Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Confessions of a City Mouse

I have to admit, Rinata was not at all where I thought it was.  Not at Lake + Hennepin as I presumed, but at 24th + Hennepin...a mere mile away.  Not in the "beautiful space" I said I remembered -- what was once that beautiful space is now some cowboy bar or something.  I didn't quite get the name of said bar in my horror as we drove by and I realized it was all wrong -- meanwhile, trying not to run over any pedestrians, bikers or get creamed by another car.  In fact, in that moment I also realized I had never even been to Giorgio's before and have absolutely no idea if it was a rustic Italian restaurant or not.

How's that for reliable blogging?  Next time, I'll try to get my facts right.  Or maybe I'll settle for being just a little more accurate instead...

In my (weak) defense, I grew up in Minneapolis and so, of course, had the undeniable sense that I not only knew where we were going, but that I couldn't possibly be wrong.  Until I was.

Funny how we have an idea in our head of what's right and in the face of proof to the contrary, it takes a second to reshuffle the deck and see what shows up next.  Can I let go?  Can I ride the wave?  Can I please not kill anybody, or us, in the process?  Yes...and it doesn't hurt to have an iPhone to consult, even if it is your husband's and he's enjoying your wrongness a little...too...much.

Country Mouse (him) offered that he thought perhaps City Mouse (me) has lived in the country a little too long.  Hmmmmm.

Perhaps it's time to turn in my City Mouse membership card?

Ha!  Never!

What doesn't kill us counts as a legitimate adventure, no? :)  Especially when the adventure ends in gelato.

But I get ahead of myself...

All that nonsense aside, we still managed to arrive on time for our reservation and had an amazing experience at Rinata.

The space was beautiful.  Where we sat is just a little cove off of the main part of the restaurant -- we didn't get a good look at the rest of it, but our table was great.

Country Mouse just LOVES having his picture taken...

We had a nice long chat with our server about the wine list.  I have to admit how refreshing it is to talk with an educated waitstaff who isn't pretentious about wine, cares enough to determine what we're looking for and hits a homerun with the suggestion.  He pointed us to this Italian number, which Terry had been interested in as well, so we treated ourselves...being 1/2 price wine night and all.  I just LOVE 1/2 price wine night!  It was the last bottle of its kind in the restaurant, which somehow made it feel that much more special.  It was really nice -- light, jammy, with a hint of raspberry tea.

For $15 each, we had the Restaurant Week Tasting Menu where we had a choice of three starters, our choice of three entrees, with house-made gelato (*shudder*) for dessert. Such a deal -- and precisely why I adore going out during Restaurant Week!

After we ordered, our server brought out a breadbasket with a plate of olive oil and tapenade for dipping.  It was absolutely incredible!  Being a bread girl by trade, I kept trying to figure out what the secret to their focaccia could be -- there were flecks of bran in it so I know it had some degree of wheat flour which usually adds some heaviness, but the texture was so light and creamy.  How do they do that?  I might have to go back...if only for the bread and tapenade!

For starters, I had the Bruschetta with cannellini beans, cauliflower and basil almond pesto.  I chose this particular starter because when we went to al Vento for Restaurant Week last spring, I had something similar which was to die for.  This one wasn't bad, but it missed the mark compared with the one I had before.  Not much flavor at all and the beans were a little too tough.

What's funny is here I thought by choosing Rinata, we had chosen a brand new restaurant to try...when in fact, it seemed familiar because it is part owned by Jonathan Hunt, who is the sole owner of al Vento!  What are the odds?!

Terry's salad, baby arugula with Marsala poached pear, pistachio, red onion and bleu cheese was incredible.  It was my first choice, but my only "rule" of these tasting menus -- if you can even call it a rule -- is that we have to choose different things so we can taste more of what's offered.  Oh, but I wish I had ordered this salad!  I hardly ever consider a salad a meal, but I could with this one.  I only had one teeny bite (Terry was fighting me back with his fork), but it was that good.

The restaurant wasn't too busy, so we were a little surprised that our entrees took a while to come out.  I'm all for not being rushed in a restaurant, especially a nicely lit, relaxing one such as this, but I feel I have a pretty keen sense of when it's taking too long.

But when our food arrived, it was so very worth the wait!  Terry had the spaghetti with house made meatballs and tomato sugo.  I admit to not generally being a meatball fan, but these were absolutely fantastic.  Tender, tasty..."like buttah"!

I had the lasagna with roasted vegetables, ricotta, with a combination of tomato sugo and parmesan cream sauce.  That sauce combo is my absolute favorite and this didn't disappoint.  YUM!

You can't tell how much I enjoyed it, can you?  I had to restrain myself to save room for dessert.  But I wasn't, for a second, going to waste an ounce of that sauce....  The rest of my dinner came home in a box with the rest of Terry's dinner and the last piece of bread.  Now that's a leftover meal I can get behind!

Ah, beautiful gelato!  We could choose between vanilla bean or peach, so naturally, we got one of each.  Terry wasn't crazy about the peach so he ate most of the vanilla.  I thought the peach was peacherific, so I had no trouble taking care of that one (and a little vanilla bean for good measure).  Smooth, creamy, dreams were sweet, I assure you!

What do you mean it's weird to dream of gelato??

We will absolutely visit Rinata again...and al Vento, too, for that matter.  It's important to have favorites!

It's a precious thing to benefit from others clearly doing exactly what they are meant to be doing in this world.  Thank you, Mr. Hunt, for living your passion and sharing it so deliciously with the rest of us!//

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