Sunday, December 13, 2009

Happy Gnome - St. Paul, MN

About a year ago, Gerd surprised me with two gift certificates to the Happy Gnome in St. Paul. She had purchased them through some deal with the St. Paul Pioneer Press and got two for the price of one. Thankfully, they don’t have an expiration date, and I’ve been itching to use them. Oddly enough my friend KingDavid called me and asked me if I wanted to go to lunch, since he had two gift certificates to the Happy Gnome he purchased from the Pioneer Press about a year ago. Hilarious. Of course I was game, since I heard this place has quite a Scotch collection.

We met for lunch since I’m not employed and KingDavid spends a lot of time working from home. Liquid lunch always sounds good to me. The place is really nice inside. It’s got a bar area, and a restaurant area and then an upstairs room for overflow, which I’m sure gets used regularly on weekends. We found a nice booth and scanned the menu, which is sort of surprisingly small. But it wasn’t like I had any trouble finding something to eat on it. I’d guess there were 12-15 items on it with quite a variety of entrees and sandwich things to get.

I was having a hell of time deciding between the four PAGES of Scotch, so I just went with a Sprecher tap rootbeer (second only to 1919 rootbeer from the tap) to tide me over for lunch. I would decide later on the Scotch. I also ordered the Minnesota Game Burger – bison and elk combo patty, lingonberry sauce, and caramelized onions/horseradish/bluecheese sauce. I ordered the sauces on the side since they worried me a bit. KingDavid got the Butternut Squash Risotto which also looked amazing on the menu.

While waiting for our food, we decided on some Scotch for us to try. I opted for the Springbank 10 y/o 100 Proof. KingDavid got the Glenkinchie 10y/o. The waiter brought them out with our food, so we got some good smells in while wolfing down the food.

The food was REALLY amazing. The game burger was one of the best meat flavors I’ve ever had. I tried the sauces with a finger… I mean fork… and they were both pretty good. The waiter told me the sauces make the burger. I disagree since the meat was the best part, but putting the sauces on the burger was the right option. I’m not usually a weird sauce guy, but the lingonberries made the burger all kinds of happy and the onion/horseradish/blue cheese sauce gave a super rich and “fancy” taste. It was one of the burgers you’d never be able to recreate at home, but it was really good. I’d suggest the Minnesota Game Burger to any carnivore friends I have. The seasoned fries were also some of the better ones I’ve had in the Twin Cities area, as well. They’re worth getting.

Not to slap the burger in the face, but KingDavid’s Butternut Squash Risotto won the day. It was even better than the burger. It had whole garlic cloves, brussel sprouts, and chunks of squash. The flavor in this was awesome and the risotto wasn’t mushy or pasty or anything. Here is KingDavid doing his best Damien Omen impression when I tried to score another bite of the Risotto.

We moved on to the Scotch since that was REALLY the reason why we wanted to come here. With the meals already paid for by the gift certificates, we could splurge a little on the Scotch, right? We did. The Springbank 10yo 100 Proof was really much smoother and caramel-y than I expected. It had some serious heat at the end of the sip, but was one of the best I’ve had. In fact, it was so smooth, we thought the waiter might have mixed mine up with KingDavid’s. The Glenkinchie 10yo was fire right from the start. Seriously, fire. A couple drops of water opened this up and made it smoother, but it was still major heat in your mouth. [I tried the Glenkinchie 10yo the other night to see if it we got our glasses switch, but I think we got the right ones, KingDavid. Guess I need to go get us a case of this stuff, huh?]

Top 5 things about the Happy Gnome
1. Butternut Squash Risotto
2. Minnesota Game Burger (WITH the sauces)
3. Springbank 10y/o 100 Proof
4. Seasoned fries
5. Gerd basically bought our lunch, which makes it even more sad she didn’t get to share it

Bottom 5 things
1. Gerd was soooooo excited when she got us these gift certificates for the Happy Gnome. She and QueenRachel should have been at lunch with us trying to convince us not to drink Scotch before noon.
2. Surprisingly small lunch menu – but I still found things to eat, without trouble
3. Huge beer menu and huge Scotch menu – it will take you days to go through it
4. It’s not a cheap place to have a quick lunch
5. KingDavid and I seriously have three more gift certificates to use here, so we’re going to become regular drunks

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