Our day started out a little lazy, and then a little crazy, since we left the comfort of our hotel and then tried to find parking on the street near a place for breakfast. Additional snowfall during the night blanketed the city and turned the city sidewalks into cross-country ski paths. The slush sweepers and Bobcats were out clearing things up as best they could.
We tried to visit Hell’s Kitchen, but as they tell you, you need a reservation. There was a 45-minute wait, so we walked down to Key’s Café, which free Wi-Fi access, so I was able to post a little, and we used Priceline to get a room for tonight (funny…we ended up at the same place we just left!)
Key’s reminded me of a fancy diner from days gone by. It was an attractive diner with a pretty impressive menu of unique spins on typical breakfast foods. We were seated in a TERRIBLE location – right next to a large family with three children (two of them under the age of two and one of them wailing at all times), and my chair was right in the line of traffic, so as to be bumped by everyone passing into that section of the restaurant or on their way to the bathroom. But my scrambled egg with spinach, garlic and cream cheese – spiced up with Tabasco and, later, some of D’s salsa, was excellent (it came with a sweet homemade catsup, which I didn’t care for.) I had it with the American fries (fried potato chunks) and 12-grain toast. D had the huevos rancheros with the American fries and refried beans. The tortillas were thin and incredibly large, and the salsa was outstanding. Because our terrible seats were right in the center of traffic, we were never missed when it came to coffee and water refills. That was nice.
After breakfast, it was time to head over to Surly Brewing Company. It is located at the edge of a community just north of the city in a little industrial complex. They do growler fills from 12-2 on Saturdays, and as Todd had promised, Sara was there to take care of us, and everyone else. It was ridiculous how steady the stream of customers was! It was as if the public are all just that polite – never totally inundating the place, but business never slowing. People came in the door with empty growlers and handed them over for fresh ones. Surly prepares the growlers in advance by purging them with CO2 and filling them – only Furious and Bender were available, and apparently there is a limit of two per customer in order to keep enough in stock for everyone to enjoy.
Sara seemed like she was expecting us, and while she couldn’t entertain us, she did get Peter/Ben who was working in the back to show us around. She definitely called him “Peter”, but D is sure he introduced himself as “Ben”, so we are awfully confused as to his identity. He’s a homebrewer who has just come on as a 6th employee in the expanded brewhouse. The brewing area is enormous – there is so much room for expansion, or holding a small high school prom… We checked out the canning line. I have never seen a beer canning line, and it seemed so much more efficient than a bottling line (I’d love to hear what an experienced operator of each system would have to enlighten me about that.) He took us into the cold storage area – another huge room full of sixtels, cases and the barrels holding 2007 Darkness (mmmmm!)
And then, Peter/Ben reached behind him and pulled out a growler of Coffee Bender!!! Oh my…. I think my heart skipped a beat, and I my eyes were on the verge of welling up with tears! How thoughtful of Todd to have him get this out on our account. I don’t know what the true availability of this brew is, but I know it is totally inaccessible to me and not currently available in Minnesota bars, so it was a special gift! Well, not a gift – it rang in at $21 (with the cost of the growler), which is twice the cost of the growler of Bender we bought. But it is SOOOoooo worth it. Bender is a great brown ale, but Coffee Bender, brewed with coffee from Tea2, is absolutely fabulous.
So, with two growlers and a new shirt for D, we hit the road. And actually, we had to go do some housekeeping. We needed to trade in our rental car (the one we had was out of balance), and get me some new footwear. We failed on the footwear, as the Mall of America was a mad-house, and both Land’s End Inlet and REI were highlighting spring and summer wear. I need a little commuter boot to get through these slushy streets and big banks of snow!