30 March 2013

Primebar @ Calhoun Square: Hello, Goodbye

Here’s a ‘first’ for Krik’s Picks. I’m writing a post about a restaurant that’s closed.

I’m sure that several restaurants that I’ve reviewed in the past are closed now. But this is the first one that I’ve written about knowing that it’s already closed.

My  wife and I went to Primebar at Calhoun Square in Minneapolis only once. It was exactly one week ago as I write this. We really liked it. My wife had a great burger, one that she described as being one of the best she’d ever had. I had a barbecued beef sandwich, which I also thoroughly enjoyed. We both had a glass of very good beer. The cocktail menu also was pretty interesting. The décor and ambiance was friendly and comfortable. Our server was attentive and helpful.

And yet, a few days later, we both were shocked to read that Primebar had closed. No explanation why, just suddenly and abruptly closed. The day after we were there, the Star Tribune had an article on nightlife in Uptown, and included a call-out of Primebar.

Primbar’s location at the corner of Hennepin and Lake ought to be good. An old favorite of ours, Figlio, operated there for 25 years. It was a reliable standby. We enjoyed meals there after movies, happy hour with friends, a very memorable New Year’s Day meal there with our kids. When it closed, we were surprised. But at least the owner had an explanation – he felt the concept had grown tired, and he wanted to try something new. He has since realized that there was some magic about Figlio, and he’s trying to recreate it at a new location. We haven’t been there yet, but will try it sometime soon.

The new concept was called Il Gatto. We went there a few times. We weren’t very impressed. So we weren’t too surprised when it closed.

So it will be interesting to see what comes into the space next. I hope it has a better run than Primebar.

24 March 2013

Sorry for the interruption

I can’t believe it’s been almost two months since my last post on Krik’s Picks. There’s a paradox about my motivation for writing this blog. Because I travel for work, I get to try restaurants in different cities. So the more I travel, the more variety I find in the places where I eat. But, the more I travel, the less time I have to write about the places I’ve been eating. (Or to be more precise, the more I travel for work, the less I feel like using my down time writing.)

The first three months of 2013 have been particularly busy with travel. It may have been the busiest period of travel in my career. Since January 1, I have been to Washington DC four times, Topeka KS three times, and one time each to Key Largo, Phoenix, San Diego, Madison WI, Sioux Falls SD, and Austin TX. Delta tells me I’ve already logged 22,702 miles, and I’m only 2300 miles from reaching Silver status. There have been years when I’ve barely reached silver by December.

I have to admit, it’s been somewhat stressful travel. On two of the three trips to Topeka, flying in and out of Kansas City, I barely got out of town before they shut the airport due to blizzards. On one trip to DC, I did get stuck because of a storm.

(Actually, there’s a story to this. It was the first week in March. When I arrived in DC on a Tuesday night, the weather service was predicting 4-8 inches of snow. Before a single flake fell, the federal government announced that it would be closed the next day. To be fair, when I work up the next morning, it was snowing pretty hard. But while the federal government was closed, Congress was still in session. I was working at the desk in my hotel before heading to the Hill when I got a message from Delta – my return flight to MSP for Thursday morning was cancelled. They cancelled the flight a full 24 hours ahead of time. I eventually got rebooked for the last flight on Thursday, so I didn’t have to spend an extra night in DC. But on Thursday morning, at the time when my original flight was scheduled to leave, it was bright and sunny and 40 degrees with not a flake of snow on the ground.)

But I know the stress was getting to me. While I was working in my hotel room, my computer was running very slow. I was getting more and more frustrated. Finally, I shouted a very unkind comment at the computer and slammed my fist down on the keyboard. Oops. Everything really froze up then. Fortunately I was able to get it to reboot and continue working. I suppose someday in the future, it will be considered abusive to swear at a computer or hit it.

So anyway, that’s my excuse for not writing in two months. I’ll try to catch up over the next couple weeks … before my next round of travel begins.

At Equinox, I scored a great dinner and a wonderful new cookbook

In the previous post, I explained that I faced a travel delay on one of my trips to Washington in early March. So I decided to treat myself to a nice dinner. I was staying downtown (at the Donovan House, a Kimpton hotel) rather than near Capitol Hill. I’d eaten at Equinox before and was sure that I’d get a great meal there. So after a day on the Hill and a few hours working in my room (including the incident of computer abuse described in the previous post), I walked over to Equinox. (You can read about some of my previous meals at Equinox at these links: July 2012 and August 2006.)

On the menu for this particular Wednesday night, they offered two tasting menus. Both looked good, but even though I was treating myself, they were a little pricy, so I looked at the regular entrées instead. I’ve had lamb at Equinox before and liked it. They had a saddle of lamb roasted with rosemary that looked good so I ordered that. (It was excellent.) I was having trouble deciding on a starter. I thought one of the salads on the winter tasting menu looked good. I asked if I could have that instead of one of the items on the regular menu. My server graciously accommodated me.

When I arrived, I noticed a poster promoting a cookbook by the chef, Todd Gray – The New Jewish Table, co-written with his wife Ellen Kassoff Gray. I asked the server if there was a copy I could look at while waiting for me food. He brought a copy right over.

I looked through it. The book has beautiful photos and an interesting narrative about the comparative culinary background of the husband-wife team. I saw a recipe for a quinoa salad with figs and scallions that I thought would be good for Passover. But the book was $35, so I decided to pass.equinox

At the end of dinner the server asked me if I wanted the book. “If you do, the chef will sign it for you.” H-m-m-m. “Is Chef Gray here tonight?” I asked? He was. So I changed my mind and said I’d love to buy the book.

In just a few minutes, Chef Gray appeared at my table with a new copy of the cookbook and a pen. He signed it, and we chatted for a few minutes. I don’t usually get star-struck. But I was kind of in awe of having the chef there making small talk. I told him about the first time I’d eaten at Equinox and had chive flowers on my salad. It’s a unique ingredient I use to this day with chive flowers from my own garden.

I was feeling pretty excited during my walk back to the hotel. I called my wife, forgetting that she was at a book group and couldn’t talk. (We talked later when she got home from book group.) And I’ll soon be making the quinoa salad.