The Farm Cafe wasn’t on my original list of restaurants to visit when we arrived in Portland for a week of non-stop eating.
I’d never heard of it, although I’m not sure why, since I researched the restaurant scene fairly well (obsessively, if you ask my dining partner), and already had more restaurants on my radar than open slots for dining occasions.
And stumble is the operative word. The restaurant is tucked just off a side street, well hidden behind overgrown foliage. The rooster sign is a dead giveaway that the cuisine is focused on the farm.
The restaurant is in an old Victorian house, although the back patio and bar are new additions. They don’t take reservations unless you have a party of six, so my best advice is gather five of your closest friends (or completely strangers) and get on their books.
The menu is short and sweet, with just a few appetizers, salads and six main courses. But then there is a slip of paper inside the folded menu with a few specials. It was hot enough to sample the chilled cucumber and caper cream soup, but since this would be my only experience on this trip, I wanted go light on the appetizer.
Rosemary-roasted hazelnuts ($5) sounded intriguing and the perfect way to kick off the evening. We normally snack on nuts with a cocktail while I cook dinner, so it seemed fitting to begin there.
You don’t see too many “nuts” on restaurant menus, and these promised a “secret house recipe involving brown sugar and Tabasco.” Whew, not kidding on the Tabasco. These sweet-hot nuts will wake up any dulled taste bud. I will work on recreating these nuts at some point, because that would be cheaper than hopping a plane back to Portland and unfortunately, these nuts — in just one sitting — have become yet another addiction for me.
A roasted half chicken special ($18) featured an organic, pasture-raised bird from the Rain Shadow El Rancho farm in Scio, Oregon. The skin could have been a tad crispier for my taste, but I had no complaints with the juciness, or the parsley and thyme flavor. The orzo pasta salad underneath was studded with fresh fava beans, red onion and a hint of basil.
Roasted baby carrots, grilled zucchini and yellow squash and saffron-scented rice served as a bed for a coriander-speckled grilled halibut. The garlic and parsley pistou added additional flavor, although the perfectly cooked fish didn’t need any help at all.
While the menu’s sunken chocolate soufflé cake is probably extraordinary, the Chambord and Oregon Duke blueberry tart special ($7) seemed a more appropriate dessert, given the 4th of July holiday. Creamy, rich mascarpone, whipped with honey and tinged pink from the raspberry liqueur, served as a fluffy pillow for the fat, juicy berries.
Don’t worry, we didn’t leave this bite, no-sir-ree. Just wanted you to see the last, glorious morsel.
Sometimes, you can plan too much. In hindsight, I’m grateful that my original plan went awry and our wandering led us straight to the Farm….Cafe.
The Farm Cafe
10 SE 7th Aveune