more accessible to more people and rent it. However it happens, I plan to be back for a longer stay. That’s for sure. And I can’t wait for the next “go time.”
The arts. Crucial and omnipresent aspects of our civilizations for all of time. May we experience them, may we fight for them, may we be makers of them. In this issue, we put the primary focus on the performing arts, but I’d like to offer up a couple arts and dining pairings for the visual arts. They’re ones that are a bit further out of grasp from the Twin Cities and oh-so-worth the drive. To quote The Who, they’re all about “See Me, Feel Me.”
We are well aware of how fortunate we are in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area to have a multitude of masterpieces in our midst, not to mention the bevy of all other artwork that hasn’t been given the label “masterpiece.” But what is not as known is that there is a surprising number of masterpieces in the most impressive museum in Winona, Minnesota. The Minnesota Marine Art Museum houses a collection of work from the Hudson River School as well as a stymying number of pieces of Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Modernism, and Realism by names such as Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet, Gauguin, Cézanne, O’Keeffe, Cassatt, Homer, Wyeth, and more. Among other exhibits, a special collection will be showing until Nov. 3: “150 Years of Marine Art.” And, for the more ink-inclined among us, there’s a particularly interesting exhibit that’s singing its siren song to me showing through Dec. 4 called “Ink & Water: Sailors’ Tattoos.”
No, it’s not in Winona. It’s not even close to Winona. But, in my world, it’s on the way to Winona. So, to get to Winona from the Twin Cities, you have to go south and east. Winona’s on the river, in Minnesota. What you could do is cross that river to Wisconsin and go down to Winona on that side in order to grab brunch from the good people at Chef Shack Bay City, led by Carrie Summer and Lisa Carlson. I have had a number of wonderful meals there and can vouch for what a solid and enjoyable beginning of your trip along the waterways, both literal and artistic, this will be.
We know and love our sculpture parks and gardens around here. Caponi Art Park is a delight and the Walker Sculpture Garden is iconic, though under construction for the time being. Venture a little bit east and you will find an oasis of art called Franconia Sculpture Park. Free to all, it’s a place where you can park and wander for hours, walking between sculptures that range from a lizard-snack-bar to a pit of broken glass to a tower of stacked boats to a (seemingly) buried house to a pyramid of taxidermied deer. Adults and kids can go climbing on some of the pieces and take some time to watch some of the artists in residence do their work in the area set aside for their outdoor workshops. Be sure to check on any performances or exhibits scheduled to happen at Franconia; I’m sad to be out of town for the drumming and dancing headlined by Mu Daiko that’ll be happening there while this issue is being published.
I usually take the scenic route to Franconia by going first to Stillwater and then going north to Franconia and the Taylors Falls area. Food options are plentiful, no matter how you approach it: Eichten’s from the west, Taylor’s Falls from the north, any of the restaurants in Stillwater from the south; but I prefer a grab-and-go option from two fine purveyors of food in Marine on St. Croix, between Stillwater and the sculpture park. The Marine General Store has various sundries for purchase, but proceed directly to the deli case and order up some sandwiches. I recommend anything that you can add the olive spread to, which is anything. Then, walk up the street and nab a few lovely chocolates for dessert from St. Croix Chocolate Company, headed by Robyn Dochterman and Deidre Pope, and you’ve got a picnic that will make the other brown-bag lunchers at Franconia jealous.
Enjoy this issue. See and read about what your arts community is creating and bringing to you to consume as the heartbeat of our culture. Be hungry for it and demand more, while also supporting this good and crucial work.
My grandmother, Ruby, passed away at the end of April. She died on her birthday at the age of 95. I called her The Matriarch. She wasn’t even five feet tall, but she was a quiet force to reckon with. It was a good passing, a mercifully peaceful one. I am fortunate that she was in my life as long as she was, supportive of me and my life and my people and my communities. She was my champion, always.
As someone who is single, I make a home for myself, as many of us do, alone and according to my preferences. Gramma Ruby did, too. She’d lived alone after my grandfather died in 1994, which is longer than I’ve lived alone as an adult. I have much to learn from her way of being independent and fulfilled, whether hosting family and friends or sitting and listening to the local radio as she tended to do, all day long, loudly.
What I didn’t prepare myself for, physically or mentally, was how much of her home I’d end up taking into mine. Something the previous generations seemed to have in spades were dishes and linens. And, for those of us who haven’t had a wedding for which we’ve registered for such household items, an opportunity such as this yielded quite a few additions to my domestic world. I chose a number of quilts, towels, crystal goblets, a coffee service set, platters, serving bowls, and even my own set of silver. I’d never put much thought into an inheritance; I certainly never planned to bring so much of Gramma Ruby home to live with me in St. Paul. But I see her all around me now.
My loft is only so big. Because I’ve lived in apartment buildings my entire adult life, I’ve learned that I can only take in what I can make room for by removing something else. It’s a balancing act. So, as I brought in goblets, out went mismatched glasses and mugs. As I brought in quilts, out went blankets I’ve had since my dorm days. As I brought in platters and bowls, out went a few boxes of other kitchen items to go to Goodwill. I also made room for heirloom additions that have plenty of historical and cultural significance, like her old church cookbooks that are bursting with notes and recipe cards, two spritz maker sets, an almond cake pan, a lefse flipper, and even an old coffee grinder with a hand crank. I am so fortunate to have these artifacts of my grandparents’ life in my own space, to share with anyone who I welcome into my home.
As I consider the Fall Home & Garden Issue, there are topics of decor, furniture, and big living in smaller spaces. From the view in my loft on University Avenue, I can tell you: I am living large and hardly alone.
Cultures around the world embrace the pomp and circumstance of weddings, and I revel in how a day can be transformed to celebrate the love of two people in ways that incorporate clothing, florals, venue, food, cake, music, and all things swag. You want a logo for your day? It can be designed. A special font? Pick it. Color schemes and party favors and photographers and a special vehicle for the arrival at the reception are eye candy for my marketing-loving self. I laud a well-done gimmick and there’s nothing so gimmicky in each of our lives as a wedding. And I mean that in a good way. Weddings as gimmicks grab our attention and pull us into the relationships of others, give us a stake in their lives and well-being, and hold us accountable as witnesses to their union. I just love weddings.
I’m sure I’m not alone in how I’ve internalized this idea that people have to sacrifice to prepare themselves for their special day. I’ve joked about how someone came out of the womb with a three-ring binder for planning their big day, they just needed the significant other to round out the experience. We agonize over guest lists and have fun playing laser tag with the scanner guns when we go to register for gifts. People are chosen to stand up for us at our ceremonies and they wear special clothing that we’d never ask them to wear any other day of their lives, but feel justified in doing so on our “big day.” And, for ourselves, we too often go out and find clothes that are aspirational…and change ourselves until we fit them, and not the other way around.
This is where I’d like to offer some advice. When you think of getting married and start looking at what your day will involve, try to embrace and accept yourself, as you are. It’s how your beloved loves you; who you are right now is who they want to marry, and that’s what matters. In these pages, we talk about how to pick out suits, how to consider trends, how to feel comfortable on your wedding day, and how to make sure you (and your hair) can last until the end of your reception. What we don’t talk about is how to starve yourself to lose the last 15 pounds to fit into the tux you ordered, we don’t talk about how to add reps to your workout so your arms look cut in that sleeveless dress, and we don’t talk about how you need to change to make your day perfect.
Instead, we have some excellent examples of how to make weddings work for you. Emily Post’s great-great-granddaughter, Lizzie, talks about how to make your current budget fit for wedding gift season, stressing the importance of not stretching your money too thin. Mike Marcotte gives us great ideas for gifts as well as gets advice from Anthony Andler of Heimie’s Haberdashery about how to plan ahead and tailor what you wear for your wedding to suit you. Even greeting cards for weddings and relationships are dropping some of the stuffiness and getting real, as shown with examples from Papyrus and Emily McDowell Studio. And as far as the article regarding hair is concerned, not only does Sica at Fox Den Salon provide a safe space and wonderful hairstyles for members of this community, but some of the people who she chose to model her hairstyles are familiar to us as models and performers of burlesque; they are members of our community who are role models for body positivity and acceptance.
Wedding style. What’s trendy and stylish is being yourself and being comfortable for your wedding day. At the risk of sounding gimmicky, your union deserves putting forth your most authentic self for each other, on your special day and every day after.
I observed my five-year anniversary with Lavender the day the last issue came out. I didn’t write for that issue, and it gave me time to reflect on all the topics we’ve covered over those five years and how this Children & Family Issue covers a few more tough ones that have been on my list of topics we can’t ignore as a community: adoption and youth sexual exploitation. If you read the pieces by Kathleen Bradbury and Shane Lueck, you’ll see that they work together quite well as methods of intervention, while also warning us that we have to work toward prevention as well as reparation both before and after kids have been left on their own.
The intervention that is being laid out is how, through adoption, people from this community can help kids who need homes, who are no longer in homes that will nurture and support them through their development. This may be for a number of reasons, and we know that for kids who come out as GLBT, they are at greater risk of being disowned by their families because of their sexual orientation or identity. So, we are given the opportunity to intervene and be there for them. That intervention could be what actually prevents them from the world in which they might be a sexually exploited child. And that prevention is critical. Before they become a victim who is relying on a person who is sending them out as sexual property for their own commercial gain, these kids can find a home and someone to protect them from decisions that don’t seem like decisions at all. As vulnerable as they are, they have no agency. They need a guardian, in both a literal and figurative sense. You could become such a guardian.
For many kids, they’re already in a life that has treated them cruelly. Whether shuffled from home to home or even put into a system of sexual exploitation, reparation is necessary for them to thrive as members of our society. If there’s no way you can become a foster or adoptive parent, look to volunteering with youth organizations for at-risk kids. Be there to help them as they repair their sense of worth and belonging. Be a role model, a mentor, a person who simply cares about them and takes time for them.
And, finally, it can’t go without saying that we can also work to prevent kids from the darkness by working to change the hearts and minds of people who encounter them. Both scenarios might seem unlikely to fix, but if somehow you find yourself in the situation of being able to stop a parent from rejecting their child or being able to stop a person from sexually exploiting a child, that might be the most difficult and important role you’ll ever find yourself in. How do you know if someone might reject their child from coming out? That’s a nuanced situation that may never present itself to you. As to the topic of sexual exploitation, if there’s no market for “buying” youth for sex, there’s no market for “selling” youth for sex.
I have great hopes for our future. The kids who are growing up now will be a generation that is growing up with more equality for all than ever. Their potential is great, if they are given a chance to reach it.