Tales of the Third Coast

Blue Point Restaurant

& Oyster Bar

739 E. Lake St., Wayzata


I RECENTLY HAD a friend visit from the Southeastern seaboard, a willowy hothouse flower raised on shrimp boats and crabbing docks. Naively perhaps, I thought that solid, landlocked ground would be a healthy change for her. Not so: When she realized that fresh fish was not so easy to come by in these parts, she got very scared. I tried my damnedest to maintain her spirits with canned salmon, frozen fish sticks, and pickled herring, to little effect. By the end of the week, she had grown ridiculously pallid, her body left dizzy by the lack of ocean breezes and fresh seafood.

It was then that I rushed her straight to the Blue Point Restaurant & Oyster Bar. I'd never been before, though I'd heard tales about the sugar daddies and trophy wives who frequented it. My first impression of the place was that the rumors had been grossly exaggerated. The sign posted out front ("Do You Serve Crabs? Yes, We Serve Anyone") seemed less than highbrow. But shame on me, the brow has little to do with the purse, and sure enough, we overheard plenty of conversations about boat length and plans for "a bit of the old nip and tuck."

When our polished waitress arrived with menus, we had plenty of cause to mind our own business, the task at hand (choosing our fill) being largely more interesting than the fruits of our eavesdropping. The appetizers here sounded incredible, and, priced at the level of entrées at many other restaurants, had better taste incredible too. You can choose to revel in fried potato and organic spinach gnocchi served with garlic-roasted walnuts and gorgonzola cream sauce ($7.95); fresh dungeness crabcakes made with hazelnuts, cream, diced vegetables, and red pepper vinaigrette ($9.95); hydroponic tomato risotto ($6.95); and lime marinated Atlantic salmon nachos ($8.95), among other items that sound equally ravishing. We veered momentarily toward the cracked Bahami and Queen Conch (fried in clarified butter and garnished with kumquat/lime vinegar), but the moment passed quite quickly: We knew that oysters were the quickest and most potent shot at restoring my friend's vigor.

There are all kinds to choose from, flown in daily, including Louisiana Blue Points, Washington State Penn Coves, British Columbian Fanny Bay's, and Hood Canal Doeswallips. We stuck with the true and blue Cape Neddicks from Long Island, renowned for their plump and crisp quality. My friend wept at the sight of them: six iced oysters spilling out of their shells and adorned with lemon wedges, homemade horseradish grated from the root, and cocktail sauce ($9.95). We savored the rare Minnesotan experience for as long as we could, allowing ourselves to slurp down one every 5 minutes and amusing ourselves with a frozen strawberry daiquiri in the meanwhile.

Our sadness over eating the last one was brief, for we soon had a bowl of Louisiana shrimp and andouille gumbo to contend with ($4.50). Made with fresh okra, tomatoes, carrots, crayfish tails, and jasmine rice, and spiced with a crafty, magical hand, it was a trip to New Orleans minus the trip.

Entrées are no less crafty, though for all the adjectives parlayed on the menu, preparations are actually quite simple. There are a few non-seafood items on the menu--teriyaki rib eye ($17.95), Kansas City filet mignon ($17.95), and New York strip steak ($21.95))--but that's not at all what we had come for. We chose to split a featured special of the day, grilled Florida Wahoo ($18.95), which was more than ample enough to satiate both of us. Served on a bed of roasted garnet yam purée, with roasted tomato-balsamic vinegar reduction spun artistically around the plate, the fish was grilled to perfection, flaky to the fork and moist to the mouth. Almost unnecessary, but lovely all the same, was the side of caramelized pineapple salsa, the loveliest combination of sweet and tangy I can recall.

For us, this meal was perfect, and we dared not chase away the aftertaste of the oysters and fish with anything else. Maybe you'd choose to crack open a 2 lb. live lobster hailing from Maine ($21.95), Maryland soft-shell blue crabs ($6.95 for an appetizer), or perhaps a selection from the catch of the day menu. (On our visit it included mahi mahi, pompano, American red snapper, and red grouper, all from Florida.) You might even start to bemoan the fact that there are so many wonderfully exotic (to these parts anyway) options. If you save space on your palate for dessert, you won't be disappointed. The menu itself reads like butter: raspberry chocolate cheesecake, pear and walnut tart, tiramisu tort, crème caramel, whiskey bread pudding, and key lime pie, all $4.25-$4.95. The feasting possible at The Blue Point is fantastic enough to convince the most seaworthy visitors to stay long enough to dine here again.  


LESSONS OF THE FLESH: After forsaking the sweeter pleasures of the tongue for a couple of years now, with absolutely no remorse, I suddenly have found myself grabbing for all sorts of nasty candy, creams, and confections. But now, ballooned up like a county fair ride, I realize that that's no way to go either. Moderation, yes, I know, but at what cost? I sure am sick of honey-sweetened Zwiebacks to satisfy my sweet tooth. The editors of Eating Well magazine have recently published the Eating Well Dessert Cookbook. They promise to keep a mindful eye on your fat intake (many of the recipes contain under 3 grams of fat), be your desire cake, pie, scone, ice cream, or dessert bar. And, although I personally think such lists take a lot of joy from the task at hand, each recipe is accompanied by a list of nutrition information that includes grams of fat, saturated fat, calories, and sodium. Here's an example of their handiwork:

Pear-Cranberry Sampler

* 1/4 cup plus 3 tbsp. sugar

* 1 tbsp. cornstarch

* 5 ripe pears, cored, peeled and chopped (4 cups)

* 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries

* 1/3 cup low-fat milk

* 2 large eggs

* 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

* 6 slices firm white bread, crusts trimmed

* 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat oven to 400. In an 8-inch square baking dish, stir together 1/4 cup of the sugar and cornstarch. Add pears and cranberries and stir until well combined. Place in oven to bake for 20 minutes, stirring midway, or until the fruit is tender and the juices have begun to thicken.

Meanwhile, in a large, shallow dish, whisk together milk, eggs, and vanilla. Cut each bread slice in half diagonally, and soak in the egg-milk mixture, carefully turning the slices for even soaking. Remove the fruit from the oven and arrange the bread in rows on top of the fruit. Combine nutmeg and the remaining 3 tbsp. sugar; sprinkle evenly over the bread. Bake for 20 minutes more, or until the fruit is bubbling and the bread is golden. Serve immediately.

If you're looking for an extra flourish, try topping it with a bit of low-fat vanilla cream. To make it, line a sieve with cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Spoon in 1 1/2 cups low-fat vanilla yogurt and let it drain in the refrigerator until reduced to 1 cup, about 1 hour. In a chilled mixing bowl with chilled beaters, whip 1/2 cup light whipping cream to soft peaks. Add the drained yogurt, 1 tbsp. confectioner's sugar and 1 tbsp. orange liqueur; fold gently to mix. Serve immediately or refrigerate, covered, for up to 8 hours. Makes about 2 cups.

COFFEE WITH YOUR PIPE DREAM, SIR? No trips planned in the near future? Fantasize or finalize a trip to Greece for free. A travel program on Greece will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. at the It's Greek to Me restaurant (626 W. Lake St., Mpls.). The informational meetings are sponsored by Hellenic Adventures and presented by trip designer and Greek native Leftheris Papageorgiou. Greek desserts and coffee will be served. These meetings are free and open to the public. For further information, or to RSVP (required), call 827-0937.

CRY ME A DIET: Which is better, chocolate or ice cream? How can you get enough calcium in your diet when the very thought of milk brings boils to your forehead? You can get free, personalized answers to these and other nutritional quandaries from registered dietitians by calling the toll-free American Institute for Cancer Research Hotline (1-800-843-8114). The Hotline operates weekdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time, and is a free public service of the Institute. In addition to questions about the foods you stuff down, you can request a list of free AICR pamphlets and recipe booklets that may help you lower your cancer risk.

GOLF BALLS IN YOUR FILET MIGNON: Looking for an out-of-the-way place to wine and dine that (chances are) you and your deserving company have never been to before? Recently opened, The Glen may just become a new favorite. Located on the second floor at Edinburgh (that's Edinburgh in Brooklyn Park, not Scotland), you can take in a panoramic view of the golf course below. (Outdoor seating is also available as weather permits.) Though the atmosphere smacks of Scotland, the cuisine is most continental. House specialties include pan-seared filet mignon, honey-pecan walleye, and pistachio-crusted chicken breast. The Glen (8700 Edinbrook Crossing) is open for dinner, Monday-Saturday evenings 5-10 p.m. Call 493-4380 for reservations.  

TRICKING FATHER: Everyone knows some chump who gives Mom a cleaning or cooking device for Mother's Day. Well, that little trick, I'm happy to say, works just as well with Father's Day. This year, give him the Appalachian Heritage Cookbook with earmarks on the recipes that you'd like him to attempt to make for you. And he'll be learning to do more than cook; there are wise old sayings for him to memorize and useful household hints as well, like using hair curlers to hold cut flowers in a vase, an easy way to grate cheese, and peeling onions without tears. Snippets of Appalachian mountain poetry are also included. With any luck, you'll be reaping the benefits of this gift to Dad within a week. Maybe he'll even make you this recipe for Pudding Pecan Pie:

* One 3 3/4 oz. package vanilla pudding

* 1 cup corn syrup

* 3/4 cup evaporated milk

* 1 egg, slightly beaten

* 1 cup pecans, chopped

* One 9-inch pie shell, unbaked

Blend pudding mix with corn syrup. Gradually add evaporated milk and egg, stirring to blend. Then add pecans. Pour into pie shell. Bake at 375 until firm and just beginning to crack, about 40 minutes.

The Appalachian Heritage Cookbook is available from Pocahontas Press, P.O. Drawer F, Blacksburg, VA 24063. The price is $19.95 plus $3 shipping.

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