Saturday, February 24, 2007

Walleye Wow!

I'm not a big fan of walleye. When I first arrived in Minnesota almost 5 years ago, it seemed like this state was obsessed with the stuff. Every restaurant from greasy spoons to white linen places offered the fish in some form. Coming from catfish country where I was raised, Walleye seemed to be a bland off-center departure from the type of every-man's fare I was used to so I've generally avoided the stuff unless it's been battered and fried to oblivion (thus closer to what my southern palate expects from a fish like that).

My eyes have been opened by the folks at Birchwood Cafe - an enchanting eclectic establishment buried in a neighborhood on the east side of town, a few blocks shy of the Mississippi River where they rely on organic ingredients, unusual grains, and crank out some incredible baked goods and desserts. The menu is perpetually changing chalk-board listing of entrees, salads, pizzas and other treats. That description cheapens the experience of eating there which is best captured in the invitation painted on the window proclaiming "Good Real Food".

This trip, I was intrigued by an entree of Pan-fried Canadian Walleye in browned butter. Trusting that if anyone could do walleye in a way that I could appreciate, it would be the Birchwood folks. Holy Crap! I scarfed it down too fast to stop to get a picture.

Two fillets of moist, delicately flavored walleye exploded with flavor as they were perfectly caramelized and the flesh was crisp on the outside and just done inside. I love perfectly browned butter as it is rich and deep at the same time and this combination perfectly accented the fish.

The dish was brought together by fried sage, and a pilaf of wild rice, a grain that looked like bulgar or maybe quinoa (I'm bad with my grains) and chunks of pineapple - who would have thunk. The pineapple with the browned butter gave me that rich sweet/savory mix I adore and lingers on my mind for hours afterward. I rounded out the meal with a Jamaican ginger beer and an way-too-sweet chocolate/almond layer cake stuffed with bananas swimming in almond liqueur. All-in-all, the great start to a weekend and an invite to get my buns back into Birchwood more often as well as opening my eyes to the possibilities for walleye.

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