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San Franciscan's first visit to Minneapolis report on dinners (long)

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San Franciscan's first visit to Minneapolis report on dinners (long)

Fine | Aug 18, 2004 06:55 PM

When I asked the dinner chef half of the couple hosting us at Gourmets’ Garden B&B for any recommendations in Minneapolis, he replied that his wife’s brother was the chef (owner?) at Auriga. I laughed out loud, explaining that it had been the most highly recommended place in my previous inquiries.

His wife later assured me that her brother had expressed great confidence in his current crew, so we needn’t be concerned that he would not be present on that (Monday) evening.

Although the restaurant was not at all busy, the server never bothered to return to see if I wanted pepper ground onto my salad (why do waiters expect you to know whether or not you’ll need extra seasoning before you have tasted a dish?). The first courses were above average, but parts of the grilled pork roast, which we’d requested cooked through, were too rare to eat. The slow-roasted chicken was way too salty and thoughtlessly served on uncut broccoli rabe, which was more of a challenge than any diner should ever have to face: this vegetable is very hard to cut with a fork and knife--and impossible on a sauce-laden plate if you don't want to add brown accents to your outfit; if you try to eat it without cutting it, you risk choking on its long slippery strands. Further, it struck me as a poor texture-flavor choice as a bed for poultry. The accompanying ricotta flan called to mind the biblical tale of Lot’s wife, the single saltiest item I’ve ever encountered anywhere. I could imagine two different cooks inadvertently salting the same piece of chicken—which would never happen in a well-functioning kitchen—but the flan’s saltiness was "internal."

Neither the host nor the server ever came by to see if our food was satisfactory. When the server came to clear our partially eaten food, she still didn’t ask. We pointed out the problem and she seemed indifferent. A few moments later, she returned as solicitous as could be! I don’t want to try to guess what triggered the change.

The charges for the offending items were removed from the bill and we were offered a complimentary dessert. We split three slightly muddy-textured balls of raspberry sorbet.

After checking out the menus at both Lucia and Bakery on Grand, I chose the latter for an early preflight supper.

One of us had a special French onion soup, which was superior to most restaurant renditions I’ve had, though that may be because it was at the very start of the service and it hadn’t had time to get that, to me, nasty intensity I attribute to over-reduction.

As mentioned in a previous post, the choucroute garnie à l’Alsacienne was super: Bits of carrot cooked into the sauerkraut, excellent smoked meats and sausages. Even the fresh chicken sausage was chosen with care; so many have spicing that clashes with both the other flavors and the spirit of authentic French choucroute. Horseradish encrusted wild salmon served on garlicky wilted spinach was generous, tasty, and almost cooked through enough for me. Good bread, delightful service, and sweeter than West Coast-style butterscotch pudding that my BH loved. A fair-priced Pouilly Fumé was the ideal accompaniment. One of the owners came over to visit and graciously presented a baguette and a scone for our plane trip.

I would not hesitate to recommend Bakery on Grand, with the sole caveat that it takes more than one visit to make a whole-hearted recommendation of any restaurant.

We would never had known about this delightful spot without the generous advice so many of you proffered. Both the restaurant and the neighborhood provided a glimpse into a side of Minneapolis we would surely have missed and left us with a very good taste in our mouths.

To those who suggested breakfasts, thanks and forgive us for having neither the time nor the youthful arteries to indulge, though they indeed sounded tempting.

To all of you who responded to my requests, I felt your companionship as I traversed the city. THANKS!

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