artichokes, alors

I needed artichokes.

I had an egg bake to make to use up a bunch of random crap in my pantry, and I needed one jar of chopped artichokes for said recipe. After a particularly stressful week – my last few days at work, trying to wrap up dozens (hundreds?) of miscellaneous little things and transition as much as possible, as smoothly as possible, my nerves were shot. Even making it through the doors of my local downtown Lunds felt like an utterly Herculean effort…one more line item to cross off the to-do list before three more mushroomed up in its place.

Basket slung over my arm, purse swinging off my other shoulder, I started working my way through the aisles of the store. It was a busy time to be there – in hindsight, I should have gone earlier or later in the day than the post-work rush. As my basket got heavier, my mind drifted away from the task at hand and on to other things…how to best pack my gallery wall pieces for safe transport? When the heck would the purchaser of my barstools commit to a pickup time? How does one actually clean a dishwasher? And I got careless. I reached up to grab a jar of artichokes, and my basket snagged on the shelf of jars below and knocked several of them off, which shattered – shattered, I tell you - all over the floor and my feet.

You know the feeling of everyone looking at you and quietly judging you? That urgent need to melt into an invisible puddle and just totally disappear from an utterly mortifying situation? I could feel my entire face flushing beet red from my neck up, hands shaking and the microscopic cuts on my foot starting to bleed just enough to look gruesome and alarming. Two Lunds employees converged on me to start cleaning up and make sure everything was okay, and immediately freaked out and started making a scene asking for a first-aid kit, as a concerned middle-aged woman came over and started proffering Kleenex and reassurance.

I, naturally, being a self-possessed and rational adult, burst into tears that probably made it look like what was happening was a lot worse than it really was, and apologized no less than twenty-nine times for breaking four jars of artichoke hearts. And they all started looking at me like I was certifiably insane, probably like “Okay, you loser, it’s four jars of artichokes, nbd,” but it felt like A HUGE DEAL at the time. Like – get your shit together, Liz, pay attention, who the hell just goes around breaking shit in a grocery store? And finally the little teenage Lunds employee who was sweeping up broken glass and artichoke juice put his hand on my shoulder and was like, “Dude, we have concrete floors. This happens six times a day.”

So I took a deep breath, and sucked in my quivering bottom lip and wiped my mascara tracks off my cheeks. I smiled, got my shit (sort of) together, and bought a pint of pistachio Halo Top (it’s totally the best flavor). And I got to the checkout line, and the middle-aged man checking me out started chatting (clearly having heard about the trauma, or just seeing that I was upset). We talked about random stuff while he rang me out, and he mentioned that his favorite pistachio ice cream came from Berthillon, in Paris. I perked up right away – Berthillon is the BOMB – and he gave me props for pronouncing it right.

“Zut, que vous avez une belle accent,” he effused, and I, being a self-possessed and rational adult (HA), responded in French. As one does. So then we had the most charming conversation about how hard it is to find French speakers in the Cities – though I seem to be doing a decent job of that lately – and how fun it is to find someone with whom to converse. And we wound the conversation down with lots of “a demain”s and “au revoir”s, and I figured that was that.

Then I went in there again last night after a family dinner to pick up some coffee (I’ve been out for days and it’s untenable), and he was ringing out. And the second he spotted me walking through the door, he bellowed “MON DIEU, C’EST LA PETITE PARISIENNE DE MINNEAPOLIS!” (My god, it’s Minneapolis’s little Parisian!) I turned beet red, but for such a better reason than shattering artichoke jars. And we chatted at checkout again, and I left for home with a smile on my face.

This is mostly a pointless and rambling story, but sometimes it’s nice to be reminded that there are such wonderful people lurking in even the most quotidian places, especially in this bizarre and transient phase of life. Here’s hoping that you find one today, whoever you are reading this.

La Vie "Boheme"

I'm currently losing my mind packing (or doing everything possible to avoid it because packing sucks), winding things down at work (or leaving at 2:30 every day because #quitter), and saying as many goodbyes as possible (or drinking as many drinks as possible because that's what we do). Today's post, therefore, is just a quick dump of pretty photos from a few weeks ago, when Michael and I met up with Antinea and Michael ('other Michael') for our last opera of the season, "La Boheme!" 

We dined at Moscow on the Hill beforehand - my first caviar experience - and were treated to champagne with the other donors/patrons in the gallery at second intermission. All in all, an incredibly delightful evening with people I'm going to miss so much! 

I will forever envy Antinea her incredible height and stunning Badgley Mischka shoes (my 4-inch heels still barely get me to clear the shoulder, BOO). 

What is it about men in tuxes? I wish people dressed up more. 

Breaking up the "photos by the Grand Staircase" binge with a snippet of the loveliest aria, "Che gelida manina" as sung by Scott Quinn as Rodolfo. While I think "Boheme" has some of Puccini's most stunning music, the plot (rather, lack thereof) left me cold...starving artists have tuberculosis and feelings! Oh my! That said, the performance by the Minnesota Opera's cast was absolutely beautiful...sassy Musetta, romantic Rodolfo and tragic Mimi were all sung to perfection.

Also perfection: Antinea's vintage dress, a 1950s find. 

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The lighting in the Ordway is so tough - what a nightmare. Loving the Ralph Lauren gown I purchased day-of once we decided to go black-tie as well...there's something sort of decadent and adult about owning gowns that aren't from prom, ha!

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BOO BLURRY. All in all, the loveliest night with the loveliest people. Made even better by a nightcap at Spoon and Stable with Michael and the one and only Matt Callanan, who outdid himself afterward by inviting us to his place for a raucous game of Cards Against Humanity, vodka-Diet Mountain Dew in a champagne flute with a Sour Patch Kid garnish, and his fantastic French whiskey. The after-after party with Michael on my roof with a double-pepperoni pizza just cemented a superlative goodbye to our opera nights! 

Now to find myself a crew even half this tall and attractive for the San Francisco Opera...

friday morning brain dump

Guys. I'm slowly losing it. Things are 100% crazy right now - winding up my job, preparing for a cross-country move, selling half my life on Craigslist, trying to see as many friends as possible before heading west. It feels like almost every morning I wake up and my first thought is "OMGWTFAMIDOINGAHHHHHH" before my feet hit the ground and I don't stop to think for the rest of the day. 

Bright spots in the craziness: 

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-- My parents are in Ireland and sending back absurdly picturesque photos of the castles in which they're staying and the sheep with whom they are frolicking and the scenery in which they are doing said frolicking. It's making me crave a Euro trip in the worst way. 

-- There's so much hilarity latent in trying to sell things on the Internet. I stumbled into a barter-type situation in trying to sell an old iPod, and was so tempted to ask him if he wanted to discuss how many camels he'd trade for my virginity. HA. 

-- In a totally serendipitous happening, I ran into a friend, Tien, at trivia last Monday right after I shared news of my move. She was one of the first people to reach out and wish me well, and seeing her was totally happenstance, as it had been MONTHS. We ended up chatting for a while at trivia, and then drank champagne on my roof on Tuesday night catching up on life.

It was the most inspirational conversation I've had in a long time - she, like me, is making some pretty radical changes in life, and hearing her excitement for and drive to make those changes galvanized me to continue striving to be and do better. We talked a lot about the impetus behind change, and ended up talking for quite awhile about Oprah...because, duh, Oprah is the original powerbitch. Not gonna lie, I stole some of Tien's mojo and started reading Oprah too...and found this list of Oprah quotes on success to be particularly inspiring going through the week. 

--These Hermione-centric Harry Potter titles made me laugh my ass off, right in the middle of the workday. I'm a particular fan of "Hermione Is More Competent Than Everyone Else While She Is In A Coma." Life goals, right there. Hermione and Oprah can be in my Powerbitch Club any day. 

--You know you've arrived when the Minnesota Opera puts you and your date in their digital invitation to the 55th anniversary Kickoff Gala. Which, naturally, I can't attend because, you know, I'm leaving. Here's hoping I can leave a similar mark on the San Francisco Opera...HA. 

--I haven't touched a book for like two weeks, THANKS moving. That said, my "books to read" list is growing at an alarming pace thanks to the Reese Witherspoon Book Club account on Instagram. Turns out that in addition to being a new power producer in Hollywood, she's also an avid reader who gets books turned into movies on the regular. Can't wait to pick up a few of her latest recommendations! 

--Laura and I are already planning wine country trips for our new West Coast life, and that will have to include our furry roommate Fi. I've bookmarked these lists of dog friendly wineries in Napa and Sonoma, and can't wait to get drinking. Of course. 

--Laura also posted this amazing data mapping of "Hamilton" lyrics on my Facebook forever ago, and I'm not going to lie, I spent like an hour playing with it over lunch on Monday or Tuesday. It's delightful in every way for an analytics nerd like me. 

 

Finding a job is like trying to date.

It all starts with your current job. The honeymoon phase is decidedly over; you’ve settled comfortably into the professional equivalent of the “yoga pants, no makeup, and Netflix while eating takeout straight out of the container on the couch” phase. Things are…fine? They’re good. The spark is gone. Romance is officially dead. Little issues start to seem bigger. He leaves the seat up and puts dirty dishes in the sink, her clothes are always on the floor and she never takes the trash out. The coworker on the other side of the wall eats reheated fish for lunch, the office is a patriarchy, and nobody ever smiles. Malcontent started to build up, and I started to wonder…is there something better out there for me?

So, thinking about breaking up with my job. When I hit this phase, I was rolling into work 15 minutes later than usual on a consistent basis, spending more time reading Scribd books online than actually doing anything, and getting increasingly negative and generally “mehhhh” on my job in general. I stumbled on this Wit & Delight article in March, in the heart of my discernment process, and it completely hit me in the gut (in the heart?). 

So there you have it. I'm convinced I'm  breaking up with your job. And it's not like there's not love there - there is, like love for a totally worn-out pair of ballet flats, or that eyeshadow palette from Clinique that I got in like...COLLEGE and really should just throw out. And I started worrying about how to let my job down easy. It's been a good ride...there have been some good times, some bad times, some all-nighters and some trips and some inside jokes. But in my heart of hearts, I knew it had run its course. So I started thinking about how to end it. 

On the flip side, I started looking for a new job in the Bay Area. Like the dating world, the game has totally changed via technology. We swipe back and forth on Tinder, we review LinkedIn profiles. We shop for boyfriends on Match.com the way we shop for boyfriend jeans on Madewell.com, and jobs on Indeed.com. My phone, in this phase, was a blizzard of notifications...new matches from Bumble, new recommended jobs from Bay Area companies, texts from recruiters and on-again, off-again men. The sheer variety of choice was intoxicating and intimidating. I worked with a recruiter the way people work with It's Just Lunch or those professional matchmaker sites...presenting myself as effectively as possible, interviewing like people go on first dates. A few a week, in a constant swirl of "So tell me about yourself" and trying to brag without seeming like I'm selling myself.

So more discernment is clearly necessary, for the popular, qualified entrants to the job market (and the popular, well-curated Bumble profiles among us). I started narrowing my criteria down. A guy who lives in Brooklyn Park? Way too far to commute for casual weeknight happy hour. A tech company on the wrong side of the Bay? Nah, traffic would be murder. A 35-year-old divorced dad? Maybe not my wheelhouse. A dinosaur of a bank or insurance company just like my current job? Eh, again, probably not quite the pace I want. Then again, the tattooed Uptown dweller and the itty-bitty tech startup that pays almost entirely in stock options? Yeah, I might not be quite that edgy or cool.

Having winnowed down my desired attributes, the professional dating game began. Coffee or cocktails in the North Loop with a cute finance bro? Sure, why not? An interview with a local arts non-profit in San Fran? What've I got to lose? And then, job lightning struck. A hot, tall, blond, blue-eyed, Eagle Scout dream of a job came across my inbox, and all of a sudden I'm convincing myself it could totally be love. The first conversation was chemistry-laden - saying all the right things, generous benefits packages, the right amount of witty banter and self-promotion, and all of a sudden I'm thinking I have a crush on this job. And I think this job is crushing back. And it's hot and heavy for a few weeks...talks of flying out, discussion of specifics of the role, even flirting with a start date...is it too good to be true? 

And, like any hot, tall, blond, blue-eyed fuckboy, yeah, it totally is. I was deemed "too experienced" for the job, in the very final round of interviews when it was down to me and one other candidate. And for a minute I was like...wait, what? Is this a "define the relationship" talk where the dude is all "It's not you, it's me?" And, inevitably, for me, that triggered a total spiral of self-doubt and wondering if this was all a mistake (much like my dating fails have inspired a near-celibate state at this point in life, HA.).

But, much like I've been told it happens in the real world, "it happens when you least expect it," and that's proven true for me in this job hunt-as-dating metaphor. Think of it this way - boy meets girl, offline, in a meet-cute the likes of a Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks movie. It's organic, and serendipitous, and everything seems to be happening almost too easily. When you find that glass-slipper job, much like meeting the perfect guy, it seems almost too good to be true. And now, we're talking about getting real serious. If I wanted to keep the relationship metaphor going, we'd be moving in together, at least. If not talking rings and weddings and babies. But that's a story for another day...

My favorite champagnes and sparkling wines!

With so much to celebrate lately, I've had champagne and sparkling wine on the brain even more than usual! Anyone who's been out to drink with me knows that bubbles are often at the top of my list, which means I've amassed quite a robust portfolio of preferred bottles. Given I have bubbles at least once a week at this point, I'm pretty good at champagne and its ilk! 

So as we get into the warmer months, and as I continue to toast to my impending move, I figured it wouldn't hurt to start a running list of my favorites!

Champagne: 

Of course we're starting with the mother of all sparklers, Champagne itself! When Champagne is capitalized, it refers specifically and only to sparkling wine bottled in the Champagne region of France, an appellation that is sacred and has legit led to lawsuits over proper identification on bottles. The map above shows just how little of the "champagne" bottled in France is actually Champagne! 

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Taittinger: I have a soft spot in my heart for Taittinger given we drank it at Taittinger's famous champagne house on our Paris trip in 2015! While we tasted only the La Française Brut at Taittinger, I've also had their Prélude Grand Cru and very much enjoyed it. 

Jacques Chaput: I had Jacques Chaput last summer for the first time last summer at Monello in Minneapolis. It had the cleanest, driest finish...which I love (sweet wine is my least favorite thing EVER). 

Maison Penet: Oh my gosh, one of the most incredible experiences of my life was dining at Maison Penet with Monsieur Penet and his wife Martine on our champagne tour. Martine and I chatted in French for over an hour about everything, including her 12-year-old's refined champagne palate. KILL ME. While I adore the Penet Chardonnet Blanches de Voies photographed above, we bought two bottles of the Grande Réserve Grand Cru Brut Nature on our visit and they are incredible. They only produced 5,000 bottles, and each is engraved with a metal plate including its bottling date for optimal drinking. Completely obsessed, I tell you. 

Duval-Leroy: I just tried Duval-Leroy for the first time in April and am hooked...there's another bottle in my fridge waiting for me currently! Their Brut Réserve is deliciously dry, with an almost-bready nose and soft, floral finish that I love (floral flavors are one of my favorite things!). 

Champagne Lelarge Pugeot: Another from our Champagne day, Lelarge Pugeot is noteworthy for their 100% organic production method. I particularly liked their Pinot Meunier, a blend made with pinot noir grapes. 

Ayala Brut Majeur: Jodester, Em and I got a bottle of this at RM Champagne in Chicago on our Hamilton weekend last November, and it was revelatory...and 100% worth the obscene price tag! 

Cremant: 

Crémant is essentially any kind of French bubbly that isn't specifically Champagne, and I love it by and large. The beauty of French sparkling wine is that there are so many subtle variations among the different regions, and the more I've had it, the more I can appreciate those variations. Crémant tends to be slightly less bubbly than Champagne, but it also tends to be slightly less expensive...which, given my bubbly habit, is a VERY good thing.

49M Crémant de Loire: Mineral and clean and apple-y, I occasionally have this at Spoon and Stable after trying their Daily.

Deligeroy Crémant de Loire: A very reasonably priced crémant, I get a nose full of pear and a nice, bready flavor. This, of all my crémants, tastes the most like a true Champagne to me. 

Domaine Rolet Crémant de Jura Rosé: I am NOT usually a rosé drinker, but this one changed my mind. It's dry, not sweet, and has a very pretty floral flavor to it. 

Prosecco: 

Prosecco = bubbles from Italy, YAY! They are also generally much, much cheaper than French offerings, though variety may be harder to find unless you go to a specialty wine store (Total Wine is my JAM, guys). 

LaMarca: LaMarca is one of the universally-sold proseccos and it's generally priced between $12 and $17 a bottle. I tend to serve it at parties where bubbles are called for, but not everyone will appreciate the subtler nuances of a champagne. It's also generally on the sweeter side of what I drink, but I don't always hate that. Plus, their branding and advertising is top-notch, and I adore the shade of blue on their labels. 

Sorelle Bronca: I love Sorelle because they make an Extra-Dry prosecco, which is a welcome change from the dessert-y sweetness of LaMarca. It's also around $18 a bottle, which makes for a "feels fancy but costs basic" kind of party that I am ALL about.

Cava: 

Cava is Spanish bubbly, and is my least-favorite generally of all the varieties I've tried. Why? I don't know. Maybe I've just had generally bad cava, or generally really good everything else. 

Segura Viudas Brut: I like Segura Viudas because it's easy to find and leans drier than most Cavas I've found on restaurant menus. Per their site, they also have an extra-dry, which I think I would like even better...so now I'm on a mission to get my hands on that!

Sparkling: 

Basically anything produced anywhere other than the regions I mentioned above, to my knowledge, gets lumped in as a "sparkling wine." (I'm probably wrong! Don't judge!) I'm pretty focused on the California sparkling wines, for obvious reasons...our recent Sonoma/Napa trip, the fact that I'm moving there, and hi, duh, did I mention that my sister designed some bottles?? 

Gloria Ferrer Extra Brut: Our first stop in wine country, but they actually distribute nationally, so I've enjoyed their Brut a few times since we returned! It's deliciously light and citrus-y - such a summery, refreshing choice.

Iron Horse Wedding Cuvée and Russian Cuvée: Iron Horse cracked me up - it felt like we were driving up a horse track, but by the time we reached the top of the hill on which their outdoor tasting space is perched, we were in awe of the views and in for a treat with the wines. Their Wedding Cuvée was bottled for a daughter of the family's wedding (duh) and is fruity without being overly sweet. The Russian Cuvée was bottled for the famous Reagan-Gorbachev summits in Iceland to end the Cold War, and has been served at the White House since. I love it for the history alone, but also for the rich, robust and dry flavor. 

Domaine Chandon Brut and Rosé: Um, Em designed their packaging. DUH. (Plus, we drank there over the holidays and had a grand old time, so hooray for happy memories!)

Favorite Places for Bubbles:

Saint Genevieve, Minneapolis: Charming and light and airy, with a comprehensive bubbly list that changes often and pairs perfectly with their fresh riffs on French food. 

RM Champagne Salon, Chicago: The exact opposite of Saint Genevieve: intimate and cozy and dim, with a literal Champagne bible from which to order, and the richest snackie options to pair with the bubbles. 

Barbette, Minneapolis: Excellent champagne list, and bright, pretty outdoor space in which to enjoy it! Plus...close enough to walk to and from the Lakes before or after a glass of sparkling wine. 

Meritage, St. Paul: oh my gosh, one of my favorites in general, but their champagne cocktails are over the top. I've never had as much fun sampling an entire cocktail menu as I did when Michael and I worked our way through it one evening before and after the opera!