Archive for April, 2008

This is why I love Brasa

brasalogo.jpgAs usual, I’m one of the last people to hear about awesome new places like Brasa Premium Rotisserie. Though to be honest, if I hadn’t been railroaded in for an impulse lunch on Sunday and instead had the opportunity to peruse the menu first, I may not have ever made it through the door.

The meat – dear Lord – so much meat. It wasn’t love at first sight.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ll eat meat like a starving buzzard in most situations, (sorry Alexis!), but allow me to encapsulate the intimidating menu for you:



Plate of Beef
Plate of Pork
Plate of Chicken

Beef Salad
Pork Fries
Chicken Puree

Beef Cake
Pork Turnover
Chicken Pudding

Beef Tea
Pork with Limon™
Fresh Squeezed Chicken Juice

In short, meaty. But guess what? It was effing awesome anyway!

I had a beef sandwich that must have been marinated for about 12 years, because it was falling apart and so sinfully delicious that I started trying to picture it naked. My companion had the chicken sandwich, but I didn’t get to try it because mine was too good to put down and besides she threatened to leave if I didn’t stop touching myself in public. (God, I miss Italy.)

As it so happened, due to fatigue and inadequate blood-caffeine levels, I briefly felt compelled to go off my self-imposed Coke prohibition. When I ordered a Coke, I was flatly informed that they didn’t carry Coke or “any corn syrup-based beverage!”


“OK…. So what do you have?”

“Mexican Coke.”

“Does Mexican Coke have caffeine?” I asked digging my fingernails a quarter inch into the underside of the table.

“I’ll check.”

[Five agonizing minutes later]

“It has caffeine!”

So I got one. And it was incredible! So sharp and tasty! Why don’t they serve Mexican Coke everywhere? It tastes like the Coke we had back in the 70s, like Buddha intended! Whoever started putting corn syrup in Coke needs to be lobotomize immediately. I bet the guys in the kitchen at Brasa could do it. They can do anything with dead meat.

Finally, they have an ambitiously-priced $5.50 piece of chocolate coconut cake served with raspberry and chocolate sauces and a pile of whipped cream for good measure. Now, I struggle with purchasing desserts that are this expensive in a no-nonsense place like Brasa, but I’ll grudgingly admit that the cake was rich and wonderful and experimenting with different sauces every bite was a nice little thrill. Also, as my companion handily demonstrated, the sauces can be a standalone dessert in and of themselves if you spend 10 minutes scraping every last speck from the plate. This from the woman that wouldn’t let me touch myself in public. Hypocrite.

Oh and the décor. Well, either the building that Brasa occupies used to be a car repair shop (in which case, kudos on removing the oil stench) or someone went through an awful lot of trouble to build garage doors into the front of the building. When the weather is nice (like it heart-breakingly was on Sunday), they yank open the garage doors and it’s like dining outside, except without crap from trees and bushes falling into your food!

I hear tell that when the weather is not so nice however, like all winter for example, not only are the garage doors prudently shut tight, but there’s nowhere for the hoards of people piling into Brasa on the weekends to stand and wait for a table. Also, table assignment is allegedly done at whim, meaning line jumping is possible and indeed, enthusiastic in some cases.

These minor flaws aside, it’s a great place that I’ll be biking to often this summer. And well, the name is OK I guess, but I bet they’d get way more business if they cut to the chase and called themselves ‘Bralessa’.

[UPDATE: Bralessa was just named “Best Takeout” by City Pages.]

600 East Hennepin Avenue

Eating | 23.04.2008 12:53 | 6 Comments

Where the *&#$ did I pack my Kryptonite lock?

You know what I love? Good timing. My appreciation for good timing is more acute than for most people because I am so infrequently its benefactor.

Have I mentioned that I’m cursed? Yeah, it sucks. So far, I’ve been able to keep the boils and flatulence at bay, but when it comes to things like timing, be it elevators, Light Rail or career-making book deals, I’m always about 30 seconds too late. Every time. It’s uncanny.

The upshot is that my eternal curse doesn’t afflict anyone more than two inches away from me, which is why, as we’re mere moments from biking season, it has come to pass that Minneapolis received a $900,000 grant from the Non-Motorized Transportation Pilot Project to promote biking and walking. Look out Portland! We’re going to annihilate you the next time they take one of those cycling commuter surveys! Put that in your tweeter and smoke it, you dirty hippies!

On a related note, if I could only figure out which of these still-packed boxes sitting around my bitchin’ new condo contained my Kryptonite lock, I wouldn’t even be sitting here right now. Now I’m gonna have to walk all the way to Surdyk’s like a sucker.

Speaking of timing, gas is now $3.357 a gallon??? Jesus bootie slapping Christ. That’s gotta hurt. How are these people expected to buy wine and cider when it costs them $73 to fill up their completely unnecessary SUVs that they have no business driving, even if they could successfully navigate or park them – which they can’t if the lofty views from my bitchin’ new condo are any evidence.

I’m so overcome with empathy right now. ‘Empathy’ means ‘disgust’, right? Where is my dictionary? Probably under my Kryptonite.

I don’t mean to sound like a self-righteous asshole about these gas prices, but for those of you who’ve developed lives that are entirely dependent on excessively large cars that you only use for commuting and blocking traffic in my neighborhood, I’d just like to say BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

Oh, since I’m in a hating mood over here, there’s this red Hummer I see downtown all the time. Every time I see it, it’s ignoring other traffic or lazily parked in one and a half parking spots, last time, taking up part of a handicapped spot. I saw it again a few days ago – the passenger side window had been smashed in. Now, I don’t normally endorse vengeance-fueled property damage, but seeing this particularly deserving example of returned bad karma was by far the highlight of an otherwise dismal week.

Do your part, flip off a Hummer.

Biking, Car-free lifestyle, Downtown | 18.04.2008 11:00 | 6 Comments

This is why I love the MONDO Jugglefest

jugglingoranges.jpgYou don’t even wanna know how badly I wanna just sit here and write 2,000 words about the unspeakable awesomeness of my new condo. It’s just so… awesome (I still haven’t figured out where I packed my thesaurus). I’ve been here for a mere five days and I can’t get enough of it. I’m so happy that I’m seriously considering sending a body double in my place to Romania and Moldova for seven weeks of guidebook research this summer, so I can just sit here and soak in the awesomeosity. Sadly, there isn’t another travel writer on Earth with a body like mine, so I guess I have to go.

So, since I’m not writing about my effing awesome condo (Did I mention it’s connected to the Skyway? And I have a clear view all the way to the downtown St Paul skyline?), I’ve decided to write about something else that’s obscure, yet dear to my heart, the annual MONDO Jugglefest, happening this Friday, Saturday and Sunday (April 11th, 12th and 13th).

For those of you too busy to read my lengthy bio, you may not know that I’ve been a juggler since age 12. There was a brief moment in time during my teens when my skill and breathtakingly rapid development had people dropping my name as the next Juggling All Star. But then I kissed a girl and all my practice time was suddenly filled with other activities. I regret nothing.

So, while I’m not even remotely as good as the average, non-girl-kissing teenaged juggler these days, I’m still very connected to this rarified art (one step above mime, one step below dinner-table magician), which is why I am so excited to get to the MONDO Jugglefest this weekend, held at Concordia College’s Gangelhoff Center, just off Hamlin Avenue in St Paul.

What do people do at a juggefest, you ask? Well, juggle like maniacs, for starters. There’s workshops, demonstrations, vendors and games happening on all three days. Not to mention the indescribable, jaw-dropping scene of watching a sea of people spread out all over a field house deftly throwing and catching (and dropping and bending overing and picking upping) hundreds of objects all at once.

And it’s not just juggling. Unicycling and yo-yoing are equally well represented. On Saturday night we hold our public show, the MONDO Spectacular, at the Central High Theater, where dizzying displays of top-shelf juggling, unicycling, yo-yoing and more are packaged and presented for hardcore enthusiasts and curious bystanders alike.

If you don’t juggle (or unicycle or yo-yo), this is without a doubt the best place to learn. Formal and informal coaching persists throughout the festival. I can teach anyone between the ages of six and 75 to juggle in less than 30 minutes. That’s right, in thirty minutes you can be just a little bit more like me and who doesn’t want that?

Festival Hours are:
Friday: 5:00pm – Midnight
Saturday, 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.
(Note: the Gym will be closed during the Spectacular, from 5 p.m. until the end of the show around 10 p.m.)
Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Gym passes, good for all three days, are $7 at the door. All attendees will be required to sign a waiver before admittance to the festival.

And for the ladies, juggling is perennially a lonely guy affair. Typically, the guy to girl ratio at a juggling festival is like 25 to one. If you’ve ever wanted to be in a safe, fun environment, where you can develop your dexterity and have your pick of literally hundreds of guys vying for your attention, this is the place. See you in the gym!

Events, Juggling | 10.04.2008 10:28 | 1 Comment

This is why I love freakish cold every once in a while

ginormousspider.jpgSure, Saipan may seem all innocuous and fun until you’re walking along, dinking with your camera and almost stagger into a picture window-sized cobweb, custom built by an arachnid so big that it can suck out all your body’s juices in 20 seconds flat, leaving you looking like one of those shrunken, pruney voodoo dolls they find in witchdoctors’ waiting rooms in the jungles of Haiti.

You know why we here in Minnesota don’t have this manner of man-eating spiders and Rodents of Unusual Size? Because of our freeze-your-face-off winters, that’s why. What would you rather have? A few weeks a year where you have to take inventory of your fingers and toes when you return from shoveling or have to fend off Skull Island-caliber bugs and lizards every time you take out the recycling?

Even the jungle’s itty bitty spiders are programmed to inflict maximum human discomfort and embarrassment with their uncanny penchant for biting people in warm, hairy, unmentionable places. Believe me. And it itches like a mofo, too.

I know I cowered in my apartment for two straight months and complained lavishly of cabin fever this past winter, but I’ve acquired a newfound love for the occasional spell of kill-everything cold. From now on, every time the temperature dips below zero, I’ll just imagine all the bugs and rodents dying off that would chomp on my doodle given half a chance.

Anyway, it’s good to be back in good ol’ Minnesota where there’s no question that I’m at the top of the food chain.

I’m wicked tan, by the way. I’m also so exhausted and jetlagged that I almost fainted while walking to Subway this morning. Or maybe it was the wine I was force-fed all the way from Guam to LAX. Whatever. I’m gonna go throw up.

Weather | 3.04.2008 17:31 | 6 Comments