Forward-Thinking Drinking

You know what I think was terribly unjust? The amount of flack chef Patrick Atanalian got when he was cooking at the (long gone) Vintage in St. Paul with amusing little flourishes like plates garnished with Gummi Bears. In retrospect, he was obviously just ahead of his time—dangerously, unprofitably, and mockably ahead of his time. Today all sorts of chefs use all sorts of frivolous ingredients: Jose Andres of Café Atlantico in Washington D.C. sprinkles desserts with Pop Rocks; Graham Eliot Bowles of Graham Eliot in Chicago sprinkles foie gras with Pop Rocks; at the Momofuku Milk Bar, you can get desserts designed to mimic Lucky Charms-sodden milk. But poor Patrick Atanalian was mocked from the Mississippi to Lake Minnetonka for his Coca Cola flourishes, by critics who failed to appreciate that this French-born chef had serious and deep skills. Alas, alack, I think his farewell dinner the last night of the old Loring (before it was replaced by Lurcat) was the only meal of my life I’ll recall as arch, wry, comic, and delicious, containing as it did, and I quote myself from 2002, a “chipotle-glazed pork tenderloin garnished with a little cherry Gummi Bear car having a cherry Gummi Bear crash-up on top of a polenta hill.”

Anyway, I bring this all up as a long way-around to saying: You should think about drinking more. You should especially think about drinking more this Thursday, August 20, when Atanalian cooks a five-course tasting menu at Sanctuary in which he will pair those five courses with five cocktails. The whole shebang is $45. My first thought on hearing about this cocktail and food pairing menu was: This sounds insane. If I had five cocktails I’d be under the table. Then I looked in detail at the menu, all of which is posted online at, and learned that these five cocktails are on the lighter side. The restaurant calls them ‘cocktail samples’ and promises they’ve only got about two full drinks worth of liquor in them. After absorbing this, I had my second thought: My God, is Atanalian really pairing morel duck confit wontons with absinthe? Can that be done?

But now I have ruminated upon it for a while, and I’ve decided: You know what? He was right the first time, he has the cooking skills to pull it off, life without play is not life worth living, and gosh darn it, I am getting behind this thing.

Cocktail pairing! At Sanctuary! Check it out. I think it stands a good chance of being utterly original, truly tasty, and a meal you will gloat about to your friends in ten years when famous chefs in bigger cities start doing their own cocktail-and-food pairings. Check out the restaurant’s website for the full menu.

Sanctuary Restaurant
903 Washington Ave. S., Mpls.