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The Farmer & the Fox

Author: Julie Fadda Powers
September, 2014 Issue

The Farmer & the Fox
3111 St. Helena Hwy. N.
St. Helena
(707) 968-5434
Modern Gastropub
Dinner nightly
Entrées: $15-$32
Full bar, excellent wine list
 
The Farmer and the Fox is part of the newly opened, 58-acre Cairdean Estate, located at the base of Spring Mountain. The property includes the restaurant, a winery (the tasting room opened in April; do yourself a favor and make time for a tasting before dinner—the lineup is impressive), Butterscots Bakery and Deli (when we visited, it was scheduled to open in August) and Rosgal Mercantile. There are also event spaces (including weddings), a large outdoor patio, picnic grounds and more. Proprietors Stacia (who’s also the winemaker) and Edwin Williams are working hard to create a truly unique experience.
 
The restaurant, which opened in June, is a modern take on a British gastropub. It’s furnished in plush leather and dark wood, with a large, full bar, outdoor seating, checkered flooring and sleek light fixtures. It has a classic, stylish feel that could easily be a set for “Mad Men.”
 
James Kendall is the beverage director, and his specialty cocktails are each named after Scottish people and things. There’s also a nice selection of beer and wine on tap (we selected the 2012 Cairdean Sauvignon Blanc and 2010 Cairdean Farmer’s Blend Cabernet Sauvignon—both excellent). The eclectic menu (by Executive Chef Joseph Humphrey, with Chef de Cuisine Jason LaBue) includes small plates and entrées that range from oysters to freshly baked popovers (light and lovely) to game pie (it had venison, duck, squab and wild boar when we visited), seafood and a nightly rotisserie offering.
 
We started with “January’s pickles,” named after a roadie for The Doors (and others) who settled in Marin. They’re thick-sliced and you can also get them beer battered and fried. The recipe is by January’s wife. Next up were the smoked duck wings, which were incredibly tender and had a bit of a kick (horseradish), topped with crumbled blue cheese and drizzled with olive oil. The Scotch egg was soft boiled, wrapped in pork sausage, then breaded, fried and sliced in half, served with watercress and radish—um, yum.
 
For entrées, we went for the rotisserie special, which was “lamb saddle,” meaning the belly is wrapped around the loin with shoulder sausage, mint and basil. It was cooked and served with pattypan squash that collected the drippings. The end result is cut into herbaceous, tender medallions with fatty, crispy edges—delicious. We also had a succulent squab and lobster salad, which included one-half Maine lobster (already shelled) with smoked almonds, cauliflower and baby mustard greens (piled high). Sides included a huge ear of corn, sprinkled with shaved black truffles (sweet, crisp and savory all at once—definitely the best corn I’ve had) and sweet peas (plump, perfect) with creamy burrata and crunchy pistachios.
 
For dessert, we enjoyed flaming Spanish coffees with ginger ice cream cake layered with caramelized white chocolate, apricot and lemon; and a chocolate cherry tart with dark chocolate ice cream (the creamy, pudding-like ice creams are made on the premises) with a touch of salt.
 
Top that with outstanding hospitality and service (special thanks to our server, Farrah Greene) and we have a winner. I can hardly wait to return.

 

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