Winter Guide to the Twin Cities 2012

The best winter warm-up drinks, cool concerts, must-see plays, and carnival activities in the metro

Winter Guide to the Twin Cities 2012
Dan Picasso

Five Great Winter Warm-Up Drinks

By Emily Weiss

Though it happens without fail every year, the temperature dip always seems to throw everyone for a loop. Co-workers obnoxiously compare notes on how long it takes them to scrape their windshields. Parents complain about having to buy yet another pair of snow boots for their still-growing kid. Eager cross-country skiers aren't so bothered by the cold, but they'll talk your ear off about how unfortunate it is that we don't have decent snow yet. We find that an effective antidote to all this moaning and groaning is to gently suggest going out for a drink. Though the alcoholic ones have their charms, the booze-free beverages on our list are just as worthy of being one of your go-to winter warm-ups.

Moroccan Mocha • Cahoots Coffee

We're all about this shop's perfumey and refreshing lavender lemonade in the summer, but as soon as the days get shorter and the nights get chilly, thoughts turn to the Moroccan Mocha from St. Paul artists' hangout Cahoots Coffee. Beautifully foamy, balanced smack in the middle of bitter and sweet, and extra aromatic thanks to a blend of lingering North African spices, this spicy chocolate drink won the 2012 Charlie Award for outstanding cup of coffee. 1562 Selby Ave., St. Paul; 651.644.6778

Hot ToddyAster Cafe

This St. Anthony Main hot spot may just be the winter warm-up headquarters. It's famous for its tea-infused vodkas, but it weaves that hot drink sensibility throughout its bar menu. Choose from cocoa spiked with amaretto, hot cider with Grand Marnier (or any other tipple you fancy), or go for a classic hot toddy. Aster makes its with Jameson, honey, lemon, and hot water. Simple, straightforward, and it'll cure what ails you. 125 SE Main St., Minneapolis; 612.379.3138

ChaiderJanine's Coffeehouse

To be fair, you can get this half-and-half combination of chai tea and fresh hot cider at Starbucks, but the blend created by Janine's in the North Loop is all about the quality ingredients and a ratio that's a little heavier on the nice, tart cider. The result has all the clove and cinnamon-tinged warmth of a traditional mulled cider, but the creaminess makes it more dessert-like, and the smidge of caffeine makes it perfect for an afternoon pick-me-up. 119 N. First St., Minneapolis; 612.630.5188

Tequila, WeyThe Strip Club

A drink doesn't have to be hot to successfully warm you up. Dan Oskey, bartender at the Strip Club, proves that with his ingenious mix of tequila, sour tamarind syrup, and a special extract of ancho chiles and hot cinnamon. The drink is as intoxicating as it is interesting, with the pepper's heat lasting long after the initial cleansing burn of the tequila. The sour fruit makes it reminiscent of a margarita, yet it's like nothing you've ever had before. 378 Maria Ave., St. Paul; 651.793.6247

Mexi CocoaBirchwood Cafe

You might not think the dark and ancient flavors of mole sauce would really work in a sweet treat that's usually reserved for kids, but Birchwood's really does. The sophisticated Mexi Cocoa is made with cayenne and allspice for depth and heat but finished with a generous dollop of fresh whipped cream to temper it. 3311 E. 25th St., Minneapolis; 612.722.4474

Winter Concerts

By Reed Fischer

Brandi CarlileVarsity Theater | December 30-31

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Seattle folk-rock songstress Brandi Carlile told City Pages earlier this year that Minneapolis is "probably the biggest market for me in the whole country." Indeed, she sold out two straight shows at the Zoo this summer, and the same thing is likely to happen at the Varsity for two shows marking the dawn of 2013. Her latest album, Bear Creek, intimately highlights Carlile's gospel-leaning smoky voice, and if there's ever been a song to accompany wiping the slate clean at the end of the year, it's "That Wasn't Me." 21+, Sunday is sold out, Monday $100-$200, 8:30 p.m. 1308 Fourth St. SE, Minneapolis; 612.604.0222.

Dan & Matt WilsonPantages theatre | February 1

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Dan and Matt Wilson have performed in too many Twin Cities bands to count, but their projects, both shared and separate, invariably display an ear for tunefulness and often a lyrical wink at the listener. With a cache of Semisonic, Trip Shakespeare, the Twilight Hours, and solo work, including alt-rock delights and Dan's pop songwriting with Adele, they will have hits a-plenty to pull from till "Closing Time." $38, 8 p.m. 710 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 800.982.2787.

SoundgardenOrpheum theatre | February 2

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Chris Cornell has done a lot of things since forming Soundgarden in 1984, but this was arguably his best musical idea. After a lengthy hiatus, the Seattle grunge titans recently re-formed and created only their sixth studio album, King Animal, the first since 1996's Down on the Upside. Between Cornell's hoary wail, guitarist Kim Thayil's astronomical fretwork, and the blasts initiated by bandmates, this might not be the right night to be parked under a chandelier. $59.50, 8 p.m. 910 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 800.982.2787.

Tame ImpalaFirst Avenue | March 4

March can be a bleak month for the seasonally affected, so best to put Aussie psych-rockers Tame Impala on the calendar now. When the brittle plastic ice scraper snaps in your chapped hands, you'll be able to tell yourself there are only so many days until the groove of "Elephant" spins your hips into oblivion. The critics have already deemed Lonerism one of the year's best, but don't let the title mislead you. This band is to be experienced in a hot, sweaty group. 18+, $18-$20, 7 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775.

RihannaXcel Energy Center | March 24

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Rihanna's work ethic is astounding. The 24-year-old Barbados-bred star has already put out seven albums, and each has foisted songs upon us that are deeply embedded in life. "We Found Love," "Umbrella," "Rude Boy," and countless others marry her island sass with the scientists behind proven pop hits. Her latest is Unapologetic, and that word has been key to her hard-charging success. Chris who? With A$AP Rocky. $39.50-$125, 6:30 p.m. 199 Kellogg Blvd. W., St Paul; 800.745.3000.

Five Must-See Winter Plays

By Ed Huyck

The opening months of 2013 promise to be busy ones for Twin Cities theater, with world premieres, exciting new works, and intriguing revivals all on the docket. Here is just a sample of what is coming up over the next few months.

The Book of MormonOrpheum Theatre | February 5–17

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Tickets for the touring production are as hard to get as they are on Broadway, where the satirical musical, from the creators of South Park (Trey Parker and Matt Stone) and Avenue Q (Robert Lopez), has been playing to more than 100 percent capacity since it opened. With a bevy of Tony Awards behind it, the show is off on its first national tour with a pair of original Broadway cast members in tow. Tickets are going extremely fast. $54-$154. 910 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 800.982.2787. (photo: Joan Marcus)


The SevenTen Thousand Things Theatre  February 15–March 10

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Hip-hop artist and playwright Will Power tackles AeschylusThe Seven Against Thebes, about the battle for control of the city by two of the sons of Oedipus (as you might guess, it doesn't go well for them). Sarah Rasmussen, fresh off her strong work on the Jungle's In the Next Room, directs the production. As always with the company, the show will be presented in prisons, homeless shelters, and other nontraditional venues before playing for the general public at Open Book in Minneapolis. Open Book, 1011 Washington Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.203.9502. (photo: Peter Vitale)


AidaTheatre Latte Da at the Pantages Theatre  January 3–27

Peter Rothstein directs Theatre Latte Da's production of the Elton John/Tim Rice musical, which takes its cues from Verdi's opera. The company has always been able to find surprising depth in the most commercial of projects, while the partnership with the Hennepin Theatre Trust should give the production an extra sheen. $39-$59. 710 Hennepin Ave. Minneapolis; 800.982.2787. (photo: George Byron Griffiths)

BuzzerPillsbury House Theatre/Guthrie Theater February 8–March 3

One of the best local productions of 2012 gets remounted in early 2013. Tracey Scott Wilson's play about race, relationships, and gentrification is a dazzling and disturbing look into the complex interactions among a young trio of characters. Last season's world-premiere run at Pillsbury House's space was sold out. $22-$30. 818 S. Second St., Minneapolis; 612.377.2224.

DoubtMinnesota Opera | January 26–February 3

The Ordway Center hosts the world premiere of Doubt, featuring music by Douglas J. Cuomo and a libretto by John Patrick Shanley. The work is adapted from Shanley's play and film, which center on the battle of wills between a nun and a priest in the early-1960s Bronx. She suspects he has engaged in improper relations with one of the boys at the school; he denies it. The ever-shifting truth has dazzled audiences, while the strong emotions make the story a natural fit for an opera. $35-$200. 345 Washington St., St. Paul; 612.333.6669

Top Five Winter Carnival Activities

By Ed Huyck

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There are essentially two ways to handle a Minnesota winter: hide in the dark for five months until the April (or May) thaw, or face it head-on. For more than a century, folks in the Twin Cities have chosen the latter with the St. Paul Winter Carnival. The 2013 edition promises plenty of fun for everyone between January 24 and February 3. For more information, visit www.winter-carnival.com or call 651.223.4700. (photo courtesy of St. Paul Pioneer Press/TwinCities.com)

The Medallion Hunt

The glory of finding the Winter Carnival medallion — not to mention the potential for a $10,000 prize — draws hordes of treasure hunters to the St. Paul area each year with high hopes. Fed by daily clues, the hunters comb the area to find their elusive prize. Why not join in the fun? Just don't hack the website for early clues.

Red Bull Crashed Ice

Last year, extreme winter sports met the Winter Carnival with tremendous results. The borderline-insane athletes of Crashed Ice return for an event that looks like something out of a Mad Max remake set in Norway, as they hurtle down a frozen course on ice skates, or just tumble down out of control. Either way, fun for everyone!

The Beer Dabbler

What makes a chilly winter day even better? Cold beer, of course. The Beer Dabbler in Lowertown offers more than 100 breweries and 300 varieties of beer, several stages of live music, and a home-brew contest. And if you are hankering for something hot, a number of popular food trucks will be on site to fulfill your wishes.

Snow sculptures and ice carving

Making snowmen is a rite of passage for Minnesota youth, but many folks continue beyond Frosty to craft things that are much grander. See the results at the Snow Park at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. You can also watch artists using a different form of water captured in a solid state with the magnificent ice carvings at Rice Park.

Carnival finale

The celebration wraps up on the evening of February 2 with a string of events to mark the end of Boreas's reign. First off, there is a torchlight parade from Lowertown to Rice Park. That is followed by the overthrow of Boreas. And what American celebration is complete without fireworks? They'll light up downtown St. Paul to signify the end of the winter celebration.

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