May 31, 2010


A & I have been documenting our fresh and local produce from our CSA share, which has been well complemented by fresh baked bread from Metropolitan Bakery. If you combine these things with the restaurant scene, you might find yourself at FARMiCiA, a restaurant in Old City that focuses on simple dishes utilizing local, organic ingredients. Additionally, this restaurant is the brainchild of the owners of Metropolitan.

Because A was in the Poconos for the long weekend, my boyfriend replaced her as my dining date. Thankfully, he enjoys healthy food as much as we do, so I knew he would appreciate my restaurant choice. A warm summery weekend evening was perfect for the half-hour stroll through Center City to 3rd & Market. Sadly, we don't find ourselves in the more historical area of the city very often- it's really so pretty! However, most of the good food in the area is a little out of the realm of our bank account (Amada, Union Trust, etc).

FARMiCiA has a very open layout, with huge glass windows open to sidewalk seating. Our waitress had the personality of a rock, but there were no problems with the service. A big basket of Metropolitan bread circulates around the room- our choices included an herbed foccacia, a thinly sliced wheaty-grainy bread, and a bread packed with thick slices of olives. For the indecisive types *raises hand* you can try any or all of the types. The bread is also served with a creamy scoop of herbed butter.

We started out the meal with the antipasto ($11)- a good plate to share, and on the lighter side- perfect for warm weather. I liked that the restaurant put it's own touch on the different components- it wasn't your typical meat-and-cheese-fest. Without a doubt, the highlight of the dish was the marinated mushrooms- earthy, vinegary, a smoky flavor from the grill, with a really satisfying dense, meaty texture. The hardboiled egg was also good, but seemed a little dry compared to the ones that come out of my own kitchen. The salty white sardines were great on pieces of buttered wheat bread. Although the menu claims that the olives in this dish are grilled, A) how does one grill an olive? and B) these seemed like plain olives to me. Don't get me wrong, they were delicious olives- a mix of different purples and greens. The plate also included two items from my "not-so-favorite-foods" list- sundried tomatoes and capers- but I dutifully tried them out and found the capers to be a good complement to a bit of egg. A small tuft of microgreens- also good for making mini open-faced sandwiches- rounded out the dish.

I thought my date might go for the cheese plate or the calamari, but he opted for the Tuscan Grains salad ($8.5). A mix of spelt and chopped orange and red peppers comprised the majority of the dish, though it was served with a thin layer of baby arugula and topped with more microgreens. Big squares of soft ricotta salata gave a subtle salty flavor to complement the super sweet, crunchy peppers and hearty grains. The spelt was actually a new grain to both of us- as a variety of wheat, it was a little on the nutty side and gave the salad a little more bulk. Everything was lightly coated in a citrusy vinaigrette- the dish was something I'd love to recreate for a summer picnic. My boyfriend kept commenting on how healthy it was, but yet it was still super tasty- personally my favorite kind of food.

Although I'd love to check out something on the vegetarian portion of the menu ("Mega Dose of Vegetables and Grains" sounds RIGHT up my alley) the sundried cherries in the description of the duck dish ($22) snagged my full attention. The duck breast was perfectly cooked, with a crispy skin covered in the sweet and sour glaze complete with fat dried cherries. The sourness of the cherries and the more complex flavor of the duck was incredible. The meat was served with a pile of sauteed sugar snap peas- so sweet and super crunchy, with a hint of sage-y herb flavor. The other star of the dish was the grain mixture- a "native grain pilaf" that included wild rice, giant whole white corn kernels (also known as hominy) and more spelt. Because it took grains from all the major categories (rice, wheat, corn), it really made such an amazing mix of flavors and textures- so simple yet SO good. Although the serving sizes here may not be huge, they leave nothing to be desired.

My boyfriend has a slight obsession with lamb, so he chose the Pan Roasted Lamb Tenderloin ($22.5). Sliced into good-sized chunks, the cooked-to-order meat was incredibly juicy and flavorful. It was done up in a minty dressing- an unoriginal taste pairing for lamb, but hey, if it ain't broke, don't fix it! The asparagus was more of an original addition- peeled and ever-so-slightly steamed, maintaining a major crunch factor and an amazingly light flavor. I've been hoping for freshly cut asparagus in our CSA box, because I've heard that most people have no idea what asparagus is supposed to taste like- let's just say I see myself growing asparagus in a future garden. Everything was served over soft white beans that had soaked up some of the minty flavor from the sauce. As I'm not the biggest fan of lamb, I was a little surprised to find myself asking for multiple pieces in trade for some of my delicious cherry duck. My mouth is watering just typing about it.

We had plans to walk around the corner for some ice cream at Franklin Fountain, so we declined our waitress's offer of the dessert menu. I have no doubt that the options on that menu are just as fresh and delicious as the other items we had the opportunity to taste. Although I'm not sure that this restaurant would fit the bill for just any hungry Joe Schmo looking for dinner, we absolutely loved FARMiCiA- the concept, the atmosphere, and of course, the food. The name is a play on the idea that food can actually provide everything a body needs to be healthy- FARMiCiA executed this point of view perfectly- and in a tasty and interesting way, to boot.

15 S. 3rd Street

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