farm to table

Farmers and Chefs Restaurant

by Anne Maxfield on September 17, 2018

Accidental Locavore Farmers and Chefs OctopusIf you went to a restaurant named Farmers and Chefs, you’d probably be expecting a farm-to-table experience, wouldn’t you?

Maybe I’m being a little fussy, but the first thing I thought of when I saw the menu at Farmers and Chefs was that it was surprisingly unseasonal for a place that is “Drawing inspiration from our regions [sic] beautiful Hudson Valley farms while combining the freshest in season local ingredients combined with global influences.”

In the heat of August, don’t you just yearn for steak, duck, ribs and lots of pasta? Even the specials on the night I was there, while starring heirloom tomatoes (from Poughkeepsie Farm Project) were pasta, risotto and a fish stew. Hardly light and refreshing, any of it.

The restaurant is on a corner in a neighborhood in Poughkeepsie that has seen the opening of several new places recently. It’s an open space with lots of hard surfaces, making it noisy even when it’s not fully booked.

Go as a foursome, as the choice of tables we were offered as two diners (with a reservation) was limited to a two-top next to the door or another one next to the bar. A few larger tables I asked about were supposedly booked but remained empty the entire time we were there. Just saying. There’s also an outdoor deck for drinking and dining with a nice view of the underside of the Walkway Bridge and the (limited) parking area.

Accidental Locavore Farmers and Chefs BeetsMy friend started out with the beet carpaccio. It was a small but elegant plate with thinly sliced beets flanked by thinly sliced turnips, topped with apricots, and a fennel frond for greenery. She said the beets were perfectly cooked, tender and delicious and because you know how I feel about beets, I have to believe her.

Something I did stick my fork into was her other choice, the Portuguese octopus. It was a perfectly cooked tentacle, sitting on a puddle of lemon crème fraiche with slices of potato, some micro-greens and cherry tomatoes with a dusting of chili powder.

Accidental Locavore Farmers and Chefs Lamb PastaIn the end I ended up going for pasta–cavatelli, a special that night. It was served with a lamb bolognese sauce with kalamata olives (3-4 of them) and feta cheese. It was a good dish, solid if not spectacular. A few more olives and a little more feta would have made this a special special.

We split their version of a tarte tartin—caramelized apples on a thin pastry with ice cream, which, like most of the other dishes, was good but not outstanding.

The owner of Farmers and Chefs, John Lekic won praise for his previous restaurant, Le Express, so it was surprising that so much of Farmers and Chefs fell flat. Fingers crossed that time will smooth out some of the bumps.

 

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Crabtree’s Kittle House—Truly Farm-to-Table

by Anne Maxfield on April 23, 2018

Accidental Locavore Crabtree's Chef LippinThere are a lot of restaurants calling themselves farm-to-table, and in a sense, all food is farm-to-table. Some may just have stopped at a processing plant or two and some may have traveled further than you have in your lifetime.

That’s not the case with Chef Jay Lippin at Crabtree’s Kittle House.

Here’s a place where the chef has binders full of notes, for the 40 or so farmers he works with. And that’s not counting the garden beds ringing the property.

It started out when farmers would come to the back door of the kitchen offering to sell their crops. As the numbers and quality of local farms increased, so did the potential for using as much local food as possible.

In the fall Chef Lippin reviews what went well, exhaustively studies seed catalogues (marking them up to the point where one farmer said it looked like a porcupine!) and analyzes everything with each farmer who supplies the restaurant.

All this attention to detail and care is reflected in the food. Along with sourcing as much as he can locally, he’s made it a point to use less-than-perfect food and bits, like green coriander seeds, with spectacular results.

We’ve eaten there a few times and every meal has been memorable.

Recently, I broke with tradition and insisted that my birthday dinner be at Crabtree’s.

Accidental Locavore Crabtree Tap RoomWe opted for the Tap Room, it’s more casual and you have the advantage of being able to order from both menus.

A half dozen Kumamoto oysters and a “perfect” Moscow mule for Frank got us off to a great start.

The kitchen sent up what Jay calls salmon bacon and eggs. It’s maple-smoked salmon on a piece of cornbread and topped with a tiny sunny-side up quail egg. Sweet and smoky it paired wonderfully with an incredible Spanish white that Leo, the sommelier gave us to taste.

Accidental Locavore Crabtree's SalmonI opted for the duck breast, served over puréed fava beans with a black currant compote. I’ve never really given fava beans much thought—too much prep work, but after last night I may have to rethink my stance on them. The duck was perfectly cooked and seasoned and would have been fine on its own or with just the black current compote. However, the fava bean purée just launched it into a whole other dimension–spectacular!

Frank had the hangar steak, also perfectly seasoned and cooked. There was a pile of perfectly stacked onion rings that came with it. Onion rings to me, are almost always a disappointment—too thick and bready, or too thin and flavorless. These managed to have the best of both worlds, thin rings of onions with a batter that was just thick and spiced enough to give them both flavor and character—the best onion rings I’ve had in ages!

We were way too full for dessert, but Frank managed to make the most of an almond cake with almond ice cream and almond brittle. I snuck a bite or two because it was so good.

The kitchen also sent over an espresso panna cotta which was almost like a dessert version of a cappuccino—top layer of espresso and bottom layer of cream. Considering how stuffed we were, we did manage to eat a good portion of it.

Accidental Locavore Crabtree's DessertAll our experiences at Crabtree’s have been terrific. While the food is consistently great (I honestly don’t think I’ve had a bad bite there), I also want to give a shout-out to the staff. It is one of the most professional, attentive and friendly groups and they are a big part of what makes it a wonderful restaurant.

 

A couple of notes: Since it was my birthday where we were there this last time, I wasn’t taking pictures, so these photos are from previous visits. Also, the wine cellars there are so incredible, they deserve their own piece, so stay tuned.

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Farm-to-Table: What Does It Mean?

by Anne Maxfield on June 6, 2016

Accidental Locavore Flock of SheepWhen you hear the term farm-to-table what comes to mind? A bucolic farm somewhere in the countryside, with humanely raised animals and Instagram-worthy red barns? Farmers in denim overalls sending perfect food to a local restaurant, just like the first episode of Portlandia? Yeah, me too.

Maybe we’d be better calling it fresh off the (local) farm.

Here’s why: I recently got an invite from a Meetup group to an Alaskan King Crab dinner at a local restaurant. Nothing terribly out of the ordinary but…the restaurant is called Farm to Table Bistro and the closest body of water is the Hudson River (not exactly King Crab territory).

When I mentioned the irony of that to Frank, he said “it doesn’t say where the farm is.” Chalk one up for Frank.

Then isn’t everything we eat (with the exception of some seafood) actually farm-to-table? Or more properly, farms-to-tables? Even though you may picture chefs making the rounds of local farms and farmers’ markets, picking up the best of the best, the reality for most people is that the food we’re being served in restaurants could be coming from anywhere.

Alaskan King Crab has to be one of the most dubious farm-to-table foods because so far, farming king crab has had little success. Not to mention that quite a bit of it comes not from Alaska but from that place Sarah Palin can see from her house.

I don’t mean to single out Farm to Table Bistro, they’re supposed to have great food and if it wasn’t a bit of a schlep we’d have been there by now – just pointing out the irony of a restaurant whose homepage declares “The word ‘local’ gets thrown out there very often without any concept of what it really means. For instance, we shake hands every Tuesday with the man who makes our fresh hot dogs (Peter’s Meat Market), we drink espresso corretto with one of the local farmers we use for produce (Taliaferro’s Farm) and we are only a hop-skip away from one of the best cheese makers in the area with whom we are proud to purchase many of our cheeses from (Sprout Creek Farm).”

Then click to the events page – Alaskan King Crab Night, every Thursday…

Accidental Locavore Blue Bowl With TomatoesLet’s enjoy our crab legs and realize that not everything has to be or can be local and fresh. Do search it out when it is – and delight in succulent June strawberries from a local farm and perfect heirloom tomatoes in August from down the road. But if it starts to get too precious, just remember that Portlandia episode!

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