Monday, June 29, 2009

Minneapolis Day 4: Bewiched, plus the last night of D'Amico Cucina

Stopped by Bewiched to say hello and grab lunch, and naturally could not resist the tuna confit sandwich. That tuna, it haunts my dreams and whispers of sacred spices from a land of mythical fish gods anointed with aïoli from the land that time forgot!

Or something like that.

Anyways, it's freakin' delicious.

I could likewise not resist a daily special soup of roasted cauliflower, white cheddar and house cured bacon, which was very nice even in spite of the fact that usually can't stand eating (hot) soup in hot weather. It reminded me of a classier version of the beer cheddar concoction, minus the popcorn (who came up with that one, anyhow?).

Later I dropped by D'Amico Cucina for what I thought would be a brief few courses by myself in the bar but turned into a veritable smorgasbord of hedonism, which ran to such an extent that we were in fact recipients of the The Last plates ever to be sent out of the kitchen (as it was their final service). It was an historic night in Minneapolis (and Minnesota) fine dining that I feel very honored to be a part of. It's incredible that so many of today's well regarded local chefs came out of that restaurant and/or organization. And now the continuity in fine dining that Cucina has represented for these 22 years has shut its doors. But I've been hearing the rumors about the staff's iminent takeover of a certain restaurant downtown, so I suppose it will just be the next evolution (...or some may argue devolution) in the scene.

Wickedly good grilled foie gras and figs with mugolio syrup on a crostino. Nice one, TJ!!

Bigarò, a terribly good blend of moscato d'asti and brachetto, with a pretty rosé hue. Big thanks to server Jeff for his thoughtful gesture of bringing me this to pair with the surprise arrival of the foie. They went together beautifully.

Kumamoto oyster with Red Ice granité and mignonette (only those who closed Auriga will get the Red Ice joke). The oyster was plump and briny, but I stayed away from that granité.

Gently cooked white tuna (poached in olive oil, I believe) with wild fennel pollen and arugula believed to be from Doug's garden. The fish was moist and accentuated nicely by the sweet and aromatic pollen.

Piadina with gorgonzola, prosciutto and warm rosemary honey. This was addictive... what's not to like about fried flatbread, drizzled with honey and topped with sweet-salty ham and cheese?

"Scotched" pheasant egg (we agreed the sausage must have been merguez) with grilled eggplant and roasted peppers. This was probably my favorite course, which was spicy, juicy, salty, sweet and creamy all at once. The sausage and vegetables played off each other very well, while the perfectly cooked egg brought it all together nicely.

Agnolotti of veal braised in white wine with olives and parmesan. Oddly, this reminded me strongly of the church-basement-casserole-style turkey tetrazzini from the Byerly's deli I loved as a kid! Then: bowtie pasta, shredded turkey, cheesy sauce, sliced green olives. Now: Pasta stuffed with shredded veal, parmesan (recalling the cheesy sauce), slivered green olives. Coincidence?...

Somewhere in here we also had a course which I did not photograph of seared foie gras with sautéed morels. This sent our server literally running for a wine to match, which turned out to be a 1927 Bastardo madeira. It was nice, but not a terrific match for the dish. This was a rare night where my cup overfloweth with foie gras... a little morbid, but you gotta get when the gettin's good. And it was good.

Seared black bass with a fennel (if I remember correctly?) and porchetta sauce. This dish had interesting things going for it, what with its surf-and-turf theme, but could have used some tweaking. It wasn't bad, but it was somehow just a bit lacking.

Our final savory course was veal tenderloin cooked sous vide, with braised celery and black truffle. This was flavorful and, of course, earthy, a satisfying "meat" course to end the progression of dishes. Simple elements done well.

I neglected to take pictures of our dessert, a sautéed crêpe filled with frangipane, with vanilla mascarpone mousse, orange flower water croquant, and dried (billed as "candied") apricot. Mignardises were tiny caramel chocolate tartlets with fleur de sel and praline truffles.

I will also mention that we drank excellent wines throughout the evening in addition to those I've already mentioned, including a pinot grigio and a Brunello di Montalcino... but I don't know the details beyond that. The Bigarò was really the discovery of the night for me.

It was a very significant evening, but also very fun and convivial, so once again a huge thanks to my friends for letting me crash their party and join in, TJ and all the rest of the BOH crew for the excellent food, the FOH for attentive and personable service even in spite of the chaos, and of course the D'Amicos for having begun the restaurant in the first place. Yet more additional thanks to Chef John Occhiato and Richard D'Amico for being so extremely gracious.

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