After a test-run in St. Paul last month at Cooks of Crocus Hill, Paul Berglund is launching a semi-permanent pop-up in Rochester beginning Thursday night. And it’s all about pasta.
The James Beard Award-winning chef who helmed the Bachelor Farmer until 2017 won accolades for his New Nordic and American regional cooking in Minneapolis — including four stars and Restaurant of the Year from the Star Tribune in 2011.
With his new three-day-a-week micro-restaurant, he gets to “explore my culinary roots through the lens of more experience in the craft and more experiences in general in food,” he said. Before coming to the Twin Cities, Berglund cooked at the acclaimed Italian restaurant Oliveto in Oakland, Calif. His roots, therefore, are noodles.
Hence the name of the pop-up, Fat Noodle, which will be in residence at the counter in Benedict’s Thursdays-Saturdays for the foreseeable future. (10 E. Center St., Rochester, exploretock.com/fatnoodle)
Reservations are sparse as the counter only seats 17. “It’s an intimate, interactive experience for the diners,” Berglund said. Guests can choose from two menus — a traditional four-course meal, or a pasta tasting menu that includes three pastas and a dessert. Both cost $55, with an optional wine pairing for $28, “so it’s not a bank-breaker,” he said.
To make the pasta, he’s using grains milled in northeast Minneapolis at Baker’s Field Flour & Bread.
“It’s truly night and day, the difference in taste between pasta made with that flour and pasta made with commercially milled flours that have been sitting on the shelf for several months,” he said. He’s excited to experiment with their non-wheat flours, such as buckwheat for the pizzoccheri noodle popular in northern Italy.
Just what is it about pasta that drew Berglund back to his favorite cuisine?
“Firstly, there’s something about a bowl of noodles that translates into so many different regions of the world, that’s just so comforting and sort of inherently nourishing,” he said. “But I also truly love the craft of making pasta by hand.”
Kitchens are fast-paced, he said, but pasta-making puts him in a meditative state. “It’s very repetitive and it’s very soothing for me,” he said. “A chef’s life is just go, go go. But to make a delicious noodle, you have to stop and take the time to make it right.”