I don’t know what birthdays are like at your house, but at our house, it’s become much, much more than a birthday. It’s really more like birthweek. Even two weeks before my birthday, I’ll start saying, “Eric, would you mind doing the dishes? After all, it is my birthday.”
So in true celebration of birthweek, we started the celebration with a generous offer from Neil and Brea (my brother-in-law and his wife) to take us out to dinner. Brea had discovered a restaurant called In Season here in Minneapolis and called to ask if we’d been there. I was a little sheepish in admitting I’d never even heard of it, seasonal food blog and all, even though it’s been around since 2010. But I was more than intrigued…and after a quick peek at their oh-so-seasonal winter menu, the baby, with his ravenous appetite, and I were ready to go.
I spent most of my day at work Tuesday thinking about the food to come that night, and I was not disappointed. In Season has a really simple, but warm and approachably elegant atmosphere. After some hellos and catching up with Neil and Brea, we got right to the menu. On one side, Chef Don Saunders lists his seasonal inspiration…in late January, this was comprised of everything from cabbage, squash, and pears to pork, elk, and monkfish. On the other side of the menu were his dinner creations, all based on the listed seasonal ingredients. His philosophy is simple: use ingredients only when they’re at their peak.
After a lot of deliberation, we went with two appetizers and three entrees to share. We started with a charcuterie plate, which in addition to the usuals like soppressata, included some !cheese! options as well (Manchego, Chevre). Let’s be honest; I could have definitely made a meal of the bread, cheese, and a delicious chutney of raisins, apples, and goodness that came with it.
We moved on to my favorite starter: flatbread with winter squash, gruyere, and maple-candied bacon. Garnished with micro-greens and chili threads, this dish was delicious in both presentation and taste; the combination of flavors on that flatbread was perfect and definitely something I’d go back for (you know, next week, when my birthmonth celebration continues).
Each of the three entrees we ordered was good even beyond my already high expectations. Not a big fish fan, I was a little skeptical of the monkfish with salsify, olives, sauce romanesco, and black olive oil, but it was delicious. I was pleasantly surprised at its utter lack of “fishiness,” and instead was happy to use more and more of the fish to dip into the diversely-flavorful romanesco sauce.
We also shared cornbread stuffed quail with boudin noir, yam puree and braised red cabbage. A quail virgin, I was a little nervous at what looked like a miniature turkey on the plate, but it was extremely flavorful with its crisp skin and tender meat. We all laughed because we ended up fighting (very unScandinavian-like) over the last of the yam puree, which brought the whole dish together. Oh…and boudin noir? Sounds beautiful and exotic, right? Translation: blood sausage. Our knowledgeable waitress saw my raised eyebrows and encouraged me to try it anyway. Verdict: get past the name, and you’ll be glad you gave it a try – savory deliciousness and a perfect addition to the quail.
The winner of the night for me was our third entree: pork tenderloin with savory wild rice pancakes and fennel-orange marmalade. The pork was outlandishly tender and moist, and the marmalade was the perfect balance of sweet and savory to go along with it. Eric and I immediately resolved to grow fennel next year as a result.
Needless to say, we will definitely be going back. And I can’t wait to see what kind of menu changes await us come spring. Based on the beautiful dishes we sampled using the plainest of winter ingredients, I was inspired to go home and carpe´ the season even more, especially if that carpe´ing can include maple-candied bacon.
P.S. In Season is not paying me to write about them. But if they wanted to pay me in tubs of their fennel-orange marmalade, I wouldn’t be opposed.