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It takes a very steady hand, but every year MNMO’s oh-so-picky staff digs deep to extract the best items from the pile of fine shopping, eating, recreation, and cultural choices in Minnesota. Here are 75 things, from Cue’s polenta fries to Garrison Keillor’s new bookshop, that gave us a jolt—in a good way. Ouch! Ahh!
Todd Turfler. A guy with a name like that doesn’t dress his kids in no frou-frou baby blue or putrid pink. Rather, Turfler’s tots sport cool black T-shirts with matching doo-rags, screenprinted with vintage Dick-and-Jane type illustrations. But look closely and you’ll see these adorable children making secret devil signs. One shirt has a reminder that “It ain’t gonna change itself.” On another, varsity lettering reads, “My grandma rocks.” “My dad rocks.” Heck, “My dads rock.” And your little ones can too, ’cause while hip breeders on the coasts shop Rebel Ink Baby online, all this attitude emanates from Turfler’s St. Paul screenprinting shop. » Rebel Ink Baby, 1593 Selby Ave., St. Paul, 651-647-0655, www.rebelinkbaby.com.
Photo by Terry Brennan
Photo by Terry Brennan
40-Year-Old... Um...Becoming a local retailing legend is no small feat; most shops count themselves lucky to hit the five-year mark. In glaring contrast, the Grand (and Como and Northeast and Linden Hills) Dame of the gift bodegas, Roxy Freese, recently celebrated her Bibelot Shops’ 40th anniversary. She’s seen and survived it all—yes, even the Beanie Baby years with rabid collectors stalking the UPS truck from store to store. Alumni from her loyal staff rave about her generosity, work ethic, and unerring eye (rumor-mongers whisper that Freese is tailed by other retailers at trade shows to see what she sparks to). See for yourself at a store near you; no stalking necessary. » Bibelot Shops, Grand Avenue, Linden Hills, northeast Minneapolis, and Como locations. Visit www.shop.bibelotshops.com.
Deep-Fried DelightForget the State Fair’s batter-coated, oil-dunked candy bars and alligator hunks—the area’s best fried food made its debut at the Guthrie Theater’s new restaurant. Cue’s polenta fries, crusty cornmeal sticks flavored with Parmigiano-Reggiano and served with a side of aioli, beat ketchup-dipped potato wedges any day. » Cue, 806 S. Second St., Mpls., 612-225-6499, www.cueatguthrie.com.
Street PerformerDan Dan the Accordion Man, a.k.a. Dan Turpening, is one of the few people who can make the accordion seem sexy. Pumping out lyrical European café music in a skyway near Orchestra Hall, he has inspired more than a few concert-goers imagining themselves sipping Chardonnay beside the Seine, and to wonder when Turpening, a teacher at the West Bank School of Music and an occasional musician with the Theatre de la Jeune Lune, will get his own night with the symphony.
Until recently, there’s been an assumption among enophiles that organic wines meant inferior flavor. But France 44’s Eco-Wine tags, which designate certified organic, biodynamic, or sustainable wines, have been drawing buyers to products that bust that myth. Don’t want sulfites? Need something vegan (many vineyards use animal products to draw out sediment when they filter wines)? Just ask a clerk to help you find something that will please your palate—and appease your conscience. » France 44, 4351 France Ave. S., Mpls., 612-925-3252.
Way to Drink Responsibly
Art Gallery With AttitudeIt’s not subtle, but the name First Amendment tells you everything you need to know about the art gallery opened in northeast Minneapolis last fall by a clutch of young poster- and CD-cover designers: the art on display is brazen, occasionally political, and bound to bump up against the status quo. » First Amendment, 1101 Stinson Blvd. NE, Mpls., 612-379-4151.
Potential NeighborFew people know that Frank Gehry’s reputation, at least within the architectural community, really took off in 1982 when he designed a quirky, sculptural guesthouse to complement a boxy 1950s home by Philip Johnson (the architect who designed the IDS Center) on a hill in Orono overlooking Lake Minnetonka. Even fewer know that the lot is now being subdivided, so that you—yes, you, assuming you qualify for a $1,495,000 mortgage—can have the three acres next door at 1800 Shoreline Drive. Or just ask to crash in the guesthouse.
Food FetishMinnesota is known for wild rice, hotdish, and mojakka. Okay, so maybe the Finnish-American soup (pronounced MOY-a-kah) hasn’t quite caught on yet outside of ethnic enclaves. That soon may change: the annual St. Urho’s Day Mojakka Cook-Off held in Cloquet has helped popularize the fish- or beef-based stew since the event’s debut in 2003. According to the Ode to St. Urho, the Finnish hero “ate culla mojakka effery hour” to maintain his Samson-like physique. A remarkable feat, considering we weren’t able to finish the bowl we sampled at the Family Tradition Restaurant in Cloquet, due to its odd tinge of allspice and rutabagas. At least it tastes better than lutefisk. For more information, go to www.mojakka.com. » Family Tradition Restaurant, 816 Sunnyside Dr., Cloquet, 218-879-1210.
Jäm SessionRoll over, Beethoven. Get down, Mozart. Minnesota Orchestra music director Osmo Vänskä is a closet jazz clarinetist. And a talented one at that: his surprise shows (with MnOrch trumpeter Chuck Lazarus) at the Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant in Minneapolis haven’t inspired him to trade his baton for a zoot suit and a goofy nickname, but here’s hoping for many encores to come.
Secret No MoreThe professionals who style and prop local and national advertising shoots have the same problem as the rest of us: too much stuff. So, once or twice a year, Gwen Leeds and other top stylists join forces and throw Greed Gone Wild, a sale that’s a hip notch above any other. Expect one-of-a-kind couture, antique finds, and, if you’re there on opening day, the need to put Minnesota Nice on hold. The sale is customarily held at Patina Prop Rental twice a year, depending on stylist whim and excess. Watch the newspaper classifieds for announcements.
She’ll lie quietly on her cushy dog bed while you poke through the racks of designer clothes at Bluebird Boutique, her owner’s chic 50th and France shop. But come around the counter and greet her with an excited voice, and Aiya the vizsla is likely to get right to work. Wagging entirely—from shoulders to tail—she’ll climb up on a bench so you can communicate nose to (wet) nose. » Bluebird Boutique, 3909 W. 50th St., Edina, 952-746-8675.
Photo by Eric Moore
Photo by Eric Moore
Bridezilla EnablerEverything must be perfect. Amy Jane Bridal makes it so with couture gowns that turn any girl into a movie star dodging helicopter paparazzi on her way down the aisle (try on the Angel Sanchez gown worn by Sandra Bullock). A very select collection from a very select group of designers. » Amy Jane Bridal, 493 Selby Ave., St. Paul, 651-602-9492. www.amyjanebridal.com.
Recycling ProjectIt’s been a long time (36 years) since the Foshay Tower was our tallest building, but it still looms large in many hearts. Inspired by the Washington Monument, the 1929 art-deco edifice was the first built in the United States by an all-union contracting team and the first awarded patents for design and construction. And now developer Ralph Burnet is spearheading its transformation into a trendy W Hotel. The overhaul, which is expected to cost at least $50 million, is slated to be finished in spring 2008 and include retail space and possibly condominiums in addition to 229 guest rooms. » W Hotel, 821 Marquette Ave., Mpls., www.starwoodhotels.com/whotels.
Crafty AgendaWhere do up-and-coming local artists sell their crafty creations, including fabulously unique T-shirts, one-of-a-kind fashion accessories, and ingenious, well-made housewares? Get your cool on at the second annual Craftstravaganza coming up this spring. Last summer’s fair featured designers and artists with a stunning array of finds; this year’s will repeat the DIY workshops, kid activities, and live music that turned a fair event into a great one. » Craftstravaganza Rogue Art & Craft Fair, April 28, Minnesota State Fair Fine Arts Building, www.craftstravaganza.com.
Green DreamCountertops sparkling with post-consumer soda bottles. Bamboo flooring harvested responsibly and stained to a mahogany glow. A chic low-flow toilet that—er—takes care of business. Natural Built Home offers all these clean-conscience choices and much more, so you can build your castle in heaven while outfitting your split-level on earth. » Natural Built Home, 4020 Minnehaha Ave., Mpls., 612-605-7999, www.naturalbuilthome.com.
Princess cuts are everywhere. And so 1995. At Studio Vincent, the jewelry is imaginative and extraordinary. One betrothed couple couldn’t stop at one diamond and platinum band. She got a stack. And a few months later, he got a Harley—without a bit of negotiating. » Studio Vincent, Gaviidae Common, 651 Nicollet Mall, Mpls., 612-332-3646.
Photo by Terry Brennan
Photo by Terry Brennan