Tag Archives: scallops

Marin {Closed}

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Our monthly Girls’ Dinner Night Out was this past weekend. Kim chose Marin, in downtown Minneapolis. Truth be told, I’ve been wanting to try this restaurant for some time! It just didn’t seem like a place Rob would enjoy as much as I would. So it was perfect choice for Girls’ Night Out.

I love this day in age where we can look up menus online. What I love even more? Restaurants like Marin {as well as Mill Valley Kitchen} that list the nutrition facts! Below each menu item, you’ll find the calories | fat | protein | carbs | fiber, followed by a note if an item is vegan or gluten free. Check it out!FullSizeRender(2)Yes, sometimes a menu like this can take the fun out of dining. But this is a time when I was glad to have it. It’s interesting how the nutrition facts can influence choices even more than, perhaps, the description.

The website also listed these natural refreshments and smoothies. I’m not quite sure when they are offered, because it was not a menu we were given on a Friday night.

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Choosing a before dinner cocktail was difficult because I felt like all of them sounded up my alley. Jen pointed out that the list is gin-heavy, which is perhaps why I was feeling that way. Gin is a fave of mine.

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In the end, I chose an Aviation. I have no idea where the photo of my cocktail went. No matter… It wasn’t very good. Well, it grew on me; but I’m sure I’d have been more pleased with something else.

We each got a starter and an entree for the evening. Jen chose:

Vegetable-Soba Spring Rolls 6 90 | 1 | 4 | 18 | 2 | gf | v

Vegetable-Soba Spring Rolls – $6
90 | 1 | 4 | 18 | 2 | gf | v

Jen thought the radish was too powerful and the sauce was a bit spicy. I tasted one and thought they were okay. Not the best I’d had, but certainly not bad by any stretch.

Kim and I both choose a salad. I have no idea what happened to that photo either. Kim was trying to choose between two and questioned what made the Baby Kale Salad 300 calories. We had seen one brought to our neighbor’s table and it looked tasty.

Baby Kale, Manchego, Pine Nuts, Lemon-Chili Vinaigrette -$8
300 | 24 | 17 | 7 | 3 | gf
We decided that it must be the pine nuts and/or cheese. Instead, she chose the same salad I did.
Baby Mixed Greens, Pecorino, Cracker -$7
110 | 7 | 4 | 10 | 2

There really was nothing special about the salad itself. But the cracker was crusted with some sort of cheese, parmesan perhaps, and was a nice accompaniment.

The ambiance is very cozy at Marin. We had ample time for lots of catching up between dishes. Jen’s choice:

Ham, Fig, Blue Cheese 12 580 | 18 | 33 | 74 | 7

Ham, Fig, Blue Cheese Flatbread – $12
580 | 18 | 33 | 74 | 7

When you walk into Marin, you can’t help but spot the pizza oven. Just look at that perfect crust! What Jen loved most about this one – the perfect ratio of ingredients from the ham to the fig to the blue cheese. Nothing overpowered another flavor.

Kim had intended to order a fish dish that she saw on the online menu. Alas, reading a menu online before going out is both a blessing and a curse, especially if it’s a restaurant that uses the freshest ingredients and the menu changes. In the end, she didn’t get fish at all!

Grass-fed Beef Tenderloin, Fingerling Potatoes, Confit Tomatoes, Smoked Onion Mustard 5 oz 34 470 | 28 | 41 | 11 | 1 | gf

Grass-fed Beef Tenderloin, Fingerling Potatoes, Confit Tomatoes, Smoked Onion Mustard (5 oz) – $34
470 | 28 | 41 | 11 | 1 | gf

Kim was quite pleased with her steak. It was juicy, tender and cooked to her liking. The crispy skins of the tomatoes were a unique touch, too.

Like Kim, I had been eyeing something online. Luckily, it was available!

Scallops, Pablano and 32 Mushroom Hash, Tomatillo Sauce 400 | 17 | 25 | 35 | 4 | gf

Scallops, Pablano and Mushroom Hash, Tomatillo Sauce – $32
400 | 17 | 25 | 35 | 4 | gf

Yes! Yes! Yes! It had been so long since I’d had scallops and these were just perfect. They were nicely seared and all of the flavors complemented each other.

For me, it ended up an expensive evening. However, I felt it was worth it to have such satisfying food that was healthy, too.

Next time, I need to check out The Library downstairs…

What are go-to foods when you are trying to be healthy when dining out?

Cheers~
Carrie

 

 

FACES mears park

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My friend Jared and I bought a Groupon deal for a five-course dinner at FACES Mears Park in St. Paul. I had never been there and the menu looked exceptional. Not knowing what is going to be offered at these types of dinners, I have never been able to do these with Rob. You just never know if he’ll be allergic to something that ends up on the plate. We know that they can sometimes accommodate, but Rob never wants to inconvenience anyone with too many exceptions.

Since Jared and I are wineaux friends, this was a perfect night out for us because each course was going to be accompanied by a Wine Pairing!

The service here was fantastic. And what I really loved is that the chef creating our meal that evening came out to explain each and every course.

First Course

Scaloop

Scallop served with a glass of Brut Cava {read: Spanish bubbly}

I absolutely love scallops. And I love it even more when they’re done in an interesting way. The whole bacon-wrapped scallops trend is way overdone. In fact, any bacon and scallop dish has me rolling my eyes. This lone scallop was sandwiched between two flaky pastry-like puffs and a wonderful sauce.

Second Course

Mac & Cheese w/Tempura Shrimp

Mac & Cheese with Tempura Shrimp served with a Vinho Verde from Portugal

I voted this the best Mac & Cheese in the Twin Cities. While this particular dish is not on their menu, it’s a version of their Lobster Mac & Cheese. Whole wheat pasta is used to impart more flavor. Chef also told us that it’s made in the same style as risotto, adding a little at a time and mixing until incorporated, thus giving the dish a richer, creamier texture. Done. I’d order this again in a heartbeat. And while I also roll my eyes at Lobster Mac & Cheese, I’d probably overlook that here just to have this style of Mac & Cheese again!

Third Course

Filet En Croute

Filet en Croute served with a Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon from California

Think Beef Wellington here, but perhaps with a flakier outer crust. If my memory serves me, the meat was a little more well done than either of us were used to, but the sauce was rich and flavorful. By the time I finished, I was stuffed. I knew we had two courses left, but I had no idea one of them was another entrée!

Fourth Course

Seafood Tagine

Seafood Tagine served with a Pinot Noir

Isn’t this one of the most beautiful dishes you’ve ever seen?! Upon the lifting of the lid, the aromas were powerful and tantalizing. This was one dish of which I could tell that our Moroccan chef was most proud. I believe the seafood that day included salmon, halibut and mussels. The broth was intensely flavored with a Moroccan Chermoula. I was so full, but managed to enjoy a few bites. I could sit there and inhale those aromas all day!

Fifth Course

Moscato

Tuxedo, Truffle & Napoleon served with Moscato

This was probably the least satisfying pairing, but I always love me a rich truffle or a flaky, yet creamy Napoleon. I was so full at this point that I was glad these little desserts were only bite-sized.

I was very impressed by this restaurant and hope to return soon. I’m still a little unsure of why this place is called FACES mears park. Is it because the restaurant actually faces Mears Park? Or is it because there is a face as part of the logo? Or is FACES an acronym for something? It could be a combination of these, too. Whatever it may be, I think people would love to know that little tidbit of information. Usually a restaurant name is pretty understandable. But I’m unsure about this one.

The restaurant is run by Executive Chef David Fhima. Fhima’s was a Minneapolis restaurant that was on my wish list years back. But I never made it before it closed. Luckily, I was able to try his food here! Something else I love? From their website:

We source our products mostly from local farms, utilize organic produce and dairy whenever possible and use only grass-fed meats. Our breads, pastries and desserts are made from 100% unbleached, whole wheat flours, honey and turbinado sugar. We never use ANY preservatives or additives.

Gotta love that.

Have you ever wanted to dine somewhere, but learned that it closed before you got the chance?

Cheers~

Carrie

Restaurant Wine: Best Priced Bottles in the Twin Cities Metro

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Sure, you can usually find a $20 – $25 {or even less} bottle of wine at a local restaurant that really isn’t known for wine. These sorts of places have wine on hand only for the occasional request, but wine generally isn’t their focus. Furthermore, the wine isn’t of high quality and it is quite often just cheap – meaning probably around $7 retail.

Wine markup is high in most restaurants though – between 100% and 200% per bottle. And oftentimes, it’s much more per glass. You may even find that the most expensive wines on the menu have the least amount of markup. We’ve found that restaurant wines in the $40 – $45 range are usually pretty decent. However, when we can afford it, wines in the $50 – $60 range are worth the splurge. Still, it’s tough to justify paying that for one bottle of wine. That’s when it’s best to take advantage of half-priced bottle of wine nights!

But what if you could find a high quality wine in a restaurant at an affordable price?

Well, if you live in the Twin Cities metro area, you can! Just head yourself down to Historic Main Street Minneapolis to Vic’s Dining, a restaurant overlooking the Mississippi River.

The cobblestone streets of St. Anthony Main offer riverfront dining from a selection of restaurants. My friend Jen and I popped into one for some gelato when walking in the area a couple of summers ago. And Pracna was on her list of restaurants to try when it was her turn to pick where to dine one month. But another restaurant won out.

And as per the usual, it took us a Groupon to get our butts down there!

We made reservations, but there were very few people when we arrived. We took seats at the bar and asked for a wine menu. We had already perused it online, but knew that it changed often. The Vic’s Dining website advertises a “fabulous 99 bottle wine menu where all bottles are priced dangerously lower then anywhere around town”. I completely agree with this statement! Check out the wine menu the night we dined there:

Vic's Dining Wine Menu: February 15, 2013

Vic’s Dining Wine Menu: February 15, 2013

Have you seen such prices for 90 and 91 point wines or those from specific appelations?! These prices are insane! It almost made me feel a little bit guilty using a Groupon. Now the trouble was choosing a bottle. I had no idea what I was going to eat and there were so many unique wines that caught my eye. I don’t like going with well-known wines when I order off of a wine menu. Variety is the spice of life, so why not try some new wines? We did find a bottle that the two of us could agree on and it wasn’t one I’d had before:

2010

2010 The Federal Visionary ZinfandelDry Creak Valley, California – $19.00

We love a big, bold spicy Zin. {For those of you who are still drinking White Zin, this is nothing like it. I’ll post about the difference on a future Wine Wednesday!} I find that it’s hard to find a good one that isn’t overpowered by vanilla these days. You usually have to pay a bit more for a good quality one. And we found an excellent one here for just $19 – at a restaurant!

What I’m about to tell you next reminds me of an episode of Frasier. Do you remember the episode where Niles realizes that he never rebelled as a teenager? When he thinks he’s eaten a pot brownie and decides now is the time he’s going to rebel he exclaims: “I’m thinking of pairing this Chilean Sea bass with an aggressive Zinfandel!”

Haha. Yes, while I’ll always stand by my mantra that you should pair any wine with whatever food YOU like it with; generally big, bold red wines don’t go with seafood. And that’s just what I ordered!

Scallop Pappardelleseared scallops, pine nut basil pesto with grapetomatoes, roasted peppers & Parmesan..........................22

Scallop Pappardelle
Seared scallops, pine nut basil pesto with grape
tomatoes, roasted peppers & Parmesan$22

Doesn’t that dish just scream my name? I adore scallops and one of the best scallop dishes I ever had was one with a pesto sauce at a Minneapolis restaurant that has since closed. I hadn’t been able to find anything like it since, so there was no way I was going to pass this dish up, even if it meant pairing it with an aggressive Zinfandel!

It didn’t disappoint. However, after a while the dish became a little too heavy. Maybe it was just the sheer amount of food, or the fact that I’m getting used to eating normal-sized portions? In any case, it was worth ordering it.

Rob, the burger guru, really wanted to give theirs a try. It’s also a more appropriate pairing with an aggressive Zinfandel!

burger

“V” Burger
8 oz U.S.D.A. choice ground chuck, basted in a rich Demi Glace – $15

Guru Verdict? It was okay – just an average burger with average fries. It won’t make the Top 10 Twin Cities Burgers or Fries list, nor will he order it again. But this isn’t really a burger joint, anyway.

There are so many places to discover along the St. Anthony Main Mississippi riverfront {we did stop for an aperitif and a digestif at two of them!}, that we’d come to Vic’s for a bottle of wine and an appetizer next time. It definitely wins my vote for best-priced quality wines in the Twin Cities!

What’s the best wine you’ve ever had in a restaurant (regardless of price)?

Cheers~
Carrie

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Borough – Minneapolis

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The first time I heard about the Borough was when I read the list of opening and closing restaurants throughout the Twin Cities at the end of an article on the Heavy Table website. I checked out the menu and I stopped at the first item:

SoupChampagne, Fingerling Potato Chips, Black Truffles, Chives – $7

I didn’t even need to read the rest of the menu. Instead, I immediately sent an email to my husband stating that we had to put this on our list of restaurants to try!

But I went without him.

We ended up there by accident. My friends Kim, Jen, Jared and I had scheduled to take a cooking class together at Saga Hill. Unfortunately, the chef had the flu and I totally missed the message that afternoon that they had to cancel the class. We arrived there to find dark rooms and no one inside. When we learned what was going on, we thought that since we were together and were hungry, we might as well dine together!

We all searched our smartphones for nearby restaurants and when Jared suggested the Borough, I gave them a call. They didn’t have any tables left; all were reserved. However, they did have a large bar that wasn’t quite busy yet.

When we arrived, the bar was busy in that nearly all of the seats were taken. There definitely weren’t four seats together. However the hostess asked a few people to move down to allow us to sit. They kindly did so!

As do many restaurants in the Twin Cities now, there was an excellent assortment of beers on tap. I rather liked the bar area and the style of taps.

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Borough Bar

Look closely above. There are no advertised taps here. They all have the same look to them. Instead, the beers are listed on mirrors on either side of the bar.

mirro

These mirrors indicate the beers on tap as well as the basic menu.

However, after Jared ordered a glass of bubbly, I couldn’t help but order a glass myself. Once three of us decided to go that route, we chose to order a bottle instead.

By this point, I was pretty hungry. The menu was separated into categories of small, medium and large plates. I  was hungry, so I totally skipped that soup that sounded so good! And you won’t believe this… Even though they were highly recommended by the bartender, everyone else but me ordered the scallops!

Scallops

Scallops – Parsnips, Maitakes, Maple, Pancetta, Cider Gastrique, Pearl Onion – $16

I think $16 is a pretty decent price for a scallop dish in the Twin Cities. Despite the fact that all of my friends ordered these, I didn’t take a taste! Here are their thoughts on the scallops:

Jared: “I liked the scallops, but wouldn’t say they were the best I’ve had. I thought they were done correctly and had a nice sear on them. The Parsnip puree was slightly sweet and went well with them. I would order them again. The seafood sausage was very interesting, but could have had a bit more flavor in my opinion.”

Jen: “I don’t have anything too memorable to report on the scallops. They were good, but I would not have gotten as excited as the bartender.”

Kim: “They were ok. The scallops were a little chewy and too salty. Presentation was awesome. I would try something else next time.”

Because I was so hungry, I ordered a “large” plate. I also was in the mood for comfort food. Fried chicken was calling my name:

Fried Chx

Chicken – Fried, Buttered Potatoes, Mustard Greens, Radish, Soubise Gravy – $19

Although these pieces just look like over-sized chicken nuggets, it ended up being a lot of food – definitely worthy of being called a “large plate. And to me, the chicken was more like just breaded chicken than true fried chicken. When cutting into the square pieces, I noticed that the white and dark meat was pushed together to form the square. Only a place like this could get away with that! Fast food joints are chastised for it.
I did love the presentation though. The contrasts of colors and the use of the watermelon radish as a garnish was perfect. I adored the mustard greens! But overall, I found this dish to be too salty.
When Jared asked if we wanted to get to dessert, I remembered that there were only three desserts to choose from:

Dessert menu

So why not order them all to split?!

Pineapple

Pineapple Cake – Caramel, Rum, White Chocolate, Pineapple Ice – $7

Chocolate

Chocolate – Flourless Cake, Ganache, Chèvre, Cherry, Ice Cream, Hazelnut, Espresso – $7

Margarita

Margarita – Lime Curd, Saltine Cracker, Tequila, Meringue, Sea Salt – $7

The Verdict on Dessert:

Jared: “I wasn’t really wowed by any of them. I like pineapple upside down cake, but this one left me wanting more. It had more caramel on it than it needed. The chocolate was ok, but I’m not a coffee fan and that was too much for me. I guess, I would give Borough a second chance, but the BEST thing about it was the company.” Awww!

Jen: “I liked the tequila lime dessert the best. I am realizing that I could take or leave flourless chocolate cake.”

Kim: ” My favorite dessert was the lime one with the chocolate a VERY close second. That’s just because I love key lime pie!”

Me: These desserts were beautiful! They reminded me of the presentation at Naha. My favorite of the three was the chocolate cake, but mainly because of the espresso flavor. I loved the combination of the two! A very close second was the Margarita. I tried that one first and looked at Kim immediately and said, “You are going to love this one!” since she adores key lime pie. That’s just what it tasted like!

So you can see we do have somewhat different tastes!

One thing I really loved about Borough is that when they delivered the plates, they explained all of the components to you. Too often, I forget what the menu read. It’s nice to have a reminder and not be left wondering.

The couple next to me had split the burger on the menu and I overheard them raving about it with the bartender. Hmmm… I just may have to come back and bring Rob. Okay, so I really want to try that burger, too! It looked so good.

What’s the best dessert you’ve ever had?

Cheers~
Carrie

112 Eatery – Minneapolis

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It’s been a few years since we’ve been to the 112.

All I remember is that I ordered the Nori Encrusted Sirloin with Ponzu and my husband ordered the Bacon, Egg & Harrisa Sandwich. And while we were both pleased, we weren’t blown away like some say that they are when dining here.

I do, however, remember Rob craning his neck to follow a burger that was being delivered to a table across the restaurant. While staring in that direction, he vowed that we would be back.

For his birthday dinner this year, he chose 112 Eatery with every intention of finally trying the 112 Cheese Burger.

We made early reservations as we had planned our night out around the Ike Reilly Thanksgiving Eve 10th Anniversary Celebration. Our friend Jen joined us. {If you haven’t heard of the Ike Reilly Assassination, be sure to check them out!}

I ordered a glass of French bubbly: Bouvet-Ladubay Brut; Jen went with a Sammy Smith’s Oatmeal Stout; while Rob was seduced by the fact that they had San Pellegrino beverages on the menu. He went with the Pompelmo flavor {grapefruit}. His favorite flavor is Blood Orange, but we haven’t seen that since Chicago.

While we waited for our beverages and perused the menu, some pre-dinner snacks were brought to our table:

Greek olives and wasabi almonds

This reminded me very much of France because at parties, you often see nuts and olives served with an apéritifs.

Rob already knew that he wanted a burger, but I was a little perplexed on what to get. I asked for recommendations and favorites. The menu was even a little too “foodie” for me, but sometimes we can be turned off by an entrée just because of the name. The 112 menu doesn’t give much for descriptions, but I will tell you that our server did an excellent job once I asked! It helped me make my decision.

I decided to start with and share this:

(partly eaten) fresh ricotta w/ white truffle honey – $8

Oh dear, was this sinfully delicious. The bread was toasted. The ricotta was whipped and creamy and the sweetness of the honey with the hint of earthiness of the truffle flavor balanced beautifully.

I chose another appetizer as my entrée:

sea scallops w/ oyster mushrooms – $16

I probably would not have ordered these with that description alone. However, the way our server described them sold me. And by now, you know how much I love scallops. These were decadent, perfectly seared, and if you like mushrooms, these will make you swoon. There’s a lot of umami going on here! However, as I kept eating, it eventually became too much, almost too salty. Maybe just one scallop would have been perfect. Now I know why it’s an appetizer, perhaps meant to share.

For the table, we ordered some sides:

(half eaten) pan-fried gnocchi w/ parmesan reggiano – $10

The sides here are meant to be shared and while we did order two sides, we couldn’t finish either of them among the three of us! This gnocchi was just the way I like it. I think gnocchi is always the best the next day, when you sear it so that it has a nice crust. These had just that along with those yummy shavings of parmesan reggiano. Perfect.

Of course, to go with the burger, we had to get a side of fries:

french fries – $7

Again, a huge portion! Luckily, the fries were the kind Rob likes – the perfect ratio of potato to fried surface {read: skinny fries}. And while they were no Pops fries, they did the trick. However, the ketchup and almost-too-tangy mayo-like dipping sauces didn’t thrill us.

Both Rob and Jen ordered burgers:

112 cheese burger – $10

So there is no real description on the menu about this burger, but Rob has been hearing about it for years! The meat sits on an English muffin and is topped with brie cheese. Rob said that the brie overpowered the entire burger. He was a little thrown off, too, because he looked at the menu online prior to dining out and there was a picture of the 112 burger. By the looks of it, the 112 burger had cheddar, or at least some sort of orange cheese!

It’s not that he doesn’t like brie cheese. In fact, one of his top 10 burgers in the Twin Cities is a truffle burger with brie that also sits on an English Muffin. But he didn’t come for that burger. And this one didn’t compare. The meat was high quality though, and he ate most of it. But I was sad that his birthday dinner choice was a bit of a let down.

But something made up for everything:

izzy’s ice cream, salted caramel flavor – $4

We first discovered Izzy’s Ice Cream at Scusi in St. Paul. We fell in love. So much that, one of the items I put in Rob’s birthday box was a “coupon” for a trip to Izzy’s.  I had no idea that we’d be having some of Izzy’s ice cream the night before he opened his gifts!

Both Jen and Rob ordered the salted caramel ice cream, so I elected to get something different:

caramel cake w/ dulce de leche whipped cream

This cake was quite yummy and caramel-y, but when I had a bite of the oh-so-decadent salted caramel ice cream, I was entirely jealous. Both Rob and Jen tasted my cake and were happy with their choice. Jen said that if we had just ordered the caramel cake to split, we would have enjoyed it just fine. However, after trying the salted caramel ice cream, it just didn’t compare! And there was so much going on with caramel-y sweetness in the cake and on the side, that I couldn’t tell if the whipped cream was of a dulce de leche flavor or not.

With our tummies full, we asked for the check and were also brought this:

spicy caramel corn

We were too full to take more than a taste. For flavors, I got cayenne and cardamom. Jen said she didn’t understand who would like a combination like this! While I didn’t mind it, I just couldn’t eat anymore at this point. But I love the thought of a complimentary post-dinner treat!

What’s a flavor combination that you’ve been surprised by?

Cheers~
Carrie

Naha – Chicago, IL

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After a wonderful experience at Pops for Champagne, we walked over to Naha, just four blocks away for my birthday dinner. We were happy knowing that we wouldn’t have to worry about not having reservations thanks to the staff at Pops!

When we arrived, we headed straight to the bar, our favorite place to dine. There was no one seated there at the time, but the dining room was hopping!

We ordered some drinks to start, me keeping with the bubbly theme:

Sparkling Valipolicella – a bubbly I haven’t knowingly had before

Our bartender was busy, busy creating a number of different cocktails from scratch. Boy could he move! He just didn’t have much time to chat. So after placing our orders we noshed on some excellent bread:

bread with what I think was a fennel butter

I decided that I really did want to try an order of those oysters the manager at Pops kept raving about. Of course he loved them because they were topped with a Champagne sorbet. So why wouldn’t I? He also mentioned some special type of baby tomatoes. I was in! I assured Rob that I’d get just one order, not dozens and dozens, even if they were good. There were just too many menu items to try and just one night.

This picture doesn’t do these beauties justice!

Naha is one of those places that changes its menu based on what is available and in season. You know I love that! Looking back at the their menu now, the oysters are described this way:

French Kiss Oysters from New Brunswick with a Sorbet of Champagne Vinegar and Celery Marmalade

I can’t be sure that those ingredients are exactly what I had, but I can tell you that they were the best oysters I’ve ever had. They had such a complex range of flavors that didn’t mask the flavor of the oysters, but rather, heightened them. Exquisite. I can see how a bottle of Champagne and dozens of these later, one could be quite happy.

After we ordered, Rob asked another guy who started helping behind the bar:

“Are you Michael?”

Instead, another guy around the corner answered:

“No. I am. I was wondering when you guys were going to show up!”

He chatted briefly, but he had a few group dinners to tend to and oversee. He said he’d come and have a drink with us later.

While we were waiting for our main dishes, the bartender brought each of us one of these:

Corn Soup

“Compliments of Michael,” he said.

Wait a minute… What? We weren’t expecting this! What a special surprise. I took the first spoonful. Mmm… The fresh corn flavors really shined through in this velvety-textured soup. And the portion size in these little cups was just right. It was the perfect amuse-bouche before our entrées.

I ordered another “Starter” menu item as my entrée. You know how I have a weakness for scallops:

Perfectly seared…

These may have been some of the best scallops I’ve ever had, too. Although, when anyone serves me a scallop that is fresh, perfectly seared, and having more creativity than being wrapped in bacon, I’m happy. Furthermore, while I’ve experienced flavor complexities in wine, I didn’t realize there could be so many flavor complexities in one dish! Each bite made my palate sing a new tune. And again, I can’t be sure if this was the exact combination of ingredients I had in my scallops, but the current Naha menu describes their scallops as such:

Hand-Harvested Scallops from Barnegat Light roasted with Vanilla Bean, Citrus and Spices, Caramelized Belgian Endive, Ruby Red Grapefruit, Candied Lemon and Mint

I definitely tasted that candied lemon!

Of course, Rob had to try Naha’s Burger, which was listed as one of Serious Eats’ Top 15 Burgers in Chicago. There is no reason a burger guy wouldn’t!

Naha Burger & Fries

I believe you have to be at the bar to order this burger. It’s only on the bar menu and is described as such:

Our Famous Half Pound and Wood-Grilled Angus Beef Burger on a Housemade Sea Salt Crusted Ciabatta Bun with Stone Ground Mustard, Glazed Onions and Hand-Cut Idaho Potato Fries

choice of Artisan Cheese, Kurobuta Pork Belly, Mushrooms and/or Slab Bacon for an additional charge

Rob added a smoked cheddar of some sort that was highly recommended by the bartender. I thought he added bacon, but today he tells me that he got the pork belly. I was surprised! Rob is not usually a fan.

And he loved this burger. He said it was exceptional and that it’s probably a Top 10 Burger for him. I took a bite and could immediately tell that the meat was high quality. I love how Naha lists where they get all of their meats on their website. In fact, if you go to their menus, each dish will link you to the source!

Sure it may have been a bit expensive as far as burgers go, but it was much more worth it than the $20 burger we shared at Forepaugh’s in St. Paul a few months ago.

And it’s not even fair for us to talk about the fries. They were very good. But Rob just had his best fries ever over at Pops. How could anything compare? If he hadn’t, he could have made a much fairer assessment.

The Dessert:

Since oysters and scallops are a rather a light dinner, I decided that there was no way that I was passing up dessert at this place. As I took a look at the menu again, I knew it was going to be difficult for me to choose. I seriously wanted one of everything. And I really mean that. I would not have hesitated if someone told me to get anyparticular dessert on that menu. That’s why I asked the bartender what is favorite was and when he replied, “The Custard Cake,” I spouted, “Done.” It was the only way I could make up my mind.

While we were waiting for the preparation of our desserts, our bartender came over with two glasses of wine and said:

“Compliments of Michael: A dessert wine to go with your dessert.”

Sweet! Literally. As I may or may not have mentioned in a Wine Wednesday post, your dessert wine should always be sweeter than the dessert itself. Otherwise, the wine will taste bitter after you bite into your sweet treat. So the Moscato d’Asti that was sent over, paired nicely. Thanks, Michael!

Custard Cake

Oh Dear Lord, this is what dreams are made of. Could any dessert be so delectable? Every single one of my courses had such complex flavors! And when I say complex, I mean that a new flavor hits your palate at every single bite. Here is the site’s current description:

Gateau Basque Custard Cake, Olive Oil Ice Cream, Red Velvet Apricots, Soft Polenta, Sherry Vinegar

This time, I know that my version was a bit different. As you can see, there is a beautiful fig {no apricots} on my plate above. Oh how I love figs! And that custard cake is really something made from heaven.

I.must.find.a.recipe.to.replicate.

Oh who am I kidding. I could never do this thing justice. I should just “Basque” in the memory… And that olive oil ice cream? Luscious. I drug my fork into different pieces of the dessert with each bite to get a wide variety of combinations and flavors. The portion size was perfect. I walked away from this dinner feeling content, not full or stuffed. This was one of the most enjoyable dinners I’ve ever had and it was all about quality, not quantity.

I actually think Rob had a hard time choosing a dessert, too, but in the end opted for a Blueberry Tart:

More than just a Blueberry Tart

This was every bit as good as it looks. And yes, that is popcorn on the plate. This was like three or four desserts in one. There we go with the complex flavors again! It’s no longer on the menu, so I don’t have a description of the {possible} ingredients. But I can tell you that Rob finished his plate.

As we finished our dessert wine, Michael, who is a young, very laid-back kinda guy, sat and chatted with us about restaurants, Chicago and the world in general. Who takes the time to do that?! Michael did.

When we woke at the hotel the next morning, Rob turned over to spoon me and said:

“I had the best dream last night. I dreamt that we went to this Champagne place that had the best fries I’ve ever had in my life. Then the manager called over to an awesome restaurant and told the owner to take care of us. We enjoyed dinner at that restaurant where we finished with a dessert so good it was silly.”

I went along with it and responded:

“Baby, that really did happen.”

I could hear the smile in his voice as he snuggled a little closer:

“I know.”

That magical birthday evening is what dreams are made of…

Cheers~

Carrie

Solera – Minneapolis {Closed}

Standard

Sometimes, the only way to get my husband to try a restaurant is to buy a Groupon. We have to use it, right? There truly is Power in the Groupon!

Solera is a Spanish tapas bar in the Theater District of Minneapolis. I’d been there a few times with girlfriends. I love the concept of small plates and getting to try a bunch of different flavors. It was something my friend Jen and I loved when we were in Barcelona back in 2000.

I just feared that Rob would hate it. I feared that there would be little for him to eat {a lot of seafood on the menu} and that the plates would be too small. I feared he would go away hungry. I had even considered using the Groupon with a friend instead of Rob.

Then I thought, “No! I want him to try it!” And I knew that having the Groupon was the only way to get him there.

As a backup plan to quell both of our fears, I told him that if he was still hungry, we’d stop at the Scottish Pub next door afterward.

I’m so glad we went.

Because he loved it!

Rob hates downtown Minneapolis. I can’t stress this enough. While he loves dining there and going to concerts and sporting events, he detests navigating the city. He hates parking, construction, traffic and when there are so many people that you just can’t get a seat where you want to or arrive on time if reservations are made.

So I made sure to go at an off-time – on a Sunday afternoon, right when Solera opened. It was a beautiful day and we sat at the bar.

We started off by ordering a Spanish specialty and one that you know I like:

Sangria Menu!

Our choice:

Sidra
St.Germaine, sugar • 7

I’d never had a sangria made with hard cider before! It was actually made with Crispin, which is probably the only good thing that particular cider is good for. I just may be actioning my own Cider Sangria next summer!

Pre-meal crusty bread with oil for dunking

When you order tapas, the plates come out as they are ready. You are not served in courses or all at once. I like this concept because whatever you get will be hot and freshly prepared. In addition, if you are still hungry, you can order more. The bartender recommended 3 to 5 tapas for two people, because the size of them really depends on each dish.

First to come out:

Patatas Bravas
spicy harissa, aioli • 8

These potatoes were more than delightful. The spice of the harissa gave them a nice kick. Talk about flavor! As you will come to see, this is certainly not a place where we will be screaming Season It Already!

And why was I worried about these plates being too “small” for dear hubby? With the four plates of tapas we ordered, we couldn’t even finish these, despite how good they were!

You may not know this yet from my blog, but I have a not-so-secret love affair with scallops. I was introduced to them later in life {read: after college} and I almost always order them anytime they are offered {read: when not served with bacon}.

Despite the fact that tapas are plates meant to share, Rob knew that I would need to order the scallops. {He approves of the love affair.} But he also knew we’d be ordering other meat items for his culinary pleasure.

The Scallops

These scallops are different from those on the current menu. I imagine that the flavors change with the season. And while the flavors of these scallops are indescribable {the bartender and server went into intricate detail on how they were prepared!}, let’s just say that I was fully satisfied and smiling ear-to-ear. My plate was cleaned.

Next up:

Bistec al Guacho
seared sirloin, smoked paprika, chimichurri • 9

While Rob said that the meat was just a bit chewy, it didn’t stop him from eating it! And flavor? How could there not be with a fresh chimichurri sauce covering it?

And finally:

Pork Ribs
brandy glaze, pimenton rub • 14

For being an American girl constantly in search of flavor, you may be surprised to learn that I don’t particularly like ribs nor barbecue sauces. {Gasp!} There is something about the smoky and sweet flavors that everyone loves that I’m just not into so much. That being said, I gave these pork ribs a try and was pleasantly surprised. Rob licked his fingers clean.

And you can’t stop in Spain without having a little Sherry, right?

Solera Sherry Menu

Being the girl that cannot make a decision, knows nothing about sherry, and is still in search of her inner Frasier Crane, I finally just had the bartender choose one for us:

Our after-dinner sherry

The perfect end to a meal! I sometimes taste Bit-O-Honey when I drink Sherry or other sweet Spanish wines. Is this just  me?

What are your favorite small plates to eat, make or order?

Cheers~

Carrie