This weekend I had the pleasure of visiting a truly unique restaurant and bakery located in Davis, California called The Farmer’s Kitchen Cafe. I had first heard about this restaurant on the CeliacBayArea Yahoo message board, where people had reported really enjoying a place where they could eat everything on the menu. One woman reported that she was practically in tears over the sheer selection. I know the feeling well. They change their menu daily, but generally have good gluten free sandwiches, salads, beautiful soups, ravioli, quiche, pizza, chicken pot pie, and the like. They also sell homemade baked goods in their dedicated kitchen, including bagels, hamburger buns, cookies, and homemade pasta. They are affiliated with the small health food store next door, Natural Food Works, which largely carries vitamins, beauty products, and an amazing selection of bulk herbs. They do carry a few ener-g bars and gluten free mixes such as Namaste and Bob’s Red Mill. Natural Food Works has been in business since 1972, so it seems as though (happily) they are here for the long haul.
Although it was really difficult to pick from all the choices, I ended up going with a personal veggie pizza (veggies, pesto sauce, mozzarella and feta), the Portobello Mushroom Sandwich du Jour, and (we were planning to take this to go) a Torte de Blette with chard and apples. I always like to compare gluten free pizza crusts looking for the best one, and GF sandwiches I actually want to eat (being GF AND veggie) are few and far between. Also, I’d read on their web site forum that the pastry for the torte was quite good, so I couldn’t resist. I did feel more than a minor twinge over the prices- and when you order the sandwich gluten free, you can’t downsize to a “small,” which is what I had originally planned to do. Nevertheless, I went with my plan. I was very, very tempted by the ravioli, but the price made me hesitate. And, I decided that I could make soup anytime, so best to test them with their bread based stuff and see how they compared to homemade.
It is worth noting that on their website they warn that because everything is made from scratch, it takes time. This is not the place for snappy, quick fast food (or commercial restaurant) service. But the two women working there were both sweet, and genuinely tried to make sure that their customers were happy with the food. They apologized for any slowness or mistakes with the order, and were very pleasant. Since we knew from the start that the food would take a little time, we settled into our chairs with some magazines, and took a few tours of the health food store while we were waiting.
First, the pizza came. DH was quite surprised to see cabbage, shredded carrots and broccoli on the pizza, but I was intrigued. After all, I like my veggies. The only slight disappointment was that they brought it with the marinara sauce instead of the pesto that I had ordered- but since it took so long, I didn’t really want to delay the order by sending it back. Besides, DH prefers marinara to pesto anyway. The crust was white and somehow both slightly dense and spongy at the same time. It was also faintly sweet. I enjoyed the fresh vegetables with the red sauce, and felt like it was definitely healthier than the average pizza. I enjoyed it very much, although I still think I prefer Carol Fenster’s recipe for pizza crust that I make at home. The fun of it though, is that I was eating pizza IN A RESTAURANT made IN A DEDICATED GF KITCHEN. Safe, delicious, and the whole point is that it is different than the pizza I make at home. DH enjoyed it as well.
Next, my portabella mushroom sandwich came, dripping with gorgeous green pesto. There wasn’t a lot of feta in it- but it was very, very good, and there was absolutely no skimping on the mushrooms. Yummy! The bread was their gluten free sourdough loaf that they sell for around nine dollars for a huge loaf. It was good, and faintly sweet. Definitely better than store bought bread. If it had been cheaper, I might have picked up a loaf to take home.
And last, the Torte de Blette arrived. It was considerably larger than I expected, but then again, it was a main course dish and wasn’t cheap. The crust was flaky and floury, without excessive butter. It was probably made from white flours like white rice and tapioca starch, although I can’t confirm this. I had made a very similar dish for Thanksgiving, although I used cheese and pine nuts. Both versions were tasty but not entirely my thing, so I probably would have been better off ordering something else. But, if you like a light, refreshing tart made with greens and apples that you didn’t have to slave over a counter to create- it’s definitely worth a taste.
It’s always hard to decide what to order when (for a change) we can eat every darned thing on the menu. I heard rave reviews of the chicken pot pie, and one woman sitting near us ordered it and seemed really happy with it. (It looked great!) Although I don’t eat chicken, maybe DH will have that next time- it looked fantastic! The salads also looked great- and although I am somewhat dismayed by the high price of a tofu addition- I suppose that is the price of eating organic and local foods. I think next time, I would probably try one of the lovely soups with garlic rosemary toast, or the curry vegetables which I’ve heard very good things about.
Tour the Store
One more plus about stopping at the Farmer’s Kitchen was that I could pick up a few things for the rest of the trip, notably a fresh baked, shiny bagel and a scrumptious looking bun with rosemary and onion seasoning. I saved the bagel for breakfast the next morning, but I think it was probably even better the day it was baked. The rosemary onion bun was perfect, even the next day, with great flavor and amazing soft, fluffy texture. I meant to have a taste, and ended up eating the whole thing in the car with butter, one yummy slice after another. (DH helped me out- a little…) Both were around $2.50 each, and were worth every penny. I’d order a batch of those buns, if I could!
Although Davis is a bit far, the Farmer’s Kitchen made a terrific stop on our road trip to Lake Tahoe and Reno. They are closed on Sundays, so I’m glad we were able to stop over on Saturday. After we enjoyed the pizza, half of our sandwich, and a few bites of the torte (we saved the rest for later), we went for a walk around the cute downtown area, which is obviously geared towards college students. There was a terrific used/ new book store called Bogey’s Books with quirky literature and a great cookbook section. We also stopped at a perfect local cafe called Mishka’s Cafe and had a cozy cup of coffee. If you have time and happen to be heading towards Sacramento from the Bay area, I’d definitely make Davis a stop on the way. It ended up being one of our favorite stops on our trip, and not just because of the great GF food!