Tart, the restaurant in the kitschy, bucolic Farmer’s Daughter Hotel on Fairfax, is heating things up for the summer. In their hopes to be a local spot for both the hotel’s European guests and American neighbors, they describe their menu as “an American goes to London and has an affair in Paris.” What a tart! Executive Chef Nick Erwen has put together shareable plates of comfort food inspired by the farmer’s market. The menu is seasonal with a slight Southern accent. That Farmer’s daughter sure does get around. Chef Erwen was previously the head chef at Messhall and is also cheffing it up at Tart’s sister restaurant, Saint Martha. Did I mention that he plays guitar?
The intimate bar and dining area serve up some amazing alcoholic fruit punches in Mason jars (of course). I recommend the Black Ballin’ Punch. Why? Because it’s a delicious blend of blackberry vodka, orange, and cranberry juice. Also ’cause you shoulda been a baller. By the way, don’t look up “black ballin” on Urban Dictionary. You will be sorry. New summer bar snacks include Pickled Summer Squash and Chicharron Fries.
One area where Tart really shines is with farmer’s market-fresh salads. At a recent hosted dinner I was able to sample an Heirloom Tomato Salad with Torn Sourdough, Capers, Olives, and Tomato Vinaigrette. A Summer Melon Salad with Cucumber, Mint, Wild Arugula and a Sherry was really refreshing on a warm California evening. My favorite had to be the Pea Tendril Salad with Burrata, Peaches, and Truffle Vinaigrette. There is just nothing greener-tasting than pea tendrils and nothing sunnier than peaches; a perfect complement. I know, Tart loves vinaigrettes, but what other dressing can elevate an ingredient without masking its flavor?
I was puzzled by a Scotch Egg Tartare on the menu. What was raw? The egg? The pork sausage? It turned out they had replaced the traditional sausage with a mild steak tartare, and it actually worked really well. The Smoked Trout Deviled Egg with Trout Roe was a slam dunk. I am definitely stealing that idea and mashing smoked flaky fish into my next deviled egg mixture. Another winner was the signature Crab and Avocado Toast with Lemon and Hot Sauce. Sometimes simple, quality ingredients are what makes the dish. Salmon with Fennel Puree with a Petite Herb Salad and Black Olives was a light, but substantial summer dish. For dessert I recommend the cool and refreshing Creme Fraiche Panna Cotta with Strawberries, Rhubarb and Shortbread. Now, rhubarb, that is definitely straight off the farm.
Sommelier and General Manager Mary Thompson is the opposite of the traditional snobby sommelier in a 3-piece suit. She likes to make wine approachable, and enjoys featuring wine from lesser-known regions. This Philly native has earned her second-level certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers but she still likes to mix it up a little. For example, she flouted the common notion of always pairing white wine with fish by pouring a MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir, Central Coast 2011 with the salmon. Salmon is a pretty meaty fish, so it made perfect sense to me.
Partners Peter and Ellen Picataggio and Jim Hustead are working hard on transforming the property into a fun and hip boutique hotel. By the looks of the gorgeous patio they are doing a great job. Sitting under the stars with a light breeze on your shoulders makes for a perfect summer night. They are also known for their brunch, where you get 50% off your meal if you jump in the pool wearing your clothes!