So it came to pass that Leon was one year older and festivities were duly arranged. Considering the gravity of the man’s ghastly age, it was decided that a full week must be engaged for the follies, beginning most auspiciously with a Monday evening three-course fixed menu meal at Forestville’s Farmhouse Inn. This local’s tradition continues through the end of this month.
On the evening we arrived, the prix-fixe featured a fresh piece of halibut, a gorgeous green salad, and a sweet for just $49. Perhaps this Michelin-starred restaurant meant no harm, intended no evil, when our hostess generously slipped us the night’s four-course fixed menu along with the Monday evening special. But alas.
Greens, firm white fish, and a sweet are all fine and good—but it took just one look at the asparagus-spring onion soup with Dungeness crab meat as a primi and grilled Mediterranean octopus for secondi, as well as the sight of their famed Rabbit-Rabbit-Rabbit available as a main—and all cost considerations were unceremoniously dumped. (Carrot cake for dessert was the only natural choice to follow the dinner’s fine sacrifice of lapin trois.)
But cost worries were the only things being dumped, because the finest points of decorum rule this room. Decorated with an eye to French campagne chic, replete with a rustic family mural by artist Alice Thibeau, the Farmhouse is a hushed-voice spot, the formality of the food and service helping timbres lower quickly.
We opted for the wine match, which brought the night’s sommelier to our table regularly. A young woman without a whit of makeup, the sommelier was dressed like a dowager in an ill-fiting dark blue suit and heavily sensible shoes. Being so clearly fit, her vigor shone through the drab and the effect was charming; her splendid youth cloaked in service to the gravity of her job under master sommelier Geoff Kruth, who is one of only 129 master sommeliers in North America.
Indeed, the meal itself was a two-hour appreciation of other people’s jobs. Executive chef Steve Litke keeps his plates simple and clean. The grilled octopus was served with roasted garlic, a hint of rosemary, a small amount of preserved lemon panisse, and a generous spoon’s smear of housemade harissa. The bread is housemade. Pastry chef Pattie Taan seems to remember that desserts are for eating as well as seeing. And everything is executed in a style nearly as balletic as the French Laundry crew after a dance lesson.
With the exception of one Napa Cabernet for Leon’s Eye of Prime Rib, the wines were all European. The sommelier explained that our local appellations lack the diversity of old country hillsides, being mostly planted to Sauv Blanc and Chardonnay; Merlot and Pinot Noir. We had a Greek white that tasted like it had been sieved through a handful of gravel that nearly made us weep for the lusty pleasures of summer.
But the Farmhouse is not a dining room in which one weeps nor whispers much of lust—unless it concerns the wrapped, roasted, and fat-poached rabbit that is loved up three ways. Run by the brother and sister team of Joe and Catherine Bartolomei, the Farmhouse offers a culinary experience equal to that of the francophiliac cleaning shack over the hill except that it’s possible to get a reservation at the Farmhouse and you might even be able to make your mortgage payment after eating there. (Our total with tip was $373.)
Meanwhile, Leon’s been restricted to a brown rice and steamed fish diet. That man needs to make it around to another year’s birthday follies. And you can bet the Farmhouse will be on the menu.