I don’t get out often. I no longer live on the 21st floor of a swanky downtown Minneapolis apartment building, nor do I live in my shabby-chic bungalow in St. Louis Park. I am living the suburban dream with my family of four and two cats. I
like love my life, but like I said, I don’t get out much. So, when invited to “go bananas” at Caribe Bistro for a DOLE bananas dinner, my answer was, “Yes!” and “How soon can the sitter get here!”
DOLE’s “Go Bananas After Dark” tour, featured at Caribe Bistro, aims to prove bananas’ worth as more than breakfast fare. Like my family, most Americans eat bananas for breakfast and lunch. Chef Tony Panelli proved bananas deserve an honored spot on the dinner menu.
I’m still glowing from the festive experience. Fresh air, banana grilling demonstration, cocktails, friendly atmosphere and inventive banana-inspired dishes cured my Winter blues. This mama needed a night out and last night’s hosts – Caribe Bistro, Shaina Olmanson, and DOLE Bananas – delivered the goods.
Our banana menu included:
- Grilled bananas dipped in chocolate sauce and served with a ginger cookie
- Blushing Banana Sangria
- Phenomena Banana Spritzer (banana soda and pineapple wine)
- Chickpea curry over fried bread, topped with banana ketchup
- Crab cake topped with grilled banana aioli
- Grilled 5-spice rubbed Frenched lamb chops topped with banana-mango chutney and served with coconut curry bananas and jasmine rice.
- Banana coconut rum crème brûlée.
At the risk of gushing, Panelli balanced sweet and savory flavors in every dish and I didn’t get tired of bananas. Everything was spot on, but a few dishes definitely caught my attention.
My most memorable moments of last night’s bananarama extravaganza:
Phenomena banana spritzer made with banana soda and pineapple wine. This cocktail put me in a relaxing tropical mood immediately. I must recreate for a tropical party, or just happy hour on our deck with my neighbors. Why not?
Banana ketchup on the curried chickpeas added a sweet element to the savory bite.
The biologist in me enjoyed Ale Jail’s Adam Schulte’s beer recommendations to accompany the banana dishes. He recommended pairing Weihenstephaner Hefeweiss with the curried chickpea and crab cake dishes, and suggested La Trappe Quadrupel for the lamb chops and dessert. Apparently, beer fermentation releases isoamyl acetate – otherwise known as banana oil – and brings out banana flavors when paired with food. I didn’t sample the beers, but I trust the recommendation.
I got a little caught up in champagne at this point in the evening, so I missed Chef Panelli’s explanation of pique - beautiful bottles of hot pickled pepper vinegar. Normally I’m a little shy with spicy sauces, but I added pique to the lamb chops and enjoyed the flavorful heat. Next time I dine at Caribe I plan to ask how he prepares the vinegar.
Banana coconut rum crème brûlée was the star of the show. Crackly, carmelized crust and a satisfying break with a spoon? CHECK. A melt-in-your-mouth, creamy custard? CHECK. I’m not kidding when I say guests licked the ramekin clean. This dish made me swoon and made me wish for a second helping. Have I mentioned my husband proposed to me over my vanilla crème brûlée? Maybe if I get him to Caribe Bistro for their version I’ll get a second honeymoon?!
If you are looking for a new flavor to add brightness to your summer, try bananas. And, I highly recommend Caribe Bistro for a relaxing and intimate dining adventure. In closing, please go bananas and I’m going to go for a run to burn off the extra calories.
PS: My apologies to Tony for calling him Chef. I know he prefers Grand Poo-Bah, I was just trying to be classy in my first formal restaurant review.