21 August, 2013

Fresh. Local. Organic... But Underwhelming.

There are only a couple of places in my hometown of Duluth, MN that bother with truly healthy food.  Most of them aren't actual restaurants either, which is highly disappointing.  There is the Whole Foods Co-op in the central hillside area that has a small deli and bakery section in their store.  They bring some things in but they make quite a bit of what they sell in those sections.  Then there is the Amazing Grace Bakery and Cafe down in the VERY popular tourist area known as Canal Park.  They make real food with real ingredients that does taste quite fabulous...but again...not a restaurant with a full lunch and dinner menu.  Lastly, there is Red Mug in Superior, WI just across the bridge.  Amazingly enough, Whole Foods Co-op has begun bringing in focaccia bread from them which is one of my absolute FAVORITE things to eat from Red Mug.  But they primarily bake and serve gourmet coffees.  So, when you wander into The Duluth Grill and sit down to a FULL menu with a cover that reads "Fresh.  Local.  Organic."....you get a bit excited.

I sat for quite a while trying to figure out what I wanted to eat, it was hard.  Their menu is HUGE...  I needed help figuring out what I wanted.  I asked our waitress what their signature dishes were and what she would recommend.  She brought up two or three dishes...none of which I was interested in.  At some point the manager came out of the kitchen when he heard I was there and did the same thing, recommended a handful of dishes that I wasn't really feeling.  It was hard skimming through the menu without feeling completely overwhelmed.  Vegan, gluten-free, vegetarian, "flex-itarian"....oy!  I have been watching my diet now that I am 3 months out of having the Sweet Pea, it is about time to lose what didn't go away in the delivery room.  

I ended up choosing the Lamb Shank with Tomato Curry.  (On their website there is a picture and a much longer title that better describes the dish and makes it sound SO much more appetizing then it ended up being.)  We both were quite interested in their Scotch Eggs as well.  My Mister spent two years living in Scotland and I have always wanted to try Scotch Eggs, so we ordered an appetizer of those as well.  It only took a short time for the Scotch Eggs to come out...

Scotch Eggs
I am a bit on the fence about this dish.  I LOVE a good plate of eggs benedict, it is my absolute favorite breakfast and I would eat it every morning if I knew I wouldn't weigh a half a million pounds in 5 years because of it.  What I have been used to seeing when I see a Scotch Egg split open however, isn't what was put in front of me.  Typically the meat layer outside of the egg is quite a bit thicker.  Topping off the list of things that made this dish odd to me was the blueberry in their sausage.  It is a FABULOUS idea...hell, I even made my own Blueberry Bacon Maple Syrup 2 weeks ago but...blueberry sausage encasing a hard boiled egg that you are meant to dip into dijon hollandaise sauce....the blueberry just didn't belong in there.  The dish felt like fat on fat dipped in fat.  It was richness to the max with a slight crisp on the outside.   I am sure the blueberry laced sausage is awesome with some LIGHT, fluffy pancakes but I guzzled my glass of water and was starting to dread what was coming next...

Lamb Shank with Tomato Curry
The lamb consistency was exactly how it should have been for the way it was cooked.  It had fabulous texture, but tasted a bit gamey.  It surprised me.  I LOVE lamb...furthermore, it is my meat of choice with anything that even SOUNDS Indian in description for food so to eat it and feel like it didn't belong with the tomato curry was new for me.  The spice level was rather mild and barely there for a curry.  The carrots and potatoes were scattered in their level of "done" throughout the dish.  I was starving when I walked in...I kept eating hoping that it would make more sense to my palate and that I would start to love it.  But I didn't.  I suppose that is what I get for building up a place's food so much based on an ideal that I agree with.  

Fresh. Local. Organic....a direction of dining I wish more communities would embrace quite frankly.  Especially where their elderly population suffers so much from weight bearing ailments and diseases like diabetes and congestive heart failure.  After getting lost and overwhelmed in their menu I found myself wishing that they would pick two or three dishes in each category that they do AWESOMELY well and stick to just those...perfect them and then turn them loose on the public rather than having a 4 or 5 page menu filled to the brim with things that even your server skims past when they are trying to recommend something to eat.  If I hadn't eaten what I did I would have the Eggs Benedict and call it a day...which is what the neighbors to our right ordered.  Smart folks.

This isn't the first time my Mister and I have eaten here.  This is just the first time I went in with the intent to flog the place.  The previous times we went in we were underwhelmed as well.  I'm not sure what made us think it might be different this time.  The variety of dishes is SO vast, weeding through them to find the ONE golden winner that will please my palate in every way seems daunting and almost impossible.  Would I ever eat here again...sure.  Would I recommend it to someone else??  Yeah, the folks that are in dire need of gluten free options or vegan options in the Duluth area...that stuff is hard to find elsewhere in this town.  But, for everyone else.  I dunno....good luck trying to find something that you find to be "awesome" or a dish that you would go back over and over for.  I suppose if I meander in there again the next time I visit home I might try the Dakota Pot Roast Dinner or the Pasty.  I hear that the Pasty was one of their dishes that was highlighted on "Diners, Drive-ins & Dives" when they were featured on Food Network.

As we were leaving and I found myself actually feeling a quite SAD that I didn't fall in love with my meal I decided to take a walkabout by the area where they grow their own herbs and veggies...

Yeah, it is pretty awesome that they do that.  It is one of the reasons I keep going back.  They are even farming their own honey on the roof with hives of bees...  C'mon!....what doesn't impress you about that?  I just have this high level of self serving HOPE that the person who comes up with their menu and creates these dishes will find their compass soon and head in a direction that will be a consistent people pleasing menu.

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