December 10, 2010

River Market restaurant's menu changes with the seasons
by Beck Ireland

Fried Green Tomato Sandwich (photo courtesy Becca A., Yelp)

Despite its name, which evokes plain, rustic fare, The Farmhouse offers small plates and entrees more easily described as contemporary fine dining than meat and potatoes. However, its connection to local growers — a claim of from “farm-to-table” — is genuine. In July 2009, Chef Michael Foust opened the restaurant in the River Market with the intention of serving dishes based on seasonal and local produce, baked goods, and meats and cheeses and updates the menu to reflect their changes in availability.

Ralph Waldo Emerson's foolish consistency can't be found at The Farmhouse. A testament to the changeable bill of fare, a chalkboard next to the bar lists the local farms that supply the restaurant, such as Green Dirt Farms (cheese), Windhaven Farm (chicken and eggs), and Prairie Birthday Farms (arugula and fennel). In addition, Foust supplements this local bounty with items from a garden in the restaurant's yard. In the summer months, the menu boasts strawberries and heirloom tomatoes. However, due to recent seasonal changes, dishes on the menu now include greens, squash and other seasonal fruit.

For a quick lunch, light dinner, or for those who have a difficult time deciding what to order, The Farmhouse makes available a variety of soups, salads and manageable bites that can be mixed and matched on the small plates section of the menu. The French onion soup ($5) consists of a savory broth topped with a thick layer of crusty bread and melted, stretchy cheese. Bacon and a soft-boiled egg, which unfortunately was not quite soft enough, accompany greens and croutons on the farmer salad ($6). Tangy and crispy fried goat cheese practically makes a satisfying meal in itself when served on top of spinach and fruit for the spinach salad ($6), although the fried coating left a bit of an oily aftertaste.

Although the chickpea fritters' ($9) square shape makes them look like something that would be served to George Jetson, they are surprisingly aromatic and piquant. A spicy carrot and smoked pepper salad accompanies them. Thankfully, the salad is the only seasonal change to this specialty, and the fritters, along with the seared polenta cake ($15), remain an excellent vegetarian staple on the menu.

As a result of additional changes to the menu, the small plate pumpkin and squash ravioli ($13) recently underwent a seasonal makeover. The succulent pillows filled with the sweet puree are now served with the same silky brown butter, but comes with field grapes and crispy shallots instead of dried sage. This gives the dish an entirely different mouth feel, but still provides a satisfying contrast.

The large plates consist mostly of comfort foods tweaked for fine dining. The cast iron roasted chicken breast ($18) comes with a Parmesan risotto and green beans. The pork confit ($18) is accompanied by baby squash and zucchini, mustard greens, and a take on the mashed potato, a crispy mashed potato cake. In general, the small plates are more imaginative and a better bargain, except for the sandwiches. The burger ($9), served with house-cut fries and in-house ketchup, is seasoned well and becomes a fine-dining experience when paired with crisp fresh greens, tomato, and onion.

The Farmhouse also serves brunch on Saturdays. However, its bacon, egg, lettuce and tomato sandwich was dry and without the tomato wouldn't have much flavor. In addition, the farmer breakfast doesn't offer more than a typical diner breakfast. The French press coffee, although spot on, isn't worth the trip alone.

The L-shaped storefront has been done up in a casual style, but could use a little more warmth. The bar section is cozy and inviting, and carries more of the theme of a farmhouse, but isn't where the diners sit for the most part. When not busy, the back section seems a bit like an afterthought with a small screen hiding another section of the building. But in general, the place is comfortable and the service is friendly and helpful, if not too speedy.

Beck Ireland can be contacted at beck.Ireland@gmail.com.

The Farmhouse
300 Delaware
Kansas City, MO 64105
(816) 569-6032

Hours:
Mon. - Fri. 11 am-2pm
Saturday brunch 9am - 2pm
Thursday 5 pm-10 pm
Friday and Saturday 5 pm-11 pm


(photo by Bruce Rodgers)

Ratings: (out of four stars)

FOOD: ***
SERVICE: ***
ATMOSPHERE: **
PRICE: $$-$$$

Key: $-under $10 • $$-$10 to $20 • $$$-over $20