Where ‘Farm to Table’ is more than a taglineEat This! Thursday, June 11th, 2015
Farmer’s Bottega is one of the gleaming gems in Mission Hills’ culinary crown. Chef/owner Alberto Morreale brings his Sicilian roots, professional training and years of experience to the bistro table. The varied menu and natural ingredients reflect his lifelong passion for garden-fresh locally sourced cuisine. “Food doesn’t need to be complicated,” Morreale once said, “but it is important to know where it comes from.”
Entering the cozy restaurant is like stepping into an intimate funky-chic farmhouse. The high ceilinged space incorporates exposed brick, open beams, Edison-bulb chandeliers and a feature wall made from reclaimed wooden produce crates, some sprouting fresh herbs. There’s a small bar in one corner adjacent to the semi-open kitchen, and an outdoor seating area on the palm shaded patio. My hunky tattooed dinner companion and I were promptly seated at a window table one recent unhurried evening.
We selected an Argentinian Malbec to complement our meal. The grapes for the 2013 vintage are hand harvested from vines that have been growing in the foothills of the Andes for more than 100 years. The fruit produced a well-structured dark cherry-red wine with an intense nose, mild acids and tannins, and bright fruity notes with an oaky finish. Incidentally, bottles of wine are 50 percent off on “Wine-Down” Mondays.
As an introduction, we chose the Fried Green Tomatoes and Housemade Meatballs. Thick slices of tangy juicy tomatoes are dipped in egg batter and panko crumbs, fried to a golden brown and delicate crunch, then served with nutty arugula and halved cherry tomatoes tossed in a slightly sweet poppy seed vinaigrette. A drizzle of smoky chipotle remoulade completes the presentation and flavor profile. The housemade meatballs, redolent with minced garlic, are served in a rich parsley and oregano infused vine-ripe tomato sauce thickened with parmesan cheese. Cracked black pepper provides a mild heat. We agreed the sauce should be bottled and available commercially.
We ordered the Buffalo Filet and Flat Iron Pork as our main courses. The six ounce lean succulent buffalo filet, sourced from the Durham Ranch of Gillette, Wy., is herb rubbed before being grilled to a turn. The flavorful pink-centered, mildly gamey filet is topped by crisp thinly sliced onion rings, and served with garlic mashed potatoes, faintly bitter broccoli rapini and a well-balanced reduction of dark chocolate and petite Syrah wine. A very satisfying and savory selection. Which contrasted nicely with the sweet profile of the Flat Iron Pork. The thin steak, cut from the pork shoulder, is served with honeyed caramelized apples, a velvety butternut squash mash, tender steamed kale and piquant au jus. While appetizing, the steak was however, overcooked – the only off note of an otherwise flawless dining experience.
Jorge, our friendly and attentive server, tempted us with the dessert menu. Would we select the molten chocolate cake or the cassata, an Italian cheesecake? Or would we choose either the ricotta berry or pear cranberry tart? My handsome companion and I locked eyes, patted our full stomachs and shook our heads. We were sated.
“Farm to Table” is more than a tagline at Farmer’s Bottega. It’s a way of life. Farmer’s Bottega
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