Eat The Menu: Farm-Fresh Harvest

Rhubarb, sesame, goat cheese ice cream. Photos by Mike Hnida
Rhubarb, sesame, goat cheese ice cream. Photos by Mike Hnida

Q: What happens when a couple of foodies wish they could walk to dinner? A: Herbst.

It’s the shiny, new restaurant serving the newly-condo-ized St. Anthony Park neighborhood along St. Paul’s Raymond Avenue, occupying a classic 1920s building, vacant for ages. Its new owners (it helps that one of them boasts connections to Tilia’s successful kitchen) forged connections with a local farmers’ collective to ensure fresh, fresh foodstuffs. (Bonus: A neighboring building, separated by an entrance arcade, now sells DIY edibles, plus the ceramic tableware used in the restaurant. (Thus, we checked in for our dinner reservation toting a bag of sweet potatoes.)

The site is a winner. Herbst, as the new dining spot is called (the name means ‘harvest,’ I’m told) boasts snow-white walls (hung here and there with local art) soaring to a lofty ceiling atop a window wall that floods June’s lingering daylight onto the welcoming banquettes, two-tops and the curvy bar’s platoon of stools. There’s pleasant patio seating as well.

That bar boasts a vanguard program that lists cocktails by how they hit your palate—mineral, for example, or bitter (which included my potion of rye, amaro, sweet vermouth and red bitter, $15), funky (think rum, aquavit), earthy (mezcal) and seasonal (currently, brandy). Within these categories are further refinements: Order your libation at full, low or zero proof. Or simply flee to the wine list ($11-20 BTG), which salutes small producers.

Blistered snap peas

Spring’s dinner menu is divided into four suggested courses. The first, introducing lighter bites ($8-17), lists temptations ranging from mushrooms and peas in goat’s milk or smashed turnip in chili vinaigrette to our more traditional choice, chicken liver mousse. It’s a puree of perfection for liver lovers: ultra-smooth and creamy in texture, mild yet intriguing in flavor—accented both by honey and pepper, then topped by a dusting of chopped pistachios and whetted by a side of sour cherry jam. Spread it on the accompanying rustic toasts and smile.

The menu’s ensuing quartet ($14-18) ranges from blistered snap peas with citrus and pecorino cheese to coal-roasted sweet potato (hey, we brought our own, remember?) to our selection, grilled sepia (aka cuttlefish, with a bouncy bite and modest flavor, nicely accented by a deep, dark pool of burnt-eggplant puree (sounds questionable, tastes wonderful) along with tiny cauliflower bits, adding unnecessary sharpness, and a brighter note of spicy pickled chilis.

The third course celebrates a trio of pastas ($21-23), once again generously portioned for sharing. We summoned the big bowl of lumache (wide and chewy, inch-long tubes) sauced in a green pesto bearing a little stroke of heat; it’s paired with a couple of meatballs born of delicious, full-flavored lamb sausage. Or choose a simple spaghetti parm or ricotta gnocchi.

Lamb leg steak

On to the main event: a choice of walleye, pork or lamb ($29-34). OK, we’ll have the pork, because it’s listed as paired with marinated clams, along with charred onion. Sounds like the typical marriage found in a familiar Portuguese stew, but no: the meat arrived in fillets rather than the expected cubes but proved sweet and tender and delicious. And the onions were also supremely sweet and tasty. Yet we pondered, where are the clams? “Oh, it’s simply the juice of clams,” our server enlightened us. Misleading. And not worth $31. Next time: the walleye, served with piquillo-braised kale and anchovy, or the lamb with anchovy walnut pesto—a meat-and-sauce pairing it’s hard to foresee as a new taste sensation unless you, like the kitchen, are besotted with anchovies.

The dessert line-up ($6-11) seems well worth saving room. We had our hearts set on the already-famous cornbread ice cream, but, apparently, so did dozens of diners before us, so it was sold out. Instead we chose the grapefruit and pink peppercorn upside-down cake, served with roasted anise ice cream. We loved-loved!—the perky citrus -pepper topping but the cake it crested proved dry. We asked to substitute the kitchen’s honey-sesame ice cream, which offered a deeply nutty, slightly sweet accompaniment. Next time: the rhubarb-sesame crunch, served with goat cheese ice cream. Or that cornbread frozen treat if it’s not gone!

Expect a 21 percent service charge, so there’s no need to tip the fine service we enjoyed.

Herbst Eatery & Farm Stand
779 Raymond Ave.
St. Paul
(651) 340-0254

5100 Eden Ave, Suite 107 • Edina, MN 55436
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