Category Archives: Dinner

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!!)

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!

 

 

 

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!

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.

4 Bells

Hard to believe it’s been so long since I posted.  Maybe 2016 will be the year that I get back to it regularly!  Keep me honest folks!  Instead of trying to catch up on the new restaurants I’ve tried since my last post, I’ll start with the restaurant that was our 2015 restaurant of the year.  Those of you who know me, may know that we pick our favorite restaurant of they year and make that our New Year’s Eve plans.

In November, we went to 4 Bells with our good friend Heather and decided after that meal that this was the NYE choice.  It did not disappoint us on 12/31/15.

The restaurant itself is fun – wood, steel, and plenty of space that you never feel crowded.  There is space on the top-level that we’ve not been to, but I understand it has a slightly different menu offering and there is a 4 season patio type area.  The cooking has a southern theme to it, so you can find fried chicken if you so desire.  They also are known for their seafood.

We started off the evening by arriving early for a drink at the bar downstairs.  Given it was NYE, we went with a glass of Prosecco and toasted 2015 goodbye.  We didn’t have to wait long before we were escorted to our table for the evening.  We were seated in Ricardo’s area.  Side note:  I highly recommend if you go to 4 Bells (or Murray’s on the weekend), ask for Ricardo.  He is the best waiter in the cities in our opinion.  He takes his profession seriously and really makes the meal that much better!  We first became aware of Ricardo when he worked at the now defunct Pane Vino Dolce.  He then moved to Al Vento for a while.  We then lost track of him, but was so happy to see him at 4 Bells.

Ricardo came to the table and welcomed us back – stating it was good to see us and he remembered us, etc.  Even if this is part of his schtick, he makes it sincere!

We put in an order of the Boiled Peanut Hummus as a starter.  It was delivered with Aged Cheddar Crackers and Crisp Vegetables (carrots, celery, and radishes).  It was a great start to the meal, but the main entrees are so good that I don’t know if I’d get it again.

For our main entrees, the hubby went with the Grilled Pork Chop with Graham Grits and Huckleberry.  His take on the pork chop was “best in the cities.”  I went with the Seared Scallops with a Sweet Corn Cake (pancake), Bacon, Chicory, and Coffee-Maple Jus.  The scallops were fabulous!  The pancake was good, though I don’t know that it added a lot to the dish.  The corn mix was great.

As for drinks with dinner, Ricardo suggested a great red wine that would be fine with the scallops.  A California wine – Smith & Hook- Cabernet Sauvignon – very good!  The hubby stuck with water, but the previous visit we ordered a couple of their cocktails – Moscow Mule and the Gin Fizz.  They make a great cocktail if that is what you’re looking for.

We ordered a couple of sides to go with our entrees.  The Cauliflower Au Gratin – amazing!  Hard to go to a southern style restaurant without getting biscuits.  So glad we made the call.  The biscuits were served hot and with plenty of butter to slather on top.  The order came with 4 – 2 of which we brought home as leftovers.  (Now I see why we thought we didn’t need the hummus – we had a ton of food.)

We decided to skip dessert, but I’ve heard they have some “to die for” desserts.

This is a great restaurant and one that I would highly recommend. The location across from Loring Park in Minneapolis is fabulous and I think they will do well!  Such a great restaurant destination area now with Cafe Lurcat, The Third Bird and now 4 Bells.

2015 ended on an extremely high note!  2016 has started well, but that will be a post for another day.  For now…

Happy Eating!

Victor’s on Water

Finally a decent afternoon/evening in Minnesota.  We decided to head out for a drive and enjoy the countryside and grab an early dinner in Excelsior.  We went to Victor’s on Water Street in Excelsior.  It’s a relatively new restaurant and was definitely worth the 60+ mile round-trip drive.

We walked into the restaurant and we both were taken back to a restaurant in Australia.  Interestingly enough, we were thinking of different restaurants.  They both had a similar feel though.  Relatively small with a bar and open kitchen against the back.  It took a few minutes for them to escort us to our table, but we were seated against the window and had a prime people-watching view.  And in Excelsior, there are a lot of people to watch!  The area was busy with lots of groups of teenage girls walking around, people walking their dogs, and couples heading to various restaurants for dinner and a cocktail.

Inside Victor’s, we were perusing the menu to determine what to order.  The menu is Italian and they make their pasta onsite every day.  They had an extensive wine list and so I ordered a Malbec-blend while the hubby stuck with water (see mileage note above).

I ordered the Caesar Salad sans anchovies and the hubby ordered the Green salad radishes, sunflower seeds, farro, and white balsamic vinaigrette.  Our salads were delivered fairly quickly and were quite tasty.  My salad was a bit odd in that it had quite a bit of sea salt flakes on it.  Don’t get me wrong, salt is tasty but I think it was prepared with a heavy hand.

We both ordered pasta dishes.  I ordered the waitress-recommended pappardelle hand cut Bolognese, sautéed vegetables, and parmesan.  The hubby ordered the Uovo di Raviolo ricotta, egg yolk, jamon royale, and fava beans.  Both entrees were great and the pasta was definitely fresh!  My bolognese was a bit different than what I’m used to as it was pieces of short rib instead of a beef/veal/pork mixture.  Was very good though and the vegetables were a great addition to the dish.  Half of the dish came home with me; looking forward to leftovers at some point this weekend!

We decided to skip the dessert in favor of a great ice cream shop down the block called Licks Unlimited.  I ordered a scoop of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream in a cup and the hubby got the raspberry chocolate truffle in a waffle cone.  Neither of us veer too far off the beaten path with our ice cream choices.  I always figure that if you get the same ice cream at each place then you can better discern who has the best ice cream.  That’s my story anyway, and I’m sticking to it.

A great evening with good food.  We’ll be back to Victor’s at some point and the area has a number of other good restaurants to try.  Skip dessert at the restaurants though and saunter down to Licks for some great ice cream.  And then if you have time, continue walking over to the lake for a stroll.

Happy Eating!