The harvest is coming in at Farmhouse.
Under new management and executive chef Jeffery Slade, the country-style restaurant brushes off chilly weather and looks like a year-rounder.
Farmhouse is at the address that housed The Fifth Season before that restaurant decamped to Port Jefferson. It still appears like a dimly lit hideaway, even on one of the village's primary streets. But there's a party under way inside.
Open four days a week now, it's routinely packed. On a Saturday night, diners wait at the bar and at the doorway for those in mid-bite to speed things up. Naturally, everyone wants to linger.
No surprise. It's a welcoming establishment, with those vintage wood-topped tables packed so closely together that you may make some new friends. The dining room has kept its tailored patina, along with the blue-gray hue, canvas-style curtains and faux windows. Of course, there's candlelight.
What's illuminating is Slade's take on farm-to-table cuisine. His food is as unpretentious as it is carefully crafted, from a chef whose glittery résumé includes The French Laundry, Le Bernardin and Taillevent. The seasonal menu is a compact affair, typically five or six each of appetizers, mains and finales. Recently, you could start with a well-seasoned crabcake that signs off with a coulis of red pepper. Or enjoy a salad of golden and red beets plus goat cheese.
Duck confit enriches a bracing white-bean soup that doesn't need the gilding of white-truffle oil. The baby spinach spin on Caesar salad is a welcome holdover from the summer repertoire, along with crisp calamari with broth that plays off the theme of gazpacho. Butternut squash risotto plays to autumn while backing plump, seared diver sea scallops.
Slade prepares a very satisfying "duo of beef." One evening, this meant short rib and filet mignon, almost equally tender, with cipollini onions and a potato puree laced with horseradish. Even better: the hefty, fall-away braised pork shank with caramelized onions and Rome apples.
A dish that promises to be a menu staple is the thick, meaty seared breast of Long Island duck, accompanied by grilled endive and sweet-potato puree.
But curry blackened shrimp reach carbonization. Cheese ravioli: on the heavy side, with smoky, slightly underdone eggplant offsetting the virtues of chanterelle mushrooms and pumpkin-butter sauce. A modest three-cheese plate, with pistachios and dried fruit, doesn't reach room temperature before it reaches you.
But Slade's excellent flourless chocolate cake rescues the concept from cliche, and is nearly rivaled by the apricot semifreddo.