The following is my motss.con.xix con report, or my experiences of the 19th soc.motss.con (held Aug 17-21 in Minneapolis MN). If you don't like such things, feel free to hit 'n' and not read it. It won't bother me. Much.
After a productive morning at home, I finished my chores (took out the trash, took out the recycling, dropped off the resident/parking audit form at the office), loaded up the car, and headed to downtown via the pharmacy.
Checked into the hotel with a minimum of fuss, got to the room, unpacked, and set up the CPAP (which is harder than it sounds; the only nearby outlet is behind the king-sized bed's headboard), saw the Internet rates ($25 for 3 days or $30 for 4? Nah, I'm not that desperate), and decided to go head to the lobbby to hang out and wait for folks to show up. Chatted briefly with Max and Steve and Penny Lane, and a bit later with Ken, before heading upstairs for a brief nap.
After the nap, a quick shave and change of outfit, I headed downstairs to meet up with the folks heading out to the motss.foodie dinner at La Belle Vie. We decided to take taxis so nobody would have to worry about drinking to excess. We went with the eight-course tasting menu:
- Gruyere puff pastry
- Amusé bouche of a fried stuffed squash blossom with a garnish of microgreens (arugula and an herb I forget)
- Sautéed soft-shell crab with heirloom tomatoes, avocado, bagna cauda, and dill (Haton, rosé champagne, Dampery, France, Brut NV)
- Rainbow trout with serrano ham, asparagus, manila clams, and romseco (Fra Guerau, Montsant, rosé, Spain 2005)
- Quail with cured pork, chanterelle mushrooms, and shell pea puree (Javillier, Aloxe-Corton, Burgundy, France 2002)
- Roasted veal tenderloin with tarragon, crispy sweetbreads, and porcini mushrooms (Les Vins de Vienne, Cornas, Les Barcillants, France 1999)
- Grilled lamb ribeye with merguez sausage and moroccan spices (Domaine du Pegau, Chteauneuf du Pape, France 2002)
- Taleggio with fig and shallot jam (Kracher, Cuvee Beerenauslese, Austria 2001)
- Ginger plum sorbet with plum and mint salad
- Chocolate mango coulant with mango raspberry sorbet and macerated raspberries (Banyuls Rimage, Les Clos de Paulies, Roussillon, France 2003)
- Miscellaneous mini-cheesecakes, chocolates, and biscotti
They're doing a rosé focus this summer, and they held up very well to the other wines. They did an excellent job; despite my dislike of a few of the ingredients (specifically the mushrooms and avocado), everything tasted spectacular. If I had to pick a favorite it'd probably be the quail course, but they were all wonderful.
After dinner, I headed back to the hotel and crashed hard.
Slept in until about 8:30 or so, did the morning ablutions, took a brief constitutional around the block, and met up with the folks heading off to the Mall of America (with Ned, John, Ken, Robert, Chris, Steven, Arnold, and Lars), where we wandered a bit before meeting up with Bitty and Arthur at the Lake Wobegon store. We adjourned to lunch at the Twin Cities Cafe, which was very tasty and entirely reasonable. We wandered through Lego Land before seeing (the other) Chris at his workplace, then bought a surprise gift for Max (no, not a t-shirt that said "I planned an outing to the Mall of America but didn't go, and all I got is this stupid t-shirt," though we were tempted) before splitting up. Ned and Lars stayed with Bitty and Arthur for a bit, to provide (ex-)local navigational assistance; Ken stayed at the mall to do some more shopping, and the rest of us headed back to the hotel via the light rail.
A good, if too short, nap was followed by schmoozing (and singing, which is one of the side-effects of hanging out with Lisa and Steven) in the lobby bar (Krona) as more and more folks arrived. A couple of postcards got group-written and -signed at this point. And around 6:30 we headed out to the Mary Tyler Moore as Mary Richards statue to sing the theme song and throw our hats into the air with gay abandon amidst much silliness (and conning another tourist into taking pictures of us doing this over and over again).
We then headed off to Solera for a delicious tapas dinner. Unlike last year in Vancouver, where we ordered way too much food, we simply told the waiter our restrictions (and with 19 of us, the only restriction was "no rabbit;" we had no vegetarians and no food allergies) and he just had the kitchen send out trays of food. The stuff included, in approximate service order:
- Spreadable sausage risotto on toast with melted cheese
- Cheese straws with ham
- Shrimp and cheese puffs
- Calamari and a cheese sauce
- Patatas bravas with aioli
- Barbecued pork spare ribs
- Grilled asparagus with prosciutto
- Yellow beets and goat cheese with a watercress salad
- Spanish egg tortillas (a cross between an omelette and a frittata)
- Moroccan-spiced beef tenderloin over roasted vegetables, with a dill-yogurt sauce and a curry-chili sauce
The table had several pitchers of red sangria, and a few people went in on a bottle and a few extra glasses of rioja. I had the dessert tapas at the end: white wine-grape gelee, a mini creme catalan, rosemary shortbread with blackberry jam, and a blackberry-stuffed cake of some kind (garnished with fresh blackberries and some rosemary); it was fantastic.
Walked back to the hotel and decided against a trip to the Eagle (which turned out to be dead, according to the reports of people who went), not feeling up for large crowds. Hung about with Chris in the lobby for a while, chatting, before heading upstairs to bed.
I woke up around 9 and decided not to risk the blood sugar crash of Friday, so I headed out to breakfast. On the advice of Stanley from the bell desk (who I've now met twice in two days in the elevator, first thing in the morning), I headed a few blocks away to Keys, where I had a lovely repast of hash browns (a lot of them), 2 eggs, wheat toast with homemade jam, and 4 slices of crispy thick-cut bacon. Yum. That ought to hold me for a while.
The official con day started at 11:45am in the lobby, to head out to a couple of places to get food for the picnic lunch on Nicollet Island. After a bit of a walk (my knees started to let me know exactly how displeased they were before we got to the river), I grabbed a bagel from Brueggers (with lox, schmear, tomato, onion, and capers, with a spear of dill pickle) and met the rest of the folks before backtracking a few blocks to the south end of the island. We ate, drank, and were merry, and hung out (despite the yellowjackets) until it was time to go on the Segway tour. A quick demo, an unintentionally-funny training video, and a bit of a training session later and we were off on a tour around the waterfront. It was a lot of fun, very enjoyable, and definitely worth the time and expense. The not-quite-$75 price included the training, the tour, and a drink and munchie at the museum (with a free pass to spend there later, 'cause we couldn't stay there as they were catering a wedding reception).
Got back to the hotel with just enough time to change shirts and from shorts into jeans and notice the sunburn on my face. Met up with folks downstairs to taxi off to Gasthof züautr Gemtlichkeit for dinner. Despite the noisy atmosphere and the accordion player with a remarkably odd repertoire, I enjoyed the meal. I had veal cordon bleu and mashed potatoes w/ gravy, and entrés came with a salad with tomato vinaigrette, and I split a bottle of chardonnay (though I didn't see which vinyard or year) with Arnold.
Headed back to the hotel with Bitty, Arthur, John, and Robert, changed again, and headed down to the bar (with a stop in the skyway garden on the 8th floor while we waited for the Twins fans to clear out) for schmoozing and scotch. I had some Macallan 18, though they only charged me for the Macallan 12. Headed upstairs to get off my legs (my knees were very unhappy with me; they're not working reliably, not holding my weight, not letting me stand without something to lean on and lever against, and so on). And so to bed.
Slept in until about 8:30am, did the morning ablutions, cleaned out the laptop keyboard (in a place where I don't ave to vacuum it up? you betcha!), would've read the morning paper but didn't get one delivered. Eventually met up in the lobby with folks to head out to Dim Sum at Yummy. (This is the place that I first met Frank, when we tried it out in March to see if it was a good place for us to try for the con.) Yummy was indeed yummy, and both the owner and host were pleased at the free advertising on the con t-shirt (yay, Lars!).
Despite having gotten too much sun yesterday on the island and segways, I wandered through the sculpture gardens with folks (which was fun), and headed off to watch the eye candy at Lake Calhoun. I skipped out on the actual canoeing and other boating, though I did hang out with the other landlubbers until about 3:30 before heading back to the hotel for a nap (in air conditioning). Read (well, skimmed mostly) the Sunday paper and got the preliminary packing done.
Met up in the lobby bar at 5:30 to head out for Peruvian food at Macchu Pichu. We had 18 at dinner, and the food was wonderful. I had fruti de mar, which was scallops, shrimp, and mussels over linguini in a spicy tomato sauce, as well as nibbles of the ceviche appetizer (shrimp, squid, and fish combo) along with a delightful red wine whose name escapes me.
After dinner, we adjourned to the lobby bar; I had a piece of the caramel apple pie for dessert, and decided to head to bed around 10:20 or so. Finished packing and was in bed by 11.
Woke up before the alarm today, showered, finished packing, and checked out of the hotel. Met with folks in the lobby to head off to the Stragglers' Breakfast at Hell's Kitchen. Delicious, though a bit slow (but we were a table of 17). I had 2 eggs (scrambled), toast (whole grain with homemade blackberry jam), hash browns (with chives), bison sausage, and bacon, and the plates were garnished with fresh fruit (blueberries, blackberry, strawberry,
canteloupemusk melon, honeydew, and pineapple).
After breakfast, said my goodbyes and got my hugs, wandered back to the hotel, and hopped in the car and came home.