Traveling: an activity every white person ever has included in their online dating profile. So naturally, when we arrived at Saint Dinette for the last FDC of 2015 I was excited to hear that we would be taking a culinary journey over all of North America. The cuisine was inspired by Montreal, New Orleans, and Pueblo, Mexico, we were told. Yep, all of North America pretty much covered. But on the other hand, Saint Dinette sells some killer pork rinds as bar snacks, so I’m not going to argue with them. After a solid round of cocktails (basically every Twin Cities restaurant has dug up some seriously great bartenders from god-knows-where), we dove into the first step on the itinerary.
The appetizers we chose were actually as random as the three locations our server mentioned. Our first course also had a bunch of things I was not super familiar with, including boudin, fried smelt, potato latkes, and what they called the “biscuit” (pronounced [bis-kit]). Reading about some of these things after the meal…not that appetizing. I was glad I went with the traditional eat-and-ask-questions-later strategy. Boudin is blood sausage, and translated literally means “entrails.” I usually think of entrails when I think of either zombie movies or Machete repelling out the window of a hospital. But you know what? Pretty tasty. The sidekicks on the dish (potato chips, pickles, mustard seeds) really made it. Better example of weird stuff being great – the smelt. Smelt are basically tiny little fish, which Saint Dinette fried and dressed with lemon and watercress. Basically fried fish that didn’t make you feel like garbage. The citrus was really pleasant; it felt like my mouth was being Pine Sol’d, which is somehow a good thing. The latkes were solid, but my two Jewish compadres Matt and Brad weren’t overly impressed (probably because they had more than one latke in their lives, believe it or not).
Then there was the biscuit.
You know how sometimes you latch onto the idea of something and just can’t let it go? That was Chris and that biscuit. His review of the boudin: “The boudin was really good, but I love bread.” When we found out that Brad’s mom had called in and ordered us a dessert? “Why didn’t Gail send The Biscuit?” (you could tell the way he talked about it that it received the same capitalization treatment received by The Rock). Don’t get me wrong it was a good biscuit, but…well Chris was just really in his element there.
For our entrees things did not get any less random, as we got a cheeseburger, ricotta dumplings, turducken, a bologna sandwich, and salt cod pumpkin tamales (no, really!). The cheeseburger and bologna sandwich were prepared very simply: Bread. Meat. Cheese. Pickles. Both were executed really well, though the burger didn’t stand out among the other great burgs we’ve had during our 2+ year FDC run. This is, however, coming from someone who has really been craving Wendy’s lately, so my Burg-dar may be a little biased at the moment. I really enjoyed the bologna sandwich, but that is because my standard of excellence for a bologna sandwich is just “edible and not terrible.” So again, it’s all relative.
Some of the more oddball dishes were met with somewhat mixed reviews. I was super into the turducken (chicken inside duck inside turkey, for the uninitiated). The skin on the outer bird was crispy and fatty, and the cranberry sauce was super great. The others weren’t as sold on it, but I think that’s because I am way more into cranberries than the rest of the crew. The pumpkin tamales is where the real differences of opinion came into play. The sequence went something like this:
Brad: Whoa. *smiles*
Matt: Whoa. *frowns*
Chris: I dunno, I like it?
I tried it last, a little nervous having seen my companions react. I think ended up feeling some sort of mix of the three, as I started out really not liking it, but once I finished my portion I was digging it. Other that the pumpkin seeds, which were everyone’s favorite part of the dish, everything else was extremely confusing. It might be the most confusing thing I’ve ever eaten. I’d wager that Brad, Matt, and Chris would put it in their top ten most confusing dishes, too. The ricotta dumplings were a little less controversial; everyone agreed they were light and pleasant. Some needed predictability to a pretty crazy meal.
Finally, we ended the meal with some churros and coffee-chocolate sauce. On one side of the table, there was Matt disliking the strong coffee taste of the chocolate sauce, and then on the other there was Chris spooning up the dregs of cinnamon and chocolate from the plate. “It’s a churro reduction!” he exclaimed (it was not). Brad and I were satisfied with the churros in a more understated way. Thanks for dessert, Gail. I appreciate dessert not being The Biscuit.
For a crew that hates going to St. Paul as much as we do, I am glad we made the long and treacherous trek to Saint Dinette. I think we all enjoyed our strange mental trip across North America, but for god’s sake, Saint Dinette, write up some instructions on how we’re supposed to feel about that tamale.
[Editor’s Note: Yes, this is now somehow longer than what I had to say about the food.]
I’m not sure how many of you are wine drinkers (although I’m guessing since you’re the type of person that follows a food blog, chances are high that you are), but if you are you surely are aware that wine is a complex, nuanced art form. Those with less discerning palettes may not get anything more from a 1999 Chateau Latour than they would a 2015 Franzia Chillable Red, but experienced wine drinkers can draw out delicate flavors from a masterpiece of wine that simply do not exist in common swill.
All of my FDC colleagues saw this bathroom as simple. They have not been honing their subtle bathroom-reviewing mind for decades, so I suppose they can be forgiven. Leave it to the expert, guys.
The room does get off on the wrong foot. In order to get to the bathroom, one needs to leave the restaurant and walk down the hallway of the building. Upon entry, you’re greeted by a nice contrast of tile designs, including some very well done narrow tiles at shoulder height.
That’s all that’s interesting about this room at first glance. But dig a little deeper, draw out those more muted flavors, and the totality could shock and inspire. One thing that immediately caught my eye (as well it should, as it’s directly across from the toilet) was a wooden dresser, curiously included in an otherwise plain-ish bathroom.
Here, friends, is where the mystery begins: who decided to put a dresser in here? What could it hold? Where did it come from? Questions that may never be answered. [Editor’s Note: The first thing Chris did when Matt and Brad came back from separate trips to the bathroom was demand to know if they opened the dresser drawers. They did not.]
The other interesting feature to this bathroom, which is yet another mystery, is the door stopper.
LOOK AT THAT! This door stopper had been slammed many times. What could have pushed someone to do such a thing? Was the door slammed in a fit of passion? What about a bout of rage? Is that dresser big enough to hide a body in it?
Overall thoughts on this one: I liked the tile work. The walls were drab, could have definitely used some artwork. That dresser and door stopper will stick with me.
1.5 out of 5 flushes