Anna’s Foodie Reviews

February 3, 2008

Chez Paul

Filed under: 4 Stars,5 Stars!,General Chatter — by annarichmond @ 10:48 pm

Every year on our drive from the Kahului airport to our condo in Kahana, we pass a roadside restaurant about 7 miles outside of Lahania. Every year we look at each other and wonder why anyone would drive to the middle of no where for French food on Maui. Well, it may have taken us 11 years, but we finally figured it out. The food is amazing.

This was the year we decided to give Chez Paul a try, and we are so pleased that we did. This quaint bistro has been owned by Chef Patrick Callarec since 2000, but has been an island institution since 1968. People have always told us good things about it, and they were right.

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The Amuse Bouche

We started the evening off right, a glass of French Champagne for Moi, and a mai tai for Tom. Our server brought us a small portion of their Soupe Glacee Vichyssoise for an amuse bouche. This chilled leek and potato soup with fresh chives is on the regular menu, as an appetizer. It was nice to be able to try one of their regular items. I really enjoyed this chilled soup. It was very creamy, but not too heavy. It was garnished with slices of almonds for a nice crunch.

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Wild Mushrooms and Brie in Puff Pastry

I started with the Pithiverier De Champignons Sauvages, Fromage De Brie, Sauce Au Vieux Porto. This dish of wild mushrooms and Brie cheese is baked in a flaky puff pastry and served with a vintage port wine sauce. What a beautiful presentation. It was as delicious as it looked, with it’s rich port wine sauce.

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Foie Gras

Tom was very happy to see Foie Gras Frais De Canard Saute Aux Fruits De Saison. He loves foie gras. This preparation of sauteed fresh duck foie gras was in a raspberry-vinaigrette and accompanied by poached pears. Tom paired it with a glass of Dolce. He was very pleased.

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A Happy Tom!
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Mahi-Mahi in Champagne Buerre Blanc

For our entrees, I choice the Poisson Des Au Champagne. This is Chez Paul’s classic preparation of fresh island fish, in this case Mahi-Mahi, poached in Champagne with leeks and capers. It was plated with mashed purple sweet potatoes and asparagus. The champagne Buerre Blanc sauce was creamy, but not heavy. The whole dish was very French, and oh la la… C’est Magnifique!

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The Perfect Rack of Lamb

Tom decided to forgo the fish this evening and ordered the Carre D’ Agneau Paniolo Chutney De Fruits Exotiques. In English, this Rack of Colorado lamb accompanied with a paniolo marinade and exotic fruits chutney, was done to perfection. Tom said that this ruined him for all lamb to come; this was the best he ever had. Paired with a Pinot Noir, and he was a very happy man.

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Yes, It was that good.

We capped off our evening with the vanilla creme brulee. It is caramelized in a pineapple, and served with fresh fruit. A very Hawaiian twist on a French favorite. Being that these are our two favorite places, no wonder we loved Chez Paul.

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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 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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