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The Hungry Nomad: The Farm and Fisherman- Washington Square (Philadelphia, USA)

January 20, 2013

The Farm and Fisherman- Washington Square (Philadelphia, USA)

This was my first experience at a farm to table BYOB in Philadelphia. I had been trying to get reservations at this 30 seat restaurant for over a month. Somehow I was always too late and never got a spot for their weekend dinner rush. So I started stalking the team on Twitter and alas they had a last minute cancellation and I was in...and when I say I was in, I mean I was reaaaaaaally in. 

We walked in to an elegant dining room which without the signs outside looked like it could have been some one's fancy dining room. In fact we were treated like we were at a family's home. From our server Ben who took care of us to the nice and bubbly manager, Judy, who literally wined and dined us. I could not have asked for a better experience.  I would have been sold on the service alone...but the food...oh the food. For the whole 3 hours I was there, I was in heaven. When it all ended, I didn't want to leave and wished I could experience it all over again. 

The menu changes daily in order to provide the freshest pick of the day. There are four courses and four choices under each course. There were four of us and we decided to get one of each and share everything. This was really the best way to experience our meal since every single dish was exceptionally intricate and delicious. It would have been a shame not to experience it all. 

It started off with a bang. Beau soleil oysters served on a bed of salt rocks topped with hackleback caviar, cinnamon and a tint of blood orange. Small purple herbs were sprinkled throughout the dish making it not only great to taste but also great to look at. 

The oysters were so fresh I swear they may have been fished out of the ocean that same day.

Next came the cauliflower and mushroom salad.  A mix of greens, hen of the woods and trumpet mushrooms, almonds, cauliflower and goat cheese were elegantly presented. 

The mushrooms tasted earthy. Each bite was a blend of all the above ingredients which when mixed together resulted in one of the most amazing salad creations I have ever tasted. 

At this point we were already oohing and aahing over the food. But what came next left us all speechless. Have you ever had a vegetable steak? And I don't mean that frozen vegan stuff you can by at wholefoods. I mean a steak that tastes so good that you forget there is no meat and in fact wish meat could taste like it. If not then I highly recommend the bloody beet steak that chef Lawler has created. Not only was the presentation of the beet colorful and beautiful but the taste was amazing. Who knew beet could be so good. 

As a child I went out of my way to avoid eating beet which was ever so popular in my motherland being sold on cold winter days in food stands lining the streets of Tehran. These days I can't seem to get enough. Of course, eating a bloody boiled beet on its own is not quite the same as having it presented beautifully with purple edible herbs, yogurt, pan drippings and aged balsamic. This beet is cooked whole in a cast-iron pan under a brick and removed when the skin gets crispy and splits. Who knew there was so much beauty in beets? 

On to the second course. First came the grilled Spanish Mackerel served over granny smith apples with a mix of coriander, mustard oil and radish. The mix of the mackerel with the apple was again new to my taste buds and I absolutely loved it. 

The mackerel was so fresh it may have started swimming out of the plate had it not been grilled to perfection. The apple mix complimented the fish perfectly.  

The next dish was one of the top winners of the night (although they were all winners in my mind). Papperdelle with Wyebrook lamb shoulder ragu served with the most delicious tomato sauce, Parmesan and fennel seeds. A dried egg yolk was brought over and shaved on top to give it that extra touch. 

This is a dish that I always order when ever offered on a menu and so can say I have a basis for comparison. I'll keep it short and simple- it was the best. 

Another second course on the menu were the Barnegat sea scallops. It was served over smoked barley, creamed kale, sweet potato and maple syrup. I loved ever single ingredient in this dish from the smoked barley to the creamed kale. The importance is in the details and Chef Lawler has really got that down. 

The next dish was brought out by the famous chef himself. This was one of the most amazing mix of flavors and textures I've yet to taste in my 30 years. What was this mystery dish? The poached Wyebrook farm egg served over cracked rice, green wheat, farro piccolo, quinoa and squash. The texture of crispy, creamy and crunchy flavors mixed with the poached egg yolk was out of this world. I highly recommend you to order this dish if it ever finds its way on to the daily menu. 

For the main course we picked three of the four dishes offered. First up was the Hudson Valley Dorade served with creamed carrots, fennel, parsnips and cardamom for added flavor. 

Of the two fish we had that evening I definitely preferred the Spanish Mackerel. However, I did love the presentation of this plate. Triangular shaped pieces of dorade served over an orange colored puree topped with shaved pieces of carrots and parsnips. It was a work of art. 

Old spot pork loin from Wyebrook farm came next, served with sea island purple cape beans, beech mushroom, purple kale and pork belly pastrami. If you love pork then this dish will blow your mind away. The Chef purchases the animal whole and breaks it down piece by piece dispersing into various parts of the meal (if you are lucky enough you can sign up for one of their courses where Lawler teaches you how to cut meat at home). 

This pork dish is the real thing- served over beans drizzled with barbecue sauce and sprinkled with bright purple pieces of kale. A culinary masterpiece.

I rarely if ever order chicken when out at a restaurant. Mostly because there are so many other things that I always want to try and chicken seems so ordinary. Having tasted the Lancaster chicken baked in hay at Farm and Fisherman has made me think twice about my attitude towards chicken. This was my favorite main course of the night. I have never tasted a more flavorful chicken in North American where chicken is tasteless and bland. Perhaps it was because the chicken was local and organic or perhaps it was the magic performed in the kitchen that made this chicken so flavorful. I guess I will never know. 

The chicken was baked in hay and served on top of farmer's cheese spaetzle, bacon and mustard greens. A simple and hearty dish which hit all the right spots. 

For dessert we had the layered chocolate ganache and the warm apple pie. Layers of chocolate divided by a thin wafer topped with whipping cream and powdered sugar. Need I say more? 

The warm apple pie was so fresh, so warm and so perfect.

Perfect seems to sum up my experience at the Farm and Fisherman. A perfect and magical dining experience. 

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