'Mona Lisa' isn't coming - maybe she doesn't like lutefisk

  • Article by: BARBARA FLANAGAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 30, 2008 - 8:06 PM

Re: Dog choosing, lutefisk eating and wondering what comes next -- all part of the holiday season. Have a happy one.

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First, a look at what is on the 2009 calendar.

''Mona Lisa'' won't make the trip, but save Oct. 18, because a collection of masterpieces from the Louvre Museum in Paris, will open at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. This is a first visit to Minneapolis and it's big. Getting a major thank-you nod is local sponsor U.S. Bancorp.

And why isn't "Mona Lisa," the world-famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci, coming? Louvre experts say that the 500-year-old work is too fragile to leave the museum.

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As for that new dog the Obama family plans to add to the White House soon, here is my vote: a miniature schnauzer, of course. They do not shed, believe me. And they are wonderful dogs. I know because we had two -- remember Buffy and Tuffy, the sister-and-brother act? They have been gone about 15 years, but I still wear a schnauzer lapel pin.

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There was a time when all of our town's major restaurants were named after men. Consider Charlie's Café Exceptionale, Harry's, Freddie's, Jax, Murray's and Schiek's. There were probably more.

Jax and Murray's are still open and booming -- and Schiek's is a strip club -- but nowadays, it's women's names that count.

Consider Cafe Brenda, Restaurant Alma, Heidi's, Lucia's Restaurant and Cafe Maude, to name a few.

Women also operate many of them such as Brenda Langton at Cafe Brenda and Lucia Watson at Lucia's, but there are exceptions.

One is Cafe Maude, owned by Kevin Sheehy, but named after a most famous Maude -- Maude Armatage. She was a historic character who worked to improve our town and park system. She lived in a big house on King's Highway, close to the site of the Penn Avenue S. restaurant.

"That is why I picked her for my restaurant name," Sheehy said. "I grew up in this neighborhood, and I think it's a good idea to salute a neighbor.''

Sheehy never knew Armatage, but he is aware that she was probably a fan of macaroni and cheese. So, it is featured at the restaurant, and may I say that it is goopy-cheesy -- and good.

Finally, a bit of good news about an upcoming new restaurant named for a man or a woman -- Burger Jones. It sounds like manly, but maybe not. At any rate, look for it next summer, when Phil Roberts and Peter Mihajlov open it on the site of a former Applebee's that overlooks Lake Calhoun. Roberts and Mihajlov own such winners as Figlio, Muffuletta, Salut Bar Américain, Manny's Steakhouse and Chino Latino, so I hope Burger Jones matches up. That Applebee's that closed was one of my favorite spots and I miss it, OK?

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Oh, those Swedes know how to get things romping. Particularly during their season of lutefisk and Lucia. And that is right now.

The annual lutefisk dinner at the American Swedish Institute is Dec. 7, with three seatings. It is usually a sellout, so you will need reservations.

And if you don't like lutefisk, there will be other good foods available including Swedish meatballs.

The ASI Lucia Celebration is Dec. 13 at 7 a.m. at the institute, but be alerted to the fact that it is for ASI members only. And they are serving those delicious Lucia buns.

However, at 2:30 p.m. that day, a Lucia program will be held at Augustana Lutheran Church, on 7th Street at 11th Avenue S. Get your tickets at ASI.

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Finally, two more books you may not be able to live without -- "Come One, Come All" by Lee Svitak Dean, editor of Taste in the Star Tribune, and "Fred Astaire" by Joseph Epstein, who writes for a number of publications including the New Yorker.

Dean, obviously a good cook, designs different dinners that look tasty and easy. And her recipes include such wonders as Easy Cranberry Relish, something she makes for her family's turkey dinner.

As for Fred Astaire, one of my three favorite movie stars of the past -- the other two are Jimmy Cagney and Cary Grant -- this is a delightful book. Epstein is a superb writer with a touch as light as Astaire's dancing.

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Ever want to give yourself a special holiday gift? Well, why not?

So this is mine: I am taking a couple of months off to loll around. No, I am not sick or particularly tired, but I am lazy. So, while I relax, you have a happy time of it and I will see you come spring.

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