FOOD & DRINK // Ya, you betcha

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September 26, 2011
By: Carla Waldemar
Carla Waldemar

The Bachelor Farmer  //  50 N. 2nd Ave.  //  206-3960  //

The Bachelor Farmer is firmly above average, just like the Norwegian kids who follow that career path in a certain mythical outstate location. Its re-do of a solid warehouse edifice is a modest celebration of modern Scandinavian design, from the digs to the menu. (Goes without saying. A bachelor farmer wouldn’t commit the sin of pride. Or gluttony.)

The setting could sub as an IKEA showroom — splashy Marimekko-style fabric, wallpaper favoring hearts (hearts in an uber-cool restaurant? I love it!), scrubbed blond wood tabletops surrounded by bricks the color of skim milk beneath the ceiling’s broad beams and silvery HVAC snakes. It’s like a stroll through a Swedish landscape — or a modern restaurant in Stockholm.

So’s the food. The brief menu reflects the pinnacle of Scandinavian classics: local ingredients (including the micro-local herbs growing on the roof) saluted in simply prepared and presented traditional dishes, for the most part.

Meals begin with a gift from the kitchen — peppery radishes, a bit of butter and crisp, slender wafers to spread it on. (Traditionally, the radishes are served with sweet butter rather than this kitchen’s salted variety, and there’s a good reason: It works better.)    

The official list leads off with four apps ($7–$12): classics like home-smoked salmon with scrambled eggs, or sausage, lefse and pickled beets. They’re followed by a sextet of single-serving toasts ($8–$13). We began our dinner with the gravad salmon/lake herring duo, each silky and succulent, attended by moons of pickled cukes and a sweet mustard sauce. With each platter comes a rack of toasted housemade bread.

A second plate spotlighted a thick slab of rabbit-liver pate, worth every penny and calorie, and velvet-smooth as it melts on your tongue. Pile it atop some toast, along with a swipe of grainy mustard sauce, and maybe a forkful of the greens with dried cherries and hazelnuts, on hand as sweet and savory grace notes.

Five mains ($17–$25) come straight from a Nordic farm table, as mirrored in the big-city bistros (choose Oslo, Stockholm, Copenhagen) kids in their whites have spawned. (Well, the arctic char for sure, but maybe not the wild rice it’s been paired with here in Minnesota.) Grilled boned chicken is married with new moons of browned potatoes and sprigs of arugula — a plain-Jane presentation set off by a sweet tomato vinaigrette.

There’s also a grilled rabbit with savoy cabbage, pole beans and brown cheese, and a veggie-dressed plate of poached eggs. But we had to try the Nordic icon, meatballs. They’re served with the usual trinity — lingonberries, pickled cukes and mashed potatoes — and tastes just like you’d expect: savory, sweet, tart and crunchy, and smooth as snow. The potatoes are actually pureed until fit for newborn babies, and the meatballs came off on the salty side.

For dessert, we split an order of Swedish pancakes — doll-sized crepes attended by a scooplet of homemade vanilla ice cream and sweet, fresh berries — once again, no showbiz tricks, simply delivery of a promise.

A word about the wine list: Well, two. First, it’s on the pricey side, but second, the Bachelor Farmer has a unique policy of offering every bottle by the half-bottle carafe. Way to go! We enjoyed the last of summer sunshine via a Grenache rose. There’s also an interesting beer list and truly classic cocktails (Manhattans, Sidecars, Gimlets).

Note to self: Next time, have a drink below stairs in the Marvel Bar, the coolest, hippest spot in the metro, where few Norwegian Bachelors would dare set foot.