Monday, August 31, 2009

Seven Decades and None the Wiser

On the eve of my birthday, I slouch in wonder at how little I know and how baffled I am!
by Charlie Leck

I had the pleasure of being a guest at a remarkable dinner party on Saturday night (two evenings ago) at Two Pony Gardens. Chef Daniel Kline, who recently returned to Minnesota after working at some of the world’s most distinguished restaurants, prepared a remarkable four course meal that may have brought me more pleasures of flavor and taste than I have ever experienced in my life. Someone told me that Kline now plies his skills at a south Minneapolis restaurant call Tratoria Tosca. I’ve never eaten there, but the web page makes me want to try it. The dinner, however, was only one of the highlights of a totally remarkable evening. Though the evening’s setting was rustic and not always the most comfortable (there are some tiny, weak legged chairs, and some people sit on benches at the table, and half the crowd ate on a screened porch on a very chilly day), the surroundings and company were extraordinarily pleasant and enjoyable.

The company (that is, the other diners), with whom I sat and enjoyed this sumptuous feast, was the really amazing highlight of the experience. What absolutely remarkable people! I was trying all evening to tune in to so many of the conversations. It was like having one’s sense of curiosity absolutely over-stimulated.

Bob and Debby Wolk were at our table. A wonderful story about the Wolks and their generosity toward their neighbors recently appeared in the Minneapolis StarTribune. To celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, they gave rain gardens to everyone on their southwest Minneapolis block. My goodness! The story is well worth reading.

Steve Kaplan was also down at our end of the table. It’s quite remarkable to lean one’s head in his direction to nosily listen in on some of his conversations. I’d like to get to know him better. Someone whispered in my ear that he’s the editor of a magazine I often go to for research and references – Minnesota Law and Politics.

Suzanne Weinstein, the owner of Coastal Seafoods of Minneapolis, was also off to my right. Before dinner, over cocktails, I got the opportunity to talk to her for a while about her exciting business. What a work-horse Suzanne is. The fish business isn’t easy and it really depends on immediate and constant attention. She makes lots of trips to the airport to pick up fresh fish. It’s one of my favorite places to shop in our region. If you don’t know about it, you should. I wondered, as I thought about it, if the proper plural isn’t really seafood – you know, ‘Coastal Seafood.’ Don’t worry about it, however!

Daniel, Suzanne’s husband, is a very gentle man and he was a marvelous guy with whom to chat. The two of them live in the same neighborhood as one of our kids and we only learned, after the dinner party, that they know each other quite well.

Carolyn Bell, a writer, photographer and teacher at the distinguished Breck School, wanted to know about my blog and ended up wondering if the correct plural shouldn’t really be Ad Astrae. Don’t worry about it!

Carolyn and her husband, Ed, were delightful dining partners and I leaned so much about the Twin Cities and life just because I was so fortunate to sit next to them. Carolyn quizzed me about the subject matter of my blog and I again found myself challenged to explain it. “Eclectic,” some of my friends refer to it, dragging out that over-used, hackneyed and questionable word. I guess it is. Don’t worry about it!

“Rage,” I told Carolyn, in trying to explain the blog. I should, more probably, call it my ramblings. It’s difficult to explain to anyone that these are just an assembly of my memoirs that my grandchildren may one day be interested in reading – when they are in that phase (one we all go through) that leaves them curious about the stock from which they came.

Carolyn took lots of photographs and I wish I had a few that I could share with you on this blog. Maybe later. Don’t worry about it, though.

Ed Bell is a realtor for CB Burnet and he is the quiet partner in this relationship and prefers to let Carolyn do the chatting. He holds architecture degrees from both the U of MN and Berkeley.

Lisa Ringer, the owner of Two Pony Gardens, was our hostess. She devotes so much of her life to trying to help others. She’s a real inspiration to me. The proceeds of the evening go to YELL (Youth Environmental Learning & Laws, as I remember it), one of her favorite charities. I wish I could tell you more about YELL. I know the organization brings kids out to Lisa’s farm and she teaches them about healthy, good, organic food and also about some of the secrets of growing good food and flowers. I’ll learn more and make it the topic of one of my future blogs.

An evening like this, where I was surrounded by new and exciting information and knowledge, just makes my head spin. I’ll be 69 tomorrow and I realize I’ve been at all this for seven decades now and there is still so much I don’t know. It excites me, however, to realize there are so many extraordinary and wonderful people in the world. I wish I had met more of those at Lisa's dinner party and I wish I could have learned more about those that I did meet.

So many fascinating people and so little time to meet them all!

If you’re a local, be sure to go to one of Lisa’s remarkable dinners. Another one is coming up on October 10th. You’ll be amazed by the food and also by the people who dine there. There's also a Dahlia Festival on September 19th. You can learn more at her web site.

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