(What's with all the swine? Well, five out of the restaurant's eight entrées are pork, and Glockenspiel was out of the rainbow trout, $14.95, the two times I tried to order it. There are no meatless dinner items, although there is one lunch entrée of spaetzle covered with onions and melted Muenster cheese, $6.95).

But what irked me most was the way that unadventurous eaters had tamed the Brotzeit Teller. If a cold and wintry land develops a cuisine with a strong suit in thrifty butchering, and refines a food-life based on eating things that can make it through the winter eating scraps--hey, who are we to deny it?

Turns out that the debate over whether to offer head cheese is at the core of an internal reworking of Glockenspiel. Co-owner Mary Wildmo says that head cheese isn't necessarily off the Brotzeit Teller for good; the plate is just in flux: "We just contacted a place in New Jersey that imports items directly from Germany. We're going to change that tray to try to reflect more of a variety of sausages. The true Germans really liked [the blood sausage and head cheese], but the general public wouldn't touch it, so we're trying to find something that will please everybody." Wildmo also says that in the coming overhaul of the menu there will be more vegetarian options. Then she told me that during my last visit to the restaurant, the place was bereft of the chef, who happens to be on a field trip eating and cooking his way through Germany with co-owner Dave Wildmo.

Teddy Maki

Location Info

Map

Glockenspiel

605 W. 7th St.
St. Paul, MN 55102

Category: Restaurant > German

Region: St. Paul (Downtown)

So what should you make of a restaurant that I found mediocre when the chef was there, and awful when he was gone? My advice is to make it an after-theater or post-opera destination, because that's when it's at its best, for some of the desserts and all of the imported beer--Spaten, Hacker-Pschorr, Gosser Dark, Warsteiner, Paulaner--are great.

In fact, the upside to my run of awful entrées was that it made it so easy to save room for dessert, and a couple of the desserts at Glockenspiel are truly lovely--though not the awful Black Forest trifle (priced at $3.95, as are all the other desserts), a wine glass holding canned cherries, characterless chocolate cake, and whipped cream. And not the "apple-filled pastry," a sheet of puff pastry covered with tiny squares of apple, baked and covered with caramel sauce, which seemed like one of those dishes promoted by cookbooks as being "fast and easy." But the steamed cranberry bread pudding with hard sauce was unforgettably excellent; a slice of pudding so tart with cranberries and nuanced from the pumpernickel bread used to make it that it was wonderful all by itself. But then it was paired with real hard sauce, that ultrarich blend of butter, sugar, and--usually--whiskey or brandy. Swirling the tart bread pudding through the rich, rich sauce was the highlight of my experiences at Glockenspiel (though carefully spooning out tastes of real buttercream from the Dobos torte ran a close second).

I know those are little things, but you really do have to make your own fun at Glockenspiel. In my experience the servers do little to assist you: On every single visit, water glasses went abandoned and the check was dropped gracelessly with the desserts; the servers seem more giddy about the large checks they're ringing up than about providing an appropriate level of service for a restaurant where meals easily run $25 or $30 a person. The wine list is no reason to visit either: It's mostly mass-market stuff, and the list of ten wines includes only two from Germany. But maybe I'm just crabby because on my last visit to Glockenspiel I had to listen to cowbell "Edelweiss" a half a dozen times. It put me in such a mood. You can imagine which half of the world I find myself in.

TABLEHOPPING

BUSY BUSY: There couldn't be more going on at local favorite Auriga: Not only will snippets of co-owner Melinda Goodin's wedding to local organic farmer David VanEeckhout be broadcast June 4 on the Food Network's program The Best Of; not only will late June see VanEeckhout, one of the proprietors of River Bend Farms, setting up a Saturday farmer's market in the Auriga parking lot where he'll sell veggies while his wife sells coffee, bread, and pastry (the Kenwood walk-taker's dream destination); but while all this goes on chef Doug Flicka will be setting up a rhubarb still in the kitchen! Seems he's got a new toy, a vegetable and fruit distiller that somehow distills the essence from nearly anything: "It makes the most incredible, bright-pink rhubarb syrup. We're going to be using it in lemonade with sugar and sparkling water--it's great. And if you put some vodka in there--a very, very nice summer drink. Not that anyone here drinks." And not that any of you drink, but Flicka says you can make your own rhubarb syrup by cleaning and chopping rhubarb stems, placing them in a bowl, freezing the lot, and then thawing it out. And yes, I'll be accepting rhubarb martini and margarita recipes for the remainder of the rhubarb season.

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