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Voyageur's Best Generally Speaking Columns of 2003

Trent Rippie

Something new at the ‘SHOE
 
A new menu
 
by Lynne Gilfus  |  October 28, 2003
 

Lately it seems that Saturday nights have taken on an aura of "newness" when it comes to our dining experiences. On Sat., Oct. 11, four of us decided to try Barb and Kurt Schmidt's new menu at the Horseshoe Lake Inn.

We were greeted and seated by Melissa, our waitperson from northeast Texas, who made certain we had cold beverages and a preview of the evening's menu. To our delight, Barb had a minute or two to join us and talk about the recent addition of a chef and new dishes.

"This new menu has really caught on fast," she said. For the Readers who are already fans of Barb and Kurt's German menu, never fear, the old favorite dishes are still there like always - as is Barb.

"I am NOT sick, and the place is NOT sold," she said. "Where do these rumors come from?" Well, I am very happy to be able to back Barb up on both of those items. She looks better and busier than ever, and the place was hopping!

As we settled in, Melissa returned to take our orders and to repeat the choices. From the German menu, beef roast, a pork prime rib roast, and smoked pork shank were being served with spaetzel and potatoes. From the new menu, fettuccini Alfredo with sautéed chicken breast and crab-topped walleye were the choices.

"The game hens weren't large enough to suit me this week," said new Chef Trent Rippie. "We're hoping for next weekend." For us, that was a statement of the quality we have come to expect from the Horseshoe Lake Inn. Nothing is served unless it meets the exacting requirements of quality and quantity for their customers. By the way, Trent is also nutrition certified, so menus are healthy and well-balanced.

"I am nutrition certified, but I eat horribly," he admitted.

To our delight, The Boss and I were invited back to the kitchen to interview Trent and watch him work. It is an efficient space, spotlessly clean, which includes items from Trent's own kitchen (like the oven I would love to have). Trent needs the space and the right appliances, too.

"I even make my own pasta," he told us. He is also planning to add a few pastries and desserts to the list.

Trent got his start at a school in Lake Tahoe, where he received his associate degree in restaurant management. His heart wasn't in it, though.

"I wanted to be a chef, not a manager," Trent said. So, he returned to Minnesota and in 2001 received his Culinary degree from Art Institutes International of Minnesota. After working for a summer at a country club, Trent was offered a position in Barb and Kurt's kitchen, where he could "do his own thing" - including wearing traditional chef's garb. Kurt stopped for a moment to adjust Trent's hat, a traditional toque, and Trent asked if we knew the symbolism.

"This hat has 100 pleats," he pointed out. "It stands for the 100 ways a chef learns to fix eggs." That's one of the reasons I love this job - always learning something new!

We returned to the table, and devoured our salads, which are a trio of treats. First, there is a salty, savory tomato/onion salad. Then, we tasted the marinated green peppers, followed by fresh lettuce with a sweet, creamy dressing. Then, the main events arrived.

The portions were, as usual, huge but manageable. The homemade fettuccini was tossed with a rich Alfredo sauce, and topped with a boneless chicken breast sautéed to perfection. The entire dish was sprinkled with freshly grated cheese, and was enough to gain attention from the other patrons. I think The Boss knew he would be hard-pressed to finish the entire dish in one sitting.

Next, our crab-topped walleye was set before us, and it was our turn to maintain composure until bread was buttered and we were ready to dig in. The walleye fillet filled half of the plate, and was topped with a spicy cream cheese crab spread covering the entire fillet. The fish was accompanied by mashed potatoes with fresh grated horseradish and mashed winter squash with tarragon.

I feel obligated to at least attempt to describe the complimentary flavors in the walleye dinner. Trent serves the three items together for a good reason. The crab topping on the walleye is rich and spicy, and the horseradish in the potatoes gives a "fresh" uplift needed to keep things interesting. The tarragon herbed squash is a sweet, mellow transition from the horseradish back to the fish. It's a perfect triangle of flavors that is only offered by trained chefs with well-tuned palates. Congratulations, Trent, Barb and Kurt, you have another winner!

When we were all finally sated, The Boss couldn't finish his fettuccini.

"That's okay," said Trent. "Neither can I."

I asked Trent about the select catch papiolette - what did he chose to accompany the fish in that entrée?

"White wine, butter, spinach and tomato," he said. The "papiolette" part of it? It's cooked in parchment paper, pinched and folded to make a pouch. The trapped steam in the pouch cooks the fish to a tender, moist flake.

"I love to cook with spinach," Trent said. "It absorbs all of the other flavors so nicely."

Hopefully, by the time we make our next visit to the Horseshoe Lake Inn, Trent will have added some desserts as well. He's hoping to put that magnificent oven to work with some pastries and other great desserts. Personally, I would go back again and again even if there was no promise of a sweet finish. As it is, the food is superb, and it's worth remembering the phone number to make a reservation!

Buen provecho!

This article first appeared in the October 28, 2003 issue of the Voyageur Press.