I try never to turn down an excuse to go to the Farmer, and what better reason to go than for a good cause. The farm-to-table restaurant — one of the pioneers in Memphis — recently held a benefit for the Bluff City Fellowship, a recovery community in the area, and my fellow Memphians couldn't resist either. The event sold out with 90 Farmer fans getting on board.
For $29 diners could choose between a soup or salad, one of three entrees, and from a choice of two desserts.
The soup offered was a sweet potato bisque with the crowd-pleaser, Benton bacon, and marshmallow creme fraiche. The salad was the SG Wedge, with crisp romaine, cherry tomatoes, pickled onions (the best way to eat an onion, IMHO), bleu cheese crumbles, and buttermilk Ranch dressing. I went with the salad, pretty much to save room for dessert.
For the main course, I picked the Savory Chicken Breast, oven roasted with natural jus, red skinned mashed potatoes, and sautéed green beans. I went with the chicken because I will forever be enamored with the Farmer due to my first rendezvous with the restaurant several years ago. My mother and I lunch together about every month, conquering the Memphis restaurant landscape one new establishment at a time. I had never tried the Farmer — back then it was the Elegant Farmer, but in the past year or so dropped the Elegant because of some copyright/trademark/patent/whatever issues — so we met up on Highland Street and were greeted by a warm, jolly "Hello!" from the owner, Mac Edwards.
The Farmer owner Mac Edwards
I will never forget the Oven Roasted Chicken Breast my mother ordered. One bite, and I had been transported back to my homeland, L'hexagone (I am an unapologetic francophile). That's the thing about the Farmer. Everything is done right. Well. Correctly. And that is what makes it good. No need to wow with portmanteaus or whatever the fashionable import of the month is. The food is the upside of perfectionism.
I do kind of wish I had tried the Lake's Catfish, a pan-seared filet with citrus orzo, sautéed green beans, and saffron aioli. Lake's catfish is the best in the region, and I haven't yet had the pleasure of being swept off my feet by the Farmer's expertise on the dish. I'm not a big l meat-eater, except when it comes to barbecue, so the Smoked Pork Loin Chop didn't appeal to me. Edwards and team served up an oven-finished center cut chop with sweet potato hash, sautéed green beans, and BBQ bordelaise. Sounded AMAZE.
For dessert, there was no chocolate, but there was the strawberry cake recipe that I grew up eating, the one with strawberry Jell-O in the ingredients. It was so sweet my teeth curled. There was also the apple cobbler with cinnamon whipped cream, but I don't really get cobbler. It doesn't have any chocolate in it.
The Farmer was one of the first to show what farm-to-table means.