Since we're on the topic of things unnerving, it's time to consider the mall. Not to dwell on a cliché of mall dining, but it is disconcerting to look out of the Alamo's theatrically crumbling walls (presumably meant to evoke the tattered fort after the battle of the Alamo) and see the carpeted corridors, humming escalators, and neon signage of Bloomingdale's. Then again, what sight would be more fitting and comforting for a Minnesota meal of tequila and barbecue? A loon-dotted, pine-bordered lake? The IDS center? The 19th-century architecture of South St. Paul? Certainly it would be nice to eat barbecue and drink tequila gazing on miles and miles of stately agave fields and soaring volcanic mountains--but that's a lot to ask for, and if I've learned one thing in this life, it's that if you're already indulging in a gilded lily, you'd better not ask for a re-perfumed violet.

TABLEHOPPING

JELL-O PASTORAL: 1963 was the last year of the charmed era of Camelot. Jack and Jackie were in the White House, there was a V-8 under every hood and a Jell-O mold in every pot. Every single citizen was full of peace and joy--but then everything went to hell in a henbasket. Thankfully we can revisit that wonderful era, due to the valiant efforts of Chef Andy (http://cascade.mit.edu/cookbook/jello/), who has painstakingly preserved and posted the contents of General Foods' stunning 1963 cookbook, The Joys Of Jell-O Gelatin Dessert. Here's a sample.

Ring-Around-the-Tuna (A beautiful jewel-like entree salad for your luncheon or buffet table)

* 1 package (3 oz.) Jell-O lime
or lemon-lime gelatin

* 1/4 tsp. salt

* 1 cup boiling water

* 3/4 cup cold water

* 2 tbsp. vinegar

* 2 tsp. grated onion

* 1/2 cup diced cucumber

* 1/2 cup diced celery

(or reduce celery to 1/4 cup and substitute 1/2 chopped [seeded] tomato for the pimiento)

* 2 tbsp. chopped pimiento

* 2 tbsp. sliced stuffed olives

* 1 can (7 oz.) tuna, drained and flaked

Dissolve Jell-O and salt in boiling water. Add cold water, vinegar, and onion. Chill until very thick. Stir in remaining ingredients. Pour into individual ring molds or a one-quart ring mold. Chill until firm. Unmold on crisp salad greens. If desired, serve with additional tuna and top salads with mayonnaise. Makes 3 and 2/3 cups, or about four entree servings.

FETE YOUR MOM: Hydrangeas are in here, daffodils are blooming, and if you want to make it to rose season in one healthy psychological piece you best not forget Mother's Day this Sunday. Here are some of my personal picks for the most fabulous way to spend the day. For cosmopolitan mom, think Backstage at BRAVO!. They're doing a luxe brunch from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., including an unbelievable 12-day corned beef sandwich and chef Andrew Zimmern's fabulous Auf Lauf, a giant pancake topped with fresh fruit. Combine the outing with theater or a stroll down Nicollet Mall; call 338-0062 for reservations. For history-buff mom, how about a dinner tour on the Minnesota Zephyr? It boards in Stillwater at 11:30 a.m., cruises along the St. Croix, and serves an extravagant feast for $58.50 per person; call 430-3000. Cool mom might prefer Famous Dave's BBQ and their gigantic garbage-lid feast: ribs, chicken, brisket, and all the fixings for four adults and any number of little 'uns, for $45.99. Uptown Dave's number is 822-9900. If none of these seem right, you can always make like when you were six, and rustle up some rice crispies and a fistful of dandelions.

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