, widely recognized as the pinnacle of Minnesota fine-dining threw itself a birthday party to celebrate its 15 years, inviting the well-to-do to mix with the well-known chefs both present and past who have contributed to the success of this storied restaurant. The Hot Dish was lucky enough to snag a ticket to this sold-out event.
Poached lobster with Morcilla cappelleti and egg
Guests on Sunday were welcomed with glasses of bubbly poured from enormous bottles. Chef Tim McKee was happily greeting guests as long-lost friends.
Caviar topped blini
In one corner of the dining room Jack Riebel was holding court, handing out "club sandwiches" made of blinis, salmon, caviar, and every accoutrement you could want. "Don't tell Tim! I'm going to give you the works," he stage-whispered. The James Beard Award nominee has plenty on his own plate right now, what with the wild success of the Butcher & the Boar's first year, the award nomination, and the news that he's consulting on the re-imagining of Joe's Garage. He said he wouldn't miss this event for the world. When not explaining the 14 different garnishes on the blinis, he shared animated tales about moving La Belle Vie from Stillwater to the Minneapolis location.
Behind his station were other alumni who have passed through the kitchen before going on to their own success. Shawn Smalley of Smalley's Barbeque in Stillwater tamed his burly hair into a tidy ponytail as he maniacally flipped the tiny, perfectly round pancakes. Beside him Jamie Malone of Sea Change was cracking open monstrous oysters, cartoonish in size. Chef Jim Christiansen of Union was running from their table to the kitchen amid a room packed with guests, as did Tyge Nelson of Chino Latino.
Moment captured, Bill Summerville and Diane Yang
La Belle Vie co-owner and sommelier Bill Summerville adjusted his bow tie before posing with pastry chef Diane Yang for pictures. A company had been brought in to commemorate the event by allowing attendees to pose for the creation of a flip book.
In the Lounge Johnny Michaels and his team of mixologists were serving red and white wines to an animated group. While the Twilight Hours, better known as Matt Wilson and John Munson, performed at the end of the room. Jeremy Messersmith milled about waiting to play his set.
Back in the dining room, the doors sealed off the back room, where James Beard Award nominee Michelle Gayer, owner of the Salty Tart, worked with Adrienne Odom of Parasole and Yang as they filled a stretched-out table with piles of pastry delights. There was a tree with giant, clear globes filled with cherry-blossom-colored macaroons. The lights reflected off the trays upon trays of dessert like glitter.
Madams of pastry: Diane Yang, Adrienne Odom, and Michelle Gayer
Just outside those doors was a table stacked with high-end, rare, and unique bottles of wine Summerville selected especially for the occasion: oenophile heaven.
I'll have what she's having
All the while servers swirled around the room with exquisite bites of food. Crispy fried sweetbreads kissed by a sherry gastrique topped with stinging nettles; quail stuffed with foie gras mortadella, garnished with fat flakes of black truffles; brioche packed with foie gras topped with a Cara Cara orange marmalade; spring pea tortelli topped with peaky-toe crab and slow-cooked rabbit with fava beans with a brainy little morel mushroom. Mike DeCamp, chef de cuisine at La Belle Vie, and his cooks on the line were sending out plate after masterful, elegant, small plate of food.
Jay Sparks of D'Amico and Tim McKee of La Belle Vie
As the evening wound down and glasses were drained, plates were licked, flip books were collected, and flush-cheeked merry makers called for car service, the chefs found their way back into the kitchen. The last few plates left the line, and the crew, some reunited for the first time in years, found familiar spots on the line and toasted one last service finished.
Kitchen reunion: Jack Riebel, Adrienne Odom, Patrick Dennison, and Tyge Nelson
McKee was still making the rounds in the front of house, but here it was evident what all that time, hard work, and determination to be the best had built. La Belle Vie continues to be the pinnacle of fine dining, but the reach of that kitchen goes way beyond the stately walls of 510 Groveland. The Twin Cities dining experience is a tastier place because of the work done here. We wished them well and then saw ourselves out. The evening wasn't ending, just shifting gears.