Thursday, August 02, 2007

St. Paul, MN

Mickey's - 1 star
St. Paul, Minnesota

Pazzaluna - 1 star
St. Paul, Minnesota

A year and a half ago I wrote about my favorite airport restaurant, which happens to be in the Minnesota-St. Paul airport, where I find myself at the moment and plan to eat dinner in an hour or so. I arrived two days ago for a sales call in St. Paul. The last time I came here (other than to eat in the airport) was in the winter of 2003, John R. and I rode the roller-coaster in the Mall of America and visited the ice sculptures in the little downtown park. This time the temperatures were in the 90s and a bridge over the Mississippi River collapsed.

Marcus was on this trip, too, and I have to admit I take a curious pleasure in getting together with him to talk about the company, life, our futures, and so on. On Tuesday night we chose for our digressions a truly old-school diner called Mickey's, a kind of St. Paul classic, which occupies a (fake?) freight car parked just a block or two from the center of downtown. Mickey's is so old school they haven't even heard of the tuna melt yet (which Marcus wanted). Instead, he had an omelet and home fries, and I had a fried cod sandwich and home fries. Although it was cooked in half a stick of butter, Marcus thought the omelet was excellent, and my fish fillet was surprisingly good, too: crisp, not soggy, on the outside, and light and tender on the inside.

Last night we went to dinner with the client at Pazzaluna, one of the fancy restaurants on the comically short downtown strip in St. Paul. Pazzalua is a slightly nouveau version of any other modern Italian restaurant, with higher prices, smaller portions, and slightly more sophisticated food. I had gnocchi with tomato sauce, which was about what you would expect, and a side dish of broccoli rabe sauteed with onions and anchovies, which was pretty good but much too salty. The antipasto was mixed, with good grilled asparagus (but who can't grill asparagus?) and onions but relatively pedestrian olives and cherry tomatoes.

The meetings were a cross-section of the sales experience: a lot of time poring over spreadsheets to refine project estimates, some cordial discussions that felt like pre-negotiation posturing, an executive meet-and-greet, and a last-minute 90-degree (or 180-degree?) change in direction that left us scratching our heads. It goes without saying that in sales you have to learn to expect anything and remain calm in all circumstances, or you will die young of heart disease. And it also goes without saying that the amount of effort you put in bears no relationship to the distance to the finish line. Remember those two things and you will never be disappointed.