Anna’s Foodie Reviews

December 14, 2006

Solera Restaurant, Minneapolis

Filed under: 3 Stars,4 Stars — by annarichmond @ 4:59 pm

Solera is an old favorite of Tom and mine. We have had opportunity to dine here on a number of occasions. We even celebrated Tom’s 40th birthday with friends and family in one of their party rooms back in May. The staff at this fun and funky Spanish Tapas Restaurant is the best and all of our needs were taken care of. The party was a great success and we would recommend it to anyone looking for a great venue.

On Tuesday, we returned as a dining couple, to enjoy a pre-theater meal. We saw the wonderful play Twelve Angry Men, with Richard Thomas and George Wendt. I had to keep Tom from yelling out “Norm” when Mr. Wendt came on stage, and I really wanted to say good-night to John-Boy, but I behaved. The play was great and all the actors really made the characters come to life. I have never seen the movie with Henry Fonda, but I will rent it now. It is a powerful piece of drama. But, I digress…

We were seated in one of the back rooms of the restaurant after what was somewhat of a long and rude wait, while the hostess was on the phone booking a reservation. Being that we had a reservation, I think it was slightly wrong to keep us waiting over five minutes before someone else came to help us, especially when we were the only people up front. Oh, well, nothing that a great glass of Spanish wine can’t make right. Solera has an all Spanish wine list and great wine by the glass for as low as 5 or 6 dollars a pour. Their $6.00 Rojai is a real gem.

The menu consists of small plates of Tapas. We generally pick 3 or 4 each and share. The menu is arranged in three sections: Seasonal, Nuevas, and Tradicional.

My picks were Grilled Lamb Tenderlion with Honey Alioli and Harissa, Fried Calamari with Hot Peppers and Tomato Alioli, Grilled Asparagus with Lomo and Mahon, and Piquilla Peppers Stuffed with Herbed Goat’s Milk Cheese. One of my favorites, goat cheese fritters, is no longer on the menu. I was very sad about this, but gave other goat cheese dishes a try.

The lamb was very good and done very nicely. It was accompanied by an over spiced grilled egg plant, that I didn’t enjoy, but I didn’t order it for the eggplant. The calamari was great, not too rubbery and I loved the dipping sauce. I have always liked the grilled asparagus, and it was good, although some of the spears were very charred, and I didn’t eat them. The peppers stuffed with goat cheese came at the end and was too rich for more than just a taste. They should have been brought out before the heavier lamb.

Tom ordered The Roasted Duck with Sherry Glazed Figs and Goat’s Milk Cheese, Chorizo and Hot Green Peppers with Sidra, Ham and Cheese Croquetas, and Shrimp “a la Plancha” in Sherry Sauce with Serrano Ham.

The Ham and Cheese Croquets have always been one of our favorites, and they were as good as ever. I did not try the Chorizo and Hot Greeen Peppers, but Tom liked them. Be warned: Tom, who can eat anything, thought they were hot, so to a normal person, I would stress caution. The shrimp comes still dressed in it’s all together, including the eyes. I don’t have a problem with pulling apart the little bugger, but when they are prepared in the shell, it is a little too fishy for my taste. The highlight of the tasting was the Duck. The leg and thigh of the duck is roasted and served on a bed of wilted spinich with sherry figs and goat cheese. This was incrediable. Duck, in general, is very greasy and very rich, but so good. The goat cheese paired with it wonderfully.

Solera is where I always recommend people  go if they are looking for fun food and a great atmosphere. It is great fun trying new things and being a bit adventurous. The more items you try, the pricier your night gets, but they do have some great late night bar specials. If you only have a few minutes, they have great service in the bar area and you can give one or two items a taste.

Our service was very good, except for a couple of forgotten plates. We had to remind our server about our last dish and the wait between dishes was long towards the end. We ran out of time for the dessert sampler, but we probably didn’t need it anyway. I would give our visit 3.5 stars on this trip, and as high as 4 on previous visits. We will return and let it earn it’s half star back.

December 10, 2006

La Tour D’Argent

Filed under: 5 Stars! — by annarichmond @ 10:30 am

Our last night in Paris was a Sunday, when many of the restaurants are closed. I did some web searching, and checked with my guide books and decided to make reservations at La Tour D’Argent. I had read numerus reviews that called this restaurant one of the best in Paris, and one that called it an over-priced tourist trap. The description of this 1582 landmark, the second oldest restaurant in Paris, was what won me over. La Tour D’Argent is in the Latin Quarter. The dining room is on the 5th floor, with floor to ceiling windows that overlook the back of Notre Dame Cathederal. The view takes your breath away when you are seated at your table. Here’s what Frommers Guide had to say:
Best View: A penthouse restaurant, La Tour d’Argent,15-17 quai de la Tournelle, 5e (tel. 01-43-54-23-31), is owned by ex-playboy Claude Terrail, who pays part of Notre-Dame’s electric bill to illuminate the cathedral at night for his diners’ pleasure. Dining here is a theatrical event.

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The amazing view

Theatrical event, that’s for me! La Tour D’Argent is known for it’s duck and it’s massive wine list. They have 800,000 bottles of wine in their cellar and the wine list is bigger than the family bible. Not knowing where to begin, we allowed our sommelier to give us suggestions to go with our dining choices. Of course, we started with Champagne. We had the house La Tour D’Argent Blanc de Blanc. Just Lovely.

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Tom peruses the wine list

This restaurant is known for it’s duck, prepared 6 different ways, and the Foie Gras Des Trois Empereurs. We were ready to let our taste buds experience the pleasures known to others for over 400 years. Our server was great help in deciding which preparation to choose.

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To our last night

We started with the traditional amuse bouch. There was a tasty cheese puff triangle, a tart, and a lobster and sweet cream cup. Tom told me the latter was a tomato parfait type thing. Much to my surprise, and shock, it was lobster, something I’ve been known to have allergic reactions to. Luckily, I did not have any problem this time, but I spent four very anxious hours, waiting to see if anything would happen.

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The Amuse Bouche

For the first course, I choose Quenelles De Brochet “Andre Terrails” The translation was Pike Dumplings in a Mornay sauce. I was expecting a fish of some kind, but was delighted with a light baked egg-white dumpling, in a creamy cheese sauce. I’m sure there was pike in there in some where, but I didn’t see it. It was one of those dishes that you would have licked the plate clean if no one was looking. I enjoyed another glass of the Blanc de Blanc with it.

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Quenelles de brochet “Andrei Terrils”

Tom had the world famous Foie Gras Des Trois Empereurs. This dish goes back to 1867, It was made to celebrate the gathering of three world leaders. (The following is from the La Tour D’Argent web site) The guests were Alexander II, Czar of All the Russias, his son and namesake the Tsarevitch, the King of Prussia, Wilhelm I and the Prince of Bismarck. Rarely has a restaurant seen so prestigious an assembly brought together around a single table, not for a state summit, but simply for their pleasure. (The menu served to the three men was a royal event in it’s own right. ) On leaving the restaurant, Czar Alexander II complained that he had not had the opportunity to taste foie gras, a typically French delicacy. Claudius Burdel, a loyal servant of gastronomy, explained: “Sire, it is not the custom of French gastronomy to serve foie gras in June. If you can wait until October, you will certainly not regret it.” Faithful to his word, Burdel sent a terrine of foie gras to each of the three emperors in the autumn. This specially prepared foie gras was later known as the “Foie Gras des Trois Empereurs”

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Toie Gras des Trois Empereurs

Tom certainly did not regret it, either. The foie gras is mixed with black truffles and scooped out of a silver pot with spoon, similar to dipping ice cream. It is paired with two jellies, one made with sauternes, and the other with white Burgandy. Accompanied by a pop-over, Tom was in heaven. He ate every last bite, enjoying a glass of Verre De Chateau Cantegril 2002, a sauternes, with it.

Most of the duck preparations come prepared for two. Tom and I both decided on the Caneton Olivier Dassault, Duckling with Burgandy wine sauce. This dish can be ordered by a single person, but it sounded so good, we both ordered it. The duckling is served in two stages. The white meat, in a Burgandy wine sauce, accompanied by the liver of the duck, sauteed and sandwiched in a puff pastry. We shared a bottle of Gevrey Chambertin Combe Aux Moines 1993, an incredible bottle of Burgandy. The second half of the duckling, the dark meat, came with crispy fried skin and a more tangy sauce. I can’t tell you which part was better, they were both excellent.

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Caneton “Oliver Dassault” the breast meat

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The crispy dark meat

In the mid 1800’s, Grand Master Frederic was the man who originated the duck dinners at the restaurant. He also started to number the ducks and gave out certificates to commemorate your duck. Tom and I had duck # 1050194. We would like to thank #1050193 for his wonderful service.

The Formage cart was a thing of beauty. We each tried four different cheeses, paired with two different wines. We tried a Vin Jaune Du Jura, which means “Yellow Wine” and a Porto Vintage, a classic vintage port. French wine and French cheese… heaven.

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Formages

We ended the evening with the Souffle D’Automne Et Son Tokaji. This is a souffle for two that takes 30 minutes to prepare, so we ordered it with the cheese course. This light and melt in your mouth souffle was so good. It was served with a glass of Son Tokaji, or Royal Tokaji. This wine is very sweet with tastes of honey and fruit, but it had a perfect finish to go with the souffle.

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Souffle’ de Autome et son Takaji Royal

This was truly, a once in a lifetime meal to savor while on vacation in the most romantic city on earth. I am so glad that we dined here and I was able to add it to my list of amazing experiences that I have been fortunate enough to have. If you get the chance to visit this historic eatery, save your pennies and go and enjoy all that comes with the amazing view.

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December 4, 2006

A REBOURS

Filed under: 4 Stars — by annarichmond @ 4:49 pm

Last night, Tom and I went to see Irving Berlin’s White Christmas at the Ordway Theater in St. Paul. We have been season ticket holders to the Twin Cities Broadway Seasons for 13 years. I was very excited to see this production, as White Christmas has always been one of my favorite movies. We got Mona to babysit, so that we could enjoy dinner out before the show. A great dinner before always makes the theater an even more enjoyable event.

I have always been of the opinion, perhaps wrongly, that St. Paul has fewer exceptional dining choices than Minneapolis. We are always looking for new restaurants to try, and hopefully change my mind. Tom and I have always enjoyed Kincaid’s and The St. Paul Grill, both are very close to the Ordway, but pre-show tables must be booked well in advance. Sunday morning, we tried the web service, www.opentable.com to help us find a new dining experience. You plug in the city and time that you want a table, and they show you what is available in that area. On Saturday, we received a Christmas card from friends who mentioned that their son-in-law was now cooking at A REBOURS. When I saw that a table was available, and that they served French Cuisine, we booked.

We were both very pleased with our choice. The restaurant is on St Peter Street, looking out towards Rice Park, so our view was very festive, with all the trees lit up for Christmas. We were seated next to the window at a small bistro table. It was a tad bit chili, so I kept my coat on.

A REBOURS offers a Prix Fixe Menu, four courses for only $35.00. Tom would have gone with choices from the main menu, but unfortunatly, they were out of the foie gras. Not a great start, but we kept on open mind.

Our Amuse Bouche was a fantastic first bite, Beef Tartare, on a Wontan Chip with Shaved Parmasean, drizzeled with Chili Oil and topped with Capers.The chili oil gave it a kick and the capers added a salty twist. The tartare was in a nice light sauce. A very good start.

Our salad cource was field greens with Sherry Vinaigrette with Blue Cheese and Roasted Hazelnuts. The field greens were nice and tart, perfect, with the creamy blue cheese and nutty flavor of the hazelnuts. This is my favorite kind of salad and one that I would always choose.

For the main course, Tom choose the Roasted Chicken Breast with Savory Bread Pudding, Spinach, and Veal Sausage Gravy. The chicken had a lot of mid-Eastern flavors, we could taste cinnamon and ginger on the rub. It was prepared very well and Tom enjoyed it. I had the Braised Beef Short Ribs with Bacon Risotto, Shitake Mushrooms, and Beef Jus. I really enjoyed all of my meal. The beef was so tender, it just feel apart. The risotto was done with a nice bite and the flavors complemented each other perfectly. I had a glass of Pinot Noir, and the light, fruity wine went well with it.

For dessert we had the Crepes with Lemon Curd and Fresh Raspberries. A traditional French dessert. It was a perfect ending.

We were very impressed with A REBOURS, and will diffenity return. The service was very efficent and knowledgeable. Whenever we had questions about flavors or preparations, if our server didn’t know the answer, she found out for us. And the price was a great value. Dinner for two with wine for around $100, fantastic. They offer valet parking, although the restaurant closed before the show ended and we had to call a number for our keys.

We had a great night out in the lovely city of St. Paul, where there are more great dining choices than I knew. Check out www.opentable.com and find a new favorite.

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