Sunday, July 10, 2005

Farm 255 (or how to eat local)

The Carnivore did, in fact, take Fat Baby and I out to eat on Friday evening. This was quite an event for all of us as it was the first time all three of us have gone together to a restaurant, and Fat Baby and I got dressed up for the occasion. We dined downtown, where The Carnivore and I used to spend all of our Going Out Time, though it was the first time we were there for any social reason in two years. We ended up running into an old friend who was a bit surprised to see us with a baby.

Farm 255 is all its cracked up to be. Picking an appetizer was easy, as was dessert, but settling on an entree proved to be most difficult. It could be months before we eat out again, so I wanted to choose wisely. The menu is simple, with only five or six choices each for appetizers and entrees. The chef serves what is in season at their farm, and the menu changes daily. The ambience is eclectic enough to be definitive Athens. The restaurant is located in the back of an old warehouse, behind Flicker and Clocked, with a view overlooking the courtyard of The Caledonia Lounge. The walls are brick with large, old windows on two sides. The ceilings are high and the ductwork is exposed. The floors are a gorgeous stained concrete. The bar is along one side, a beautiful custom-built wooden structure that goes nicely with the matching tables & chairs. The kitchen is open to the dining area. The food is plated very elegantly, with West Coast sized servings (unlike the usual gut-busting, obesity-inspired serving sizes handed out at chain restaurants).

For starters, we were served fresh peasant bread with olive oil. We ordered fried green tomatoes for an appetizer and were brought three perfect tomatoes, fried in grits and served over a bed of wilted kale.

The chef brought us a lemon cucumber salad that Fat Baby fought me for. The cucumber was sliced so thinly as to be transparent and tossed with basil and lemon. Where so many restaurants season their dishes to within an inch of their life, to the point where the flavor of the herbs and spices overpowers the taste of the dish itself, at Farm 255, the vegetables are the stars of the show.

The Carnivore ordered a skewered shrimp dish for his entree, but I paid scant attention to it. I waffled between ordering the Vegetables Perfect (what a great name!) and a savory mushroom crepe. I asked the waitress for a recommendation between the two and she leaned toward the vegetables. Her description was enough to convince me, when she beamed and called it a "big, beautiful bowl of vegetables." She was right.

The Vegetables Perfect was, indeed, beautiful. It was a mixture of sauteed and roasted cherry tomatoes, onions, leeks, and green beans; served with smashed potatoes and a shot glass of the freshest pesto I've had to date. The dish was so simple, yet everything was cooked to the perfect consistency and was seasoned just enough to enhance the natural flavors. The tomatoes had the biggest effect on me, since I am normally not at all impressed with the flavor or the texture. They were cut in half, marinated in some sort of nectar from on high, and roasted ever so slightly; just enough that they burst in my mouth with the most exsquisite gush of tartness.

I didn't even bother trying The Carnivore's dish, so enamored was I with my own entree, and I had to threaten him with the mean end of my fork to keep him out of my own plate.

For dessert, we had a blueberry, blackberry, and goat cheese crepe that all three of us polished off in a mere minute. The sweet-tartness of the berries contrasted fabulously with the texture of the cheese, and the freshness of the fruits was more than obvious.

If nothing else, eating at Farm 255 will convince anyone to eat organic, to eat fresh, and to snub the trucked-in, over-fertilized, hybrid fruits and vegetables that are now imported from Chile.

I was hoping Hurricane Dennis would force Fabulous Uncle to evacuate himself from Tallahassee to Athens, because I knew he would LOVE Farm, but alas, he chose to ride out the storm in the panhandle, and here I am wishing I had him to use as my excuse to go back and try the savory mushroom crepe.

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