A little over a month ago I was lucky enough to travel to Saint Paul, Minnesota for a large dinner hosted by Prairie Organic Vodka, whose liquors are manufactured locally near St Paul and are made from USDA certified organic corn. I’ll go into the flavors later….but it is prettttty delicious stuff. I got into Saint Paul early in the afternoon and the dinner wasn’t until 7 pm, so I took the opportunity to walk around the city, take in the sights, and relax a little in my stunning room at the luxurious Saint Paul Hotel. For some reason, in my mind I thought Minnesota was a lot like the Dakotas geographically, (i.e. totally flat with a whole lot of plains) but I was completely wrong. Flying over the state I was blown away by the beauty of the scenery, there were lakes everywhere (seriously, there are 11,842 lakes in Minnesota), and everything was so, so green because of it. And there were hills in the distance, putting my plain-like assumptions to shame.
I didn’t get outside of the city to go hiking, but that’s mainly because there was so much to see and do in Saint Paul that I ran out of time to check out anything else. The first thing I got kind of obsessed with was the Landmark building. It’s a giant arts center in the middle of the city where they hold plays and other live musical and theatrical performances. I walked around the outside of the building at least three times just pretty much in awe of the structure, and apparently (according to old city lore aka my cab driver) there are some hidden stairwells in the building that go up to the roof where the old timey gangsters of Saint Paul used to hang out and wait to “take out” other gangsters. I don’t know if they give tours of this part of the building, but I’m definitely going to investigate this further the next time I’m there.
From there I wandered over to the library and the park and took in the adorable statues of Charles M. Schlutz’s characters from his Snoopy cartoon strip. And because I wanted to be a living postcard, I sat and read my kindle for a bit on the bench next to Marcie.
On my way to lunch I passed by an antiquated store front with some neat menswear in the window. Intrigued, I decided to stop in after eating, and that was when I realized that I was in the coolest mens clothing store ever. Everything inside was beautifully arranged with hats and ties and pocket squares galore! And the suits….my God, the suits. I’d never seen so many snappy and unique blazers in one place. And the best part was that the store connects to an old-school barber shop where they do shaves with straight-edge razors. I ended up getting Jeremy a really nice razor with a tortoise shell handle as a gift, but there were so many other neat finds it was really hard not to walk out with several bags full of clothes and accessories (like this bag that could definitely be used by men and ladyfolk alike). Thank goodness I had my tiny carry-on-only luggage to prevent me from spending an excessive amount of money there. If you’re ever in St Paul, though, you neeeeed to stop in Heimie’s Haberdashery. If not for the menswear, then at least for admiring the astounding displays of fancy goods and watching a dude get a classic straight-edge shave.
After spending an hour wandering around the Haberdashery, I walked back to the hotel with the intention of napping, but ended up snapping some pictures of the inside and outside of the hotel before taking a bath and then napping in the tub (I knooooooow. So dangerous! I didn’t intend on falling asleep in there, it just sort of…happened.) It was an easy transition from the Haberdashery to the Saint Paul, since the hotel has the same 1930’s feel to it that the Haberdashery did, complete with chandeliers in the foyer and hardwood everywhere (yeah hardwood!!! I am not a fan of modern architecture and steel beams, so the vintage feel definitely made me feel so much more at home and relaxed, hence the tub nap.) It was such a gorgeous place, and along with the antique beauty of the place, the staff really made me feel quite at home during my stay.
I woke up from my nap, got ready, and headed over to the Prairie Made dinner. It was held in an amazing old mill which had been turned into a beautiful restaurant. And, being an old mill, it was huuuuuge inside. But the size of the structure was nothing compared to the flavors of the dinner that was to come. Each course was prepared with fresh local ingredients and paired with a different Prairie cocktail, and while they were all delicious, my favorite drink was the rhubarb fizz, which was made with Prairie Organic gin, rhubarb jam, soda water, and lemon. It was a tough choice between that and the refreshing cocktails that featured their new line of cucumber-infused vodka, but I’ve always had a soft spot for the tang and complexity of rhubarb and gin and in the end it won out over all the others. While there I made certain to try the cocktail paired with every course, and since there were 5 courses and I am only 5 feet tall, you can imagine how easy it was for me to sleep through the crazy thunderstorms that apparently blew into the city that night.
When I eventually got back home to the dry heat of Los Angeles, I knew I wanted to make something similarly refreshing with their new organic gin, and decided to take advantage of the our local summer peaches. I used the peaches to make a simple syrup, and mixed it with a bit of gin, club soda, and muddled peach slices topped with some raspberries from the garden and a bit more of the peach for garnish. The result was a drink as elegant as it was delicious. Bright, clean, and fruity with a bit of bubble, it cuts right through the summer heat and delivers instantaneous cool refreshment. I took mine outside and relaxed out in the yard while the sun was going down and the temperature was starting to become tolerable again. It was a wonderful way to unwind, so much so that I plan on repeating it this weekend, and perhaps every weekend for the rest of the summer… I recommend you try it as well!
To make the white peach simple syrup, macerate the white peach slices in a small saucepan with the sugar and water. Once the peaches have been made relatively pulpy, bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, then lower the heat to a simmer and allow to cook for 30 minutes. Remove it from the heat and allow to cool completely before straining the peach pulp out and reserving the syrup. Keep the syrup refrigerated until use.
For the cocktail, muddle 2 of the peach slices in the bottom of the serving glass. Add the gin, club soda, 3 tablespoons of the simple syrup, and the turbinado sugar. Stir until blended. Garnish with the raspberries and float the remaining two peach slices on top of the drink to form a heart. Serve immediately.