Friend of a Farmer…and Friend to Me.
Friend of a Farmer is a strange place, in a way, because it convincingly transports you from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan to a bucolic country kitchen. It’s almost eery how accurately this popular brunch spot nails down the charming kitschiness of a grandmother’s kitchen or the warm cozy feeling of a country cottage.
The restaurant consists of three main areas: 1) the outdoor terrace seating that is guaranteed to be mobbed during the summer months, 2) the indoor bar and sitting room with a fireplace and armchairs, 3) the upstairs dining room with about 15-20 rough hewn wood tables for a variety of group sizes. Each area is peppered with little details that make you feel like you’ve been transported home (or back in time) – lace curtains, fresh flowers, knick knacks on the mantle, embroidery, and so on and so forth.
I’m so very glad my long-time neighbor in Boston recommended this spot to my mother and that coincidentally, my dining companion Alex brought it up as a suggestion, for Friend of a Farmer is truly a comfort food gem. And while comfort food very rarely reaches true gastronomic heights, Friend of a Farmer churns out extremely tasty and hearty dishes with innovative flavor palettes and modern presentation.
Every bit of food I put in my mouth last night was fresh and beautifully done. From the cornbread with apple and peach jam to my entree to our basket of fresh farm breads for the dessert, each dish gave the illusion of being prepared especially for you, with love and care. The ‘bread’ presented at the beginning of the meal was buttery and crumbly cornbread, served warm with apple and seasonal peach jam. It tasted like something my mother would bake at a holiday meal.
The real star of the show though was my Terry Alan Stuffed Chicken dish. It was mind-blowing. I actually giggled with glee while eating it and cleaned my plate despite the enormous helping. The dish sounds a bit odd and upon reading it off the menu, I decided it would either be delicious or terrible. Clearly, the former won. It was a savory grilled chicken breast stuffed with a blend of finely diced Granny Smith apple and cheddar cheese. The breast sat on a slice of lemon bread and mashed potatoes and the entire plate was drenched in melted cheddar cheese – decadent, rich, flavorful, and truly genius. Alex opted for the Coconut Curry Shrimp with a side of Mashed Potatoes that were coated in a tasty coconut batter and baked crispy. An intriguing side sauce of horseradish mustard added significant zest to the dish.
Both of us finished our entrees satiated, in fact stuffed, and absolutely satisfied. I couldn’t stop smiling I enjoyed my chicken dish so much. While we were both rolling in our seats from the amount of food we just ate, we decided we just had to take a peek at the dessert menu, which includes warm farm breads, tarts, pies, cakes, and ice cream. Ultimately, we ordered the selection of fresh farm breads, which included 2 slices each of Lemon Bread, Zucchini Bread, and Banana Bread. The lemon bread was a bit too sweet for me, but the Zucchini and Banana slices were soft and delicious – and the dollop of vanilla ice cream on the side was easily some of the best vanilla I’ve had in Manhattan.
Friend of a Farmer is something special, despite its kitsch. Perhaps some of the more elegant (read: snooty) New Yorkers would find it plebian, yet I find the coziness downright charming. Its a refreshing break from the softly beating electronica, ‘bistro’ menus, ‘atmosphere lighting’ and over-priced and over-complicated menus that dominate the New York gastronomic dining scene.
It is the perfect spot for a quiet meal in the neighborhood, whether with friends or family, or for a bustling Sunday brunch (its most famous meal). Craving food that makes your belly smile? or that warms you from the inside out? Friend of a Farmer will deliver. Just don’t expect your typical sleek and ‘dressed-up’ New York hotspot…