Saturday, September 7, 2013

Labor Day 2013

Sunset at the Pizza Farm

I go home for Labor Day every year. I go for the State Fair but also because now that I’m married and Christmases alternate each year, it’s the last thing that I do the same every year with my family and friends in Minnesota. I’ve written about this before when I first started this blog - Labor Day is my constant.

This year’s visit seemed to go too fast. They always do, but this one in particular just flew by. I feel like I couldn’t really wrap my head around everything and live in the moment the way I wanted to. I wasn’t thinking about the next thing, as I often do when I have trouble living in the moment, but I was thinking about the last thing. I felt like every moment, I had the thought in the back of my head, “Oh my gosh, this is going so fast and we’re already on to the next thing. I wish the last thing could have lasted longer.” It was a sad feeling to leave Wednesday night not knowing when I’ll be home again and when I’ll see most of my favorite people again.

I was going to put together a list of highlights from this year’s visit, but then I realized that everything is about what we ate. So, here are our FOOD highlights from this year (other than the food at the Fair of course).

Drinks at the Bradstreet and Dinner at Heidi’s - this was a perfect evening with beautiful and thoughtfully prepared food and drinks. I was in heaven.

I had a gimlet with Plymouth gin and fresh black and raspberries at the Bradstreet. The atmosphere lends itself to bourbon and whiskey drinks, but since it was a last hurrah for summer, I went with something lighter. Whenever I go to the Bradstreet, I’m always impressed with how knowledgeable the staff is about liquor and how enthusiastic they are about explaining all of the drinks. I also like their cute glassware collection. When I commented about this, our server agreed that cute glasses can really take a drink to the next level. Unfortunately, we were a little short on time so we only had time for one drink before heading to dinner.

I had never eaten at Heidi’s before and wasn’t really sure what to expect. This place knocked my socks off. Definitely a star! We had a tasting menu with four courses and there were four choices per course. My only complaint was that there wasn’t much information on the menu so I had a ton of questions for the server. She answered all of my questions enthusiastically, but I didn’t want to overwhelm her so I still have lots more for the next time we visit.

Remember how, just a few short weeks ago, I placed tongue on my list of foods I don’t want to learn to like? Well, never say never because my first course was pickled tongue. If I hadn’t known from the menu, I wouldn’t have guessed it was tongue. It tasted kind of like a brisket with a thick, rich sauce that seemed to have some chipotle in it. My favorite parts of the first course were trying something so out of the ordinary for me and the tiny sprigs of micro cilantro on top. They were a burst of fresh, citrusy flavor.

For my second course, I had a seared diver scallop with rosemary infused foam on the side. My main course was a lamb shank and for dessert I had the strawberry beet soup with a scoop of blueberry ice cream. I wish I had more details about all of the flavors and sauces, but like I said, I didn’t want to overwhelm the waitress. One proud moment during dinner came when I could successfully identify the squid ink on the side of my scallop by sight and taste.

All of the dishes were seasoned perfectly and so beautifully plated. (No photos because I didn’t want to be rude.) When I have a meal this good, I realize how infrequent it is that you get such a perfect restaurant meal. They are so often poorly seasoned or poorly presented or have something that is off about them.

Since I was so impressed with everything, I hesitate to even mention it, but Andrew’s second course was an heirloom tomato salad with cheese and it wasn't very good. The tomatoes were not ripe, the cheese didn’t go with the tomatoes and there was a marshmallow served on the side of the plate. All around a weird and disappointing dish, but other than that, everything was a winner.

In addition to the great food, I also really enjoyed having a great view of the kitchen. The dining room is next to the kitchen which has big windows so you can see right in. It was so fun to see what was happening behind the scenes in a professional kitchen. What a treat it would be to get to work there every night!

Pizza Farm - Although it's a long trek out to Stockholm, Wisconsin, the pizza is phenomenal. It’s also become a little annual tradition! We had pizza with pork shoulder, sweet onions, hot peppers, tomatoes, and Eau Galle Italian cheese. Yum!

A Labor Day taco party - I always feel a twinge of sadness when people talk about their holiday barbecues and family parties so I love to be home for the Labor Day party at my parents’ house. We had a taco bar with all the fixings, and I made watermelon margs, guacamole, easy salsa and tasty refried beans - a necessary component in the crunchy cheesy gorditas that Rosie taught us to make. Canned refried beans gross me out and seem to have a lot of salt. These are easy and quick to whip up, and you know what's in them. If I had been at home, I would have grabbed some homemade beans from the freezer.

Refried Beans
Adapted from Table for Two

3 cans pinto beans with liquid
½ stick butter
1 small onion, chopped
½ Tablespoon red pepper flakes
½ Tablespoon paprika
2 Teaspoons brown sugar
1 Tablespoon salt + more to taste

Heat beans with their liquid and one cup of water in a pot. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer.

While beans are simmering, melt butter in a sautee pan. Sautee onions, red pepper flakes, paprika and brown sugar for 5 minutes. Drain beans, reserving one cup of liquid. Pour beans back into the pot with the reserved liquid, sauteed onions and salt. Using an immersion blender, lightly blend the beans until smooth and creamy. Adjust seasoning as desired. (Original recipe calls for quite a bit more salt than is listed here.)

1 comment:

  1. I always bug my server with a million questions, too. Though I figure that's better than me not liking what I order and sending it back . .


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