Farm House Tap and Grill (Burlington, VT)

In what appears to be turning into a tradition, after this year’s Saturday afternoon session of the Vermont Brewers Festival, we went to The Farm House Tap and Grill with our friends Rick, Sarah, Scott, Eve, and friends. We did this last year, and had a great time (I would have written it up then, but I had left the camera in the truck with our dog Buster).

What is Farm House Tap and Grill? Owned by a group of local restauranteurs including two of the owners of Zero Gravity Brewpub and a few other Vermonters, Farm House is a “gastropub” featuring a combination of good wine and beer lists with food focusing local ingredients. While I’ve never really been a great fan of the term “gastropub” (really, what’s wrong with the old-fashioned word “restaurant”?), it’s actually not a bad description of Farm House.

First of all, they’ve got a phenomenal beer list; on this visit, they had an outstanding selection of both local Vermont gems (Rock Art’s Jasmine IPA, Lawson’s Finest Liquids’ Chinooker’d, and Otter Creek’s 20th Anniversary, as a start), and regional favorites (Founders’ Devil Dancer, Dieu du Ciel’s Mea Culpa, and some brews from Brooklyn). Some of these (like the Lawson’s) are rather hard to find as well. So they’ve got the selection down pat.

But they’ve also got a decent menu. While they only have a limited tasting menu before 6pm, Farm House was quite happy to let us quietly drink beer and nosh on lighter appetizer fare until 5pm rolled around (we arrived at 4pm). And there are some dishes on this appetizer menu: I opted for the steak tartare, which was a nicely sized portion of minced beef from Greenfield Highland Farm. A nice, bold beefy flavor was present, with just enough onion, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce to round this out to a pleasant tartare. Served up with some nicely crisped housemade criss-cut chips, and I’ll say this is one of the more pleasant tartares I’ve had in recent history.

Similarly, they did a good job with the cheese plate we ordered. With options of “soft”, “firm”, or “blue” cheese selections, we opted for the firm plate, and got a nice selection of Vermont cheeses, ranging from Cabot cloth-covered cheddar, to Spring Brook Farm’s tarentaise, this was a nice cheese plate as far as quality went; we rather enjoyed all of these cheeses. I will ding it a slight not for variety, however, since all three cheeses were surprisingly similar in taste and texture. Hopefully as they adjust their seasonal selections they can mix it up a bit more, but I certainly wasn’t disappointed with this plate, either.

Finally, our main course. Both Carol and I opted for the popcorn fried chicken, which is a nice dish: some rather nice Misty Knoll Farm chicken was breaded up with a pleasant breading and served atop a bed of nicely dressed kale greens, this was a good dish. The chicken was crispy and flavorful. The kale added a nice firm crunchiness, with a tangy bleu cheese dressing that went well with the chicken. This was a very pleasant dish overall… But I’ll be honest, I actually don’t enjoy this dish as much as I used to, they used to make it with bone-in chicken leg quarters, but at some point in fairly recent history shifted to tenders. Quite frankly, it worked much better with dark meat quarters. Oh, it’s still a good dish, but it’s only realizing a fraction of its former potential.

Overall, I really enjoy the Farm House. It’s a good place to get a nice dinner made with quality local ingredients, accompanied by some nice appetizers, a good local beer, and some pleasant service (the waitstaff is particularly good with pairing suggestions). This is a good place, and with a few tweaks, I think they could be a great place.

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