Travel Eats documents my food adventures outside of Chicago.
I spent last weekend in Minneapolis to visit close friends and soak in the last little bit of fall foliage. I’ve been to Minneapolis a few times before, but I was more impressed by the food this time around than ever before.
This was in large part because of my dinner at Travail Kitchen & Amusements on Friday night. It was unlike any tasting menu experience I’ve ever had: playful, interactive, a little off-the-wall – but none of the pageantry came at the expense of each dish’s technique and flavor. Across 16-plus whimsical courses, we didn’t just taste the food, but instead took part in more of a multi-sensory experience. For the pasta course, a cartoonish song about pasta blared from the speakers as the staff marched around to the tables, each adding one component until the dish was fully plated. Instead of coming to the table fully assembled, the mini foie gras burger served as the means for an interactive tour of the open kitchen in the middle of the restaurant, with diners snaking through each station until the burgers had all their toppings. And with foie gras mousse, slaw, and a french fry on top, it was probably the best slider I’ve ever had.
As you can see in the video below, some courses required a little extra effort to eat, though now I can say that I’ve eaten speck (a cured ham like prosciutto) that was dangling from a hook!
The chefs at Travail played around with scent and temperature, too. For the steak courses, a miniature cast iron skillet with fresh rosemary atop smoldering charcoal came to the table first, adding a woodsy depth to the beef and brussels sprouts on the plate. As a palate cleanser before dessert, we were each served a spoonful of raspberry pop rocks straight out of a bath in liquid nitrogen, with firm instructions to “keep them moving on your tongue.” I admit I moved my whole body around as I ate mine, trying to make sure they didn’t stay in one place as chilly vapor poured out of my nose and mouth.
The next morning, I ate the best autumnal breakfast dish I’ve had all season: a savory waffle at Birchwood Cafe. The pumpkin waffle itself had incredible texture from the millet and gruyere cheese, and the accompaniments added all the sweet and salty notes I needed. And I wasn’t disappointed with my choice to pair it with a sidecar of sweet potato ale, for an extra touch of fall flavor. Later that afternoon, we indulged in Sebastian Joe’s ice cream, and I was especially wooed by my scoop of pumpkin, which was rich with warm spices.
The Bachelor Farmer, another Minneapolis favorite, pays homage to Minnesota’s Nordic roots through more elevated versions of traditional fare. While we sampled several dishes, it was the delicious board of various pates, pickles, and toast (served on the side in a gorgeous metal stand) that stayed with me the most. We wrapped up the weekend at French Meadow Bakery & Cafe, which made me wish that breakfast quesadillas made with black beans and fluffy eggs were on more menus in Chicago.
The details: Travail Kitchen & Amusements, 4124 W Broadway Ave. in Robbinsdale; Birchwood Cafe, 3311 E 25th St. in Minneapolis; Sebastian Joe’s, 1007 Franklin Ave. S in Minneapolis; The Bachelor Farmer, 50 N 2nd Ave. in Minneapolis; French Meadow Bakery & Cafe, 1662 Grand Ave. in St. Paul.