“Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” ― Mary Oliver
…but not the kind of Slow Food movement that has to do with sustainable, healthful, food and fair trade. I mean literally, food that is slow, too slow.
The culprits of this too-slow-food were two restaurants that I was very excited to eat at this week. First, Tilia in Linden Hills, Chef Steven Brown’s latest venture in the Linden Hills neighborhood; and next at Heidi’s, Chef Stewart Woodman’s (aka Shefzilla) beloved neighborhood restaurant that re-opened this winter in its new Lyn-Lake location after a fire shut down the first Heidi’s about a year ago.
The good news, the food at both was worth returning for – most definitely. At Tilia I had a potted meat that was so silky and decadent that I almost stuck my fork into the squat little glass jar it came in to eat what remained when I’d already run out of toasted baguette on which to eat it. I also loved the celery root soup, which was smooth and creamy with some briny little oysters and some more rustic vegetable pieces in it.
Chef Woodman has really outdone himself in the creativity, presentation, and flavor combinations his kitchen was putting out — I was a big fan of the original Heidi’s and think I liked this revamped menu even more. My foie two ways wasn’t actually the most creative I’ve ever seen, but it’s foie, so does it really matter? The one was a smooth and satiny terrine while the other was a piece seared to perfection. My fish was delicious, prepared with salsify, celery root, and a sprinkling of truffle salt, it was packed with flavor, but also light and the fish very delicate.
The bad news, service was so incredibly slow at Tilia we almost left without finishing our meals, and at Heidi’s we were stunned at how long it took for the first course to come out, and then further dismayed to see the slow pacing continue throughout the meal. At one point, my husband asked the server how much longer it would be before our entrees would be out and the server just smiled and sort of laughed. Not in a cruel way, but more like, “how silly that you’d expect us to bring food out on any sort of a time table.” The food’s good, but not good enough to outweigh the displeasure of a meal that feels too drawn out.
This also brings up the point of service overall. The servers were all very warm and friendly, welcoming, etc. But, service could definitely have been better in both instances, and considering neither of these chefs is exactly a novice to running a restaurant I found that unexpected and disappointing.
The worst thing about slow service, to me, is that it precludes ordering dessert. Because (1) I was too tired by the end of it and didn’t have the stamina to wait what was likely another 30 minutes for a dessert and (2) the night I was at Heidi’s it was a “school night” and I had to get back to relieve the babysitter by 9pm (and we were seated at 6:45 – I had 2 courses in 2 hours!) A total shame since both places are known to have some tasty sweets on the menu, though I’m surprised anyone would know that because how many diners really survive the marathon to get to that last course? I think I’m willing to try both again at some point, but I’ll give it a while in the hopes they improve on the operational aspects in the meantime.