La Belle Vie is first stop for dining club

Last night was my fourth or fifth evening at La Belle Vie’s new Minneapolis location, but I cannot yet claim to be a “regular” because the coat check girls didn’t recognize me (or, for that matter, my coat).

This was the first of what I hope are many meetings of the women’s dinner club initiated by my friend Faith McGown. Ten of us gathered at the 510 Groveland address, filling two round tables situated, appropriately, beneath the metal forms of two lithe women’s torsos created by local sculptor and legendary party host Brant Kingman. We ordered wine by the glass. My choice: a toasty Cotes du Rhone, Domaine St. Anne 2001. (It’s not every day that I see my name—“Anne with an e”—on a wine label, let alone a French one.)

While our other table ordered á la carte, my half of the group opted for the five-course tasting menu, available three different ways: with meat; all fish and seafood; and vegetarian. All started off with an amuse bouche (small appetizer) of a tender golden beet medalliion in red beet reduction topped with a generous slice of fragrant truffle. Delicious! As printed, the tasting menu maps out the adventure to come:

Poached King Crab with Braised Leeks,
Osetra Caviar and Curry Vinaigrette

Sautéed Skate with Warm Lobster-Potato
Salad and Lobster Reduction

Roasted Moulard Duck with Celeryroot
Aligoté and Chanterelle Mushrooms

Fennel-Crusted Wild Boar with
Goat Cheese Gnocchi and Black Olive

Chocolate Terrine with Marzipan,
Raspberry and Blood Orange Sorbet,
and Almond Nougatine

Three and a half hours later, we waddled to the foyer to retrieve our coats, pledging to get back into our workout routines even as we unbuttoned our waistbands.

I keep hearing about people who tire of eating out all the time. Usually it’s people who travel on business. But I don’t cook—it’s never been an interest of mine—and I cannot imagine tiring of food prepared and served by someone else, especially in rooms with high ceilings, where crystal chandeliers, inspiring artwork and tasteful bouquets frame the stories of new friends whose lives are as rich as the chocolate and marzipan terrine.

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