As a countdown to the Best of the Twin Cities 2013, coming April 17, the Hot Dish is serving up 50 of our favorite local dishes.
|A beautifully composed plate worthy of a nice long fikarast|
In Sweden, to fika is to break for coffee and a snack. You can fika midday, fika as a low-pressure date, or fika to delay getting started on your taxes, but regardless of when you do it, you usually do it with a nice cardamom bun. At Fika, the American Swedish Institute's newish cafe (run by Michael Fitzgerald, a Texas-born chef who worked under Doug Flicker for years at the sorely missed Auriga), the cardamom buns are lovely, but there's so much more on the smörgåsbord for famished museum-goers.
We loved the silky house-cured gravlax with grilled white asparagus and hazelnuts; slurped up the brilliantly fuchsia beet soup with dill yogurt (pictured, but well over half-eaten); and delighted in the luxurious interpretation a side dish of potatoes, dressed up with caviar and pickled onions. The relatively small serving size of most of Fika's plates means the price is low, but thankfully does not mean the level of flavor is too. One small plate in particular left us dazzled with its richness and interplay of firm, runny, and crunchy textures: the pork belly with soft-poached egg.
It seems a little unfair to be dangling images and descriptions of this dish in front of you now, since Fitzgerald changes up Fika's menu on the regular, rotating his preparation of different dishes to fit with the best of each season's produce. Since this particular pork belly dish was featured at Fika, several others have made an appearance, but this one remains our favorite. A hunk of gorgeously fatty pork belly gets seared until the skin is crisp and caramelized. Then the smoky meat is paired with a sharp, whole-grain mustard cream sauce, a smattering of the butteriest croutons, and a bed of wilted spinach topped with a soft-poached egg. Elegant, well executed, and when that runny yolk seeps into the mustard and the meat and coats the croutons it all makes for a rather magical bite.
2600 Park Ave., Minneapolis, MN