Holy Storm, Batman! Whoa, whoa, whoa. What a night! First, let me explain why I was foolishly driving around in what basically amounted to a pre-tornado. My Bizarre (Foods) friend Andrew Zimmern invited John and me, as well as our friends Aaron and Carol Mack (although only Aaron could make it), to join him this evening at Chef Lenny Russo’s Heartland Contemporary Midwestern Restaurant to tape a segment for his Travel Channel series, Bizarre Foods. Zim’s been taping all around Minnesota recently, landing at Heartland this evening, and I was (am!) so excited to be a part of his amazing show! (Won’t air until April – but believe me, I’ll be pushing the date when the time comes!)
Let me back up a bit. Not being an experienced TV personality (HA), I was a bit nervous about the whole thing (those of you who heard me horrifically giggle my way through a brief interview on Andrew’s Chowhounds radio show a few years back will not be surprised). I watched the weather anxiously, not worried about whether it would hamper my ability to get over to St. Paul (which is what I should have been worrying about), but whether the foretold rain would cause my hair to frizz/over-curl. (Good to know I had/have my priorities straight, urgh…) But as the storm forecasts rolled in, I did start to worry about leaving Nathan home alone for even a minute, given how the weather could hold up his dad (who was picking him up) in traffic.
So, after much weather-monitoring, hair-fixing, and consultation, Nathan and I set out to meet his dad part-way between our house and his, to hopefully pare their travel time a bit, eliminate any time alone time for Nathan, and to put me on a less congested route over to St. Paul. We ended up sitting on Highway 100 near 394 witnessing one of the more spectacular – and truly scary – storms I have ever seen in my life. I was actually grateful that we were in parking-lot traffic…no pressure to try to drive in blinding lightning, rain, and hail. We watched black wall-clouds move in, and road-litter begin to swirl eerily around us (shiver), before the heavens broke open and wind rocked over us, gusting rain and hail over the cars like a car-commercial demonstration of aerodynamic engineering. Whoooooooooosh. It was more-than-slightly unreal. Eeek.
We finally made our way to meeting up with Nathan’s dad, and when they were safely off, I turned toward St. Paul, already almost-late for our filming at Heartland. I wound my way through downtown Minneapolis, then across I-94 and into the Highland Park neighborhood of St. Paul, all the while feeling my way through torrential downpours and flooded streets. I pulled up across from Heartland, scoped the street-turned-river, and realized I was going in barefoot, baby, no reason to put shoes into that current. So, handbag, camera, and shoes in hand, as well as umbrella overhead, I made a barefoot run for it. And heaved into the restaurant to find a camera waiting for me in the entryway, as well as John, Andrew, and Aaron already merrily eating, a delicious glass of crispy white wine at my place, and pats of Hope Creamerysweet- and snowy-white goat-butters, just calling my name (into which I immediately stuck my finger – oh, how I love Hope Creamery butter!). Ahhhh, and just like that, I was fine, happy, happy.
From there, all I can say is that I had an amazing meal. Wow. Andrew did his thing (very fun to watch), we all ate lots of bizarre (!), delicious tasties (tune into the show, in April, to see/hear the specifics), had our usual lively chat, I strangely didn’t feel nervous at all, and it was an absolute blast. Chef Lenny Russo is a lovely and talented man, deeply committed to his mission of serving the best of locally sourced ingredients, beautifully prepared. And what a result, truly scrumptious. Quite a meal, my friends, unforgettable! What a crazy night! Whew! I’m glad to be home, pleasantly (but not overly) full, gratefully dry, and SAFE. Thanks to the Chef and his talented staff, and to his wife for the lovely wine…bon nuit!