Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentines Day in the Twin Cities

It’s no secret that Valentines Day is one of the biggest restaurant days of the year. It comes at a perfect time when business may be slumping a bit, but sweethearts everywhere are willing to dish out big bucks for a romantic dinner for two.

If you don’t already have reservations, you are probably out of luck for the top spots such as Lucia's Restaurant, Solera, Jax Cafe and Goodfellow's, but there are a few others worth trying that I read about in the Star Tribune this morning.

The Marquette Hotel's Windows on Minnesota (612-376-7404), on the 50th floor of the IDS Center in downtown Minneapolis, has a few tables left, but only after 9 p.m. Their five-course menu offers choices such as saffron-scented lobster calamari salad, shrimp tempura, duck and foie gras terrine, truffled beef tenderloin and the lemon-thyme poached sea bass. Cost is $68.95 per person, which includes a glass of Champagne and roses for the ladies.

French Meadow Bakery and Cafe (612-870-7855) is offering an organic four-course dinner for two that sounds like a terrific deal: entree options of almond-seared tuna or free-range duck, and desserts of molten dark chocolate espresso cake or strawberry ginger crème brûlée with macadamia truffles, plus much more. For another $25, you can add a flight of wines to each course. The prime seatings are booked, but they do have a few spots available before 7 p.m. and after 8 p.m.

The Local (at 10th and Nicollet in downtown Minneapolis, 612-904-1000) still has spots available too. Valentine's Day menu highlights include potato-crusted sea bass with mashed potatoes, garlicky kale and a beurre blanc for $18.99, and Cashel-(an Irish cheese) smothered sirloin steak with mashed potatoes, asparagus and red beet bordelaise for $21.99.

If you still can’t find anywhere to eat and you want to take your sweetie to a game, there is a lot going on in both Minneapolis and St Paul tonight. You can check out the Minnesota Wild at the Xcel Energy Center in St Paul or stay in Minneapolis and see the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Target Center or if you prefer the U’s campus, visit the Minnesota Golden Gophers Mens Basketball team taking on arch rival Wisconsin Badgers. There are plenty of concession choices at all three venues. Who says a hot dog and a beer can’t be romantic? Best of luck to all of you Valentine’s diners! Enjoy!

Monday, February 5, 2007

Auriga - Minneapolis, MN

The Star Tribune published an article recently that said many local restaurants were in the red and that January was one of the worst months to be in the food business. I suppose it could be the cold weather or the limited number of Minnesotans willing to try out new food ideas, but regardless Minneapolis has lost three gems in the last few weeks. The first to close was Levain, which opened at 48th Street and Chicago Avenue S. in Minneapolis in 2003. Then Five Restaurant & Street Lounge closed, which opened at 29th Street and Bryant Avenue S in 2005.

The most recent and most shocking resteraunt closing was Auriga, who shut its doors after ten years. Auriga, named for a constellation, was located off Hennepin Ave and offered a fantastic menu and was one of the few restaurants in the Twin Cities to offer a tasting menu, as well. Their menu changed often so they could provide patrons with fresh seasonal choices and a few months ago they revamped the place to feel more elegant and less like a bistro. I will never forget the chamomile tea from Auriga, it was exceptional and their selections of wine and bread were top notch. My favorite wine was a Rhone Style Red Wine that went great with my dish and the bread made with Guinness was also fantastic. This restaurant will definitely be missed!

I hope the closing of this unique spot isn’t a sign of things to come for the Twin Cities. It would be disgusting to see the trendy Twin Cities area become over run with chain restaurants. I know that Minneapolis is not a total food town, but even in this frigid weather, don’t be afraid to venture out and visit your favorite local spots – they need you!