Nestled about half way between Rensselaer and Roselawn, Indiana (and yup, get your Google Maps App fired up to find those two cities), lies Fair Oaks, IN, home to The Farmhouse Restaurant. The Farmhouse Restaurant is part of a much larger organization called Fair Oaks Farms, occupying 33,000 acres and dedicated to educating and entertaining visitors with the many facets of farming. To that end, The Farmhouse is an incredible example of “Farm to Plate” restauranteering. Everything and I mean everything, is sourced either from their operation or from farms that can be driven to easily. Their story is one of food for sure, but it is more than just eating. It is clear that they want to teach about how our food starts its journey from the farm to our plate. And The Farmhouse story is a very tasty one at that.
Angela is our server tonight and we are seated next to the kitchen, which is behind a glass wall. Visitors can see it all. This is a very polished operation and it is clear that The Farmhouse and its staff maintain a high level of attention to detail. This is a very welcoming place which can satisfy even the most sophisticated of palates. Karen and I ask Angela if she would like to have some fun with us tonight, and with only a little hesitation, the game was on and Angela was going to Bring Us Dinner!
Just for starters, Angela brought us out some fresh cornbread. Of course, a farm staple. But this cornbread had more to it, infused with green chilies and cheddar cheese and topped with homemade butter. The cornbread was just for me, but I did my best to share my warm smile with Karen as I enjoyed each bite.
While we were getting started, the manager stopped by to visit. Richard asked us about BMD and told us a few stories about the restaurant. As the evening pressed on, I noticed that he supported his staff often by delivering meals out to guests. You could watch him work with the staff to make sure the meals met his (and the restaurant’s standards). I am always appreciative of a manager who is visible and is making sure that the ship is sailing in the right direction.
The appetizer we had was certainly a new one to us, and one that had our mouths watering: The Farmhouse Bacon Sampler. Yea… Bacon. Because you can never go wrong with bacon. Three versions of bacon: a BBQ, a Black Pepper, and a Cajun bacon, all with just the right amount of fat, served with a Cowboy Mustard (whole grain mustard) and an apple chutney. Oh my! They must slice these off of a slab in the kitchen. Such a simple appetizer with a very complex presentation and taste. I am probably going to copy this idea for guests at my home.
For the main course, Richard had hinted that he was going to bring us a specific dish. I loved how he asked his questions to see if he could get some insight to our likes and dislikes. Nice try! But fear not, we stayed true to waiting patiently for our main courses without tipping our cards too much.
Richard and Angela served us their Espresso Encrusted Pork Ribeye, a Ribeye burger, and a side of deep fried Brussel sprouts.
I’ll start with the simple first: the ever present Brussel Sprouts. The Farmhouse’s rendition of Brussel Sprouts are simply deep fried. No breading or batter, just deep fried for the exact amount of time to make them firm, but not hard, and then seasoned with parmesan and sauted onions. Simple but very tasty.
Next, the Ribeye Burger. Prepared with meat sourced locally, and by locally I mean down the street. It is grilled to an absolutely perfect medium to medium-rare and served with a Chipotle Mayo, Baby Arugula, Tomato and a slice of Havarti Pepper cheese. My mouth is watering again thinking about this burger. This was the kind of burger that dripped down your hand. Just awesome.
The final dish was the Espresso Encrusted Pork Ribeye. Again, sourced literally down the street, this had to be the most tender Pork Ribeye, a.k.a. a Pork Chop, I think I’ve ever had. Served on a warm bed of garlic mashed potatoes, this chop could easily be cut with a fork. And the taste of this Ribeye had just a hint of sweet. As we learned later, one of the elements of their pork’s diet is cereal and sweet cakes that have been rejected by the local Sara Lee bakery (certainly edible but just not saleable).
Now, I’m sure some might question this kind of diet for livestock, but let me tell you that the result is a mouth-watering, sweet journey with America’s other white meat.
As our dinner was winding down and Karen and I were considering our long evening drive back to Michigan, Angela asked if we would like her to serve us dessert. Our reply? We are in your home, so please serve us as you would like. What did she bring out? The biggest, richest piece of Carrot Cake I’ve ever had. The homemade frosting is just simply melt in your mouth good. And for Karen? A gluten free chocolate torte which is sooooo smooth, it eats like a cheese cake. Just delicious.
For our final treat, Angela had arranged for us a tour of the kitchen with Sous Chef Christopher. What an eyeopener to the orchestration needed to operate a kitchen and dining hall this size. The Farmhouse is quite an operation. That is a testament to the entire staff’s attention to detail, and to their dedication to living into The Farmhouse’s mission statement of entertaining and educating their guests of the Farm to Plate process.
Much more could be said, but I will leave the rest to The Farmhouse Restaurant.