Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Apples, Apples, Apples!

Apples are plentiful in Minnesota this time of year. Aside from simply eating them raw, what can be done with this delightful and versatile fruit?

Options abound, from sweet to savory, warm to chilled, and everything in between! For starters, there's the quintessentially American favorite, Apple Pie. With nearly as many variations for crust and filling as there are people in our great nation, you should be able to find a recipe that suits your skill-level and tastes perfectly. My personal favorite is a very traditional pie recipe, Bon Appetit's Classic Double Crust Apple Pie. The filling is made with vanilla, sugar, and cinnamon for a perfectly sweet, melt-in-your-mouth finish, and the crust is flake-y perfection.

Beyond pie, there are tarts, crisps, streusels, breads, pancakes, and more if you're looking for some sweet apple carb-y goodness! However, if you're looking for a savory use for apples, chicken can be a perfect partner. Chicken and apple dishes are surprisingly delicious. From a Chicken Apple Skillet meal to an Apple and Cheddar stuffed chicken breast, there are many, many ways to incorporate apples into your favorite chicken dishes.

Pork also pairs nicely with apples. An herbed pork loin accompanied by homemade cinnamon apples is a wonderfully warming dish for those cold nights!

So get thee to your nearest apple orchard. Not only will it be a fun couple hours with the fam, but you can put those apples to good use when you get home!

And don't forget to let us know about your favorite apple recipes!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Oink Outings

In August, our very own Chef Peter Christenson was named the chef for the Minnesota Pork Board's last Oink Outings tour of the season.

Oink Outings tours are a wonderfully educational experience during which food producers are paired with food preparers and joined by moms to allow open communication along the food chain (so to speak). This unique group starts their tour in a local chef's kitchen to learn how to prepare a pork recipe. Then, the group heads out to the farm, where the farm family showcases modern life as a pig farmer.

For Chef Peter's tour, he highlighted several pork recipes, incorporating prosciutto and pork loins in a variety of manners in a nod to the versatility of pork. Additionally, when guests headed off to the Hugoson Pork farm, they were welcomed by Kevin, Mary, and Eric Hugoson. In their farrow-to-finish operation, the Hugoson's (who are fourth generation farmers on their property) not only take care of their animals, but employ upwards of 20 people full-time.

It was a great day of learning, eating, and experiencing. A hearty thank you to the MN Pork Board, the Hugoson's, and all of the guests for such an interesting day!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

September 29 - Robert Hall Wine Dinner

Mark your calendars for Thursday, September 29! Woolley’s will be hosting a seven-course Robert Hall Wine Dinner in a culinary celebration of Paso Robles’ most renowned winery. Adding to the excitement of the occasion, Robert Hall himself will be presenting for the evening.

The event will kick off at 6:30pm with a social reception and butler passed hors d’oeuvres. Dinner service will follow at 7:00pm. Each featured wine will be complemented with an expertly prepared menu course from our own Executive Chef Peter Christensen.

Robert Hall Wine Dinner
$55 per person

2010 Viognier
Butler Passed Hors d'Oeuvres

2010 Chardonnay
First Course
Fresh Diver Scallops
Heirloom Tomatoes, Candied Bacon

2009 Sauvignon Blanc
Second Course
Foie Gras
Crab Apples, Fresh and Candied Cranberry and Arugula

2008 Syrah
Third Course
Maple Glazed Quail
Pumpkin “Spiced” Risotto

Concorde Grape

2008 Cabernet Sauvignon
Main Entrée
Certified Angus Beef (two ways)
Braised Short Ribs with Sweet Potato
Seared Tenderloin with Root Vegetables

2010 Orange Muscat 
(Margaret's Vineyard)
Buttermilk Pannacotta
White chocolate, Blackberry

Reservations are required, as space is limited. To make reservations or for more information, please contact Woolley's at 952.854.1010. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Who Likes Molasses?

I visited a trendy, newer Minneapolis restaurant last Friday night with a party. The service went from barely attentive to completely disinterested. Granted we were a large group; however, we had reservations and we called ahead to confirm that they a) had no problem accommodating us, and b) could easily facilitate separate checks.

The wait times between server visits and to even receive our meals grew steadily. By the time we received our dinners, we had no choice but to finish them promptly to abet the now persistent hunger pains. The server was not concerned with how we enjoyed our meals, and at the end of the meal (which came about rapidly), when many in our group would have liked to order espresso or even a dessert (or several), she completely vanished for almost half an hour to work at the arduous task of settling our checks.

It was a bummer on several levels. For our group, it was frustrating as we would certainly have liked to order additional drinks or after dinner add-ons, such as dessert. Additionally, for the restaurant, they had 18 captive diners to impress that night at a single table. In one fell swoop (and in spite of the stellar food quality), I doubt a single person will return due to the poor service. Not only did the service prevent the restaurant from repeat clientele, but they also completely ruined their own chances at higher check amounts that visit, since they did not check back to refill drink orders or inquire at the end of the meal.

The final icing on the cake involved when the checks were presented. All of them had a 20% gratuity tacked on. I know mandatory gratuity is standard for large parties. I'd consider myself a generous tipper with 20% being my standard, but we really would have appreciated the heads up from staff that the gratuity was added to avoid mistakenly adding one's own, as well the opportunity to compensate for the level of service commensurate with our experience.

This experience is reminiscent of a post from last September, where we debated the likelihood of returning to a restaurant if the food quality and/or service was lacking. To read that post, click HERE. I argued that I'd be hard pressed to revisit a restaurant at which I received lackluster service and a great meal, but would give a restaurant a second shot if I received great service and a less than stellar meal.

How about you? What are your biggest dining pet peeves? Would you give the restaurant I visited another chance on the basis of their food quality, chalking it up to an off-night on service)?

(An interesting aside is what diners consider acceptable for tipping. Our sister restaurant, Chez Daniel, had a lovely discussion about that on their blog, Bienvenue. To read: Tipping, Tipping, Tipping).