Archive for December, 2011

This is why I love the Date Night trend

I’ve recently hit a euphoric peak regarding the fixed price, “Date Night” menus that keep appearing around town and, as is my way, I must share the happiness.

I’ve enjoyed the Tuesday Date Night menu at al Vento twice now. There’s nothing about this arrangement that isn’t awesome. A mere $20 gets you a four course, stomach-distending meal in an exceptional restaurant.

Now sometimes al Vento tries to sneak in a little too much eggplant on these fixed price menus, so if like me, eggplant causes you to experience an intestinal tsunami, it would behoove you to check the menu before you go. That said, my most recent Date Night visit to al Vento was exceptional start to finish.

I opened with the stuffed mushrooms (walnut, with parmesan and marinara), which I erased from my plate as thoroughly as one can without resorting to a tongue cleaning. The next plate, a small Caesar salad, was subtle while still nailing it. For the pasta course I chose the generously portioned pappardelle with braised pork ragu tomato and procini. The pork was tender as hell and the ragu had an unusual but excellent sweetness, as if (just guessing here) a modest amount of cherry reduction had been mixed in. Dessert was a selection of gelato and sorbet, from which I chose the cappuccino gelato.

It was just wonderful. And not exactly a secret. The place was jammed. We just barely got away with not making a reservation, but next time I won’t be so cavalier.

There was only one, huge disappointment in the evening – an equally mouthwatering fixed price menu was happening simultaneously at Kings Wine Bar! Their Tuesday Date Night menu has three courses, plus dessert, paired with a wine flight. Total: $45 for two people!

It was just cruel. Check out the menu:

-1st course – Black bean soup, curry yogurt
-or-
Arugula salad, soft smoked egg, bacon, maple, aged sherry vinegar paired with Argyle Chardonnay

-2nd course- Baked herb crusted mozzarella, slow braised tomatoes, balsamic syrup paired with Pedroncelli Rose

-3rd course- Seared salmon, chick peas, swiss chard, grilled beets, chipotle red wine reduction paired with La Playa Sauvignon Blanc
-or-
pan seared NY strip, fingerling potatoes, bleu cheese paired with Pedroncelli Cabernet

-Dessert – Banana chocolate bread pudding, ganache, ice cream paired with Dr L Riesling

So missing out on that really sucked, but there are more Tuesdays where that came from and I’ll be duly stalking the Kings Date Night menu for more magic combos.

Incidentally, al Vento’s sister restaurant, Rinata, has a similar fixed price menu deal on Sunday nights. Keep a look out or get on their email list and have the happiness delivered to you.

[Disclosure: The owner of Kings Wine Bar is a friend of mine.]

Eating | 18.12.2011 20:46 | 1 Comment

This is why I love all the Leifs

Hey non-native Minnesotans, what were some of your most profound “Whoa, I’m really in Minnesota” moments after you arrived? Let me guess:

•    When you bought a parka
•    When someone offered you lutefisk
•    When you were gravely advised on which shovel to buy
•    When you very quickly realized that vaguely attentive driving habits were the norm
•    When you met someone named ‘Leif’

These things simply don’t happen anywhere else – except occasionally in Norway – and are in fact all part of Minnesota’s rich cultural identity.

For decades I thought there were only a couple Leifs in Minnesota. And to make matters worse, those other Leifs all sacrilegiously pronounced their names like the word ‘leaf’. (Indisputable fact: it’s pronounced like the word ‘life’.) I felt as if I was almost singlehandedly carrying the burden of one of Minnesota’s dying cultural traditions.

But then, thanks to Facebook, oh magical Facebook, an idle search one day revealed that there are TONS of Leifs in Minnesota! Walking around, oozing state heritage, smelling of stoic manliness and pine trees…

And many of these Leifs are much younger than I, meaning, that’s right, a Leif Renaissance!! Our path to Leif extinction has been narrowly averted. But for how long? Will other brave parents name their children ‘Leif’, continuing the state’s solemn tradition and dooming their sons to at least 16 years of cruel and unimaginative taunts by their mouth-breathing, zero-contributing peers? We can only hope so.

As part of the effort to preserve our state’s prized heritage, I would like to formally propose that Governor Dayton declare December 16th “Leif Day” in Minnesota. Government offices will shut down, parking meters won’t be enforced, a parade, naturally, will be held – say, on Hennepin Avenue, between 12th Street and Washington.

Furthermore, unofficially, December 16th, will also be declared “International Hug a Leif Day,” just in case I’m out of town.

Please show your support for “Leif Day” and “International Hug a Leif Day” by signing in the comments area below. I will present the signatures to Governor Dayton and Buddha and we should be good to go for at least an informal 2011 celebration at Grumpy’s on Washington this Friday.

Thank you for generously supporting our cherished state heritage and well-deserved recognition of our hard working, heroic Leifs.

Culture, Events | 13.12.2011 14:22 | 10 Comments