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Wood Working: Big city dining adventure finds us visiting the farmer

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opinion River Falls, 54022
River Falls Journal
715-425-5666 customer support
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

"Did I forget to tell you, my sweet, that we're going out to eat in Minneapolis tonight?" said my Beautiful Wife brightly.

B.W. always says stuff like that brightly because she knows dining out in Minneapolis is not my favorite sport.

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I usually tense up, wonder if I should take out a bank loan for the trip to Mill City, wonder if we should leave at 4:30 p.m. if our reservation is at eight. (You never know what the Minnesota Department of Transportation is up to.)

"Where will we be dining?" I ask nervously.

"At The Bachelor Farmer," replied B.W.

Omigod.

In case you haven't noticed, "The Bachelor Farmer" is a new bistro in an old limestone warehouse on Second Avenue North.

It's getting lots of hype from the press because its owners are sons of Governor Mark Dayton and his ex-wife, whose maiden name was Rockefeller.

What fresh hell would this be? I asked myself as I showered and shaved, then headed for I-94.

The Dayton boys are definitely not bachelor farmers, which was apparent when we were seated in a huge dining room and given menus.

Fourth item on which was "Purslane, pickled duck hearts, strawberries and roasted walnuts." (Purslane? Where I come from bachelor farmers would call it "Pussley," a very invasive weed that crawls all over our garden.)

As we perused the menu, we scratched our heads at some of the items, like "Rullepolse wrapped beef tongue, English pea puree, horseradish" or "Butter fried goose egg, asparagus, pea shoots, saffron broth and fine herbs."

Or the 46 different wines available ("Ask your server for rarer wines, also available.")

We were scratching because what amazed us was not the exotic nature of the menu, but the prices, which were reasonable.

Our auburn-haired waitress was Michelle. She was very friendly and funny, but certainly no rural milkmaid. Michelle brought us a complimentary dish of French breakfast radishes and butter.

When we ordered drinks I knew I was in good company. I asked for a Jim Beam on the rocks and Michelle said the Bachelor didn't offer that.

"But we do have Old Overholt rye with which we make our Manhattans," she said. They obviously knew what they were doing in that department.

Michelle brought me a big tumbler of the stuff and I almost fell over when the check came: Six bucks, half of what similar bistros charge in Minneapolis.

Michelle helped us master the menu. B.W. and Jane both ordered half a grilled chicken, fingerling potatoes and a spring vegetable ragout.

This chicken didn't come from a broiler barn. It tasted like the chicken of my youth.

Larry ordered roasted sockeye salmon, emmer wheat, baked radishes, English peas, champagne Beurre blanc, also delicious.

I got by with two appetizers, duck liver pate, with orange confit, prune marmalade and pickled rhubarb, followed by beef tartare, topped by a giant egg yolk with four accompaniments.

(The bachelor farmers I know would have called that "Cannibal Meat," but would have definitely approved of the raw beef used. Whereas most upscale restaurants chop filet mignon for tartare, which tastes like nothing, Michelle informed us that the Bachelor uses bottom round grass-fed beef. Fabulous, the best I've eaten since my dad's birthday party at the Antique Bar in Whitehall, Cannibal Meat Capitol of Trempealeau County.)

The most expensive item on the menu was the elaborate salmon preparation at $26. My two dishes amounted to $22, and the womenfolks' chickens came in at $21.

These may not seem like bargains in River Falls, but try to put together a meal at places like La Belle Vie in Minneapolis and you'd go home hungry.

We ended the evening splitting an elaborate dessert four ways and made our way home to River Falls after a most enjoyable dinner -- not exactly down home -- at The Bachelor Farmer.

Dave would like to hear from you. Phone him at 715-426-9554.

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