Monday, June 17, 2013

The Surprise Love Affair Continues

I never expected to like St. Louis. News reports of kidnappings and other crimes over the years left me with a sour opinion only enhanced by the rather large footprint of Anheuser-Busch and billboards advertising the likes of Hustler's boutique erotica. Please! Nothing screams "redneck" quite like American beer and Larry Flint.

After a couple of years of monthly jaunts down to the LDS temple in St. Louis, I discovered Trader Joe's and Sweet Tomatoes, and my perspective slowly began to shift. After all, who can resist TJ's Cookie Butter or Sweet Tomatoes' won ton chicken salad with one of those delicious blueberry muffins on the side?

But the love affair truly began last January, when Brad and I finally made our first recreational visit to St. Louis. (Yes, it took us nearly four years to make the trip.) We took the kids back for spring break playtime at the fabulous City Museum, and a dear friend fed my cultural habit with a lovely evening at Spring To Dance 2013. Consequently, when we found ourselves with a rare opportunity to sneak away for a quick overnight trip without the kiddos, Brad and I once again made our way south.

We started on Thursday evening with Twangfest. You probably know exactly what to expect from an event called "Twangfest." I did not. I vaguely expected something on the order of bluegrass or the country music of my parents' generation. While Conway Twitty would have suited me just fine, I found myself pleasantly surprised with the range of sound and styles offered through the course of an evening at Blueberry Hill. Scarlet Tanager, Shivering Timbers, and Motel Mirrors opened with an eclectic offering of indie pop and country, alternatively haunting and playful vocals, fabulous harmonies and some killer string bass.  Joe Pug headlined, and to be honest, we left after a few songs. Joe channels Bob Dylan just fine, but after the color and depth of the previous bands, he lacked oomph.

We crashed at a hotel in Clayton for the night and made our way back to the Delmar Loop area the next day for an afternoon of discovery. After a walk down memory lane at Vintage Vinyl, a bit of incense at one of the fair trade boutiques and a few photo ops with the artsy Loop manikins and Chuck Berry (or at least his likeness), we dined sumptuously on Syrian food at Ranoush. The restaurant had me at the hummus and sealed the deal with stuffed grape leaves, baba ganoush (which I would order even if it weren't delicious, simply because the name sounds so nice rolling off my tongue), mint tea and knafeh, among other delights.

Aluminum tree by Omer Huremovic
Pleasantly full, we rounded off our afternoon browsing through the wonderful Componere Gallery of Art, chatting with owner and artist Eleanor Ruder and falling in love with sculptures by Alexzine Lewis and the copper and aluminum trees of Omer Huremovic.

After a requisite stop at Trader Joe's for Dark Chocolate Almond Toffee (yes, you must try it), we made our way home to continue the love affair another day.

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