Here’s something I find so irritating I just have to get it off my chest . . . false advertising, misleading labeling, call it what you will . . . Axel’s Bonfire Grill lists its tortilla soup on their menu as “the best in the Twin Cities.” Pad Thai on Grand does the same with its spring rolls; I got dozens of other examples . . . do you? And most maddening is Andy’s Garage on University Avenue, which continues to bill its burgers as one of the best “according to MSP Mag,” which is not entirely accurate—I should know. All that sort of stuff just bugs me to no end. I guess we live in a world where ‘the truth’ is a gray area. Ugh.
Anyway, here are a few year-end thoughts:
Best New Restaurant . . . Chambers Kitchen. Nothing else even comes close.
Restaurant of the Year . . . La Belle Vie, because it is twice as good as it was in Stillwater and that says a lot. I know that the style of service and price point is not for everyone, but the effort that it takes to get there should be applauded by everyone.
Chef of the Year . . . Alex Roberts, who quietly and without fanfare had his first child and managed to make his restaurant better all at the same time, which says a lot about him as a leader and teacher. Nice job, young fella’ . . . and his grilled wild striped bass on romesco sauce still haunts me five months later.
Best meal I ate locally all year long . . . The night before I left for Morocco, last spring, my wife and I went to Levain and took part in a superb tasting menu that Steven Brown put together for us, and from the mint-cucumber amuse bouche to the last bite of twice-cooked short rib there was not a false note struck. We then went to La Belle Vie for a dessert tasting that Adrienne Odom rolled out (that lady is a genius), and finished the evening waddling home to relieve the babysitter.
Local hero . . . Clancy’s Meats in Linden Hills, for supporting local farms, fostering a sense of community, cooking food that no one else will (stocks, glaces, confit, etc.), curing their own meats and salume, and doing it all because they love their customers, vendors, and the food folks that have made this town the exciting place it is to eat these days.
Best Dessert . . . The passion fruit soufflé at Chambers Kitchen.
What I Am Dreaming About Right Now . . . Isaac’s escarole with anchovies at 112. Yes, it’s a side dish, but I think about it at least once a day . . . Also Scott’s grilled short ribs at 20.21, the spicy chicken at Que Nah, the apple salad at Lurcat, the Morton’s salad, the celery themed dessert at Levain that Steven was making when he was between pastry chefs, the bacalao at I Nonni, the kecap manis marinated and grilled tuna at JP’s, the char siu bao at Jun Bo, the steamed walleye at Shuang Cheng, the fish with pickled vegetables at The Teahouse . . . I need to stop this merry-go-round, I’m famished.
What are your highlights and lowlights of the year?