Hearty food takes a bite out of teeth-chattering, January cold. Northern European fare that celebrates the season with a touch of Scandinavian flavor is an edible cure for the winter doldrums. Root vegetables have a starchy consistency that makes any dish more filling. Northern fish, sporting alpine lake and cold coastal water flavor, is the ultimate form of protein comfort food. With the added heft of these ingredients, even salads can be filling for the winter months.
Chic new food fusion combinations play on the Northern European staples of beets, celery root, rutabaga, turnips, salmon and Arctic char. From humble but hearty ingredients, Edina restaurants and food shops serve an array of northern delights that will warm your soul.
CELERY ROOT-APPLE SOUP
Call it celeriac, turnip-rooted celery, knob celery or celery root, at Beaujo’s Wine Bar & Bistro, the vegetable makes for great soup. The ample almost-holds-your-spoon-up-straight thickness of puréed celery root is almost creamy, even without dairy. Executive chef Mark Campbell has perfected the art of soupmaking during his 12 years of cooking at Beaujo’s. “I don’t have to be so by-the-book about it,” he says with notable pride. Inspiration begins with an innovative use of herbs, spices and vegetables like celery root. Depending on what is available on a particular day, celery root soup (which is a special and not served daily) can feature different accents, including a slight touch of curry, specks of spinach, dots of blue cheese crumbles, an apple blend or a scattering of crispy fried bacon. A custom-made approach creates heightened flavors from seasonal offerings. Every soup is made from scratch with house-made stock. $4.50 cup or $5.75 bowl. 4950 France Ave. S.; 952.922.8974; beaujos.net
BEET AND CUCUMBER SALAD
The northernmost of all freshwater fish, arctic char has a flavor similar to salmon or lake trout, heightened by Cavé Vin’s careful preparation. First the fish is grilled with a touch of oil, salt and pepper. A house-made sauce of tomato purée, butter and white wine forms the base. A mound of fresh vegetable-infused risotto comes next, with a cap of perfectly grilled arctic char. For a starter, try the beet and cucumber salad with pickled fennel and chevre. Roasted golden beets, seedless English cucumber and pickled fennel are surrounded with painterly dabs of cheese. The thick Dijon vinaigrette is so tasty, it could almost be its own separate dish. The balance of tangy tastes on layers of julienned vegetables will make you want more. Char $25, salad $9. 5555 Xerxes Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.922.0100; cave-vin.net
BEEF AND BEET SALAD
You can have your beef and salad, too! At Crave, the unusual pairing of flat-iron steak with red and golden beets turns an otherwise light and feathery salad of mixed greens into a hearty meal fit for even the coldest deep-blue January day. The steak is flame-charred and cooked to medium then served warm on a cool salad base. More protein comes in the form of crunchy-sweet candied walnuts and mellow, creamy-smooth goat cheese. Even non-beet lovers can enjoy the intense rich flavors of ruby red and autumn leaf gold beets, thick grilled meat chunks, clouds of buttery cheese and crisp sweetness. Dijon vinaigrette pulls everything together. The beef and beet salad can be prepared gluten-free and to meet other dietary restrictions. $16.95. 3520 W. 70th St.; 952.697.6000; craveamerica.com/index.html
Take a peek at Eden Avenue Grill’s hand-written chalkboard for the daily lineup of dinner specials, where you can find Scottish salmon. As co-owner Brett Johnson proclaims, “Our Scottish salmon is very basic but good.” Eden Avenue Grill fans know this too, and the Scottish salmon ranks as a popular feature at this Edina dining mainstay. It’s grilled in lemon butter with a dash of pepper and served steaming hot with sides of daily vegetables and a choice of potato or rice. Fresh lemon wedges accent the dish. Want something a little lighter? At lunchtime, that same great fillet tops the Greek salad for an all-in-one lunch dish with Kalamata olives, feta cheese, dolmas, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions and a house-made Greek dressing on a fluffy bed of greens. Scottish salmon $18, Greek salad $7; with salmon $11. 5101 Arcadia Ave.; 952. 925.5628; edenavenuegrill.com
France 44 Cheese Shop
Look to the deli case at France 44 Cheese Shop for fresh, seasonal vegetable features like roasted beets with goat cheese. A simple comfort food any time of year, slow-cooked beets burst with healthy vitamin- and mineral-rich juices. At France 44 Cheese Shop, simple beet nuggets go beyond the ordinary. The deep, earthy flavor of beets intensifies during roasting while a thick coating of goat cheese crumbles from Minnesotan Stickney Hill dairy pulls everything together for true beet bliss. Fresh cheese from the highest quality goats’ milk makes all the difference, and flecks of chives add savory notes. Whether served hot or cold, roasted beets with goat cheese will add depth to a winter meal. $8 per pound. To experience snow-melting fire in liquid form, select a Scandinavian aquavit digestif from the adjoining France 44 Wines & Spirits store. 4351 France Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.278.4422; france44cheeseshop.com/index.htm
FINNISH MEATBALLS (LIHAPULAT)
Meatballs are a classic Scandinavian dish. The Swedish variety has achieved fame but the Finnish meatballs at Pig & Fiddle steal the show. The heavy scent of allspice makes this seasonal feature different from the norm. The meatballs are made with a mixture of beef and bacon—and not just any bacon, but a house-made, applewood-smoked variety with brown sugar and spices. The pillow-soft texture results from grilling and braising the meatballs in a blanket of lingonberry glaze. A smooth-as-silk potato purée and garden-crisp Scandinavian cucumber salad with red onion, red wine vinegar, sugar and fresh dill completes the dish. For the perfect finish, wash everything down with a cold bottle of pleasantly dark and oaky Bacchus Belgian craft beer. $11, appetizer size only. 3808 W. 50th St., Minneapolis; 952.955.8385; pignfiddle.com
POT ROAST PIE
No one disputes that artisan-crafted pizza is a crowd pleaser any time of year, but pot roast pie from Pizzeria Lola during the dead of winter—now there’s a real winner! Puréed mashed potatoes and hearty roasted vegetables including, rutabagas, carrots and turnips with some pearl onions for good measure make this pizza truly winter-hardy. Add some braised pot roast and this special-feature pizza becomes a whole meal. The crowning touch is a finish of snappy horseradish sour cream with a scattering of chives. Be sure to leave room for house-made vanilla soft-serve ice cream and prove you really are a true winter-hardy eater. $16. 5557 Xerxes Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.424-8338; pizzerialola.com