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Last night’s trip to downtown Minneapolis and the chic urban Chambers Hotel and Kitchen proved a great little diversion. Here’s a three-minute review:

Greeting from Hostess: Friendly

Seating: Slippery

Table Set Up: Funky, angular dishware that refused to support flatware between bites

Waiter: Chuck served our table and also recently waited on First Lady Laura Bush when she was in town for the RNC. Unfortunately, this piece of fame-dom gave Chuck a bit of an attitude. Service was slow and we didn’t get an adequate amount of attention from him or Alex, the water/bread server.

Wine: The bottle of 2005 Laetitia pinot noir was a highlight, but marked up more than 100 percent. It retails for around $30 but the Chambers sells it for $63. Yikes!

Food: While the menu at the Chambers Kitchen is in desparate need of a refresh (has it been touched since the place opened two years ago?), the food was all prepared to perfection. We shared apps including a miniature satay plate (chicken, sausage and beef) and tomato salad consisting of locally grown yellow and red tomatoes soaked in a mystery tomatoey sauce. Entrees we ordered included duck, seared chicken, sea bass, and a beef tenderloin that was delicious (but needed a side order of mashed potatoes, which was “extra). The asparagus side was a winner as well.

Desert: We shared a smallish round of cheesecake topped with a spiced ice cream and coffee. All memorable and more than adequate – although I would have liked my second cup of java to NOT have come from the bottom of the coffee server (and I only received a half serving).

Overall Dining Experience: It’s the little attention to details you expect when eating at a trendy, chic restaurant. While the serving sizes were perfect and the chef clearly knows what he’s doing, it seems two years of business have put the wait staff in a lull. The restaurant was hardly full on a Saturday night, and it was all we could do to wave our arms off in order to request the check, pay and depart.  As one person at our table said, “I never ever have to go pee twice when eating out.” Yeah, it was a two-trips-to-the-restroom night for most of us.

Total for four: $298 plus tip (which we intentially skimped on due to the lack of good service).

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Fun Friday

Here at the office, there are many meetings and many conference rooms. These meetings frequently start as early as 7 a.m. and may last all day. Meeting coordinators will pre-order breakfast and lunch to be delivered to the conference room. This way, the only reason attendees need to leave the meeting is to use the restroom. Restrooms are not built into each conference room at this facility.

EatThe in-house food service vendor does a bang-up job delivering the pre-ordered meal. A skirted table, chaffing dishes, an assortment of beverages, napkins, silverware, dinner plates. It’s all quite nice for a corporate in-house breakfast or lunch.

And the best part about it? When the meeting ends and food still remains outside the conference room door.

This morning, for example, our CIO conducted a breakfast meeting with six of his key staff members. They used a conference room right next to my office and a traditional American breakfast was served – it was enough to feed a small department of hungry men. Which means there were ample “leftovers.”

As soon as the meeting broke and the group departed to their offices, someone in my department noticed and announced, “there are leftovers – get them while you can!” Eggs, quiche, coffee cake, fruit, muffins – you name it. It was like a Mother’s Day breakfast buffet and everyone got something.

Now that, my friends, is a great way to start a Friday.

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Photo Credit: Paramount’s Great America, Santa Clara, CA from CBCastro’s Flickr Page

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