When I was 16, and about to choose my roster for senior year at Lower Merion High School, I told my guidance counselor that I had no intention of taking physics. He handed me a list of electives and I selected music, art and literature.
Mr. Mims, a bohemian eccentric who opened my eyes to the art world, taught that enchanting class. By age 16, I had visited the Art Museum, the Academy of Natural Sciences and The Franklin Institute. But in my salad years of studying art history, I had never traveled to The Barnes Foundation, let alone heard of it.
It was at The Barnes that I began my lifelong love affair with the works of Paul Cézanne. On our wedding anniversary in 2008, Edward and I visited The Barnes because we wanted one last glimpse into the life of Albert Barnes, an extraordinary collector, before the contents of the museum moved to its new home on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
Edward, Sandy and I were given tickets to The Barnes during its opening weekend. Looking at art makes me hungry. We lunched in the Garden Restaurant, a muted, airy space on the museum’s first floor. Save for a few items, the menu is plucked from the '80s. It’s for the ladies who lunch. Portions are small, service is courteous and prices are ridiculously high for what one is about to receive.
A carafe of iced tea for one ($4) comes with unlimited refills. Edward sipped a blueberry lemonade ($4), which was unusually delicious.
My niçoise salad ($17) consisted of eight small slices of cool tuna — seared rare — a tiny mound of local greens, sliced hard-cooked egg, three or four pitted olives, about six small slices of fingerling potatoes and a tiny scattering of haricot vert. I had to ask for bread and butter because my lunch was so small and light.
Sandy’s lunch was so late-'70s I had to laugh. Tarragon chicken salad served on a croissant with one leaf of Bibb lettuce and a smear of cherry compote ($13) was a tasty combination. A small tin bucket with about five or six in-house potato chips, along with a tiny ramekin that housed one tiny pickled red pepper strip, a carrot slice and piece of cauliflower came with all sandwiches.
Edward liked his buffalo mozzarella sandwich ($13) with roasted tomatoes and topped with pesto. It was served on a ciabatta roll.
We shared a chocolate mousse ($8), which was not at all sweet. I think we had two bites each.
I wanted to make a return visit to the Garden. Sandy and I arrived a few minutes before noon. By the time we left around 1:15, there was a line waiting to get in.
We shared the Farm to Table Tasting ($14).
“The vegetables today are green asparagus, white asparagus, roasted yellow beets, cipollini, eggplant and wax beans,” our server said.
The chef used baby carrots instead of wax beans but no matter. The cool vegetarian plate was lightly dressed in a vinaigrette, but cried out for salt and pepper. Our waiter brought us a pair of shakers. This dish was not worth the price.
We decided to sample the turkey BLT ($14). It was served on cool, slightly toasted slices of brioche, but I needed my handy dandy microscope to detect the Applewood smoked bacon and tomato. I guess there was about three or four ounces of roast turkey on the sandwich.
The Garden serves La Colombe coffee ($3), but desserts are lacking. The aforementioned chocolate mousse, cookies and tiramisu were on the dessert menu.
This restaurant should serve Bassetts Ice Cream during the summer. A cool soup such as gazpacho also would be welcoming. This is a most uninspiring menu.
I left the restaurant hungry on both occasions.
Our bill for our first lunch was $78.42. The bill for the second lunch was $45.80 including tax and gratuity.