03 August 2008

Dinner with former coworkers at Salut in St. Paul

I recently was drafted to organize a dinner for a group of former Land O'Lakes executives. One was my retired boss, one was our retired CEO, and one was our former VP of International Development. I was happy to do it. As I thought about where we should eat, I decided on Salut Bar Americain. My wife and I had only eaten at Salut for lunch, but we thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s got a comfortable ambiance and a quirky sense of humor. (It celebrates using the term ‘frog’ as a nickname for the French. I always thought it was a derogatory term.)

Actually, what happened was that my former boss (Bob) lost a bet to our former CEO (Jack). As a result, Bob (who lives in Philadelphia) had to buy dinner for Jack. So when Bob needed to come to Minnesota for a foundation board meeting, he asked me to organize a dinner to pay off the bet. After I had the dinner arranged, Bob invited Martha (the former International VP) to join us. Voila!

Our group started with some appetizers. My wife and I split a crab cake. It was outstanding! We especially liked how it was mostly crab with only enough filler to hold it together. The spicy aioli provided a wonderful accent. Bob ordered half a dozen oysters. In a rare moment of helpfulness (more about that later) our server gave some good advice about what to order. I had one oyster and thought it was very good – fresh and clean tasting. Jack ordered baby field greens salad. It was good, but he felt that it was over-dressed. Martha had the beet and chevre salad.

The evening specialty was a multi-course meal consisting of a salad, a chicken entrée, and a dessert, all for only $16. Wow! It sounded like a great bargain. Unfortunately, none of us were in the mood for chicken. Instead, we all had fish.

Two of the group had the evening special fish. It was Arctic char, which is very similar to salmon. It was served with a slaw and honey-glazed Brussels sprouts. I had a taste, and I thought it was the best meal of the evening. I ordered the halibut Provencal, which is a regular item on the menu. It was crusted with fennel pollen (whatever that is) and served with a caramelized tomato sauce and pesto. It was very good.

Another of the regular fish items on the menu is ‘crispy crust salmon.’ The crust helped to keep the fish very moist, but it wasn’t seasoned very well. So I thought it was a little bland. Ok, bland might be too strong. But my wife and I make salmon at home regularly, and this just didn’t have as much flavor as what we make. The final entrée was a special request. Martha had had a special on a previous visit, and she asked if it could be served again. It also was salmon, only this version was served with blue berry vinaigrette as a salad.

I had some trouble ordering wine for this dinner. First we started with a chenin blanc. Actually, it turned out to be a vouvray. It was very tasty, but a little too sweet for everyone at the table, especially as an accompaniment for the oysters. So after we finished that bottle, we ordered a sauvignon blanc, which turned out to be a sancerre. This was a real winner.

The only disappointment of the experience was the service, which was slow and inattentive. We had lots to talk about, so we weren’t too upset. But the five of us were there from 6:30 until 9:30 p.m., but longer than it should have taken.

I said that Bob was in town for a board meeting, and that he had lost a bet to Jack. He’s the chairman of Prosperity Worldwide, a foundation that supports projects to help farmers in developing nations improve their productivity. Rather than have Bob pay his debt to Jack by picking up the tab, we finally decided that he should make a contribution to the foundation, which is what we did. Take a look at the web site, and consider if you should make a contribution as well.

1 comment:

Emily said...

Fennel pollen has been around for centuries, but it's up and coming in fancy restaurants and foodie's homes... it's the most potent form of fennel. Fabulous for cooking Italian and seafood dishes!