For the past quarter century or so, American chefs and the dining public have increasingly embraced the concept of farm-to- table cooking. It makes great sense from an environmental and an economical standpoint and as the Smithsonian Magazine wrote, “the farm-to-table movement is at once hip and historic.” Its historical aspects are especially relevant in agrarian New Mexican villages where farm-to-table hasn’t always been a “movement,” “concept” or “trend.” It’s been a way of life, especially in the state’s frontier days when food wasn’t nearly as plentiful as it is today.
Enchanting as it may be, New Mexico is a land which can be harsh and unforgiving as Native American pueblos and early settlers found out when, for centuries, they eked out a meager subsistence from an austere terrain amidst the ravages of climatic extremes. To a great extent their ability to coax a stable crop supply from an often unyielding earth was a tribute to their perseverance, hard work and divine graces.
By the early 1800s, farmers made up about 90 percent of America’s workforce. Entering the 20th century, the percentage of Americans engaged in producing crops and livestock was down to 40 percent. Today, less than one percent of the population claim farming as their principal occupation. Largely because most of us have no personal experience in crop production, children–especially those growing up in urban areas–have no idea where their food comes from. Ask many of them where their food comes from and they’re apt to say “the grocery store.”
For decades, if you asked American chefs where their restaurants’ food comes from, they might well have bragged about importing ingredients from throughout the world. It was a very expensive proposition, one with a heavy-footed impact on the planet. Today, more and more chefs are “staying local” and “going back to basics” for their food sources. Their goals are not only to reduce the environmental impact on the planet (reduced fuel consumption, less driving and flying), but to introduce diners to fresher, better-tasting, more nutritious foods grown locally.
America’s farm to table renaissance was largely born in California during the ’60s and ’70s. Some sociologists consider it an extension of the same cultural revolution that spawned the “hippie movement” and brought into social consciousness such terms as “organic food,” “natural food,” “back-to-the-earth” and “support-the-local-farmer.” Alice Waters, considered one of the movement’s founders admits, however, that she wasn’t looking for organic, local food when starting her pioneering farm-to-table restaurant Chez Panise. She wanted to provide a venue in which guests could experience the type of freshness and flavor she found in France.
The wild success of restaurants such as Chez Panise proved that locally grown organic food could provide both exciting variety and utmost quality. Restaurants throughout California offering farm-to-table dining took root with effusive fervor. Among the movement’s practitioners, it hasn’t been uncommon for chefs to change their menus almost weekly depending on what’s available and fresh during growing seasons. Not even nay-sayers who dismissed farm-to-table as another faddish trend could argue against the freshness, deliciousness and inventiveness of the movement’s restaurants.
Though farm-to-table has had staunch devotees for decades among New Mexico’s restaurateurs, it’s only in recent years that they’ve really started to brand their culinary offerings as organic and locally grown. Coupled with the very illuminating presence and farm-to-table advocacy of Edible Santa Fe, a perfect storm has been created for restaurants showcasing the Land of Enchantment’s locally grown fare to succeed–and not just in Santa Fe which has been at the fore of New Mexico’s farm-to-table adoption.
On March 1, 2012, the culmination of that perfect storm hit Albuquerque with the launch of Farm & Table, a much anticipated opening fueled by food porn quality Facebook teases. Within weeks of its opening, local media–KOB Television’s Best Bites, Local Flavor Magazine, the Alibi, the Albuquerque Journal, and the New Mexico Business Weekly–all rhapsodized effusively about the exemplar farm-to-table restaurant. It’s usually my practice to let the hullabaloo die down before visiting a restaurant anointed by all the cognoscenti, but Franzi Moore, a faithful reader of this blog and a fellow epicure would hear none of that. As persuasive and charming a barrister as there is, when Franzi says she wants my opinion, its nolo contendere; I had to visit Farm & Table. We were joined by her husband Chris and their friend Beckett.
Farm & Table is located on a sprawling property on Fourth Street between Alameda and Paseo del Norte. It’s a veritable oasis of green amidst Albuquerque’s earth-tone and concrete modernity. The premises includes a working farm—nine acres of alfalfa and 1.5 acres for produce, including a greenhouse. The restaurant is a recent addition to a 200 year-old adobe edifice which houses La Parada (which translates from Spanish to “the stopping place” and indeed, the building was once a stagecoach stop), a bustling store showcasing the work of local artists in eclectic folk art, jewelry, vintage clothing and more.
The restaurant itself is comprised of two dining rooms and an expansive courtyard with views of the verdant fields in which many of the dinner or brunch ingredients are grown. The main dining rooms are festooned in an upscale Southwestern motif accented by sturdy blonde vigas and painted concrete floors. The smoothly hewn barn wood tables are burnished to a rustic glossy finish. One dining room offers a view to the heart and soul of the restaurant’s operations—not the kitchen, but the prep station in which the expediter (the person in charge of organizing orders by table, and garnishing the dishes before the server takes them out to the dining room) ensures everything runs smoothly. It’s a treat to see an efficiently run dining room operation and Farm & Table has become just that in a short time.
The dinner menu showcases locally grown produce, both from the farm but from some of the state’s agrarian epicenters such as Albuquerque’s South Valley (spinach, arugula and field greens), Santa Fe (beets and potatoes), Los Lunas (grass-fed beef), Lemitar (red and green chile), Tucumcari (cheese), Corrales (Heidi’s organic raspberry jam), Mesilla (pecans) and honey from throughout the state. Obviously the menu’s pescatarian fare isn’t caught on the Rio Grande, but you can bet it’s sustainable seafood. Dinner and brunch menus are distinctively different with few cross-over items from one menu to the other. Both menus are vibrant and sure to please the most discerning palates.
Bread is baked in-house and is sliced thick. It’s served with an olive oil and seasonings dip, but is thoroughly enjoyable on its own where you can luxuriate on its artisan-quality, pillowy softness. As with all great breads, it’s also an excellent vehicle with which to sop up any remaining sauces from your plate. You might think it’s tacky to use bread in this manner, especially at a fine dining establishment, but it’s a time-honored custom practiced at some very fine restaurants in France. Besides, it’s less tacky than licking your plate. It’s also not tacky to use your hands to pick up the thinly-shaved radishes (grown in the greenhouse) on the bread plate either. They’re fresh and invigorating.
29 April 2012 (Brunch): As you might expect, soups and salads are paragons of freshness at Farm & Table. An orange tarragon roasted beet salad (marinated beets, mixed greens and pickled turnips with rosemary blue cheese yogurt and orange segments) honors its ingredients by letting them shine, not allowing them to be masked or overwhelmed by a dressing. The earthy sweetness of the roasted beets is a perfect foil for the tangy orange segments. The pickled turnips are not too tangy from the pickling process. The mixed greens are crisp, fresh and delicious. With most salads I ask the wait staff to bring me as much blue cheese as they can carry, mostly to obfuscate the flavors of stale, store-bought greens. At Farm & Table, a little bit goes a long way though the rosemary blue cheese yogurt is good enough to drink like a beverage.
25 April 2012 (Dinner): Beethoven once said “only the pure of heart can make good soup.” The Farm & Table kitchen must then be staffed with a phalanx of pure-hearted cooks. The Italian soup is as good, if not better than most minestrone and pasta fagoli soups I’ve had in Italian restaurants. Aromatically enticing, it is replete with fresh vegetables and redolent with a coarse-blend sausage from Joe S. Sausage, the Duke City’s Scovie award-winning king of sausage. A vegan soup (beet root, kale, spinach and so much more) might be even better.
2 February 2014 (Brunch): Even in land-locked New Mexico, clam and seafood chowders have become fairly common. Most won’t ever be mistaken for chowders offered along the country’s coasts. In pairing black cod, one of ocean’s tastiest fish with parsnip, a mysterious root vegetable many people can’t identify, Farm & Table may have one-upped even some of coastal America’s best purveyors of sumptuous seafood soup. Black cod, also known as “sablefish” is a delicate, flaky fish with a rich, buttery flavor and silky sweet and rich overtones while parsnip is a root vegetable with a sweet, delicate flavor. This combination makes for a magnificent soup, one which will warm the cockles of your heart while tantalizing your taste buds. It doesn’t as much explode with flavor as it does offer your taste buds the warmth and comfort of soupy deliciousness.
25 April 2012: Among the appetizers, the one that’s as impossible to resist as a dinner invitation from Franzi is the pork belly with butterscotch miso sauce. At first glance, the three petite pieces of porcine perfection resemble chocolate truffles, the sheen from the butterscotch akin to a glossy chocolate frosting. Far from being heart healthy, pork belly layers pork and fat together to provide a textural and flavor experience few foods can hope to match. In terms of flavor, think pulled pork meats bacon only better. It’s no wonder Emeril Lagasse likes to say “port fat rules!” The accompanying apple slices provide both a decorative touch and a flavor-texture contrast.
25 April 2012: What the dinner menu lacks in volume (only a handful of items plus specials), it more than makes up in the desirability of its entrees. You might think it would be relatively easy to pare down your one selection from the relatively small number of entrees, but you’ll be hard-pressed to do so. One safe bet is the grilled six-ounce beef tenderloin impregnated with a pungent blue cheese compound butter and served with horseradish mashed potatoes and roasted beets. If you’ve lamented the absence of a steak that will make your eyes roll back in sheer delight, you’ll love this tenderloin, emphasis on tender. At medium, it’s a foodgasm quality slab of beef. The horseradish mashed potatoes add a nice kick.
25 April 2012: Seafood aficionados will react to the local fig wood cold-smoked and seared scallops the way a treasure-hunter reacts to finding a pirate’s plunder. There are only three scallops on the plate, but they’re large and brimming with the sweet, succulent flavor that hearkens back to the days when scallops were synonymous with dining elegance. The scallops are topped with Balsamic caviar to lend a tangy contrast. A 2008 survey by Heinz shows that Brussels sprouts now take the prize as America’s most-hated vegetable. Perhaps it’s because respondents have never had truly great Brussels sprouts. Some of the very best we’ve ever had are the bacon Brussels sprouts at Farm & Table and not only because the bacon flavor shines through. These Brussels sprouts are perfectly prepared. They sit atop a white bean puree. An apple foam on the plate is cute, but superfluous.
29 April 2012: Not available on the dinner menu is a brunch entree that has supplanted my favorite of its kind in Albuquerque. That would be the Prince Edward Island Mussels with feta and green chile broth prepared with red onion and red bell pepper topped with cilantro. Forgive me P’Tit Louis Bistro, but the mussels at Farm & Table are even better than yours and yours are superb! The broth, especially the marriage of feta, green chile and red onion is absolutely glorious, better even than the restaurant’s wonderful soups. You’ll want several slices of the restaurant’s housemade bread to sop up each drop.
2 February 2014: When you see diners order a burger for brunch at a fine dining restaurant there are only three conclusions you can draw: (1) other menu items are mediocre (see El Pinto); (2) the diners wouldn’t know good food if it bit them; or (3) that burger must be pretty darned good. The House-Ground Burger (local grass fed beef, Tucumcari Cheddar cheese, farm greens, tomatoes on the house brioche and farm fries) is that darned good. It’s simply one of the very best burgers I’ve had in New Mexico. The green chile is very much on the mild side, so much so that I wondered if this is the “famous Colorado green chile” of which we heard so much before the 2014 Superbowl. As with the Santa Fe Bite‘s world-famous burger, this burger is all about the beef, quite simply some of the very best beef on any burger in town. The burger is roughly four inches in diameter and would resemble a slider were it not nearly as tall as it is round. The other stand-out is the brioche bun which is about as perfect texturally and flavor-wise as any canvas on any burger in town.
2 February 2014: Mention chicken salad sandwich among foodies and you’re likely to lull their taste buds to sleep. Chicken salad sandwiches aren’t widely noted for their taste appeal and are usually seen as more of a utilitarian offering, something you might serve if you’ve got left-over chicken and little time. Farm & Table has a gumption to believe it can improve on something so culinarily uninteresting–and according to my Kim, it does. Its components are celery, grapes, carrots, herbed mayo, farm greens and pecans on housemade toast. My Kim must really have enjoyed this chicken salad sandwich because she only gave me one small bite.
25 April 2012 (Dinner): While Franzi waxed eloquent about the entire menu, she was most enthusiastic about a dessert called Pastel Impossible (red chile chocolate cake with vanilla bean flan and spiced tortilla chip). Sometimes called chocoflan, it melds chocolate cake and flan both texturally and as an unbeatable taste combination. What is remarkable about this dish is that the chocolate cake and the flan are baked together, but are not mixed together. What’s more remarkable is just how good the combination can be.
2 February 2014 (Brunch): The dessert against which I measure all other desserts is bread pudding. Farm & Table hasn’t disappointed in either of the two bread puddings we’ve sampled. One of the most unique is a Meyer Lemon bread pudding made from the house brioche and topped with a wonderfully crumbly streusel. Meyer lemons are juicy and sweet while retaining the tongue-tingling properties of conventional lemons. On the bread pudding it’s the sweetness that’s most prominent though just a touch of tartness sneaks in. The streusel is a wonderful touch, so much more commonly used on coffee cakes, but at home on this terrific bread pudding.
Farm & Table is the type of restaurant rarity which promises and delivers a unique dining experience every time you visit. It’s conceivable some, if not most, of the items about which I write on this essay won’t be on the menu when you visit. Fret not. You’ll find much to love at this gem of a restaurant. Service is first-rate and the food is outstanding with appeal sure to please more than just locavores.
Farm & Table
8917 4th Street NW
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 2 February 2014
1st VISIT: 25 April 2012
# OF VISITS: 3
COST: $$$ – $$$$
BEST BET: Pastel Impossible, Pork belly with butterscotch miso sauce, Local fig wood cold-smoked and seared scallops, Beef Tenderloin, PEI Mussels with Feta Cheese and Green Chile Broth, Farm to Table Burger, Orange Tarragon Roasted Beet Salad, Piloncillo Bread Pudding, Meyer lemon Bread Pudding, Cream Puff, Black Cod & Parsnip Chowder, Chicken Salad Sandwich, House-Ground Burger
15 thoughts on “Farm & Table – Albuquerque, New Mexico”
If I could rate this place less than 1 star, it would accurately describe the service we received. This was my 3rd time here, and wanted to celebrate a birthday. The hostess was rude and condescending. We didn’t have a reservation, but that’s never been a problem. There were at least 10 empty tables, but at 1:10 PM we were told there were several “reservations”. We needed a table for two. A party of two ahead of us (with no reservation) were sat immediately. We were next and told we’d have to wait 20 minutes. A party of 4 right behind us (weren’t even asked if they had reservations), and they were sat right away. A party of 2 came in 10 minutes after our party, and they were seated without a reservation. Guess what? They were all light-skinned Caucasian. I guess our skin was a bit too dark for their liking. We left after 20 minutes of the hostess’s rude behavior. Seems things haven’t changed much in the last 4 decades. Not a problem, because we’ll take our business to any of the other fine restaurants in Albuquerque. I’ll drive the longer distance to The Grove–it has much better food than Farm and Table anyway. At least their staff is polite and seem to want and appreciate the locals (in spite of skin color). The Grove’s food tastes better, too! Oh, and we’ll tell all our friends and business associates, too.
I guess my displeasure over the hamburger was such I couldn’t even type the name correctly…obviously meant Farm and Table, not Food and Table.
First trip to Food and Table today for brunch. Food was quite good, at least once it came after a 30 minute wait and at least that portion which was manageable to eat. More on that in a second. Service was a disgrace. One of the items we ordered to share was the hamburger. A very nice looking burger came out sandwiched between two slices of a baguette the size of saltine crackers. The burger quickly became a deconstructed burger because the “bun” could not handle the burger, and you could barely hold it. After flagging down a bus boy because our waiter was MIA for about 15 minutes, our waiter came by and said he was sorry and would bring us some bread or toast that was bigger. Instead, he came out with two more slices of the same saltine-sized baguette and explained the problem was they ran out of burger buns and that’s all they had and basically said take it or leave it. Funny, but I seemed to notice toast on the menu and being served at all other tables. At that point, we gave up and just did the best we could. The extra slides of bread were pointless, yet when the bill came we somehow had been charged another $2 for it. While it was only $2, this was unacceptable. They serve an $11 hamburger on an unacceptable bun, don’t solve the problem, bring us more unacceptable “buns” that we don’t use and charge us $2 for the privilege. The actual ingredients were very tasty, and the enchiladas and eggs were good….however, I have no need to give my money to a restaurant that operates like this. There are plenty of places that serve better food and have a much better conception of what service should be.
First I must thank the owner because he treated Senorena most wonderfully on her Birthday last thursday; not only did he get us in at the time we desired but brought out a special homemade bread pudding for her that was spectaculor! We started out sharing a Quinoa salad that was very refreshing and I believe hand picked in their backyard. We both had the green chile cheeseburger and it was one of the best we have had in this state. Very interesting fries were served that included not only potoatoes but parsnips which made the meal very intriguing. I look forward to coming back and enjoying eating at this very fine restaurant on 4th street…
Thank you so much for joining us for such a lovely meal! We were all thrilled to read your review and look forward to more culinary adventures with you and your lovely Kim!
It’s so nice to hear from you. We thoroughly enjoyed breaking bread with you, Chris and Becket at Farm & Table. As terrific as the restaurant is, the experiential aspects of sharing great food and great conversation with wonderful people and fellow epicures really heightened our enjoyment. Thank you so much for sharing a delightful evening with us.
Today was one of the best Mother’s Day ever! You were booked solid yet found a beautiful spot for me to enjoy. This was my first time visitng and not only was the food, fresh, beautiful and glorious but the atmosphere and service exceeded expectations.
I felt taken care of and pampered which is very rare in today’s fast paced society. Please thank whoever surprised me at the end of my meal, it was like getting a hug and so thoughtful! I will pay it forward and am so thankful to random acts of kindness. Please thank them.
I will be back and bring my friends.
P.S. Those scones, to die for…
Ambiance a 10!
Service, knowledgeable but s l o w. Having to ask for the same thing 2, 3 and 4 times can make me cranky.
Food and prep and visuals, terrific.
4 diners had the soup of the day, the quinoa salad and the pork belly as appys. All excellent.
My wife had the scallops which we great, one friends had the duck breast, his wife, the salmon two ways which worked out well for my wife and me, she isn’t a big fan of salmon tartare which was offered to us and was excellent. The tartare was complimented by the addition of crunchy sprouts and that crunchiness put the tartare over the top and is highly recommended.
I went with the Farm to Table burger.
Thank goodness for splitting entrees with my wife. The burger was so so and got cold very quickly and my wife’s half was taken back to the kitchen to be reheated.
The wait for some ketchup for the fries was the catalyst for the need for reheating.
And frankly the burger was just that, a burger that could have been from any restaurant or even Blake’s. The fries were not particularly crisp, bordering on the undercooked. And it took forever to get some ketchup.
We will go back and perhaps as they deal with their success they’ll iron out some of the service issues.
The patio is an gem and the sunset over the Rio Grande was spectacular.
– With all due respect to Mz. Cheryl and per my novitiate status, I note her List is ”8″ where tradition is “10”. As such, I’ll hold out for her sampling Scalo’s Filetto of Heritage Ranch to complete her List, albeit maybe I’m just taken by the risotta! LOL
– On a Lite-r note: From Farm to Table BUT Then Where? The Farm! What happens after you eat all the so-called Kobe beef you care to for ‘under 40 bucks’ in Vegas? http://tinyurl.com/7gu56pd This fellow may sound like he missed the 8th grade, but 30ish years ago he showed ‘his smarts’ when he ‘cornered’ this market. http://tinyurl.com/899wmou Lest I’ve noted this elsewhere, I had the “privilege” of visiting about ’93 with my foster son’s school field trip when ya could shot a gun in any direction. Now ‘Carpetbaggers’ superciliously complain about “the smell”. In fact, the relative cleanliness and odorlessness of the place were what impressed me the most. Drive out for a visit next time Y’all are in Vegas.
Whoa, what can I add to The Gil’s? Ok…Per seeing overflo parking onto 4th, went just after 5. Suggestion? – make a reservation for this new Jewel along El Camino Real !!! Be that as it may, I must give them a Bravo per their business sense/model of when to be open in these tight times!
Ambiance: Gil’s pics just hint a tad at what I think (blush) folks might think/expect of a setting for a relaxed, but fine dining venture in our North Valley, either inside or patio…i.e. neo-traditional SouthWest, which this is it!!!!
I chose The Tenderloin for my inaugural fare: Bon Appetit….Muy Sabrosa…oooh so tender…. and perfectly pink as requested. Spuds: When I have Prime Rib, I’m No-Way into horseradish and so I was leery re the so infused spuds; turns out, they were ‘fine’ along with the ‘orange beets’! (OK…I prefer the mano-purple.)
What? Lest you dare ask a Throw-down? Per my admitted limited adventures (e.g. sans Vernon’s, Rancher’s, Bien Shur etc.) Scalo’s Filetto is Primo per size, cambozola cheese topping, mushroom risotta and thus price per Press-Pass discount, up against Antiquity’s Henry IV, Blade’s Wellington, and F&T’s Tenderloin, all nevertherless being a top second!!! Please…that’s not fair; it’s no-way a put down, but in the spirit of always reaching for the TOP!!! In addition, I recognize my genetic palate may not be on par with…thus open to comment by….some Commentors herein…LOL. Indeed I will be exploring F&T’s more creative….less same-old-same-old….adventures!!!
Bottom Line: this new ‘Way-Station-in-Life’ as part of the adjoining vintage tienda I’ve found many unique home accents and gifts in over the past few years, is a Must-Do I’ll frequent in the Yum-Yum scene here in The Q.
Fanta Se, Y’all should consider yourself on notice!
Bienvenidos to F&T AND the Wait and Cookery staff striving to and making for a fine evening!!!
You’ll be happy to hear that Cheryl Jamison, New Mexico’s four-time James Beard award-winning author agrees with us about the tenderloin at Farm & Table. In her most recent Tasting NM blog column, Cheryl rhapsodizes about eight great NM steaks. It’s a great column.
Cheryl and Bill Jamison will be releasing their new book Tasting New Mexico: Recipes Celebrating One Hundred Years of Distinctive Home Cooking
later this month. In addition to featuring full-flavored versions of 100 beloved local dishes, the book covers the agricultural and ranching heritage of New Mexico, and relates stories about notable cooks, restaurants, food products, and more. It’s an absolute must-have!
Oh, and my steak throw-down would have to include the elk tenderloin at Geronimo, still the most succulent slab of beefy delicousness I’ve ever had in New Mexico.
As self-confessed “Foodfreaks”, we rarely go out to eat. But Farm & Table is one of a very few exceptions. The food is delicious, the ambiance is great & the service made me feel special. I am so glad to read your review & we can’t wait to try everything on the menu! Here’s to a great future for the North Valley’s new “Gem”, Farm & Table
This place looks fabulous! Makes me sorry I don’t live closer. How does the Green Chile Cheeseburger compare to all the greats, such as Bobcat Bite, etc?
You must have loved it……I notice 2 visits in 3 days! 🙂
I’m not sure Farm & Table is quite at the caliber of the two star Michelin restaurants you frequent, but fabulous really is a good word for it. The green chile cheeseburger compares very favorably with some of the very best in New Mexico. That green chile cornmeal bun should be standard on all burgers and that Lemitar green chile is mouth-watering.
Next time you’re in the Land of Enchantment, it would be my honor and privilege to introduce you to Farm & Table. We’ll just have to make sure not to leave any lamb shanks within Gunner’s reach.
Love that place! I try to tell everyone I can about it. Our local dining scene is really looking up with new independent restaurants. Go local.