On the darkest day of the year— winter solstice, that is— we two Thirsty Kittens found ourselves wishing for light. What is it about light on the darkest night that lifts spirits and helps us feel the magic of the holidays? Originally, our plan for the evening was to stay home by a fire and order take-out. Regular readers will be familiar with this habit of ours, which often involves Thai Food and Zin. But in a very fun example of how social media can enhance your life, we two Kittens ended up dining at Vincent, one of our favorite downtown Minneapolis restaurants, instead.
Having recently been asked by a friend for a suggestion for a special occasion restaurant, I recommended Vincent without hesitation. Right in the heart of downtown Minneapolis, it has high ceilings and tall windows that look out on the main street of downtown. The space has an elegance to it that we love. Further, and more importantly, the French cuisine prepared by Chef Vincent Francoual is creative and delicious. So, since Vincent was top of mind, I decided to tweet a little love their way on Friday morning.
My Dear Darling Spouse— who doesn’t tweet but who diligently reads everything on The Thirsty Kitten’s twitter page— saw the tweet immediately and took action. A few clicks later on Open Table, he’d secured a table for two at 6:00 p.m that night. The restaurant is quite popular, so he felt lucky to get a table at all and knew I wouldn’t mind an early dinner if this was the destination. Of course, I tweeted my elation.
That evening, we were ushered to a lovely window table that offered a perfect view of the beautifully lighted trees lining the downtown streets. And we realized at that moment (with much delight) that we were going to have front row seats to one of Minneapolis’ finest holiday traditions— the Holidazzle Parade.
Being a native Southerner, I still have trouble with the chilly (understatement) winters we experience here in Minneapolis. And so I especially marvel at a tradition that brings people out onto the streets at night in the dead of winter to stand still for half an hour (in what are often sub-zero temperatures) in order to see a parade of lighted floats pass by. Don’t get me wrong, the floats are pretty darn cool, but I don’t relish the idea of having to freeze to see them. While we’ve attended a few times through the years, bundled to the hilt when the kids were young, I so adored the idea that I would get to see the whole thing and stay warm while doing it. Oh, and getting to sip champagne at the same time was a mega bonus on top of it all.
When our menus arrived, we dutifully looked at all the dishes, but we both knew that ultimately we were going to order the Chef’s Tasting menu with paired wines specially chosen to accompany each dish. We just can’t help ourselves; it’s an exquisite parade of food and wine that never fails to knock our socks off. And so, this is what presented itself to us that night, accompanied by the Minneapolis holiday lights in all their glory:
- An amuse-bouche which consisted of a pequin (I think) pepper stuffed with salted cod and served with a seafood broth. Paired with a Piper Heidsieck Brut Champagne, the toasty brioche flavors of the bubbly were an impeccable match with the delicately prepared cod and sauce.
- Pan seared scallops with thinly sliced fingerling potatoes and leeks, served with an orange beurre blanc sauce. Paired with the pale peach colored 2011 Clos Clementine Rosé, whose crisp, dry floral notes set off the scallops beautifully.
- A crispy, light, pan roasted grouper with baby bok choy, shiitake mushrooms and a sherry soy vinaigrette paired with the 2011 Chateau de Pennautier Viognier, which was delightfully tart and dry with hints of peach, herb and jasmine.
- Braised lamb shank in a red wine-coriander sauce with baby carrots and artichokes and pillowy light potato gnocchi, paired with an earthy, full-bodied Malbec by Domaine de la Presqu’ile, from the Cahors regions of France (Chef Vincent’s home territory, by the way).
- Pan seared beef tenderloin (yes, there was more) with a bell pepper ragout, sauteed kale, potatoes parisienne and a bordelaise sauce, paired with the only American wine of the evening, a velvety smooth 2008 Napa Cabernet from Ladera Vineyards.
- And the pièce de résistance— a hazelnut-filled, chocolate ganache-topped Louis XV cake served with red wine poached pears, paired with a toasty Pinot des Charentes by Chateau D’Orginac, an aged cognac blended with grape juice.
Needless to say, we were quite pleased with the meal.
So, dear readers, this week we’d like to wish you a wonderful, light-filled holiday season, with as much love and laughter as you can possibly squeeze into your hearts, and with our deepest gratitude to you for joining us in savoring special moments whenever you can. Cheers!