Hi, rye

Bike, meet river.
ST500 + Mississippi: to Minneapolis we go!

A good, long(ish) bike ride isn’t necessarily an excuse for decadence. But darn if sitting at a café wearing bike shorts and daintily digging into pastry with a fork isn’t something heavenly. Now and then.

The “Royal” at Chez Arnaud was acceptable, but not as good as the Royale from Louisville’s Ghylsain, though the latter had the benefit of being situated in a vacation. The former was merely situated in a grey weekend at home and was about to be blown away by a terrific birthday dinner for my husband.

Royal Dessert
A Royale without Cheese

We have a few dinner places to which we love to return again and again for a special meal (i.e. Meritage, Heartland, Barbette), but more often, we head for someplace relatively new, and Minneapolis’ Butcher and the Boar (B&B) had come up several times among friends. A Saturday night reservation looked difficult, but the holiday weekend afforded us another “non-school” night to stay out late, so Sunday night it would be.

Fortunately, we are not in one of our “let’s do a plant-based diet” phases, though after this meal, we even joked with our server that June may need to be handled with such a declaration. We definitely got our meat on, Sunday evening.

We arrived at the restaurant about 15 minutes early, somewhat intentionally: Steve had scouted out the place online, and discovered two things that warranted inspection: one of the outside walls features an Adam Turman mural (pictured below, it did not disappoint), and in the attached beer garden, a tornado-relief fundraiser was going on, all afternoon. Surly was the featured beer, and live bluegrass from Pocahontas County was filling up the spaces on the patio not filled with other happy-to-see warmer-spring-weather Surly drinkers. As we walked in, I found that the place reminded me of the Lagunitas beer garden in Petaluma. Minneapolis is getting a little … California!

And yet not so Cali with our drinks: I tried a new brew: the SeVIIn. Perhaps it was served too cold, but this was a rare time that I was a little disappointed in a Surly beer. This didn’t stop me from finishing it in time to meet our reservation slot.

And, despite the generally wise rule that beer should be followed with nothing stronger than beer, my first order at the table was for one of the bourbon flights (pictured here). I had previewed the drink menu and was  eager to do a comparison between a few brands that were new to me. On my three vacations in Kentucky I had determined a few things: I’d preferred the Four Roses Single Barrel for its middle-heat and sweet nose, found the Basil Hayden to be impossibly, seductively smooth, and also discovered a taste for Bulleit Rye (not a bourbon, but it  won me over in the finish-line tasting tent, after running 200 miles with friends in the Bluegrass State). And yet such determinations were made in a relatively non-scientific manner. I wanted to gain insight into the differences and to understand better why I do or don’t like a particular pour.

The results? Between the examples of wheated, high-rye, and low-rye bourbons, I preferred the high-rye (Old Grand-dad). There’s a great review here on Sour Mash Manifesto, and I’ll add my observations: it was a very pleasant compromise between the other two. The nose was buttery and sweet –  like a cinnamon roll or muffin with orange peel baked in. The ends of the spectrum were clear: I don’t recall a strong nose on the wheated (Maker’s Mark), yet the low-rye (a special B&B single-barrel batch of Knob Creek) was a snoutful of creme brulée: creamy with hot caramel. The middle/palate and finish (I admit, in my bourbon-tasting infancy, the distinction is subtle) of the winner was even: sweet with a medium burn. The Maker’s Mark was so smooth that I nearly doubted it was bourbon: it lacked the kick-in-the nose of spice and oak. The Knob Creek had plenty of that finish, which wiped out any memory of a middle flavor that my tongue may have remembered.

adam turman mural at the butcher & the boar
Adam Turman Flayvah

Later on in the evening, I took our server’s suggestion to try the Noah’s Mill bourbon, which was high-proofed (as in, it could rightfully be called Fire Water by me). It was very different from the prior three, though it was paired well with my entrée, which had a lot of pepper heat. I was surprised to find that fighting fire with fire works well – perhaps in a way similar to grappa’s talent for “killing” a 2 a.m. coffee hit. This was a vanilla inferno that paired beautifully with the spicy meat.

On, to the food: meat, meat and more meat (plus the fat that makes it taste so fantastic). As a first course, Steve introduced me to braunschweiger, via the turkey version presented at B&B. It was served in a little ramekin, with crisp toasts and onion jam, and was purely divine. The dish was very rich, but evidently also quite balanced, as was the rest of the evening’s food: I felt great after this meal, surprisingly. All arguments for a plant-based diet aside, my body is clearly one that operates well on meat, at least at this time.

Our second course: the signature beef long rib (simmered in molasses and Tabasco), a lamb plate (a few ribs and some spiced sausage), some cheesy corn grits, as well as some broccoli in a sweet cream sauce. I often shy away from Tabasco, but I’ll go back again for that one –as long as I have a high-proofed whiskey with which to wash it down!

This was a fantastic and plentiful meal, though we were a little disappointed that the lamb cut was advertised to be a leg, and yet it was a few ribs. The ribs (and expected sausage) were worthwhile,  but we can only imagine how lovely the leg would be, at this place.

We wrapped it up with a dessert of grasshopper pie – minty semifreddo, decked out with two chocolate embellishments and some thick whipped cream. I’m looking forward to going back some time soon, though this may be the first time that I already expect to order the same food, though perhaps a different beverage or sampler.

Maybe we’ll go by bike? Steve noticed in the beer garden that several people had arrived on two wheels. For us, to get there from the far side of Saint Paul would be a bigger journey than usual, but perhaps we’ll build up our mileage … and/or do some sort of bike/train combo, once the Green Line light rail line gets up and running. ‘Til then we may need to “suffer” with trips to nearby Glockenspiel, or Sea Salt. Onward!

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