Tuesday, March 8, 2011

the angry trout and trout chowder

The first time I ever went to the Angry Trout Cafe in Grand Marais, MN, I was on my honeymoon.  Christopher and I had decided we would go on a tour of bed and breakfasts throughout Iowa and Minnesota.  I knew about the bed and breakfast part, but not the specific location (Christopher planned that part).  Each day when we got in the car, he would hand me an envelope with a print out from the bed and breakfast's website and I would get to read about where we were going while we drove there.  It was a lot of fun, not to mention an economical and romantic way to spend a week's honeymoon.  I think, we spent about $1000 altogether.  And we had a splendid time, enjoying really nice accommodations, which we wouldn't have been able to afford if we had flown far away.

On one of the final nights of our honeymoon, we stayed in Grand Marais, MN.  The bed and breakfast itself that night was unimpressive, but from then on, I fell in love with the artsy, outdoorsy community of Grand Marais.  And this was due in no small part to making the acquaintance of the Angry Trout Cafe.

The owners of the the Angry Trout are incredibly intentional about their goals in their business.  Not only do they want to make money (and they do), but they also want to make a positive impact on their world.  This shows up in numerous little touches that make their restaurant different from any other restaurant I’ve ever been to. 

For example, they are powered by wind energy   They use smaller than average cloth napkins to save on water and electricity when they are washed.  If you want to take leftovers home with you, you are given a washable dish that can be returned when you are done with it.  Their chairs on their patio overlooking the lake (and they have one of the best views in town) are made from recycled tractor seats (and they actually look pretty cool).  Their plates and coffee mugs are pottery made by local artisans.  If you order a salad, your homemade salad dressing will come to you in a bottle.  Your pat of butter will come to you in a small butter dish, instead of a foil wrapper.  The foods that are used are mostly from local farmers and vendors, thus benefiting not only the planet, but also the local community.  Not only that but you can tell the employees at this restaurant on a mission are incredibly happy and well-treated.  Your tip to your server is divided also with kitchen employees, in the interest of fairness.  The servers are always well-mannered, in a great mood, and more than ready to help you with anything you need.

Now, all that is well and great, and if a restaurant treats its staff and the earth well, you can feel good about eating there, but if the food is no good, what’s the use?

A pregnant me craves the Trout.
But the food…oh, the food!  Ever since the first time we visited, Christopher and I have tried to make a pilgrimage almost every year.  The ingredients are fresher than fresh, homemade, and prepared an attention to detail.

Grilled fish and one of those famous salads.

The first thing I ever had at The Angry Trout was their salad and trout chowder.  Salad???  Big deal, right?  You couldn’t be more wrong.  The Angry Trout has the distinction of preparing the single best salad I have ever eaten in my life.

I think the secret must be the locally grown produce and the incredible homemade salad dressings (Buttermilk Blue Cheese!  Maple-Mustard!  Tomato-Basil!).  A typical salad at the Trout is hardy and filling.  It comes amply covering half of your large dinner plate.  A nest of leaf lettuce and baby greens is topped by whatever is in season and available.  This will probably be something along the lines of tomatoes, red onions, beets, carrots, strawberries, cucumbers, radishes.  The salad is topped with beautiful, white shredded Italian cheeses and a pretty edible blossom (such as a pansy) from the garden.

The salads are pretty special, but then so is everything else served at the Trout.  The second half of my first meal at the Angry Trout was the trout chowder!  It is made with freshly caught fish, right out of Lake Superior, fresh vegetables, dill, broth, butter and half and half.  It’s a fantastic, creamy, buttery, savory meal in its own right.

I have had many other dishes at the Trout in my yearly pilgrimages and none of them have ever disappointed. Grilled fish...maple barbecue chicken...garlic-olive oil fettuccine with Parmesan and hazelnuts!  Everything is fresh, the perfect temperature and good down to your bones.

So, trout was on sale this week at the grocery store, and I decided it was time to make the good stuff at our house.  The recipe can be found in Angry Trout Cafe Notebook: Friends, Recipes, and The Culture of Sustainability, a combination philosophy of business book/cookbook. In the book, the owners of the Trout give away a surprising number of their secrets and recipes, so if you can’t make the drive to the Café, it's the next best thing.

So, yesterday, I set my pot of delicious trout chowder to simmering, leaving us all drooling over its savory, buttery goodness.  We sat down to a family meal that evoked some of our happiest memories of the past few years.  I always feel so alive and so happy in Grand Marais.  In fact, one of the reasons I fell in love with the Flathead Valley so much is because it reminds me so much of Grand Marais.  The Flathead Valley has the lake, the pine trees, the theatres, the organic and earth-friendly eateries, the art galleries.  And we have mountains too!  But I digress...The point of this matter is that both the Flathead Valley and Grand Marais are awesome, and so is the Angry Trout, and so is trout chowder.  And so we enjoyed it again Monday night.

Not only was this happy feast husband approved (he even ate all the celery!), it was also kid approved!  Burrito kept asking for more fish and even finished her carrots. Score another one for the Angry Trout!

Angry Trout Cafe on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. Sounds awesome! I can't wait to go there sometime! :)

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