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BEST FRENCH RESTAURANT Minneapolis 2003 - Stillwater

Readers' Choice: Vincent

What is it that we look for when we look for French Food? Is it that Epcot Center-ish lineup of French mascot foods, like croissants, crêpes, moules, and steak frites, preferably served by a guy in a striped shirt and a beret? Or, by French Food, do we mean that which comes from the French tradition of technique and finesse above all else, of food at its greatest heights, service as smooth as the noise made by crystal touching a wine-softened lip, and memories as gladly relived as the moon over the Eiffel Tower? We'll take the latter. And lately the place that has the French Food that impresses us most is Stillwater's lovely La Belle Vie. Recent menus included such utterly French items as seared foie gras with caramelized salsify and chestnuts; a napoleon of golden beets with fried oysters and black walnuts, and one of the only bouillabaisses in town worth eating. So what if it also contains such distinctly non-French items as Alaskan king salmon, and plenty of Italian and Spanish accents? La Belle Vie also finishes the meal with a truly French cheese selection, including the Loire River Valley's goat's-milk chèvre Selles-sur-Cher, and the runny cow's-milk ...poisses de Bourgogne. If that's not French enough for you, go have some Freedom Fries and a crêpe at the mall.

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