Goodness gracious. I just wouldn’t know what to think if I ever left the King’s house WITHOUT a belly ache from laughing too much! The evening included: smacking each other with foam toy axes, eating HAM (I want ham for eating the ham please!), the guys shoving whole cupcakes in their mouths, Pugs (not drugs!), hilarious (and thoughtful) gifts, groaning while playing with the Terrible Puzzle Ball, and feeding turtles snowman doo. Yep, the best kind of night with the best kind of friends!
Monthly Archives: December 2011
We have had so much fun over the past year trying so many exemplary restaurants around the country. We have incredibly detailed memories of very specific bites of extraordinary food. But we really don’t have to go too far to enjoy a top quality restaurant with a chef that can certainly hold his own, and even surpass some of the places we’ve visited in the largest cities in the country.
Christian’s Bistro is located in Plover, a mere 15 minute drive from our home. Chef Christian Czerwonka and his wife Leah own and operate this sophisticated (but comfortable) restaurant that allows him to showcase local and seasonal (plus other fantastic finds) ingredients with some New Orleans flair. I think we can comfortably be called “regulars” here, and love it when Leah slides in the booth to chat a bit before we order or to check how the meal was afterwards. This past Saturday we arranged to have Chef create a tasting menu for us, as we’ve so enjoyed this option at other restaurants. We wouldn’t know what was coming, but fully trusted Chef to wow us!
And we enjoyed every moment of the meal. Leah convinced us to act like grownups for the evening, and we decided to split a wine pairing, something we’ve never done. Before each course, we were introduced to a wine that was selected to compliment the food.. The first course was an incredibly tender beef carpaccio wrapped around a toasted asiago thyme breadstick, with the most delicious seared wedge of blue cheese, paired with a sparkling Spanish white wine. Our second course, pictured above, was among the best dishes we’ve ever experienced at Christian’s. A Tuna and Beet Tartare with goat cheese, almonds, and asparagus tempura. The flavors fairly burst on the tongue – so bright and fresh and clean. It was paired with a crisp, fruity white wine.
The third course was paired with a red Gigondas and was one of my favorite courses – veal sweetbreads with polenta and a delicious Romesco sauce (made from roasted peppers and tomatoes and ground almonds). It was mellow and comforting, and the sweetbreads were cooked superbly – like the best chicken nugget ever made. 🙂 The 4th course (pictured above) had a punch of spice to it, but in the most delicious way. It was Piri Piri Shrimp with Couscous. My lips were definitely buzzing after this, but the flavor was so addicting, we both wanted to lick the bowls! It was paired with a peppery Zinfandel.
Our 5th course was paired with another dry red, a Cabernet Sauvignon from RouteStock Cellar in Napa Valley, a strong wine to pair with the strong flavors of the beef short ribs, seared scallop, roasted potatoes and onion rings in the most delicious reduced sauce.
After five substantial courses, the meal concluded with the loveliest tiny ramekin of vanilla bean creme brûlée. Being dessert people, we were hoping for something with a little bit more pop, but it was a creamy, perfectly executed and delicious creme brûlée that certainly was without fault.
As we had always ordered from the menu in the past, it was a lot of fun to allow Chef to surprise us with each course. The wine pairing was also interesting to experience and learn more about the flavors in the wine complimenting and accentuating certain flavors in the food. We always look forward to a meal at Christian’s, and will for many years to come!
Tonight we went to Piccolo for dinner. We’d been there a few months ago and LOVED it. They are extremely talented and creative with a lot of cuts of meat and ingredients that aren’t normally used in other restaurants, because they take a lot of work to get right. Tonight solidified Piccolo as my favorite restaurant. Every course was absolutely perfect. The atmosphere is exactly what I want in a restaurant – refined, but not so stuffy that I feel like I have to wear a jacket, and I even got away with dark jeans tonight. The restaurant is also well lit, which makes looking at the food and taking pictures way, way easier than a lot of other restaurants.
The staff is always super responsive, knowledgeable, and very friendly, which is not always the norm at high end places. Not at all snooty or condescending. Tonight we didn’t want to skip anything on the menu, so we ordered everything (the plates are small, and we skipped the cheese course) and split them between us. Apparently if you do that, you earn a T-Shirt, so Julie and I are now the proud owners of Piccolo T-Shirts, which makes my favorite restaurant that much cooler!
We’ve been lucky enough to have eaten at a lot of really nice restaurants and this one is the best, especially for the price. Yes, it’s more expensive than a normal midwest restaurant, but you can easily spend 2-3 times as much and not get anywhere near as good of food. It truly is a bargain for the quality of the food they are putting out.
Everything was truly amazing, but some standouts included:
The foie gras torchon. I have no idea how they got the smoothest, butteriest texture ever into that foie gras disc, but it was amazing, both in flavor and texture. Julie and I fought over this one.
The proscuitto wrapped shrimp. Again, not sure how they managed to form the shrimp into a roll like that, while keeping the flavor and texture of shrimp. Also was served with a roasted sunchoke and a chicken liver mousse served in shell, which was a really fun and tasy little bonus.
The veal tongue pasta. You could put brown butter sauce on just about anything and I would eat it. Great flavor combinations on this one.
The pork shortribs. Crispy skin and great combo with the chestnuts and apple butter.
The pumpkin spice cake. There were a bunch of interesting flavors in this one, with the really spicy cake and the bacon powder. Definitely not like any dessert I’d ever had before, in a good way.
Even the little accompaniments were amazing. With the duck there was a perfect disc of acorn squash wrapped in Swiss chard. The acorn squash was amazingly soft, and I’m still trying to figure out how they got it to be wrapped perfectly in the chard.
If you are ever in the Twin Cities, you *need* to go to Piccolo. I promise you won’t be disappointed!
On to the pics!
Last night, Julie and I met our friend Lindsey at 112 Eatery in Minneapolis for dinner. It was just recently awarded the James Beard award for “Best Chef Midwest”. We had a great time catching up and eating way too much food. Consumed were duck, foie gras and chicken meatballs, shortribs, sweetbreads, mussels, gnocchi and dessert. An awesome meal and a great time were had by all. Definitely recommended for great Italian inspired food at reasonable prices.