Bellecour

To get the reservation we had last night at Bellecour, I booked on Open Table in the early hours of March 27th.  That’s right – 2 months prior to the actual reservation!  This restaurant opened earlier this spring and immediately became THE reservation to get.  Good for the Minnesota born Gavin Kaysen!  This is his 2nd restaurant in the cities since he returned from his various forays in California, New York and Europe.  The first restaurant of his is Spoon & Stable.  I have been to that restaurant 4 times I believe.  It’s good, but not a place that I would tell people they have to go to.  Bellecour on the other hand…is in the lead for restaurant of the year and thus New Year’s Eve dinner.

Reservations for One, the hubby and I had reservations at 5:00 pm.  Yes, we are earlier diners and it still took 2 months to get the reservation!  The hubby and I arrived on the early side and was amazed at how busy the area around the restaurant already was.  It was a gorgeous day and of course we were right by the lake.  Anyway, we decided to head to the bar at Bellecour and start with a drink.  The bar area was very nicely appointed and the bar chairs were substantial – ones in which you could sit for some time and not find your backside going numb.  We sat at the end of the bar and the bartender was friendly and ready to guide us through the cocktail list.  I ended up going with The Daily which is a daily special.  Unfortunately the ingredients aren’t listed anywhere and my memory is not great.  I know there was lemon juice, watermelon juice, tequila (I think) and another kind of alcohol.  It was a very nice, refreshing drink for an early summer afternoon.  The hubby went with The Metropolitan which was also very good.  We “scored” with an order of frites that were made but had no home.  Sometimes you are in the right place at the right time.  The gratis frites were amazing!  Thin shoestring like fries with rosemary served with a garlic aioli that was “drinkable” according to the hubby.

After finishing our drinks, we were led to the dining room and to our table.  We were seated in a rounded booth/chair table.  Very similar to the seating at Spoon & Stable.  While the dining room at first blush looks a bit on the small side, we soon realized there is another room and a sizable patio area.  The room is much more spacious than I originally thought.  They also have the bar and a small bakery outlet at the front of the restaurant.

We were thrilled to discover our server was none other than Ricardo whom we have a long history with.  We first met him at Pane Vino Dolce, then Al Vento, and most recently at 4 Bells.  So thrilled to see him again!  He is the ultimate server.  Makes you feel that you’re the only table that matters and he truly gets how to make the evening that much more special.  And of course he appeared to recognize us and that always is good for the ego.

He took our drink order and brought two great tasting reds for RFO and myself.  I would list them here, but their online presence doesn’t have their wine menu online unfortunately.  I had a Cotes du Rhone and RFO had a Cabernet I believe.  Ricardo didn’t steer us wrong with our selections.  He also brought over a fresh baguette that literally was too hot to break apart at first.

RFO and I split the French Onion soup after he said it was the best soup he’s had – even better than when he was in France.  What I truly appreciated was that he suggested we split the soup as it was a generous portion and they’d bring it in two separate dishes.  This was the way to go.  The soup was delicious and plenty to split.  The cheese had just the right amount of browning on top, the croutons held up to the soup and the onions were cut in a manageable way so as not to have onions hanging off the spoon.  Very well done!  The hubby started with the SALADE FRISÉE with sourdough crouton, crispy bacon, poached egg, and sherry vinaigrette.  He said it was fabulous.

Under the recommendation of Ricardo, RFO and I both ended up with the KING SALMON served over hummus, black olive, panisse, and preserved lemon.  I’m not an olive fan but it was so limited in appearance on the dish that I didn’t even notice it.  The salmon from Washington State was seared to perfection and had a crispy skin that added a nice texture to the dish.  The chickpeas, hummus and panisse provided a wonderful backdrop of the fish.  None of the dish made it home with me.  The hubby went with CÔTE DE PORC which was a roasted pork chop, red cabbage, green apple, and cider glaze.  It looked and smelled amazing!  I managed to talk the hubby out of a bite it and it was melt in your mouth good.  As a side for the table we ordered the CAULIFLOWER RÔTI with capers, brown butter, raisins, madras curry, and lemon.  There was definitely a flavor of curry, but I also noticed the smell of a morning walk in nature and that earthy smell of morning dew on trees in the forest.  The cauliflower was a hit by all three of us.

We then ordered dessert.  Who can go to a French restaurant and not get dessert?  The hubby went with the PARIS-BREST which had hazelnut mousse, vanilla ice cream and a chocolate sauce drizzled over the top.  RFO went with the Chocolate Opera Cake with espresso butter cream and candied almonds.  And of course a decaf coffee – black.  I had HONEY VACHERIN with morello cherry sorbet.  It was pretty good.  It was meringue like which was good, but I was a little envious of the other 2 desserts on the table.  I would say that the hubby won on the dessert round of the evening.

One thing to note about this place is they do not lack for servers.  Our water-glass never sat empty, plates were cleared appropriately, and there were always people around to ensure guests were enjoying their meals.  We also did not feel rushed.  While it is a difficult place to get reservations for, they don’t rush you through your meal.  We didn’t leave until almost 8:00.  A 3 hour delightful evening with friends!

Still determining if this is going to be our ROTY.   It’s definitely in the running!

If you are in Wayzata, definitely give this place a try.  If you can’t get a reservation, go early and grab a seat at the bar or stop in during the day and get something from the bakery.  Definitely worth a drive to Wayzata as well!

Happy eating!

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Esker Grove

My friend Heather (formerly known as RFO) had a birthday last week.  And all birthday girls deserve a good dinner to celebrate.  We chose to go to Esker Grove at the Walker Art Center.

We arrived about 45 minutes prior to our reservation for dinner.  This gave us time to check out a few of the Walker exhibits.  The Walker is a contemporary art museum and we definitely had a lot of discussion about what constitutes art in a few of the exhibits.  We both are more into the art at the MIA across town.  However, it’s good for us to get out of our comfort zone every so often.

After being confused, awed, and amused, we ventured to the new restaurant for dinner.  The restaurant was well-appointed and had interesting lighting and decorations throughout.  A nice atmosphere and not too loud, but rather an energetic vibe.  The wait staff dressed in gingham shirts – seems to be a theme as our recent trip to Red Rabbit also has a similar “uniform” for the wait staff.  Our server was very nice and spent quite a bit of time explaining the menu to us.  It’s not a large menu, but it was nice to have a few things explained and get her opinion on favorites.  The menu is grain/vegetable forward, so if you are looking for this type of food – definitely some choices for you.

We started with a glass of Malbec which was a tasty, full-bodied red at a reasonable price.  We both ordered the Celery Root Tart which was served with sour milk, crispy chip, and dried apple skin.  This was definitely the highlight of the meal for me.  It was warm, creamy goodness wrapped in a crisp shell.  The dried apple skin was a great add to the dish.  We discussed if it was tacky to lick the dish.  Agreed it probably was.  So good and definitely a must have if you go!

For our entrees, Heather went with the NY Strip which was dry aged and served with carrot, black truffle, and cabbage.  The preparation recommended was a bit on the rare side.  Not being one to question the chef’s opinion, Heather went with the reco.  It arrived and was almost borderline too rare.  I had a bite of the meat and we were a bit disappointed in the lack of flavor.  Perhaps it was missing a bit of salt?  The rest of her dish was fine, though a bit of a disappointment after the awesome start with the tart!

My entree was the Capon with a chestnut pain perdu, artichoke, and jus.  The chicken was really good!  Very tender and full of flavor.  The chestnut pain perdu had a bread pudding texture.  My entree was good and I would definitely recommend it if you are there and it’s on the menu.  I ordered a side of Potato with harissa and olio verde.  The potatoes were a very creamy mashed potato and the harissa added a little kick.

Next up was dessert.  It was a birthday celebration after all, so dessert was a no-brainer.  We ended up getting the same thing – the Budino which was a butterscotch, chocolate, pretzel layered dessert that was served with a scoop of malted vanilla ice cream.  I think Heather enjoyed it slightly more than I did, but it was still a great way to end our meal and time together.

I think we both would agree that Esker Grove was fine and a nice option if you are going to the Walker.  We might be interested in trying their brunch sometime.

Happy Eating!  (And happy birthday to Heather!!)

Grand Cafe – Closing

I just saw the sad news that a favorite restaurant is closing next week, February 5th.  If you have not tried Grand Cafe, you have 1 week.

I’ve had many great meals at Grand Cafe over the last 10 years.  We tend to go there more in the winter as it has such a cozy atmosphere that just calls out during the cold winter days.  We often would meet there after the hubby landed at the airport after a business trip.  I’d get there early and enjoy a glass of red at their tiny bar.

They had a great brunch including the hubs’ favorite, Eggs en Cocotte – poached eggs, puff pastry, Gruyere truffle cream, ham and sourdough.  I didn’t have one “go to” dish there, but everything was tasty.  One evening we were looking for a Sunday dinner option with my friend before she flew back to Arizona.  We tried one place that was closed and then ended up at Grand Cafe for Sicilian pizza night!  We absolutely loved the pizza that night – so much so that we got a second half after polishing off the first half.

I suppose all good things must come to an end, but I am very sad to see this one go.  If you are a Mpls reader, figure out a time to get there in the next week.  You won’t be disappointed!

Happy eating!

 

 

Red Rabbit

This past Friday we ventured out to Red Cow’s sister restaurant in downtown Minneapolis, Red Rabbit.  The impetus for the evening was a text earlier in the week from the blogger formerly known as RFO.  “Ok, for whatever reason I’ve been craving pizza – what are you guys doing on Thursday or Friday?”  While she gave several options, I went with Red Rabbit on Friday.

First thing to note, they do not take reservations.  This is not an issue for the three of us as we tend to go early and get the early bird specials.  However, by the time we left at 6:45, the entry way was packed with parties waiting for a table.  The good news is that the waiting area is very close to the bar.  So, grab a drink and wait if you go after 6ish.

The space is great.  Tall ceilings, brick walls, space between tables which is always a plus.  Nothing worse than having a dinner with someone and being so close to the other patrons that you hear their conversation better than your own.

The hubby and I arrived early and enjoyed a social lubricant prior to RFO’s arrival.  He tried the Zen and Now – matcha infused vodka, lemon, honey, mint, on tap… on nitro.  A great refreshing drink.  I ordered the Drunken Latte which was rye, averna amaro, branca menta, espresso, steamed milk, coconut whipped cream.  The drinks arrived and mine was super sweet and strong.  About half way through the drink, another latte arrived at the table.  The bartender didn’t like how the cream on top was for the first drink and redeemed himself with another one on the house.  This one was not nearly as sweet but still packed the same punch as the first.  Social lubricant indeed.

While we waited, we ordered a starter of Grilled Toasts with ricotta, local bare honey, and black pepper.  Two generous slices of toast arrived right before RFO sat down at the table. The creamy ricotta spread over the grilled toasts was out of this world.  Moment of silence at the table after the first bite – so good.  We ordered another toast with bresaola, lemon aioli, and arugula.  It was also very good, but didn’t touch the ricotta toast in my opinion.

We then ordered the main entrees.  RFO ordered the pasta croquettes – trofi pasta, pesto, triple cream.  She paired this dish with the Roasted Cauliflower entrée which was a head of cauliflower roasted and served with turmeric, pistachio mousse, rosemary and black olive oil.  It was fabulous and would be a great dish to share as a table.  She didn’t eat the entire dish – but had some great leftovers.

The hubby went with the grain salad which consisted of farro, rutabaga, pine nuts, fresh herbs, creme fraiche, and lemon vinaigrette.  For his entrée, he chose the tortelloni (“killer good”).  The pasta dish was served with swiss chard, chevre, roasted garlic, spiced hazelnuts, and rosemary.  He gave it a 5 out of 5 and thoroughly enjoyed the leftovers the next day.

I went with the cauliflower soup special.  Very good and always a nice addition to a winter meal.  I then went with the pasta dish of Bolognese pappardelle which was fresh pappardelle, house bolognese, and grated parmesan.  The dish was good – though I had Broder’s bolognese dish not that long ago and it is hard to beat.  My main complaint about the dish was how salty it was.  I drank a ton of water with that meal in part because of all of the salt.  I did have leftovers the next day and the salt didn’t seem as bad second day.

All in all it was a good dinner and I would definitely recommend Red Rabbit to others.  I would order something different next time.  I liked the space, the vibe, the gingham shirts of the wait staff and the fact that while there is an energetic atmosphere, you could still hold a conversation among your party.

Good meal, good friends, but no one ordered pizza.  Maybe next time.

Happy Eating!

 

 

 

2016 Restaurant of the Year…

Heirloom was the winner for us and our choice for NYE!  A close second was Upton 43, which was picked as the local paper’s favorite of 2016.  We had a great time with our friend, formerly known as Reservations for One (RFO).  A bottle of Prosecco, a cheese plate and great entrees closed out 2016 in style.  If you haven’t tried Heirloom yet, please go!  Their weekend brunch is great and their dinners are fabulous too.

2016 was the year of restaurant closings.  Sadly we saw our favorite go to restaurant, Cafe Levain close not long after their long-time chef departed for a non-chef position at a local co-op.  Also closed/closing…Heartland, Brassiere Zentral, Piccolo and many others.  Some of which were past “restaurant of the year.”  I hope we haven’t doomed Heirloom.  Though, there is a season for everything as they say and I know that the owners/chefs at these now shuttered restaurants will be back doing something fabulous in the not too distant future.

Plenty of new restaurants to try for 2017…so never fear.  We’ll see how early we pick NYE 2017.  April was the earliest a few years ago.  Trying a new place in February with RFO.  Doubt we’ll be able to call it that early, but stranger things have happened…especially throughout the year we just went through.

Here’s to 2017!

Happy Eating!

Xavi Restaurant

Recently read about a new restaurant in the old First Course space on 56th and Chicago in South Minneapolis called Xavi.  It’s been open 1 week today.  Nothing like a mid-week new restaurant visit to mix it up a bit.

The hubby arrived before I did and was seated in a half booth/ half table location that faced the kitchen.  I thought it was nice space – though at times it felt awkward to be facing the area where all of the workers were gathered.  They definitely had extra staff on hand to train and continue to get used to the cadence of diners on the different evenings of the week.

When I arrived, there was an almost empty dish of pickles and pickled red peppers that the hubby had been noshing on while he waited.  Just fine by me as I’m not a pickle person.   Currently there is no alcohol served as they await the final licensing, etc.  They will start serving beer and wine on July 1st.  If that is a must for you, suggest you wait until then.  As for us, I had a diet coke and the hubby was sipping on lemonade.

The overall look and feel of the restaurant was good.  I liked the lighting and the color for the most part.  The one thing that was a little odd was the location of the bathrooms.  They are right in the middle of the restaurant between the kitchen and the bar.  I did visit one of the restrooms and I just hope the lock never breaks or someone doesn’t forget to push the lock button.  The potential for major embarrassment is high – those at the bar facing the kitchen might get an eye full.

Anyway, onto the food…

We both started with the Mushroom Broth as a first course.  The broth came with mushrooms and a few pork dumplings.  It was very good and had a variety of flavors.  It was savory, but every so often it had a hint of sweet.  It seemed a bit like a French Onion soup base but a bit sweet.  It was a good soup choice for the first day of summer – not heavy.

The hubby then went with the red wine braised short rib with shishito peppers, and lemon polenta.  I wonder if they were able to actually braise it in red wine given their liquor restriction until July.  The meat was very good and a nice combintation with the polenta.  It was served with a lot of peppers.

I went with the monkfish with saffron couscous, pea shoots, slow roasted tomato and preserved lemon.  The fish had a nice crispy top, I would have preferred to have a bit more of that flavor throughout.  I’m not sure I had ever had monkfish before.  It was a lot meatier than I was expecting.  I did have to use the knife they brought with it.  The couscous and tomatoes were awesome.  I had to put the block on the hubby with the couscous or he would have eaten it all.  I thought the dish worked well, but I might have put the couscous with the shortribs and the polenta with the fish.  Just seemed like it was a better combination.

Given we were “all in” on the restaurant, we gave the desserts a try.  He went with the chocolate hazelnut trifle and I went with yuzu poundcake with shiso and blueberries.  My dessert was like a strawberry shortcake.  Very refreshing on a summer evening.  The hubby thought his was ok, but not great.  Definitely had a lot of chocolate for chocolate lovers.

The staff was very attentive and the manager/owner visited our table several times.  I hope this restaurant does well.  Not sure we will rush back as there are so many restaurants in the cities to try, but I would give it a try if you like the menu.

Happy eating!

Linden Hills on a Sunday Morning

The hubby and I decided to hit the Edina Art Fair today after postponing Friday and Saturday due to rain.  A trip out on a Sunday morning requires a brunch stop of course, so we headed to Linden Hills.

If you haven’t ventured to this area in awhile, you are missing out!  There is of course the new Upton 43 which I posted about in January.  There is also Patisserie 46‘s sister cafe, Rose Street Patisserie, which opened in the past couple of months.  Also in the area are other great restaurants such as Tilia, Harriet Brassiere, Naviya’s Thai Brasserie, and for dessert, Sebastian Joe’s ice cream.

We stopped in for brunch at an oldie but a goodie, Zumbro Cafe! We got there at a decent time and were immediately seated at a two top near the window.  I ordered a vanilla latte which arrived quickly in all it’s full-fat, warm yummy goodness.  The hubby ordered the Huevos Zumbrosos which included spicy red beans,grilled tortillas, house-made salsa and sour cream.  I had the Smoked Bacon and Gouda Frittata with roasted potatoes and toast.  The potatoes were fabulous, my only complaint was there weren’t enough for me to have (and share with the hubby who loved them too).  All in all it was a fabulous breakfast and a great start to our Sunday morning.  The staff at Zumbro is fantastic.  I watched while the owner or manager helped an elderly gentleman to his feet after his breakfast (pretty sure this guy is a regular) and then he helped him to his car.  Fantastic to watch the care and respect shown to all customers – young and old.

After Zumbro, we headed over to the Linden Hill’s farmer’s market to take a peek at what that was like.  Lots of food booths as well as a couple of food trucks.  You could do some damage if you lived in the area and had access to this market every weekend.

We then ventured into Rose Street Patisserie to take a couple of pastries home for later in the day.  Great 2 story space and fabulous looking desserts and pastries.  The hubby got a piece of lemon pound cake and I went with a brioche injected with creme fraiche and dusted with sugar.  Both were quite tasty.

After leaving the Linden Hills area, we headed to the Edina Art Fair where we managed to help a few artists finish the show with fewer items to take back with them.

If you are looking for a fun neighborhood, Linden Hills is the place to go on a Sunday morning.  And if you are looking for a good art fair, 2 weeks until the Stone Arch Bridge Festival.

Happy eating!

Italian Eatery

One Friday evening, we decided to try out a relatively new restaurant in South Minneapolis called Italian Eatery.  We had early reservations because a) that’s how we roll and b) that’s all we could get.  We were surprised at how busy it was at 5:00.  The bar was packed and soon many of the dining room tables were as well.  Always a good sign I think!

I started out with a “taste” of red wine.  They have both “tastes” and  “full” glasses of wine.  The taste was cheaper (more like a reasonably priced glass in my opinion) and was a decent enough pour.  Good way to make people think they are getting a deal.

We ordered the Goat Milk Ricotta which was house made whipped ricotta served with grilled bread.  The starter arrived on a wooden cutting board that with a huge ball of ricotta.  It was decent enough, but I actually think they could have gone with a bit of a smaller serving.

For the entree portion, I went with the cavatelli which was a pasta dish with house stewed bolognese and grana padano cheese.  They offer two sizes of the pastas which is always a nice option.  I went with the smaller option and then ordered a side of the brussel sprouts with caesar, pecorino, colatura.  The sprouts were decent enough.  The pasta was a little too al dente for my taste.  I make a lasagna bolognese recipe that has fabulous bolognese sauce.  I could have made a better pasta dish on my own with my bolognese sauce than what I had here.  It was fine, just not amazing.

The hubby went with the gnocchi with Nordic Creamery butter and grana padano cheese.  He has a high watermark for gnocchi from Meritage in St. Paul and this did not measure up at all.

In summary, I thought Italian Eatery was ok.  I think it’ll do well with it’s location as there really isn’t any other good option around there.  However, I would rather head over to Broder’s for pasta if that was what I was in the mood for in the future.  Speaking of Broder’s, I went back through this blog as well as my older blog and realized that I’ve never written about Broder’s.  I will fix that sometime in the future.  It is by far one of the best Italian restaurants in Minneapolis!

Happy Eating!

Heirloom

It was one of those January weekends where you really wonder what made you decide to live in the north part of the country.  Temperatures not above zero and wind chills in the teens and twenties…below zero.  The sun was shining though, so we ventured out for brunch at a new restaurant in St. Paul.

Heirloom was a great way to take the chill off of a weekend morning!  We made early reservations, but the cold definitely was keeping people away.  We essentially had the place to ourselves for the majority of our meal.  Once people get word of this place, I would imagine those reservations would be more necessary.

We arrived and were seated in a “cozy” two-top away from the door and windows.  I ordered a cup of hot tea “Evening in Missoula” is always a favorite of mine.  Not sure what the hubs had to drink – he’s prone to ordering Mimosa’s and I seem to remember him doing that this time around as well.

We then started with a couple of pastries.  I had the Sourdough coffee cake and the hubs went with the apple and cheddar hand pie.  Both were appropriate servings to have on our own.  Though he did do a second hand pie since it was so tasty!  Both of the pastries were very good.  my coffee cake had some kind of sauce drizzled over it.  It kind of reminded me a bit of a bread pudding.

We then ordered our main entrees.  I had the Buttermilk Biscuits with sausage gravy and soft scrambled eggs.  The eggs were fabulous – buttery melt in your mouth type of eggs.  The biscuits were small and were tasty without the gravy.  The sausage gravy was not your typical white gravy with big chunks of sausage.  The sausage was reddish looking with small pieces of sausage.  The flavor was outstanding.  A very different take on what I think of as biscuits and gravy.  I would totally get it again!

Sadly I don’t remember what the hubs got for his main entrée.  I do know that he really enjoyed it as well.  He did order a biscuit for his dessert since he liked the look of my meal.

I definitely want to go back for both brunch and to try their dinner menu.  The dinner menu looks interesting and if you are not sure how you’d order from it, I think the idea is to order something from each of the different sections on the menu and make a tasting dinner out of the menu.  Never fear, the wait staff is fabulous and can help guide you through the menu if you are unsure.  You will be sure to find something you’ll enjoy and if you are open to it, maybe something new to try!

Happy Eating!

The Commodore Bar & Restaurant

We started off 2016 with several new restaurants.  So many that I didn’t do a great job of keeping up with them on the blog.  I’ll take a few days and try to get caught up before any new February restaurants need to be posted!

The Commodore Bar & Restaurant

Heather, the hubby and I tried an old but new restaurant in St. Paul’s Cathedral Hill area early in January.  The ambiance of the restaurant was fabulous.  I felt like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda would arrive at any time.  A great 1920’s vibe.