First look: The wood-fired, forest-foraged delights of In Bloom

It's pretty in here.

It's pretty in here. Natalia Mendez

As you enter the unassuming building marked “Keg and Case,” you're greeted by the distinct smell of a fire burning.

Follow your nose through the Wonka-esque wonders of this foodie market until the aroma of roasted meat lures you past intricate floral-inspired metal partitions and into In Bloom. The latest brainchild from chef Thomas Boemer and Nick Rancone (Revival, Corner Table) is lovingly nestled into a large corner of St. Paul’s new culinary marketplace. The restaurant is lit by blue lights twinkling from above, and a massive hearth looms—a necessity in a place that cooks solely over an open fire.

Venison tartare

Venison tartare Natalia Mendez

The atmosphere is eclectic but balanced, and has a Northwoods-meets-the-city vibe. Stacks of wood emphasize that the food is cooked sans gas or electricity; a spray-painted mural on the exposed walls of the old Schmidt brewery adds to the dual character. I suggest sitting along the cool, dark-veined stone counter if possible, as you might be able to catch a glimpse of a nimble-handed chef deftly maneuvering a hulking leg of venison, carving it into portions for a lucky diner’s meal.

The menu features an array of seafood, poultry, and veggie offerings. Where it really shines, though, is with its carnivorous selection: carefully chosen cuts of meat, including multiple venison dishes prepared with deer sourced from farms throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Pick a few dishes to share, and let the kind, knowledgeable staff suggest wine pairings from their 120-plus bottle collection. Wine snobs and newcomers alike are accommodated; glasses can be split with another person, which means you can try many with your meal, and they have plans to add even more bottles in the future. If wine isn’t really your thing, there’s also a modest selection of beer, cider, and craft cocktails.

Broiled oysters

Broiled oysters Natalia Mendez

Everything we sampled was almost too gorgeous to eat, essenced with a subtle smokiness that didn’t overwhelm but rather served to wrap you in its warm embrace.

Bright, briny broiled oysters topped with a rich bone marrow sabayon sauce make a nice starter, with a bit of zippy, floral heat from piri piri. If you’re into raw meat, don’t skip the mind-blowing venison tartare. Tucked into a bed of microgreens, shaved pistachio and preserved egg yolk are layered over it. A few drops of preserved lemon aioli and whole grain golden mustard are drizzled on top, adding the perfect, mouth-watering amount of acid and fattiness to the tender bits of venison. It’s served with a thin cracker as a vessel for each luscious bite. My dining partner and I bickered over who got the last bit.

One of the dishes we were most excited to try was the barigoule, featuring not only cattails but cattail pollen as well as sunchokes and artichokes. I didn’t know what to expect from the wetland plant, but they were soft, earthy, and starchy, playing well with the fresh minerality of the artichokes and subtle nuttiness of the sunchokes. Bathed in a buttery white wine sauce, topped with microgreens, and dusted with pollen, this dish made me feel very connected to my Midwestern roots.

Artichoke barigoule (with cattails!)

Artichoke barigoule (with cattails!) Natalia Mendez

It’ll be difficult, but leave room for dessert. The burnt marshmallow is everything you loved about s’mores as a kid, just much more grown-up. Dark basswood honey is used to make ice cream, which is tucked into a fluffy cloud of sticky marshmallow goodness. After a good toasting, it’s drizzled with chocolate ganache and graham caramel sauce. A crumbling of toasted honeycomb rounds it out to finish dinner with a pleasant childhood memory.

Grab a dinner reservation and check out what’s on In Bloom’s seasonal, rotating menu, or stop by during the day: They recently announced they’re now open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily.

In Bloom at Keg and Case Market
928 W. Seventh St., St. Paul