A big birthday for Pillsbury; charmed by history

  • Article by: BARBARA FLANAGAN
  • Updated: May 1, 2011 - 6:20 PM

The Flanagan Memo -- Re: Good music, good food, good books and, always, good times.

• • •

George S. Pillsbury will be spending his 90th birthday this summer as a Democrat -- sort of. He admits voting for President Obama after living his life more often aligned with the Republican side of the aisle. Actually, he is an Independent, so who knows what will happen in 2012?

I discovered this news in the dandy new book about the Pillsbury clan -- "The Pillsburys of Minnesota" by Lori Sturdevant, a StarTribune colleague who is a splendid writer and reporter.

It begins at the beginning -- that is 1855 when John S. Pillsbury arrived to seek his fortune. More family members followed and through the years, they built quite a business and a great family reputation.

What is curious now is that George S. is the last of his immediate family in Minnesota. His four children with his wife, Sally, all live elsewhere, but they do show up for special events such as Dad's birthday.

• • •

Another charming bit of Minnesota history has been unearthed by that remarkable writer Peg Meier, but she did not do all the writing this time.

A stalker of libraries, Meier found a choice bit in Coco Irvine's diary, a book created when Coco was 13. Its title is "Through No Fault of My Own" and it is basically hilarious.

Irvine grew up in the Summit Avenue mansion that now is the official home for Minnesota governors. Meier, of course, added a few of her special touches. You should like it.

• • •

How do you feel about "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" or the ever popular tune"Johnny One Note"?

Not your cup of pink lemonade? Well, they certainly aren't mine, until John Pizzarelli takes over and sings the bejubies out of them. Yes, his name really is Pizzarelli and he is the guitar-playing son of the great jazz guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli.

The thing of it is -- John is a greatly entertaining guy, as he showed at the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant about a week ago. Now, I have known this and followed his career for some time, but so have lots of other people of all ages because they packed the place the night we were there.

The main thing about Pizzarelli is his choice of music. It might be considered odd by some of today's kids, but he is wonderful when he sings it. A tune by Bobby Troup, for example, "Lemon Twist," was nifty. I knew Troup and his most famous lyric, "Route 66," but "Lemon Twist" was new to me, and oh, so good.

"Sweet Lorraine,'' Billy Strayhorn's "Lush Life" and a somewhat upbeat version of the old ballad "With a Song in My Heart,'' all scored for Pizzarelli. And although he agreed that he is not Sinatra -- that's the late Frank Sinatra, friends -- he sang Sinatra's "Nancy With the Laughing Face" with great care and much charm.

Pizzarelli and his trio of piano, drums and his brother on bass, seem to like Minneapolis and it showed. Among other things he said was that we have a "marvelous new baseball stadium.'' He added: "You took the roof off. It is great."

So it is and so is Pizzarelli -- who also raised the roof nicely. Let's hope he comes back soon.

• • •

Here is some restaurant news and it is all about eating.

For example, you want soup? Point yourself toward Christos on Nicollet Avenue, near W. 26th Street. Ask for the avgolemono. No, I can't say it, just spell it, but for the record it is a luscious rice and lemon soup. Do try it.

If you seek dessert, head for the amazing chocolate roulade at Barbette on W. Lake Street, at Irving Avenue S. It is a moist and springy chocolate cake rolled around whipped cream and covered with caramel sauce. Does that sound OK?

And finally, the Walker Art Center saw the light or the cash register or something and hired the D'Amico brothers, Richard and Larry, to try and create a warm and comfy restaurant where the mighty Wolfgang Puck was once in charge. Their chef is Josh Brown and he will open the new Gather restaurant on June 2. Expect a crowd.

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