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Dinner - Peter Hentges

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November 15th, 2003

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02:24 am - Dinner
I woke up in plenty of time to get things arranged at the house (dinner for Ericka, the dog and the cat; no, not all the same dish) before heading out to have dinner with minnehaha, cakmpls, her husband and daughter at a little wine bistro south of the Cities over near Northfield (In a town called Dundas for you Carleton and St. Olaf grads.) called "Fermentations."

I was a bit amazed at how far out the place was. It was well into 70 mph territory on the interstate and down a dark, twisty road a piece before you got to the city limits and then a bit more at 30 mph until you reach it. It needed better lighting for its sign because, by the directions I had, it should have been a block further along and I only figured out where it was because I was pretty sure it wasn't in the big garage where I thought it was and there weren't too many other street corners in town to check out.

After we got seated we got the wine lists. I'm no connoisseur of wines (I flipped straight to the scotch and found they only had the Talisker for single malts, probably the 12 year old; not bad but nothing special) but thought the list looked pretty extensive. You could buy their wine by the bottle, glass or "flight." The latter is samplings of three different, related wines.

Figuring that how well the wine went with the food would be part of the experience and good information for future visitors, I looked over the list and decided to go with something red. I'm fond of merlots and have been known to enjoy a cabernet now and again. So I picked Flight #10 "European Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Meritage." The specific wines were: 2001 Mas de Gourgonnier, 2000 Chateau Rozier and 2000 Chateau Kirwan. My uneducated palate figured they were the advertised Cabernet, Merlot and Meritage in that order. minnehahaB opined that they were likely blends of those grapes.

Well, a quick Googling proves B right: "The 2001 Mas de Gourgonnier Réserve is not only very different from their regular bottling, it is without a doubt the best wine they have ever made. Completely dominated by its Cabernet and Syrah components, which make up a big chunk of the blend...," the 1999 vintage of the Chateau Rozier listed on http://www.cafe-brio.com as a blend, and the Chateau Kirwan spoken of as containing a "high percentage of Petit Verdot."

Still, I've had enough Cabernet and Merlot to recognize the types when I taste them, and the first two fell into those categories in their delivery to my palate.

Most of our party waited on choosing wines until after seeing the food menu. The menu was two simple pages. Appetizers on one leaf, entrees on the other. Nicely, they had recommended certain flights of wine to go with each course. So one could either do as I did, pick a flight and then pick food to go with it, or pick food and find commonalities in the flights recommended to choose your wine.

As we were helping minnehaha to review the place, we basically ordered their entire menu between the six of us. The dishes that went with my wine were a pesto and goat cheese tostini for an appetizer and leg of lamb for an entree. The goat cheese was mild and got overpowered by the pesto and the sun-dried tomato served on the tostini with it. It looked pretty though and came with a nice balsamic-based sauce that, unfortunately, was difficult to mop up with the hard bread. I wasn't too impressed with any of the appetizers, though the scallops that cakmpls ordered had an interesting sauce with leeks in it.

The entrees ran the gamut of main dishes from pork to grouper to chicken to London broil with a side trip to fettuccini. One thing that probably made them easier to prepare and serve was that each was served with a combination of similar side dishes. You got either mashed potatoes or a potato cake-thing. And you got either green beans or carrots. Unless, of course, you got the fettuccini, then you got shrimp.

I liked my lamb very well; its surface was surprisingly seasoned and nicely crusty. The chicken had an interesting wild rice stuffing with plenty of pepper. I didn't try the pork and the grouper and the London broil didn't stand out to me. The fettuccini was really the star of the table. From a distance, it looked like boxed macaroni and cheese stretched out into flat noodles; that is, as if it had a cheddar-based sauce that was not quite the right color. Tasting it, though, you found that the color came from sweet red bell peppers. I'd guess they'd been roasted before being made into this sauce because the flavor was so rich and earthy. I don't imagine the shrimp added much to the dish; it was wonderful all on its own.

Dessert came in due course and we split three different ones among the six of us. A pear poached in red wine. A spice cake. And a lovely little chocolate concoction that was part mousse, part hot chocolate. It had an interesting texture that was like a gelatinous cake. It had structure but also smoothed easily on your tongue. It was served warm with a scoop of home-made mint ice cream and was the easy favorite. The spice cake ran a close second, though and the pear was nothing to sneeze at.

Overall, I think Fermentations would make a nice place for a spendy date or to have dessert and wine or cocktails. It's a bit of a drive for us here in the Twin Cities, but I'm sure the people of the area enjoy having a restaurant of that quality close by.
Current Mood: fullfull

(4 comments | Leave a comment)


Date:November 15th, 2003 11:17 pm (UTC)
There's a wine bistro in DUNDAS?? When I lived in Dundas, there were two bars and a post office, and a population of about, oh, 300 people. I lived in a farm house, surrounded by corn fields on all sides.

I have no idea when I might be back in Northfield again, having just been back there in September, but I wish I had known such wonders existed out in good old Dundas while I was there! Maybe they'll even stay in business long enough for me to enjoy a visit on a future trip.

I've seen many quality dining establishments come and go in the Northfield area in the last couple of decades. I wish Fermentations better luck!

[User Picture]
Date:November 16th, 2003 10:52 am (UTC)
I too thought the scallops were the best appetizer and the fettucine was the best entree. But I also liked minnehaha K.'s appetizer that featured figs (which I love) and sheep cheese. I thought my chicken was overcooked and dry, and wasn't as fond of the stuffing as minnehaha B. and possibly you were, but the pastry was very good and the mashed potatoes yummy. I liked the pork dish--really a stew--a lot, too. The London broil was, IMHO, undistinguished but adequate, and I thought that, while ordered "medium" for the 13-year-old, it was more like medium well. The grouper was overcooked to my taste but probably perfect for J. (Do we see a theme here, of overcooking? Yes, at least I do.)

Much as I like chocolate, to me the star dessert was the spice cake.

I think that--contrary to experience many places--this restaurant generally does complex things better than simple ones. However, it does veggies simply but very well.
[User Picture]
Date:November 17th, 2003 08:44 am (UTC)
I've remembered that the crab cakes were also overcooked.
[User Picture]
Date:November 19th, 2003 12:42 am (UTC)
I did like the stuffing, but then, I'm a sucker for wild rice. I thought the presentation of the chicken to the people behind you later in the evening looked better than yours; I hope their's wasn't overcooked. My lamb came nicely medium, so there's the excpetion to the overcooked rule. I don't recall how the pasta was done or if it was overcooked too. I can never tell with fish what's overcooked; I think sushi has spoiled me on cooked fish altogether.

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