Fried Chicken @ Farmshop (Santa Monica, CA)

Farmshop
225 26th St
Santa Monica, CA 90402
Dining date: 9/17/11

farm shop

I always hear about Farmshop in discussions about the best brunches in LA. I’ve wanted to try it for some time, but given its Brentwood location I haven’t made it out there yet. However, the restaurant just began dinner service, something that clearly expedited my first visit.

Chef/owner Jeff Cerciello left Thomas Keller’s side last year to pursue his own project. Cerciello had a hand in all of Keller’s projects, but Ad Hoc seems to be the one that struck him most…at least for dinner service. The concept for the dinners seems truly to be inspired by Ad Hoc’s. Dinners are market-driven 3-4 courses served family-style ($40-$60), continually rotating. I’ve known that Farmshop was planning to serve dinner (and an Ad Hoc-like fried chicken) for a while now, so when it was announced that this past Sunday would be the first fried chicken night I had to drop by.

Heirloom Tomato Salad reed avocado, pickled red onion & opal basil

salad

An appetizer duo came out first. The salad was light and refreshing; I thought the meaty chunks of avocado went really well with the sweet acidity of the tomatoes and pickled red onion, while the fresh basil added some depth.

House-made Ricotta & Pistachio Salsa Verde

ricotta

flatbread

The whipped fresh ricotta was a little more interesting and pretty tasty. The consistency was like a light whipped cream with some citrus (lime juice?). The flatbread was a little thicker than expected; combined with the pistachios I thought it was sort of a textural overload.

Herbed Fried Chicken

chicken1

chicken2

Next came what we’d been waiting for…the chicken. The crust was richly and uniformly browned, topped with an assortment of herbs. Upon my first bite (into white meat), I was impressed with the juiciness of the bird. It was full of flavor and displayed a lemon-herb essence from the brine. Expectantly, the dark meat was moist as well with a wonderful depth of flavor. A little bit of the crunchy crust in every bite made for some great fried chicken.

chicken3

The comparison to Ad Hoc’s chicken is unavoidable. They’re pretty similar actually, but I thought this chicken was more moist than the Ad Hoc chicken served at Bouchon Beverly Hills, and maybe even more than I remember at Ad Hoc (maybe – I need to return soon). There’s more of a lemon flavor coming through in the meat too, which I liked.

Two sides came with the fried chicken.

Cabbage, Fennel, Cucumber & Poppy Seed Slaw

coleslaw

Sweet Corn & Peppers

corn

Both of these had just a few carefully chosen ingredients. I thought both dishes made good companions to the chicken, mainly for the sweetness of the peppers and corn and the crisp, cool acidity of the slaw.

Poached Peaches frog hollow farm peaches, lemon curd & oatmeal cookies

peaches curd

cookies

The peaches were delicious and sweet, while the curd added a countering tartness. The oatmeal cookies were pretty good too, adding the textural element. Would’ve preferred them warm, but still good. I appreciated ending with something rather light, showcasing some “farm-fresh” ingredients (notably, the peaches).

Within the same complex that houses Farmshop is Sweet Rose Creamery, a shop I see on ‘top ice cream’ lists over and over. This would be the perfect opportunity for me to finally visit.

Sweet Rose
225 26th St
Santa Monica, CA 90402

sweet rose

A number of flavors are available each night (some permanent, some rotating), as well as some sweet treats like ice cream sandwiches, bon bons, milkshakes, floats and sundaes. Given it was our first time (and we were already kind of full), we kept it simple.

Toasted almond and chocolate hazelnut

sweet rose3

Salted caramel, chocolate waffle cone

sweet rose2

Coffee and chocolate hazelnut

sweet rose1

The ice cream was pretty money. While none of us liked the almond (it was too grainy), everything else was very good. I really liked the coffee (made using Verve coffee beans) – it had a really deep, rich coffee flavor. Felt like it was gonna keep me up all night. The salted caramel was top notch too, and probably the best I’ve had in the city (even over Carmela).

Overall, I was pretty impressed with Farmshop’s meal. The food was rather simple and well-executed, showcasing some great ingredients. Most importantly on this night, the fried chicken was delicious and has to be some of the best gourmet fried chicken in the city right now. I’ll be curious to see what else is being offered for dinner and would try them out too.

The atmosphere/decor is pretty casual, but somewhat uncomfortable. Even though we had reservations, we were seated at a center communal table with benches. I understand the casual atmosphere, but unless I’m in a bar/lounge or quick-serve restaurant, I’d really appreciate an actual chair as my back starts to hurt after a couple courses.

Pan-Roasted Halibut, Chanterelles with Pea Shoots

Dining date: 8/28/11

halibut1

I don’t cook with mushrooms a whole lot. In fact, I grew up not liking them, always pushing them aside on my plate. Now, I’m far from a lover of mushrooms (unless they’re truffles?), but I’ll usually eat them if put in front of me.

I stumbled upon some chanterelles at the Hollywood Farmers Market a couple weeks ago and just had to have them. I had no idea what I was gonna cook with them, but I was inspired to do something with them.

Taking my chanterelles home, I browsed through some of my cookbooks to figure out the rest of the dish. Immediately catching my eye was a recipe in Ad Hoc at Home for sauteed chanterelle mushrooms with pea shoots. It was relatively easy to do and I had most of the ingredients on hand. A recommended protein pairing was another recipe in the cookbook: pan-roasted halibut. My planning was done.

The two recipes, from Ad Hoc at Home:

Pan-roasted halibut

2 pounds halibut fillet, cut into 12 rectangular pieces
Kosher salt
Canola oil
Extra-virgin olive oil
Fleur de sel

Remove the fish from the refrigerator and let stand for 15 minutes.

Position oven racks in the lower and upper thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Check the halibut to be sure all bones were removed. Season on both sides with salt. Add some canola oil to two large ovenproof frying pans and heat over high heat until it shimmers. (If you don’t have two pans, cook the fish in batches and transfer to a rack set over a baking sheet, then finish in the oven.) Add 6 pieces of halibut to each pan, presentation (nicer) side down, lower the heat to medium-high, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until the bottom of the fish is golden. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook for 2 more minutes. Transfer the pans to the oven and cook for about 2 minutes, until just cooked through.

Remove the pans from the oven, flip the fish over, and “kiss” the second side for about 30 seconds. Transfer to a platter, and serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of fleur de sel.

Chanterelle mushrooms with pea shoots

2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter
3 tablespoons of finely chopped shallots
3 thyme sprigs
8 ounces small chanterelles or other mushrooms in season, trimmed and washed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4-1/2 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 cups pea shoots
Extra virgin olive oil
Fleur de sel

Melt the butter in a medium saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook the shallots for 2 to 3 minuntes, until tender. Add the thyme and mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 5 minutes, until the mushrooms are almost tender (if the pan becomes too dry, add a little of the chicken stock).

Add 1/4 cup chicken stock and cook, adding more stock as needed, about 1 tablespoon at a time, until the mushrooms are tender. Continue to cook until the stock is reduced to a glaze. Discard the thyme.

Add the pea shoots and stir just to wilt and incorporate, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a serving bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with fleur de sel.

I began with the chanterelles, cooking them according to the recipe. I wasn’t too worried about this part of the dish; it was pretty straightforward.

chanterelles

pea shoots

chanterelles pea shoots

I was more concerned about the fish. I wanted to ensure I got a crispy, golden crust while not overcooking. The recipe called for the halibut to be cooked almost entirely on one side, carefully controlling the heat. It would only be flipped over at the end to finish the other side for 30 seconds.

halibut

halibut2

I was pretty happy with the way it turned out. My fish broke apart a little bit as I was flipping it and I wanted a little more browning, but temperature-wise I think I had it down. While a meaty fish, it stayed pretty moist. The chanterelles were delicious, and I really liked the bright crispness that the pea shoots brought to the plate. It was relatively quick to make too, always a plus. However, it was on the expensive side – the raw ingredients cost about $30 for the one plate.

Ad Hoc Fried Chicken – 8/1/10

I purchased the Ad Hoc Fried Chicken kit from Williams-Sonoma a while back. I saw it in the store and immediately had to get it. Nevermind the fact that I had never made fried chicken before, and am slightly averse to frying in a big pot of oil at home – it was Ad Hoc fried chicken, and I had to have it.

The kit comes with enough brine and seasoned batter for two uses, and I first made the chicken pre-blog. Because I would be using so much oil to fry the chicken, I figured I might as well cook as much as I could, and invite some fried chicken-appreciating friends over and turn it into a bit of a potluck.

First, the chicken. I was able to fit 24 pieces of thighs and drumsticks into the brine, which sat overnight. They were dried, and allowed to come to room temperature.

Ad Hoc’s method is to batter the chicken in the seasoned flour, dip in buttermilk, and then dip again in the seasoned flour.

When the chicken was battered, we let it sit for a few minutes to let the batter set.

After that, they went into the oil. I started with oil that was approx. 350 degrees, subsequent batches were frying at around 330 degrees.

After about 12 minutes, the first batch was done!

After about 5 batches, all 24 pieces were fried. I continuously put in sprigs of thyme to flavor the oil, as well as to act as a garnish.

The chicken was pretty damn delicious, if I do say so myself. The exterior was a golden brown; very crispy. But what made the difference was the very flavorful, juicy interior – definitely a result of the brine. Easily some of the best homemade fried chicken I’ve had. While it was a lot of work, and involved a lot of cleanup (all that oil!), it was worth it…though it will probably be a while until I do it again.

Heather baked some jalapeno cornbread as an appetizer/side – luckily, it wasn’t too spicy…but had just the right kick.

Kristen brought some watermelon, which was quite juicy and delicious.

Angelo brought a couple of salads, and James put on his chef’s hat, making baked corn and a homemade crab dip. Unfortunately, I did not get pictures of these. As I wasn’t sure we would have enough food, I had also made a beef stew ahead of time.

I’ve posted enough times about braising dishes at home, so I didn’t do a step-by-step pictorial. I roasted some cauliflower and broccoli as well.

These were cut up, and roasted in my cast-iron skillet with salt, pepper and olive oil.

I also made some mashed potatoes using russet potatoes, butter, beef fat (from the stew) and heavy cream. Unfortunately though, I didn’t get a picture.

Mike and Lilly of LA Beer Hopping were in charge of the beer.

The selection included Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, Allagash White, Alesmith X, BridgePort IPA, and a Ninkasi Spring Reign. I threw in a Pliny the Elder for good measure. I thought this was a pretty good selection. The IPAs would satisfy the “hopheads,” and the Allagash White, Alesmith X and Ninkasi beers attracted those that wanted a less bitter, perhaps lighter, craft beer.

For dessert, we had a couple of options. Heather brought a homemade peach/blueberry/raspberry cobbler served warm.

And I made a tiramisu.

This was actually fairly simple. I whipped up some cream, adding vanilla extract, marscapone, and sugar once it reached the ‘soft peaks’ stage. I layered lady fingers (dipped in a mixture of coffee and kahlua) and the cream mixture, with grated chocolate at each layer.

I was pretty pleased with the meal. It was a lot of work cooking so much (especially all that chicken), but it was a good opportunity to get some people together and enjoy some good food and good brews.