A sampling of dishes at The Bachelor Farmer
If you need a reminder that the grit is long gone from the North Loop, just stop in The Bachelor Farmer.
Well, no—don’t just ‘stop in.’ Tables are spoken for days—weeks!—in advance. And that was before Chef Paul Berglund was knighted by the James Beard Foundation as this year’s Best Chef Midwest. (I’ve had the pleasure of dining in the cafes of other contenders for the title, from Madison and Milwaukee to Kansas City and beyond, so let me offer a thought: The mantra this year might have been KISS (keep it simple, you-know-who), for Berglund is not one to emulate that Scando idol, Noma, in Copenhagen (“world’s best restaurant”), with foams and gels, freeze-dried this and blowtorched-that.
No. He creates dishes not all that removed from what Minnesota’ proverbial bachelor farmers might (might, OK?) sit down to at an ambitious church supper, when the kitchen runs out of meatloaf and fried chicken.
Embedded in the warm and buzzy but far from cacophonous room, we started dinner (after a complimentary ramekin of potato chips with yogurt dip) with a plate of crisp-tender asparagus, accessorized with local chestnuts, bits of sweet-tart pickled onion, gently crisped croutons and a drizzle of burnt butter. Simple and right on the money. Next, an app of still-crunchy quartered turnips, their flavor further sharpened with tendrils of fermented ramps, a sparkling of spelt grains, just a tad of duck confit, and liquidy yogurt—a what-if exercise in pairing more than a palate-pleasing experiment (and at $14, a bit of a sticker shock for an appetizer).
Next we shared entrees (five, $22-33 range). First the market fish—walleye tonight, pure and pristine, lounging like Sleeping Beauty waiting for awakening, but the prince never came. Instead, a light broth of spring greens along with the greens themselves—leaves of arugula and radish, abetted by (almost unnoticeable) barley and, to smooth out the plate, a slight sluice of pork fat. It’s a creation that tastes just like it reads: lovely seasonal ingredients, but uneventful on the palate.
Better, the juicy slices of duck breast, accompanied by oyster mushrooms, more of those aggressive turnips, and a wisely-chosen wake-up call from pickled rhubarb.
Finally, from the quartet of desserts on offer ($6-9), we chose a slice of dainty-textured coconut cake, served with caramel cream and buttercream plus a petite scoop of ginger ice cream. Lovely. But not quite final-final: With the bill comes a take-home packet of cookies.
What to drink? We paired shots of Midwestern snaps (aquavits) with tap beers. Bottles of wine begin at $40, and most cocktails feature wine, mead, cider—even fish sauce—as their base. I’m betting those bachelors in the farmland stick to their snaps.
50 N. 2nd Ave.