A visit to FARM, Janice Beaton’s newest venture in Calgary was a weekend highlight!
The Cookbook Company Cooks in Calgary is a must-stop-and-shop for any person who loves to cook, particularly any prairie person. Gail Norton most definitely has her finger on the pulse of what’s happening in our kitchens and any hard-to-find item will be there, or she’ll tell you where to find it. Last Saturday, I was in the store browsing through her shelves laden with exotic tidbits, my creative imagination on overload, when I learned of a place to stop for a bite to eat that had just opened three days earlier called “FARM”, a tasting room. It was lunch time, we were hungry, so we headed out to find it.
It was a glorious sunny fall day with the scent of apples and autumn coloursÂ in the air. We spotted the unassuming awning and were drawn to the tiny rustic vestibule. The room beyond: long and narrow, somehow just pulls you into it. Immediately, I was excited. The large communal farm familyÂ table seating, sparkling chandeliers, and tasting boards were just too unique to not quiver over. And the warmth of the staff was downright homey.
We perched at the bar so I couldn’t miss a bit of the action. The back wall is covered with a chalkboard listing the daily charcuterie and cheese tastingÂ fare. The menu offers seasonal dishes, and a tasting menu was waiting at our seat with a pencil to circle what tastes we wanted to select. Just sitting in the stool, feet dangling, made me happy. Nostalgia. In front of me at the bar was a series of old milk bottles filled with ice water. Across the bar, an aged enamal pan.
I felt like I belonged, and that somehow, I had been here before. I chose the beet pesto and the olive tepenade to start, and added the Duck Rillette, a Salami and the Sylvan Star Gouda. Vanja ordered the Mac ‘n cheese. We probably both missed out on one important part of the tasting experience – the wine or beer suggested to accompany each taste. Neither is my thing, nor his.Â Quite a shame, really. Also, too early in the day for my weak-kneed system.
The beet pesto and tepenade arrived. Fresh, light, earthy and full bodied. Lots of cheese, toasted pine nuts. I remembered making a beet pesto very similar to this and wondered why I forgot about it. The tepenade had a surprising and pleasing citrus note, I would guess a tad of orange oil. Also, tasty. I did not think that this pairing was a great fit, but individually, each was bright and lively in the mouth.
The tasting plate was when the real fun started. Each cheese or meat comes with an accompaniment that the chef sees as a compliment to theÂ choice that together create the “Taste” experience. The Duck Rillette was accompaniedÂ with Chef Adam’s mother’s pickle recipe: an addictive match. The Sylvan Star Gouda was accompanied with organic dried apple slices: a classic paring andÂ a delightfulÂ surprise as the texture combinationÂ of the crispy dried apple and the creamy, dense cheese was brilliant. The Salami was paired with a Dijon. I had so much fun nibbling and biting, crunching and munching, savouring and sipping. Yum!
Vanja’s MacÂ ‘n cheese was very bold. One bite, and you sit up straight in your chair, without question. Lip-smackingly delicious, yet not the baked mac ‘n cheese dish that I prefer. The cheesy sauce generously draped the pasta, but hadn’t been baked into it. ItÂ was just too soupy for my palate. The root vegetable slaw had a very simple, yet perfect dressing: mayo and dijon. And then (drum roll) the dessert menu arrived:
Is it just me that gets really, reallyÂ excited when I see an idea used like this? It was actually a thrill for me to get this little “recipe” card as it just pushed too many ofÂ my “just-right” buttons. (completely satisfied “sigh” – I didn’t even need the dessert once I received the card to read!) I really wanted to try a desset, but was far too content and know I had a glassy-eyed smile pasted sideways across my face when IÂ headed for the door.
Janice Beaton’s Fine Cheese extends beyond FARM, and faces east on 16th Avenue,Â while FarmÂ opens to the west on 17th.Â Everything on the tasting menu can be purchased in her store to take home and enjoy.
So, of course, I did…
and there is no bigger compliment that one can give to a place one has been than to try to repeat it. Here is my first attempt that evening before going to dinner, in our hotel room, with a bottle of homemade ajvar brought from home and some of the meats and cheeses from Beaton’s.
My second attempt was our Thanksgiving dinner “tastes” before “the meal”. Here, I was very pleased with a couple of my pairings:
The close ups: duck confit (made by me) with the crispy skin crumbled on top ( no pairing); St. Andres cheese with a black currant dijon: a burst of pucker-power with aÂ lucious butteryÂ finish, heavenly; Canmore’s smoked buffalo with pistachios, Caprese with caper berries, and my Duck Rillette with sugared dill pickle sticks.
Meat and cheese with condiments and pickles: how can such old basic foods be so new?
We seem to have lost sight of the simplicity of the tastes of basic ingredients.
We seem to have lost the time to savour our food.
We appreciate being brought back to our roots, to a reawakening of our senses and to once again understand the importance of the value that great local produce offers to the quality of one’s life.
Hats off to Janice. This year, I am thankful for the “FARM”.