Saturday, June 2, 2012

Where to eat in Minneapolis

Minneapolis and St. Paul are two of the best cities in the USA. They have plenty of parks, many lakes, and wonderful restaurants! Here are my faves (ordered from best to worst):


1) Rustica Bakery


1) Sea Change
2) Vincent A Restaurant
3) Cosmos
4) D'Amico Kitchen


1) La Belle Vie
2) Heartland
3) Restaurant Alma
4) Piccolo
5) 112 Eatery

I post pictures of what we tried (the order is random and does not match the precious list). All dishes were very good, but some of them were amazing!!!

1). Restaurant Alma by Chef Alexander Roberts : What to order --- Open a bottle of vino Sangiovese 2009 Dimaio Norante. Really oaky flavor. Perfect for a romantic night.

Start with local cheeses (Alemar Bent River Camembert, Minnesota/Cow and Shepherd's Way Friesago (Minnesota/Sheep), served with pear-mustard, strawberry, homemade cracker thins, and sesame brittle. The Camembert was tangy, super creamy, soft, and salty. It pairs well with the mustard (which is very strong for some people). The Friesago was hard and pairs well with the crackers. The sesame brittle was sweet and I don't think it was necessary in this cheese plate.

For dinner entrees, try the Braised Beef Short Rib (soubise, rhubarb compote, and grilled asparagus). Also, the Seared Pork Loin (charred onion, roasted cauliflower, and romesco sauce). The pork was cooked sous-vide, super tender, and delicious. The soubise in the Rib plate sounds sofisticated, but it is just a little sauce on the plate. The serving size was just perfect. The rustic bread they serve is ideal for those finishing those last juices from the plates!

For dessert, we tried the Shaker Lemon Pie. It is a classic dessert, made from the whole lemons, including their peels. At Restaurant Alma, it is served with sweet blackberry preserve sauce and creme fraiche. I think the crust was super flaky and buttery and complemented really well the tangy lemon creme. The preserve was absolutely necessary, because some bites were pretty tart.

The service was excellent. We received a second dessert: rhubarb bars and we were able to have a very nice conversation, since the noise was low. I loved this restaurant! The flavors were well balanced and overall I recommend it to everybody!

Restaurant Alma on Urbanspoon

Local Cheeses: Alemar Bent River Camembert and Friesago

Braised Beef Short Rib (soubise, rhubarb compote, and grilled asparagus)

Seared Pork Loin (charred onion, roasted cauliflower, and romesco sauce)

Shaker Lemon Pie (lemon cream, blackberry preserve sauce, and creme fraiche)

The second dessert: rhubarb bars!

2). D'Amico Kitchen at Hotel Chambers : What to order --- Try some Italian beer, such as Morretti, or even better, the Morretti "La Rossa".

If you are in a hurry, try the Express Lunch. For only 10 dollars, you can get tomato soup and pappardelle with ragu Bolognese with grana padano at the same time. But the soup arrived cold and without any decoration, just a drizzle of olive oil. The pappardelle were good, but nothing extraordinary.

I ordered the Grilled Ahi with Panzanella Salad, but for my surprise it was NOT a Panzanella Salad. There were no pieces of bread inside, no croutons. It was a bed of unseasoned arugula, radishes, and olives. I think the chef forgot to dress the salad, it was so plain. The fish was served cold and very plain as well. I was very disappointed with this plate.

Finally, we wanted to finish with something sweet, so we ordered the Pistachio Semifreddo (strawberry-prosecco sorbet, strawberry jam, elderflower meringue). It was really refreshing, but at the same time a little heavy. The meringue was too simple.

In general, I did not find any balanced piece of work at this restaurant. But I like the hotel, where it is located. It has a beautiful art gallery and the restaurant has a modern feeling.

D'Amico Kitchen on Urbanspoon 
Tomato Soup

Pappardelle with ragu Bolognese and grana padano

Grilled Tuna over "Panzanella" Salad

Pistachio Semifreddo (strawberry-prosecco sorbet, strawerry jam, meringue)
 3). 112 Eatery by Isaac Becker : What to order --- This place is very noisy and it is more like a pub than a restaurant. However, it is always nice to get a bottle of wine and to start a conversation, so we tried ViƱa Herminia Rioja Tempranillo 2010. It has very smooth flavors and a medium body.

The first course was amazing! Fresh ricotta with white truffle honey and Himalayan sea salt, orange zest, and grilled baguette slices. PLEASE, it you go there, order it! The cheese melts in your mouth, the honey smells like truffle and it is well balanced with the salt. Overall: soft, creamy, and slightly sweet heaven!!! ( I don't exactly like the orange zest in there, but it didn't hurt).

My main course was the Swordfish with mint chimichurri, polenta, and azafran. The presentation was beautiful, but it was so salty, that it was hard for me to even eat it. I think the chef salted it twice or simply put TOO MUCH SALT and kill all the flavors. I was very hungry and I did not return it, because I didn't want to wait for another plate, but be careful! It can happen to you too (And this was one of the most expensive dishes on the menu, so I expected a better execution!!!).

My husband ordered the sauteed duck breast au poivre with fingerling potatoes. It had capers and some type of gravy. The breast was thinly sliced and it came with the skin (which is not my favorite part). It was tasty and well plated.

The dessert was amazing: Chocolate Cinnamon Torte with vanilla ice cream and dried oranges. It was similar to those Mexican Chocolate cookies that I bake at home or to make it simpler, to brownies with espresso powder. The server said it was a heavy dessert, but this is not true. The texture was dense, but the flavors were so unified and yummy. 

112 Eatery on Urbanspoon 
Fresh ricotta with white truffle honey and Himalayan sea salt

Swordfish with mint chimichurri, polenta, and azafran

Sauteed duck breast au poivre with fingerling potatoes

Chocolate cinnamon torte with vanilla ice cream and dried oranges
4). Vincent A Restaurant : What to order --- Take into consideration that chef Vincent Francoual is a French man and expect to feel like in an European bistro. For drinks, we had a beer (Bells Oberon) and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon from Bordeaux, Chateau Suau 2010.

First course was part of my prix fixe lunch menu: chevre cheese, served with orange marmalade, mixed nuts, dried fruit, and micro greens. We were also served a basket of baguette slices, so we made mini combos of bread, jam, cheese, and nuts. It was really tasty, especially that tangy, sharp goat cheese.

My next course was Laughing Bird Shrimp Salad. It was a big bowl filled with LOTS of wheat berries, kale, roasted tomatoes, black olives, and spiced red pepper. On top, there were few shrimps, that were pretty small in size. I think the idea of this lunch plate was great (very healthy and very mediterranean), but the berries were extremely hard to chew, to many in quantity, and the olives were overpowering. I would do a smaller version and put bigger shrimps.

My husband ordered his favorite French bistro item: Steak Tartare with Fries. This is a traditional raw beef tartare, prepared with some spices. On the side, there was a raw egg in its shell, as well as some baby arugula. He loved the potatoes, they were not too salty and too oily, just perfect.

The dessert was OUT OF THIS WORLD GOOD!!! Its name is Louis XV, but basically, it is chocolate hazelnut cake, served with a pear poached in wine. It had some kind of crispy crunchy base (a waffle) and a really rich ganache. The pear was sweet and very soft. They wrote "Happy Anniversary" on our plate, since we were celebrating 3 years since our wedding. This was so nice!!!
Vincent on Urbanspoon

Chevre cheese, served with Orange Marmalade, Mixed Nuts and Fruits

Laughing Bird Shrimp Salad (wheat berries, kale, roasted tomatoes, olives, shrimps)

Steak Tartare with Fries, raw egg, and baby arugula

Louis XV (hazelnut chocolate cake served with poached pear)
5). La Belle Vie by Chef Tim McKee : What to order --- This is the best restaurant in Minneapolis, period. It is the most romantic place to go for a special occasion. If you go there, dress up nicely, because all the men were wearing ties and jackets, while women were arriving in pretty dresses.

The portions are really small, so plan to eat few of them. My main dish was the Sauteed Sea Bream with Butter Braised Asparagus, Artichoke, Bottarga, and Mint. The asparagus sauce was very delicate. The crispy skin of the fish was suprime. My husband ordered the Roasted Poussin wrapped in bacon, served with morrels, yellow turnip, and green garlic. He was expecting a bigger portion of chicken, but it was only few bites. Both dishes were really elaborated and refined.

The cheese course consisted of 4 imported cheeses: Brie de Meaux (France, Cow); Buche Fleurie (France, Goat); Manchego (Spain, Sheep); Taleggio (Italy, Cow); and Gorgonzola Dolce (Italy, Cow). We really loved the Taleggio (it has been our favorite since we discovered it many years ago). The most delicious combination was to serve any of those cheese on a slice of bread, drizzle some truffled honey and figs-apricots chutney!

For dessert, we tried the Caramelia Chocolate Panna Cotta with Raspberry Lambic Sorbet, and Smoked Caramel Powder. My husband didn't like it very much, because the raspberries were tart, but I enjoyed it a lot. At the end, we received 5 mini desserts. The mini cheesecake was delicious!

La Belle Vie on Urbanspoon

Roasted poussin wrapped in bacon, morrels, yellow turnip, and green garlic

Sauteed Sea Bream with Butter Braised Asparagus, Artichoke, Bottarga, and Mint

Cheese course: brie, buche fleurie, manchego, taleggio, gorgonzola

Caramelia Chocolate Panna Cotta with Raspberry Lambic Sorbet

5 mini post desserts: jelly, cheesecake, macaroon, profiterol, truffle

6). Rustica European Bakery : What to order --- This is one of the best bakeries in Minneapolis. It is close to lake Calhoun and it gets pretty busy in the mornings. They bake crusty European breads, breakfast goodies, and pastries.

I ordered the breakfast plate, which includes 2 slices of any bread, plus Vermont butter and organic raspberry jam. For 50 more cents, you can get a small serving of Chocolate-Hazelnut spread. I really like it over a slice of ciabatta bread. My favorite bread was the multigrain, so nutty and healthy. My husband ordered a focaccia with ham and cheese. He ate it with a hot chocolate and he was pretty satisfied with this option.

The tables and the setting is rustic, but people there look very nice! It is a great place to read the morning newspaper or to fuel your body before or after a workout.

Rustica Bakery on Urbanspoon


Focaccia with ham and cheese

Nut and Raisins Bread with Raspberry Jam

Outside Rustica Bakery
 7). Cosmos at Graves 601 Hotel : What to order --- We arrived at 11 am on a Saturday and some people were still finishing their breakfast. Therefore, the service was slow and we were not treated very carefully. The amuse-bouche was a nice pink shrimp (it was cold...), served with watercress.

The fish of the day was a seared Salmon served over creamed corn and spinach. My husband liked it very much, because it came with a crispy skin and the fillet was very fresh. I ordered the Grilled Salmon Fillet with field greens, citrus segments, and orange-vanilla vinaigrette. The salmon was very well seasoned, but the salad was too simple. The lettuce leaves were huge, I think the chef shoud cut them a little and mix them with the dressing first, before placing them on the plate.

For dessert, we ordered the Chocolate Gateau. It is a dense chocolate cake, topped with chocolate mousse, and served with orange ice cream. The presentation was very pretty, but vanilla ice cream whould be better than the orange one. The chocolate was dark, which was perfect for us (we are dark chocolate lovers), but for some people it can be really rich.

At Cosmos, wines by the glass start from $9 dollars. I got the Alamos Malbec, while my husband decided to try the Summit Extra Pale Ale beer. The bar at Cosmos is really modern. The interior design is great for some cool pictures. In fact, there was a wedding shooting, while we were eating!

Cosmos on Urbanspoon 
Amuse-Bouche: pink shrimp and watercress

Salmon with creamed corn and spinach

Grilled Salmon with greens, citrus segments, and orange vinaigrette

Chocolate Gateau (dense chocolate cake, chocolate mousse orange ice cream)
8). Piccolo : What to order --- This restaurant focuses on small plates. We ordered a carafe of Almira Los Dos (Grenache/Syrah), Campo de Borja, Spain. Since we were celebrating our anniversary, they gave us for free 2 glasses of champagne and a nice congratulation card.

First course was Burrata with compressed oranges, celery, wild fennel polen, and chili oil. We shared this dish with few slices of bread. The burrata was super creamy. But you have to eat it together with the toppings, because the seasonings were only on top. So, otherwise, it needs some salt.

I ordered Taleggio and nettle tortellini with fennel jam and fried Calabrian peppers. I have to say, this is extremely small serving. I would love to have more tortellini. I couldn't feel the Taleggio, but overall it was a very tasty combination. The best part were the Calabrian peppers! After that, I got the Callistor Farms chicken with asparagus, fresh hearts of palm, caramelized lemon and dill. The chicken was very tender, but the dish did not stand out.

My husband ordered the Poached duck egg with ham hock, parmesan, and chives. He loved it and I like the chives blossoms as decoration. They are like little purple flowers. Next, he got the slow cooked veal heart with canned Italian tuna, lardo, and capers. It had a lot of lardo, so it you are not fan of pork fat, don't get this one.

The desserts were wonderful. I would say they are normal portions. If you have been ordering many courses before, you may share one dessert for two people. I got the Chocolate Kumquat tartlet with hazelnuts and ginger chocolate sauce. It was SUPER GOOD! My husband got the Duck egg pot de creme with chicory sugar and pistachios. It was very creamy, but not too special.

Piccolo on Urbanspoon

Burrata with compressed oranges, celery, wild fennel pollen, and chili oil

Taleggio and nettle tortellini with fennel jam and fried Calabrian peppers

Poached duck egg with ham hock, parmesan, and chives

Callistor Farms chicken with asparagus, fresh hearts of palm, caramelized lemon, and dill

Slow cooked veal heart with canned Italian tuna, lardo, and capers

Chocolate Kumquat tartlet with hazelnuts and ginger chocolate sauce

Duck egg pot de creme with chicory sugar and pistachios
 9). Sea Change by Chef Tim McKee : What to order --- This was my favorite lunch! The restaurant is located in the Guthrie Theatre, so if you are planning to go to the theater, this is the perfect place to stop by before.

My husband ordered the Moules Frites. The moussels were served with grilled bread and herbed aioli. Inside the bowl, there was a fish broth, made with wine, butter, and seasonings. The fries were offered with ketchup, which is not very French, but he enjoyed it together with his Grainbelt Premium draught beer!

I ordered the Arctic Char with white bean puree, artichoke giardiniera, and artichoke chips. They did not bring me bread, so I ordered some and I have to wait about 5 minutes for them to warm it. Anyway, after that, everything was perfect. The bean puree was so creamy, almost like mashed potatoes. The giardiniera was salty and tangy. The fish was so crispy on top. I wish they serve a bigger fillet! It all combined very well with my glass of Gamay-syrah/ Dupond "l'agnostique" /vdp France.

The dessert was one of the best sweet creations ever. Chocolate Cremeux, served with brownie, black currant, and malt. The mousse was super soft, the jam was a little tart, and the brownie was just my homemade brownies. All the parts made a nice marriage!!!

Sea Change on Urbanspoon

Moules Frites

Arctic Char /white bean puree/artichoke giardiniera & chips

Chocolate Cremeux (brownie, black currant, malt):
10). Heartland Restaurant and Farm Direct Market : What to order --- This restaurants has a view towards the St. Paul farmer's market. In addition, the farm direct market is a small store, where you can buy cheeses, fruits and vegetables, as well as eggs, meats, etc.

We had a nice table next to the window. First, the amuse bouche: savory profiterol with sweet potato and ham. We also started our bottle of wine: Sartarelli Classico-Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, 2008, Italia. After that, I ordered the 3 courses Flora menu. It is a vegetarian menu, but you will not miss the meat, I promise you.

The warm oyster mushroom salad with baby kale, white beans, caramelized onions, and malt vinaigrette is really amazing. The portion was very big, so I shared it with my husband. The oyster mushrooms were cooked to perfection. Next came the Spinach gnudi with baby tomatoes, mint, asparagus cream, and parmesan cheese. There were only 3 gnudi, but they were big in size. I soaked the crusty bread in the cream and in 5 minutes my plate was completely clean. DELICIOUS! At the end, I shared my dessert with my husband: the Chocolate mousse tart with praline ganache, rhubarb compote, and glazed pecans! It was so soft inside and very well paired with the tart compote.

My husband ordered the Free range poussin with sunchokes, asparagus, and cremini mushrooms. It also featured some toasted hazelnuts and beurre noisette (brown butter). The portion was pretty good for a man, almost half a chicken. Also, the skin was very well cooked and the sunchokes (which are roots) were sweet and tender. We had a wonderful dinner and very nice memories from this place! I hope you visit Minneapolis and St. Paul soon.

Heartland Restaurant and Farm Direct Market on Urbanspoon

Savory profiterol for amuse bouche

Warm oyster mushroom salad / baby kale / white beans / caramelized onions /malt vinaigrette

Free range poussin / sunchokes asparagus / crimini mushrooms /hazelnuts / beurre noisette

Spinach gnudi /baby tomatoes /mint / asparagus cream / parmesan cheese

Chocolate mousse tart / praline ganache / rhubarb compote /glazed pecans

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