The farm to table movement is the latest trend among locavores who only eat food that was raised humanely and grown within 10 miles of their kitchen sink. This helps promote local farms and eases the pollution created by transporting food thousands of miles.
We’re now witnessing a wave of restaurants lavishly catering to this trend. A few have opened in my city of Philadelphia. With names like The Farm and the Fisherman, The Farmer’s Cabinet and The Farmer’s Daughter they virtually scream out their ever so trendy bona fides. My Long Suffering Spouse (LSS) and I decided to try a new one that just opened nearby.
Shabby chic at The Farmer’s Hoe.
The Farmer’s Hoe is a locavore’s wet dream. Wannabe celebrity chef Hank Kimball (shown above with his favorite hoe) built it to look like a tumbledown farmhouse, it’s even paneled with wood recycled from old compost barrels. The essence of decaying compost gives it that earthy manure-like smell that is deemed so necessary for authentic dining out these days. We entered the restaurant through a cattle chute, which considering what happens to the cattle at the end of the chute didn’t fill me with a warm fuzzy.
Once we got inside, without any unfortunate incidents from a stray electric cattle prod, I actually liked the barn-like interior; it’s positively rakish. To complete the effect our waiter, Todd, sauntered to our table dressed in denim overalls with straw sticking out the front. He looked like he was about to perform as the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz.
Bottled water is now declasse due to the wasteful use of plastic. Given the current craze for all things unfiltered, we were offered water scooped only that morning directly from the Susquehanna River. Todd explained that unfiltered river water has never been sullied by chemical cleansers or filters. Since the Susquehanna also carries effluent from the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor, we opted instead for Philly’s finest tap water.
A happy cow waits for dinner.
Everything in the restaurant was organic, from the food in the kitchen to the hemp-covered seats on which our bottoms were firmly planted. In a nod towards sustainability, the salt was recycled from the stuff they spread on icy Philly streets during winter. It’s an intriguing concept, but the marketing gurus should come up with a better name than “Gutter Salt.”
We opted for the special Chef’s Menu. The appetizer, from the Amish-owned Fifty Shades of Whey dairy, was a single-udder goat cheese that the earnest Todd explained had the consistency of a toddler’s runny nose that would smear nicely on the house made sprouted mullet baguette. I asked him if it really mattered that the cheese came from one udder. He assured me, “It’s not just one udder but the creamery only uses the center one.” Somehow that makes a difference.
Is this udderly ridiculous?
For an entrée we shared a dish called Old Spotted Pig. That’s not something I would have ordered on my own but Todd coaxed me into it. The pigs are lovingly raised for 32 1/2 months until they are instantly killed with a bolt gun to the forehead. I bet they didn’t see that one coming.
Maybe I don’t have enough of a refined palette, but the humanely raised pig tasted the same to me as the ones that are raised poorly with strict discipline and deep-seated parental issues.
As with any fine restaurant, it is the side dishes that make or break the meal. The Old Spotted Pig was served with an order of dandelion puffs and cognac rubbed beets. The puffs are the white parts of the dandelion that blow all over your lawn in the springtime.
Dandelions eagerly waiting to be served on your plate.
To create this dish, the farmer waits for a windy day and then scampers all over his fields with a Husqvarna-brand fine meshed organic cotton butterfly net to scoop the puffy tendrils out of the sky. They are then sautéed, melted into an emulsion and then puffed up to look like, you guessed it, dandelion puffs. A woman sneezing at the table next to us said she would have loaded up on Claritin if she knew this was what they were serving. Apparently she was a locavore newbie.
The lacquered beets were also a treat. They are rubbed daily with a fine cognac to bring out their earthy flavor. (Which reminds me of something dear readers: If you ever happen to be giving your significant other a back rub never, and I mean never, mention how it reminds you of the way they massage sake into sides of Kobe beef. Learn from my mistakes and your life will be so much sweeter.)
For dessert we ordered “Essence of Essence.” It arrived on a white plate, which quite frankly looked empty to me, while Todd waved his hand over it so the aromas would waft up into our eager nasal passages. We leaned over the plate, sniffing our brains out. I’m still not sure what it was supposed to be an essence of, it smelled more like Todd’s Axe body spray to me.
The dessert was a bit unfulfilling.
Our tab for this farm to table extravaganza was $144, not including the $6 stop on the way home to sample the best of the McDonald’s Dollar Menu. I’m sure their cows aren’t raised as humanely, but maybe in the end they don’t feel so betrayed by their sudden, and shocking, demise.