Sometimes I wake up on a Saturday morning feeling overwhelmed with a to-do list a mile long and a wish list that’s even longer. On this particular Saturday, I reminded myself to balance. I did a few quick chores around the house, got in some me-time then enlisted the family to come with me on an errand. This errand to downtown Minneapolis’ Depot to pick up my race packet for the race the next day ended five hours later.
To set the scene, it was a bright sunshiny day. It was my daughter’s birthday. Spirits were high. With some patience, we found a parking spot and plugged the meter for two hours, assuming we might linger a bit after the errand was done. We had parked mid-way between the Depot and the Guthrie, about a four-block distance. I went solo to stand in line for the packet at the Depot, and sent my parents and their grandchildren (g age 8 and b age 5) to Caribou Coffee. The streets were filled with runners picking up their packets – many of them were staying overnight pre-race at the Depot (Residence Inn) in hopes of being well-rested at the starting line.
A short walk from Caribou past MacPhail Music Center and the Mill City Museum, we came upon the Mill City Farmer’s Market in the breezeway between Mill City Museum and the Guthrie. We frequent this market about four – six times a summer, I would guess. I get the specifics for each Saturday via their Mill City Beet e-newsletter. Today there was live music and as always, aebelskivers – 3 for $5. We pass the honey stand (this time!) and beeline for the skivers: an order of apple (hold the messy blueberry sauce) and cheesy bacon (ladel on the ginger jam).
People lounge and eat their farmer’s market purchases on the steps leading up to the Guthrie from the market area. A group just leaving motions our party of five over to their table (one of about 15 in the area). One older, grandfatherly-like gentlemen has to tease my daughter a bit, but she is not sharing her aebelskivers. It’s her birthday after all. Turns out, it’s a great people-watching location in the shade, especially to check out the runners and bikers working hard to make it up the hill. This will be part of my race route tomorrow – it does not look promising.
We wander through the rest of the market, picking up some ricotta-filled croissants, leafy greens and radishes. At the end of this line is the entrance to Mill City whose first level is open and accessible to the public. There are restrooms, a D’Amico cafe, the museum gift shop and access to exterior balconies overlooking the preserved ruins of the flour mill that once fully stood on the site. We’ve visited this area several times before. Today we notice there’s a photography shoot going on – its a couple who looks to be celebrating a Persian wedding (I’m thinking METRO magazine shoot, for example, and the only reason I’m guessing Persian is due to the shoe booties with the curled up toe – Aladdin style).
We arrived downtown about 11:00a.m. and it’s now just before 1:00. I look at the group – they collectively need some direction. I run out to plug the meter for another two hours and Mom checks the next Flour Tower Tour which is conveniently at 1:00. I’ve had this on my Minneapolis to-do list for a few years. Today we decide to get our tickets.
We check out a bit of Mill City Museum prior to 1:00, then head into the elevator, complete with a built-in set of risers/steps for people to sit on while the guide takes us on a journey from floor five to eight, back down to three, up to four, then up to eight again. At each stop, you see a room set for theater as they creatively overlay historical video, details, music and voices of mill workers who talk about what it was like to work long shifts, breath the air full of flour dust (which btw is very explosive) and what it sounded like when the machine belt slipped off-track.
We exit on the eighth floor where we can actually see the bins that funnel the grains to the lower levels. We also learn about enhancements the mills made to include giant vacuums to suck up the flour dust. Then we walk up a flight of stairs to a glassed-in walkway with a great view of the river. Ava, my 8-yr-old, spends a bit of time feeling woosy then we all head out to the open-air balcony where the vista improves and you can feel the wind in your hair and see the little people below.
After we’ve had our fill of fresh air, we step into the glass elevator to go down eight flights. I’m surprised at the speed and it makes me a little lightheaded. The kids are uneasy too, but they are sure they want a do-over.
When the tower tours ends around 1:30, we’re notified that the chef demo and tasting will be in the Mill City Kitchen at 2:00. No, Dad, really we’ll be heading out before then. Lets just take a quick look around… We discover the many iterations of Betty Crocker, check out Pillsbury’s ad campaign history and learn about the history of the mills and how they operate. My kids are mostly checking out the interactive town that moves flour from the river to the mills. They also like the water room that has a model of the river at the Stone Arch that kids can assemble and move parts to change water flow to push water through the wheels or funnels.
Oh look at the time. People are starting to gather for the 2:00 chef demo. Once I find out this is to be Lucia Watson of Lucia’s in Minneapolis, I convince the group we must stay. (I think they have cooking demos every Saturday, so keep an eye on the Mill City Beet for information). She keeps it simple and explains everything she’s doing – making the most foreign veggies seem common. One in particular my Mom keeps asking about is green garlic.
Lucia makes an olive oil, herb and feta mixture that tops a veggie pasta and lamb meatballs with greek yogurt and mint. The kids are attentive. Lucia points out that committing to buying staple items like milk and butter locally on a consistent basis is more helpful than the occasional purchase of local goods at the market. Must get into a CSA soon… But first, Dad, can you plug the meter again? It’s 2:45 and we’re cutting it close.
Lucia’s demo wraps up and soon after we locate Dad near the museum entrance. Is everyone starving? Yes. We head it out of downtown and just miss SunStreet Breads on 46th and Nicollet before their 3:00 close. Ava is fine going cakeless anyway because now we can go home and add a check next to Flour Tower.