A couple of weeks ago I visited the home of 10,000 lakes, Minnesota. It was my summer pilgrimage to visit the parents. My parents live in a smallish town about and hour and half outside of Minneapolis, and about 20 minutes from the Iowa border. Needless to say there is not alot to do in these parts. Once you have to been to the Spam museum, you do not need to go back (I guess unless you really like Spam). My mother recently discovered Four Daughters Vineyard and Winery in Spring Valley, MN.
The winery has been in business for a little over 2 years. They do have a small vineyard on the property, and a small production facility where they produce and bottle the wine. When we visited they were having an event called Moonlight Dine in the Vines. This is a 10 course tasting menu with wine pairings. I wasn't sure what to expect from a tasting at a winery that is in the middle of a Minnesota cornfield, but hey let's give it a try.
Unfortunately, due to the weather we were unable to eat in the vineyards, but instead ate on the patio next to the vineyards.
You are requested to arrive 30 minutes prior to the dinner. When you arrive, you are greeted with a choice of white or red sangria. About 10 minutes prior to the dinner you are given a brief tour of the wine making process, and given the opportunity to ask questions about the winery and/or wine. Then it is time to eat.
It was nice to hear that the Chef tries to access all of his food from local sources. Some veggies and corn come from the farm down the road, some of the meat comes from a local butcher in St. Paul, etc.
As I look at the 10 course tasting menu, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. There was quite an array of food items and preparations, and it I knew I was going to be in for a culinary adventure!
Course 1 - Octopus ceviche with grapefruit, mint, and crispy tortillas - The flavor of this dish was amazing. It was light and refreshing and had overall great flavor. If it would had been a typical hot Minnesota summer night, this would have just made that evening a little cooler. The one minor nit-picky item i have was the octopus. It was a little rubbery. I wish shrimp or a white fish would have been used instead. Granted this would have been a little more traditional than adventurous.
Course 2 - Asparagus with anchovy-preserved lemon, vinaigrette, crispy prosciutto, shaved Parmesan - I'm not going to lie, when this was placed in front of me I thought this looked like Spam. Luckily it taste nothing like Spam. It was nice continuation of a light summer dish. It was like a nice asparagus salad, but presented in a whole new way
Course 3 - Buffalo tartar with forest mushroom Dijon, quail egg, bone marrow polenta, arugula - I know some people are going EWWWW..right now..Raw meat. My boyfriend even said he was not looking forward to it. Once we took a bite it tasted just fine. I was a little more excited about the bone marrow polenta. That was very tasty. The bone marrow just added a savory flavor to the polenta. this should be offered in more restaurants.
Course 4 - Yellow fin Tuna crudo with roasted heirloom tomato. edamame, tomato oil, chive blossom
Course 5 - Sweet Corn consomme with charred corn, crab, jalapeno, heirloom tomato, basil, toasted pumpkin seeds
Course 6 - Rabbit salad with grilled artichokes, fava beans, sorrel, whole wheat pearl pasta - I have never had rabbit before, so this was a first. It was prepared nice and a good flavor.
Course 7 - Blood Sausage hash with fingerling potatoes, brussel sprouts, olive oil poached yolk, brie fondue - I am not a fan of blood sausage, and was not looking forward to this. However, this did not taste like the blood sausage i have had before. It had a good flavor and was enjoyable to eat.
Course 8 - Oxtail braised with celery root gratin, caramelized fennel, braising juice reduction - this was my favorite dish of the night. The meat was so tender, and the braising juice had such a meaty good flavor. I could have had another plate of this one.
Course 9 - Calf's Liver sauteed with sweet pea -potato puree, roasted spring onions, big boy pan gravy
Course 10 - Chocolate Truffle with Candied Red Chili
If you are in this neck of the woods stop by for a wine tasting or check out their many events they have going on during the year.