22 April 2011

Fargo is hip, dontcha know!

A few weeks ago, I found myself in Fargo for a couple of performances, and much to my surprise, I got a taste of urbanity that I have trouble finding in Denver.

HoDo is the Hotel Donaldson in downtown Fargo, a renovated Art Deco building which is home to a 17-room stylish hotel (rooms are each designed around one original work of art by local sculptors, painters, photographers, etc.),  a chic urban bar decorated with local art, and a New American-style restaurant run by Chef Tim, semi-finalist for the 2011 James Beardhttp://www.jamesbeard.org/index.php?q=about_awards Foundation's Best Chef in the Midwest.  (Winners announced May 6.)

The restaurant strives to highlight local produce, with items like rack of North Dakota lamb , local wild rice sausage, and an artisanal Midwestern cheese plate.  Staying true to his roots, there is even a small plate of mixed marinated vegetables, pickles, mustard, and grilled bread (served with or without the cheeses).  If that isn’t the classic ploughman’s platter, I don’t know what is (and it may just be the only one offered by a James Beard nominee)!  

I had the three-cheese lasagna with truffle cream and wild mushrooms. The flavor was fantastically earthy and multi-dimensional, and of course, the massive quantities of cheese were very comforting.  The dish was rather large for one person, and also a bit too salty for my taste, but as leftovers, it mellowed nicely the next morning for breakfast.  (Yeah, you read that right.)  HoDo also boasts a great wine list, which it shares between the bar and the restaurant, and my companion and I enjoyed generous glasses of Malbec from Argentina (it’s tough to get dry red wines from North Dakota, I’m guessing).

For dessert, the chocolate trio consisted of homemade milk chocolate sorbet, a bittersweet la bete noir (my favorite), and a fluffy Godiva souffle.  All were fantastic, even the chocolate sorbet which I usually wouldn’t enjoy.  The souffle was rich and very sweet.  The flourless chocolate cake, however, aside from  the perfectly creamy consistency, had a certain roasted flavor to the chocolate that definitely elevated the entire trio into a dessert for grown-ups.  

The food that night was certainly the work of an artist (saltiness aside), and the atmosphere was just what it should have been: dark, cozy, and elegant without being stuffy, in good Midwestern style.  Our service was clearly well-trained in pushing the most expensive of everything, but she was a sport when we continually chose more interesting--though cheaper--items on the menu, and she seemed knowledgeable enough about the menu in general.  A walk through the bar afterward provided a livelier, more youthful version of the same general vibe, and the artwork in the halls and scattered throughout the walls made Fargo seem like a satisfyingly artistic place.  It was a nice night.  Youbetcha.