There 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.
We 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.
I 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.
All 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.