Thursday, March 8, 2012

Farmshop - Brunch of Champignons

Farmshop has one of the best brunches I've ever had in my life. 

On a bright Sunday morning, my brunch buddy "Curses" and I headed out for the first time to the restaurant slash marketplace in the heart of Brentwood Country Mart - which would feel like a place straight out of Napa Valley, or some quaint little semi-rural gathering place in the South of France, if not for its population of characters who look like they just came from the set of The Hills (complete with costumes), a photoshoot for Anthropologie, or some unaired pilot for the Real Househusbands of Brentwood.
The space itself, we loved - airy and awash in natural light, rustic with wooden tables and trim, while sophisticated and chic at the same time with cool exposed bulbs hanging from lush woven silk ropes and carefully placed, minimalist greenery.  It almost made us forget the 15 minute wait (even with reservations...) and people passing us by, who we thought had arrived after us.  But within minutes of tasting the food, we would see why this place is always, always packed.

We started off with the Pastry Basket choose three pastries, seasonal preserves & spring hill butter ($12.50) - actually Curses wanted to get this and at first I objected, as the 'hot' menu items seemed so much more exciting and I wanted to save room for that.  But Curses is much wiser than me - you can only have so many egg dishes - and the pastry basket (well, really, pastry plate) turned out to be mindblowing.  We went with our servers' recommendations, and they were all unbelievably fresh and delicious - we had the Huckleberry Pear Danish ($3.50 a la carte):  Lemon Yogurt & Preserve Muffin ($3 a la carte): Herb Goat Cheese Scone ($4 a la carte).  

Our hands down favorite was the Herb Goat Cheese Scone - this was so light, fluffy and buttery it was more like a biscuit than a scone. Served steaming hot like it just got pulled from the oven, and fragrant with herbs so fresh we could imagine it being plucked from the garden minutes before.  So, savvy saveurs might say wait, the prices of the individual pastries add up to less than $12.50...I guess the extra charges are for the freshmade, gorgeous golden preserves (yes, you can taste the sun peeking betwen the oranges on the tree before they made it to your plate) and luscious slab of butter sprinkled with coarse sea salt (do they keep a cow in the back?)
As our second 'appetizer', I just had to have the Deviled Eggs once I read the description - it's served with smoked Idaho trout, upland cress & tarragon ($8) a bit of an unusual combination, and turns out the fish is worked into the hardboiled egg yolks for a tasty, stepped up, surf & turf inspired, brilliantly glammed up version of a classic egg dish.  For those who might balk at fish for breakfast - the taste of trout is very subtle.
I'm a huge seafood and mushroom and egg lover, and Curses already predicted before we even set foot in the place that I would dive right in for the Coddled Eggs as my main - served with smoked salmon, mushroom conserva, toast ($14.50).  This may have become one of my favorite brunch dishes of all time.  Eggs (that tasted like they just came out of a hen) were mixed with water and steamed into an incredibly smooth, light custard, then topped with beautiful mushrooms and chives for counterbalancing crunch and rich, earthy flavor.  The refined / restrained taste of the egg dish is then offset by lush slices of salty smoked salmon.  I was in heaven with every bite. Didn't even get to the toast - which I totally ignored.  LOVED the egg, and I wanted 10 more bowls... 

We must have been on some unspoken mushroom + egg kick, as Curses also decided on a funghi focused dish for her main: Frittata roasted wild mushrooms, melted leeks, drake family farm chevre, za'tar oil ($18).  This also blew our minds.  With this and the coddled egg dish, Farmshop manages to infuse creativity into breakfast/brunch, a meal that is not known for innovation - and unexpected world cuisine influence as well, with the oil made with za'tar, a middle eastern blend of spices, sesame and salt, and the preparation of coddled egg reminding me of a Chinese classic home cooked dish, steamed egg.  And leeks, with eggs? Genius.  Loved this dish.  Some may say $14-$18 for egg dishes is pricey - but I would say those people have not tried these eggs.  They're worth every penny.

We were also entertained by the couple next to us - the guy (complete with bold scarf and non-prescription glasses) was shocked, and possibly outraged, when in answer to his question, the server said the ingredients of his dish would be organic, but not sustainable.  It must have been with great restraint that he was able to bring himself to settle for the 'unethical'.  Thus, the concept of costumed brunch was born - looking forward to the next venue selection with Curses and what roles we would play for the meal.
Anyways, after our fab brunch, we were excited to walk it off by strolling through the open marketplace attached to the restaurant.
There was the bakery counter with perfect little croissants and meringued tarts, case of gourmet cheeses, and of course a small section to earn its name - farm fresh produce.  They had some gorgeous chanterelle mushrooms as well as beautiful green beans, onions, shallots... 
...and a perfect stash of multi-colored carrots.  Next to gourmet bags of beans and grains. 
The cured meats section looks amazing as well!
I felt like a kid in a candy store, with the selection of gourmet goods spread around the market as well - from Duck Rillette in a jar, pates, Straus ice cream in the freezer, all kinds of gourmet salts...  
...and my love for Farmshop was cemented, when I spotted little jars of SQIRL jams and preserves on a shelf.  (They even had my all-time fav: Nagami Kumquat & Chamomile preserves!!) So appropriate as SQIRL preserves are as farm fresh as you can get - they are literally sunshine preserved in a little jar.

Outside of Farmshop, you can also enjoy a leisurely morning strolling through the cute little boutiques at Brentwood Country Mart - there's a great book store, handprinted paper goods store, a few clothing stores, a candy store and nice spots for coffee or gelato.

Yes, Farmshop (and Brentwood Country Mart) definitely makes me feel like I'm on vacation without huge expense.  A staycation spot, if you will.  A little taste of the gentrified countryside, without ever leaving the city.  Amazing food and people watching.  I can't wait to make another trip.

On a 7 point scale:
Flavor - 6.5 bites
Presentation - 6 bites
Originality - 6 bites
Ambience - 6 stars
Service - 5.5 stars
Overall experience - 6 bites
Price - $$$ (3 bite marks)
Probability of return visit - 100% 

Brentwood Country Mart, 225 26th St., Suite 25, Santa Monica, CA 90402
Ph: 310.566.2400

Parking:  Park in strip mall lot attached to restaurant


Farmshop on Urbanspoon

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