As it usually happens, Farmshop (Restaurant) had been on my go-to list for some time. My list is long, as you can imagine, and it takes me a while to get to all the good places I have on it, if I manage all of it at all. But in this case, I still do not know why it took me this long, considering it is located about five-minutes drive from where I used to live until a month ago, and in a shopping center where I stop by regularly for other things: Marin Country Mart.
I finally made it there last summer, and then again in the fall, each time with different friends. This post is the result of those two visits, plus a third one I made a couple of weeks ago for a mid-afternoon bite to eat after messing about in my storage units – though no photos were taken of this more recent experience.
BTW: if you come from San Francisco, the easiest way is to hop onto the ferry to Larkspur, then use the pedestrian overpass that takes you directly to the shopping center with a five-minute walk.
Farmshop Marin is one of two Farmshop restaurants. The other one is located in Santa Monica, Ca. In their words, “Farmshop strives to honor those farmers and artisans without whose livelihood our tables would be empty.”
Their menu, which changes seasonally to reflect the market availability, well represents this philosophy, and creatively combines fresh farm ingredients into dishes that I would define as contemporary California cuisine with Italian infusions. But then what restaurant is not influenced by Italian cuisine these days? And rightly so, I might add.
I do not know if this is a regular occurrence, but, in between my summer and fall visits, the kitchen team changed completely, though the creative style of the cuisine remained similar. It will be interesting to see what the new team will create as they move forward.
The restaurant, designed in an beautiful farm-chic-meets-zen style, is divided in three sections: the outdoor patio by the main entrance, a luminous main dining room, a dark, moody and long bar area, and a lounge area by the back entrance that can also serve for private dining events.
By the front entrance and main dining area there is also a beautiful open kitchen with not one, but two wood fired ovens.
Both photographed meals happened at lunch, a meal which, though not as expansive as the dinner one, offers interesting selections, as well as a couple of daily specials. All their menus also feature a selection of quality locally-made cheeses.
Bread here is excellent, and made by Della Fattoria, but does not come with the meal, and has to be ordered ($4.5), which Valerie and I certainly did. It was so good we had to restrain ourselves from ordering more.
We both felt called by the Crispy Artichokes with Di Stefano Burrata, Satsuma Mandarin, Watermelon Radish and Mint Pistou ($18) in the image below and at the top of the post, so we decided to share that as our starter. It was delicious and we certainly could have had more, though I must say that it would have been much better if the mandarin segments had been peeled completely like for the Dungeness Crab Salad further below.
The light, refreshing and satisfying (Valerie’s words) Dungeness Crab Salad with Witloof Chicory, spring Citrus, Marcona almonds, Brioche Breadcrumbs, charred Leek and meyer Lemon crema ($23), listed among the entrees, was Valerie’s choice. If she sees fresh Dungeness crab on the menu, you can be sure she will go for it; twice over in this case, as she requested that the usual dose of crab on the salad be doubled, and was happy to pay the difference ($12 extra).
Our next selections were two more entrees, the pasta above and the sandwich below. The pasta, such Rustichella d’Abruzzo Chitarra with green Garlic soffritto, Broccoli Rabe, sundries Tomato, Chili thread, Arugula pistou, and Andante Dairy Etude Cheese ($19), provided an interesting combination of flavors that we thoroughly enjoyed.
The sandwich was their House Made Pastrami Sandwich with Radish Kraut, Spring Hill Cheddar, Dijon Mustard, on a seeded Loaf and served with Potato Salad ($17.5). It was crunchy, tender, juicy and flavorful, though we decided to take half to save room for dessert.
Just like with crab, when Valerie sees something with cherries, or chocolate, or nuts, or combinations there of, she cannot resist. The Brooks Cherry Tart with Hazelnut, Cherry Curd and Fior Gelato di Bufala (gelato fior di latte made with buffalo milk) ($10) was her selection. It was both delicate and flavorful, the curd creamy and smooth, and the ice cream had the delicate flavor of fior di latte that I love.
Fior di Latte is one of the traditional ice cream flavors in Italy which I had never seen here in the U.S. before. It is made without eggs, so it remains white, and it does not have a heavy vanilla flavor, thus retaining the delicate flavor of milk/cream. It is one of my favorites, especially when swirled with sour cherries in syrup (Amarena Fabbri).
My selection was inevitably the Black Peppercorn Meringue with Blackberry Curd, Marshall Farm’s Honey and Strauss Yogurt ($19). Let me tell you: for as delicious as every dish that went before was, this dessert was the highlight of the meal. It was perfection! It was possible the best (or one of the best) dessert I – or Valerie – had ever had, and we talked about it for weeks after. We still do, as a matter of fact.
Pavlovas, in just about any version, is a favorite dessert of mine. This one was even more unique, having the filling in the center instead of on top. It was certainly sweet, as meringue inevitably is, but the natural tartness of the blackberries managed to balance that beautifully.
Stuffed as we were, we still decided to finish with a small vanilla latte ($4.5) each, mostly out of curiosity. To me a latte or cappuccino is a test in just about any restaurant or cafe with an espresso machine. Though the best ones are to be found elsewhere, these were quite good, including the one with soy milk Valerie orders (on the right in the image).
My next lunch at Farmshop was with my new friend Elsa, an extremely talented and passionate baker you will have a chance to meet by and by, it took place last November, and the menu reflected the change in the season.
Sidebar for the fellow food photo geeks and bloggers among you: for this second lunch, we were seated against the wall away from the windows, so, even though the room is luminous all over, there was a spot light hitting the table and affecting the look of the images. Also, although the first meal was photographed with my Nikon D2x and 50mm f/1.4 lens in window light, these next ones – as well as all the ambiance images – were taken using my iPhone 6s. No extra lighting was used.
Our selections were the Riverdog Farm Squash Salad with roasted Kabocha and delicata Squash, Fuyu Persimmon, whipped Goat Cheese, candied Walnuts and Fig Vincotto ($15), and the pasta special of the day you see below, which is – from memory – Pasta Casareccia with Broccolini, Bacon and Crispy Leeks ($18).
The pasta was flavorful and satisfying with its layers of textures. But what I really enjoyed was the roasted squash salad, and that little bit of arugula on top nicely rounded out the flavors.
Elsa’s main selection had been the House Made Pastrami Sandwich, though, since I had already photographed it previously, I let her enjoy it in peace without asking to photograph it again.
With delightful memories of the stuffed meringue dancing in my head, I knew dessert would be a must. Lo and behold, the meringue dessert from the summer now had been tweaked to suit fall flavors: Fall Spiced Meringue with poached Pears, candied Pepitas and Honey Yogurt ($10).
This time the filling was a spiced vanilla custard, and though still very good, I found the whole meringue and custard combination to be overall too sweet, as opposed to the perfect meringue/blackberry one from the summer.
Elsa-the-amazing-baker opted for the Ricotta Cake, made with Bellwether Farm Jersey Ricotta, Frog Hollow Farm Pluots and whipped Cream ($10), which was quite lovely and moist, the whipped cream a refreshing flavor balance.
Just to give you an idea, among the other desserts were Candied Ginger & Toffee Semifreddo with Speculoos crumble and Lemon brodo ($10); Valrhona Dark Chocolate Tart with salted Marcona Almonds, Fuyu Persimmon, Pomegranate Molasses and Crème Fraîche ($10); and Gelato di Bufala, a Double 8 Dairy gelato served with Shortbread cookies ($7). Which would have been your choice?
I do not have photographs of my third meal at Farmshop, but I can still describe it for you. I had been at my storage unit, clearing and sorting for hours one Sunday of a couple of weeks ago, while Valerie had been baking for a party since early that morning. We were both tired and famished, and when I called to suggest a late lunch before heading home to Napa, she eagerly agreed. We headed to Farmshop because I really wanted one of their pasta dishes.
Alas, I was disappointed on that score because their smaller afternoon bar menu did not include pasta.
Remembering the wood fired ovens, I thought I would try one of their pizzas instead, and ordered the Wood Fired Mushrooms Pizza with smoked Mozzarella, Mama Lil’s Peppers, Castelvetrano Olives and Leeks ($19). I have to say, the flavors of the toppings were good, even if the mushrooms tasted slightly vinegary, but the dough was a nightmare. It was rubbery and chewy, and I discovered why the pizza was served with large scissors with which to cut it. Imagine that! Definitely not an experience I wish to repeat, or that I suggest to you.
Valerie had opted for the House Made Pastrami Sandwich, which was as excellent as ever, making me wish I had chosen that instead. We were also tempted by the Risotto Fritters with sun dried Tomatoes, Basil Pesto Aioli and aged Parmesan ($14). These were so incredibly good and became the highlight of the meal, making up for the pizza, and making us wish they came in a serving larger than the small snack size one that came. The Risotto Fritters are also featured in the dinner menu, by the way.
The other interesting options on the afternoon menu were the Di Stefano Burrata Cheese with roasted Frog Hollow Farm Pears, Pomegranate, spiced Hazelnut salsa and Della Fattoria crostini ($18); and the Crispy Marble Potatoes with house-made Ketchup, wild Herbs and Gribiche ($10.5).
Service at Farmshop – at least what I have experienced at lunch – is friendly and svelte, and the servers are well versed in the various dishes. The ambiance is pleasant and relaxing, and, being spacious, it never gets too noisy, at least not that I have experienced. Though walk-ins are welcome, during the main lunch and dinner hours the place gets quite busy, so it is best to make reservations, and – upon check in – make sure they check your name off, or you might get a call wondering where you are, which is what happened to me.
As I do not like to answer the phone while enjoying a meal with a friend, I ignored the call which came while I was sitting there, having lunch with Elsa. It was only later, after I had left, that I checked the message and realized who had called and why. I called back to explain, as – having been a restaurateur myself, I do not like to either be late for my reservations, and abhor no-shows – I wanted to make sure there were no misunderstandings. I got the answering machine, and left a message, though I never heard back. Which is fine, as long as things are clear on their end.
Marin Country Mart – 2233 larkspur Landing Circle, Larkspur, Ca 94939 | ph. 415-755-6700
fax 415-755-6790 | website
If you have enjoyed this post, you might also like these other good bakeries, cafes and restaurants in Marin: