The last time I was at Forepaugh's, I was 17 years old and went before my high school prom. I was not old enough to enjoy or appreciate the character of this restaurant. Coming back as an adult, not only did I love everything from start to finish, I was legally old enough to drink, this time my date was much better and Chef Donald Gonzalez is now in charge.
Let me first tell you how this night came to be. It all starts with this plate:
This past Spring, I attended the Minnesota Monthly Food and Wine Show. Forepaugh's held a plating competition at the show. My childhood friend, Amanda Neby, knows how competitive I am and thought I should go for it. So, I did and I came up with the plate above. I didn't think anything of it and didn't expect to win. About three days later, WCCO Radio's John Hines sends me a text asking if he can surprise me on his radio show. (I am on to talk about the "4 things you need to know" every morning with John around 10:45) I tell him ok, but my mind races. What could the surprise be? I spend the next 12 hours looking at the clock while trying to sleep and do WCCO This Morning. Finally, the reveal. I won the plating competition after a panel of independent judges were brought in because the restaurant didn't want to show any favoritism! I'm dying! This is amazing! I've never won anything before. (Well, maybe a red sled in a coloring contest.) What's the prize? A multi-course wine dinner for up to 8 people, paired with wine. I almost fainted.
Fast forward to July, when all of my family can make dinner. My mom, stepdad, brother, his girlfriend, my brother's girlfriend's mom and my husband and me. What a crew! We're all excited and slightly nervous after our tour of the property and hearing about Molly!
The table comfortably seats 7 of us. The walls are original limestone. The lighting is warm. The wine is delicious. You must use old wooden stairs to get from the first floor of the restaurant to our private space. That means going up and down to the bathroom. It also means catching cool - maybe somewhat creepy - pictures. Is that orb of light, Molly?
By now, you're probably asking: who is Molly? She is the ghost who haunts the mansion. Many staff members can tell stories about encounters with her. I can't tell if I was influenced by the stories or felt her energy but it added to the ambiance. Something that almost seems unnecessary once the courses get rolling!
The "Amuse" is a scallop carpaccio. It's light, a little citrus present and the crunch of asparagus is a nice touch. Even the non-scallop eater of the group (who will go unnamed, mom) enjoyed trying it.
The First Course: Grilled Corn Soup and I think I can safely say, it was everyone's favorite. It is so wonderfully creamy, that we're all taking bread just to soak up every last drop. The Cheesy Shrimp Fresno Popper is the right balance of seafood, spice and crunch and helps cut the heaviness of the soup. We know we're in for a fantastic night of food after the dishes for this are taken away.
The Second Course: Gazpacho Tomato salad. My husband usually does this 😝 if he sees the word Gazpacho. He's not a cold soup fan. The salad part throws us all for a loop. It comes out and is gobbled down in 2.5 seconds by husband. Because it's not only veggies but also contains Chorizo and it's definitely not cold soup!
Course three: Potato Gnocchi with crab, a miso squash blossom and vegetables from the Farmer's Market. It's heavy yet light and a wonderful crisp yet smooth texture. It might be my second favorite.
Course Four: Halibut Curry. The fish is light and Thai flavor is delicious. As a group, this is also where we start to realize we're all getting full! Halibut is tops with me, so I make sure I chow down. I may have also helped others finish theirs. I may have also licked plates. Luckily, there are no pictures.
Intermezzo is an Elderflower Strawberry Float. Everyone is grateful it's not more food at the moment. Light, tasty and is a good reminder in a dark basement that it's the middle of summer.
Course five: Beef Wellington. It's heavy, it's full of mushrooms and Swiss chard and most of us need a box. It's what the restaurant is known for and the outside is so flaky, but most of the women, and a few good men, have reached their limit. However, it was just as good the next day out of the oven.
Dessert: Deconstructed Banana Cream Pie. This is everything. Chocolate-Hazelnut Praline, Whipped Vanilla Creme Brûlée, Caramelized Banana and Agave Nectar. If you've ever wanted to stop in and see Forepaugh's do it for dessert and order this. It's a must have. And, even after everyone had complained and filled boxes with Beef Wellington, they were all able to finish this plate.
Nice work team! And a really huge thank you to Chef Donald Gonzalez. He is so incredibly nice. I've met a lot of chefs. A lot have egos. He doesn't. And he and his staff truly made the evening. (When I told my mom I was writing a blog on the entire experience she said: "make sure you put how incredible it was that he brought out his whole team and thanked them, that's so impressive." So there you go.) Their knowledge, execution and attention to detail couldn't have been better. Thank you!