pringtime is a season of new beginnings and vivid sensations. Luckily for diners at Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens, some of the freshest vegetables are also ready for harvest. The new spring menu is a testament to locally sourced ingredients and dedication to telling an original story, and as Executive Chef Rich Mead can say, every dish has one.
The debut began with mixologists Anthony Laborin’s aromatic All Up Piña cocktail, a refreshing but slightly bitter concoction of pineapple guava and lime, plus grapefruit and tequila highlights that warmed me up as its name suggests. While the sky grew darker, twinkling lights came on like bright stars illuminating a social scene of animated chatter and floral ambiance. It was the perfect environment to enjoy a pumpernickel toast piled with house cured salmon, capers and pickled red onion. A pour of Mont Gravet Rosé came tumbling into my glass like glorious ambrosia, and the servers brought out a colorful salad. My fork then took me on a trip to the farmer’s market, making a stop to sample lush strawberries, and on to try the freshest sugar snap peas, piquant radishes and crumbles of luxuriously creamy goat cheese. The diverse flavors and textures (pistachios for added crunch) came together on a bed of leafy greens from Coleman Farms, covered in balsamic dressing.
For the second course, our table was blessed with a visit from the roasted vegetable trinity. Roasted asparagus, cooked to the perfect firmness, came anointed by a delectably creamy yellow sauce gribiche and a crumbly Parmesan cheese chip that dissolved in the mouth. Next was the roasted cauliflower, expertly charred and sliced like a slab of meat, complete with toppings like steak too – a light chimichurri drizzled over fresh greens and pine nuts. Last was the jewel of the trio, satsumaimo, a purplish-red skinned Japanese sweet potato variant that packs a satisfyingly sweet taste. Chef Mead realized at a New Year’s Eve party that they were good enough to eat without any toppings, and quickly brought them into his kitchen. The result accentuated the yams in a dark apple cider molasses glaze alongside fresh chives for garnish, making the recipe an exquisite balance of caramelized earthy sweetness and salty tang.
The farm met the sea in the smoothest, melt-on-the-tongue fish I had ever eaten, our third course. Panko crusted Icelandic cod, alabaster and so tender, was plated on a bed of creamy Tehachapi Grain Project farro, fava beans and English green peas. Sun dried tomatoes exploded like zesty fireworks beside the olive tapenade.
After polishing off the last morsel, I took a moment to sip the latest drink, a spiced rum daiquiri whose nutmeg aroma transported me from spring to Christmastime. A smell of broth pulled me firmly back to the present, ready to indulge in Hoisin glazed pork tenderloin and Saimin ramen noodles. Enjoy it I did, with an appreciation for the nuanced layers of soft mouth-feel and savory fattiness, the love child of a laborious three-day affair that includes blanching the bones and later removing the marrow. In the kitchen, they start with 40 quarts and are left with eight by the end.
A cheese plate of Neal’s Yard White Cheddar, Rogue Creamery Caveman Blue, Brillat Savrin Affine and a dollop of yuzu marmalade prepared my palate for dessert. The strawberry shortcake was agreeably not overly saccharine, but a 10-year-old tawny port picked up the slack.
Our glasses were empty and our stomachs full. Evening winds rustled through the trees and Chef Mead came around to wish us a good night. The introduction of the new spring menu shined a light on chef’s ingenuity and his roots, a fresh story that could be felt in the food and the air at Farmhouse.