From Marianne Miller:
There's something pensive in the ether of an early Minnesota spring and it skews my focus on getting things done, finishing things that I started in January.
"Hey, Jeff, what do you think 'hope springs eternal' means? Do you think it means something snarky like 'yah, right, hope: spring is eternal' or is it a person 'hopes spring eternal' or is it "
He shoots me a sideways look, glances away from the basketball game on TV and says with moderate tones usually reserved for our two year old, "Alright. Alright. It's time for someone to get out of the house for a while. Why don't you grab a cup of coffee at Caribou or go out and get a massage ." I know I've run the well dry with him, so I heed his direction and put on a trusted pilled tweed sweater, army green goulashes, a felted scarf from my mother-in-law, and go. No parka today; it's a cold 40 degrees and it gives me goose bumps under the itchy wool, similar to a cat with hair on end: skittish and giddy with an unmapped afternoon lying in wait.
I drive to downtown Minneapolis and make my way into the center of the maze. I drive past the old Goodfellows, the old Foshay tower, and the old Hell's Kitchen. I hear the echoes of restaurants past, all the hard work and life they used to own. It occurs to me that I'm growing old with this city, bearing witness to its evolution, and I make a mental note to become peaceful with the change. More often now than in years past, I can feel we've turned the chapter on "The Little Big Food City That Could."
Everything I need today is right here in the IDS's airy frame. I stop by the bookstore and pick up a few magazines and a steno pad. Crossing the Crystal Court, I head over to the Marq VII lounge. It's an unlikely place for someone who lives in this state. It's a place of transients; I suspect most people walk by and never notice its sleek slate lines and formal doorman. I'm channeling my inner Holly Golightly—even if it's corny, I don't care.
I slip into a low seated upholstery booth and place my order.
Recipe for Self Love
- 1 pot of Earl Grey tea, bag on the side, boiling water in pot
- Cream, on the side
- Honey, on the side, no plastic packet
- High quality chocolate dessert
- 1 snifter of Grand Marnier, glass warmed with hot water prior to Grand Marnier
- Hotel lobby
- Reading material, non-work related
- Pad and pencil
I crack open the magazines letting the glossy pages thread through my fingers during my tea party for one. Alternating, I take wee sips of lacquered liquor and chase it down with the tea, smothering the immediate fire of the alcohol. My palate is scorched earth as I take a bite of the dense chocolate ganache and let the cocoa fat enrobe and tamper. I continually start the fire and squelch it over and over again... three times, until the bite has gone out the brandy and the flavors now hum together in a hushed velvet symphony: perfumed orange pepper, honey bergamot, and milky tannin. It floats back into my mind again "Hope. Spring. Eternal." What does it mean ? "Shush," I whisper under my breath. I need to get outside of my head, so I just think about one thing: the now.
I rotate the Grand Marnier in its snifter letting it warm from the heat of my palm; I let my wrist acquiesce into the gimbal for the glass. I roll the words "viscous and viscosity" around in my mouth, watching the liquor travel the waist of snifter. My Om, my happy place, the bouquet of Seville orange reels me back to things I love. I love this. This set up of spirit, beverage, and food is my own personal shadowbox of flavors. The high mass in which it is taken in, the proper method in which it is prepared, and the pageantry of this séance I perform, it telegraphs into my mind's eye—my first April in Minnesota when my last name hadn't yet been Miller.
The unjust thing about cooking, home, restaurant, or otherwise is that you get no tangible souvenirs of good meals had—at least not ones you put on a shelf or frame or glue back in a scrapbook. You get something far more fleeting as a memento, an opaque but powerful sensory memory that made you really happy, even spoke to your soul. To Aquavit's credit, I call back to that ghost many times. Tonight I'll cook Swedish meatballs with tart lingonberries and sweet pickled cucumber, trying to make it like Roger but without the 5 gallons of duck fat, so my reproduction will be flawed but good enough to conjure.
Someone blurts out in German from the hotel lobby and I'm roused back into the Marq VII and take a bite of chocolate. I make a list of spring projects in my steno, notice my cuticles need care, and order one more pot of tea.
A liqueur created in 1880 by Alexandre Marnier-Lapostolle. It is made from a blend of true cognacs and distilled essence of bitter orange. Grand Marnier is 40 percent alcohol (80 proof).
Variations of Earl Grey
- Lady Grey: Made with lemon and Seville orange in addition to bergamot.
- French Earl Grey: Similar blend with added rose petals.
- London Fog: A combination of Earl Grey, steamed milk, and vanilla syrup.