So, it seems a little nutty to be heading to a farm to table restaurant when the mercury can’t find its way above freezing, right? But I’m on a mission to find kale salad, so I’m taking the 40-minute trek to Princeton.
Agricola: Fenwick Hospitality Group
With a nod to the previous establishment, Lahiere Restaurant, a nearly century-old Princeton institution, Agricola opened to great fanfare in 2013. Big shoes to fill, and as a sentimental gesture, the Lahiere sign will continue to hang, in homage, above the street. Executive Chef and Partner, NJ-born Josh Thomsen has brought Napa credibility to the challenges of farm-to-table in the sometimes wintry Garden State. Along with partner Jim Nawn who owns the nearby Skillman farm cultivated by Steve Tomlinson, later joined by Kyle Goedde, Fenwick Hospitality Group has brought delight-your-mouth-and-senses meal experiences to the area. Fenwick also introduced the French brasserie Cargot, across from Princeton’s McCarter Theatre last year, and they also operate the nearby Dinky Bar & Kitchen. Welcome additions to the local scene.
Savoring the Farm-To-Table Experience
Ambience is casual and Agricola simply furnished with a lot of wood—tables, floor–and ceramics on the walls. When it’s crowded, the dining room is not the place for an intimate meal, but if you are looking for convivial and loud, you’ll enjoy. My meal was enjoyed near the end of the lunch hour where noise subsided gradually to more peaceful surroundings.
Needing to take off the chill, I began with the smooth, delicate local potato and leek soup finished with crème fraiche and chives and crispy croutons. The soup arrived at a perfect temperature for immediate consumption so necessary on a chilled winter day. I had planned ahead to try a desert, so I followed up with the crave-worthy organic kale salad, dressed with radish and carrots, pumpkin seed vinaigrette—generous and delicious. Next time, I will doubtless be tempted by various items, including LoRé Beet Rigatoni, or possibly Hangar Steak, if they are still available. Prices peaked at $17 for the Margherita Flatbread appetizer, or $25 for the steak, with plenty of options. The wine list is international and the bar presents whimsically titled libations—“Wake Up and Smell Four Roses”—along with non-alcoholic hot and cold selections, including house-made flavored sodas.
Saving the best for last, I had to try the ricotta beignets and fruit, and I am so happy I did. Don’t scold. The fluffy beignets arrived with sweet roasted seckel pears, currants, milk chocolate crema, almond crumble. These accompanying flavors were the perfect complement.
What about the Kale?
The kale salad is one of Agricola’s specialty items, so I had to ask because it’s February, and the local farms are covered with snow and ice. The answer was gladly researched by the wait staff, and I learned about Zone-7 Farm—a New Jersey farm-fresh distribution service for 120 sustainable area farms. They deliver produce, grains, meat, and dairy to restaurants, school services, and supermarkets from New York to Philly. The Great Road Farm itself cultivates 120 different vegetables during the growing season. In the summer, yes, there’s also some greenhouse farming to keep the kale flowing.
Treat Yourself Well
Agricola is a warm and welcoming restaurant, serving brunch on the weekends, lunch on weekdays, dinner, and an abbreviated afternoon bar menu. Ahem—it’s almost Valentine’s Day—take a look at the menu.
Open every day, Agricola is located at Eleven Witherspoon Street, Princeton, New Jersey 08542.
Reservations recommended, especially for large parties:
(609) 921 2798