romance in the heart(land)

Where were we? Oh right, Linn Street Cafe. Well kids, I’m not exactly breaking new ground here. Linn Street has won zillions of accolades both near and far since it opened twenty years ago. It’s been recognized by both Wine Spectator Magazine and the New York Times, the latter of which tells us, in utter seriousness, to find “Iowa City’s literary set” here. (I’m not quibbling over the existence of a “literary set,” but wouldn’t they be partial to Devotay’s mismatchy charm?) It has also been voted “Iowa City’s Best Place for a Romantic Dinner” by the Iowa City Press-Citizen for eight of the last ten years. So yeah, we’re fans. Big news.

What is new is that the restaurant has lowered its prices in the last month. According to their mailing, they’ll still be “the place for special occasions,” but they’re also hoping to move into the casual restaurant slot. Their new menu features new pasta and poultry options in the low $20s and below; the most expensive item is a $26 Moroccan-spiced rack of lamb which, as racks of lamb go, is still pretty great.

On Valentine’s Eve, though, they were serving a special prix-fixe menu with optional wine pairings. The food was delicious, but the wines – ! Spectacularly well chosen. They really made the meal. My beef tenderloin, pictured above, came out perfectly medium rare on a little bed of winter greens and sweet potato puree (note: I usually don’t even like sweet potato), with the most wonderful half-pour of red wine. I have sent an email to discover what it, um, actually was. [Edit: It’s this! Elderton, Cabernet Sauvignon, Friends Vineyard, Edan Valley Australia, 2008.]

But best of all was this. A slice of transcendent red velvet cake. (I know! Red velvet cake! Transcendent!) Now, I’m no stranger to red velvet, but this is a whole universe of Something Differents. Uber moist and and crumbly, noticeably chocolatey and light, with two layers of cream cheese frosting. And two more elements that were probably 50% responsible for all this swooning: cream cheese yes cream cheese ice cream and raspberry compote. GUH.

Two months ago, I would have gone back just for this. But now that they’ve joined the pointedly recession-friendly club, it’s going to be even easier.

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