KQED Food Blog: Bay Area Bites: Minnesota Wild
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Thursday, June 15, 2006
Minnesota Wild

On this trip home to Minnesota, I overcame three more more of my childhood phobias -- wild rice, lake fish, and road trips in an RV.

After a four-hour drive, during which I made my parents listen to Stephen Fry's rendition of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to pass the time in the cavernous RV, we arrived at the lapping shores of one of the Great Lakes.

My first few days back in the Midwest were spent on the edge of Lake Superior in Bayfield, Wisconsin -- a tiny lake-swept town filled with sailboats, farmhouse architecture embellished with Victorian delicacies, and superb food. Our first stop was to take my parents' lumbering -- and travel-stenched -- RV to the Gourmet Garage where we picked up apple and blueberry turnovers for breakfasts and apple pie for dinner. Judy Faragher, the baker, literally runs a bakery out of the garage connected to her house. She offers hearty fruit pies, various cookies, sugar-crusted doughnuts, flakey turnovers, and authentic pasties made from her Cornish mother-in-law's own recipe.

On the way out, I sampled her applesauce cinnamon doughnuts and took a snap of this hysterical (because it's true) cartoon. The doughnuts were crisped on the outside and fluffy on the inside, and made me, sitting there getting my nose and shoulders burnished in a buttery Midwest summer sun, long for autumn and crunchy leaves.

A day of sailing around the Apostle Islands at 5 knots brings out some pretty hale and hearty appetites, so it was lucky I had convinced my parents to take me to Mary Rice's newest culinary offering. Mary Rice, a woman so larger-than-life that she deserves a column entirely devoted to her, has recently opened Wild Rice (get it? Midwest? Wild Rice? Her last name is Rice?) in Bayfield. Wild Rice -- along with the flamingo-stuffed Maggie's and the minimalist New England-y Egg Toss -- is Mary Rice's third restaurant in the area. It's also the most expensive. Not that price should deter you from this beautiful woodsy location, architecturally sensuous building, and distressingly tempting local dishes.

Once I stopped goggling at the the Chihuly in the lobby, the glassed-in "wine tower" with hanging library ladders, and the high blond wood ceilings crisscrossed with red metal struts, I tackled my amuse bouche of roasted red and gold beets with cubed gorgonzola, basil oil, and truffled vinaigrette.

My mother doesn't normally like beets, but I do believe this dish converted her from the "beets are always too sweet" school of thought.

After the beet salad went down way too quickly, I selected an appetizer of prosciutto-wrapped roasted white asparagus and steamed green asparagus with a balsamic glaze. The long, fat vegetables were accented by a tiny crispy fish cake sitting on the bank of a pond of capered hollandaise.

My parents shared sautéed truffled morel mushrooms (very local) served en casserole with Parmigiano-Reggiano flan and toast. The whole dish was a poem, but the Parmigiano-Reggiano flan was an entire sonnet.

Determined to overcome my distaste of overly fishy freshwater catch, I chose a main course of Superior lake trout. The firm blushing fish was crusted over with toasted nuts and dry-popped wild rice and nestled happily in a bed of saffron risotto and juicy fiddleheads (again, very local). Although I could have contentedly eaten myself into next week on such a generous portion, I did finally have to stop and leave some behind. And I'm still sad.

Clearly, I was not too full for dessert as I sunk my fork into a warm pecan-wild rice cake with homemade cinnamon ice cream. I felt cozier with each swallow. The cake had this entrancing chewiness resulting from the genius addition of wild rice. I think I'm going to have to find that recipe before I die.

All in all it was a great success with me and my parents. Even my dad, who has been known to throw out blood oranges, thinking the they were rotten because "they didn't look like normal oranges," was content, and, more importantly, adequately full. Except there was a slight contretemps over the wine. Dad, with his white wine glass filled with Pinot Grigio, was concerned that my red wine glass filled with Pinot Noir actually netted me more wine than him. Although we managed to keep his issues from the wait staff, we never managed to convince him that he was imagining things, crazy, or just greedy.

Gourmet Garage
85130 Hwy 13
Bayfield, WI 54814


Wild Rice
84860 Old San Road
Bayfield, WI 54814


*The cheesemonger in me has to note that while I didn't order from it, Wild Rice has a superb cheese plate, and I was thrilled to see them include St. Pat from Cowgirl Creamery.


Anonymous Kate said...

Lovely, Stephanie! What a wonderful prize after an RV trek, which is surely grounds for one.

6/16/2006 1:49 PM

Anonymous Pamela Hyland said...

Wow, the pecan cake with wild rice sounds unbelievably good. If you get the recipe, would you please share it with me? Pretty please?

Interesting post - thank you!


6/16/2006 6:59 PM

Blogger cucina testa rossa said...

I am in awe. My family and I wouldn't make it out of the driveway without a fight breaking out and the trip being cancelled. I grew upon wild rice but it occasionally gives me the willies if it isn't cooked exactly the way my mother made it. i know, weird...

6/17/2006 3:38 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our recent visit to the Wild Rice was in one word -
SENSATIONAL! It is a treat for all senses. We were afforded a tour of the kitchen and were in awe of the organization. Would we drive four hours for the pleasure of dining at the Wild Rice once again?? Absolutely.

7/28/2007 4:31 PM


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