Friday, March 09, 2007

Be still my Heart

Mwa ha! Since last time I went I could barely recollect what I had eaten, this time I stole the menu from Heartland's wine bar! And I took notes, but I needn't have because this time I drank a wee bit less and was really paying attention. Oh, my God, do I love this restaurant. It's wonderful! It's like what Barbette always wanted to be, but with actually really good food to back up the attitude. (Don't get me wrong, I love Barbette, but it's a complicated affair.)
I met my darling Matt there after promising him that I would finally let him in on one of these fancy dinners with friends that I always seem to go to without him. He's still mad about a visit to Corner table that was years ago.
When I arrived he was already seated at the full to capacity bar. I had an amuse of trumpet mushroom mousse with a little cherry, walnut chutney, teeny green petals of something lovely and a crostini. It was heaven. The mousse was silky and earthy sweet with the chuntey on the salty garlicky crostini. I ate it in three small bites, trying to perserve the experience all the while defending my dish with a jutted out elbow to keep Matt's greasy mitts off my my food when he'd already wolfed his down.
Next arrived the Widmer 6-year aged Wisconsin cheddar. Divine. It was served in a little blissful pool of clover honey. It came with some baked crackers that I didn't care for, but the house made bread we got was wonderful. Heathens that we are, we ignored the silverware and pinched bits off with our fingers. I was, of course, sipping my wine of choice, not quite ready to try anything different. I loved it so much that I'm already afraid to try anything else, which is silly because the only two wines that I've had so far have been amazing.
The poor bartender was so busy. She was the only one working and, as I said, the tiny room was packed. She stayed pretty cool and collected and the rest of the guests seemed relaxed and unhurried. Matt ordered a stout of some sort (didn't steal the beer list, but it was as interesting as the wine list... Which I also don't have. Hey, listen, you wanna hear the rest of the story or what? Okay then. Fine.) So, he orders this beer and starts pouring it into his glass and suddenly the head on built up quickly until there was an unintended Mt.Vesuvius like eruption causing beer to flood all over the bar. Without missing a beat, she was there with a towel, "Look at all that beer. Why, sir, are you from Wisconsin?" My flustered bartender husband tried to explain, but that only made it more comical and probably embarassing on his part. As soon as things settled, she returned with a new beer to replace the half spilled one, free of charge. I was so impressed. He would have been fine with his half a beer and left to suck the rest out of the bar rag.
We ordered the Wisconsin brat, because I really had to have it again. It's deliciously spiced and cured buffalo meat, so I didn't even need to feel any guilt while I was chewing on the tasty lardons that came with the braised cabbage. This time it was just a teeny weeny bit overcooked, which is the problem with bison meat because it's so lean. But a quick dip in the house made grainy mustard and a topped with a little cabbage and it was fine.
We also had the smoked catfish croquettes with turnip-watermelon radish slaw and sour cream aioli. Wow, that was a mouthfull. But I guess people would be disinclined to brag if the title of the food item was too short. Oh, swoon! Oh, love! Gorgeous wonderful food!!! I've never had such a strong taste, sense memory from something that was so unrelated to the actual memory before. One bite and I was standing on the beach at our cabin in the evening, toasting marshmallows in the campfire, my bare feet buried in the sand, still warm from the summer sun. That's what these tasted like. Weird right? But what a welcome vacation in the middle of March! The crispy shells were dusted with just the tiniest bit of fluer de sel. The crunchy exterior gives way to a puffy soft cloud or smokey, mild fish. The sensation was that of biting in to a perfectly toasted marshmellow, all mellow and golden brown. The tangy aioli perfectly complimented the silky, crispy flavors. Whoever would have thought that smoked catfish would be any good, much less divine?
After we were finished eating we lingered, wishing out stomachs were empty so we could do it all over again. So, we will. This is, without question, the absolute best restaurant that St. Paul has to offer. We ambled home cozy, full and satisfied.


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