Dropping in on friends in Forestville Monday afternoon, we ended up heading to The Farmhouse for a casual Monday night dinner. This was the first I'd heard that it's now open five nights a week, including Mondays.
My friend was starting her diet this day, so we agreed to limit ourselves to two courses to be supportive of her. I started with the potato and wild nettle soup. Comforting texture but just enough foreign in taste to be interesting, this was topped with a bit of creme fraiche for richness.
For my second course, I picked the seared scallop appetizer that had been highly recommended by our waiter. It was every bit as good as he'd proclaimed. A perfectly seasoned and juicy seared scallop was perched on a pedestal of richly flavored ham hock risotto. The individual grains of rice infused with smokey stock and studded with succulent bits of ham had a satisfying bite. What made this dish though was the savory and naturally sweet spring onion soubise accented with peppery microgreens. Two of us ordered this dish and our plates were wiped completely clean. I felt like ordering a second one just to relive those wonderful flavors and textures again.
We didn't order cheese or dessert. But since we're accustomed to spending more time at the table, we lingered over the remains of our wine, a bottle of 2004 Montlouis that the new sommelier had recommended. When our waiter inquired a second time if we wanted some coffee, I jokingly asked if there were any more truffles that I'd eyed on a neighboring table's mignardise plate. He apologized that there were no truffles but offered to fire a chocolate souffle, which we declined.
Once we settled the bill and headed for the door as the last customers of the night, the manager stopped us and said that the kitchen had two complimentary chocolate souffles that had our names on them about to come out of the oven and insisted that we return to our table! I protested, well rather weakly, and we sat down again on our still warm seats. Presented with flourish, the pair of Michel Cluizel chocolate souffles made that special little deflating sigh in unison, sinking into themselves, then rising up again with the addition of the silky creme anglaise.
This was a very special treat. Earlier when the manager had asked how we liked the wine, I had said that it was fine with the shellfish but was sweeter than the sommelier had described. I imagine that the complimentary desserts was the house's way of making that up to us.
It had been a couple years since I'd eaten here. Executive Chef Steve Litke has Monday nights off and this was the first meal I've had here not prepared by him. His sous chefs did a great job in his absence. I recognized Bruce Frieseke's name as one of the sous chefs, formerly of Manzanita in Healdsburg and SF's Bizou.
The table service has a friendly and highly personable tone, yet was as smooth and professional as any restaurant I've ever been to. The utensil changes, napkin folding when a guest steps away, serving water and wine, checking back that each course was satisfactory, and the ever watchful eye over the table were all four-star level. The nine tables were attended by two waiters, two bussers, a sommelier, and the manager who circulates through the room and mans the cheese selection. This staffing level affords close attention, yet one doesn't feel intruded upon.
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