Making Spring Happen at Barbette

I won’t even begin to discuss the weather this past week -- gray, cold, spitting rain, and even (gasp) snow? Is this fair for Minnesotans? No. Is this normal for Minnesotans? Well, I hate to say it, but yes. And yet, every year we seem to forget what we should never forget: April isn’t really spring. It can be lovely, in bits and snatches here and there with the longer days and the ever-so-slightly warmer sun, but mostly, April reserves the right to be cold and ornery.


Recently, however, I managed to beat April at its own game. Even though it wasn’t the warmest day, my husband and I found ourselves with a few idle hours before the kids came home from school. We decided to take a bike ride and stop for lunch somewhere. The lakes were slate gray and had a slight chop -- not exactly enticing, but a small miracle considering that they were expanses of frozen white a few weeks ago. Like trusty horses who know the well-worn paths, our bikes seemed to drive themselves to Barbette in Uptown Minneapolis. Truth be told, there was never any question that we were going to end up there. Apparently we simply feel the need to pretend we're setting off without a destination in mind. Call it calculated spontaneity.


My husband and I grabbed a cozy seat by the window, basking in the wan sun, ordered Bloody Marys (they are outstanding, by the way) and got down to the business of deciding what to eat. We had made our choices when our server, Caroline, came over and described the Lamb BLT special. I had been eyeing the lamb burger, but this Lamb BLT was really throwing me for a loop -- especially since Caroline said people were raving about it. When people rave about something, I pay close attention. But the lamb burger with the currants and pinenuts sounded so good too! I squinted at Caroline, posing my conundrum, waiting for her to pick for me or at least give me the slightest little sign, but no -- apparently, the person eating the food is supposed to choose. I decided to let her off the hook and asked for a couple more minutes to decide.


This would be a good time to mention that my hubby is a really good guy. When a huge lightbulb appeared over my head and I started in with “hey, how about we ...” he just nodded and smiled. When Caroline came back to take our order, I was grinning like a Cheshire cat. “We’ve decided on a lamb feast. We’re going to share the lamb burger AND the lamb BLT,” I proclaimed with a proud flourish of my menu, “and an order of fries.” I don’t know that Caroline was blown away by our problem solving skills, but she sure seemed enthusiastic about (or amused by) our choice.


So here’s the thing. There is nothing like an impromptu lamb feast to put a little spring in your step and a little spring on your doorstep. Lamb, or should I say good lamb, just tastes like spring. It tastes like earth, grass, and rain. Barbette gets two whole lambs per week from The Lamb Shoppe in Hutchinson, MN, which they butcher and dress in-house. The bacon in the BLT is made from this lamb and take it from a woman who loves bacon (see bio pic below for proof), lamb bacon is amazing -- it’s every thing you love about regular bacon (salty, chewy, crispy, toothsome) but with an added depth that’s hard to explain except to say that it’s lamb-ier. The astonishing lamb bacon is served on wheat toast, lovingly smeared with a pungent aioli and topped with cherry tomatoes and arugula. Taken all together, it is truly one of the best sandwiches I’ve had in my life. Even my husband, who has long grown used to my bacon swooning and sandwich hyperbolizing, would agree. Just ask him.


I fear that all this carrying on about the BLT is unfair to the lamb burger, however, because it too rocked my world. Topped with chevre, the patty is perfectly browned on the outside with currants and pinenuts studding the meaty inside like hidden gems. Again, the flavors, taken all together, sing of spring. Both sandwiches are served with crispy house-made gaufrettes (if a waffle fry had a wee, delicate, gorgeous French cousine, her name would be Gaufrette) and a salad of micro-greens. We finished off with capuccinos and a creme brulee because a spring feast needs a proper bookend. We had ridden our bikes, after all!


It's been rainy and cold again, but you needn't worry about me. I must say, I am withstanding the wretched weather with admirable equanimity in no small part to a little lamb feast, in a little corner cafe, that never fails to make us happy.


Here’s to making spring happen, even if Mother Nature has other ideas.


Barbette is located at:

1600 West Lake Street

Minneapolis, MN

(612) 827-5710

Gabriela Lambert is a frequent contributor to Simple, Good and Tasty. You can also read more of her writing on her blog