18 December 2006

A Retirement Dinner at Tria, North Oaks, Minn.

A group of co-workers gathered at Tria recently on a Sunday night to send off our friend as she enters retirement. This is a baby-boomer retirement, mind you. She’s way too young to retire. Her husband is still working. She probably will end up doing something else. But she’s reached the magic number of age and years-of-service, so she’s leaving Land O'Lakes.

Tria was a good place for this dinner. It’s a nice, comfortable space – lots of wood, three fireplaces, soft lighting, simple décor. On a Sunday night, it wasn’t particularly crowded, so our relatively large group of 14 got great service.

Some of the reviews I’ve read indicate that Tria changes its menu frequently to feature fresh and locally available food. For our dinner, there was a nice range of selections – some pastas, three fish dishes (including the nightly special), several steaks including a buffalo steak, a couple of chicken dishes, a pork tenderloin, short ribs, and lamb.

We started out with several ‘sharing dishes’ for the table. I thought the artisan cheese platter was the best. The calamari also was good, served with a sweet tomato jam sauce. Several of the guests liked the Moroccan lamb cigars, but I didn’t taste one.

For my dinner, I started with the classic wedge salad. The dressing was very tasty, but overall, it’s not a very creative start to the meal. After the sharing plates, I probably could have done without a salad. For my entrée, I had the braised lamb shanks. I love braised lamb shanks. These were very good. It was a large, meaty shank. It was cooked nicely until the meat fell easily off the bone. If I were being picky, I’d say it was slightly on the dry side. But the flavors were great, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was served with Roquefort potatoes. They were very rich, very cheesy, and I ate them all.

The only complaint I can come up is that they muffed a special request. One of the diners was tempted by the saffron roasted sea bass. The menu said that it was spicy, which the server verified. So not wanting a spicy meal, she ordered a steak instead. On the menu, the New York steak came with polenta. The filet came with cauliflower au gratin. She wanted the New York steak, but she wanted it served with the cauliflower. When it came out of the kitchen, it was served with au gratin potatoes, so she sent it back. They turned it around quickly and it came right back out with the cauliflower. She loved the cauliflower. But the steak had a spicy sauce on it. She tasted the sea bass – not at all spicy.

For our wine, we had a Sterling ‘Vintner’s Collection’ sauvignon blanc and Echelon pinot noir. Both were good, moderately-priced, and nicely compatible with the meals we ordered. Tria does have a supplemental list of ‘reserve’ bottles. If you’re there for a special occasion and want to celebrate with a special bottle of wine, you’ll be able to find it on this list. For our large group, the Echelon and the Sterling were just fine.

Actually, I do have one other complaint. Location. They are located way, way out. North Oaks is a suburb north of St. Paul. Maybe if you’re coming from St. Paul, it may be more accessible. But if you’re coming from the Minneapolis side of the river, or, the western suburbs, I would advise driving with a GPS system. Another suggestion would be to come in the summer. Then you can drive out there before it gets dark. According to the web site, Tria has a great patio. So that would be a nice option for summer dining.

If you can find your way into the wilderness of North Oaks, I think you’ll like Tria.

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