First Crack 64. Urban Exploring with Filmmaker Melody Gilbert

Just in time for a mid-production fund drive, St. Paul, MN-based independent filmmaker, Melody Gilbert and I talk about her latest documentary, Urban Explorers into the Darkness and the independent, DIY, MacGyver, hack-your-environment, attitude shared by Urban Explorers, podcasters, and other high-tech geeks.

Check out excerpts of film and support Minnesota independent filmmaking by attending the sneak preview of Urban Explorers into the Darkness on October 15, 2005 – $12 / ticket (or $35 for VIP).

Listen to Urban Exploring with Filmmaker Melody Gilbert [26 min]

From Podcast to Publish

If you’re in the Twin Cities, head on down to your favorite coffee shop and grab the Sept. issue of the Rake. Then turn to page 18, second column. Yep, that’s an article by yours truly.

Sure, you could stay indoors and click this Prairie Home Companion Production Assistant link, but it’s a beautiful late summer evening.

Neither the Rake article or the original podcast would be possible without Jon Steinhorst – cause it’s his story. Thanks again Jon.

And thanks to the Rake’s editor, Hans Eisenbeis, for suggesting the text version of the story.

Great Service at Acadia Cafe and Highland Grill

This week included 2 of my best restaurant experiences ever.

  • Highland Grill
    771 Cleveland Ave S, St Paul, MN 55116

    The service at the Highland Grill is always above par yet today they even outdid themselves. Our server was personable, chatty, and just indignant enough to remind us this was her turf. She made spot-on recommendations and when my dining companion asked about hot sauce, she brought him his own bottle of Tabasco and a side of their special spicy concoction.

    Jen highly recommends the calamari tacos.

  • Acadia Cafe
    1931 Nicollet Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55403

    Same here, very personable staff with spot-on recommendations. I threw her a ringer when I ordered the Gueze Giradin. Which I couldn’t pass up. Here’s an mp3 of the story on my first Gueze tasting. She handled it expertly.

Italian-American Comfort Food at Cossetta’s

Last night, Darrel and Mark W. from and I grabbed a bite at Cossetta’s in downtown St. Paul.

When we were in Evanston, IL, Jen and I lived right next to Panino’s Italian Cafe. Panino’s is a little takeout italian place with decent pizza, soggy italian beefs, and overdone onion rings. All 5 minutes past their prime. Though Panino’s is not a place for culinary epiphanies – it does have its place. Conveniently for Panino’s, that place was between the commuter train and my apartment.

Cossetta’s is the larger, St. Paul version. Conveniently close to the Xcel Energy Center, their limited menu offers a handful of options for salads, sandwiches, pizzas, and other red sauce-laden entrees. I found the path through the store confusing. One line for pizza, one line for everything else, both lines converge on the same checkout. It wasn’t clear which person I order the meatball sandwich from, the person underneath the sandwiches menu? the person in front of the red sauce-laden dishes? the person making the cold sandwich? Yes, 3 different people.

Answer: Person in front of the red sauce-laden dishes.

The meatballs were plump, moist, and just the right texture. The bread, I want to say it was the wrong bread for that sandwich. Though, it was the same half-chewy, half-soggy, meat-delivery-device Panino’s uses. Perhaps this bread is like parsley. More for presentation than ingestion.

On the way out, I grabbed some pizza and a tiramisu to enjoy while watching the Amazing Race (Go Lynn & Alex!) with Jen. The tiramisu was exactly right; creamy, espresso-y, and rich.

Three things in closing:

  1. Their wine pours go all the way to the top.
  2. Bus your own table.
  3. Check out their Italian market, full of interesting foods you won’t find at the local Cub.

211 West 7th St
St. Paul, MN

UPDATE: 18 May 2006, Two MN Foodies Cossetta’s review is even harder on them.

Punch Pizza No Knock Out

Last night Jen, Jer, Sam, and I went for a leisurely dinner at Punch Neapolitan Pizza.

Punch Pizza is continually declared the best pizza in the Twin Cities. The City Pages included Punch on their Best of Lists in 2003 and 2004, the Mpls.St.Paul Magazine also ranks it highly.

On this particular Saturday night, the space was loud. So loud, catching up with friends was impossible. The only way to keep a conversation going was to lean halfway over the table (also the only way for to get comfortable in the tiny chairs). Conceivable for a party of 2, impossible for 4.

I’m a big fan of rosemary and quite enjoyed the foccaciafocaccia bread. My main course, the Cortin – gorgonzola, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, and garlic – I did not enjoy. I expected subtle, rich flavors. All I tasted – crust.

Jen had a fantastic time. She gives high praises to the roasted olives, and her selection – topped with capers, olives, onions. “I wouldn’t have stopped eating it, except I wanted left overs.”

We took half of each pizza home, put it in the fridge. I had the Cortin for breakfast this morning. Perhaps it was the quiet leisure of cold pizza on a Sunday morning, I finally tasted the deep flavors I expected the night before.

My vote for best pizza in the Twin Cities: Pizza Luce’s garlic mashed potato with chicken on Punch’s crust.

Be sure to catch Scott McGerik’s review of Punch Pizza. He and I agree Pizza Nea offers the best non-mashed potato pizzas.

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