Maybe your travels will take you to faraway destinations in the new year or perhaps you're just dreaming about exotic locations. Come along on a culinary adventure and sample this collection of small bites with an international flair that you can easily find at some of your favorite lake-area restaurants.
What we know as “octopus” in English is labeled with the slightly more elegant moniker octapodi on the menu at Christo’s. Served chilled or warm, the tender tentacles are baked in a mélange of onions, vinegar, red wine and seasoned with peppercorns and a bay leaf ($8.95). If this only whets your appetite for more, consider the chilled taverna platter, featuring not only the octopodi, but freshly made hummus, tangy feta cheese and melintzanosalata—roasted eggplant expertly puréed with lemon, garlic and olive oil ($11.95). 15600 Highway 7, Minnetonka; 952.912.1000.
If the first thing that comes to mind when you think Prince Edward Island is Anne of Green Gables, “book” a delectable plate of mussels directly from PEI. Considered among the best in the world, these beauties are found off the eastern coast of Canada between provinces including Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. At Blue Point Restaurant in Wayzata, the steamed Prince Edward Island mussels are luxuriously simmered in a mélange of garlic, shallots, herbs and white wine ($10). 739 E.
Lake St., Wayzata; 952.475.3636.
Who knew there would be a trendy new Italian appetizer? Called burrata (which means “buttered” in Italian), it’s rich, freshly made mozzarella combined with cream to create a softer, smoother and even more delicious version of this classic favorite. At Gianni’s Steakhouse, the burrata is served alongside spicy arugula, roasted and seared tomatoes, and crusty bruschetta, so you won’t miss a bite ($14). Or sample another salty Italian specialty: the small-plate prosciutto, paired with a variety of grilled vegetables, succulent olives and a creamy onion dip ($14). 635 E. Lake St., Wayzata; 952.404.1100;.
North Indian food is the specialty of the house at Bukhara Indian Bistro, where you can start your meal with a classic Indian “small bite”: a serving of hot and crispy samosas. The vegetable variety is filled with tender potatoes and green peas, all blended with popular regional spices ($2.99 for two). Or choose the beef samosa, stuffed with ground broiled beef and enhanced with a mixture of cumin and coriander ($3.99 for two). Try something small for dessert, too. Gulab jamun, a traditional favorite for parties and weddings, are miniature milk balls, deep-fried and soaked in a sweet simple syrup ($2.99 for two). 15718 Wayzata Blvd. E., Minnetonka; 952.476.7997.
Sure, there are elegant wine and cheese pairings, but how about a just as delicious beer and cheese pairing? The next time you pop into Jake O’Connor’s to sample one of their 16 beers on tap, order Marty and Wheel’s cheese plate—a sharp, creamy, salty/sweet wonder featuring Irish Gouda, Dubliner white cheddar and pungent Cashel bleu cheese, accompanied by crackers, pickled onions, fresh fruit and the Irish pub’s housemade authentic brown bread ($10.50 for a small plate, $16.95 for a large). For an Irish spin on an American classic, try the Black and Tan onion rings, smothered in Smithwick beer batter and served with barbecue sauce tinged with Guinness—which just might make you thirsty for more beer ($7.25). 200 Water St., Excelsior; 952.908.9650.
No trip around the culinary world would be complete without a stop for sushi. In recent years, this delicacy has become so popular that it’s readily available in grocery stores, but treat yourself to the freshest and most delicious selections from the menu at Sakhana Sushi and Asian Bistro in Wayzata. The traditionalist can enjoy the small-bite goodness of an avocado or cucumber roll ($4.50 each). Looking for more zip? The yellowtail jalapeno, served sashimi style, features slices of jalapeno peppers topping the yellowtail, drizzled with chili oil and citrusy ponzu sauce ($12.95). 683 Lake St. E., Wayzata; 952.476.7000.
Like sushi, guacamole is now so omnipresent in restaurants and grocery stores, it’s easy to forget it’s not a north-of-the-border homegrown concoction—instead, we have the Mexican Aztecs to thank for it. There’s nothing like freshly prepared guacamole—topped with a squeeze of lime juice—to make you long for warmer climates or even just a summer night on your own deck. Visit Ike’s Food & Cocktails for their version, served with crisp, freshly fried chips ($12). Craving another small bite of summer? Ike’s takes an all-American favorite—deviled eggs—and pulls them slightly south of the border with the addition of chiles, roasted garlic, scallions and cilantro. ($7). 17805 Highway 7, Minnetonka; 952.681.7099.