On an night known for green beer and unabashed drunkeness, the civil crowd at the Luck of the Locavore dinner at the Chowgirls Parlor in Northeast Minneapolis demonstrated that you can celebrate the holiday without smelling like the floor of an Irish bar the morning of March 18. Instead, popular caterers Heidi Andermack and Amy Brown invited diners into the elegant, green-accented event space next to their catering kitchen for a holiday-themed meal with Irish-American essentials — whiskey, corned beef and cabbage, and Guinness — and local touches. And from the satisfied faces of Andermack and Brown’s guests, no one looked like they were missing the boisterous drinking fest just a few blocks away.
Luck of the Locavore is just one of the many special meals the Chowgirls offer throughout the year; just last month they welcomed diners to a Locavore Love Affair for Valentine’s Day, and fans can look forward to Mother’s Day brunch and a summer solstice supper in the coming months. The seasonal dinners give Andermack and Brown a chance to try out new recipes and reach an audience who may not have sampled their wares at local events (including our own North Coast Noshes). But the real pleasure fell to the guests who ate, drank, and grooved to the reggae tunes off Andermack’s iPad. Irish? No, but it effortlessly echoed the laid-back vibe of the dining room.
Starter: At first glance, the ploughman’s platter of Dubliner Irish cheddar and Minnesota-made St. Pete’s blue that kicked off the meal looked a little skimpy, but it proved just enough to tame pre-dinner hunger without making you too full to enjoy the rest of the meal. One always appreciates a quality cheddar like the Dubliner, but the real star of this platter was the blue, which paired perfectly with the sweet onion jam and house-made soda bread studded with juicy raisins. If more food wasn’t on its way, it would have been extraordinarily easy to make an entire meal of those three items. The soda bread was hearty yet still retained a delicate crumb, and the jam’s thick sweetness made it clear that these onions had been expertly caramelized. Our chosen accompanying cocktail, the Three Gingers, blended house-made ginger ale with Kieran Folliard’s 2 Gingers whiskey, lemon, and lime juice. The zesty ginger ale tempered the bracing punch of the whiskey, making the drink a satisfying sipper as the meal continued.
Fish: Grilled salmon glazed with the 2 Gingers whiskey and Ames Farm honey led the list of entrees, and it would be hard to find a fresher piece of fish in town. The sticky-sweet glaze couldn’t hide the fillet’s boisterous, uh, salmon-ness, and that’s a good thing. The salmon was wolfed down almost as fast as the side of colcannon featuring sauteed kale and potatoes – the salty / creamy mixture proved to be addicting.
Lamb: Shepherd’s pie is often a mushy mess of watery ground beef, canned corn, and potato buds. In no way did the version we ate resemble that monstrosity. Instead, tender, juicy pieces of lamb, provided by Larry Gates Farm in Kellogg, and toothsome roasted root vegetables from Harmony Valley Farm nestled in a rich gravy beneath a savory mashed potato topping. What a pleasure it was to taste veggies that held their shape and consistency upon meeting a fork, rather than mash into nothingness.
Beef: A St. Patrick’s Day dinner without corned beef and cabbage would disappoint, and the Thousand Hills Cattle Company brisket — cured in house by the Chowgirls — packed the flavor punch that many deli corned beefs lack these days. There was no mistaking the seductively salty profile of the fork-tender beef, which proved to be an appropriate foil to the sweet roasted red cabbage on the side. While the cabbage may have been a tad too sugary for our taste, again, it impressively held it shape and crunch.
Dessert: Chocolate. Beer. Cream. Need we say more? The Guinness stout chocolate pound cake — perfectly portioned after a hearty entree — let the Equal Exchange cocoa shine, while backing it up with the bitter tang of the hops. Cinnamon-spiked Organic Valley whipped cream added a lightness to the dessert, which featured rich Equal Exchange coffee as an accompanying beverage.
Our writer and photographer received complementary tickets to this meal (valued at $35 a person).