Minnesota Adventure

by Jasmine Turner on June 26, 2009

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enjoying lunch at Jasper's in Rochester, MN

enjoying lunch at Jasper's in Rochester, MN

Prof. T had to work a few days in Rochester, Minnesota at the famous Mayo Clinic, so I tagged along for the thrill of travel. Mireille Guiliano mentions travel as a way to get outside your normal routine and environment and experience different foods, people and places. With the spirit of the French Murielle, I jetted off with my husband just for fun. He had to work, but my agenda would include: sleeping in, eating, and exploring!

The night ride over there was exhilarating. I got a window seat and sat really close to the wing, so I kept looking out in amazement at how fast we were streaming through the clouds. I loved it; for the pure speed, and feeling so high at several thousands of feet above ground. Why some people don’t like flying I don’t understand; it’s so darn fun, like an amusement park ride but smoother!

Jasper's restaurant at local street fair

Jasper's restaurant at local street fair

In Rochester we stayed in a hotel right near the clinic so it was close to all the downtown and Mayo Clinic. It’s kind of creepy in the way that there are all these hotels around this medical clinic and most people come there as patients. The hot new thing in medicine is cancer, so there’s a lot of cancer patients going for the latest treatments at the surrounding hotels.

But enough about the clinic! I was off to find good food and fun. There’s a French Alsatian place called, believe it or not, “Jasper’s,” just like the WC writer and the “Twilight” character. I know, OMG! 😉 It was right next to our hotel. I went there to get a glass of wine right away. Unfortunately, the Vouvry from the Alsace region was way too sweet for me, so I told the nice waitress “Sara,” I would like to switch to the French Chardonnay! What a funny name for a French wine: “French chardonnay.” She was very kind, as I found other people in Minnesota to be as well; very genuine, really. You wonder if they are for real? Prof. T said people from the Mid-West are known for their hospitality and niceness!

I collected a few magazines with restaurant reviews to check out the local scene. Turns out that Jasper’s Alsatian Bistro is known for having Alsatian food, just like Mireille talks about in French Women Don’t Get Fat. By chance, there was a street fair to celebrate summer the next day. Jasper’s had a booth. Since I already liked the name, Sara and the coolness with which they casually refer to French wine; I ordered a lunch for only 6-bucks and ate it outside in the humid sweltering heat! There were a bunch of barbeques stalls with hot-dogs and hamburger stuff as well as local artists selling their crafts all about. Interestingly Minnesota is known to have a large population of folks of Norwegian/Swedish ancestry. Sure enough, there was also a guy there selling Norwegian pastries. They were little crêpe-like pancake or tortilla looking things with little stars. I only had one, trying to be French, and it was quite good!

yummy scandanavian sweets for sale

yummy scandanavian sweets for sale

At first I was attracted and excited to be immersed in the warm sun and hot weather but then the humid feeling sort of wilted me quickly. Gallivanting around in the heat wasn’t that exciting anymore, plus there weren’t that many people walking around enjoying it either. So I guess that I sort of looked weird soaking it up, skipping though the streets. What a dork I must have appeared to the locals. It was then that I wised up and I started ducking for cover from one air conditioned building to the next really quickly.

We had a rental car so I fired it up and drove around town. I ended up in a nice, cute little suburban neighborhood just outside the clinic/downtown Rochester area with houses for sale from under 100,000-dollars to as much as 350-000-dollars. For the higher range you can get a simply huge house! This was kind of surprising coming from San Francisco where those amounts wouldn’t even get you a tiny studio apartment! But, real estate is all about location, location, location and I didn’t notice the ocean anywhere near Rochester. Dining and shopping aren’t quite the same as at home either, though I’ve heard that Minneapolis is very nice, it is a bit far for regular visits. And then there’s the whole “weather problem:” too hot and muggy in the summer and then really way too cold in the winter. Maybe I’m not brave enough to consider moving there? Oh well, I’ll have to stick it out in the TL a bit longer.

For dinner we went to a place called Chester’s. I ordered a glass of A-Z Pinot Noir that was probably from California, (where most good wines are from! Sorry Mireille.) We also got two meat dishes: a beef brisket for me and Prof T. got the most delicious filet mignon. But out of respect for the different meats people eat or don’t, I won’t go into detail about how dam good the filet was! The Cesar salad was good too. I had a nice cup of veggie soup as well. Prof T. thinks Chester’s is the best place to eat in Rochester as their food is always consistently good, along with the friendly and attentive Mid-Western service. He’s been back a few times.

between courses at Chardonnay

between courses at Chardonnay

Lunching another day, we decide on the City Café and had a seared ahi tuna salad. The tuna was so fresh and delightful. Apparently they get their fish flown in daily from Florida. I ordered a glass of Pinot Grigo and we sat outside in the “heat.” It was most refreshing. For dinner we tried this place I read about called “Chardonnay,” just like that French wine at Jasper’s. It’s in an old quaint Victorian House on the main street and they serve French cuisine, my main obsession after California wine when considering a restaurant. They close earlier than I’m used to and with our West Coast jet-lag, we had to rush to make it by 8:30PM. It was nice inside and the tables were set up in the front living room. It was all white table cloth style with nice silverware and period décor. The owner served us himself. It’s a sad story, as they going out of business soon because of the rough economy. We were lucky to have come and tried it out before they close! (I wonder if they’re planning on selling the house? Hmm.) Well, maybe not so lucky, for it was a very expensive meal by Rochester standards. Prices ranged $25-35 a plate. We tried the less expensive penne with olives, frozen artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes. It was only so-so. The wine was mostly Californian but I ordered a Washington State Merlot because I’ve heard wine from there is good. It sure was very fruity and smooth on the palate. The merlot and some round biscuits they served with butter were the best things about the place. Well the décor was cool too. No wonder they are going out of business; they’re too expensive! In a tough economy restaurants have to offer some specials like Fior D’Italia. And the menu wasn’t that French either.

The next day I had to go back to Jasper’s again to get my French on. I had a nice lunch outside cause I wanted to feel the warmth, even if it was uncomfortable and hard to breathe. I got the French Chardonnay again and then a nice soup and a salad with the bread and butter. Very lovely and very French!

On our very last night we couldn’t decide where to go for dinner: back for the good tuna at City Café or French (my choice) or Italian, at a place called Victoria’s (I know, another “Twilight” character! Do you think that these Rochester people are fans of Steph, too?) Victoria’s was packed and had lots of outdoor seating to enjoy the summer. If a place is busy that’s usually a good sign the food is good. We walked past the windows checking out people and their dinners. There were huge plates of pasta, people sitting in large groups, young women in their sexy Friday clothes and older couples living it up with their Italian foods, so Victoria’s it was. We sat outside, as it cooled a bit by 8:30. I got the 2007 Valpolicella Santi. It was so good that it brought me back to memories of my Valpolicella experience several years ago! One great thing about being near the Mayo Clinic: restaurants offer healthy options similar to California. Whole wheat pasta was an option, so I ordered it with steamed veggies, garlic and extra virgin olive oil. Prof T got a seafood pasta dish with spinach fettuccini. He also got a glass of Valpolicella. Later we ordered another couple of glasses. We should have just ordered a bottle, duh!

The next day I had to go early cause we had separate flights. I took a shuttle from Rochester to the Minneapolis/Saint Paul airport. It was a beautiful drive through lots of pretty green fields, horse ranches and plenty of pastures full of healthy looking cows. They had big barns which are probably heated in the winter to deal with those below zero temperatures. Yikes!

heart healthy whole wheat pasta from Victoria's

heart healthy whole wheat pasta from Victoria's

Strangely, there were two billboards we passed along the way that said “Choose Life, the heart starts beating at 15 days.” I was like, what’s that about? I don’t think SF or the Bay Area would allow those billboards, so I was wondering if the people around there were all Pro-Life. Seeing that sign would be really upsetting if I was about to have an abortion. Anyhow, further along the drive I saw a huge Amish Community Building and people dressed up in traditional Amish attire with bonnets and long skirts looking very old-fashioned! I was sort of glad to be going home, but glad to have seen these different things on my trip. We sort of live in a bubble in SF thinking everyone thinks alike, but it’s very different in other places.

Back on the jet, I was looking out the window, again at the wing, but this time it was sunny and clear and there were beautiful blue lakes surrounded by lush greenery out the window rather than steamy clouds on the way in. I finally got the saying on all of the license plates there: “Minnesota land of 10,000 lakes.” I also get it now, why they call Minneapolis and St. Paul “the Twin Cities.” They’re right adjacent one to the other. Oh, so blonde of me!

Jasper's street sign

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OysterCulture April 15, 2012 at 5:51 am

I just found this post and its made me smile as I am from Rochester.
OysterCulture recently posted..Spain: Valencian FoodMy Profile

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