Tuesday, November 21, 2006

On Scones

Rustica Bakery
816 W. 46th St.

Even as someone who sometimes orders scones, I don't really understand them. They are dry, hard, hockey pucks of dough that crumble all over your lap as you try to eat them while driving. I actually only order them when I don't feel like wrestling with muffin-paper as I drive, and usually it's because it's been a while, and I've forgotten how they get lodged in your throat until you have to force the peristalsis to reengage with large gulps of coffee.

So last week, I was driving to the suburban hinterlands to teach the math, and I hadn't had coffee or breakfast, and for some reason I was over in Jimmy and Judy's neighborhood, so I stopped at Java Jack's, which is now attached to a very good bakery called Rustica. I got my coffee at one counter and my bakery treat at the other counter (an inconvenience I don't like, but I'm sure you knew that, or I wouldn't have brought it up). I got a scone at Rustica, and suddenly scones made sense. It was delicious. Mine was a cherry-chocolate concoction, which melted in my mouth. The outer layer had a slight crunch to it, and the inside had a soft comforting texture. I don't know how to describe it. I think it must be what scones were always meant to be, and I never knew it because I've only ever had bad scones.

Anyway, I went back on the weekend (when the two-line deal was even more annoying because the Rustica one was far less efficient than Jack's), and tried to replicate the experiment. They didn't have cherry-chocolate, so I got orange-chocolate. It wasn't the same revelatory experience, partly because of the orange peel flavor, but, believe me, I'm going to try again. There will come another day when I need a scone, and from now on Rustica is the place for me.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Copper Dome Scandal

The Copper Dome Restaurant
1333 Randolph Ave
St Paul
(651) 690-0993

It's best to write these things when your stomach still feels like it's full of churning laundry. Otherwise, you might forget and soften the words to seem more kind.

This morning we ate at the popular and crowded Copper Dome Restaurant in St. Paul at the recommendation of an otherwise nice young man I met this week. We arrived at 10:15, which, fortunately, it turns out is an OK time to get a table, because we did not have to wait for a table for five (but when we left an hour later, the line went out the door). Our table came with a good-sized bowl of what at first appeared to be cream, but turned out instead to be (gasp!) non-dairy creamer. Fatal mistake for the Copper Dome. Judy requested a pitcher of milk, and was briskly informed that it would cost extra. (Not a deterrent for Jude, but still a bit off-putting.) Jimmy declared that we would not return. In defense of the creamer, real cream would have been wasted on the coffee that is served at the Dome. This is nasty, wretched coffee-water. Whatever you do, don't drink it. There must be another way to get the necessary morning caffeine. Maybe they serve Coke.

Sitting at the table at the Copper Dome and choking down the despicable non-dairy creamed coffee, while going through the menu is an assault on all of your senses. The food smells are strong and rich (although not unpleasant). The walls are covered in an astounding collection of old flour sacks (including one with a diagram of a wheat kernel that would make Georgia O'Keefe blush and another set decorated with offensive Aunt Jemima characters). Our good cousin Perley would not do well with these walls of framed flour sacks. With the sheer quantity of them, it's perhaps inevitable that many of them would be crooked. Perles likes his straight lines and right angles, not this crazy array of mismatched frames that tilt every which way. Oh, and then there is the menu. It looks like a dozen bingo cards lined up side-by-side, there are so many options, printed in neat little squares. Beau had to close one side of the menu so he could just focus on one third of the options.

I chose the potato pancake wrapped around bacon, sour cream, onions, and green peppers which came with a side of margarine. Just writing these words makes my stomach cramp. Rachael got a "Cajun" omelet, although she couldn't explain what exactly made it Cajun. The others stuck with some version of eggs and hash-browns and meat. The hash-browns arrived somewhat yellow, not golden-brown as promised. The more health conscious members of the club suspected that trans-fats may have been involved in their preparation.

And so we came, we ate, and we left, burping as we went. Judy delicately excused herself for each burp. We moaned softly as we encountered bumps on the road back across the river. It almost seemed beside the point to ask for grades, given the intestinal distress in the car, but Beau and Rachael denied hating their food. Rachael even gave it a B-. She was the most generous. Beau's grade: C+, Jimmy's: C, Judy's: C-. Mine is a D, because I can imagine worse, but I do hesitate to pass a restaurant that makes me feel this ill.