October 21, 2007

Halloweentime Jaunt to the Midwest

Sunrise view from the Hilton

Spent the weekend in Minneapolis - again - this weekend. I actually don't mind it so much. I tell everybody it's a surprisingly cosmopolitan place.

This time I stayed at the Hilton, which was a mistake because it was a prime convention spot crawling with badge-toting midwesterners and gigantic football players (North Dakota State U, to be exact). I was pressed up against the back of the elevator during each trip to and from the 21st floor, praying for oxygen.

The stress of the throngs needed desperately to be relieved, so I ordered an in-room massage from the former LiteSpa (now an Aveda salon called Sanctuary). Spa services outside of a beach cabana or New York City can be a bit dodgy, but this ended up being really good - in fact, I think, better than the massages I get from Deborah at Crunch. This one included a great head/scalp massage, and also uncovered some real pain I'm having...drum roll...behind my knees. In the lymph area. Apparently I'm clogged.

So the massage was a great release in more ways than one, and for the first time in weeks (maybe months), I woke up the next morning and could walk without hobbling. Score!

Besides the access to in-room massages, the one good thing about the hotel was its proximity to a great restaurant called Hell's Kitchen, a new discovery. Aptly named, the wait there is hellish, as is the attitude of the people taking reservations and names for the waitlist. Saturday I tried to go there three times, and finally ordered a ham and pear toasted sandwich to go and ate it on the stairwell in the building. But this morning I planned ahead and didn't have to wait too long to brunch with Sebouh, who shared the delicious sausage bread (made with bison meat!), topped with butter, homemade peanut butter and preserves. It's practically a meal on its own but I managed to make some room for the catfish breakfast special, with poached eggs and a sauce with a real kick to it.

Minneapolis always brings the good food and drink, if you know where to go. (DON'T go to the NewsRoom.) We tried the bar in the new swank Graves 601 hotel, where I had the deliciously unsweet Mojito "8" cocktail and some sweet grilled cheese sandwiches topped with truffle honey. The scene was weirdly New York, and we were surrounded by Emmy winners of the Upper Midwest Chapter of the National Television Academy. Bizarre.

Even more bizarre was our trip to the sticks for the Trail of Terror, supposedly the Midwest's best Halloween attraction. It paled in comparison to some of the New York area ones I've visited over the last couple of years, but the haunted house-slash-maze had some neat tricks of its own that kept me on my toes (and grabbing for Vic). They kept it really dark, and with my night vision pretty bad as it is, I was blind the whole time. Then we hit the hallway with the big horn sound and a bright light that bleached our retinas and really blinded us.

I can't say it was worth the long drive, the muddy school bus ride from the parking lot, and the long wait in line, but I was spooked and startled and we laughed a lot. Mission accomplished.

It also gave us the excuse to have dinner at Bennigan's, which we spotted from the highway. We were hungry for fun, and thanks to Vic, now I can say I've tasted the deep fat fried and battered Monte Cristo sandwich with raspberry jam. It's so wrong. And so good.

Thankfully, considering everything I ate while away, I got the chance to swim a little at my hotel. I also spent a fair amount of time on my feet walking back and forth between hotel and Target Center, where I was wrangling some children for the KIDZ BOP WORLD TOUR. Rock!

If I have to go back to Minneapolis again, I hope it's during better weather, so I can visit De Smet, SD and complete my Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Highway journey.

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