3267 ivanhoe avenue
st. louis, mo 63139
after an entire month of not dining out due to a busy work schedule and watching the boston bruins play in the stanley cup playoffs, carrie and i made our long overdue first visit to farmhaus. located in lindenwood park, farmhaus is run by chef/owner kevin willmann, who prides himself in using as many fresh and local ingredients as possible. willman previously ran the kitchens at lucas park grill, mosiac, and erato before opening farmhaus in 2010. recently, he became the second ever (gerard craft of niche is the other) chef from st. louis to be named to food and wine's yearly top ten best new chefs list. farmhaus is open for dinner wednesday-saturday, and offers a fixed menu "blue plate special" lunch monday-thursday for a mere ten dollars.
with the bruins playing game one of the stanley cup finals at 7:30, we made our reservation for 5:30, and arrived right on time. we were seated at a two top against the far wall. the dining room was virtually empty upon our arrival, but by 6:30 it was at complete capacity. moments after being seated, we were quickly greeted by our server who was very friendly and explained the menu and restaurant concept to us in great detail. farmhaus essentially functions as a tapas style restaurant, with a menu made up of small plates that come out as they are ready with the idea of sharing in mind. anyone who has read my blog before knows that i like to try as many things as possible during a meal, so this approach worked wonderfully for me.
farmhaus has a nice wine list with several offering by the glass or bottle as well as a long list of craft beers and house made specialty cocktails. my cocktail choice (pictured left) was the red rooster made with buffalo trace bourbon, house infused sage vermouth, and house apple syrup. this was one of the better cocktails i have had in recent memory. i really enjoyed the sweet and spicy contrast that was going on, and even noted a hint of cinnamon present. carrie's cocktail, titled snaked juice, was house infused orange gin, house infused lemon gin, and late harvest semillon. while interesting, this drink didn't strike a positive chord with me as it was a bit more bitter than i normally prefer.
our first plate to arrive was a cheese plate featuring a goat's milk cherbourg from baetje farms along with an alpine from the marcoot jersey creamery. both cheeses were excellent, with neither being too mild nor too strong. my favorite was the alpine, which i found reminiscent of swiss cheese. also on the plate was a terric sweet and spicy apple-bacon chutney, a dab of honey, radishes, and a port wine gastrique.
with the cheese plate about halfway finished, our next plate was brought to the table. simply titled "nachos", this offering combined two items that i typically do not care for, sweet potatoes and ketchup. however, i had read several recommendations for this dish, and carrie was excited to try it. this dish is house made sweet potato chips topped with blue cheese, cherry wood smoke bacon lardoons, and fire roasted red pepper "catsup". with expectations tempered, i took my first bite and was met with a very pleasant surprise. the chips were of excellent texture, being somehow both crisp and chewy, and were excellent combined with the other ingredients. even the ketchup (which, granted, wasn't your average ketchup), which is something i normally avoid at all costs, was excellent. this dish reaffirmed my notion that in the hands of a great chef, any ingredient has the potential to be great.
with a decent portion of each of the first two dishes still remaining, our roasted mushroom salad arrived. along with the mushrooms were some greens, creamy goat cheese, toasted pecans, and a warm bacon vin. this was a nice salad with the woodsy mushrooms playing well with the slightly bitter greens and tart goat cheese.
it was at this point that we were ready for something else on the drink front, and each felt like a glass of wine. with two completely different plates coming next, i had a hard time honing in on a pairing. thinking i was playing it safe, i ordered us each a glass of the hybrid pinot noir from california. while very good, the wine had a bit more spice and smoke than i am used to from a pinot noir, and only really worked with one of the two dishes. this was not a big deal, and we ended up enjoying most of the wine during the break before dessert.
appropriately named "breakfast", this plate was incredible on all accounts. up front we have a stack of delicious corn flour blinis. essentially pancakes, these were topped with maple butter and were sweet in flavor, slightly crisp on the outside and fluffy within. simply tremendous. in the middle was a wonderfully sweet and savory maple link. my only complaint with the sausage is that there was only one! finally, we have a fresh prairie grass farm egg topping a decadent cube of high and low berkshire pork belly. appropriately fatty and unctuous, chef willmann's pork belly easily trumped the offerings i received at two separate michelin starred restaurant in chicago last month.
our final savory course of the meal came in the form of dill and butter poached escolar with grilled pacific blue prawns, and grilled asparagus. the escolar was high in flavor and was a good match with the pinot noir. the prawns and asparagus were also both very good.
upon savoring the last few drops of our wine, we were presented with a nice surprise. it turns out a coworker of carrie's is friends with somebody in the house, and were were brought a complimentary chocolate vodka cocktail. being equally chocolate and boozy, this drink was excellent with our desserts.
after our server explained the five dessert offerings to us twice, we opted for three selections. while i understand that it is hard to provide a printed dessert menu at a restaurant with an ever changing menu, i really would have preferred to be able to have a physical menu in front of me to consider.
first up was a berry panna cotta served with angel food cake and basil ice cream. the panna cotta was denser than i am used to, and full of fruit flavor. the angel food cake was well executed, and the basil ice cream added an interesting degree of savor to the mix. i certainly would not have complained had there been a touch more ice cream!
next up was a pecan financier with mint ice cream and pecan croutons. while good in every facet, this was probably my least favorite of the three desserts. to be clear, that is a product of the other to be exceptional and not a fault of this particular dessert.
our final dessert, which i somehow forgot to photograph (EDIT: big thanks to the delish dish for allowing me to use her photo), was a peanut butter cup of sorts. basically, it was a round chocolate shell filled with light peanut butter mousse with a thick peanut butter bottom. i am a lover of just about any dessert with peanut butter, and this was right up my alley.
overall, i am absolutely thrilled to have farmhaus in st. louis. not since my first meal at niche have i left a restaurant in st. louis with such enthusiasm. from a food standpoint, everything was excellent from start to finish, with exceptional flavors and quality ingredients. while the space may be a little boring, it works with the casual yet sophisticated feel of the restaurant. if i can offer one complaint, it would be that the pacing of the first three dishes was too fast. at one point, we had three dishes in front of us and felt a bit overwhelmed. while i realize that farmhaus is a busy place, i feel that more than two dishes at a time for a two top is too many. with that noted, i can say without reservation that farmhaus is easily in the top five meals i have had in the sub $150 price range, and i can see many more visits in our future.