Butcher And The Boar...A Restaurant Review of Meaty Proportion (May 13,2013)
We're in Minneapolis until tomorrow (for reasons we'll write about tomorrow), in the meantime James secured a good deal on a one hour massage at a place called Keep in Touch Massage (http://www.keepintouchmassage.net/) with a great masseuse named Ben. We had a brutally painful deep tissue massage (they are supposed to be painful) that was better than the last few years of massage therapists we've had. We highly recommend him.
After the massage we went to dinner at an interesting little place we found perusing http://www.citypages.com/restaurants/ called Butcher and The Boar (http://butcherandtheboar.com/). Butcher and The Boar, a 2013 James Beard Award Semifinalist for Best New Restaurant, is in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota, and specializes in house smoked/preserved meats (Charcuterie), craft beers, and Bourbon.
While we did not partake in the alcoholic offerings this time around, we took the meats head on.
The host and hostesses of Butcher and The Boar are friendly as they great you at the door. As they take you into the restaurant you are greeted with tasteful decor, comfortable surrounds and music at just the right volume, as you pass by the bar into the dining area, which are separated by large panes of glass. The feel of dining room is not so much restaurant, and dining hall. Think German Beer Hall. The smell, like walking into a bottle of Liquid Smoke, divine. While there were women present, the clientele appears overwhelming males ages 24 and up; the environment undoubtedly masculine, without being pushy. It all makes sense really: beer, bourbon and meat heaven...it's like man mecca.
The service was prompt and courteous, not overly friendly, which for diners like us, was pretty nice. Not everybody wants waitstaff that are obviously disingenuous - we like our servers attentive, without being familiar. A woman, not waitstaff, came around and silently kept the water glasses full, while the waiter left us with our food and conversation. Perfect.
The only real complaint about the service, which is a direct reflection of the menu, was related to the two dishes ordered that contained nuts - one peanuts, one pecans; only once we were served the dish that contained peanuts (Stuffed Jalapenos ~ yes, you read that right) did the staff who delivered it say there were peanuts in it, and we actually had to ask what was on the dish containing pecans (the gratin on the Coal Fired Sweet Potatoes, as they cleared away the plates). Thankfully we don't have nut allergies, but our mind was on those who do, and also the liability of the restaurant.
Overall though the food was amazing, platters of pickled items, expertly smoked and preserved meats accompanied by vegetables, sauces and mustard - what's not to love.
James doesn't like pickled things so we took on the House Pickle Plate "solo" and added Pickled Egg & Beef Heart for the extra $2 (if you are an avid reader of our cooking entries and recipes, you know we have a thing for animal hearts). Broken down item by item the least favourite thing on the Pickle Plate was the beets, but that's just because we prefer the lighter (less clove) taste of the ones we pickle. The best thing on the plate turned out to be the Pickled Egg, and the Beef Heart; the pickled eggs not too strong, and the pickled heart, something we had never tried, was such a unique texture for heart, and not overly pickled. Forcing James to try select item, he was pleasantly surprised, particularly regarding the heart - he is not a fan of that delicious offal - saying that the pickled preparation is probably the only way we could get him to eat heart in the future.
House Pickle Plate with Pickled Heart & Beef Heart
We must not forget to mention the Stuffed Jalapenos, which were not at all as expected, in that they were inspiring and unique. Stuffed with a smooth peanut butter mixture, and garnished with golden raisins and feta, the Stuffed Jalapenos were a surprise, a spicy sweet treat. To be honest, had the menu said they contained peanut butter we probably would not have tried them. (but that still doesn't justify the non-disclosure of the peanuts by menu or waitstaff)
Bring on the Charcuterie!
Instead of choosing one of their several main course meat offerings, we opted to go big and order both the Butcher Sampler, and the Sausage Sampler to share, and James chose the Coal Fired Sweet Potatoes, and Skillet Cornbread, as sides.
The Butcher Sampler, a platter of house preserved meats served cold, was our primary choice, the offering included Turkey Braunschweiger, Texas Wild Boar Ham, Red Wattle Sausage, Rooster Terrine, and Wild Boar Head Cheese. Of all the items the Head Cheese, which is what sold the sampler, and the Braunschweiger, were our favorites; though the Braunschweiger, in it's luxuriously smooth texture, was very rich - half the amount of it would have sufficed (but then, these platters are meant to be shared among a table, so...). While the various accompaniments, pickled and crunchy, clearly have their place in cutting the heaviness of the fat on the tongue and cleaning the palate a bit, to make way for each new selection, every item is worthy of naked enjoyment.
A quick primer on some "strange" things: Braunschweiger - a liverwusrt, a pâté made of mashed livers Head Cheese - made from boiling pieces of the head, feet and/or tongue of an animal until it is jellied and then formed into a loaf. Terrine - a pressed loaf of loosely chopped meat.
Butcher Sampler Left to Right: Rooster Terrine, Wild Boar Head Cheese, Texas Wild Boar Ham, Red Wattle Sausage, Turkey Braunschweiger - served with crisps
James' pick, The Sausage Sampler, a trio of house smoked sausages: Wild Boar Hot Link, Texas Beef Link, and Berkshire Pork & Cheddar, is an experience. A plate with three large juicy sausages with a very spicy Dijon English mustard called Zataran to be paired with the Wild Boar, and other sauces and veggie mixtures. A plate of smoked meat to behold.
Of all the offerings the Wild Boar Hot Link turned out to be both his, and our, favourite. A nice balance between the smooth cheesy Pork & Cheddar, and the Beef. We both found the Pork to be a bit gamier than we anticipated (at first thinking it the Boar), but nonetheless delicious.
The sides James ordered only got enough of a taste from us to ascertain that they were indeed very, very, good. As he liberally spread the smooth mapley buttery mixture onto his large skillet corn bread, we lusted after it, cursing our midsection. The Coal Fired Sweet Potatoes were topped with a sweet pecan gratin covering a perfectly smooth and buttery interior encased in a charred skin. The mouth salivates at the memory.
This amount of food was far more than enough for two people, half of each sausage came back to the hotel room with us and James was forbidden to order dessert, because while it may not look like it based on this eating experience, we are on a diet - a high protein, low-carb/gluten diet, so this restaurant fit nicely into our diet). Otherwise we would have welcomed the dessert menu, which looked amazing, with open arms and drooling mouth.
Coal Fired Sweet Potatoes
Bottom line, if you love smoked meat, or meat in general, beer, and bourbon. A good atmosphere and new eating experiences, check out Butcher and The Boar next time you visit Minneapolis.