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San Franciscan's first visit to Minnesota report--long

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San Franciscan's first visit to Minnesota report--long

Fine | Aug 14, 2004 09:10 PM

I'll try to keep this a reasonable length.

Rochester: lunch at Jasper's consisted of a caricature of a salade nicoise: overcooked (even for me, who doesn't like bloody fish) tuna; old-tasting, presliced ripe olives; zero onion, anchovy; lacking in lemon-vinegar. Tarte flambee (traditional Alsatian onion-bacon), which we tried both as a lunch dish and again shared as an appetizer at dinner, was very generous and crisp-bacon topped; I've had versions made on a pastry base, like quiche, and others on a thin bread/pizzalike dough, and this resembled the latter, though it came out a bit more like flatbread than I'd have preferred. All and all, though, pretty tasty and satisfying, if not exactly "health food."

The highlight of dinner was a delicious choucroute garnie--a very pleasant surprise. Since we had another in Minneapolis--also superb--at Bakery on Grand, they're running together in my mind, but both came closer than any in memory to my ideal, though there's never enough sauerkraut for me.

Meals were preceded by an excellent mixed salad garnished with onion, Greek olives (which would have been a far better choice in the Nicoise), seeds, and a little Asiago, and many were accompanied by the house potato galettes (green onion-dotted potato pancakes) and a fresh veg. My kasha cabbage rolls were not bad but probably reheated more than once (it was at the end of their service); the recipe itself was pretty good.

Though Jasper's has joined forces with a bakery called Daube's (and apparently pronounced with two syllables), the breads left something to be desired: they looked different, but all had Wonder Bread-soft crusts and a blandness that I attribute to an excess of white flour. The chocolate-lovers were not thrilled with the German chocolate cake, though I found the German-style apple strudel above average.

A B&G Rose d'Anjou for $18 complemented the food more than adequately.

One lunch was catered as was one dinner at the Kahler--pleasant if not o-mi-god wonderful.

After a walk though the fabulous vegetable-growing areas of Seed Savers' Heritage Fram outside Decorah, Iowa, a must for any organic gardener, we made our way to Gourmets' Garden B&B on the outskirts of Harmony, MN, a perfectly beautiful picture postcard of a small family farm.

The couple--two chefs--who run it were really accommodating and hospitable (not our usual experience at B&B's, where it has always seemed the guests were obligated to play an assigned role in the hosts' fantasy). There are only two bedrooms and one was vacant, so it was really extra-private and comfortable.

It was not the dinner chef's fault (dinner is a separate matter, reserved in advance, but available to guests of the B&B exclusively) that I am no fan of Fusion, which seemed to be his inspiration. If I had a couple of quibbles, they were that--given the place's description--I'd expected far more emphasis on organic produce than there appeared to be, and, if one is going to glaze with soy, one should attempt to counteract the inevitable intense saltiness.

That said, suffice it to add that we ate our way through the choice of two appetizers and one main each; desserts cost extra but, unfortunately, too rich after already rich meals. Cream of carrot soup w. orange and fresh tarragon; cannellini and smoked Rainbow trout pate with roasted red bells--which didn't quite work but was ok--with not-quite-pristine garlic crostini; mixed greens, honey mustard dressing, marvelous Marconi almonds, and a slice of blue on top--very good idea for those who prefer to minimize their cheese consumption or simply don't care that much for the strong flavor; exceptionally well-flavored linguine with basil, pinenuts, and--wisely--thin slices of Romano and Parmesan. My BH liked Napoleon of sauteed pork tenderloin, mozzarella, prosciutto on polenta with sage, but I found it too cutesy & too rich; my slightly overcooked soy-glazed game hen was served atop a crunchy Nappa cabbage, cuke, carrot mixture. A great feature was the wines offered with each course and included in the price ($32 each). The woman of the house could not have been more gracious in offering tastes and making switches. The wholegrain bread was fresh from the oven, and we didn't even have to ask for olive oil, since they'd realized from our chat I try to keep my saturated fat consumption low. With that in mind, they altered their breakfast menu, providing portobellas in place of breakfast meats, marvelous steel-cut oatmeal, a veggie fritatta made with their own ducks' eggs, red potato galettes, and a lovely wheat bran, raisin, walnut muffin--oddly glazed, like dessert. (gourmetsgardenbandb.com)

This has gone on far too long (you notice how I blame it and not the author!), so I'll post separately on Minneapolis.

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