Friday, February 21, 2014


Eating at a tavern, you can generally find burgers and sandwiches (with fries) on the menu.  They might be really good burgers and fries, but they are still burgers and fries.  Occasionally though, a tavern will expand their menu.  The food will still be relatively simple but they can still manage to do a really good seasonal menu.  Farmhouse, a tavern that I visited for dinner recently is just such a place.  They call themselves a Midwestern craft tavern with a local seasonal focus and I can go with this description.  The focus of the space is on the bar on the right side of the room.  There is a metal banquette for seating on the left side with high top butcher block tables.  The design is very rustic and vintage with light shade frames around the hanging lights.  There is a small picket fence winding around the unfinished ceiling, the shelves holding the liquor behind the bar looks like something you would see at an old apothecary shop, and there is even an old card catalog cabinet also behind the bar.  The walls are unfinished, whitewashed brick and there is an old refrigerator behind the bar for (local) beer that looks like it was built from an old jet engine.  It is round with a conical top, a brushed steel exterior, and a  turntable inside.  When I arrived, I was seated along the wall next to a stained glass screen.  While I was near the center of the restaurant, because I next to the screen, it was like I had my own corner.  I came during restaurant week so they were offering a prix fixe menu at a slight discount in addition to their normal menu.  I decided to go with the prix fixe menu because there was something there that I was interested in that was not on the regular menu.  I started with Beer Battered Wisconsin Cheese Curds with Spicy Aioli and Housemade Maple Ketchup.  Cheese curds are a byproduct in the manufacture of cheese.  They are slightly oddly shaped and have a rubbery texture and a mild flavor.  When they are fresh, they squeak when they are bitten into. While that isn't the most appetizing of descriptions, they are really good.  These cheese curds were beer battered and fried which added a malty flavor and a crispy exterior as well as the stretchy interior.  They didn't squeak because they were fried but they were still really good.  While the cheese curds were good on their own, they were served with an aioli and ketchup for dipping.  The aioli was tangy and garlicky with a nice spicy finish that went well with the curds.  The ketchup, on the other hand, had a maple flavor that really did nothing for me.  While I did try the ketchup a few times, if I dipped a cheese curd, it was going to be in the aioli.
 My main course was the item that wasn't on the main menu and I am not sure why because it was really good.  I got a Northstar Bison Meatloaf with Horseradish Potatoes, Redeye Gravy, and Crispy Tobacco Shallots.  I like meatloaf even if I don't eat it often.  Bison is more lean than beef and had a slightly different flavor, not exactly gamy but it did have a fuller flavor.  The mashed potatoes were creamy and well seasoned with enough horseradish to flavor it but not enough to take your head off.  Red eye gravy is made with coffee and the meat drippings and added another strong flavor that tied the potatoes and meatloaf together.  The shallots were served on top of everything like a garnish and added a crunchy, oniony flavor which went well with everything.
 When I saw the list of desserts, I knew what I wanted immediately.  I got the Chocolate Peanut Butter Tart with Salted Caramel Ice Cream, Spiced Peanuts, and Whiskey Caramel.  It lived up to my expectations it was sweet, rich, complex, and very decadent.  The different elements of the dish, while all good individually, brought different flavors and textures that all worked together to make something that was better than it's individual elements.  It was a great dessert and a great finish to a satisfying meal.  The food was good, but I also liked the service and the design and I will be happy to return.    

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