Creamed Kale, Subpar Ribeye, and Ad Stories
Wednesday, our host Bryan’s Volvo broke down right outside baggage claim. We’d extended a ride to a friend from Atlanta, Justin L. Daugherty of Sundog Lit, and his girlfriend, Sarah V. Melton, and they graciously stayed stuck with us, and Sarah even got AAA and rode in the tow truck with Bryan, whom she’d never met. Meanwhile our host Kim took the rest of us back to their house in a neighborhood called Seward and we drank our first of many Grain Belt beers in the backyard. When the tow truck arrived, we went to Birchwood Cafe and had various burgers. Mine was of turkey and had creamed kale and giardiniera on it. Awhile back some people tried to make kale into a chip and that was a bust, but this creamed kale succeeded. Spinach, when creamed, shrinks and crinkles up, but kale, as it turns out, accepts cream without losing its integrity.
That night, I had almond-crusted walleye with wild rice and romesco sauce at Republic, and it was perfect. I nearly fell asleep into my plate, but the dish was perfect.
I won’t name the restaurants where I ate Thursday or Friday because they were all subpar, other than a decent buffet breakfast at the Seward Co-Op. Seward has most of the best food in Minneapolis. Nothing fancy, just really good fresh upmarket hippie food.
I had lunch both days near the convention center with John Woods, my longtime AWP dining companion, with a Jeff Jackson bonus on Thursday. The company and conversation was most worthy but the food was not. On Thursday, I badly wanted soup. Italian wedding soup is one of the top soups in the world, and the little cafe where we went offered something called Italian meatball soup, so I ordered that. I expected the brothy kind with tiny meatballs and tiny pasta shapes and spinach or more properly escarole (again for integrity reasons), but what I received instead was a watery ground beef and tomato ragu in a bowl. On Friday, John had the idea of getting ramen. We found ramen, but it had a weird taste. John saw a guy come out of the kitchen with a giant wad of chewing tobacco in his cheek, which didn’t explain the weird taste but did compound our sadness.
Friday dinner was the worst because it was the most expensive. You could tell the restaurant was hip because we couldn’t get a table until 10:15pm, and because the tables were too wide for us to hear one another, and because they made their own sausages. But I think the chef had maybe read about a hip, farm-to-table, everything house-made restaurant, and maybe looked at the menu online, without ever actually eating at one.
Things started out okay with the charcuterie board, but even there, besides some excellent headcheese, there was way too much happening, too many condiments that should have been aside rather than piled atop the salumi or pâté or whatever. This presaged the $45 ribeye, which was so smothered in blue cheese and balsamic, and so caked with black char, that you could barely taste the beef, except to perceive its inferiority. I’m not sure I even believe it was ribeye. Ribeye is marbled with melty fat; this was insipid lean meat with a gristly rubber edge.
The next day I cooked for 100 or more people in a Residence Inn, using 4 crockpots, 2 microwaves, and 2 electric burners.
At AWP you are surrounded by books but there’s no time to really read. So I read short bits of things.
matchbook already publishes pretty tiny bits of prose, but this week it has published even tinier bits in the form of Google AdWords. They got all these 10-15 word stories and literally placed them as Google Ads. You can see all the ad stories on the matchbook site here in case you haven’t stumbled across them like I haven’t. They are great to read when you don’t have time to read.
I really like this one by Catherine Lacey:
To be very honest, I love it partly because it reminds me happily of the very first piece I ever published. And, get this, it was also published on matchbook. This part in particular is remind-y:
See? Isn’t that cool?
The first book I got at AWP was Veronica Bench by Leopoldine Core, new from Coconut Books. This is the first poem I read:
And that is exactly what AWP felt like the whole entire time.
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