I had a cool opportunity last week to attend a special dining event at a new downtown restaurant with about twenty other local bloggers. Urban Farmer opened earlier this spring and has been on our “must-visit” list since we saw the construction last year, and I’m happy to report that it was well worth the wait.
Urban Farmer is a bit of a hybrid – it’s a red-blooded American steakhouse, but it’s set up in more of a farm-to-table mold than a steakhouse typically would be. The menu is, of course, meat-centric, and in addition to the usual suspects, offers a neat option for a steak tasting: a sample of grass-fed, corn-fed, and dry-aged served right next to each other. Seems like a cool idea to be able to compare them like that. In addition, they’ll tell you where each steak is coming from and what’s unique about it. Not something you see every day.
Just about everything here screams “local” – from the menu (food and drinks), to the homemade canned produce adorning the walls, to the list of their area farm suppliers displayed prominently above the kitchen, it’s obvious that they take “local” seriously.
Executive chef Brad Cecchi spent some time with the group talking about their overall philosophy – get what you can locally, build relationships with local farmers, and help build up the local economy. While not fully up to speed yet, they have grand visions of what a future partnership may look like between restaurants and the neighborhood farms that supply them. Also cool (to me, anyway) is the idea of being head-to-tail, or using as much of the animal as possible.
Anyway, even though I find their philosophy fascinating, I know you’re here for the food, so on to it.
This was a full five-course “sampler,” though sampler is used loosely, because it was a lot of food (and wine). The “mingling food” consisted of a cheese platter, some local and some not, and a full charcuterie board, all house-made. Some of the highlights here were a delicious bacon jam, duck rilette, and a coriander salami.
The first course was a beef tartare with deviled egg and homemade brioche toast. I generally prefer my food at least partially cooked, but this was fantastic. It’s made using the tenderloin and studded with pickled fennel and mushroom, so it really almost felt more like it just melted away rather than being chewed.
Second course was a lobster dish complete with tomato, fennel, and mint. The lobster chunks were plentiful, but what jumped out here were two unique additions. First was an avocado puree. Not sure what all was in it (if anything), but it was whipped, which made it really light and fluffy, and definitely a different texture than a regular avocado. The second was a verjus sorbet, a frozen treat made from the juice of unripened grapes that provided a pleasant tartness, not to mention a temperature contrast.
Next came a seared scallop served over some more of that delicious bacon jam and alongside creamed corn, pickled green tomato, candied bacon, and corn fritters. The two different takes on corn (crunchy and creamy) played well with the crusty scallop, and adding bacon, especially bacon with a little extra sweetness, never hurts.
Remember that we’re at a steakhouse, right? Well now it’s time for the steak course, a roasted 21 day dry-aged strip loin. Being at said steakhouse, I’d certainly expect them to do the steak right, and it did not disappoint – rich, flavorful, and ridiculously tender. Also with this course was zucchini, tallow, and boulangere potato, what is essentially thinly sliced potatoes slow-cooked in beef stock, traditionally underneath the roast to absorb all the drippings.
And finally, dessert, which was a custard made with barley malt. I’m a sucker for a good custard, and the addition of the malt flavor took it to another level. On top of the custard were a couple homemade malted milk balls (need to find a recipe for that!), and a crispy honeycomb, with a caramelized flavor reminiscent of toasted marshmallow.
Note: The meal was complimentary, but all opinions are my own. I refuse to be bribed by food, even if it’s really good food.