Nicollet Island Inn – Minneapolis (Wine Pairing Dinner)


Wine pairing dinners can be pricey. I have only been to one before, with my friend Jared. It was actually a Champagne-pairing dinner at the Urban Eatery in Uptown, Minneapolis. It was fantastic!

So when Jared asked me to join him in a Seven Course Tasting Menu in January at the Nicollet Island Inn with a Groupon he had bought, I jumped at the chance. I had never been to the Inn itself, just to the pavillion for the Homegrown Experience this past summer. I can tell why this is a romantic hotel and a popular venue for weddings.

In fact, this is a the place to take a date with whom you’d like share a romantic evening and impress. And of course it was only natural that Jared and I added the wine pairings {being fellow Wineaux and all} to our seven courses for just $25 extra per person. This dinner was not an organized one like the one we attended at Urban Eatery, but just the opportunity to try their regular tasting menus. The Grand Tour Tasting Menu offers the choice of one of two options for each course. We decided that we would just try them all! He would order one and I would order the other.

First Course – Starter

Steak tartare

Petit Steak Tartare with Malbec & Lobster Bruschetta with a California Bubbly

I had honestly never had steak tartare before, quite frankly, because it scared me. It always makes me think of raw hamburger meat. And who would want to eat that!? But here was my chance to give it a try. And I loved it! I couldn’t believe how refreshing of a flavor it had. I honestly could have handled eating the whole thing, but if I wanted Jared to share the lobster bruschetta, I was going to have to share the tartare. The bruschetta was excellent, too. However, Jared said that this tartare wasn’t as flavorful and spicy as most of the other tartares he’s had.

Second Course – Soup

Root Vegetable

Root Vegetable Soup with a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc & Onion Soup Gratinee with a Pinot Noir

Jared was surprised that I guessed the red was a Pinot Noir without hesitation just after smelling it. As you may know by now, I’m a Pinot Noir snob, so I know that aroma anywhere. However, Jared’s palate is better than mine, so I felt like while I didn’t find that all of the pairings worked, he appreciated them much more than I did.

Also, I am not a huge French Onion Soup fan, only because I often find it too salty. However, this one was not! I ate the majority of that soup. Thanks, Jared!

Third Course – Salad

Beet Salad

Beet Salad & House Salad

At this point, I went to the restroom and when I returned the wines to be paired with the salads were placed on the table. I told Jared not to tell me what they were, that I wanted to guess. It’s not too often that I get to play that game. I usually pose it on others! While I can’t remember what one of the wines was, I do remember that the aroma of the other was very familiar. I just couldn’t place it. At first I thought – Burgundy! “It’s got a mineral quality to it!” But then I second-guessed myself because I didn’t think that the restaurant would open a quality white Burgundy to serve pours by the glass. But I knew something was off… I kept thinking French though and finally I got it – Riesling! But a dry Riesling – perhaps from Alsace. Oh how I love those! They have such a unique aroma and flavor. But I was wrong on the region. This Riesling was from Chile! I had never had a Riesling from Chile and it very much resembled the style of Alsatian Rieslings. I prefer the drier ones over the sweets, so I’ll definitely be in search of one like this from Chile, if only because it’d be a better value for similar quality.

The salads were good, too. The beets, extremely colorful. On first glance, I thought that some yellow tomatoes accompanied those beets, but when I bit into them, they were beets as well!

Fourth Course – Pasta

Mushroom Agnolotti & Lamb Bucatini

Mushroom Agnolotti with Rioja (Tempranillo) & Lamb Bucatini with a French Rhone (Grenache-Syrah)

Holy Agnolotti! Those melted in my mouth… not to mention those perfect parmesan crisps adorning the bowl… The Lamb Bucatini was nice in flavor, but I think I’m learning that I don’t like the bucatini-shaped pasta. It’s a thick spaghetti with a hole in the center. I don’t know why it is – the texture? There is just something about it that rubs me the wrong way.

Fifth Course – Meat

Duo of Scallops with Burgundy and Tenderloin with Cabernet Sauvignon

Duo of Scallops with Burgundy & Tenderloin with Cabernet Sauvignon

I enjoyed both of these, but I adore scallops and while I’m picky about my steaks, the tenderloin is one of my favorites. Both were cooked perfectly, although the duo of scallops just seemed to be one cut in half. These were very satisfying dishes!

Sixth Course – Cheese

Artisnal Cheeses

Artisnal Cheeses with Ruby Port

It has been almost two months and I didn’t take very clear notes (although we asked the server twice) on which cheese these were. So I can’t share that info with you. There was a soft cheese that I believe was a camembert-style from Georgia and I know another cheese was from Wisconsin. We enjoyed them all immensely. Hey, it’s cheese!

Seventh Course – Dessert

Pistachio Cheesecake &Caramel Ganache

Pistachio Cheesecake with Conundrum & Caramel Ganache with Ruby Port

Yum. They are desserts, so there is not much that I wouldn’t like! Have you had Conundrum before? It’s a white wine blend that yields a slightly sweeter style of many wines on the market. However, it is not as sweet as, say, a sweet riesling, a moscato or a dessert wine. That’s why it didn’t work. Wine paired with a dessert should be sweeter than the dessert itself. Jared agreed with me on this one. The cheesecake would have worked much better with perhaps a Moscato d’Asti or a Muscat Canelli. Oh well, maybe it was a substitute for something else no longer on hand.

Overall, it was an elegant, well-executed, delicious meal. I’d recommend it to anyone who is a foodie or, if you aren’t, for a special occasion! In total, we dined for about about two and a half hours, so it was great time to catch up. It was a very relaxing evening. Sometimes it’s just nice not to feel rushed.

It’s been a while since I’ve had wine considering all of the meds I’ve been on as of late, but Jared and I are planning going to FACES mears park next week. It’s a Groupon Living Social voucher I have for a five-course dinner with wine pairings. I had actually never heard of the place before receiving the offer! But, it’s a restaurant featuring Chef David Fhima. I’ve heard great things about his food. However, his restaurant, called Fhima’s, closed back in 2008 before I ever was able to give it a try. It’ll be another night out catching up with the older brother I never had.

Have you done a wine dinner?

If so, what was the most memorable wine pairing or part about it?

If not, what would you like to/expect to experience at a wine dinner?


2 responses »

  1. Wow – what a wonderful event!! There was a restaurant that used to be really good when we first moved to our town 13 years ago. They had a tapas menu – 8 courses with 5 wine pairings for only $40 per person.

    I loved it, but we had to drive to Burger King on the way home because it wasn’t enough food for my husband!

    I answered your question about the ground pork on my blog – this is what I said:

    “I am too weirded out by the ground chicken at the store. I imagine they cut up chickens, and then whatever scraps are left the grind up, slap a label on it that says “ground chicken” and there you go. Ew!

    I haven’t ground my own pork, but I see no reason why it wouldn’t work. That way, you could show him a piece of boneless pork before you grind it, then maybe he would eat it!”

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