The Bachelor Farmer celebrates the Nordic palate

Governor Dayton's sons open first-rate restaurant

The Bachelor Farmer celebrates the Nordic palate
Sasha Landskov

What use might a bachelor farmer have for a toast caddy, except employing it to scrape the mud off his boots? Your average bachelor farmer probably doesn't tote his toast in a decorative rack. Or replace the flatware after each course. Indeed, his dining room is likely less elegant than the one recently unveiled in Minneapolis's North Loop—during harvest season he might take his meals in his combine cab. But better for all of us that the Bachelor Farmer restaurant romanticizes this stoic Midwestern icon. Otherwise we probably wouldn't be enjoying fine French wine and roasted Arctic char.

Eric Dayton, son of Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, bought the Bachelor Farmer's 100-plus-year-old digs, originally the Northwestern Hide and Fur Building, in 2008. After finishing business school, Eric started developing the building into a restaurant, bar, event space, and retail clothing shop, and invited his brother, Andrew, who was completing a law degree, to be his partner.

The former warehouse required extensive renovations, so the brothers enlisted the help of architect James Dayton (their fathers are cousins) to modernize the space in a way that would still highlight its thick brick walls and massive wooden beams. The finished dining room feels both rustic and chic. Its blue-and-white patterned wallpaper might have been ripped from a rural farmhouse, but varnished plywood tabletops and haunting Alec Soth photographs keep the space from becoming too cutesy. The banquette seats are hard as church pews, but their colorful cushions and close quarters encourage guests to get cozier than the typical Lutheran congregation. The Bachelor Farmer politely requests that diners refrain from cell phone use and photography as a courtesy to other guests. Aside from Eric's high school cooking job at the long-shuttered Goodfellow's, the brothers don't have much in the way of restaurant experience, but they've tackled the project with measured diligence. (Andrew says they took to heart wisdom passed on by their grandfather, Bruce, longtime head of the family's department store empire: "You get what you inspect, not what you expect.") And they've made smart hires in the kitchen and bar, so that during dinner service those two operations mostly run themselves and leave the brothers free to circulate and welcome guests.

Bachelor's dishes pay homage to Scandinavia without being bound by 
tradition
Sasha Landskov
Bachelor's dishes pay homage to Scandinavia without being bound by tradition
Sasha Landskov

Location Info

Map

The Bachelor Farmer

50 N. 2nd Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55401

Category: Restaurant >

Region: Minneapolis (Downtown)

Details

The Bachelor Farmer
50 N. Second Ave., Minneapolis
612.206.3920, www.thebachelorfarmer.com
appetizers $7-$12; entrees $17-$25

The kitchen is helmed by chef Paul Berglund, who worked at Oakland, California's famed Italian restaurant Oliveto before moving to Minneapolis last year. Berglund's menu presents contemporary Nordic cuisine that's a far cry from the lutefisk suppers we tend to associate with Scandinavian food—cuisine that's been missing from Twin Cities restaurants since Aquavit closed nearly a decade ago. (One night a group of elderly diners toasted the culinary revival by raising their glasses and crying, "Skål.") Dishes pay homage to the region without feeling bound by tradition, and they often rely on fresh, locally sourced ingredients, including produce raised in the building's rooftop garden. Compositions of vibrant ingredients are presented simply and treated with respect. The approach is straightforward, yet much of it feels novel.

In lieu of a breadbasket, the servers bring a setup of crisp, juicy radishes with salt, butter, and paper-thin, house-made crackers. This sets the tone for the rest of the appetizer section, much of which riffs on Scandinavia's famous open-faced sandwiches. Grilled bread is ferried to the table in toast caddies that look lifted from the Victorian era. The dramatic display might seem excessive, but the nutty, char-marked, naturally leavened bread is duly deserving of the honor. (Before joining the Daytons' team, Berglund honed his baking skills at Heartland and Rustica.) The toasts may be spread with a lovely rabbit liver paté, whose richness is cut by garnishes of mustard, dried cherries, and hazelnuts. Or they might be dipped in melted Camembert that coats cauliflower and zucchini, turning the normally pedestrian vegetables into something marvelous.

The rest of the restaurant's snack list is also first-rate. Thick slabs of house-cured, lightly smoked salmon are served on a cloud of creamy scrambled eggs. It's a dish that could be eaten any time of day—or all day long. Ditto the house-made sausage link served with pickled beets and a lefse round that's less flaky and more elastic than old-time recipes, resembling a potato-rich fresh pasta sheet. Berglund also offers herring, the Northern European staple, but serves it fried instead of pickled. The fish is coated in a tempura-style batter, along with green beans and onions, and cooked to perfect crispness.

Chilled kale soup is one of the menu's boundary-pushers. The dill-spiked puree is relentlessly green, tasting grassy and mineral-rich. But a full serving can be a little much—it might be better portioned into tall shot glasses than bowls. The less adventurous can always order the Bibb lettuce salad: a heap of rumpled leaves speckled with walnuts and grated blue cheese, which distributes its musky flavor better than crumbles.

Among the entrées, Swedish meatballs are the most overtly Scandinavian item. The meat is suitably seasoned with fennel, caraway, and other sweet spices, then garnished with lingonberries, thin-sliced pickles, and a more modest portion of mashed potatoes than typically accompanies the dish. The Scandinavian diet includes a fair amount of game, but in lieu of, say, moose or reindeer, Berglund offers Wisconsin-raised rabbit. The kitchen staff practices whole-animal butchery, so the dish alternates between the grilled loin and the slow-cooked legs and shoulders. The loin tastes rather like a cross between duck breast and pork tenderloin, so if you prefer the richness of braised rabbit, as I do, you'll want to order the leg/shoulder version. In either case, the meat is well paired with Savoy cabbage, pole beans, and a bit of Scandinavia's beloved brunost cheese, which contributes a caramel sweetness. The fish and chicken entrées are more common—cod or char with sweet corn and tomatoes, roast bird with potatoes and baby arugula—but equally well executed.

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2 comments
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"Berglund offers a vegetarian entrée of two poached eggs perched atop a summery mix of cherry tomatoes, leeks, and snap peas."

i'm not vegetarian, but eggs = not vegetarian?

 
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