On October 11, a collection of restaurant industry folk strolled the patio at the Lake Elmo Inn, a traditional supper club-style restaurant with a merry collection of vintage salt and pepper shakers parading the walls. And although the sun was shining and the ground was warm, the group quietly hemmed and hawed about the Indian summer. Any outsider might have labeled them ungrateful, but sleet or snow would have been a welcome surprise considering what the gathering celebrated: Lake Elmo Inn’s almost year-old Cabreeze.
Cabreeze founder and entrepreneur Kent Forsland designed the permanent glass enclosure to surround restaurant patios, allowing places like the Inn to capture that elusive outdoor dining fantasy that Midwesterners yearn for all the tortuous winter long. With UV protection, a retractable roof, a 90-mph wind rating, and the ability to withstand heavy snow loads, the Cabreeze can hack whatever weather Minnesota can muster. The Inn’s version of the Cabreeze is one of three present models (the others can be found at City Lounge and Hammond Hotel in Wisconsin).
The Inn’s owner and head chef John Schiltz says the Cabreeze has allowed him to absorb much more demand during the winter months. Last year the Inn seated more than 1,000 additional guests in December alone, and 500 additional guests
over Valentine’s Day weekend. But the Cabreeze has also become an unexpected point of delight in the community. It is affectionately known as the “snow globe” and “Lake Elmo’s newest chapel.”
And truly, this twinkling little greenhouse for people gives the Inn a charm that continues to secure its vitality within the Lake Elmo community. As writer and supper club maven Brenda Bredahl pointed out at the gathering, “many supper clubs use eye-catching design to attract people” as they’re driving by, and the Cabreeze does just that for the Inn. According to Bredahl, the addition of the Cabreeze helps cultivate “a blending of historical and contemporary cuisine” by revitalizing an older, more social style of dining, when eating out included a show, your Sunday best, and lots of neighborhood fellowship. (Read our tour of Midwestern supper clubs here.)
Rush River Brewing in River Falls, WI, and representatives from 45th Parallel Distillery in New Richmond, WI, and Saint Croix Vineyards in Stillwater were there to toast the change in season by serving up some of their proudest accomplishments, many of which are sold at the Inn.
Paul Werni and Deb Stoelting of 45th Parallel shook up a line of little refreshing lemon basil martinis to show off their deliciously silky and locally sourced corn-based vodka. 45th is the only grain-to-glass distillery in the region, and they will soon expand their arsenal with rye and wheat whiskeys.
Saint Croix Vineyards’ general manager Matt poured glasses of port and explained the vineyards’ portfolio of dry whites, traditional reds, and ports, produced with grapes grown by the University of Minnesota.
To top it off, Chef Schiltz provided a very North Country spread of cheeses, pickles, mini crudités, and bites of the Lake Elmo Inn’s award-winning chocolate dessert, Sin of the Inn.