One is the Loneliest Hunger
Fresh Squeeze at Tao Foods
2200 Hennepin Ave. S., Mpls.; 377-1857
Harry Singh's Caribbean Restaurant
3205 Cedar Ave., Mpls.; 729-6181
1818 Nicollet Ave., Mpls.; no number listed
Don't feel ashamed if your chances for harvesting the fruits of Valentine's Day are bleak, if indeed the love fields are barren. Many of us share your predicament. If you concede that something is missing emotionally in your life, you may find yourself with a taste for destruction. Most feed this hunger with the tried-and-true diet of excessive boozing, eating, smoking, and who knows what else. What to do when you are oh-so-lonely but don't want to fall too deep into pathos?
If you're going to pillage and consume your way out of melancholy, you might as well do it in a place that has your health in mind. Fresh Squeeze at Tao Foods is a fine place to start. First of all, they have a counter. If you are going to be eating alone, a counter is the least conspicuous place to do it. Secondly, if you find yourself looking and feeling sallow, the shelves of Tao Foods are full of promises, books, vitamins, powders, salves, oils, and herbs, all primed to turn you into a vibrant creature.
If you don't believe me, just eyeball the staff, who certainly all look like they've been sampling the products, what with their clear-as-day skin and shiny hair. One would stop and ask the secret to their radiance, but then again, you never know when someone is going to tell you about colonic cleanings. Better keep your curiosity in check or else take your appetite elsewhere.
The cafe offers a simple basic menu with lots of embellishments. A large paper cup of miracle juices should restore you; carrot with ginger ($2.55) is my favorite, but take your pick from the garden, which includes wheat grass, spinach, beets, celery, cucumbers, and more, all $2.35 give or take $.20 for a shot of garlic, ginger, or parsley. Smoothies are available too, made with apple cider, ice, and the fruit of your choice for $2.75, give or take a quarter or two for added protein powder, wheat germ, yeast, spirulina, or yogurt.
As for entrees, while rice and vegetables don't necessarily sound very exciting, this is one of the best places to go for them. Five bucks gets you a platter of steamed brown organic rice topped with, on my visit, kale, purple cabbage, carrots, and yellow squash, and treated with lots of garlic and ginger. In case you like to bury your food with other flavors, the countertops are full of accessories (big bottles of amino acids, organic barbecue sauces, hot sauces, sesame oils, and hot sauces) ready to top off your plate. And--not that this has any bearing on the point of this particular article--the plate does have enough food for two. Soup and sandwiches and breakfast items round things out, all of them hearty and from the earth, with nothing over $5 on the entire menu.
If you've recently been spurned or dumped, you may not be ready to face your friends. In that case, I highly recommend a trip to Harry Singh's Caribbean Restaurant. Off the beaten path, your chances of running into any acquaintances are slim to nil. Moreover, Caribbean comfort food and pink flamingos are just are what the doctor ordered (if the doctor is a shrink with a food fetish) when the world is giving you a cold shoulder. I advise the callaloo--a hodgepodge of spinach, okra, and chicken sauced in coconut juice, butter, and spices over rice ($10)--with a glass of Harry's homemade peanut punch ($1.50). If you aren't in the mood for feasting your brains out, a fine meal can be made of Singh's roti, dough filled curried potatoes and your choice of meat or vegetables baked to a golden crisp.
And finally, there's Pho Quan, where dining alone is pretty much encouraged. It's a little hard to find, a small closet with the proud words "The Best Vietnamese Soup In Town" plastered on the front door. Inside, paper plates sternly proclaim that "We serve one order for one, No Sharing, except children," and "Sorry, We serve one order for one, not for two." It almost makes you glad to be alone among the other patrons, loudly slurping your pho and sniffling from all the jalapeño peppers you threw in your bowl. Soup here comes in three sizes: medium ($4), large ($4.50), and super ($5.50). I couldn't even finish the smallest size. It is indeed glorious soup, spiced broth with pho noodles stocked with your choice of vegetables and tofu, beef sirloin, chicken, or shrimp, with plates on the side spilling over with basil leaves, sprouts, lime, and fresh-sliced jalapeño. Add a few squirts of hot sauce or hoison sauce and your cheeks will be burning, if not from love, then from spicy pho.
Of course, when dining alone, one doesn't get to practice the art of chit chat. You could, I suppose, bring a mirror to sit across the table from you. "You look like a million bucks today, Amanda." "Thank you, Amanda." But that's probably going too far. You don't want to go CRAZY after all; you just don't want to be sitting on the couch with a twinkie in one hand and a Coors in the other.
AND IF YOU'RE LUCKY Take your sweetie underground. Don't kill him or her, of course, or sully any morals, but do bring your sweetheart to the Wabasha Street Caves (215 Wabasha St. S., St. Paul) this Valentine's Day. Enjoy the dark, sultry atmosphere perked up with roses, champagne, and dinner. Afterwards, dance to the sweet music of Sonny Bryant and his band. Call 224-1191 for reservations.... Another destination for you young lovers, whoever you are, is the St. James Hotel in Red Wing (that's about 40 miles south of the Twin Cities). They are offering a Valentine's Dinner in their Victorian Dining Room this Friday and Saturday. Feast on shrimp with sauce royal, oyster bonilla, baked brie, lobster with Newburg sauce, citrus sorbet, strawberries and cream, and other delights. The cost of this lush dinner is $44.95 per person. Call 227-1800 for reservations.... If you're planning on staying at home, you'll need some nourishment to sustain your adulations. From Karen Mangum's new cookbook, Life's Simple Pleasures: Fine Vegetarian Cooking for Sharing and Celebration (Harvest Press), comes this recipe:
Sweetheart Strawberry Mousse:
* 2 pints fresh strawberries
* 2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
* 1 cup water
* 1 cup sugar
* juice of 1 lemon
* 1 tsp. vanilla extract
* 1 cup nondairy whipped topping
* 2 egg whites
Wash strawberries. Blot on paper towels. Hull and puree in blender.
Add gelatin to cold water in saucepan. Stir constantly over low heat until dissolved (about five minutes). Remove from heat and stir in sugar.
Combine mixture with berries. Add lemon juice and vanilla. Chill in freezer or refrigerator until mixture forms a ball when dropped from a spoon.
Whip egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold whites into whipped topping. Fold in berry mixture. Transfer into dessert glasses or mold. Chill until set (at least two hours). Garnish with fresh strawberry fans (that's a strawberry cut to look like a fan. You'll get no help from me on that one. Now a strawberry cut to look like the Eiffel Tower I could do, but you're on your own here).
SMOKE UP JANIE: In conjunction with Beaulieu Vineyard wines and Paddington and Hiram Walker liquors, Morton's of Chicago (555 Nicollet Mall, Mpls.) is pleased to announce their Second Annual Women's Cigar Dinner on February 21, 6:30 p.m. If you've got burning questions about fine cigars and fine wines, and if you are the right gender, then this is the event for you. You'll have to spring for whopping $125/chick tix ($25 per ticket donated to NCADV), but won't the "free" gift bags provided by Chanel and Saks Fifth Avenue be worth it? The mingling and the jingling of jewelry and business cards? Well, if not, there's always the food, which starts at the reception with asiago sharp cheddar and brie cheeses with assorted crackers. From there, move on to the grilled jumbo shrimp with caper beurre blanc served with Beaulieu Vineyard's Careros Chardonnay, then onwards again to herb-crusted double filet mignon with a red wine shallot demi glace with tomatoes, plus onion and asparagus with basil vinaigrette, and polish the meal off with chocolate velvet petit fours with fresh berries. And if you haven't sucked down every last drop from your wine glasses, maybe you'll have room for an after-dinner drink--maybe a little Amaretto di Saronno or Godet white Belgian chocolate liqueur? Call Morton's at 673-9700 for reservations.
S'MORE SMORGASBORD: Who couldn't love a museum that serves food? This Sunday, Feb. 16, the American Swedish Institute (2600 Park Ave., Mpls.) is serving up a genuine Swedish smorgasbord. Try things you've previously only dreamt of, such as aquavit herring, baked salmon served with cold herb mayonnaise sauce, apricot-stuffed pork roast with mushroom sauce, and Lenten buns stuffed with almond paste and whipped cream. Then snack on things you might have dreams about after you've tried them, like Jansson's Temptation, which might be a potato, anchovy, and onion casserole and might be something so much more than that. All this and live Scandinavian music to boot. Afterwards, take a turn around the museum's Turnblad mansion setting: just don't sit in any of the chairs. You break it, you buy it, and after eating all of that delicious food, I wouldn't be surprised if some of the furniture could be in jeopardy. The all-inclusive cost of this event is $17.95 for adults, $7.95 for kids 6-11, and free for kids under 6. Call 871-4907 for more information/reservations.
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