The Farmhouse Cafe has discontinued Friday lunches since the time this post was written - they serve Saturday and Sunday brunch, and Dinner six nights a week. They are closed on Mondays.
The title of this post is a little nod to the title of Maria Hunt's review of Bud's Louisiana Kitchen - "Far from the Bayou." In her case the title was intended to be critical, but here it's just the opposite. In my view, the simple yet refined food coming out of the Farmhouse Cafe earns it a place among the best new casual restaurants in town.
French Chef Olivier Bioteau has cooked at several restaurants around town, including the "old" Laurel, the now defunct Vignola downtown, and Avenue 5, which he left just a few months ago to open this place. His wife, Rochelle, is an attorney here in town. If you used to frequent Laurel, you'll recognize several of the servers from the old incarnation - and if you're lucky you may even spot Billy - possibly San Diego's only celebrity fine dining waiter, though he's now employed primarily at Parallel 33, I'm told. (Another reason to go back there sometime soon!)
The purpose of my visit was not only to check out this new place that I'd heard good things about, but to meet up with Marcie Rothman, who writes Food Buzz SD "the good, bad and ugly about San Diego's Food Scene." Marcie's not afraid to tell it like it is, and she's a great resource for juicy tidbits and gossip about the San Diego food scene - not to mention good company. (And she knows Ruth Reichl! How cool is that??) We started our lunch at the bar with a shared order of the chicken liver mousse and a couple of glasses of wine. The mousse was a daily special that day, but Olivier has since put it on the regular menu.
I haven't tried the country pate that it will replace, but I can't imagine it's a bad idea, given that the mousse is a perfect specimen, smooth and rich with a light texture and rich creamy flavor. My only "complaint" if you could call it that, is that it would be nice to have more pickles and bread. It was a very generous serving of the mousse though, so perhaps I shouldn't complain too much.
For the main course, I chose the burger, and Marcie chose the daily special mushroom risotto. The burger is a classic rendition, with a large Meyer Ranch beef patty, cheddar cheese and housemade remoulade on a soft seeded bun. It comes with a herb remoulade and the accompaniments you see pictured, and I asked for some mustard on the side. The fries were crisp and fresh - and the pickled red onions and marinated tomato provide a nice counterpoint to all the richness. I actually noticed some similarities between the Avenue 5 burger - same bun, same basic set up with pink pickled onions - but this one was fresher and better put together, and came with the fries - instead of having to order them on the side.
I had a couple of bites of Marcie's risotto. It was deliciously rich with good balance of flavors. You can just see all that nice sharp cheese melting into it - it tasted as good as it looks.
About the time we were finishing our meals, we were joined at the bar by the lovely Diva Barbarella and her husband David Fokos. We stuck around drinking wine and chatting, and we hit it off so well that I suspect we'll be eating together again in the near future.
Having had a rich meal, Marcie and I shared a flight of the housemade chocolates for dessert, just to have something to nibble on. The chef makes these by hand himself himself. The flavors included passionfruit, caramel, nuts, salt, black pepper, and raspberry and they're all delicious, with nice gloss and a great snap. A plate of them made an excellent sweet bite for sharing after the meal. If you like coffee with your chocolate, they also serve it with a cup of coffee, which makes for an adorable plate.
The word is they are jam-packed at brunch and in the evenings, and the dining room is quite small, so reservations are a good idea. Friday lunch seemed a little less hectic but still lively. Prices are moderate - in the $10-20 range for lunch, and a little more for dinner. The wine list is reasonable as well, with a nice by-the-glass selection.
The Farmhouse Cafe
2121 Adams Ave
San Diego, CA, 92116