Monday, July 23, 2007

Celebrating Eric & Pierre

I'm back! I'm here! I live! Really! I'm just exceedingly broke and uninspired by my restaurant options. I'm in a Muddy Pig/Skinner's kind of a rut. I've just been going with the usual. (Although the usual now includes Ma Po Tofu from Little Szechwan about once a week. It's like crack, but with tofu!!)
So, I'd been saving my pennies for the opportunity to go out with my fantastic newlywed friends Eric and Pierre. Long time readers will know that Eric is my foodie soul mate and we've been cooking and learning about food together for years. He's also one of my biggest food fans and often plies me with lovely bottles of wine. Earlier this month - the 3rd to be exact, they exchanged vows in what looks like a gorgeous ceremony in Quebec (Pierre's home.) Where it's legal and everything! (Stupid government.) I could not be there because I am lame, poor and kind of unenviable. The best I could do was to organize a dinner of a few close friends.
So, where did I take my wonderful friends for this once in a lifetime toast? Craftsman. I know, I know! I just went there! We sat at the bar and had potato pizza and a fantastic martini. Couldn't I come up with something a little more original for such an important occasion? Apparently not. I couldn't! It was in a good location and I knew we'd get to sit and enjoy the gorgeous patio.
I made the reservation like a month ago, knowing that some of us would be stuck here and not celebrating in Canada (ey.) But, when I called the day of to secure the patio, I was informed that there was no reservation in my name! Ack. I panicked a little.
"It's not Jensen?"
"Kara Jensen for six?"
"No! That's not us! Is there any way that you can fit us in?"
"For 8?"
"No, 6."
"Well, we don't usually do two big parties in one night.... What time?"
"Well, we could fit you... but the service might be a little slower than usual."
"That's fine."
"But you can't sit outside."
"I was really hoping we could. It's so nice today and it's kind of an important dinner for us."
"Well, I guess.... We can put you outside?"
"Okay, for 6 people at 7:30 for Jess."
YES! Hey, who am I to correct at that point. Four gray hairs and a shot up in the blood pressure later and we were set. Andy was cabbing me over to the restaurant (did I mention the martinis?) She arrived at my house with the cake that she'd special ordered from Buttercream. We'd gotten the strawberry Chantilly and she had a lovely script added - very personal to the grooms. She and I decorated the top of the cake with some hydrangeas and clover from my garden. Gorgeous. We headed down, 10 minutes early. Plenty of time! We're ridiculously punctual and everyone else in the crew is perpetually tardy.
We arrived and were seated at the large table under the big canopy. Gorgeous! Martini? Why not! Andy had the Minnesota Martini, one of my personal favorites, while I ordered the raspberry martini. YUM. They do everything seasonally! This replaced the rhubarb martini that I'd had back in May when I was last there. I'd sucked it down and was plucking out the little berries at the bottom of my glass when everyone else finally arrived.
It did take us forever to order because there were lots of pictures to look at and stories to tell. I'm tell you, I have got to get my ass to Canadia. Seriously, if nothing else for the poutine. Oh! Canada! My home and native laaaaaand! And that's all I know. Somehow from there the song fades into From glen to glen and.... Yeah. Wrong song.
So, anyway, the night was dimming and Scottie was about to eat the arm off the waitress. She still hadn't even brought us the bread yet! Yeah, I was pretty hungry, too. But, she was bringing us out drinks at a healthy interval so you know, in my book it was love. We all decided to go with the burgers because I've had such poor experiences with the entrees. The burgers are always outstanding and the turkey burger is my favorite thing on the menu. I can't remember what Eric and Pierre ordered, but I do know that Pierre's had bacon because he gave me a piece. (Oh, my God was that some good, porky bacon. I'm drooling on the keyboard right now. LOVE Pierre.) Andy had the potato and chevre pizza and Scottie had the venison burger. As usual, the burgers were outstanding. The turkey burger has the tender consistency as if it's made with breadcrumbs and maybe some shredded onion. The little micro greens on top were crisp, sweet and flavorful. The aioli was outstanding. I want to lick this stuff off the bacon while swimming in a vat of butter cream.
Scottie's venison burger was out of this world, too! It had such an amazing flavor and depth. Venison can be a little gamey and growing up in Northern MN where deer hunting is required by law I have eaten some nasty road kill tastin' bucks. But, this! This was luxurious and tasted as though they'd ground the bacon with the meat and rolled it all together with garlicky, oniony heaven bits. It was perfectly executed.
Unfortunately, Andy's pizza was super salty and under cooked. The potatoes were really crunchy in a not very good way. (This is where Aisha shared the mildly disturbing tidbit that she has been known on occasion to eat a raw potato. Aish, please feel free to explain in the comments section below.) Unfortunately, the advice I'd given earlier is still true - the best food to get at Craftsman is the burgers.
After dinner the server brought out the cake. It was pretty late at this point, but they could still read the script (awwww!) Andy whips out a knife and shows us all that she has an extraordinary flare for cutting a cake. The slices were perfect! This was after red wine an martini's! There's a talent to have.
Where do I begin with this cake? How about the butter cream? Light, fluffy, creamy, thick and lightly sweet. If you could pluck a cloud out of the sky and swirl it warm summer night on the beach and sprinkle with a touch of a child's dream - that's what this would taste like. The cake was light and spongy with a comforting vanilla hint, whispering giggly secrets. The butter cream in the layers was mixed with fresh sweet strawberries as perfectly ripe as the setting sun. I think I was actually floating up out of my seat. This is what a wedding cake should be! Take note - if ever I do something really, really great like save a litter of kittens from rising flood waters or turn 40 - I.want.this.cake. Oh! Bright light summery touches of lemon zest hovering over the thick, weighty butter making a direct line for my hips. I don't care! Take me! Do what you will with me! I deserve that cellulite, because this cake LOVES me!
I can't believe I didn't take more home with me. Idiot! Idiot! Idiot!!
From there, our night went on as we headed out for cocktails and a better lit patio area. It's so funny to look at what these last few years have brought me and my friends. I'm coming up on two years of being married! TWO YEARS! When did that happen? Aisha and Scottie are getting married next summer and Eric and Pierre had this year. And it's not that I'm really as skeptical or crabby as my sense of humor might let on. I'm just so happy and thankful for the new group of friends we've formed. Aren't the best changes brought about by love? Aisha and Scottie, their passion for music... and just general passion, these aren't people that enter into something half-assed or without huge appetites for life and adventure. There's Eric and gorgeous talented Pierre who makes Eric's eyes shine in a way that I've never seen. Even Andy's got Grendel (dog) crazy, wild eyed, lovable little imp. I hope we all grow old together. Old and really fat.


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