Archive for July, 2008

American Fine Dining

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

What is the American fine dining experience all about and what it does it mean to me?I attempt to define this for myself and by no means is it meant to be the definitive treatise on the subject.
I welcome comments wholeheartedly, as usual. Don’t be afraid! Just say it!

Fine dining means salads that have a little bit of crispiness, but not so much that you can’t hear anything else while you are eating your lettuce. Salads that are cool, but not cold, and warm salads that are warm and not room temperature. Fresh, and I do mean fresh ingredients, the fresher the better, and this goes for all food served in a fine dining restaurant.

Much about fine dining has to do with the temperature at which the food is served. Most cooked food and raw food has a peak temperature where the flavor is as good as it gets. If a chef can get those plates out to the customer at peak temperatures and keep it that way over the course of the meal on dishes that have been heated or cooled accordingly, then we have a wonderful meal, and very satisfied customers.

We also want to taste a lot of flavor in some cases, and very subtle flavors in other cases. For instance, onions are a major seasoning in American cuisine, but it’s a flavor that one normally wants to remain in the background, underneath the flavor of the meat or other food it is seasoning. Chefs will almost always opt for green onions, or scallions, or leeks, over yellow or white or red onions. Sometimes they will use three or more types of onion, ginger, cinnamon, etc to get depths of flavor that one won’t find at Mickey Dee’s.

We also like to see the flavor linger nicely for awhile in our mouths as another sign of fine dining. A good flavor, well spiced or seasoned will last and fill the mouth with flavor, and that will stay until we eat something or drink something, or for up to an hour or so. (I asked myself when I get home, shall I brush now or wait? hahaha) This is true of savory dishes, spicy dishes, or sour dishes, but not so much sweet dishes, as sugar easily blends into other liquids.

Texture is another thing to consider. Steaks should melt like butter on your tongue. Fish should be tender, and flaky, not rubbery or swimming in oily fats.  Natural aged cheese should be smooth and hold together when melted…only processed cheese is going to split and separate into a sea of oily goo.

Pasta should have the slightest tooth or crunch to it, very slight. Mushy pasta is not acceptable as it is really just very weak, tasteless glue at that point. Breads should have characteristics based on the kind of bread they are, such as a chewy toothy bread is for dipping into sauces and juices, like tomato sauce,
Italian beef drippings. Most fine dining restaurants serve a warm sliced, freshly baked bread or buns with a nice even texture, smooth, and light, with a light crust…real butter on the side.

Vegetables should not be mushy and overly done either. They should have the slightest bite to them, and each bite should be as the previous one. This makes for easy chewing, and no surprises that might cause choking hazards to the table. Raw vegetables and fruit should be ripe and the color should be rich and deep. I don’t accept green red tomatoes or whitish strawberries or dark avocado.

Seeds are not usually desirable in or on any tomato, bread or sauce. Eating seeds creates a medical problem for some people as they irritate the digestive system. Most restaurants clearly state when seeds
are present on bread or in a recipe, but don’t really mention fruit or vegetable seeds, as that is considered a given (generally known).

Americans are used to ice in their cold drinks, but other countries use little if any ice. Cold is hard on the body ,and to me, a cool drink with just a modicum of ice is good. Every time my drink gets to that point, someone comes and fills it…same for hot drinks, not that good for us…my coffee cools off, here comes some more. Stop filling! Ask me first! Too late,oh, well, can’t have everything. :( I should ask for less ice right away.

The little lemon slice you get with your iced tea, or with your fish, and should be firm and in no way slimy. This is very important. If you see a restaurant giving slimy lemons, it may be symptomatic of a restaurant with problems. Ask for a fresh lemon in any case.

Next is aroma. If you walk into a restaurant and all you smell is garlic…well that’s not fine dining in America. Maybe in Italy. You want to smell an appetizing aroma that makes you want to sit down and eat, but not one that is gonna go home with you in your hair and clothes. We leave that for White Castle. Most meals should not be so over whelming that you are smelling your partner’s food all the while you are eating your own meal.

Another thing, ingredients…how raised, where found…food should be fresh, organic, wild caught in the case of fish, free range, in the case of chicken and the four legged animals  No animal should be mistreated, shot up with hormones, stuffed or caged. No herbs should be sprayed or hot house grown when you are paying over $20 or more per plate. Hopefully, local restaurants all use locally grown eggs, lettuce, onions and other common foods when in season. One day we will be able to eliminate all harmful additives, but today, you pay a bit more for that.

Oh, and the final test for great American dining, or any dining, is how you feel an hour later, and into the next day. If you are burping, popping and otherwise making sounds you wouldn’t want the queen to hear, you probably had a chef that did his or her internship at the same high school you went to way back when. Fortunately that doesn’t happen too often.  After the meal you should feel good, satisfied, energized and ready to take on that project you are working on, or go for a nice stroll, or just be relaxed and content.

A good chef knows how to combine all the elements of the meal so that no discomfort is caused and there is no reason to complain.  This is the art of fine cuisine.  This is what makes it all come together and makes it all worth doing…the food, the service, the ambiance, the company you keep, and to heck with the costs, if just for one night a year.

That’s it for now. Remember, this is just my own take, what I have picked up over the years and what I have observed during our cross country eating trek of the last 12 years and beyond. Once again, comments are welcomed and wanted. What do you have to say? What was the best meal you ever had? And what made it so good? A loving touch, a beautiful view, or a flavor that reminds you of happy times?

Porterhouse Steak and Seafood

Saturday, July 26th, 2008

Porterhouse Steak and Seafood
11211 205th Street
Lakeville, MN
952-469-2995

Walked in at 6PM. Were greeted immediately.
We were shown our booth promptly, we had made a
reservation and hoped for a nice seating
for our party of four. We got it.

Our waitress came by right away, took our
drink orders, we had zinfindel, coffee,
lemonade and iced tea. All got thumbs up.

This is a steak house…aged steak, with pork chops,
and seafood, too. They have shrimp, salmon and
walleye, lobster and crab, and trout on
a special day.

There are no expensive chicken or turkey pasta dishes,
no hamburgers or French fries. No heavy reliance on
cheese based dishes either. If you want that, go to
Doolittle’s on Cliff Road in Eagan…which I will blog
sometime soon.

We were told about the specials of the day,
we ended up getting two of them, a crab filled
mushroom appetizer which we all split and
thought oh, boy, this is good, and I got the
walnut encrusted Canadian lake trout with pina
colada sauce, baked potato and Caesar salad…
all very, very, very good. My dh got the
fillet mignon, our friends both got the walleye
dinners. We we were all very happy with the
food, the service and the birthday cake that
came just because the waitress overheard me
saying happy birthday to the lady who was with
us. It was a lovely end to a delicious dinner.

The decor is what I am used to in Chicago,
They keep the lighting low and golden.
The booths were of rich wood and comfortable
leather, the ceiling dark grey and high…all in
all, not too much and not too little. The medium
sized room was full of people, yes, happy, contented people.

One of the chefs served our food, and
another man served us some part of it, otherwise
all the service was by one efficient and friendly
lady who turned out to be very knowledgeable about
the owners of this restaurant and the other Porterhouse
restaurant that they have owned for eight years in
Little Canada. She also said they were great people
to work for with a smile on her face,
which was nice to hear.

The prices can go up pretty fast if you order the
combination plates, but none of us are that big
of eaters, and I don’t particularly fancy fish
or steak leftovers the next day,even if I did eat steak,
so in this case, I’d rather have leftovers from George’s
for breakfast than those from Porterhouse…yeah, cold
pizza, you heard me right, and cold broasted chicken
for breakfast. Nice start to ‘nother lucky day.

They did have some nice looking sundaes, but we
didn’t get that far. We spent two solid hours
there, and it didn’t seem like any time at all.

They have a very busy bar room and nice facilities
all around. I definitely recommend this place
for all special occasions around your house,or
to really impress a first date, oh yeah, then
head over to the movie houses down the street if
you feel like doing a little smoochin’…over 25 only!

They open at five, so don’t go there for lunch.
Very casual dress was seen all around.

Food; Great tasting and good sized portions, Prices; High, but if you want to stay in
business and not go the way of Monte’s in Faribault and Copper Bleu in Apple Valley, you gotta charge.
Service: Excellent, Ambiance; Fine, though somewhat loud. Parking, It’s Right There, Handicap accessible, OH, Yeah!

We recommend making reservations and viewing the menu;

http://www.porterhousesteakandseafood.com

Handicapped Accessible Restaurants

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

Several Northfield restaurants are located in historic buildings and may have limited access. Below I have listed the ones I know have easy access and good parking for any sort of wheels or ambulatory assistance. If you don’t see the restaurant you want to visit on this list, be sure and call them because either I haven’t checked them out for access yet or they just don’t have it. These do, for sure, as do most of Northfield’s restaurants and I really cannot think of anyone who does not.

El Tequila

J. Grundy’s Rueb ‘n’ Stein

Applebee’s

St. Olaf’s King’s Room

Hogan Brothers

Hideaway

James Gang

Tavern

Contented Cow

The Kitchen

Chapati, check to see if limited

Kurry Kabob’s

Beef O’Brady’s

Perkins

Ole Store

Tiny’s Hot Dogs

George’s Vineyard

B&L Pizza

Basil’s Pizza

Hogan Brothers

Quality Bakery

Hideaway

James Gang

Monte’s did

Porterhouse

Of course, all the fast food chain restaurants like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Subway, Taco Bell, and Arby’s are accessible, too.

Sometime I will put these in alphabetical order, but not today.

Sociale Gourmet

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

Although not a true restaurant, it’s all about food and eating, so here we go;

Sociale Gourmet
2010 Jefferson Road
Heritage Square-just off Hwy. 3 South
Northfield, MN 55057
Offerings: Make & Take or Pick-up , Delivery and Express Entreé
Phone: 507-664-9443
Fax: 507-645-9405
Email: northfield@socialegourmet.com

When the old Sociale Gourmet opened, we went in for a pick up entree’.
We chose the chicken pot pie and took it home.
We had to cook it in the oven for over an hour. Not fast.
We opened up the very hot pie and ate it up cuz by that time
we were starved. Although we liked it, I felt it was way too
salty. I like to put in my own salt, and I never do. I like the
way food tastes ala naturale. I also figured I could get that
same amount and quality of pot pie from Marie Callendar from Cub’s
freezer for $6-7.00, and cook it in about 20 minutes less time.

When we heard of the new owner, we were a bit hesitant to try, but
I kept thinking that the concept was good. Cheaper than a restaurant
but you pay more for the convenience of having a special meal put
together, either by you or them, and then cook and heat as you like.
I could still taste the salt when we walked in to the new Sociale,
and asked if they had some fare without it. They did have a lower
sodium group of meals, called lites, so we chose a pineapple pork and vegetables dish.

It is a little bit tough for us to find one thing we both like. We are a case of

opposites attract, but we can finish any plate of food together. :) Anyway,
the meal was good overall, the salt was reduced significantly and we were pleased.
But the price for one prepackaged meal was almost $20. Not exactly cheap
and not for us more than 2 servings. I guess if you are really light
eaters, it might last for 2 plus servings as suggested.

And although I liked it, I would say it was a cut or two above Perkin’s best,
but it wasn’t exactly what I think of as a gourmet sauce. In my mind,
anyone can get a tender meat and vegetable dish, but as most chefs say,
that it’s all about the sauce. A sauce should be rich in texture,
have depth of tastes going on several levels and should leave a pleasant
flavor lingering. Sociale almost makes it, but their sauce seems thin in
taste. Having said that, I will give them another shot when I am busy on
a painting project for a couple of weeks at a time, don’t want to cook,
but do want something a bit different to eat.

It’s best to make it yourself, buy in the largest quantity to get the lower
prices, more like $15 per meal, and make the convenience of it work for you.
I have to say the people are have been very friendly, very helpful and make
the trip in worth your time.

Check them out, they may be more to your liking and situation than mine.
The menu changes monthly and is listed online at:

http://www.socialegourmet.com

PS-Keep those comments coming! It’s good to hear the feedback and get your points of view.

PSS-Coming next weekend, Porterhouse Steak and Seafood in Lakeville. Sorry, Northfield. :(

Ole Store

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

The Ole Store 1011 St. Olaf Avenue, Northfield, MN 55057, 507-645-5558

This is the fourth version of Ole Store in five years. Every variation has had it’s good points, as different as they all were. The latest one is the most fun. They have made use of the large space by putting in four separate seating areas and one nice cafeteria style food bar, a pizza and drink bar, a coffee and desserts display, and one area is just for sitting in the sun or moonlight. They have wifi and we enjoyed our time there except for one thing. We’ll get to that later.

We have been to the new Ole Store three times, in the afternoon. We enjoyed their salads, usually a chicken curry, greens, or mixed fruit, as well as their panini sandwiches at very reasonable prices. Their desserts are very rich and very expensive. But, if you are into making a meal out of a chocolate cake or mousse, or one of the other many delights, then you are well on your way to a cheap lunch…and a wonderfully decadent experience.

Although largely self-serve, the service is pronto although you can still see the newness in the staff’s eyes, and that may be a good thing.

We felt very comfortable there, not because of any cushy chairs, but because of the nice warm atmosphere of the old building along with the smiling faces of people who stop in briefly for a treat. However, and this is the part I referred to earlier, the sound barrier is nearly broken every time a small group of people chat it up, even in the other rooms. It’s okay with me if I am not trying to talk to someone, but when I am, I am not about hollering to be heard three feet away. But that’s just me.

I also like the fact that I wasn’t being asked “How are things tasting?” while I have a mouth full of food and then the waitperson walks away before I can even nod my head one way or the other. Oh yeah, and no one called me ‘guy’ ten times in a row. In case you are reading this, I am no GUY! nothing against guys.

Food; Really Good, Prices; Fair and Reasonable, Service; Just Fine, Ambience; Something for Everyone.

Plenty of parking, and there is a handicap ramp access toward the back…and great restroom!

This just in, there is a coupon in the July 20 edition of the Shopper…clip it and get in there!

George’s Vineyard Part One-Dinner

Friday, July 18th, 2008

George’s Vineyard

1160 South Hwy 3

Northfield, MN ph. 507-645-0100

We have been going to George’s since the Stone Age. We love George’s.It’s a Greek pizzeria with plenty of menu choices, all good as can be. They claim the best pizzeria award in Southern Minnesota, and we think they deserve it. We were there just last night and never do they disappoint on any level, except when everyone walks in within 10 minutes, and then like anywhere, you have to wait. So pick your times, or call ahead and get a take out or delivery. Parking is ample.

I do want to tell you a story though. For the last couple of years, every time I order pizza, which is about every other month or so, I order my half with light cheese, as I am always watching my waistline. Well, last night, it was full moon after a stormy day, I just wanted all the cheese I could get, so I refrained from refraining and ordered the pizza like a normal person. The waitress was new and took the order as given. Two minutes later, here she comes saying, the guys said that you order light cheese and wondered if you meant to order light cheese this time? I was flabbergasted. I didn’t even notice them notice us coming in and we were sitting in the far corner. We usually smile at each other when entering or leaving, if they happen to look up…but they never do stand around idly. Busy, busy making or cutting pizzas all the time. Needless to say I was quite flattered to think they too the time to notice us and my quirky order.

We thank George’s staff and management for their attentive service and delicious fair. The prices are quite good and the iced tea is what iced tea should be, strong and tasty, not bitter, not weak. The food has flavor and not too salty. The atmosphere is comfy nice and whenever I go in there, the customers seem so happy. Maybe it’s because there is also outdoor dining? It’s a great place for after the game, and great for family and first dates. Opened for lunch and dinner seven days a week, closed on some holidays. They also serve wine and beer. Get all the info at http://www.georgesvineyard.com/

about

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

We are going to report our findings in Northfield restaurant for the good of the pocket book of all.Over the last few years, restaurants have slowly but surely eliminated many of the things that make them more attractive than eating at home. The first I noticed was the cole slaw, then the lettuce, tomato and pickle garnishes, then the automatic glass of water, then the lemon wedges, then the knife, then the, well what’s next? The plates?

The amount of French fries has diminished lately. Not that I mind, as fries are one of the worst anti-diet foods ever. Although I love them like a pig loves slop, I have given up ordering them and replaced them with baked potatoes or soup. Lost quite a few pounds that way. You won’t hear me talking about fries very often. Also, we are going to stick to food as we are not experts at all on drinks, including coffee, which can vary so much from place to place and time to time, we will leave that to you to discover.

We also include service as a very important part of the restaurant experience. A wait person with lots of fragrance about them can ruin the delicate scents coming from my Pad Thai. Also, musical atmosphere is part of why I enjoy going out. I especially want to hear music that fits the restaurants roots. We also want to talk about friendliness. We all would like to feel like we are welcome in a place where we intend to eat.

Please write and let us know how you like our blog, what restaurants need blogging and what else would you like to see included here. Thanks! brightbrightlight@yahoo.com

Kurry Kabob, Now Closed

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

Update, we were just there for lunch today, Oct. 28.  Buffet price is back down to $7.98, though they have taken away  the lettuce and melon chunks, the rest of the buffet is about the most delicious same chicken, lamb, vegetables, naam, rice and dessert, with drinks included.  I love  the hot Indian tea over ice.

Here’s another one that received a nickname from me…I call it Kabobbie’s. This is a very good restaurant located at 2018 Jefferson, across Hwy 3 from Furlong Chevy. Phone 507-645-9399 for take out and details.

The food here is authentic. I have had several menu items, as well as the lunch buffet and never could I find fault. I was too busy eating. I like to go to lunch with my husband, cuz it gives us a chance to chat, but when we go to Kabobbie’s we don’t chat, we just eat. No problem, no chat, no disagreements. We are okay with that. Just kidding. We do talk, I say, mmmmm and he says, mmmmmmyah.

The thing about Indian food is the sauces, which are many, many spices carefully combined in just the right measure. Every family has it’s own versions of curry and other sauces. Did you know you can ruin a dish with a little too much cinnamon? The Indian herbs and spices are much different from those you find in the states, due to the climatic and soil conditions. The folks at Kurry Kabob’s do import all their spices and make those sauces just for me and you. They also use the great tamburi oven to cook meats and vegetables.

I can’t say enough about this restaurant and food and ambiance. And although the dinner menu can be a bit over budget for some of us, the lunch works for just about anyone else with a credit card. ;)

Food; Very Good, Prices; Wide Range, Service, Very Good, Ambiance; authentic music and comfy chairs, and pretty transparent drapes make this strip mall space a lovely space to spend some quality time.

Beef O’Brady’s

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

Beef O’Brady’s or Bob’s, as I affectionately call it, is a new franchise family sports bar located at

2018 Jefferson across Hwy 3 from Furlong Chevy. They have kids eat free on Tuesday eves with an adult meal, and happy hours for your drinking pleasure. Call them at 507-664-9112 for details.

We have been there twice for lunch since they first opened. We had the fried shrimp and bbq ribs both times. The food was good and very standard, no surprises, although I must say I loved the multicolored cole slaw. The decor is bare bones table and chairs with a lot of glass, so you get that noisy bounce going on. There are enough tv’s so that just about everyone can have a seat with a view. The service was good the first time and not so much the second; be prepared to order twice. :)

On the menu you will find wings, salads, burgers, ribs, shrimp, wraps and desserts.

They have a small party room, really nice bathrooms, a separate bar and a main dining room.

Prices: Good, Food; Good, Ambience; Good, Service; Good Luck.

http://www.beefobradys.com

Monte’s Steak House

Sunday, July 13th, 2008

Monte’s Steak House  THIS JUST IN….Monte’s Is CLOSED FOR A WHILE, Perhaps Permanently,

due to “the soft economy.”  That is what I was told today, July 14, 2008.  Good Luck to Them!

31 Third Street NE

Faribault, MN

506-333-9393

53-9393e e55021 | Phone: (507) 333-9393

Located in Faribault, MN, Monte’s is a relatively new place, but has all the hallmarks of a great old New Orleans inspired restaurant. The steaks and chops are quite worth the price tags, if you like that sort of thing, and if you have the extra spendables.We have been there several times over the past year or so, and only had one small complaint…dry salmon.

Onto the Sunday brunch, even at $17.95 is pretty well worth it. They have a visual delight of a buffet table with chicken salad to live for, fresh fruit and all sorts of pastries, combined with hot goods at the counter, like sausages, ham and bacon, with to order eggs plus more pastries and breads, it is definitely worth heading over early and staying late. :)

For now, I’ll name a few items, from the sweet potatoes and fried ice cream served from the regular menu to the barbeque plates, I can’t think of any better east of the west coast. I’ll leave it at that and for you to experience for yourself sometime.

Oh, they do have an extensive bar and looks like some nice choices in hard and soft liquors and so forth.

Food: Excellent quality, nice presentation, and very flavorful.

Cost: Dinner is pricey, but lunch is very affordable.

Friendliness: A bit strained, but the effort is there.

Environment: Lots of wood, think posh 1940s, high ceilings, noisy.

Check out their calendar of events, free music and party room; http://www.montessteakhouse.com/calendar.html