In October, we instituted a new rating system. Four toques is the highest a restaurant can receive if it meets the finest standards. I found one.
The Farm and Fisherman is a 30-seat BYOB owned by the husband-and-wife team of Josh and Colleen Lawler. Josh Lawler was the chef de cuisine at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, the ground-breaking New York restaurant and working farm from Chef Dan Barber, who spearheaded the farm-to-table movement. He met Coleen, a former sous chef at the Manhattan’s Picholine, at Drexel University.
The room features light wood and tables set with white cloths and napkins. The soft lighting was perfect; I could actually read the menu and admire the food on my plate. The staff kept the pace of our dinner running smoothly.
Keep in mind that Lawler adjusts his menu seasonably and sometimes daily.
Warm Parker House rolls and creamy butter kept Edward and I content as we talked over the menu. We brought a bottle of Muscadet and a fine Bordeaux.
Lawler had a warm touch with his cauliflower and mushroom salad ($11). He used trumpet, cremini and honey-cap mushrooms, sautéed in butter, which imparted a rich, heady woody flavor in contrast to the subtle cauliflower flavor, resulting in an appetizer that was vibrant and satisfying. A cool handful of microgreens, along with a drizzle of olive oil, capped the vegetables.
Lawler’s instinctive flair continued with Spanish mackerel ($14) paired with tart Granny-Smith-apple slices, minced coriander, fennel and mint and infused with mustard oil, which married perfectly with mackerel and herbs.
Sweetbreads ($14) have a mild flavor, and when properly done, they are seared crisp outside and remain creamy inside. Lawler hit the mark. He served them simply with some greens and cool, crisp radish slices.
Handmade tagliatelle ($18) was another winning dish because a few ingredients were permitted to sing in harmony without fuss. Cubes of slightly salty Berkshire pork belly mingled effortlessly with the fresh pasta ribbons, slices of black truffle and a hint of Parmesan cheese.
Several days before our dinner, I told Edward I was in the mood for venison. The culinary gods must have heard me. Lawler prepared one of the finest venison dishes ($34) I have ever tasted — a masterpiece of flavor and texture. My venison, topped with reduced pan juices, was medium-rare and so tender I could have cut it with a butter knife. Melt-in-your-mouth is relevant here. Late-fall is time for root vegetables and baby Brussels sprouts. Lawler added turnips, salsify, which has a mild artichoke-like flavor, some bacon for punch and baby sprouts, which were charred and had a smoky flavor and aroma. I finished every bit on my plate.
Edward and I have never tasted fennel pollen. It can be overwhelming. Lawler had a slight of hand with fennel pollen-crusted pork rack ($26), which was seasoned and hit the hot pan, producing a beautiful flavorful crust on the pork. Small, roasted baby lettuce, along with black and Carolina gold rice, were included on the plate.
We shared an apple tart ($8) with whipped cream, a light and sweet end to our meal.
It can be rare when a restaurant develops a loyal following. It took several tries to book a table. During our dinner, every seat was taken. Our waiter knew his repeat patrons. Colleen Lawler made her way through the boutique-size room insuring nothing was amiss.
I applaud the Lawlers for their steadfastness in supporting local farms and keeping us aware about the importance of American seasonal ingredients.
Four tips of the toque to The Farm and Fisherman.
1120 Pine St.
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