France has given America lots of great things over the years. The Statue of Liberty, a gift from the French, stands as a beacon of hope to all those immigrants that a surprising percentage of Americans want to turn away. Daft Punk’s techno-funk drifted across the Atlantic Ocean from the gritty Marseilles* clubs to our awaiting ears here stateside. The bumbling leadership of French president Nicolas Sarkozy gave us some hilarious relief after dealing with eight years of America’s own absurdly ineffective executive at the turn of the millennium.
One of France’s greatest exports, though, is their food, and what better way to sample it than at the very French Saint Genevieve in South Minneapolis? Fancy Dinner Club’s own Bradley, Matt, The J and Chris decided to test that hypothesis in the only way we know how, by eating it.
Saint Genevieve’s owner Steven Brown also owns Tilia, FDC’s third ever outing and a crew favorite. The four of us sauntered in to StG on a spring evening, with high expectations of Haute Cuisine**.
We were greeted by our lovely server Lydia, who offered us a choice of still or sparkling water. Brad, Matt and The J decided to play it safe and go with still at first. As the old saying goes, if you’re offered a choice between still and sparkling water, go with the sparkling – I’m never one to buck tradition, so I went sparkling. Saint Genevieve had nifty Fogo-de-Chao-style coasters, with a red side (Sans) and a green side (Avec) to signal the waitstaff whether your water was with or without bubbles. There is literally no situation where you should select without bubbles.
It’s a French restaurant, so of course we ordered a bottle of California wine for the table. The wine was a Valdiguie from Idlewild Enzenauer Vineyard. It was red, and it was delicious. Brad made some show of tasting it at first to make sure it was acceptable, but we all knew he was just doing it to be fancy. Which is the name of our club after all, so well played by him.
We perused the menu of many French words and decided to start with several small plates and Tartines. The Tartines were confusing to us, mostly because we didn’t know what a Tartine was, but with careful use of context clues and Google we were able to determine that a Tartine is an open-faced sandwich. Try to type a sentence with more than three uses of the word “Tartine”, I dare you!
We started our culinary journee*** by ordering the Leeks, the Blood Sausage and the Potato Pave small plates. However, before we could even order, the fine folks at StG brought us over a plate of warm french bread and butter. We have had a ton of great – and not so great – bread related moments in FDC history, and this one was certainly near the top!
Our small plates arrived, but small was really a misnomer as the portions were surprisingly filling. The Pave was St. Genevieve’s take on a classic French/Canadian poutine, with crisp potato rectangles doused in a Sauce Espagnole and served with Chives and the very French cheese curds.
This was the small plate I was looking forward to the most, and I will say it delivered on its promise of being poutine-esque. The potato rectangles were crisp and flaky on the outside, and the cheese curds and sauce added to the flavor profile of the dish as a whole.
The Leeks, our next stop, were served with Truffle Vinaigrette, Speck and Parmesan. Now, I’m not a huge fan of leeks on principle (that principle being vegetables are gross), but these were quite good. The vinaigrette balanced out the flavor of the leeks. Matt, Brad and The J all raved about this dish.
My favorite of our opening acts, though, was the blood sausage. Lydia, our server, told us that they try to talk up the blood sausage as much as they can – probably because the term “blood sausage” doesn’t instantly signal ‘amazing culinary experience’ to most people.
This stuff was amazing, though. A soft-boiled egg perched atop a bed of puff pastry, piperade and espelette, with the blood sausage hanging out right next door. Once split, the egg yolk oozed out in an oddly cathartic way. The sausage was rich and satisfying, and paired perfectly with the creamy yolk and the crispy puff pastry.
We then moved on to three Tartines. We chose to try the escargot and mushrooms (Brad made an impassioned plea about making sure we got snails at a French restaurant), the pork and apricot, and the lamb / mushroom / carrot.
When the Tartines came out, I was again amazed at the portions. These were big pieces of bread with toppings recklessly heaped onto them. The most egregious violator was the pork and apricot sandwich. Spiced pork was slathered all over a big, thick slice of french bread, with apricot moutarde dotted on top and radishes garnishing. The pork actually overtook the dish – several of us thought that it might have been better with less pork to let the secondary and tertiary flavors shine through. Thankfully, the pork itself was flavorful, and made for an excellent if interesting tartine.
The escargot tartine was entirely different. Whereas the pork was served cool, the escargot tartine was served warm, with butter and cheese melted over the top of snails and mushrooms on thick french bread. It actually reminded me of a loaded up, better-than-I’ve-ever-had slice of amazing warm out of the oven cheese bread. The snails and mushrooms were rich and earthy and the cheese and butter topped off the sandwich perfectly.
My favorite tartine, a surprise favorite if I may say so, was the red wine braised lamb with mushrooms and carrots. This one came out looking so different from the other two tartines that I wasn’t sure what it was at first. The lamb, mushrooms and carrots were served on two long, thin, toasted slices of french bread, giving this sandwich a crisp layer underneath the amazingly mixed lamb, mushrooms and carrots. Not only was the dish colorful and beautiful, but the lamb balanced wonderfully with the carrots and mushrooms, and that little crunch in each bite sealed it for me.
We were all very satisfied with our starters, but the main courses came out and blew us away. The four of us split two big dishes, a pork tenderloin with cheese grits, celeriac remoulade and onion puff, and the duck breast and confit with red potato, pickled red cabbage and moutarde.
The duck was, like nearly everything else in this meal, prepared perfectly. It was a crisp-on-the-outside, melty-on-the-inside consistency. I don’t recall the pickled red cabbage and moutarde the menu promised I had, but judging by the number of thumbs up in the below photo I’m willing to wager it was great.
The pork tenderloin stole the show for me. Beautifully plated, the juicy tenderloin was perfectly complimented with crisp onion puffs and served on a bed of cheese grits. The mixture of textures and flavors was a Ratatouille moment.
We ended the day with dessert. After much debate, we decided on the butterscotch creme brulee. As our resident creme brulee fanboy, I was delighted to try it. Our wonderful server Lydia also brought us an order of the Vietnamese coffee panna cotta on the house, as it was going off the menu in a few days and she wanted us to try it. We heart you, Lydia. But, we also heart these desserts!
The creme brulee wasn’t served in that little creme brulee bowl like every other creme brulee I’ve ever had – it was just sitting there on a plate. It tasted a little different than any creme brulee I’ve ever had before, too – maybe it was the banana malt ice cream, or the cocoa nib brownie and caramel corn accoutrement, but it was a mixture of flavor and texture that didn’t taste like your traditional creme brulee. It was great.
The panna cotta, though, was out of this world. Coffee ice cream, with cocoa and pretzels and om nom nom nom nom. The only reason I can think of that they’d take this thing off the menu is to hoard it all for themselves. Steven Brown for shame!
Lydia came with our bills and graciously gave us one last little parting gift: a handful of homemade caramels with cocoa nibs in them. The perfect ending to a lovely meal at a very French-feeling restaurant. If you’re jonesing for that Parisienne feel but don’t want to fly 8 hours to get it, I’d suggest taking a shorter trip to your friendly local French place. Saint Genevieve will not disappoint.
*I have literally no idea if they ever played in Marseilles, or if Marseilles has gritty clubs
**That’s French for something
***See what I did there?
Part of what I’ve enjoyed so much about reviewing fancy bathrooms is when you find a bathroom that matches the restaurant. St. Genevieve feels very French, and their bathrooms feel French as well! Let’s take a look:
At first, I didn’t even think St. Genevieve HAD a bathroom! After searching around for 25 long minutes****, I finally realized that Toilette meant bathroom. Who knew?!
It’s not just the fancy French words that make this bathroom seem Gallic. It just… feels French. Marble tables and simple candles, intricately framed mirrors, amazing chandeliers, some sort of “savon de Marseilles extra pur figue”.
Not only that, but they had a super-secret locked door that, based on my rudimentary French, led to France’s very own Captain of the USS Enterprise
The bathroom was charmingly elegant, and fit in perfectly with the vibe of the restaurant. Brush up on your French before you step foot in it, though. Quatre sur cinq bouffées.
****This didn’t happen
*****But this did******
******No it didn’t