This past summer, I had the opportunity to travel to Minneapolis for business, an exciting prospect given the fact that Minneapolis is home to Chef Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods fame. Unfortunately, I did not have a chance to catch up to the Chef's traveling food truck, AZ Canteen. But I still took in some really good eats at an eatery I'm sure Chef Zimmern would give his stamp of approval. (In fact, according to Food & Wine, he already has.)
The Butcher and the Boar earned its honors as a James Beard award semi-finalist. This popular downtown Minneapolis gastropub boasts a menu of unique house-made sausages, charcuterie and a variety of other meat selections that would drive any carnivore crazy (think vampire at a blood bath). If you are a meat lover looking for something other than the ubiquitous steak, this is most definitely the place to be. The Twin Cities must be full of meat-eaters because seats at this restaurant are hard to come by, so reservations are a must. But walk-in diners shouldn't fret. The full dinner menu can be ordered at the restaurant's lengthy bar. And the casual open beer garden offers its own shorter, but equally interesting menu.
As a lone diner, I had the good fortune to find myself a seat at the bar. Turns out the bar is a great place to be when you are dining alone, probably because it isn't so obvious that you are dining alone. You also get a good vantage point of what everyone else is partaking in and you don't have to feel awkward about asking your neighbor what's on their plate. That night, I found myself between two fellow business travelers. The diner to my right travels regularly to Minneapolis and frequents the Butcher and the Boar just as often. The diner to my left is a fellow food junkie who made a pit stop in Minneapolis on her way to Wisconsin. She too had heard the buzz about the place and, like me, wanted to check it out for herself. That was good to know. If anything, it confirmed that I was in the right place.
Now, Anna NEVER lets me order lamb when I am in her presence. You know that she guests on my blog quite often and we dine together nearly all the time. I have very few opportunities to enjoy lamb as a meal. So, when I dine sans Anna, I often give undue consideration to any lamb on the menu. I'm sure there were other equally good options on the menu but that day, I was on a lamb mission. And lucky for me, the Boar had a rather tasty sounding lamb merguez sausage on its menu that I just couldn't turn down. Yes, lucky for me.
|Lamb merguez sausage|
This sausage was everything I wanted it to be. Juicy and spicy through and through. Paired with butter toasted pita points and vinaigrette-dressed cucumber and red onion, this dish brought to mind an elevated, rustic and deconstructed version of the pitas my mother allowed me in my youth. An interesting kind of ethnic comfort food for me, who often doesn't travel alone. I savored every bite of this lamb, free of all the guilt that Anna would have otherwise heaped upon me. Knowing that it would be a very long while until I would have lamb again, I was sad to see the last bit go. The diner to my right ordered the same after I did and I couldn't help catching glances at his newly served lamb sausage as I carefully rationed the last bits of my own.
Fortunately for me, the diner to my left was about to come to my aid. She had a hankering for the short rib which, come to think of it, was not at all short. In fact, it was huge. It was so large that I had to ask my new friend exactly what she had ordered. It was big enough that my fellow foodie was practically begging me to take some off her hands. I tried to graciously decline, but who am I to turn down food ...
|Short rib and fried green tomato|