From the Editor: Culinary Arts

By Andy Lien September 4, 2014

Categories: Arts & Culture, Food & Dining, Our Scene

Dinner and a show. I grew up with the romantic notions of what life must be like as an adult, getting to go to dinner and a show. Raised in the country about an hour from The Cities, I envisioned magical places like the Orpheum, the Guthrie, and the Ordway being set in the clouds somewhere. Getting to go to the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres was the cat’s meow, something I didn’t get to do until I was in my thirties. Today, in my late thirties, I still dress up for a night at the theater, I still get excited by the lights and the curtains, and I always look forward to dinner and a show.

I was 16 years old when I saw my first stage production in The Cities. I’d saved up my money and made the plans with my friends, Rachel and Sherry, to see The Phantom of the Opera at the Ordway in St. Paul. We ordered our tickets and got them in the mail. An ad for Forepaugh’s was included with the tickets; it said that we could ride a free shuttle to the Ordway if we dined there before a show…we made reservations with relief that we didn’t have to figure out how to get there ourselves. Somehow, Sherry drove us in her parents’ Taurus to St. Paul in rush hour, got us to Forepaugh’s in Irvine Park, and the night was ours. I remember that I ordered veal medallions in a cream sauce that I spilled on my blouse and tried to cover (probably unsuccessfully) with my mom’s necklace that I’d borrowed. We felt so fancy to be shuttled to the Ordway and everything was so bright and exciting. I sat in the center of the third row and was aghast with delight as the famed chandelier soared above my head, accompanied by the hammering organ chords. It was a night I’ll always remember.

Still in high school, I had a few other memorable opportunities to see big stage productions. When we were juniors, my friend Anna and I got tickets to see Miss Saigon at the Orpheum (on OPENING NIGHT!) and dined at the Nankin before making our way through protesters to the red carpet (RED CARPET!) and through the gold doors to the opulent lobby. Years later, I laugh about the Nankin but still take very seriously any protesters who dislike the portrayal of particular cultures in what we call our Western Canon. As a senior, I somehow won tickets to the Guthrie and my friend Sharayla and I went to Dream on Monkey Mountain at which I not only saw my first play (I was a musicals buff), but my first dancing naked man (again with the buff). Talk about the arts opening us up to new experiences; we were pretty shocked and had to try hard to maintain our decorum and not giggle ourselves out of the theater.

Now, at more than twice the age I was then, I see more than my fair share of shows. I pinch myself, because going to the theater is part of my job, even. My experiences have grown to include smaller venues and more obscure productions that have only broadened my horizons. I’ve figured out my beaten paths so that I always know where my Jeep is parked, no matter which theater I emerge from in the dark of night, in a standing-ovation stupor. I’ve even figured out that sometimes it’s easier to do a show then dinner. What? A late supper? Only fancy people do that! But when work runs late and there’s bound to be a line of cars to get out of the parking ramp after the show, why not spend that time noshing at a nearby establishment?

Looking at this issue, our Food & Dining Pairings have me dancing with anticipation. Some people look forward to brackets and fantasy football, I look forward to plotting shows and meals. And, since I live on the Green Line in St. Paul, this new light rail method of transportation puts a fantastic number of venues within walking distance of mass transit—it’s a game-changer. I’ll choose Zen Box Izakaya or Sanctuary to pair up with shows at the Guthrie via the Green Line’s Downtown East stop; Meritage or Pazzaluna or Saint Paul Grill for shows at the Ordway or Park Square Theatre via the Green Line’s Central stop; Black Sheep Pizza or Sawatdee for shows at The Fitz or the History Theatre via the Green Line’s 10th Street Station, or pretty much any downtown show and restaurant via the Green Line’s Warehouse District or Nicollet Mall stops. The opportunities are rich and plentiful…and easy.

We have such talent in the Twin Cities. I’m not only speaking of the theaters and actors and directors and writers and singers and artists, but also of our culinary stars. I’m a person who values experiences more than gifts and, in terms of what we have here in our midst, our arts scene is a gift. Take advantage of it as best you can.

Best of luck to the stars of stage and kitchen as we start this Fall Season of theater. Thank you for enriching our lives as you do.

See you in the seats,

Andy

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