Saint Genevieve (Minneapolis)

A few weeks ago we were scheduled to eat at Myriel in St. Paul with friends. But just a few hours before our reservation they had to close suddenly because of you-know-what. Rather than cancel our plans entirely we cast around for other places that might have tables and were happy to find that there was room at Saint Genevieve in south Minneapolis. Though I have not reviewed them before, this was not my first meal there. I ate there at a work-related engagement some years ago. I enjoyed that meal but somehow they fell off my radar and I never got around to going back with the missus. And when they came back on it they had switched to requiring full payment at the time of booking. While I don’t object per se to this model of dining, it’s a bit of a no-go for parents of small children like us. But on this occasion they had tables freely available and—not that it would have been an issue that evening—I wasn’t asked to pay ahead. As to whether that’s because they’ve changed that reservation model or whether the policy is relaxed when last-minute tables are available, I don’t know. I do know that we all enjoyed our meal very much. Continue reading

Meritage II (St. Paul, MN)

For the second weekend in a row it seemed like our plans to eat an outdoor meal at a fancy restaurant would be spiked by the weather. You may recall that we tried to eat at Colita the weekend before last but the forecasted rain (which did show up) led to the reservations on their patio being cancelled that morning. (Don’t feel too bad for us: we ended up under the awning on Andale’s patio and ate very well.) Undaunted by this damp outcome I made reservations for the missus’ birthday dinner at Meritage, whose website lists a terrace. Now I couldn’t remember a terrace from the last time we ate there—it turns out they use the word “terrace” for what I would call “the sidewalk in front of the restaurant”. But this is not the season for semantics. Winter is coming and we will take whatever opportunities for outdoor dining as present themselves. As the week went on I checked the forecast every day. Wouldn’t you know it, by Thursday there was rain predicted for the exact time of our reservation. Not wanting a last minute cancellation, I called the restaurant on Friday to see what kind of shelter they might have on their “terrace” and was reassured to be told that our table was under an awning and it would probably take a major thunderstorm for there to be any issues. To be safe, I moved our reservation from 8 pm to 7.15 pm. I am happy to say that there was no cancellation call on Saturday morning. Here is how the evening went. Continue reading

Coming to Terms with Joe Beef

I ate at Joe Beef for the third time this summer. As those who’ve read my earlier reviews of dinners at Montreal’s temple to gastronomic excess (here and here) know, Joe Beef is my favourite restaurant in its genre in North America. I refer to “the curse of Joe Beef” often when contemplating the lesser offerings of more expensive restaurants in the Twin Cities. Going to Montreal and not eating at Joe Beef seemed unthinkable to me. And so when a trip to Montreal with colleagues materialized earlier this year making a reservation at Joe Beef was one of the the first things I did—I would be taking along with me a couple of friends who’ve heard me rave about the restaurant for some years now. It would be my first dinner there in the summer. Let me explain why we then almost didn’t go and why we finally did. Bewarned: I am going to spend rather less time talking about the meal than about other things. Continue reading

L’Express (Montreal, June 2019)

I am at the end of a weeklong trip to Montreal and Toronto with a group of colleagues. We had some very interesting conversations with intellectuals and activists in both cities. We also ate very well. I will be digesting the intellectual material slowly; the meal reports, however, begin a few hours before I leave the group to return to Minnesota. First up, is the very first dinner we ate in Montreal, just about an hour after our (delayed) flight landed. While the rest of our meals as a group centered on the cuisines of more recent immigrant communities, for the first dinner we’d decided to go to one of Montreal’s classic bistros: L’Express. Continue reading

Au Kouign-Amann (Montreal)

Au Kouign-Amann: Kouign Amann
This is the very last of my reports from our trip to Montreal in late October. While I’ve presented the rest of those meals in chronological order, this one is a break in the sequence. You see, we stopped in at this wonderful bakery on the way back to our hotel from a day of gorging at the Jean-Talon market—having finished there with a large order of poutine covered in foie gras-laced gravy—and a few hours before our dinner at Joe Beef. Don’t judge. Or if you do, consider that we walked all the way back from Au Kouign-Amann to our hotel downtown. At any rate, to go to Montreal and not eat at a boulangerie/patisserie would be both stupid and impossible to resist doing: there are literally seventeen of them on every street; and Au Kouign-Amann was one that was recommended by almost everyone who knows Montreal.  Continue reading

Olive et Gourmando (Montreal)

Olive + Gourmando: Oeuf Coquette
Back to Montreal, and this time we’re in Old Montreal. Our meal previous to this on our trip in late October was dinner at Joe Beef. The plan had been to have a lazy morning to recover from that dinner and then go to the Museum of Fine Arts in the afternoon before dinner at Hotel Herman (review coming soon). But our Montrealer friends that we dined with at Joe Beef recommended that we spend time wandering around Old Montreal instead and that we begin the day with brunch at Olive et Gourmando. I’m very glad we listened to them. The food was very good indeed and was excellent fuel for a few hours of walking around the old city. Continue reading

Joe Beef II: The Re-Beefening (Montreal)

Joe Beef: Spaghetti Homard Lobster
Actually, we barely ate any beef at this meal. We did eat very Joe Beefishly though though.

This was my second visit to Joe Beef. The first was in March of 2015—I was in Montreal for a conference and a friend who lives there made a reservation for our group of grad school friends who were all on a panel together. That meal was spectacular and was a large part of my desire to get back to Montreal soon’ish with the missus so she too could eat at Joe Beef and not just listen to me go on about it. This autumn we had the opportunity (and a reason) to do a weekend getaway by ourselves and so it was to Montreal that we decided to go. Note: neither late March nor late October are the optimal times to visit Montreal but I would suggest that there is no bad time to visit Montreal. It’s a beautiful city and if you like food in a French vein there is no better place in North America.  Continue reading

Le Comptoir (Montreal)

Le Comptoir, Montreal
Two weeks ago we were stuck at the airport in Montreal. We’d missed our early morning flight back to Minneapolis, couldn’t get another flight until much later in the day, and were distraught about missing Halloween with our boys. Now it’s Halloween every day and I’m thinking we should have just stayed there and sent for the boys and the dogs. Oh Canada! If it were only possible for me to move my entire whisky collection without having to pay colossal duty on it, I’d look seriously into moving north. Ideally, to somewhere within easy reach of Montreal, which has become one of my favourite North American cities to eat in.  Continue reading

Joe Beef (Montreal)

Joe Beef
If Schwartz’s was one of the places I knew I was going to be eating at in Montreal, Joe Beef was the other. This is literally true: I had a dinner reservation; it is, they say, the hardest reservation in town but we secured it a while ago, once participation in the conference I was attending was confirmed (dining with me were my four friends on my panel, three of whom I had gone to graduate school with and one of whom lives in Montreal). Even a few months out, and even on a Thursday night, the best we could get for a party of five was a table at 9.30. When we arrived the restaurant was packed, the party before us was dawdling, and we were not seated till 10. This gave a couple of us a chance to scan and slowly translate the menu (more on this below) while the rest waited outside (there’s not much space inside for waiting, which made me wonder what people do when it’s really cold outside). Continue reading