You might not expect to hear roosters crowing during your typical dining experience. But this is no typical dining experience.
The farm in Brick Farm Tavern isn’t there as a marketing ploy meant to capitalize on the farm-to-table “trend” that has emerged over these last few years. This is a restaurant on a real working farm, with real animals roaming about. So when you’re driving in, be careful to avoid the pastured animals roaming about!
We have been to the Brick Farm Tavern many times, but never experienced the full dinner menu.
Typically, we would enjoy the casual-yet-refined fare at the bar while watching the master bartenders at their craft, or enjoy a light lunch after getting our growlers filled at Troon Brewery. But summer’s bounty and a beautiful night made for a perfect opportunity to sit outside and really get the Brick Farm Tavern experience.
We were seated on the patio overlooking the Double Brook Farm grounds (well, a small portion of it, seeing as the farm consists of 800 disparate acres) and promptly grabbed the cocktail menu to see what seasonal libations the bartenders were shaking up this month. The Go Green 2.0 featured Sourland Mountain Spirits gin, artichoke liquor and go-green juice. And here’s the really cool part: the gin is distilled just a few steps away from the restaurant in a restored barn. Didn’t I tell you this isn’t a normal dining experience?
The inventive menu had so many irresistible options for dinner that I was a bit overwhelmed. I could have easily ordered everything on the menu, but after zeroing in on a few options, we decided to try one beef dish, one pork dish, and one lamb. These are the animals raised on the farm, and the small plates allowed us to savor bites of each.
Chef Greg Vassos and his team show a range of interesting techniques (mustard “ice cream” anyone?) and plate the ingredients with passion. Just looking at a dish, some people may get the wrong idea that the food is too fancy or inaccessible… after all, ingredients on a menu that you’ve never heard of can be intimidating. But in reality, Brick Farm Tavern is where haute cuisine meets honest simplicity.
This concept is captured perfectly by their “Pommes Paillasson.” When you bite into it this crispy cube, you will be weakened by the creamy, salty, goodness that is potatoes cooked in duck fat. The humble potato was elevated to a level I didn’t even know existed. I will never look at a potato the same way ever again.
But when it really comes down to it, Pommes Paillasson are what some people may know as… tater tots. Obviously these are not the tots of your youth. But at the end of the day, these heavenly bites were simply potatoes. And there’s nothing inaccessible about that.
The Pommes Paillasson was just one component of the beef tartare, perhaps my favorite dish of the night. I loved all of the different textures and contrast in cold, hot, crispy, smooth. And yes, that mustard “ice cream” was every bit as good as it looks.
Next we moved on to the pork belly. You may already know how big a fan I am for Double Brook Farm pork. But to have it prepared this way was a real treat. You never know what you’re going to get when you order pork belly at a restaurant… it can be risky. Especially if the fat is not perfectly rendered. But as I cut through and took a bite, I got to experience all of those wonderful layers that pork belly is known for.
The final dish was the lamb, prepared several different ways. In the front you’ll see a medium rare lamb loin, but my favorite was some kind of fattier cut of lamb that tasted almost like a confit. The lamb was served with a variety of fun seasonal vegetables, like French breakfast radishes and snap peas. And while we did not have room for dessert, the peachy saison from Troon Brewery that we enjoyed with our lamb was a worthy substitute.
If you haven’t been to the Brick Farm Tavern yet, I highly recommend booking a reservation. The cool, rustic atmosphere and authentic farm to table cuisine make it a great restaurant for any occasion, not just special nights out. Not to mention, the amazing team running the place knows what they’re doing, and they truly care about the animals. So for this animal lover over here, that’s just as important as a tasty meal.
P.S. If you’re looking for another great local blog to follow, one of my favorites is the Double Brook Farm blog with all of the amusing animal stories from Robin McConaughy.