Friday, July 12, 2013

Duluth - Old Favorites and New Discoveries

When I was younger I didn't care much for regular routines.  Get up in the morning, get dressed - wear the required school uniform or the standard business attire, go to work or school for a set number of hours, come home, do homework or house stuff, go to bed and do it again the next day.

As my diet and schedule have become more erratic in recent years, I've found that having something predictable has been rather enjoyable.

One of things we like to do every year is go for a weekend in Duluth.  "Why Duluth?" someone once asked me.  "Why not some place more exciting?"

Duluth is easy.  I don't have to think so hard about what I'm going to be doing or where I'm going to be eating. We stay at the same place every year, do the same things, and go to the same restaurants because they can accommodate my food allergies. We see the same sights because that's what we like to do when we're there. 

The thing about routines and habits is that they are restful, and there are no expectations so that when something unusual or slightly different happens, it becomes a bit of a high point.

Take, for example, the drive up I-35.  Same towns and landmarks, but this time we saw an unusual bit of roadkill.  Along the road there was a raccoon lying on its side, all four limbs extended — as though rigor mortis had set in even before the critter had gotten hit by a vehicle. Roadkill?  No. We both decided that it was probably a kid's toy that had been lost or dropped from a car window.  We're still enjoying that little episode.

We went to our favorite restaurants again - Duluth Grill and Va Bene CaffĂ©, but a new one for us was the Lake Ave. Grill.  We had been there years ago for lunch, and I'm not sure why we haven't gone there more recently, but we noticed they had some gluten free meals on the menu and they were more than willing to work with me for my other food allergies.  I had the deconstructed fish and chips - a healthy version of the old favorite made with pan fried whitefish dipped in rice flour.  There were oven roasted potatoes and I also had a side salad. 

We went to the Duluth Grill for lunch one day and had BLTs - mine in a teff wrapper. We noticed that all the wait staff had T-shirts that said "Veggies fresh from our parking lot."  When we asked about the T-shirts, the manager came over and talked to us.  He told us about the gardens they had been installing along the edges of the parking lot where they were growing herbs, vegetables and tons of rhubarb.  On the roof they had five bee hives, out the back they were planning to build an orchard, and at his house he had a fish tank.  Amazing!  Home grown food to serve in the restaurant.  You can read more about the details in this article from the Duluth News Tribune.

Along with walks by the lake, downtown shopping, and a trip to the Maritime Museum, we also went to the Great Lakes Aquarium.  We hadn't been there before because there had always been other things to do.  I especially liked the Masters of Disguise exhibit that explored how creatures can hide in their natural environments.

And of course we visited our favorite shops in Canal Park as well as the Fitger's building:   The Blue Lake Gallery, Two & Company, Waters of Superior, Northern Waters Smokehaus, and Blue Heron Gifts to name a few. What was new for us was the Duluth Kitchen Company in the Fitger's mall. A big store full of kitchen gadgets and appliances, and across the hallway, the marketplace sample shop with opportunities to taste oils, sauces, vinegars, and jams.  When asked, I was given a special container of gluten free crackers for my tastings.

All in all, a very relaxing and fun trip!

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