30 June 2012

Farewell lunch at Sea Change, Minneapolis

I wasn’t going to blog about this lunch. I’ve posted several items about Sea Change. It’s one of my favorite restaurants in the Twin Cities. But the desserts that we had at the end of this particular lunch were so noteworthy that I decided to write a post anyway.

So here’s the back story. I invited a co-worker out to lunch as a farewell gesture, since she’s leaving Land O’Lakes. I picked Sea Change. After I made the reservation, I realized that she’s not a big fan of fish and seafood. I asked her if I should pick a different place, but she said that she’d looked at the menu online and it would be fine. SeaChange

Like I said, I wasn’t really expecting this lunch to be much different than other lunches I’ve had there. The truth is, I was a little disappointed by the menu. The offerings on the menu all looked good. But there just wasn’t much of a variety to choose from.

She had a cobb salad. I had a fish sandwich. She really like her salad, and it looked good. I thought my fish sandwich was very good as well. The fish had a light batter. It was very flavorful and the fish was moist and flakey. It was served on a brioche-style bun. It had some very good fries on the plate. They were thin and very crisp.

Since we were celebrating, we decided to have dessert. For me, the desserts were what kept this from being a rather ordinary lunch to being one that was memorable.

Jeanne’s dessert was a lime pudding cake. It was so light and refreshing! On the plate with it was nice, dense pistachio cake that I thought was fabulous. (She let me have a taste.) She also had a generous scoop of sorbet on the plate.

My dessert was a frozen passion fruit soufflé. The soufflé was not a very prominent component of the dessert. It was sort of hidden by three or four large cubes of angel food cake. The most prominent item on the plate were two nice scoops of hibiscus granata. It was so delightful and refreshing to take a small spoonful of granata with the cake. Yum! Along with all of that were four hazelnut crisps.

I hope Sea Change is doing all right. When we arrived promptly at noon, there was only one other diner in the room. By the time we left, there were no more than a dozen tables taken. Maybe it’s just not a popular lunch place. But it remains one of my favorite Twin Cities restaurants, and I’d be sad if its business is sagging.

23 June 2012

Big Island Happy Hour 2012

In mid-June, my co-worker and I hosted a happy hour to benefit the United Way campaign at Land O’Lakes. She’s actually the host since the event is held at her family’s cabin on Big Island in Lake Minnetonka. I just come along and help with the cooking and drinks. We auction the event during the United Way campaign in October and then pick a mutually convenient date for the event – usually in late May or early June. We held the first one in 2008. I didn’t blog about that one. But I did do posts on the 2009 event (click here) and the 2010 event (click here). I don’t remember why I didn’t do a post on the 2011 event. BigIsland1

For the menu this year, Lydia (my co-worker) reprised her specialty – grilled shrimp with Gianni’s dipping sauce. She also made ‘Super BLT Bites with Tarragon Mayo.’ They were very tasty. The tarragon mayo really made the dish. But she complained that they took so much time to assemble that it kept her from enjoying the conversation with our co-workers. I know how she feels. That’s happened to me in previous years.

This year, however, the recipes I prepared all lent themselves to advance preparation.

From the Washington Post food page, I made a goat cheese and pesto bombe. This had to be made in advance so that everything could thicken up and the bombe would hold its shape. I think the pesto was too runny, too much like a pesto sauce rather than a paste. So instead of having this pretty white hemisphere with a green stripe, it turned out to be more of a white hemisphere on an emerald green pesto puddle. Flavors were great, though.BigIsland4

I also made brie and pear quesadillas. These I prepared totally in advance in my own kitchen and just transported them out to Big Island. I kept them in the fridge until ready to serve, then just lightly grilled them before serving.

My final recipe was cucumber and smoked salmon rolls. I did assemble these at the cabin. The hardest part was slicing the cucumber so that I could roll up the cream cheese spread and slices of smoked salmon. My mandolin cut them thin enough, but it’s not a professional mandolin, and I had trouble getting the strips of cucumber long enough for the rolls. Also, I did prepare these about an hour before the guests arrived, and by the time I served them, the cucumber had started to weep and get limp. Still, I loved the way they turned out. It was probably my favorite item of the evening.

So that was it for 2012. It was very gratifying to see how our co-workers appreciated the whole experience. Honestly, I had fun doing it, and we raised a nice chunk of change for our United Way campaign, so it really was for a good cause.