We had been waiting for this one for while. Former Iron Chef Champion Gavin Kaysen was ditching his swanky lifestyle as a baller chef in New York City to return to his humble Minnesota roots and open Spoon and Stable. FDC wasn’t the only group excited; there was a two month waiting for us to get a reservation. Needless to say, we were all pretty jacked when February 23rd rolled around.
I was the first to arrive and had a chance to take it all in. Lots of fun stuff for the ol’ eyeballs. Behind the host station, there were a bunch of what looked like old mailboxes or safety deposit boxes. Above the bar, there were stacks of logs. A few tables to the right of bar, a couple was receiving a giant thing of cotton candy (“Aw helllll no” is what I wrote down at the time). You also had a clear view of the kitchen, where you could see the staff milling about, along with a mysterious big wheel in the middle of the kitchen.
My fellow diners arrived shortly after and we were seated at a table with a good view of the dining area and kitchen. Our server, Tai, came by to welcome us, and Chris made some dad joke about filtered water that immediately made us look ridiculous. Let’s at least make it to the bread service next time, buddy. Speaking of bread service, Spoon and Stable does this right. The bread was shaped like a boomerang and the butter came on a marble slab. Along with the leather-bound wine list and the big wheel, our sense of sight continued to get the attention it deserved. I also asked Tai what the big wheel was for, and having clearly been asked this more than a few times before, she replied it was used to tilt the earth further on its axis (well played). We asked about the menu a little bit and Gavin’s name was dropped quite a few times. It must be pretty sweet to be able to refer to your chef by their first name and have people nod appreciatively.
After having some time to peruse the menu, we put in an order for a few appetizers, pastas, and entrees. Tai, not for last time during the meal, gave a look that said that we had messed up in some way. When pressed, she noted that we might want to order more food, and seemed genuinely mortified at the idea that we would have to make a sandwich when we got home. We smartly bumped one of our pastas from the appetizer to entree size and our Spoon and Stable spirit guide left a little more confident in our order.
For the appetizer course, we ordered a bison tartare and a scallop carpaccio. Despite not being the biggest tartare fans as a group (myself excluded), we sure are easily convinced to order them. I thought it was really tasty. A little leaner than others we’ve had, and the socca chips (basically chickpea crackers) were a solid nom shovel. The scallop carpaccio, which was accompanied with chiles, apples, and other various mystery items, elicited a lot of “I don’t know what I just ate” and “What am I eating” from the table, but definitely not in a bad way. Both were fun to eat and delicious.
Next came the pastas. We ordered an onion tortellini with lamb ragu and the spaghetti nero (spicy seafood pasta). Let’s just say Tai gets serious points for convincing us to get the bigger seafood pasta. It. Was. So. Good. The tortellini was probably good, too, but I only really remember the spaghetti. The sauce had a really awesome spiciness to it, and all the sea critters (prawns, mussels, and octopus) were the perfect amount of dead, for lack of a better description. I could eat that forever.
Next came the entrees. First up was the bacon-wrapped monkfish. I thought this was tasty, but I wasn’t blown away by it. I was probably too busy thinking about the bacon-wrapped Hot N’ Ready to truly be able to enjoy it anyways. Also, similar to what happened in the pasta course, the monkfish was very much over-shadowed by the accompanying entree, the veal tenderloin. I can barely describe what the veal was like. It was unbelievably tender, juicy, and flavorful. It also had a fried artichoke on top, something I didn’t know I needed until I had it in my mouth (Yeah, yeah, I know. She said something about that). If I had to amend my previous statement and choose between the veal tenderloin and the spaghetti nero to eat for the rest of my life, I would choose both because this is America and I can do what I want. I know veal isn’t typically the most humane thing to keep on menus, but maybe baby cows should learn to taste worse. As a side with the entrees, we ordered creamy spinach topped with fried cheese curds, proving that Gavin has not lost touch with his Upper Midwest heritage one iota. Still a little hungry, we had Tai pick out another surprise entree for us. She went with the Wisconsin Dry Aged Beef Duo, which was just as good as it sounds. The more dishes we were served, the more I able to appreciate how technically perfect every dish was.
For the dessert round, Matt turned to social media to end the debate at the table on what to order. Spoon and Stable’s Twitter recommended some sort of coconut chocolate nonsense, so we went with it (not disappointed). “Oh you’re Fancy Dinner Club. Cute.” was Tai’s response after seeing how we chose our dessert. She then proceeded to mention that she knew Brad worked as an editor of a Jewish community blog, giving us an insight into how much preparation goes into each reservation. I made some sort of Skynet joke that fell completely flat (I apologize for my earlier comments, Chris), and Brad was left, mouth agape, trying to comprehend what had just happened. Our dessert arrived shortly after, which came with a bonus chocolate banana dessert compliments of Executive Pastry Chef Diane Yang (thanks, Executive Pastry Chef Diane Yang!). I was super into our bonus dessert. It had crazy textures, and a perfect combination of flavors and temperatures. To top it all off, Gavin stopped by to chat with us for a few minutes. I made another comment about the big wheel, we all had a good chuckle, and we were feeling sufficiently awesome about ourselves.
Overall, Spoon and Stable lived up to the hype. My only complaint was having to listen to Lana Del Ray when I went to the bathroom, because she’s a real downer. Take a lesson from Wendy’s dining rooms across the country, restaurateurs – no one’s too good for a little Freeze Frame. Besides that, the service was fantastic, the highs of the meal were unforgettable, and the lows of the meal were still really really good. And when you make your way down there, please be sure to let us know if their wheel jokes are still on point.