28 October 2008

Business lunch at Muffuletta, St. Paul

When I first started my career, 34 years ago, the company I worked for, Midland Cooperatives, was located at 2021 E. Hennepin Ave. in Minneapolis. Every once in a while, the publications department where I worked would go to Muffuletta for a special lunch.

(I seem to recall that when we went there, the restaurant was called the Lamplighter Inn. Muffuletta’s web site says it’s been a St. Paul mainstay for 27 years. That would imply that it used to operate under a different name, probably different owners. But I couldn’t find anything online to confirm that.)

Whatever it was called, one of the specialties that we all would look forward to was the beer cheese soup.

Things change. Midland eventually moved out of the neighborhood to a new office in Fridley. Then, in 1982, it merged with Land O'Lakes, office located in Arden Hills. Muffuletta has changed a lot, too. The menu is much more up-scale with an emphasis on locally-produced food. But they still serve beer cheese soup, and it’s still worth the drive to have it for a special lunch.

I met Daryn McBeth there on a drizzly October Friday recently. Daryn is the head of the Minnesota Agri-Growth Council, the organization that planned the AgNite Gala during the RNC on September 2. I wanted to thank him for the hard work that made the gala a success, and we also needed to get caught up on a few organizational items.

The lunch menu is very appealing, and it was kind of hard to decide what to have. In the end, though, we both decided to have the daily special – The Bear Market Special. (Very apropos for the worrisome crash of the financial markets.)

For the special, we had a choice of a salad or … the beer cheese soup. Daryn had the salad. It looked good, and he enjoyed it. But I had to have the soup. It was just a cup. But the flavors were a wonderful blend, very cheesy, and garnished with a few kernels of popped corn.

The entrée was a pumpkin risotto. I didn’t think it had a very distinctive pumpkin flavor, but that was all right with me since I’m not a big pumpkin fan. However, there was a very flavorful variety of other ingredients, including some wonderful mushrooms, and overall, the risotto was very good.

The dessert was a bread pudding with dried cherries. Now, I’m really not a bread pudding fan. I asked the server if I could substitute a different dessert. He apologetically declined, explaining that the portion size for the special is not the same as for the other items on the menu. I didn’t mind too much. I still ate it all, and it was good. For all I know, it was really excellent bread pudding. I just don’t get into it.

All that was just $10. Admittedly the portion sizes were quite small. But that suited us just fine. We had a nice conversation, and I was very happy to have reconnected with an old favorite. One thing’s for sure, I’ll be making my way back to Muffuletta sooner rather than later.

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