Young and Restless

The Lament of a Foodie on Tombstone Pizza Island

Dear Dara:

I am a simple food lover, home gourmet, and avid consumer of food, cooking, and wine publications. Not unusual, I'm sure, but it seems so for a twentysomething working-class female of color like me. (It all started when I had a boyfriend who was a waiter at a high-end steakhouse and an incredible foodie/snob type.) With all due respect to my friends, it's hard for me to really feel comfortable making this a topic of conversation, as I fear it will come off as snobby or elitist. Wine enthusiasts don't have the best image. And, awful as it sounds, most of my Gen X friends' culinary repertoires rarely extend beyond ramen, p'sketti, Boca burgers, and microbrew.

Anyway, it's my amateur opinion that this is a rotten restaurant town. I've been to cities where you can find interesting meals 24 hours a day, and places where fresh ingredients don't have to be flown in four months out of the year. This changes your perspective. So I had to write and tell you of my weird, tragic, and funny weekend dining experiences.

Bellied up to General Mills' Cereal Adventure Milk N' Cereal Bar
Diana Watters
Bellied up to General Mills' Cereal Adventure Milk N' Cereal Bar

Friday night, 9:00 p.m., an Uptown bistro, a noisy corner table. A great Rioja and the fondue is perfect. But: comedy. The waiter opens the $28 bottle awkwardly, struggling, slides the cork out at an angle, holding it against his white shirt. Breaks cork, stains shirt. He gets a new bottle and opens it the same way. He describes the fish special as "huge" and says that he and a co-worker split one for dinner. We decide to split the fish and two sides, reassured it'll be "enough." The fish arrives and it's tiny, it's whole, and it's cold, too. I ask him to score the fish, which I've seen Oceanaire waiters do tableside with a flourish. No, this is not Oceanaire, but it's a $23 plate of very diminutive whole fish. The waiter looks stricken. He stares at me quizzically, then swoops the plate away singing, "I'll be baaaaack!"

Fifteen minutes pass. We shift uncomfortably and guzzle wine. Back he comes with a whole new plate. It contains new servings of the sides, and two sad, even tinier, fillets of the fish. I stare at it, my smile by now a Rioja-fueled slack-jaw, and the waiter yodels, "We were all gathered around it in the kitchen, wondering what you meant!" That'll be $84.01, with a 20 percent tip. Minnesota mice, we are.

Sunday, 3:30 p.m. The same friend and I patriotically dash off to the Mall of America for some Xmas shopping. Being big fans of both grossly funny displays of capitalism and lovers of cereal, we take a load off at the General Mills Cereal Adventure Milk N' Cereal Bar. I love the fact that it's actually set up like a bar--stools, a counter, a wisecracking bartender. Belly up and order a pond-size bowl for $1.50--with your choice of milk! For $3 we had a fabulous, fast, friendly meal and walked away laughing even more at the absurdity.

Does this just prove that as diners we're unlucky in the Twin Cities? Or that I'm still just a dumb, pretentious kid playing dress-up with Saveur, Wüsthof Trident knives, and truffle oil, when I really just prefer a bowl of food-court Golden Grahams?

--Minnesota Mouse


Dear Minnesota Mouse:

Hey, that shortens to Minne Mouse! Good job.

Coincidentally, you're not the only Minnesota mouse in my life. But I think you're the best off.

Okay, you know that mousetrap I put inside the built-in in my bedroom, the one I baited with some lovely sopressata and organic peanut butter? The one near the big hole in the wall? Well, 4:00 a.m. last night, sproing! Woke me up. Scared me, too.

But the mouse must have only gotten a leg stuck or something, or a shoulder, because he managed to drag the trap back into the wall and has been dragging it around in there, clacking, rattling, and suffering ever since. Which has driven my cat insane. So she is adroitly hopping from shelf to shelf, knocking crap off the built-in, mewing, and trying generally to get that mouse. Which she will never do, unless she overcomes the solidity of matter.

And more to the point: What the hell am I supposed to do now? Fire random gunshots into the walls? Flood the house with poison gas?

The poison gas has a certain appeal: At least it offers the added bonus of putting me out of my misery. Because I am sick. So sick. My life is a parade of naps and Get Better Bears. Ever had a Get Better Bear? Dimetapp makes them. They're medicine in the form of a teddy bear-shaped lollipop. This idea is ingenious. If more things were in the shape of a bear lollipop, the world would be a better place. Like municipal bonds, for one. And, perhaps, trout at Uptown bistros.

Actually, I think you raise about a million interesting points about food and class and culture and life in these here Twin Cities, and since it's the first week in January and probably all anyone really wants to read about is how to swindle free liposuction, I might as well answer them.

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