Best Restaurant (St. Paul) - 2009
If you want a sense of chef Lenny Russo's fastidious nature, just read his menu: "Wildflower honey-hazelnut-pumpkin seed gâteau marjolaine with passion fruit sauce, hazelnut praline, high bush cranberry-apricot jelly, and passion fruit-cherry sorbet." Whew! And that's just one dessert. If a chef puts that much effort into writing, just think what he can do with a knife. Heartland is the place you take local food skeptics who think eating seasonally in the Midwest is a joke. With Russo sourcing our area's finest foie gras, oyster mushrooms, elk roast, and wild rice, who really needs California? But the thing we like best about St. Paul's best restaurant is that you don't have to save it for special occasions. To hit up its chic little wine bar, you don't need any more reason than the fact that you were able to get a sitter on a Tuesday night. Heartland's wine bar offers lighter portions of dining-room entrées, plus a lengthy house-made charcuterie selection with items like turkey-rabbit terrine wrapped in Iowa prosciutto and served with a hardboiled egg (from a free-range chicken, natch). Your food's not only tasty but stamped with a sustainable ethic.