Thursday, 26 May 2005

Whether for drinks and appetizers at the bar, a full meal in the dining room, or apres-show dessert, my friends and I will usually stop at Copeland’s as part of our concert night revelry.

Copeland’s Minneapolis location is located Downtown on 7th and Hennepin in the space formerly occupied by the ill-fated Nankin Chinese Restaurant. Set in rich reds, pinks and burgundies, with high ceilings, the atmosphere is pleasant, but can be a bit loud when it gets busy.

This time we skipped appetizers, so I ordered my favorite, the Pasta Shrimp Copeland ($14.99) led by a house salad ($3.99) with bleu cheese dressing. Hjalmer went with a steak filet and a salad.

A word about house salads (because there’s not much else to say about them): Really, they’re all the same. Lettuce, a couple tomato wedges, cucumber slices, shredded carrot, and croutons. The dressing, no matter what your order, doesn’t come in enough quantity, which is OK since it’s usually pretty unremarkable too. Copeland’s certainly lived up to these minimal expectations. After all, how hard can it be to make a salad?

Likewise, as long as their cooked properly, steaks are pretty easy to deal with. Hjalmer’s was no exception and he enjoyed it. Personally, I think they’re a bit pricey at Copeland’s and you’ll get better value at Mancini’s or Lindy’s.

The Pasta Shrimp Copeland is shrimp and mushrooms sauteed in a cajun garlic sauce and served over a bed of angel hair pasta. The shrimp are just slightly sweet and act as the perfect counterpoint to the mild zing from the sauce. In my mind, you can’t go wrong with this dish. That could explain why it’s my favorite and I take a pass on the specials.

On previous visits I’ve tried their Creole Calimari appetizer, the Gumbo Ya Ya ($4.99 bowl/$6.99 big bowl), which were both exceptional. The calimari ($7.49) comes lightly battered and fried with a Creole Remoulade Vinaigrette sauce that’s delicious. The gumbo is a nicely spicey (although I end up adding hot-sauce) Cajun roux with plenty of shrimp and scallops. A bowl makes a perfect replacement for a salad and the big bowl is enough for a complete meal.

If you’re there for dessert, you absolutely must try their Bananas Foster Shortcake ($6.99)! Made with their homemade biscuit, vanilla bean ice cream, banana halves (lengthwise), and traditional sauce of brown-sugar, dark rum, butter, and banana liqueur. It’s a huge portion, served on a large plate, and is truly enough for two. Mere words cannot begin to describe how good this is—it must be experienced first-hand.

Normally the service is first-rate, prompt, and courteous. Unfortunately, on our latest trip it was less than we’ve come to expect from Copeland’s. The hostess was barely polite—for what little she actually spoke. Somehow I got the sense that we were inconveniencing her by requesting a table.

I’m not sure if the server hadn’t yet learned timing because he was new, or if he was looking to get out of there early, but by the end of our meal we felt a bit rushed. Our drink order and salads came promptly, but we had barely put fork to plate when the entrees arrived. Working around the overcrowded table we wolfed down our salads in an effort to get to the main course before it grew cold. The pace added to our discomfort as the server twice tried to clear plates when we had just started a mouthful of food and clearly weren’t done.

The restaurant was suitably staffed, mostly empty, and it was well before closing, so the less-than-stunning service really caught me by surprise. Previous visits have demonstrated that Copeland’s is capable of better.

The food could convince me to go back, but the experience as a whole gives me cause to consider a different venue for the next pre-show gathering place.

Monday, 23 May 2005

It dawned on me that I never linked to my list of Top CDs of 2004. As usual, it’s not the top releases of the year, but rather my favorite purchases. Things I listen to over and over

In spite of picking up 117 CDs last year, I could only come up with 4 that were “list-worthy.” Honerable mention goes to Tom Waits, one of my favorite artists, since I got 8 of his discs last year.

Better late than never.

Sunday, 22 May 2005

It’s been a busy weekend. Worked part of the day yesterday, then went to help a friend with their new computer. We went for lunch, then I headed home. I managed to sneak in a little flying time at Hartkopf Park, about 1/4 mile from my house before meeting family for dinner.

I woke up early today and the weather was so nice, I went back to Hartkopf for some more flying time. It was almost perfect: sunny, not too warm/not too cold, and a good breeze. I got to the park about 0800 and packed it in around 1030 or so, just as it started to cloud over.

I flew the Bullet both yesterday and today. With the wind as strong as it was, the Hawaiian Team Kite might have been a better idea. The muscles in my legs, arms and shoulders certainly would have appreciated it.

I really love that kite (the bullet) and really need to figure out were to do some traction kiting in town. It would also be nice to find someone who can take some pictures or video so I’d have something to show rather than just writing about it.

Tuesday, 17 May 2005

Much like Moby at First Avenue a few weeks ago, The Quest turned out to be a nearly ideal place to hear one of my favorite groups, Thievery Corporation.

Neither Quest’s Web site nor the ticket mentioned an opening act, so I was a bit surprised when Isabella Antena was introduced and took the stage.

Antena’s music is best described as Bossa Nova meets Euro-Pop and relies almost entirely on her vocals to drive the performance. With minimal instrumentation, just Antena on guitar and vocals and a “backup musician” named Excel (Axel? Accel? I couldn’t quite understand her name), it reminded me quite a bit of Stereolab. The sing-songishness of Antena’s voice could easily be mistaken for that of Laetitia Sadier or Astrud Gilberto.

Excel’s main purpose seemed to be controlling (really just starting and stopping) the playback that handled percussion and backing instrumentation, using a hand-held video camera to film the audience and Antena, and flailing about in some kind of odd histrionics. I suspect there was a bit of a Linda McCartney thing happening—the few times excel played keyboard or a set of shakers, it was impossible to find her in the mix by the time it hit the loudspeakers.

In spite of Excel’s antics, I enjoyed Antena’s set. It was good enough that I’ll pick up her latest CD and give it a try.

Once the crew had cleared Antena’s equipment off the stage, I was stuck by how much gear still remained.

When you get down to it, the brains behind Thievery Corporation are just two guys, producers Rob Garza and Eric Hilton. They create mid-tempo dance music that falls between trip-hop and acid jazz with an international flair. I figured it would be just the two guys behind keyboard gear and DJ coffins playing music while the crowd danced along with a coordinated light show. What we got was the Garza and Hilton—plus a bassist, a guitar/sitar player, two percussionists, trumpet, saxophone and a rotating stable of vocalists. What we got was nothing short of stunning.

During the 100+ minute set they did a handful of songs from their latest album The Cosmic Game including “The Heart’s A Lonely Hunter” and “The Time We Lost Our Way” plus a veritable best-of from their previous releases. Favorites include “Liberation Front,” “The State of the Union,” “All That We Perceive,” and the title track from The Richest Man In Babylon as well as “Lebanese Blonde” and “Samba Tranquille” from The Mirror Conspiracy.

All in all it was a great show and I hope to see them again.

Monday, 09 May 2005

Never content to leave things alone, I made a couple tweaks to the site layout.

  • The icons down the left are smaller than they used to be. The page was looking too crowded so I wanted to give it a little whitespace.
  • Changed the icon for Legible and Archives. Added new icons for Flyable (not sure I like that name) and a couple sections to appear in the near future.
  • I added a glossary, of sorts, and a site menu for suitably equipped browsers.
  • The template for the date-based archives has been changed to look more like the main page.

I’m sure there’s more changes to come, but that’s all I did tonight.

Sunday, 08 May 2005

Sort of on my way to Patrick’s house for dinner and tech talk Saturday afternoon/evening, I got a chance to fly the Bullet for a little while.

The weather was kind of cloudy all day and it rained in the morning. To my delight it started clearning in the early afternoon and I wasn’t supposed to be at Patrick’s until 1830, so I figured I’d give it a shot. Leaving the house around 1530, I headed out near his house and found a park.

Vetran’s Park in South Saint Paul turned out to be kind of small, but I didn’t need a lot of space. With the short lines on the kite, I only need the rough equivalent of half a football field to have a comfortable place to fly. Thankfully the only people in the park were using the playground and not the ball-fields. The park is surrounded by houses, so low-altitude work wasn’t going to be easy, if even possible.

Once the kite was ready, I spent maybe 15 minutes warming up with some basic turns, spins and dives, then settled in for the real workout. The wind was running about 12 mph gusting to around 20 or so, which made it interesting on occasion.

Occasionally the wind would just die, but other times I’d catch a gust just right and get yanked around a bit. I came away from it tired, but exhilarated. My legs, shoulders, and arms are sore from pulling against the kite, but it’s a good kind of pain.

At one point I brought the kite through a ground pass (flying across the wind window with the wing-tip close to the ground) and caught an unexpected gust of wind. The result was grass stains on my shorts after I got dragged 20 feet down the field. That’s my favorite part.

I want more. More flying time, and more adventure. I’m looking into either a landboard (kind of like a modified skateboard) or a buggy. First I need to find a good field to practice on, then I’ll buy the extra gear.

I also need to figure out a way to get pictures too.