Minnesota chef Lenny Russo of Heartland Restaurant + Farm Direct Market in St. Paul has been cooking professionally for more than 30 years, during which time he’s amassed numerous accolades, both locally and nationally, including being named a 2010 and 2011 James Beard Foundation Best Chef Midwest Nominee. Serving contemporary Midwestern cuisine, Chef Russo’s ingredients at Heartland are hyper-local. Guests will find the very best of the American and Canadian Midwest’s local bounty on the menu, but imported olive oil from Italy? Not so much. Chef Russo’s commitment to local, sustainable ingredients allows him to serve delicious feel-good food that helps support a community of small family farmers and artisanal producers and that feeds the appetites of devoted diners throughout the Twin Cities and beyond.
What are your thoughts on food and drink acting as aphrodisiacs?
It’s a very romantic notion, but, beyond increasing blood flow, I’m not sure how scientifically accurate that is. Nonetheless, sex is in many ways more psychological than physical, so whatever gets the boat to float qualifies.
Barring science, are there any ingredients that you think add an aphrodisiac quality to a drink or dish?
I think the name “passion fruit” says it all.
What makes a dish downright sexy?
I think it’s all about texture and aroma. Any silky smooth dessert with a floral or citrus scent is sexy.
Have you ever wooed a love interest with a particular dish or drink? What was it?
Oh, come on now! I’m a chef. That’s my whole game, and any pasta preparation is always my “go to” dish. That’s true to this day after over ten years of marriage. Just ask my wife. She eats a lot of pasta. In fact, we got married in Italy and spent a month traveling around Tuscany visiting winemakers and chefs. I cooked a lot of pasta for her. It was very romantic.
Do you have a dish or food you might recommend to diners seeking to set the mood?