Sampler at Farmhouse Cafe
and Tea Room
Like Sherlock Holmes, the Sampler has a smarter older brother. (Actually, like “Billy Goat’s Gruff”, The Sampler has a whole series of brothers, each smarter than the last, but that’s another story.) The Sampler grew up thinking most people were more or less of equal intelligence. Somewhere along the way, it became painfully clear that, while most of us are about average smart, we are walking among a few others who can out-think us coming and going.
I feel that intelligent conversation always makes for delightful dinner company. Accordingly, my brother and I squired our wives on a nice drive through the country, up past Fox’s Corner to The Farmhouse Café and Tea Room, located in an old brick and wooden farmhouse with an adjoining nursery and landscaping business.
The Farmhouse is now serving dinner from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, in addition to being open every day for lunch from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Inside, the tables and chairs are all mismatched wooden antiques of various vintages, pedigrees, and states of repair. Around the walls are several rough, country-style dish cupboards, pie safes, and side boards, distressed by age.
My Smarter Sister-in-Law relayed some solemn advice she received from a co-worker upon learning that she was dining with The Sampler that evening.
“You know, that’s a mighty responsibility. You’re really going to have to try everything.”
We all studied our menus with the heavy mantle of gustatory responsibility hanging on us.
“Well, I guess there’s a little Sampler in all of us,” I said.
I ordered the soup of the day in a blind leap, and it turned out to be a wonderful chicken tortilla soup with black beans, corn, chicken, and tortilla chips—spicy but not too crazy. It was wonderful and we passed it around for general tasting.
The entrees arrived, and the food looked beautiful on the plates—always a good sign.
The menu reflects the summer season, with a plethora of fresh and flavorsome salads, traditional and otherwise: summer greens and herbed shrimp salad; asparagus and orange salad; chicken papaya salad with honey-lemon balm dressing; curried chicken salad with garlic shrimp, fresh tomato slices, artichoke hearts, red bell peppers and red onions, avocado, and hard-boiled egg; even a mixed fresh melon salad with a mint garnish or a bowl of mixed fresh fruit drizzled with a light and creamy yogurt topping.
Any salad can be an amazingly tasty and healthy Farmhouse dinner.
Mrs. Sampler opted for the avocado and smoked fish salad with tomato, cucumber, mustard seed and—ugh!—cilantro. Mrs. Sampler knows I do not like cilantro. Is this just a passive/aggressive way of keeping me out of her dinner?
Because I am a nibbler, I believe in getting a bite of everything, an example of each taste at the table. Life is a feast, people. Don’t let a little cilantro hold you back. Dig in!
My brother ordered the “summer chicken breast with spinach stuffing,” which proved to be delicious, perfectly cooked, and filled with spinach, spices, garden herbs, and some gooey cheese. “I don’t know what they put in it, but it was real good,” he ruled.
My sister-in-law had the summer spinach salad with fresh strawberries, mandarin orange slices, boiled egg, sweet dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, and caramelized walnuts topped with a light raspberry vinaigrette which she pronounced “Amazing!”
I was sorely tempted by the Farmhouse sirloin steak, seasoned with herbs and spices and “grilled over a real wood fire” or the “Brown County pork chop” basted with a “specially seasoned sauce,” but in the end, I opted for the grilled salmon.
It was a lovely huge portion of fresh grilled salmon slathered with garlic butter and herbs and topped off with sautéed red, green, and yellow bell peppers, black olive slices, and surrounded by new little red-skinned potatoes and real, fresh, tasty green beans.
It was delectable in every regard, as was the accompanying salad.
Dessert time arrived and the choices were mind (and pancreas) numbing: lemon meringue pie, fresh fruit ambrosia, coconut cream pie, carrot cake, strawberry rhubarb pie, strawberry shortcake, brownies with ice cream, and peach cheesecake.
My adorable and charming wife ordered the brownie with the strawberry shortcake topping. C’est voila! A dessert is born!
We had dessert and coffee, spoke of many things, and just generally enjoyed each other’s company while basking in the glow of a good meal.
And we were profoundly satisfied.