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Tastemakers: Cafe Sante Steak Diane (Holiday Menu)/ Basil Hayden 12/6/2010

Rick Coates - December 6th, 2010
Cafe Sante Steak Diane (Holiday Menu)
If you were looking for signs of economic resurgence, look to downtown Boyne City and in particular the new One Water Street building that is home to Cafe Sante. Part of the successful portfolio of restaurants owned and operated by Magnum Hospitality (Red Mesa, Pearls), Cafe Sante opened late last spring (opening a new place during the Great Recession -- what were they thinking?) and has been the talk of the Northern Michigan culinary scene since. I stopped recently on Wednesday night during the middle of deer season at 8 pm and it was a 30 minute wait, but after the dining experience my 13-year-old son and I enjoyed, it was worth the wait.
Cafe Sante features classic European fare with an impressive 16 beers on tap (unique English, Belgium and local micros) along with a something for everyone bottle selection. Add in the top shelf spirits (see Bottoms Up) and a wine list crafted by sommelier Ed Brehm, along with the ambiance and service and Cafe Sante definitely falls into the destination dining category (sorry, Boyne City, this place is too good for you to have it all to yourself).
I dine out often with my teenage children and how they are treated by the service staff is a huge barometer for me. Look, when you have high end tap handles, top shelf liquors and a solid wine list, kids (plus others who do not drink) quickly reduce the ticket and lower the potential gratuity for the server; and often I experience a lower service standard as a result. But my son was treated first class from the time he set foot in the door, from the hostesses treating him like a young man, to our server answering his menu questions in great detail.
We both ordered off their Holiday Menu that is available through December23. For $17.99 per person this is an extreme bargain. Each dinner includes a starter (choice of either Duck Liver Terrine, Soup du Jour or Winter Caprese Salad) an entree (Steak Diane, Smoked Plath’s Pork or Duck Breast Risotto ) and to finish the meal, German Gingerbread Cake.
I chose the Duck Liver Terrine served with a vanilla apricot sauce and toast points which was prepared to perfection. For my entree I went with that old school classic the Steak Diane prepared rare and served in a classic Dijon cognac sauce with Duchess potatoes and sauteed spinach. No shortcuts taken with this dish.
For dessert they were out of the gingerbread cake so we had to settle for the tiramisu. I am sure the gingerbread cake was great but when the tiramisu arrived we felt like a couple of guys who got bumped up to to first class.
As we walked out I knew I had just enjoyed a first class dining experience, so I looked at my son and asked him what he thought. His response: “Dad this place rocks. will you bring me back some Thursday night for the all-you-can-eat mussels?” Now if a 13-year-old gets what you are doing, you must be doing it right. For a look at the menu, drink list and upcoming events check out www.magnumhospitality.com or call them at 231.582.8800. --Rick Coates

Basil Hayden
During the past month the restaurant and beverage industries began forecasting their projected trends for 2011. One is Chicago based market researchers Technomic who recently identified 11 top restaurant trends for 2011. At the top of the list: Adult Beverages. To be specific, the trend points to growing economic optimism among consumers who will want to “celebrate with higher-end alcoholic drinks resulting in retro cocktails and high-end spirits getting more play at fine-dining and independent establishments.”
While the firm didn’t single out Basil Hayden, this sort of projection bodes well for small batch bourbons that find themselves at price points over $30 a bottle. Basil Hayden is part of the Jim Beam Bourbon Family and its history dates back to the founding of America. Master distiller Basil Hayden grew up in Maryland and learned to make whiskey from rye, when he moved to Kentucky he made whiskey with corn (corn was the base for whiskey/bourbon in the region), but in 1796 he began adding a higher percentage of rye resulting in a smooth, mild bourbon that became his namesake.
Basil Hayden Bourbon is aged for eight years and is 80 proof. Bourbons are like wine and microbrews in that they are best enjoyed by first taking in the aroma after giving the glass a slight swirl.
Because of the increased rye one will notice a spicier aroma with a hint of peppermint and as Basil Hayden hits the palate the initial taste is smooth and has notes of pepper, honey and even slight citrus overtones and, at 80 proof, a very gentle bite.
This is a great sipping bourbon; just add a couple of cubes. Basil Hayden is also perfect for making a Manhattan (I enjoyed an excellent one made by Gavin at Cafe Sante in Boyne City, see Tastemakers). Basil Hayden’s Manhattan 2.0 is made with 1½ parts Basil Hayden’s Bourbon, ½ part Sweet Vermouth, ½ part Dry Vermouth, ½ part maple syrup and 2 dashes of Bitters, simply stir all ingredients, pour over ice and top with a cherry. This bourbon is available at most fine eateries in the region as well as at your favorite beverage shop. --Rick Coates
 
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