Taking in the framed farm paintings and fresh flowers, we waited at the bar after work.
Upstairs, we met the owners of Farmhouse (228 W. Chicago Ave.).
The Ambiance: Authentic
We looked up.
“Eighty-five percent of what you see is recycled,” Ferdia Doherty, one of the owners of Farmhouse, said pointing to a piece from an old bar on the northwest side.
“We try our best to take care of things from old worlds.”
From the recycled and re-purposed decorations to the cloth napkins, each component of Farmhouse was carefully curated for a farm to table appeal. Though we were in downtown Chicago, it felt like we were eating in the countryside.
From Farm to Table:
“In the winter it’s tough,” divulged Doherty.
Farmhouse is a city restaurant known to locally source fresh foods. When we say locally source, these foods come from Chicago and neighboring states. One of the owners, TJ Callahan, owns a farm in Mineral Point, WI.
“It’s the hardest job he’s ever gotten himself into,” Doherty said.
Callahan began to share the basics of farm life beginning with a story about a well-known country song.
“Johnny Appleseed was not about apple pie,” Callahan said. They were actually singing about apple orchards that produce cider. One of those apple orchards in Wisconsin makes the in-house cider at Farmhouse.
“Cider apples are inedible,” said Callahan. He compared using regular apples to make cider to using grapes from the supermarket to make wine.
Five Course Midwestern Meal:
It was time for the first of five specially prepared dishes for the Midwestern tasting.
“It’s like a PB&J sandwich—a little dancier than that,” the owners described.
Our first bite of Ellis Family Farm Green Grapes and Ham Market Amuse tasted nothing like a simple PB&J. Though bite-sized, each ingredient was finely chopped and placed for an inventive savory pairing. Along with the first course, we tried the Free Priscilla Cider made fresh from the Wisconsin Farm.
With each dish, Executive Chef, Eric Mansavage, surprised us with inventive pairings.
For the second dish, Mansavage treated us with melon soup. The servers placed a bowl of fresh greens in front of us and then separately poured the bright orange melon soup from a jar. The soup was paired with Floyd’s “Calumet Queen’, which helped to balance with spicy aftertaste from the melon soup.
The rainbow trout topped with black bean relish and Swan Creek Bacon Lardon surprised us. It was moist and flavorful and paired well with local brewery, Revolution Brewing’s “Rosa.”
The best main course dish was the combination of BBQ Braised Grassfed Shortribs and Butter Poached Indiana Shrimp served alongside Hazzard Free Farm Pimento Cheese Popcorn Grits and sweet corn. To round out the flavor, the chef paired the beef and seafood with Dark Horse Brewing Company’s “Smells Like a Safety Meeting.”
The final dish of the night did not disappoint. It was as intricate and finely flavored as the amuse-bouche. The Peaches and Cream Ice Cream Sandwich, sounds simple, but it was layered with Mick Klug Farm Michigan Peach Marmalade, Milk Jam, and Ice Cream Vanilla Bean Shortcake. Farmhouse presented it with a flower on top and the semi-sweet “Deminimus Mandarina” from Penrose Brewing to drink, a limited quantity cider which also had fruitful aromas.
Farmhouse Rooftop Garden:
As we ate, Chef Mansavage spoke with us about the food. Some of the ingredients were made right here in Chicago, on top of Farmhouse’s roof. Chef Mansavage took me to the back of the restaurant and showed me the ladder to the rooftop. This was not your typical Chicago rooftop. We actually had to climb a ladder and pull ourselves up. When I reached halfway point, climbing in heels became a bit cumbersome.
Mansavage said, “Come back next time when you are wearing proper shoes.”
Click on the photos below for more details about the dishes and conversations from Farmhouse.