Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Flatbush Farm

A corn cake with fresh corn and a plump poached duck egg at Flatbush Farm
As food movements go, the "farm to table" movement may be the one I approve of the most. It is concerned with growing food locally and sourcing it directly to restaurants, so that fresh seasonal ingredients can be served to customers without the need for elaborate preparation. I am particularly happy with this idea in the summer, when the tomatoes and corn in this area are glorious and sweet and fresh herbs are plentiful.

Flatbush Farm brings the farm to table concept to Park Slope, offering seasonal produce from Long Island, eggs and apples from upstate and cheeses and lamb from Vermont, among many other local staples, all served in a setting more appropriately thought of as rustic urban chic. Rows of tables are covered with light brown paper and simple candles, surrounded by dark brown leather benches and wooden chairs. In nice weather, a surprisingly large garden unfolds in the back.

Corn Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes
At a recent meal, appetizers reflected the early September harvest. The star was a corn cake accompanied by fresh corn cut from the cob and topped with a plump white duck egg. When broken, the egg oozed out over the plate creating a rich sauce. Corn also took center stage in a summery salad, paired with heirloom tomatoes, sugar snap peas and fresh mozzarella, all marinated in a lightly spiced red wine vinaigrette. It tasted like late summer, some fresh basil rounding out the simple flavors. I found the dressing a little overpowering for such glorious ingredients, but I happily devoured it anyway.

We rounded out our post-Labor Day state of denial with a bottle of fruity organic rosé from Aix-en-Provence, admittedly skipping over the Channing Daughters rosé from Long Island only because we'd enjoyed several bottles of it already this year.

Duck Brest with Duck Confit Tots
The best entree of the night was duck breast with duck confit "tots", heirloom squash and grilled peaches. The duck was cooked to a perfect medium rare with crispy skin and the squashes were nicely seasoned. The tots were a little confusing, as they mainly tasted like tater tots with the vaguest hint of duck, a waste of a prized ingredient.

Other entrees were enjoyable even if we were not wowed. A roast chicken with horseradish mashed potatoes was competent comfort food but nothing special. Cavatelli with more corn, Parmesan and a light tomato sauce was a nice concept, the sauce fresh and rustic with a hint of vinegar. Unfortunately, the texture of the cavatelli missed the mark. I love pasta with a bite, but it had too much and bordered on chewy. I'd order the chicken again but will skip the cavatelli.

Cavatelli with Corn, Parmesan and Tomato Sauce
One thing to be prepared for is an opinionated staff. The chef and waitstaff are quite particular and many specific requests were refused. At first I was thrilled. A request for the corn salad dressing on the side was politely rejected, our waitress explaining that the salad was marinated in the dressing but reassuring my dining companion that she would love it, which she did.

When she refused to put in a duck order for medium well, I cheered inside; she explained that the duck would not be appealing at that temperature. I was glad she stood her ground, as I am all for making reasonable substitutions and the customer being right, but I think more restaurants should insist on not overcooking proteins that need to be left tender. I don't want to see tuna cooked medium-well (gross) or even steak (dry, tasteless), and I wince when customers order their food overcooked and then complain later that it is tough or dry.

The finickiness continued. No American coffee was served, only espresso drinks, and once again I rejoiced. Having just returned from Spain where the coffee is rich and glorious, I am still getting re-acclimated to watery American drip. But then it started to get to be too much, even for me. No decaf--I get the idea, and perhaps in principle I approve, but at 10pm many people don't want to be caffeinated and maybe they could give it a rest. No sugar substitutes--again, I might even agree in principle, and I'd be fine with them not putting them on the table, but they should be provided on request. What began as a firm defense of food that is fresh, tasty, not dry, cooked right had become a snobbery that was off-putting. At some point customer preferences have to mean something.

Even more off-putting was an automatic 20% gratuity calculated on an after-tax basis. I consider that a generous reward for top-notch service, which it was not, but in any event for only 5 people that should be left to the customer's discretion.

Brownie with Peanut Butter Ice Cream
Dessert options to go with our espresso drinks included a warm brownie with peanut butter ice cream, the ice cream having only a subtle flavor of peanut butter that enhanced but did not overpower the chocolate. It was served with fun little skewers of charred marshmallows. A warm apple and corn cobbler was confusing, in particular for a strong dose of cayenne or something else spicy, which I enjoyed but everyone else at my table found almost inedible. With four of the five of us complaining, many other restaurants might not have charged us for it.

In the end, it was an enjoyable meal. The food was fresh, the atmosphere was pleasant and I appreciate the skill with which the seasonal bounty is deployed. I will return, perhaps multiple times, but I will think twice before bringing a large party.

Flatbush Farm
76 Saint Marks Avenue
(718) 622-3276
http://flatbushfarm.com/

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