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Anyone try Farmstead Table in Newton yet?

p
Posenose Aug 21, 2012 04:51 PM

We might go this weekend but I wondered if anyone has any feedback on it?

  1. lipoff Aug 22, 2012 03:23 AM

    Yes indeed, I tried to go on Sunday night, without a reservation at 8:30 PM, and I was politely but firmly told that they had no availability at all, and I was encouraged to make a reservation. We had a great meal at Oishii in Chestnut Hill instead (with no wait!) But I made a reservation at Farmstead Table and just dined there last night.

    Let me say at the start that philosophically I do not care for the "farm-to-table" ethos per se. I couldn't help but overhear the couple at the next table quizzing the waitress about the provenance of the beef, whether it was grass fed (yes!), whether it was treated with antibiotics (definitely not!), how organic this or that was (very). When the hostess came over to confirm that the beef was grass fed, it felt a bit like Portlandia. I deeply enjoyed the food at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, but I found the description of how the cheese was made from the milk of happy cows who ate this variety of grass at their own farm more than precious ---more like nauseating.

    However, I like good food, and I appreciate inventive restaurants that are constantly changing and striving. Sometimes the whole farm-to-table ethos correlates with that, and where that overlaps I'm very happy to partake. I don't care that the potatoes I ate last night came out of the ground that very morning (although I was told that at least twice by the waitress) --- potatoes that came out of the ground last year and were immediately soaked in liquid nitrogen at −196°C and held frozen since then would take just as good, if they were just as good potatoes. Ironically, it turns out that the potatoes were just about the only bite I didn't enjoy out of a very fine meal.

    We started with two starters to share. The lox toast were two slices of the very nice house bread, topped with lox, and a terrific dill crème fraiche. The lox itself was unremarkably flavored --- very mild, and difficult to taste unless you had it alone --- but had a nice texture, and the crème fraiche tasted homemade and fantastic. Make sure to spread it around to get some in every bite. The unremarkable lump of undressed arugula served along side was baffling. The salad was small, but terrific, with a variety of vegetables made crispy by a slight cure, and a light lemon vinaigrette dressing that held it all together. The promised crispy shallots weren't a major component, but the vegetables worked together very nicely, especially the beets and wax beans. We weren't given bread but we asked for it, and got two more slices of the same bread that was under the lox; untoasted, and with a pad of absolutely delicious butter.

    My DC and I both had the cucumber Thai basil gimlet to drink, one with gin, and one made non-alcoholic. My non-alcoholic version was tasty, but much too sweet. The sip I had of my DC's gin-based version was not too sweet. This is a common problem when alcoholic drinks are made non-alcoholic without adjusting the recipe, as the alcohol and added sugar brace against each other, but the same amount of sugar syrup byitself becomes cloying. They have a small but well curated list of house specialty cocktails, a selection of beers, and a several page wine list from which we didn't partake.

    For entrees, my DC had the roast chicken, which was served on a parsnip puree and nestled among a selection of vegetables, including excellent parsnips, un-pureed. Gordon Hamersley has nothing to fear from this chicken, but there was nothing wrong with the chicken either --- moist and well-cooked throughout, with a nice skin. The vegetables accompanying it were excellent.

    I had the duck breast, which was a quite generous portion of really succulent duck, topped with grilled peaches, mashed peppers that were mildly spicy, more arugula, miniature potatoes (dug up that very morning!) and drizzled with balsamic vinegar. I could have done without the arugula, potatoes and vinegar, and the peaches were tasty if incongruous (I could almost picture Gordon Ramsay raving about their unnecessary inclusion), but I really enjoyed the duck breast, and it married well with the mashed peppers, which added just a little kick.

    We also asked for a side order of cooked vegetables, which was not on the menu, but our waitress assured us could be prepared. This was quite nice, if basically a repeat of the vegetables in our summer vegetable salad, and accompanying our mains, with a bit more corn. Farm-to-table, sustainable, organic, etc. or not, all the vegetables we had (save the potatoes and arugula) were really terrific. They source some excellent vegetables, and understandably the variety each day is not enormous. I wouldn't recommend ordering both the summer vegetable salad and the vegetarian entree, for example.

    For dessert we had the chocolate bread pudding, which was fine, but the homemade whipped cream on top was sensational. I was extremely excited to see that their tea is supplied by Upton Tea Imports, one of the very best tea importers in the country. My oolong tea was served in a little bag, with a cup of hot water, and just didn't brew up correctly. I think the water was too hot, the water volume too small, and the tea too packed into that bag where it got crushed. I find oolong tea particularly unforgiving of over brewing, so maybe another variety would turn out better.

    The restaurant itself is fairly spartan inside, with little art on the walls (I assume more is to come), comfortable, if close seating, and rough hewn wooden tables and farmhouse style wooden chairs for atmosphere. There's a very nice porch in the back, but I gather that the City of Newton licensing procedure for outdoor eating spaces is complicated, and they don't think this space will be available for dining (as a "community table") until the spring. Soap in the bathroom comes from a mason jar; there is the requisite herb garden on the porch. Yes, I find the place precious, but I enjoyed my meal. With tax and tip it turned out to be $60/person. Not cheap. But it seems like a very good fit for Newton, and with Ten Tables coming around the corner soon, Newton Centre will really up its game. Farmstead Table is not flawless, but it is recommended, even by someone like me who was predisposed to be a bit of a hater. =)

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    12 Replies
    1. re: lipoff
      p
      Posenose Aug 22, 2012 06:21 AM

      Thanks for the very detailed description! Love your Portlandia reference-- hubby and I are both very fond of "Colin the Chicken." I might try to make a res for Sat night but from what you said, I might be out of luck! I agree about Newton upping its game-- it's been a pretty pathetic dining scene for a city its size for way too long.

      1. re: Posenose
        L2k Aug 22, 2012 07:08 AM

        Agree with the Portlandia reference.

        Interesting that all the foods are local, and yet they import the tea. You'd think with Boston being famous for the original Tea Party, that they could find a local source! :)

        1. re: L2k
          lipoff Aug 22, 2012 08:18 AM

          Well, Upton Tea Imports is located in Western Massachusetts, and I don't think that there's much, if any tea grown in Massachusetts, just as there's hardly any grape wines grown in Massachusetts. Can't fault them for that!

          1. re: lipoff
            opinionatedchef Aug 22, 2012 01:16 PM

            lip, just fyi, when i rcvd my last tea deliv from upton in july,their address was no longer upton but hopkinton or holliston iirc.

            now, more importantly:
            i always enjoy your articulate pen.(and the mind behind it) but would i be correct in thinking that this place is similar to Bondir in a philosophy/cooking style where the feature is the unadorned flavor of each element? i.e. not much in the way of herbs, spices (aside from S and P), flavoring liquids( alcohol, sauces)?

            1. re: opinionatedchef
              w
              wonderwoman Aug 22, 2012 03:26 PM

              upton teas has been in hopkinton for at least ten years.

              1. re: wonderwoman
                Allstonian Aug 23, 2012 07:10 AM

                Upton Tea Imports moved from Upton (where they were essentially a home operation) to Hopkinton in 1995, and from Hopkinton to Holliston in 2010. All three towns are more or less adjacent, and not really located "in Western Massachusetts" so much as west of Boston - just west of Framingham, to be exact.

                I count myself lucky to have been pointed towards Upton Teas shortly after the Coffee Connection sold out to Starbucks and dropped their loose tea inventory. They truly are a wonderful resource, not just for the teas themselves, but for the wealth of historical information they provide through their catalogs and website articles.

                1. re: Allstonian
                  lipoff Aug 23, 2012 12:31 PM

                  I love Upton Tea, as especially their catalog. but as a long time resident of Boston, Cambridge and Newton, I certainly consider anything west of Framingham "Western Massachusetts". :)

                  1. re: Allstonian
                    w
                    wonderwoman Aug 23, 2012 05:18 PM

                    we weren't the only two who turned to upton when starbucks bought out coffee connection. i happened to be home when ups delivered my first ordered. the driver said he had never heard of them, but all of the sudden was delivering tea all over the area.

                2. re: opinionatedchef
                  lipoff Aug 23, 2012 12:32 PM

                  I'm not sure I would agree that Bondir features the unadorned flavor of each element in any absolute sense, but I would say that Farmstead Table is more towards that pure-element extreme than Bondir.

                  1. re: lipoff
                    opinionatedchef Aug 24, 2012 01:25 PM

                    really lip? that surprises me. my experiences at bondir were very few herbs, no spices at all,very little use of cheese, no alcohol (just jus) or other liquid flavoring agents. I wish like heck it weren't true because I love that room.

                3. re: lipoff
                  e
                  EaterBoston Aug 23, 2012 07:59 AM

                  There's only one commercial tea producer on the entire continent, and that's American Classic Tea (now owned by Bigelow) on Wadmalaw Island outside of Charleston, SC. But that's tea tea, as in the plant camellia sinensis. If you want tea as in the hot drink made from variety of non-tea plants, like mint, there could and should be tons of local options, but there's really very few.

            2. re: lipoff
              C. Hamster Aug 22, 2012 07:21 AM

              The Portlandia comment was my first BWAH of the day!

              Hopefully not my last.

              Tnx for the review

            3. s
              sr44 Aug 21, 2012 07:34 PM

              Is this the one near the New England Mobile Book Fair?

              1 Reply
              1. re: sr44
                s
                Scruffy The Cat Aug 21, 2012 07:53 PM

                I think you're thinking of Farm Grill, which has been on Needham Street near the Book Fair for years.
                Farmstead Table recently opened in Newton Center in the spot where India Paradise was.

              2. C. Hamster Aug 21, 2012 06:50 PM

                I have not been there myself but my foodie SILs went last week for dinner and really liked it.

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