It barely seems like summer has begun here in Minnesota, and already we're getting the first taste of summer's end. This week, the Minnesota State Fair folks announced the lineup of new foods. Check out the list here, then tell me: what would you like to try, and what do you think sounds like a mistake?
My choices: I want to try Mini Donut Batter Crunch Ice Cream, Pork Belly Sliders (because, duh, pork belly!!!!), and Deep Fried Olives. Hey, fried pickles are one of my favorite Fair foods.
Things I'm leery of: Cocoa Cheese Bites, Flavored Corn Dogs (heresy, I know, but I've never been a corn dog person), and Wine Glazed Deep Fried Meat Loaf. The latter just seems like overkill. C'mon, meat loaf! Is fine all by itself.
You guys. This is an amazing exhibit. It's comprehensive, fascinating, packed with interesting details and artifacts, and there are plenty of hands-on activities to entertain the young ones (or in my case, the 17- and 20-year-olds, who stopped and did quite a few of the activities too).
Pyramid at Tikal, Guatemala (Courtesy of the Science Museum)
I didn't know that the ancient Maya had one of the first written languages that involved a complicated system of glyphs, which could represent a complete word or syllable.
Jade Mosaic Mask found in Belize dating from AD 250-900 (Courtesy of SMM)
I didn't know they were expert astronomers and timekeepers who developed highly accurate calendars that would predict solar eclipses and followed astronomical cycles to develop planting and harvesting schedules.
Inkwell with pigment intact (Courtesy of SMM)
Look at that ancient inkwell--it was found on an archaeological dig with pigment still intact after hundreds and hundreds of years.
Color, design and pattern were important to the Maya. There are weavers today descended from the ancient Maya who still weave the patterns from their ancestors.
Teen 2 created his own patterns
The Maya were a diverse group--or rather, groups--of people with cities and villages of varying size and sophistication, each with its own set of rulers. Interestingly, they never developed a monetary system, but worked with bartered goods instead.
Bloodletting bowl (Courtesy of the SMM)
The Maya believed the universe had three layers: the heavens, the earth, and the underworld. Their religion was polytheistic, and among the many rituals to appease the various gods was human sacrifice and bloodletting.
Incensario (Courtesy of the SMM)
The Maya, as a people, still exist, but not generally in such self-contained communities.
This exhibit is packed full of these types of facts and sights.The exhibition hall is divided by various themes that really teach visitors about a wide variety of aspects of Mayan life, death, and belief systems. Frankly, I think one visit is probably not enough.
At 15,000 square feet, it's the largest Maya exhibit ever displayed in the U.S. It was developed by the Science Museum of Minnesota in conjunction with the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Boston's Museum of Science, and the San Diego Natural History Museum. It's in Minnesota until January 5, when it will leave to tour other museums around the country.
Recently I was in New Prague around lunchtime, which turned out to be most fortunate for me.
As you might have guessed from the town's name, it's got a proud Czech heritage (even though it's pronounced "New PRAYgue"), and there are Czech designs everywhere. Lau's Czech Bakery was a step back in time for me.
The town I went to high school in had a bakery similar to this one. Lots of housemade baked goods, and the most amazing burgers with these soft, feather-light buns, uber-fresh. Also: doughnuts. In high school, I often left the building at lunchtime, skipping the cafeteria, and bought doughnuts for lunch. And people complain about school lunches not being healthy.
It's the kind of place where the locals hang out, and the staff knows everyone.
Anyway. My dad was with me, and he's very fond of kolachy. Obviously it wouldn't do to leave Lau's without buying some.
Raspberry for me, apricot for Dad. Oh, these were good, not overly sweet, but with a nicely fruity inside. Later I wished I'd brought home the poppyseed kolachy.
I also purchased sauerkraut bread on a whim. Let me assure you, it does not taste like cabbage, but like caraway, and made a wonderful base for sandwiches, including radish sandwiches and salami sandwiches with spicy mustard. My final purchase was a basic loaf of white "farmstyle" bread that was everything white bread should be: soft, gently flavored, and an excellent ingredient for French toast. And the farmstyle loaf was only 99 cents!
I thought initially I'd order a burger and really enjoy the trip down memory lane, but the soup of the day caught my eye.
Vomacka: a cream-based soup with green beans, yellow beans, potatoes, and dill. Served with a ham sandwich on freshly baked rye bread that was divine. The soup was amazing, and perfect comfort food on a gray, cool, drizzly day.
Sad: I'd never been to New Prague before. Happy: it's only half an hour away. Because easy access to kolachy and sauerkraut bread and vomacka should never be taken for granted.
Recently I've had a couple of occasions to visit a place that I've always loved in the past, but for whatever reason, hadn't been to in far too long. Lucky for me, I found it as wonderful as I remembered.
Rice Paper is an Asian fusion restaurant that used to be in Linden Hills, but when it outgrew its space there, it relocated to the 50th and France area in Edina. Now they have a spacious, more upscale space.
And yummy food.
On one visit, a friend and I decided to share a bunch of appetizers. Up front: the wonderfully named Grapefruit Festivity, which has grapefruit chunks tossed in a Thai sauce, served with mint, roasted peanuts, and crispy shallots. Light, flavorful, refreshing. Behind it is miso shrimp, served with English cucumbers. Just like the grapefruit--light, flavorful, refreshing.
The Thousand-Mile Chime, a chicken dish served in a hot chili-ginger and sesame oil sauce. Lovely, with a nice little spice kick. You have the option of tofu instead of chicken. Note: there are several options for vegetarians and vegans, and the menu proudly notes they use no MSG.
Mi Kho: Cantonese noodles in a Thai basil sauce, with cilantro, roasted peanuts, garlic, and a dash of sriracha. Again, you can choose chicken or tofu; we went with chicken. Delightful.
On another visit, we tried the sake flight.
From left to right, Dewazakura Cherry Blossom, Masumi Mirror of truth, Dewazakura and Kamoizumi Autumnal Elixir. My favorite was the Autumnal Elixir.
Twirling Chopsticks Noodles. Options include chicken, shrimp, or tofu; I went with tofu. I loved this. It's tossed with Rice Paper-made peanut sauce (available for sale by the bottle), and has loads of cilantro (which I love--I know not everyone does), roasted peanuts, and baby bok choy. The lunch portion was not at all ridiculously huge.
I have yet to have anything here that's not beautifully flavored. Most dishes have the option of chicken, shrimp, or tofu; beef is not in abundance, but that doesn't matter. It's a perfect place to while away a long lunch hour. Especially if you're ordering the sake.