Sunday, July 10, 2011

EVOO night at Levain

Wearing her ruby slippers, Dorothy clicked her heels three times and wished she were back in Kansas...As for me, I wish to be back at Cafe Levain in South Minneapolis at the Minnesota Food Blogger dinner sponsored by California Olive Ranch Olive Oil, the creative culinary talents of chef Adam Vickerman and hosted by Will and Jenny Hsu.

Beautiful ruby slippers are worn by Stephanie Meyer of

Stephanie is a leader in the food blogging community here in Minneapolis/St. Paul. She has been instrumental in gathering fellow food writers, photographers and food lovers together through the MN Food Bloggers network. At every event I look forward to seeing her super stylish shoes, as well as those of Dainia Miwa of (not pictured, but hers were equally stunning)

Our six course meal started here in the Turtle Bread Garden down the street from the restaurant. Chef Vickerman creates his beautifully fresh dishes from local and seasonal ingredients.

The space is simple and homey. A perfect neighborhood restaurant. How could we not feel at home with the staff greeting us at the door with a glass of Dry Creek Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc and three lovely crostinis topped with pate and pickled rhubarb, another with white beans and anchovies and the mysterious one which turned out to be a delightful roasted cauliflower mixture.

The room was glowing with the evening sun and also with the warmth of like minded people (especially our new friends from Eat.Drink.Life.Love seated at the table with us). We were all thrilled to be there enjoying every bite and sip of wine and olive oil. Yes, you heard it correctly sip of olive oil.

Olive oil tasting 101: Swirl, smell, sip. Taste, and close your eyes to detect the subtle undertones just like a fine wine.

The freshest extra virgin olive oil is evidently not's from California! The price point of this excellent olive oil is affordable and available at local co-ops and Byerly's and Lund's markets.

Not only did we have great wine paired with every course, each part of the meal included a different olive oil pairing used in each dish. (No we didn't drink the olive oil each time).

Each dish was uncomplicated yet with special nuances that make you wonder what that special undertone is. This beautiful neon green soup was our "Amuse-bouche" which in French means "to excite the taste buds" and give a peek into the chef's approach to cooking. It did not dissappoint. Fresh Pea Kohlarabi soup with a punch of chives, bit of parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil.

The freshness continued with our crisp from the garden salad of tender lettuces, radishes and peas lightly dressed with a buttermilk tarragon vinaigrette. The interest and contrast came from the sweetness of the candied nuts and creaminess of the chevre.

Sample of one of the salad recipes chef Vickerman has shared on Heavy Table

This crispy on the outside, oh so pink on the inside Alaskan King Salmon, was perfectly cooked, moist and flavorful. Wonderfully dimensional in taste as it was served on a bed of creamy white beans and grilled sugar snap peas in a bit of chili oil.

Wait! There's more. Charred hanger steak with outstanding flavor served with fingerling potatoes and the piece de resistance was the ragout of local mushrooms flavored with preserved lemons and balsamic vinegar.

We didn't get a picture of the lovely unique dessert, having dived into it too soon. The starring ingredient in this trio of sweetness was the California Olive Oil Ranch olive oil. Buttery olive oil cake, creamy olive oil gelatto, and luxurious olive oil panna cotta. People at other tables were licking their plates. 5 glasses of wine and behavior changes a bit.

We received a lovely bottle of olive oil as a parting gift. The whole evening was such a treat. Now to leave you with a treat: a recipe from one of my all time favorite chefs Suzanne Goin from her cookbook "Sunday Suppers at Luques". Summer Fruit Salad with Arugula and Marcona Almonds. featuring the delicious California Olive Ranch oil. Enjoy!
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