Saturday, November 01, 2008

Eating in the City of Lakes

La Belle Vie in MinneapolisI flew into Minneapolis late at night and drove straight to my hotel in Roseville. Northwest charged me $15 to check-in a bag, a first for me! My cab driver helpfully pointed out The Mall of America on the way to the hotel. This mall, the largest in the USA is the size of 78 football fields - 9.5 million square feet. But this city is known as much for its lakes as it is for being the home of large retail chains and malls. Minnesota has so many lakes, its shoreline is larger than California, Florida and Hawaii combined!

I was in Roseville/Minneapolis only for a day, which didn't leave me time to discover the great outdoors, resplendent with fall colors. For lunch, my hosts took me out to Sawatdee, a pretty good Thai restaurant in the downtown area. We drove over the new bridge over the Mississippi that had opened only a week back; the old one, as some of you may remember, created headlines by collapsing during peak hour traffic last year. I ordered pineapple red curry with chicken and rice. They asked me to select my spice level on a range of 1 to 5; I selected 4, which was spicy enough for me... :)

New Bridge MinneapolisIncidentally, during this trip, I saw both ends of the mighty Missisippi River which cuts through the USA from north to south. Like New Orleans, a lot of this city's importance in the past, derived from it's location on this river. This city and the area around it has a history of flour mills and lumber industries that depended on hydropower to run and the river as a means of transport.

Museum in downtown Minneapolis
Fall colors in MinneapolisFor dinner, my hosts me took me to a very upscale French Mediterranean restaurant called Le Belle Vie. Named as one of the top 20 restaurants in the US, this restaurant is located in the interesting Hennepin County. This county was named after the famous French explorer, who among other things, also discovered Niagara Falls. The restaurant is located close to some very interesting buildings: a Gothic cathedral across the road and a very contemporary museum building nearby. The restaurant itself is housed in a stately building with a large, regal dining hall. Guests dine from expensive China and sip from Riedel crysal.

Gothic Cathedral in downtown Minneapolis
La Belle Vie
La Belle VieWe decided to go a la carte instead of selecting from the 5 or 8-course tasting menu. Our waiter was an elderly chap, very friendly and funny. I began with Carmelized Foie Gras with Apple, Fennel and Calvados. It was lovely!

Foie Gras at La Belle Vie
Breads at La Belle VieThe salad came next, White and Green Asparagus with Parmesian-Lemon Sabayon, Pancheta and Butter Poached Egg. This was perfect too.

Salad at La Belle Vie
Salad at La Belle VieFor my entree I wanted to try a fish that was native to the waters in this part of the world. I chose the Oven-Steamed Arctic Char with Fresh Porcini Mushrooms, Burgundy Truffles and Red Wine. I loved this dish! The Arctic Char is a freshwater fish found in Arctic waters and tastes very much like salmon (even though it has many similarities with trout).

Arctic Char at La Belle Vie
Scallops at La Belle VieThe Seared Scallops and Grilled Beef Tenderloin my companions ordered looked great too. This restaurant certainly deserves its standing as one of the Top 50 restaurants in the USA. BTW, this restaurant has a large lounge area too where you can nurse your drinks or even order off the same dinner menu.

Sweet endings at La Belle VieWe had no appetite left to sample the desserts after that dinner. Instead, we chatted over cappucino for a while before getting up to leave. I had to wake up early for my flight to California where I had one more day of meetings before I would catch my long flight back to India.

The Big Sur at Heart my Pizza CupertinoBTW, if you are in Cupertino, try the pizza at Heart My Pizza. I love their Big Sur with large cloves of garlic, pepperoni, sausages and portabello. Just make sure you aren't getting into a meeting after having all that garlic! :)


Lakshmi said...

such a big mall ! the shoppers will have a ball for sure

Sig said...

I've never had artic char, but it was featured on Iron Chef once - it is related to both salmon and trout, hope I get to taste it once! That scallop and beef dish looks great too...

Neeran Karnik said...

Ah, I've had many an excellent meal at Sawatdee during my grad-student days at the Univ. of Minnesota. The first time around, I chose the "four flames" spiciness level and found it, err, challenging! The next time onwards it was three flames for me, and the food was always excellent.

There was another Thai restaurant called "Bangkok Thai" in the Dinkytown area near the University campus. That had good food too, and an excellent all-you-can-eat lunch buffet deal. That restaurant introduced me to "tom yum" soup, and I've been a fan ever since.

Never heard of "La Belle Vie", but that's not surprising considering I was on a student budget :)

Anonymous said...

Excellent presentation is making the dishes such mouth watering that its making me drool just by looking at the pictures :)


Excellent post as usual

Anonymous said...

@Lakshmi: Ah, you noticed the mall above everything else? :)

@Sig: This was my first experience of the Arctic Char. I love Salmon, and I liked this one too.

@Neeran: Completely understand...I remember how much money I had for food during my college days! :)

@Vikash, Harekrishnaji: Thank you!

kyh said...

my my... what yummy food! is the meal expensive? and the first restaurant kinda look like a thai one.

and oh, what lovely church architecture!

Anonymous said...

Do you ever stop traveling? My my, I hope you are collecting airmiles! :D

At least, you are well fed :D

Anonymous said...

@kyh: Yup, that was indeed Thai. :)

Anonymous said...

@zhu: Heh! This year had a lot of travel. Next year, I already have a vacation planned to Europe; beyond that, let's see.

Jen Kumar said...

The land of the 1000 lakes has a commonality with Kerala! It seems you can ride houseboats there- of course most likely quite different than the Indian variety!! Get to live through you.. I always wanted to visit Minneapolis...

Anonymous said...

@jennifer: Interesting! Didn't know that.

Vamsee Modugula said...

Hi, I found your blog by chance and love it. Heard about El Bulli from a foodie friend. Your pictures and descriptions were just mouth-watering. Great site!!

Anonymous said...

@vamsee: Welcome, and thank you! Yeah, El Bulli is still going strong. However, Ferran Adria who made foam the de-facto standard at upscale restaurants, has stopped using it altogether at El Bulli.