18 December 2014

Victory 44 Mpls wine dinner shows off chef’s skill & Italian wine

This post and the next one explore some of the creativity that’s occurring in neighborhood restaurants in Minneapolis. Victory 44 is in the Victory neighborhood of North Minneapolis near where my son lives (in Lind-Bohanon). It isn’t a neighborhood that you’d think of as being a destination dining spot. But Victory 44 has been winning kudos and drawing people in while still maintaining an ambiance as a neighborhood restaurant.

I’d only been there once before, with my son for lunch. (Click here to read that review.) I always intended to go there again. So when I saw a Facebook post about a wine dinner in early December, I made a reservation. I took Ben again because I knew he’d enjoy it, and because my wife isn’t so fond of tasting menus.

One of the things that appealed to me about the early December dinner was that the food courses would be paired with Italian wines. Nebbiolo was the featured grape, and the six wines were selected to show the variety of ways the grape could be used in wine-making. To date, my only experience with Nebbiolo has been in a couple bottles of Barolo that I’ve had. So I thought this would be a fun way to sample a range of wines made from Nebbiolo, including Barolo.IMG_0114

The first wine we were served was Poderi Rosato, a rose made from Nebbiolo. It’s sort of an unusual way to use the grape. The winery is Poderi la Collina and the rose isn’t even listed on its web site. It was good but not noteworthy, a nice way to start the meal. It was served with a selection of ‘amusements’ served on a slate slab. The second one from the left is ‘trotters’ with a mustard seed ‘caviar’ topping. I think a lot of people thought the chef said ‘fritters’ and didn’t realize we’d been served pigs feet. The crostata on the far left with thin-sliced radishes was my favorite on the plate.

So that’s how the meal began. I’m not going to post a photo of every course, only my favorites. But if you want to see some of the plates that I don’t post, go to Twitter and search for #NebbioloWineDinner.

The next wine was a Nebbiolo varietal from Vigin winery. It was a nice choice for the next two plates – shaved beets with powdered raspberry, crème fresh and blue cheese and a deconstructed pepperoni pizza. I’m not a big fan of beets, but the pizza was delightful.

Next came two Barbarescos, one of the two classic wines made from Nebbiolo (along with Barolo). The two wineries were Sottimano and Moccagatta. Both were excellent, and it was interesting to taste the variation that different wineries produced. The four plates served with the Barbarescos were:

  • Green eggs & ham – the egg was slowly cooked until it just barely curdled;
  • Foie gras – shredded and served with figs. The chef asked if anyone at the table objected to foie gras; no one did;
  • Boudin Noir – blood sausage. This was the only course that I just didn’t like.
  • Chocolate pasta with walnut Bolognese – I thought this was extremely flavorful and creative. The pasta was not at all sweet, and the walnut Bolognese was great.IMG_0130

The final two wines were Barolos, what I’d been waiting for. The first glass was from Mauro Molino and the second was from Fratelli Revello. I loved both; I might have slightly preferred the Revello, though that might have had more to do with the fact it was the last wine of the evening. With the Barolos, the chef served his version of a rib eye steak. It was a small medallion of beef, seared, and served with charred potato and onion. It was my favorite plate of the evening.

My only quibble about the meal was that he served three dessert courses with the Barolos. The wines were still enjoyable, as were the desserts. But they didn’t really compliment each other like they should have. The final three courses were (I call them desserts):

  • Pumpkin granita with cranberries
  • Beer and Bread Porridge
  • Chocolate Raspberry

Of the three, I really liked the porridge. The other two were good, but I’m not big on either pumpkin or chocolate.

All told, this was a very enjoyable and unique experience, just the kind of thing you wouldn’t normally expect to find at a small, unassuming neighborhood café. The explanation for the dinner was that Victory 44 is planning a new restaurant in the Linden Hills neighborhood of South Minneapolis. He wanted to try out a few concepts as well as refresh the menu at V44. Cool. I was glad we could participate in his culinary experiment. IMG_0968

At the end of the dinner, I took this photo of my son and the chef, Erick Harcey.0

The Nebbiolo dinner was actually the first of four wine dinners planned. Regrettably, I don’t think I’ll make it to any of the others. But I am looking forward to trying the new Linden Hills restaurant when it opens.

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