In this sequel to our 2012 post “A Very Vincent Christmas,” we take you back to one of our favorite restaurants. In fact, we love Vincent restaurant so much, you shouldn’t be surprised if we turn this into a trilogy at some point, or even a quadrilogy.
Consistently ranked by Zagat as one of America’s top restaurants, Vincent is a Minneapolis gem that specializes in “French cuisine with a contemporary American influence.” Locally, it is well known for its highly ranked Vincent burger, purportedly one of the best in town, but its elegant dining space and creative menu are what draw us back again and again for special occasions.
For the past five years or more (who’s counting), we’ve made Vincent our destination on my birthday, a tradition both Dear Darling Spouse and I have become so fond of that I couldn’t imagine breaking the pattern for my 50th. Why mess with a great plan?
Among the many things we appreciate about Chef Vincent Francoual is that he remains true to his roots even though he has lived in Minneapolis now for almost two decades. Raised in the town of Puy L’Eveque in the center of the Cahors wine region, Vincent trained as a chef in France before coming to the states. In his early years, he worked at a little joint in Manhattan called Le Bernardin, not a bad pedigree at all.
He calls himself a “confused chef” because while he anchors his cuisine with traditional French dishes, he does not hesitate to bend rigid culinary rules and mingle innovations from traditions around the world, all because of his personal quest to create “beauty and happiness” through his cooking. As avid fans of his innovative and delicious cuisine, we hope he stays happily confused.
In our now well-established custom, we ordered the tasting menu paired with specially selected wines to complement each course. Not only do we enjoy sampling as many dishes as possible in a single evening, we adore the civilized, unhurried pace of the multi-course meal, with the time to linger and savor each offering and appropriate pauses in between. Given two choices for each course, Dear Darling and I selected the opposite dishes right down the line without even discussing it in advance and delightedly realized we’d have a chance to taste everything offered between the two of us.
Our meal unfolded deliciously, bringing butternut squash soup with blue cheese and hazelnut, roasted pear salad with serrano ham and honeyed chevre, grilled sturgeon, pan-seared scallop, lamb shank and beef tenderloin. The paired wines for each course were all from France, not always the case with the tasting menu, but always a treat since Vincent knows the wines from his home country so well. From the Picpoul de Pinet that was somewhat reminiscent of an Alsatian Reisling, to the beautifully light Domaine de Triennes Rosé from Provencal, to the earthy cuvée of Malbec from Cahors bottled just for Vincent, each wine was exquisite.
Topping it all off, a fortified wine, Pineau des Charentes, arrived with a cheese platter and the restaurant’s signature chocolate cake, appropriately decorated with happy birthday wishes and a candle.
When I was a kid, I had a game with my grandmother in which I used to ask her how old she was, and she would always reply with a quote from Jonathan Swift. “I’m as old as my tongue and a little older than my teeth,” she’d say, leaving me laughing and puzzled at the same time. I never could figure out if she wanted to hide age or if she just enjoyed the game. Call me crazy, but I found myself so delighted at achieving 50 years on this planet that I have no need for my grandmother’s charming subterfuge. I’m ready. I’ll happily own every single one of my years.
So in the spirit of celebrating milestones, we toast to Chef Vincent and his cuisine that both honors tradition and makes up its own rules at the same time, remaining both timeless and fresh—a great recipe for aging well, if you ask me. And since every birthday deserves a song, we offer you “The Better Birthday” song by Twin Cities author/singer/songwriter Barbara McAfee, who puts her own refreshing spin on the traditional classic. Happy birthday, one and all!