Chefly inspirations change by the day. What they're playing with now will be gone with the monthly calendar flip. It's January and there's nothing to do but eat, anyway. Scour the city and devour the best dishes we found this month.
5. Vietnamese coffee panna cotta at St. Genevieve
We almost feel guilty naming a dessert at St. Genevieve as our favorite dish, what with all the many savory favorites on this Francophile's dream menu. But this silky panna cotta with a quenelle of sweetened condensed milk ice cream plays the fine dining part to a playful chocolate wafer and crumbled pretzel. The whole of it provides the kind of ending to a beautiful meal that will have a hold on you until your inevitable next visit.
5003 Bryant Ave., Minneapolis
4. Open sandwiches at the Bachelor Farmer Cafe
Function almost follows form at the Bachelor Farmer Cafe, where it's difficult to decipher which sense gets more pleasure — taste or sight. Open sandwiches look like modern artwork, with ingredients as carefully placed as brushstrokes. Dainty yet fortifying, they'd be perfect to eat on a date with someone you wish to impress. Nothing to drop and slop, and there will be no embarrassing tummy grumblings on the car ride home. Pictured, clockwise: wild mushroom with pickled vegetables, house-cured gravlax with pickled root vegetables, Camembert with ham.
The Bachelor Farmer Cafe
200 N. First St., Minneapolis
3. Rye pancakes with birch ice cream, blis elixir and blueberries at Upton 43
If there's anything more comforting than pancakes with Maple syrup, we don't know what it is. But Blis Maple syrup, aged in bourbon bottles, is what champagne is to soda pop. Chef Erick Harcey was raised on the very Nordic culinary efforts of his grandparents, where they ran the very Nordic Kaffe Stuga near Chisago County. You can taste this in his own take on pancakes, in which the traditional Swedish addition gives a layer of aroma. Birch ice cream seals the deal — you're a Midwestern kid, and this is the soul of where you came from.
4312 Upton Ave. S., Mpls.
2. Escargot with chanterelle mushrooms and sorrel butter at Burch
When was the last time you ate escargot? I bet it's been a long time. The classic French starter can't be found just anywhere, though its charms are many and ultimately quite universal. There is something about the clean essence of snail that melds with butter and cheese in the way peanut butter complements jelly — something new emerges that is better than the sum of its parts. We like the way they're served at Burch, out of the deep divots of an escargot dish; each rich, drippy, individual bite an ideal mouthful. This is true winter eating.
Burch Steak and Pizza Bar
1933 Colfax Ave. S., Mpls.