Author Archives: The Observer

Weekend Visit: Bayfield, Wisconsin

On the waterfront, Bayfield
On the waterfront, Bayfield

Bayfield, Wisconsin: I spent the weekend looking over my schedule trying to make sure that the various calls of duty don’t manage to fully crowd out opportunities for fun and leisure.

For The Observer, those opportunities come in the form of sailing weekends and the best ones take place in the Apostles Islands, that beautiful cluster of islands lying scattered just off the coast of Bayfield. read more »

Restaurant Review: Bin Wine Bar

The view towards Mears Park in Bin Wine Bar | Photo via
The view towards Mears Park in Bin Wine Bar | Photo via

Saint Paul, Minnesota: Bin Wine Bar is in a great spot, nicely decorated, comfortably furnished and serves exquisitely delicious morsels of food that complement an intriguing wine list.

Set on the northwest corner of Mears Park, Bin is perfectly situated in the heart of a resurgent section of downtown, an area that has sprung to life over just the last few years.  The room is perched on Sibley Street and offers a relaxing setting with pillowed benches, decent space between tables, and a noise level that makes it easy to have conversation with your friends. read more »

Restaurant Review: The Happy Gnome

The patio at the Happy Gnome
The patio at the Happy Gnome

Saint Paul, MN: The LSW and and I were driving through one of our old neighborhoods on a recent weekend in that happy quadrant that encompasses the University Club, WA Frost, Whole Foods and F Scott’s old townhouse on Summit.


read more »

FT on ‘Nanny Regulation’

The Weekend FT had a lovely morsel on the confusion and inconsistency in government regulation [subscription required]. While their disdain is aimed at the UK Financial Services Authority, their argument applies to much of what the State chooses to do.  Here’s the key sentence:

Many protections are not stupid in isolation, but fail consistency tests. Why clamp down on unregulated investments (which may lose money) yet allow gambling (where losses are guaranteed)?…Nanny is confused.

So are we all.  Worth reading.

Worth Reading: ‘Lars Man Standing’

Mark Steyn (@MarkSteynOnline) updates us on the free speech case of Lars Hedegaard, head of the Danish Free Speech Society and his recent acquittal. read more »

Chrystia Freeland on ‘Apple Authoritarianism’

Saint Paul, MN – Chrystia Freeland has an excellent piece on this morning highlighting the “paradox” of “catch up development” in the modern age.

Citing Daron Acemoglu, an economist at MIT, she argues that “[G]lobalization and the technology revolution mean that China’s authoritarian rulers have been able to deliver strong economic growth without read more »

Cool places on West 7th

Great to see a number of new, vibrant, and smartly-sophisticated businesses on West 7th, west of Smith Ave – especially in recent months.

One new place is Claddagh Coffee. Clean, bright, great service, and a nice hangout vibe. I’ll go out of my way to come back regularly.


24 hours in: Copenhagen

Copenhagen, Denmark – On my first visit to Copenhagen I flew in to Kastrup airport late on a hot, still night early one September.  As we made a banking turn to come in for our landing, I stared down on the still, dark Baltic waters crisply reflecting the city lights. The city exuded calm and hospitality.

That welcoming feeling stayed with me during the short taxi ride to my hotel as my driver chatted with me in perfect English, asking me if I’d visited before and helpfully suggesting the best places to see during my short visit. We all know about the typical ‘helpful’ cabby whose suggestions tend to steer businesses to places that help supplement his income, my driver had a passion for painting and sculpture and gave me a list of gallery exhibitions and a quick critique of the art on hand at each in such rapid fire delivery that I thought Copenhagen taxi licensing involved an art history course rather than The Knowledge. The answer to the mystery was much simpler, though: my driver worked part time at the Royal Danish Academy as a researcher.

Despite the fact that my hotel was down the street from the wonderful Galerie Asbæk, my visit would likely be too brief to allow time to attend any openings. In a lovely old building just  few minutes’ walk from the wonderful pedestrian Strøget, the Phoenix Hotel was the perfect place for me to settle in for the night.  The staff was efficient yet welcoming and I was quickly checked in and brought to my corner suite on the 3rd floor.  The rooms were spacious, comfortable, and decorated in a style that successfully balanced French indulgence with Nordic asceticism.

Having settled in my room and done a quick prep for the following day’s meetings, I strolled down the Bredgade to  the Kongens Nytorv in search of a late night meal. Turning east, I walked along Nyhavn toward the harbor front amidst the buzz of cafe society enjoying the balmy end of summer.

I gave up on finding a table outside despite the late hour and ducked into Fisken Pub to sit at the bar, enjoy a bit of fish and a glass of some delightfully light Danish beer (the name of which I have been trying to recover ever since), and admire through the open window the lovely sloops tied up along the quay.

Despite having spent most of the next day in meetings at Dell’s EMEA headquarters just south of the city not far from the airport, I had plenty of time before my flight so I had the taxi drop me off at Tivoli Gardens where I spent only 20 minutes or so before walking back to my hotel wandering through side streets, visiting shops and galleries along the Strøget.

Though such a short trip in many cities would have left me feeling rushed and frazzled, in Copenhagen I never lost that sense of calm and welcome.


The Phoenix Hotel
Bredgade 37
Copenhagen 1260
tel: +45 3395 9500

Fiskens Pub
Nyhavn 27
Copenhagen 1051


Just One Last Thing…

We were sad to learn of the death this week of Peter Falk who, among his many roles, intrigued the young Observer on Sunday nights as the frumpled-but-shrewd Columbo, added an understated element to The Princess Bride, and served as a fascinating narrative anchor in the under-appreciated Wings of Desire.

Requiescat in pace.

Restaurant Review: Pier 500

To celebrate the end of the school year and because we were feeling a bit restless, I took the brood to have dinner at Pier 500.

The restaurant is in a great spot.  Situated on the riverfront in downtown Hudson, WI, it has a large terrace overlooking the St Croix which throws off the same vibe as the deck of Lord Fletcher’s: great views of the river, near the Marina, and just the perfect spot to refresh yourself after a day of sailing.

The weather was cool and threatening rain so we ate at one of the tables off the bar.  The dining room and bar is a big, open space with an open kitchen. The restaurant was full without being crowded and everything had the nice hum of people relaxing at the end of a good week.

The food was good but not fabulous.  The Caesar salads were crisp and fresh but fairly standard. The chopped onion and tomato salad was flavorful and not overdressed.

The LSW raved about the Walleye cakes, which must have been good since I had no chance of trying any.  The kids split an order of ribs which were tender, flavorful and you could still taste the meat through the marinade. My choice of the Ahi Tuna and the Brie Cheese Curds was a good indicator of my restless mood.  Both were fabulous – just not when eaten together.

The service was attentive and the wine list showed a great range of choices.