Farmhouse Inn (Forestville, CA) – Country Eating

Farmhouse Inn is one of my favorite go-to restaurants in the area. It’s a nice 1 hour drive from the city and I think the restaurant really epitomizes what Sonoma County is all about (re: the down-to-earth revel-in-the-bounty of its beautiful countryside.)

The restaurant itself is fairly small (15 tables or so) and the decor is rather folksy. Ernest Hemingway quotes adorn the walls, candles are soft, and the dress tends toward the casual.

The cuisine is Californian w/ some French and Italian accents. Fresh local ingredients in season, simpler preparations, nothing experimental; the emphasis is definitely on comfort.

Formal Dining?
The prices are very reasonable and the entire restaurant has a relaxed aura. However, the refinement and execution of the cuisine should place it on any Bay Area top 10 list.

Foie Gras w/ pineapple
I can eat foie gras til I explode and I will almost always order it. If i were stuck in a pen being force-fed foie gras, I’d die a happy man. Straight-forward seared foie gras, crisp ‘skin’, bursts wonderful creamy when bitten into. It was served with a pineapple-salsa which didn’t work for me. This seemed to bely the ‘no experimentation/fresh local ingredients’ undertone of their other dishes.

Squash Blossom filled w/ Ricotta Cheese
A special dish – delicate, fresh, and delicious. I’m still learning how to de-construct recipes, but I think the blossom & cheese were poached. There was a serving of pasta that had an interesting twist: interspersed w/ the normal linguine was a vegetable cut like pasta. The contrast in textures was satisfying since the vegetable pasta had a nice bite.

Spring Chicken w/ Mascarpone
This wasn’t my dish but i wish i would’ve ordered it. I’m not a fan of ordering chicken at a restaurant because I’m rarely impressed (Bresse chickens in France might be a different thing), but this chicken was very good. The skin was perfectly crisped and the white meat was succulent.

Seared Halibut
I’m afraid Le Bernardin in NY might have spoiled cooked fish dishes for me forever. The halibut was well executed, crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, but i found myself comparing it to Le Bernardin. The quality of the fish was very good (but not excellent), the fish was cooked just right, but it wasn’t transcendental like Bernardin. Sigh – must erase that meal from my head. It was served on a bed of saffon potatoes, sweet white corn, and fava beans; all of which were seasoned perfectly and very tasty.

Cheese course
I like cheeses but i’m not a big snob about them; however, i make it a point to order the cheese tasting at Farmhouse. Why? To listen to Andreas talk about cheese (and life.) He wheels his cheese cart across the room, and his passion for cheese radiates from behind it. He alone can be worth coming to the restaurant.

Fennel Panna Cotta
This dessert bordered on sublime. The fennel was very very faint, but its presence gave each bite a nice cool finish that lasted for 15-20 seconds.

The Wait
We had to wait 20 minutes to be seated (“a crazy sunday”); as a sign of thanks, they comped me a glass of wine, a dessert wine w/ the foie gras, and another dessert wine w/ the cheese. And to top it all, they gave us each a free mini-souffle:

Kentucky Bourbon Chocolate Souffle
Not a fan of souffles, but if it’s free, you must accept it and eat. And i’m glad i did. Crispy top, gooey middle, the bourbon gave it a slight edge that went well w/ the cream.

I’m a big fan of the restaurant and I make it a point to visit at least once every 6 months. It’s a nice way to end a Sunday up north. The food is always solid, and there are always 2-3 very special dishes (squash blossom, fennel panna cotta, spring chicken this time.) Don’t expect to be wowed w/ fancy preparations or flavor combinations; instead, expect to be wowed by the respect and care given to the food.

Olivia and Oren raced to Farmhouse Inn in their borrowed M5 on my recommendation. She didn’t quite share my enthusiasm but you can still get a sense for the great ingredients Farmhouse uses.

- chuck

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