Spices for healthy living

Grand View Gourmet

We had the great pleasure recently to spend a weekend at the iconic Grand View Lodge in Nisswa, Minnesota.  The resort was established in 1916 on Gull Lake and has grown over the years to encompass several hundred acres of lakes, wooded trails, golf courses, vacation cabins, and a fabulous spa. The resort is also home to eight different restaurants managed by some world class chefs offering gourmet cuisine along with homegrown Minnesota favorite dishes.

With the approach of warmer weather and the Minnesota fishing season, many of you have asked us for some interesting or new ways to use spices that would enhance the natural flavors of fish and other seafood. We thought where better to learn about fish and seafood preparation than from the master chefs at Grand View Lodge in the very heart of Minnesota fishing country.

We are grateful to Chef Justin who sat down with us to share some of his insights about how to use spices to complement the flavor of fish. His culinary creativity and interest in diverse flavor profiles was impressive as he spoke about making his own herbed salts (he recommends lemon grass, dill, lavender, and savory salt for fish), mango powder, and black garlic demi-glace.

Chef Justin has honed his skills in restaurants from Hawaii to Florida where he seasoned fish and seafood using lemongrass with basil and cilantro or with nut crusts to add a satisfying crunchiness. He has also worked as a chef in North Carolina, and Philadelphia before settling down here in his native Central Minnesota. Chef Justin’s favorite cuisine, however, is “Pacific Rim” that features unique blends of soy sauce in combination with vinegars, chilis, and fresh vegetables without a lot of fat.  Miso paste, ginger, and banana leaf are also featured flavorings of this cuisine.

But in Minnesota where Walleye fish reigns supreme, the Lodge offers the classic pan-fried Walleye, the dish that we’re probably all familiar with that is sometimes referred to as “shore lunch” with a simple flour, pepper, and salt breading fried in oil.  It’s plain and simple, but delicious.  Can’t go wrong here.

White fish readily takes on the flavoring of whatever spice it is paired with so Chef Justin suggested it’s best to experiment and go lightly at first in order to avoid masking the natural flavor of the fish itself.  One approach is to think of various cuisines and the spices that characterize them when experimenting.  For example, you might try the new Spice Your Life Chipotle Lime Seasoning  with a bit of cumin that will give a definite Mexican flavor with a hint of heat.  Another good choice would be our Citrus Herb Salt that combines lemon flavor, that goes so well with fish, with just right amount of herbs and sea salt.  My personal favorite is to lightly coat the fish with our Smoked Sweet Spanish Paprika and lightly pan fry in a bit of olive oil.

The resort’s Cru Restaurant also offers a superb Sumac-Crusted Halibut with haricot verts, maque choux, and smoked tomato coulis that is out of this world! Sumac has become one of the more popular spices we carry from the Middle East that with its unique lemony flavor is an intriguing substitute for the more traditional citrus seasonings typically used with fish.

For something really different and bold, we strongly recommend trying our newly arrived Dukkah Blend from Egypt.  This is a very popular North African spice blend of sesame seeds, coriander, cumin, salt, pepper and hazelnuts. Simply coat the fish well with the Dukkah on both sides and pan fry in olive oil being careful not to overcook.  For something a little different Chef Justin suggested preparing Dukkah crusted fish as part of a New Orleans menu with Cajun beans and rice.

The next stop on our gourmet tour at Grand View Lodge was for a chat with Miles at Cru Restaurant and Wine Bar.  Miles is a savant on anything to do with wine and the restaurant probably stocks some of the finest wines to be found anywhere in the state.

We were curious about what wines paired well with fish and seafood dishes, and learning about some of the latest trends.  When we sat down with Miles we sampled a flight of white wines that were probably the more typical wines to pair with seafood, including a slightly sweet Riesling, a buttery Chardonnay, and a nice dry Sauvignon Blanc.  All good, safe bets.  Miles thought in general that a buttery Chardonnay would be good choice with a dish that has butter in the sauce and that and a dry Riesling would go with something like Walleye because it has some sweetness in it.  Or he suggested enjoying a Pinot Noir with salmon. In other words, try to pair a wine that mimics the flavor profile of the dish.  Miles’ personal choice with fish or seafood is a dry, crisp Vermentino from Sardinia or Corsica.

Ah, but wait.  Miles then pulled something out from behind the bar that was truly different and reserved just for Spice Your Life customers.  It was a dry French Rose with a unique flavor profile that was just perfect as a very different pairing with just about any fish or seafood dish.  Truly unique, light and pleasing.

Finally for our dinner, we opted for a buttery Rombauer Chardonnay recommended by Miles that paired fabulously with the seafood entree we shared: a Basque Risotto with langoustines, chorizo, scallops, shrimp, roasted red peppers, and asparagus.  Pure bliss!!!

All in all it was an unforgettable weekend at one of the finest resorts in Minnesota. We are grateful to Chef Justin and Miles for generously sharing their time and impressive knowledge with us and our readers. Grand View Lodge’s cuisine, drink, and lodging are truly exceptional and their service is unparalleled. Be sure to visit. You most certainly won’t be disappointed. I know we’ll be back!