No, I'm not talking about scalloped potatoes and ham. I'm talking about the culinary highlights of my week of interstate travel and celebrating the life of my late grandfather. And boy, were some of them bright.
On Sunday night, after a gruelling wake at the mortuary during which the family seemed to comfort the guests who dropped by rather than vice versa, we - that is, my mother, brother, uncles, aunts, cousins, and I - decompressed at Jake's Sports Cafe in New Brighton, MN. I'm told it's a place Grandpa liked. He must have had good taste, because the sweet-and-spicy appetizer known as "Jake's Wings" went really well with a tall, cold, locally-brewed pale ale called Summit. That was followed by a big, delicious Bleu Cheese Burger and more steak fries than I could finish. All this went on top of a basket of fresh, complimentary popcorn that seemed to be this restaurant's answer to free tortilla chips. Everyone went home full, which under the circumstances was as close to happy as could be expected.
Monday's funeral was followed by a meal at the Chianti Grill (formerly known as Ciatti's) on Larpenteur Avenue in St. Paul. This too was one of Grandpa's favorites. The meal was on the family, and everyone at the funeral was invited. Sixty-four dined in memory of my mother's father that evening, and the gathering was highly convivial. I had more Summit, but I enjoyed my tall mug of Stella Artois even more. My mother and aunt both took the same taste test but declared the opposite preference. Go figure. I suppose Belgian beer is an acquired taste. The meal also included a generous house salad, a choice of several Italian entrees (I went with baked mostaccioli, very satisfactory), and in most cases, a choice of several mouthwatering desserts, including the hugest and chocolatiest slice of cake I have ever seen. I ended up splitting with my brother an equally huge slice of the cream-cheese-frosted carrot cake to end all cream-cheese-frosted carrot cakes. The only way I could give it a higher "thumbs up" would involve space travel.
As I may have mentioned, I spent all day Tuesday driving my Mom to Nebraska. She rewarded me with a half-rack of St. Louis-style pork ribs at the Whiskey Creek Wood Fire Grill in Norfolk. The ribs were good; the fresh-baked marble rye bread was nice; the buttery baked potato was very comforting; but the barbecue beans were the best part of my evening. Whiskey Creek is one of those places where you get to throw your peanut shells on the floor. Walk carefully, but do go there sometime.
Things are back to normal now: I am too broke to eat out, and too far behind on too many projects to be able to spare much time for reading. I won't be seeing any movies this month. But I hope I can still put an interesting word here, now and then, about music, theology, and the books I have read lately. Stay tuned!