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In Season chef/owner Don Saunders is changing the format of his 2 1/2-year-old south Minneapolis restaurant.

Tom Wallace • twallace@startribune.com ,

Counter Intelligence: In Season, turning over a new leaf

  • Article by: RICK NELSON
  • Star Tribune
  • April 24, 2013 - 2:56 PM

In Season (5416 Penn Av. S., Mpls., www.inseasonrestaurant.com), chef Don Saunders’ seasonally focused storefront restaurant, is — and apologies in advance for the weak word play — going out of season. Permanently.

The restaurant, which opened in November 2010, will say goodbye on June 1. When Saunders reopens the space in mid-September — under a new, to-be-announced name — it will feature a changes-weekly four-course tasting menu, served Thursday through Saturday.

“It’s a concept I’ve always wanted to do, but I never thought that it was super-sustainable on a nightly basis,” said Saunders. “If we can get people to buy into the concept, and create enough demand to be open Thursday, Friday and Saturday, then it’s the perfect venue for that.”

Right now he’s planning on pricing his base four-course menu somewhere in the $40s, “portioned such that you would be completely satisified,” he said. But he’s also hoping to give diners a few high-end course supplements.

“For people who want to go all out, the opportunity will be there,” he said. “If you’re trying to do four courses at a reasonable price, it’s hard to throw in lobster, or truffles, or squab. But I love to cook with those things, and some of our clientele will want to see some higher-end ingredients. In the middle of winter, for example, I could get in black truffles and do a black truffle risotto.”

As for other add-ons, Saunders hopes to include a well-stocked cheese cart, and he’s considering oysters. He’s also reprogramming the wine menu with a constant churn — in both pairings and by-the-glass options — to match the week’s menu.

“The wines will change as often as the menu,” he said.

Saunders said that the new restaurant will in some ways be a hyper-focused version of changes-quarterly In Season.

“There are certain ingredients that are so seasonal that you can only put them on for a week or two, like fresh figs in the fall, or super-cool herring from Lake Superior,” he said. “It’s going to take the whole In Season concept and go a step further.”

He’s also toying with the idea of inviting guest chefs into the restaurant, as well as devoting weeks to vegetarians, or riffing off a few beloved cookbooks (“I might be super-inspired after reading a couple of Alsatian cookbooks, and get in a bunch or rieslings or gewürztraminers,” he said), or ordering a whole bluefin tuna (“my ultimate favorite fish,” he said) and demonstrate its versatility across all four courses.

“No restrictions,” he said. “It’s going to be kind of like my little playground, a place where I can focus on four or five dishes a week, and really push myself.”

Smart Associates of Minneapolis — which designed the Kenwood (2115 W. 21st St., Mpls., www.thekenwoodrestaurant.com), Saunders’ 8-month-old restaurant in the Kenwood neighborhood — will handle the aesthetic remake of the modest, 30-seat storefront. Sous chef Joel DeBilzan and front-of-house manager Colin Chatfield will remain with the restaurant.

Saunders said he won’t disappear from the instantly popular Kenwood, one of 2012’s biggest success stories. “I imagine I’ll be cooking there two days a week,” he said. “The last thing I want to do is abandon my hands-on touch at the Kenwood.”

 

Opening this weekend, in both downtowns

Opening Friday: the Pasticceria at Cossetta’s Alimentari (211 W. 7th St., St. Paul, www.cossettas.com). The lavishly appointed pastry-gelato-espresso shop is the final phase of the $10 million expansion of the landmark Italian culinary destination.

Opening Sunday: North 45° restaurant and bar in the newly restored Millennium Hotel Minneapolis (1313 Nicollet Mall, Mpls., www.millenniumhotels.com).

The street-level restaurant and bar is part of the Millennium’s $22 million overhaul. Look for breakfast, lunch and dinner service — the menu is by the property’s longtime chef, Donald Fleming — in sleek surroundings.

The bummer is that the hotel isn’t embracing the city’s rooftop food-and-drink mania. The building’s iconic 14th-floor geodesic-domed lounge, a delightful slice of 1963, is being reserved for meetings and other events.

RICK NELSON

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