I remember it vividly, the day I decided that Minnesota had everything I needed for a happy life: first-rate people, best-in-class blue skies, top-notch blue herons, the works. Though there was one notable site of problem: Really awful paella. Everywhere I went the rice for the paella was dry and chalky, like something out of a box, and the seafood ran the gamut from mushy and old-aquarium-like to dry and rubber-band like. Self, I told myself, here’s the deal. You’ll live in Minnesota, and once in a great while you’ll just have to go to Spain. The deal was sealed, but every once in a while I’d get a dead pile of yellow rice and that little old qualm within me would rise up: How airtight is this contract, anyway?
Of course I still order paella! How could I not? Done well, that combination of saffron rice and various goodies is one of life’s greatest pleasures. And so it was that I ordered the paella at Nosh… Well, first, a word about the beautiful day I had. Family day, driving down the Wisconsin side of the St. Croix and Mississippi, eagles overhead, lemony spring buds giving the valley a misty golden haze. Stopped for pie in Stockholm, (the raspberry-strawberry combo was especially fine), then crossed the river to visit the Eagle Center, at which we saw more eagles. It was an eagle-rich experience. Heading back to the Twin Cities we stopped at Nosh, in Lake City (about an hour and a half south of St. Paul). It was a gorgeous early spring night, the air soft and humid, the view over the sun-setting Mississippi picture-postcard romantic. Nosh’s deck is ideally suited for drinking in the views and tables on it can’t be reserved, largely, I was told by my server, because people lucky enough to score one will sometimes camp out for the whole evening. Well, who wouldn’t.
I bring this up because it’s well known that a delightful vacation day is the best seasoning—still, this is the best paella I’ve had in Minnesota. Saffron infused rice that has just the right amount of broth, smoke, and savor to make you want to eat it every day and forever. The house made chorizo was zestily spicy, tender, and not greasy. The mussels were plump and perfectly cooked, and so were the fresh shrimp and the glimmeringly fresh scallops. If there had been a little more char on the rice Spaniards would be flying in from Valencia to try it. I liked everything else I had at Nosh (look for some juicy details in our June print issue,) and the beer and wine list is excellent. However, Nosh’s paella is something else—not just the best I’ve ever had in Minnesota, but a destination dish around which to build a summer road trip.
Nosh Restaurant & Bar, 310 ½ S. Washington St., Lake City MN, (651) 345-2425, noshrestaurant.com