Julie & Julia Date Night

KC from Minneapolis writes: “I am taking my partner out to see Julie and Julia for her birthday. I am wondering if you have any ideas for fun birthday spots in the SW Minneapolis, Richfield, Bloomington, Edina, St. Louis Park area.”

To which I reply: Fun! That’s a great idea. A Julie & Julia date night sounds very romantic, and since the movie doesn’t open till August 7, it gives you plenty of time to plan. My first thought is, in honor of a film about Julia Child, how about something French? There are lots of good south Minneapolis options: Cavé Vin (super-south near Edina) is romantic and wonderful; how do garlicky frog legs and steak frites sound to you? It sounds good to me. Then of course there’s Café Maude, which is French in spirit (the live music, the happy hubub), but more international in its food. They have an entrée on their current online menu that sounds wonderful: halibut in lobster sauce. Finally, don’t forget Café Levain in south Minneapolis. I’ve been meaning to get in there again because I’ve heard some good things about the place lately. A quick peek at their online menu shows that they’ve got Parisian gnocchi on the menu. Would Julia Child approve? Yes, I think she would!

I now feel that to be fair and evenhanded I should mention two great French spots outside of your specified area. I can never say enough good things about Vincent, A Restaurant and Meritage, the French bistro in downtown St. Paul. I was talking to Russell Klein, the chef at Meritage, and he was telling me all sorts of interesting things that they’ve been up to lately, like offering a three-course “Tour de France” based on various French regions. This week it’s the Loire Valley, and if you get this menu you’ll start your meals with quennelle de brochette with crayfish. How French is that? Very.

Meritage also is offering a fun Wednesday perk for wine-lovers: Come in, order a blind flight of three wines for $15, and the restaurant will present you with a card of 12 questions about the wines in front of you. If you can answer any one question, you get fifty cents off the price of the flight; get them all right and the wine is free! So far their highest scorer has gotten only nine questions right, but Klein says the contest is winnable. However, being quizzed about wine is not everyone’s idea of a lovely birthday night.

So, here’s my final thought. You know what would be a very romantic, very lovely birthday night? This: While your sweetheart is at work, you zip to the liquor store and pick up Champagne. You also stop by Patrick’s Bakery, the one on the virtual corner of Edina, Minneapolis, and Richfield.

You buy a take-out quiche, a loaf of bread, and a fancy tiny cake or two. You go to the movie, return home, heat up the quiche, pour Champagne, and voila! Maybe you have this quiche and birthday cake under the stars on the deck? And you stick a birthday candle in that fancy tiny cake? Happy Birthday indeed.