Gluten Free Dining Adventures- Welcome to Davis, California

farmersmenu2html.jpg 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.

farmerspizza2.jpg 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.

farmerssandy.jpg 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.

farmersapplegreen2.jpgAnd 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

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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!

Peruse the Baked Goods
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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!

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8 Responses to “Gluten Free Dining Adventures- Welcome to Davis, California”

  1. I’m glad you enjoyed the Farmers’ Kitchen Cafe. You’ll have to come back on June 22nd. See?

  2. [...] Some time back I was reading Brendon’s blog over at Something in Season and came across an announcement for the Something in Season Dinner he proposed to host at the Farmer’s Kitchen Cafe in Davis, California. I’ve enjoyed his blog and its fresh, seasonal approach to food as well as its wit (lawnmower grass clippings saute, anyone?) for some time now, and my last visit to Davis and the Farmer’s Kitchen Cafe was so much fun I couldn’t resist. DH and I made the drive to Davis and enjoyed the company of our fellow food bloggers, including Elise of Simply Recipes and of course, Brendon of Something in Season. The company was delightful and the food and wine thoughtfully provided by Brendon was absolutely scrumptious. Because of the intimate size of the gathering, we ended up all ordering off the menu, which means that should you find yourself in front of Rose Anne ’s establishment in Davis, California you too can experience the exact same culinary experience, without needing to get together a group of your fellow bloggers. The food is more fun in the company of foodies, however. [...]

  3. [...] I recently.organized my kitchen cupboards and came across some Chebe Pizza Mix that I had ordered in a sampler pack from Chebe but never tried. Pizza sounded awfully good, but somehow I didn’t want any old regular pizza. I wanted something… different. As you know, lately I’ve been grilling everything that grows in dirt (zucchini, fennel, onions, you name it, I’ve grilled it), and somehow this came together in my mind with my veggie pizza experience at the Farmer’s Kitchen Cafe. That pizza was piled high with vegetables that I never would have expected on a pizza. I decided to test the limits of pizza myself. Initially I planned to make a vegan topping of roasted eggplant and mayonnaise, and went so far as to blend it up in my food processor. Unfortunately, when I tasted it, I decided that the flat flavor of vegannaise mayonnaise just wasn’t going to work on its own, and I didn’t have enough basil to whip up some vegan pesto. So, somewhat shamefacedly, I dipped into the refrigerator to use up some leftover cheese. I decided to mix lowfat mixed cheese blend and smoked fontina in order to create maximum flavor while still keeping the dish as healthy as possible. I prepared my veggies on the grill. Keep in mind we live on the second story of an apartment and I usually cook late in the evening. It’s almost always dark by the time I’m at the grill, but a teal blue chinese lantern illuminates the grill, and I rather like the idea that I’m grilling by moonlight. Our neighbors must think we’re really weird though, for grilling (quietly) so late at night. Anyway, although this was the first time I had used the official Chebe pizza crust mix, I was happily very impressed with the results. The pizza was easy to roll out, as are all their products, and it puffed up a lot in the oven. (Although it later deflated.) I did need to transfer the pizza to a pizza stone halfway through the cooking process, as otherwise the crust would have gotten somewhat soggy by the time it was served. I also made sure to put it on a cooling rack after it was baked in order to retain maximum crispness. And the verdict? Both DH and I were thrilled with our pizza. I think he was secretly doing a happy dance that I had used real cheese for once, and we were both surprised and impressed with the smokiness added to the flavor by the fontina cheese. Somehow the combination of ingredients harmonized to create a really pleasing, delicious dish. For those of you who can’t have dairy, don’t despair. I do think that my eggplant/mayo pizza topping could work, especially if you use a homemade mayonnaise or egg mayonnaise. Pesto will also up the yum factor. If you don’t want to try the mayonnaise topping, you could also try thepine nut “ricotta” I used for lasagna. (Tastes great raw OR baked!) Adding smoked tofu or tofu pups would add a smoky note that could really take this recipe to another level, vegan or no. But regardless of the cheese- definitely try some grilled veggies on your pizza. It might not be “traditional” but it tastes absolutely divine, and made me think that this pizza was the best I’d ever had. *Tip* Serve with the leftover grilled veggies for extra nutrition and refreshing flavor! [...]

  4. [...] I think I mentioned the veggie sandwich already, right? I loved the fact that they even had a veggie sandwich, much less one with cheese, mustard, grated carrot, red pepper, tomato and greens on perfectly sliced bread and wrapped in tidy saran wrap for the Celiac on the go. I’ve had a few veggie sandwiches in my time- Spica has a processed cheese melt, and The Farmer’s Cafe has a portobello sandwich with pesto that is pretty tasty. But this sandwich blew them all away. First off, the bread looked so good I was honestly afraid there had been a mistake and it contained gluten. Eating bread that I didn’t make is always a bit intimidating, especially without a label of ingredients to read and read again. But, with the assurances of the cafe barista ringing in my ears, I braved it and took a bite. That was one DELICIOUS sandwich. I offered DH a bite, saying anxiously, “Gluten free, right?” He took a bite and paused. “Um, I don’t know,” he said. Yes, you heard it right. The glutenoid COULD NOT TELL it was a gluten free sandwich. And, if you’re worried- it WAS! I felt no ill effects after gobbling the whole thing down as my dinner later. The smokey cheese, mustard, plentiful veggies- awesome bread… It may be the best sandwich I ever had, even including my homemade creations. That puppy was made by someone who 1) understands gluten free baking 2) understands vegetarian flavors and 3) made my tummy happy! Sorry, couldn’t resist the last bit. Yum. I want another, please. I immediately wanted to know what flours they used. Bean flour? Sorghum?? I called the cafe later and asked about flours, and was told they use a combo of rice flour, tapioca, and potato starch. Awesome. I think the secret to their bread may be that they bake their products every day. Good gluten free bread is generally palatable un-toasted the first day it is baked- and this bread was Very, Very palatable. Mmm. 10/10 for the best gluten-free veggie sandwich EVER, thank you very much. [...]

  5. [...] about my visit in June 27th, 2007 (pescatarian photo) April 2, 2007 (all veg [...]

  6. “I visited the Farmer’s Kitchen Cafe recently and it was the best gluten-free dining experience I have ever had!”

  7. [...] Farmer’s Kitchen in Davis, California has a gluten-free pizza made in their dedicated kitchen. I love Farmer’s Kitchen, but their pizza is not my favorite of their offerings. However, you have to love that they offer it, and I love their emphasis on local and fresh organic produce. I also love that the food is made in a safe environment- the only gluten option they have is that you can order a sandwich on gluten bread, but it is kept separate from the rest of the food. [...]

  8. [...] Posts about Farmer’s Kitchen: Review from my first visit in April 2nd, 2007 Review from my visit in June 17th, [...]

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