Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Reetsy Reviews: Muffaletta in the Park

On a rainy October night, I wanted to treat gerg to a grassfed, juicy steak.

I called Sapor. They were offering a hanger steak that night. I called Muffaletta. They were offering a NY strip. gerg opted for Muffaletta in the Park, as he is a NY strip lover.

Executive Chef J.D. Fratzke at Muffaletta is a champion for local and sustainable foods in the Twin Cities. ""My heart and soul will always belong to the Mississippi River Valley. Everyone at Muffuletta considers it a huge point of pride to showcase the hard work and dedication to quality found in Minnesota's network of small family farms. The Heartland Food Network is a great partner in bringing the superlative flavors of sustainable agriculture to our guests and to future generations."

Our dinner at Muffaletta in October was so enjoyable. We went there expecting a nice dinner. We left after more than two hours of sipping wine, dining, stirring cubed sugar into espresso, and enjoying a truly romantic setting in a candlelit dining room. Simple and elegant. We toasted. We smiled. We ate too much.

I started with their 1977 Muffaletta Beer Cheese Soup. It has been called the "world's definitive beer cheese soup" by Dara Moskowitz for good reason. It has been on the menu since the restaurant opened, and is a masterpiece in a bowl.

gerg ordered the Fromage a Trois served with generous portions of Green Pastures Dairy cow cheese (Carleton, MN), Eichtens Hidden Acres gouda cheese (Center City, MN), and Faribault Dairy Company's St Pete's blue cheese (Faribault, MN). The cow's cheese had a mild flavor and firm texture, and while the gouda presented a stronger flavor and softer texture, the blue cheese was creamy and tangy. Great options from Minnesota. Top Notch.

Muffaletta offers daily specials with paragraph-long introductions provided on the menu. gerg and I opted for the fish special and the feature entree.

The fish special: Mejillones y Camaron with Black Beans, Lime Rice, and Piquillo Pepper Sauce: "It is common for South American cuisine to feature combinations of all types of jewels of the sea. Tonight we're featuring steamed mussels and tiger shrimp with stewed black beans and pork, lime rice, and a warm piquillo pepper puree kissed with chilies and cumin." The "pork" was diced thick slab bacon from Fischer Farms and offered a salty, bitey contrast to the sweet creaminess of the piquillo sauce. Yes, I ate the bacon. The lime rice and black beans were prepared perfectly - light and fluffy.

Feature dish: Argentine Gaucho Cattle Drive Strip Steak: "1000 Hills Cattle Company (Cannon Falls, MN) grassfed strip steak served over chimmichurri sauce and mashed root vegetables with sauteed peppers." They don't mention that mashed root vegetables are mixed with generous spoonfuls of cream and butter that made them almost as sweet as pie filling, and just as naughty.

Other local fair on the Muffaletta menu:
Fischer Farms grilled pork loin
Maple Leaf Farms duck a l'orange
Ledebuhr's wild rice sausages (made in a Winona butcher shop with Hidden Streams pork)
Stickney Hill chevre

They also offer burgers, tapas, and, of course, a muffaletta sandwich which are less spendy than the entrees we selected.

We watched other folks depart chatting and smiling, warm and friendly - it might have been the exotic and fruity Casa LaPostolle Chardonnay, but I had a warm n fuzzy feeling. Perhaps the service was above and beyond because it was a Tuesday night - we couldn't complain. If anything, our server a was a bit too enthusiastic, and I refuse to complain about enthusiasm in a server.

Muffaletta in the Park
2260 Como Ave
St Paul, MN 55108-1720
Phone: (651) 644-9116


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