food, travel

A birthday has been declared

Lion sculpture at ASI

Lion chomps on snake swallowing a light bulb. Mint-colored room devours all.

Food, glorious food. Plus kakelugns and new card game. I’m officially a year older, and still loving this decade of my existence, with a few exceptions (I would like a new, or at least a less grumbly, right shoulder, please).

I have a few recommendations for travel and food around the Twin Cities, as a result of this week (or fortnight, if the next few days play out right) of natal celebration.

  1. George and the Dragon: great pub. Imaginative menu, short but great beer list, super friendly staff.
  2. The “adult milkshakes” at Ward 6. Actually, the beignets were pretty good, too, though different from my idea of beignets. They were a little more meaty, like the calas I discovered last year via the Splendid Table, and had hot chocolate syrup with them.
  3. The lobby* and coffee at Fika. And the braised beef open-face rye sandwich. And the roasted brussels sprouts.
  4. The Grilled Sweetbread Spiedino antipasti plate at Bar La Grassa. And the polenta cake dessert.
  5. The Fresh Ginger Cake with Candied Citrus Glaze recipe from Cooking Light. Amended as below. Enjoy with a “Big Ginger” cocktail.
  6. The Acorn Squash, Pear and Adzuki Bean Soup with Sautéed Shiitakes recipe, from the Veganomicon cookbook. We had friends over for soup & games** last night, and this was a hit. The only amendment I’d make to the dish would be to chop the mushrooms up a bit, after frying them up, so that there is enough to go around: that recipe easily makes 8+ servings of soup, but only 5 servings of the delicious mushroom topping.
lunch at Fika

Ladies Who Lunch

*On the big day, I had lunch with Kristin was at Fika. Our plans were to dine before visiting an exhibit at the American Swedish Institute, where the café is situated, both geographically and culturally. The day was blessed with a blizzard, but one that thankfully didn’t render the roads very dangerous. Still, I set off and arrived early enough to get a cup of coffee and do about 45 minutes of reading. The café opens fairly early in the morning; several hours earlier than the museum opens on this weekday. From my perch in the glistening white lobby, with windows on at least two sides, I struggled to focus on my book, distracted by the snowflakes dancing just outside the walls. I was in a snow globe!

This snow globe’s additional distractions included many signs of a slowly awakening cultural institution: a staff meeting at another café table, various portable furniture items getting moved around, some lovely live baroque music erupting from somewhere upstairs and finally, a school bus full of children flowing up those stairs as if the music were a magnet. Eagerly awaiting the arrival of my Finnish friend, I felt like I didn’t even need to go to the Sápmi exhibit later, as we had planned. I’m glad we did, but the action in the lobby was almost more interesting than what we viewed in the mansion.

**Mike sent me a new card game for my birthday, one that had been recommended for TableTop Day on at least one gamer blog: Snake Oil. This was a great game for seven good friends, all of whom discovered a hidden talent for selling crazy things.

Onward, to a recipe. Enjoy! Happy snowy spring. I’m looking forward to tulips, soon.

Fresh Ginger Cake with Candied Citrus Glaze

Adapted from Cooking Light magazine



  • 11.25 ounces all-purpose flour (about 2 1/2 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 2/3 cup brown rice syrup
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt (I used 0% fat) + 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 2/3 cup ginger ale, at room temperature
  • Baking spray with flour (such as Baker’s Joy)


  • 1 cup kumquats, thinly sliced and seeded
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • Dash of salt


Ginger cake and drink

Five Gingers

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. To prepare cake, weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, stirring with a whisk.
  3. Combine canola oil and next 5 ingredients (through eggs) in a large bowl. Beat with a mixer at medium speed 2 minutes or until well combined. Stir in ginger. Add flour mixture and ginger ale alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture, beating just until combined. Scrape batter into a 12-cup Bundt pan coated with baking spray. Bake at 350° for 38 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 15 minutes on a wire rack. Invert cake onto plate.
  4. To prepare glaze, place kumquats, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, and 1/2 cup water in saucepan, and bring to a boil. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain kumquat mixture through a sieve into a bowl, reserving sugar syrup and kumquats.
  5. Combine powdered sugar, dash of salt, and 3 tablespoons reserved syrup, stirring with a whisk until smooth; reserve remaining syrup for another use. Stir in kumquats. Spoon warm glaze over warm cake.