Tuesday, January 3, 2012

11 Guilty Pleasures: Cabin Fever

They say there are two seasons in Minnesota: winter and construction. While both are unavoidable, at least with winter there are endless sources of distraction from the misery; in fact, there are so many quirky, creative events and activities happening around town this time of year, it may well become your favorite season! Okay, maybe that’s too optimistic, but rest assured; though the weather outside is frightful, there’s tons of fun to be had in the Twin Cities, even in sub-zero temps. Goodbye, winter blues!

Young Adult

Diablo Cody, the Minnesotan writer who burst onto the Hollywood scene when she won an Oscar for the little indie film that could, “Juno,” is back and better than ever with “Young Adult.” Academy Award winning actress Charlize Theron plays Mavis Gary, a teen lit author who returns to her hometown in the hopes of winning over her now married high school sweetheart (Patrick Wilson). Chaos ensues as Mavis grapples with leaving all things adolescent in the past and embracing adulthood. Jason Reitman (of “Up in the Air”) directs the film, which is already collecting praise from the likes of Marie Claire and Time magazine.

Art Shanty Projects

Add some color to the seemingly endless string of gray days by attending the Art Shanty Project on Medicine Lake. This event, now in its ninth year, challenges artists to think outside the box (err…make that “gallery”) and transform their creations into accessible, engaging displays that even the least savvy of Minnesotans can warm up to. In addition to the homemade eye candy housed in ice-fishing shacks, past exhibitions have included fun and games like karaoke, the world's largest cribbage board, puppets and dancing.

Johnny Michaels

Johnny Michaels in the Twin Cities’ own celebrity bartender. A bona fide cocktail connoisseur, Michaels is more than mixologist; those who drink the magic potions from his tumblers consider him a savior. When winter’s got you down, stop in to La Belle Vie and let Michaels lift your spirits with one of many signature drinks. Then pick up a copy of his new book, “Northstar Cocktails” (published through the Minnesota History Center) and learn the tricks of the trade for yourself!

Cause's Chili

Crock pots are awesome…if you’re the kind of person that plans ahead. For the rest of us, there’s Cause, where you can walk right in, sit right down and tuck into a heaping bowl of chili without much forethought at all. Though this dish is vegetarian, we have it on good authority that it’s hearty enough to satisfy even the hungriest meat eaters. You should also sample any number of other new items on the menu, which was recently reworked by Cause’s cook “Brooklyn Mike.” After you’ve had your fill of comfort food, move into the adjoining room and rock out to whatever local bands might be on the stage ‘til you forget it’s winter.

The Beer Dabbler

Though the Saint Paul Winter Carnival has been around for 125 years, the Beer Dabbler is a relatively new addition to the festivities. 2012 marks the third go-round for the alcohol-infused reverie which features craft and micro-brew tasting, live music and food truck grub. New additions the event include Leinekugel’s Silent Disco, games and a Jumbotron that will stream a live feed of the celebration. With a venue change to the St. Paul Farmer’s Market, the biggest cold weather beer festival in the state just got hotter! Advance tickets are highly recommended as the Beer Dabbler has a reputation for selling out early.

The U.S. Pond Hockey Championships

Believe it or not, there are a few Minnesotans who welcome winter. Those people play hockey and the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships are what weather like this was made for. Now in its seventh year, this event packs Lake Nokomis with well-equipped pros and die hard sports fans of all ages for icy face-offs. Register online to partake in Open Division, 40+, 50+, Women’s, Rink Rat (for those with more passion than skill) or Boot Hockey games. Not the athletic type? Bundle up, grab a brat and take in the sights rink-side.

The Past Is A Grotesque Animal

Mario Pensotti is an award-winning theatrical, cinematic and visual artist from Buenos Aires who brings his latest production, The Past is a Grotesque Animal (named after Of Montreal’s song of the same name) to the Walker Art Center in Jan. This live theater performance takes place on an enclosed, rotating round stage where four actors explore the concept of identity as a narrative construct. In other words, is who we are a result of the stories we tell, or vice versa? The performers both enact the scene and narrate it simultaneously, verbalizing the objective event and their subjective thoughts. (Did we mention it’s all in Spanish? No worries; there are “supertitles.”) Yes, this production might make your brain hurt, but it might also wake you up from that hibernation stupor you’ve been in for months. Get out of the house and your comfort zone at the same time!

Meshell Ndegeocello

Considering that her latest release is entitled “Weather,” it’s no surprise that ten-time Grammy nominee Meshell Ndegeocello chose one of the most bone-chilling months to return to the Twin Cities. Ndegeocello, with her funky, soulful, R&B sound, is sure to get your blood pumping, so grab your sweetie and your warmest sweater and head down to the Dakota Jazz Club for comfort food and a heartwarming concert.

Cat On A Hot Tin Roof

Baby, it’s cold outside, but the Guthrie’s going to be burning up the stage with its production of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” Tennessee Williams’ Pulitzer Prize winning tale takes audiences inside a plantation home in the Mississippi Delta where tycoon Big Daddy Pollitt wrestles with his relationships with his son, Brick, and daughter-in-law Maggie (the “Cat”). Themes of greed, desire and death are woven throughout the storyline, ensuring you’ll be on the edge of your seat as the actors turn up the heat.

The Boat Show

Just around the time most Minnesotans would hop on a plane, train or automobile to anywhere but here, the Minneapolis Convention Center opens its door for the annual Boat Show. Now in its 40th year, this four day event gives nautical enthusiasts an opportunity to fantasize about forthcoming summer fun. New features for 2012 include an Antique & Classic Boat display; Fred’s Shed, where visitors can take part in DIY seminars; and the Marina & Yacht Experience, where attendees can browse boats in the water and nosh on eats from Seven Sushi & Steakhouse.

Pho at Quang Restaurant

Sometimes the only way to warm up is from the inside out. A steaming serving of Pho never sounds more enticing than it does in the arctic tundra months. Quang Restaurant, a local staple for Vietnamese cuisine on Eat Street, dishes up one of the best bowls the Twin Cities has to offer. The Pho Thap Cam is packed with sliced beef, tendon, brisket, tripe and meatballs; swallow it down and you’ll be insulated from Mother Nature for the rest of day. Your belly will thank you.

Published on Metromix Twin Cities in Dec. 2011