After last night I can finally cross Farm Shop off my "must-eat" list. I wasn't planning on staying for dinner but after finishing work in Malibu, I came down the coastline and scooted up San Vicente to meet my mom and Aunt Johnnie for an early evening glass of vino. They were in town for the day shopping at a European container sale (they are pretty serious about French antiques and they'll travel just about anywhere in hopes of discovering a one-of-a-kind hidden gem; adrenaline junkies, indeed) and so I picked the first place that came to mind in the area: Farm Shop.
Nestled in the Brentwood Country Mart is Chef Jeffrey Cerciello's Farm Shop, half seasonal restaurant, half artisan market, all in one space. The market area walls are lined with wine by the bottle, Heath ceramics, jams, oils, chocolate, etc. There is a large cheese counter in the center that also offers charcuterie and a deli case of ready-made salads and sandwiches. In the far corner is a coffee bar complete with pastries and breads. Then a little wine bar and the restaurant - sort of an amazing combination, right?
Cerciello was previously the director of the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group's casual dining division (Bouchen, Bouchen Bakery, and Ad Hoc). I learned that he opened for dinner at Farm Shop late in 2011 after over a year of just breakfast, brunch, and lunch while dealing with politics and waiting on a beer and wine license. He tried doing a daily, family-style menu, but ended up adding ala carte options after struggling with feedback from the neighborhood diners. One thing that's exciting is the fact that he's serving fried chicken ala Ad Hoc, well, almost. He developed that original recipe and then used it as the base for his Farm Shop fried chicken that is offered for supper on Sundays.
So we sat at the wine bar sipping syrah and snacking on smoked pistachios and it wasn't long before the lovely lady at the cheese counter had created a custom cheese plate for us complete with Lucques olives, raspberry thyme jam, three cheeses (a cow, a sheep, and a goat) - her favorites. After my mom and aunt confessed their hunger, we decided to make an evening of it and stay for dinner.
They ordered the family-style dinner, and since I wasn't super hungry, I added an ala carte Burrata starter and then asked for an extra plate to share their dinner which the staff was surprisingly gracious about given that the family-style dinner is $56 per person and I just wanted to mooch off their food without ordering my own share of the meal. Gracious front of house staff...check.
Jidori Chicken Liver Mousse
with Grandfather Port, Peppercorn Gelee, and Toasted Baguette
Prime T-Bone for Two
with smashed weiser farms potatoes, parisian carrots, padron peppers, toasted pine nuts, and mint salsa
[they presented it whole and then took it back to the kitchen to slice and finish. nice touch.]
Roasted Mayfire Nectarine
with local macadamia nuts, olallieberries, and marsala mousse
oh and my ala carte Burrata
with shaved lompoc asapargus, strawberries, smoked almonds, and summer savory
Everything was perfectly executed and seasoned. The flow of the service was thoughtful and smooth. As we were finishing our steak, a guy in chef whites comes over to ask how everything was. I tell him the parisian carrots were the cutest things I'd ever seen (because, duh, they were, google them and see for yourself) and then I asked him about the delicious mint salsa that was spooned over the top of the steak (sort of like a gremolata). I kid you not, he just stared at me.
So, I start guessing ingredients...citrus...mint...garlic....
...and there he is... still staring.
Then he abruptly says, "I'm not sure what's in it" and just sort of saunters off.
My mom turns to me and says, " I can't figure out if he really didn't know what was in it or if he just didn't want to tell you".
Clearly it was the latter.
It was an odd interaction but the meal was perfect and the company was outstanding. The awkward part presented itself when I got home and started to do a little bit of research on Farm Shop. Low and behold, Mr. Odd Interaction was none other than Chef and Owner, Jeffrey Cerciello.
Story of my life.