Victory 44

by Susan on September 11, 2012

-written and photographed by Susan Powers


This casual corner restaurant with a funky vintage feel creates a stunning contradiction. Kick back, relax and prepare to eat plate after plate of some of the Twin Cities most exquisitely prepared food. Exceptional fine dining meets casual neighborhood cool, and the prices can’t be beat.

The Place

x

The vibe in Victory 44 immediately puts you at ease. The colors are soothing, large windows bring in lots of light and the architecture of the old structure creates a warm, inviting feeling with a vintage groove. 

The chef-servers and baristas flow from one space to another. Coffee and Provisions lie to the east, the bar with tables and the tiny kitchen are in the middle and the dining room completes the west side. Huge chalkboards announce the evening menu and Victory 44’s slogan “Praise the Lard”. Outdoor dining is available seasonally. 

 “We set out to make an approachable restaurant where people in the neighborhood would enjoy coming to eat” states Chef Erick Harcey. He gets his neighborhood folk interlaced with the cities most discriminating diners, who stop in regularly to experience his amazing food. 

The People

 

Wearing a t-shirt, baseball hat, jeans and an apron, Chef Erick Harcey appears to be a pretty laid back guy, that is, until he starts talking about food. It is impossible for him to contain his enthusiasm. It hits like a hurricane and you are immediately swept away by the excitement and joy he has for creating amazing food. 

Chef Harcey comes by it naturally. One grandfather was a chef and the other a farmer. Chef Harcey’s childhood memories are all about food, growing it, preparing it, and eating it.  A perfect environment for a budding chef.  

Chef Harcey studied and trained at Le Cordon Bleu right out of high school. He excelled there and landed at Hotel Sofitel in the pastry division just out of school. He was then hired at the Nicollet Island Inn as head pastry chef. Through hard work, talent and dedication he migrated up through the ranks to the top position, Executive Chef, where he developed his style, technique and skills.

At Victory 44, as a chef/owner, Chef Harcey has complete freedom to let his genius run wild. Working out of one of the smallest kitchens in town, he weaves flavor and texture together and, with one bite, leaves you speechless.

Deconstructed food is his speciality. He lets every ingredient speak for itself. A carrot finds its full expression by being presented three different ways (ex. poached, caramelized, and pureéd) in a dish bringing a depth of flavor that is intense. He likes to call his food controlled chaos on a plate. I would just call it eye-rolling delicious. Chef Harcey pushes the envelop, actually shreds it, in the best way possible. 

This excellence and excitement for food permeates every aspect of the restaurant. Many of the servers are actually chefs. So, the person serving you dinner was doing the prep earlier in the day. The benefit is having a server that intimately knows every detail of the food they are serving along with a huge dose of enthusiasm and pride having helped prepare what you are eating. 

Even the baristas amaze with their chef-inspired infusions. It is wonderful to have someone come to your table and put as much attention into your blueberry infused laté as the chefs did with your meal. Be warned, you will dream of this food and coffee.

 

The Food

 

The kitchen at Victory 44 is small. To make dishes like this, everyone has to be in sync, with their talents highly tuned. Chef Harcey leads the charge but his chefs must be up to the challenge. This is where the magic comes in. It has to be magic. One look at the space and you will understand why. Seriously, a well tuned team with mad skills make it happen. 

Chef Harcey places his heart and vision into every dish. He see’s an ingredient and the wheels start turning. It is an artful evolution that requires him to be constantly honing his skills. 

The beets in this salad are presented three ways. Fresh, puréed and dehydrated. The essence of the beets is expressed three fold, bursting forth with flavor.

Menus change as the seasons change, or a special ingredient inspires Chef Harcey. Over the top, delicious.

Did I mention they are open for breakfast and lunch, too?

 

For Your Kitchen

 

Chef Harcey graciously welcomed me into his home to prepare Mussels with Chicken Sausage. Shooting with his wife and four little boys was beyond fun. For the recipe and pictures of Eric and his four little sous chefs preparing the dish, click here: Mussles with Chicken Sausage

 

Victory 44

All images ©SusanPowersPhotography 2010-2013

Victory 44     |     2203 44th Ave N      |     Minneapolis, MN     |      55412     |     Ph: 612.588.2228

Victory-44.com

{ 10 comments }

Saison: San Francisco

by Susan on October 19, 2011

-written and photographed by Susan Powers

Through the rustic doors at 2124 Folsom St., one of San Francisco’s top chef’s, Joshua Skenes, is preparing culinary masterpieces five nights a week. Voted one of Food and Wine’s Best New Chef’s for 2011, Chef Skenes’ approach to food is breaking convention. One taste and you are a complete convert and everlasting fan. If you are not careful, his food could very well be the catalysis for love. 

 

The Place

 

When the taxi driver pulled up to the address given him by my dinner date, he was hesitant to let us out of the cab. “Are you sure there is a restaurant here?” he asked. From the street, I wondered the same thing. I had no idea where I was being taken for dinner, only that it was a surprise. Looking through gates and at the “rustic” court yard, I was siding with the cab driver. My companion assured me we were at the right place as we ventured ahead. 

As I walked through the door into the outer room of the restaurant, I immediately sensed something different about this restaurant. Micro greens were growing on shelves in the corner while two huge wood-burning ovens permeated the air with delectable smells. Cinder block off-set by citrus trees and a natural wood-topped bar created an interesting contradiction. An intriguing atmosphere sets the stage for your food adventure. 

We were greeted at the door of the dining room by a stylishly dressed sommelier and escorted to our table. Still having no idea where I was and the life changing journey we were about to embark on, we were seated.

Glancing down at the menu, it hit me. I was at Saison, one of San Francisco’s hottest restaurants. The price for a seat at the table is not for the faint of heart. There is no ordering, just plate upon plate that arrives at the table, perfectly executed by an amazing wait staff. And don’t be in a rush. Dinner can take more than three hours. I looked up at my dinner companion completely moved that he had brought me here to have this experience. Little did I know the dizzying and heart opening effect the food would have and that I would leave the restaurant falling in love. 

The People 

 

Brilliance, intensity, and drive are three words that could be used to describe Chef Joshua Skenes and his approach to food. “What I want to serve is the most interesting, amazing food…the best on earth…better than everything else,” states Skenes. He is well on his way.

 Chef Skenes had an affinity for food from a young age. There is a rumored picture of him at 4 years of age, wearing a chef’s hat making mud pies. A premonition? I think so. Like many other chefs, Skenes came to a point, shortly after high school where he needed to choose a direction. It was either martial arts or food. Food won and he found himself enrolled at the French Culinary Institute in New York. Combining school with working under Jean Georges Vongerichten, Chef Skenes passion for food deepened. 

After completing his training, Skenes moved to Boston and helped open Troquet and ended up working under Anthony Ambrose at Ambrosia. Chef Skenes eventually found himself in the bay area, where he became the executive chef at Chez TJ where his culinary creations were getting great attention. Skenes then helped open Stone Hill Tavern at the St. Regis Resort where he continued to be recognized for his gifted cuisine. 

All the while, Chef Skenes was developing a concept for his own restaurant, Saison, which means “Seasons” in French. His kitchen, easily as large as the dining room (maybe even larger) is one of the most beautiful professional kitchens I have seen, and is staffed with an amazing array of chefs in white coats. 

The camaraderie between the multitude of chefs that are required to execute Skenes food is apparent. Prep starts early, with chefs at numerous stations, some harvesting micro greens, some working at the large wood ovens and a handful in the kitchen, all overseen by the watchful eyes of Skenes.

  It is a talented group of chefs, all who are excited to be working with Skenes. The prep is intense, the mood focused, and the evening’s plates are beginning to come to life. 

The Food

 

Comfortably seated in the restaurant, the food and wine started to appear. The first course is a “gift” from the chef (the first of many). A small plate with a combination of flavors and textures that subtly announces Skenes genius is perfectly placed on the table. The wait staff seems to be driven by a sixth sense, knowing exactly what we need, when we need it and delivering it almost invisibly. The service is exceptional, deeply contributing to the experience. 

Skenes, obsessed with fire and flavor, forages for items that contribute to his plates. His desire to coax the most flavor possible from his ingredients means that fire is intimately involved with 80-90% of what hits the plate. When you eat at Saison, you eat what is placed in front of you. There are no substitutions and there doesn’t need to be. The food is delicious beyond description.

 Skenes dishes are all spot on. The balance of flavors and textures, exploding in your mouth one minute, lulling you into a stupor the next, all amaze. I am in the middle of the most flavorful, sensual meals I have ever had. The effect of the food, the beautiful wine pairings and the exquisite service had its effect. Had my vision blurred or cleared. 

 Can food open all of our senses? Skenes food can and does. I had the most delightful dinner of my life. All of my senses were stimulated, my heart was opened and a new journey began. 

 

Saison     2124 Folsom Street     San Francisco, CA 94110      415.828.7990

www.SaisonSF.com

©All images and content copyrighted 2011 Susan Powers Photography. 

{ 20 comments }

In Season

August 14, 2011

-written and photographed by Susan Powers Tucked into a little row of shops on the corner of 54th and Penn, Chef Don Saunders is creating outstanding food inspired by and celebrating the seasons. A small space that is producing big flavors, his food is both innovative and delicious.   The Place Cool, relaxed,  hip, and […]

Read the full article →

La Belle Vie

July 23, 2011

-written and photographed by Susan Powers Unassuming elegance and outstanding food. That is La Belle Vie at 510 Groveland, Minneapolis. If you have been, you can’t stay away. If you haven’t been, you need to treat yourself to one of the finest dining experiences in the Midwest. x The Place   When Chef Tim McKee […]

Read the full article →

Piccolo

June 21, 2011

-written and photographed by Susan Powers There is something special and unique going on in Chef Doug Flicker’s restaurant, Piccolo at 4302 Bryant Ave, Minneapolis. Chef Flicker is taking the art of small plates and intense flavor to a new high. Think custom tasting menu, exceptional.   The Place The interior is simple yet welcoming. Two separate spaces comprise […]

Read the full article →

Patisserie 46

June 6, 2011

-written and photographed by Susan Powers- The day Patisserie 46 opened its doors was a very lucky day for Minneapolis, indeed! Uber award-winning pastry chef John Kraus brought his extreme talent and deep passion for all things pastry to the corner of 46th and Grand, creating a little corner of heaven for all who visit. […]

Read the full article →

Masu Sushi and Robata

May 18, 2011

-Written and photographed by Susan Powers- What do you get when you combine two passionate, talented chefs and the hottest new food trend? Masu Sushi and Robata on 3rd and Hennepin, NE. Just a stone’s throw from downtown, this brand new addition to NE is deservedly jumping every night!   The Place You feel the […]

Read the full article →

Cafe Ena

May 3, 2011

-Written and Photographed by Susan Powers- Cafe Ena is a  jewel nestled on the corner of 46th and Grand. With food as colorful as the restaurant, their cozy atmosphere and deliciously creative Latin Fusion fare will keep you coming back for more.   The Place For years Cafe Ena’s owners, Chef Hector Ruiz and Erin Ungerman drove past […]

Read the full article →

Artisan Breads in 5 Minutes: Zoë François

April 18, 2011

-Written and photographed by Susan Powers- Best selling author, pastry chef and food blogger, Zoë Françios, works out of her southwest Minneapolis home, creating mouth-watering recipes for breads, treats and all things pastry.   The Place Entering into Zoë François creative domain (her kitchen) is akin to walking into a beautifully frosted layer cake, white […]

Read the full article →

Vincent, A Restaurant

March 21, 2011

Vincent, A Restaurant is located at 1100 Nicollet Ave in Minneapolis, MN. Enjoying its 10th year, part owner and executive chef, Vincent Francoual has consistently been serving up his “no rules” contemporary version of French food to an appreciative midwest audience. He recently won the prestigious Minnesota Monthly Chef Challenge, showing everyone his creativity and expertise. […]

Read the full article →