Lake Country Destination Dining
Norway Ridge and Cru offer a classic and contemporary taste of “up north”
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Since 1919, when Grand View Lodge’s sprawling Norway pine timbers were erected on the shores of Gull Lake, the resort has been a part of Minnesota’s “up north” iconography. The lodge’s exterior has hardly changed in nearly a century, and it won’t likely any time soon, due to its inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.
But other aspects of the resort have evolved such that today it includes an upscale spa, two event centers, four golf courses, and eight restaurants. The newest addition, the year-old bistro, Cru, was built into the basement of the Gull Lake event center. On the recent Saturday evening that I visited, wedding-dance classics blared from the main-floor ballroom and a passel of bridesmaids huddled in the bathroom, mascara starting to smear, updos coming undone.
Fortunately, Cru is well insulated from the festivities above it. To compensate for the space’s lack of lake view, the cozy, windowless dining room instead offers an attractive floor-to-ceiling glass wine cellar. It contains one of the area’s best bottle collections, arranged in columns that ascend in price toward the reserve room, which holds several Opus One vintages, among other special wines. Many familiar brand-name West Coast wineries are represented—Robert Mondavi, Stag’s Leap, Chateau Ste. Michelle—as well as those from less-known regions and producers. During my visit, our knowledgeable server gave us a tour of the cellar and poured samples of a Croatian Pošip—think unoaked chardonnay—produced by a winery owned by a Minnesota couple.
The restaurant’s contemporary menu wouldn’t feel out of place in a more urban setting. The term “small plates” has been calibrated for Bunyan country, however, with generous portions to match the heavy wine pours—even though the day’s exertion of the sockless, boat-shoe-clad clientele more than likely revolved around docking the pontoon.
Several Cru dishes have the purposefully casual approach that rock stars take to their tousled coifs. A trio of sliders presents juicy lamb patties garnished with microgreens; flatbread is scattered with duck confit, grapes, and Brie; pasta carbonara is trendily topped with a soft-cooked egg. Even when an adaptation isn’t as good as the classic—the gnocchi served with crawfish and curry, for example—it’s still worth an order.
Naturally, the two restaurants showcase the state fish: Norway offers walleye with a classic almond crust, while Cru cloaks the fish in crushed pistachios and lays it on a bed of roasted red-pepper couscous. You can’t go wrong—both are fitting tributes to Lake Country cuisine.
THE PERFECT DISH
Cru’s grilled romaine salad extends the summer cooking season by adding smoky char to crisp greenery. Contrasting flavors and textures liven up the plate: the narrow lettuce leaves are garnished with lemon preserves, pecorino cheese, onions, and pepitas, and then doused in a zingy, house-made Caesar dressing.
Ideal Meal: The Alaskan king crab, ribs, or walleye. Tip: Sample the sourdough appetizers without spoiling your supper via a half-order combo. Prices: Appetizers $4–$15; entrées $16–$35. Address: 34757 County Rd. 39, Pequot Lakes, 218-543-6136, norwayridge.com
Ideal Meal: Grilled romaine salad, lamb sliders, and pasta carbonara. Tip: Cooks of Crocus Hill offers weekend culinary packages at the lodge. Prices: Appetizers, small plates $5–$18; entrées $14–$32. Address: 23521 Nokomis Ave., Nisswa, 218-963-8756, grandviewlodge.com