Monday, February 28, 2011

Minneapolis - Six New Restaurants In One Snowy Weekend

I just put Minneapolis on my map of great food cities. I grew up here and always knew it was a good food town but a recent trip to Heidi’s and several other new restaurants took Minneapolis to a whole new level for me. Isn’t it funny when you are surprised by your own hometown? Tells me I’ve probably been gone too long.

My family loves to eat. Blame it on my mother who was always planning her next meal even before she had finished the one she was eating.

Minneapolis is home to the some of the country’s most renowned chefs who make locally raised, free-pastured, grass-fed meat and dairy highlights on many restaurants' menus. Ask anyone who has come to this town to eat (like I did this past week) and they will tell you that you can’t keep up with the non-stop openings of new and remarkable restaurants.

Urban EateryCalhoun Beach Club - 2730 West Lake Street, Minneapolis

Urban Eatery is run by the same people as Crave, so my expectations were high-minded before I even walked in the door. We were there for happy hour and the $5 signature cocktails did not disappoint. I loved their take on the Margarita. We all agreed that the Avocado Pizza was the best of our appetizer selection.

Outside of the fact that the place was full of twenty and thirty somethings, it was a great place to hang out and people watch.

You could not hear the person next to you as the noise level was off the charts but who needs conversation when the happy hour drinks are this good? My advice: Go early.

I suspect that this place will be wonderful when the patio opens for the season and you’ll want to stay all night long.

Heidi’s - 2903 Lyndale Ave S. Minneapolis

We called late and lucked out by getting the last table in this tiny restaurant. The staff was so accommodating and the food was unquestionably the highlight of my trip to Minneapolis.

The glassed in kitchen was a great observation while we waited for our table and I counted at least 8 people inside when I snapped this photo. The staff was definitely having fun which is always a great sign of what is to come.

A staff of 3 waited on us and I have to tell you it was the best service that I have had in a very long time. In my book, service is almost as important as the food.

I loved everything we ate – from the Bennie – an Eggless Benedict with huitlacoche and truffle, to the Grilled shrimp spring roll served on ice with cilantro “pesto”, key lime and tomato…and that was just the appetizers.

We had an exceptional beet salad - Beets and feta, with carrot buttons and a pickled shallot sauce.

We split two main dishes ( I love to split – get to taste more of what is on the menu) - the Sautéed Barramundi and Maine lobster sauce over pickled eggplant and Moroccan black olives and the highlight: Anise scented lamb shank with cardamom scented jasmine rice and arugula sauce.

And this was a first: I didn’t have a single thing left over for dessert, normally my favorite course.

I loved the Lamb Shank so much I decided to make it at home and this recipe, adapted from Bon Appetit October 2010, recipe by Restaurant Saveur, Baileys Harbor, Wisconsin was really good. I know, it looks labor intensive but it is absolutely worth it.

I have to admit that my first time out of the gate with this recipe was a winner. There is very little I would do to change it up it was that good… and perfectly cooked in a 325 degree oven for 2 ½ hours.

I didn’t even miss that Anise which I noticed after I had decided to try this recipe.

Honey and Cinnamon Braised Lamb Shanks

6 lamb shanks (6 to 7 pounds)
2 T olive oil
2/3 c chopped peeled carrots
2/3 c chopped onion
2/3 c chopped celery
4 c chicken broth
4 c beef broth
3 c dry white wine
1 1/2 c chopped fresh tomatoes
1/4 c honey
5 garlic cloves, peeled & smashed
4 whole cloves
3 bay leaves
1 t ground cinnamon
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 T butter, room temperature
2 T flour
Chopped fresh italian parsley (for garnish)

Preheat oven to 325°F

Sprinkle lamb with salt and pepper; coat with flour. heat oil in large ovenproof pot over medium heat. working in batches, brown lamb on all sides, about 12 minutes. Transfer to large bowl.

Add carrots, onion, and celery to pot; sauté until light brown, about 12 minutes. add both broths and wine; stir, scraping up browned bits. Add tomatoes, honey, smashed garlic, cloves, bay leaves, cinnamon, thyme & parsley . Bring to simmer, cover tightly, and transfer to oven.

Braise lamb until very tender, about 2 1/2 hours.

Strain vegetables from sauce and discard. Pour sauce into a large measuring cup or bowl, cover and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. When sauce is chilled thoroughly, remove layer of solidified fat that has accumulated at the top of the sauce.

Boil juices until reduced to 2 1/2 cups, about 45 minutes.

In a bowl mix softened butter and flour together until well combined. Add flour and butter mixture to sauce in small bits, whisking well after each addition until sauce is slightly thickened. Adjust sauce for seasoning.

Return lamb to pot to rewarm.

Spoon some of sauce from pot over lamb and serve.

HubertsTarget Center/Metrodome, Minneapolis

We hit this place because it was cold and we didn’t have to go outside in the freezing cold weather. Besides that, everyone goes here so I for one was curious what the hype was all about.

I was expecting bar food – wings and things – and got instead a great plate of Tuna Sashimi over Asian Slaw.

This dish was not only well executed but was delicious and healthy. And who knew the super friendly bartender was another one of the reasons that this place is such a big hit.

Here are two recipes I tried this weekend and have to admit that they are pretty close to the dish we loved at Huberts.

Asian Slaw

4 cups shredded cabbage – half red and green
1 cup shredded Carrots
1 small onion, finelt chopped
Pinch of salt and pepper
1 ½ Tbsp. seasoned rice wine vinegar
½ cup fat free mayo
1 ½ tsp. Sesame Oil
½ tsp. Sriracha
¼ tsp. sugar
1 TBSP sesame seeds

Toss cabbage, carrots, onion, and salt in bowl. Season with pepper.

Whisk together vinegar, mayo, sesame oil, sriracha and sugar until smooth. Taste; add a pinch of salt if needed.

Pour dressing over shredded vegetables and toss to combine. Finish with sesame seeds.

Tuna Sashimi

I love this version of Japanese sashimi, or raw fish. Only use the highest-grade tuna for this recipe and remember, the key to a great result is the sauce and the garnishes.

You can put this seared tune over the Asian slaw above, or eat with a little pickled ginger and Wasabi.

I think that this recipe is almost as good as the Tuna Sashimi that is served at Shaw’s.

Serves 4-6 as an appetizer

1 lb sushi-grade tuna
2-inch piece of fresh peeled ginger
3 t. sake wine
1 1/2 T. mirin (sweet cooking sake)
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 1/2 T. tamari soy sauce
1/2 t. dashi granules (skip if you can’t find)


Add the mirin and the sake to a small pot and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and add the soy sauce, the tamari sauce and the dashi granules (these are dried bonito flakes). Mix well and let this come to room temperature.

Grate the ginger. Use the finest grater you have -- a microplane if you have one -- and grate the ginger, then mound it into little cone on your plate.

With your sharpest knife, slice the thin strips off the tuna with a very sharp knife.

Sear the tuna (my indoor grill was PERFECT for this) and serve.

BLVD Kitchen and Bar -  11544 Wayzata Blvd Hopkins

This was my second trip to the BLVD and I have to tell you that it is already one of my favorite spots in Minneapolis. It is cozy with great food and good service.

My brother and I had soup and ½ a club sandwich. What made the club sandwich so special besides the fried egg? My brother, of course!

Here is what was in the sandwich:

The BLVD Club Sandwich

Get the freshest and best quality ingredients:

Bread – toasted
Tomato – thinly sliced
Bacon – fried crisp and drained
Grilled Chicken Breast – flatten the breast and grill
Fried egg
Homemade Aioli


2 cloves of garlic (preferably fresh)
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 cup (250ml) extra-virgin olive oil

Crush the garlic cloves with the salt in a mortar or deep bowl until you have a smooth paste.
Add the egg yolk.
Using a fork or whisk, add the oil to the egg and garlic mixture starting very slowly, drop by drop. As the mayonnaise thickens continue to add the oil in a very thin stream until all the oil has been incorporated.
Taste, and add more of the garlic, if desired.

Spread Aioli on the toasted bread. Pile all ingredients on bread and dive in!

Q Fanatic - 180 Miller Road, Champlin

Only my family would drive 25 miles out of their way in a raging blizzard to eat where

Chef Charlie Johnson cooks high quality pork and begins the smoking process at somewhere around 2 AM. Got to love your job to keep those hours!

Their specialty – BBQ with an Italian twist - to die for Parmesan Potatoes Gratinee.

I had the luncheon special for $5.95 – a platter full of rib tips which I did not finish. Try the Pepper Vodka BBQ Sauce. I also loved the Chef’s take on cole slaw and baked beans.

No surprise that this place was recently featured on Diner’s, Drive Ins and Dives.

Surdyk’s Flights  - Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport

When I discovered this tiny gem in the Minneapolis airport it was shortly after my flight had been delayed for 2 hours. I had a plate of the best crostini and a glass of chardonnay to write home about.

Surdyk’s Liquor Store and Gourmet Cheese Shop, which has a retail store in Northeast Minneapolis, opened this restaurant about a year ago.

I loved the food and wine so much that I almost missed my flight.


For the roasted garlic:

4 heads garlic
1/4 cup olive oil

For the crostini:

12 slices of baguette or country-style Italian bread, sliced at a 45-degree angle about 1/2 inch thick
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Pureed garlic from 4 whole roasted heads of garlic (see above)

Assorted topping options:
Shaved Parmesan, dry jack or Gruyère cheese
Fresh, creamy goat cheese, at room temperature
Roasted red bell peppers, home-roasted or bottled, cut into thin strips
Prepared tapenade (black olive and anchovy paste)
Oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, cut into thin strips
Capers, drained
Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced, or halved, seeded, and diced
Fresh basil leaves, cut into fine julienne strips or left whole
Crushed red pepper flakes
Balsamic vinegar
Thinly sliced prosciutto
Anchovy fillets packed in olive oil, drained
Fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Put the garlic in a roasting pan and drizzle on the olive oil. Toss to coat thoroughly. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the garlic bulbs are very tender but not overly brown. Test by carefully giving a bulb a gentle squeeze while protecting your hand with a folded kitchen towel or an oven glove. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Using a sharp serrated knife, cut each head of garlic crosswise in half, midway between its leaf and root ends, to expose all the cloves inside. Their pulp will be golden brown and as soft as butter. You can squeeze it out of each half by hand or scoop it out with a small spoon or knife. Transfer the roasted garlic to a small bowl, pour in any olive oil from the baking dish, and stir and mash with a fork to form a smooth purée. You'll have 1/3 to 1/2 cup of purée, depending on the size of the garlic heads.

To make the Roasted Garlic Crostini, preheat the oven to 375° F. Brush the bread slices with the olive oil and arrange them on a baking sheet. Bake them until golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove them from the oven and let them cool to room temperature. Spread the puréed roasted garlic evenly on the tops of the crostini.

Top the crostini with any of the options listed above, or make an assortment.

Note: The possibilities for this dish are endless and I actually make it different every time. Tonight I used a really good homemade Fromage Blanc and did not want to take away from it so I topped with a few capers and olive oil.