Saturday, February 13, 2010

Love and $10 cocktails - Early Valentine's Day at Bradstreet Crafthouse

I don't know what is says about us when we make a tradition of re-scheduling Valentine's Day to fit our schedules. This tradition started when I was in business school and J was managing a political campaign in Atlanta. We figured Valentine's Day is now one of the most commercially hyped observances out there, so we could celebrate it any day we wanted. I've been working 12+hour days 6 - 7 days a week since the winter holiday (thus the long gap in Bite&Chew posts) so the tradition continues.

Given 2/14 fell on a Sunday, and most of our favorite restaurants only had openings at 4pm or 9:30pm that night, we opted to move it to Friday 2/12 and go relatively casual at Bradstreet Crafthouse at the 601 Graves Hotel. We've found that their menu of small plates can be touch and go, but has much of the refinement and finish that we enjoy at the more splurge-and-spend Cosmos upstairs. Whatever you feel about the food, the massive list of artisan cocktails, all for $10 each, is what gets us frozen Minnesotans excited - read on.

We opted to sit at the bar overlooking the small but efficient open kitchen where we could observe and occasionally chat with the young and lanky cooks as they effortlessly grilled, sauced and garnished a tight array of platters, and trays. Amidst a gift exchange of a bacon watch for me to go with my infamous bacon wallet and a quirky Chumby One for J to satiate his hunger for wi-fi gadgets, we enjoyed two courses of nibbles and cocktails.

To start, we enjoyed a Mediterranean Platter of hummus, olives and marinated feta cheese as well as an order of the Polenta Fries with piquillo pepper sauce and gremolata. Both were beautifully presented. The cheese and hummus were the stars, but the combo of the gremolata and sauce with the crispy strips of polenta was a little underwhelming. That didn't stop us from chomping it all down. I also didn't go too harsh on the food as I enjoyed a tasty and tart Gin Cocktail they call "Three Doors Down" - Death’s Door, Lemon, Rothman & Winter Pear Liqueur, Regans’ Orange Bitters - whew! The bartenders at Bradstreet are some of the best in the Twin Cities, and it shows in every sip.

For the main nosh, we opted for three dishes: Grilled Scallops with what looked to be a relish of edamame, cherry tomatoes and herbs, a Duck Confit Quesadilla with Raclet Cheese and Apple Kimchi, and a plate of buttery rich braised lamb ribs glazed with a sesame soy glaze and a snappy mustard. The ribs were our favorite part of the meal - melt in your mouth flavorful and the mustard was a perfect condiment. J didn't quite "get" what looked like a cold rice thingy that was served on the side, but it helped to cut through the richness of the meat. I washed the food down with my current favorite on the Bradsteet cocktail menu, a Black Walnut Old Fashioned - Bulleit Bourbon, Demerara Syrup, Nux Alpina, Black Walnut Liqueur, House Orange Bitters all served over a slow-melting perfectly shaped single baseball-sized sphere of ice - put that in your pipe and smoke it!

Given I had been up since 4am and worked a 13 hour day, there was no dessert course, but we'll go back and catch that later.