A trip to St. Paul for Harry’s birthday gave me the opportunity to visit former Winonans Jan and Bernie Wagnild at their home in downtown Minneapolis. I’ve lived in Winona for a long time, and grew up in a suburb of Boston, so sitting on the eleventh floor of a condominium and looking out on unending humanity still holds a fascination for me.
Here at home, the sound of sirens is rare. When I sit in my office on Second Street and hear a siren, it is usually EMTs going to one of the high-rise apartment buildings near our office. A siren in Winona usually signals a personal event — a medical emergency, perhaps. If the ambulance stops in front of your house, all your neighbors look out to see what has happened, and ask each other what’s going on. In the city, firetrucks, ambulances, and even the SWAT team can stop right next to a person, and are barely noticed. Diners continue to enjoy their organic salads at the sidewalk cafe, briefcase-toting business people hurry to meetings. The only ones who notice are the people with nothing to do. Chances are whoever it is the sirens wailed for will have little or no connection to the people surrounding him.
We sat on the Wagnild’s sun porch enjoying the perfect sunny weather and catching up on the news. In the evening, we went for dinner to Mona’s, a Minneapolis restaurant owned and operated by another former Winonan, Lisa Hanson, daughter of Steve and Lynette Hanson, now of Wabasha.
The restaurant is tucked into the ground floor of the huge 333 South Seventh Street Tower, home to Accenture. I recognized it as the place where my daughter Cassidy worked for several years. It was to that building that I delivered six dozen Bloedow’s donuts one fine morning so that Cassidy could prove to her co-workers that they were the best donuts in the world.
At Mona’s, I ordered a delicious cocktail called Early Rain, made with organic gin, elderberry liqueur, cucumber, tarragon and tonic. Yum! Then we shared starters of shrimp on brioche and smoked oysters. Double Yum! I wanted to order three entrees, because the buttermilk fried chicken, duck breast, and paella all sounded so good. Lisa came to our table and told us that she had spent time in Spain, where she learned to make paella. That clinched it. Paella it was, and it was a perfect choice. Jan had the swordfish with shiitake mushrooms and fennel, which she said was also wonderful.
Over the years several Winonans have ended up owning Twin Cities restaurants. Cassidy and I regularly visit another, J.D. Fratzke, owner/chef of the Strip Club (as in strip steak!) in St. Paul, a great place. A few years back, we loved to go to Scott Pampuch’s Corner Table in Minneapolis.