Thursday, May 2, 2013

Slobblog: The Farmers' Cabinet - The Slob Identity

What is the Slob Identity?
While what Slobfest is can be found here, an interesting question that many may be asking is what makes us Slobs slobs? Well, we all have our own distinct personalties that overlaps with common interests. Some of the more obvious similarities are slobbing out by eating a lot of food, being an asshole, and not going out of our way to humiliate each other in public places. We also identify ourselves as fathers, brothers, husbands, boyfriends, sports fans, gamers, know-it-alls, and sarcastic SOB's. A lot of different things make up a Slob, but in reality that's what makes us all enjoy each other's company.

If a restaurant could in and of itself be complex and diverse and ... interesting; would it work? Well, The Farmers' Cabinet attempts to answer that question.

From the time you walk through the small entrance or wide open floor to ceiling doors (if the weather is warm) you're not quite sure what you're getting yourself into. The spacious eatery is adorned with the drink menu on wooden panels, moose heads, and barrels of liquor (for show only, I believe). It's a lot of things all at once.

We met at the bar before heading to our table. The cocktail list is no joke in drinks or in price. Quality wise they're worth a sip or two. The Scotchman, Cortez the Killer, and The Scofflaw all greased the wheels properly for the evening. After we were hurried from our drinks by one Slob, we were seated in the main dining area.

Lots of options to choose from.
In tying with the farmers theme the tables are of the picnic variety. The tables are joined with neighboring parties and there are no back rests unless you are on the side next to the wall. The lighting is comfortably dim so even if someone is seated next to you, it doesn't feel like you're actually sitting next to them. The waitress came around and took our drink orders. At this point the Slobs switched to the beer and cider menu.

The options were a plenty, but choosing between so many was easier than it seemed. Throughout the rest of the night we dabbled all around the largely European inspired ale selection. It was much easier than say, picking the hotter version of Keri Russell: Felicity Keri or Americans Keri?

Felicity Porter
Elizabeth Jennings

As we started looking through the menu there weren't many options, but the selections under those options were copious. I mean, two separate cheese selections? Meat and sausage? It was a lot for us Slobs to take in.

Ultimately we went whole hog and did a cheese sample, meat/sausage tray, deviled eggs (2x) an Bavarian pretzels (2x).

Half of the pretzel/deviled eggs order.
The apps were good, but the food above didn't quite live up to its billing; as it was a good thing we ordered two of each.

At this point it's worth to go back and see what kind of identity the Farmers' Cabinet has. We've had Prohibition-era drinks, Belgium beer, Bavarian pretzels, and deviled eggs while seated at picnic tables. The lack of identity made for some strong hits (the drinks) and some misses (the apps). The reason restaurants are categorized by cuisine is that focusing on a certain type of food creates a better environment for the diner as well as a more clear focus on what the kitchen is looking to accomplish. The cultural melting pot that is The Farmers' Cabinet has thus far left the Slobs enjoying themselves, but not necessarily getting a fulfilling experience.

When it came to get our entrees on, the Slobs were all-in on virtually everything the menu had to offer. Smoked lamb leg, quail stuffed with duck sausage, beer braised short rib, and venison shank? I mean it's hard to go wrong with those offerings. Clearly the pea ravioli and boat scallops were put on the menu to make us Slobs chuckle or anyone that ordered those would be escorted off the premise. There's not much you could stuff in a ravioli to make in unappetizing to me, but spring peas?

Awesome cornbread entree.
We were all looking forward to our meals, but when they came out - it was something I'd never seen before anywhere. There was a component of the meal that was as large if not larger than the entree. Look at the meal above. It looks like the cornbread is the star of the show. The braised short ribs are merely a side dish along with the purple cabbage (they had a lot of purple cabbage). It was so bizarre, and despite the food being tasty really set an odd precedent for the meals.

Hope you like sweet potato mash. 
The thing was, this wasn't a one time thing. To the left is the quail stuffed with duck sausage. I mean even at Boston Market they don't portion the food this way. It left us Slobs rather baffled. Keep in mind we're a hearty eating bunch. When we order a quail stuffed with duck sausage, we basically picture a Thanksgiving turkey in our minds.

To me it spoke to the inability of Farmers' Cabinet to just pick a side and go with it. If you want to be a rustic type farmers' market set up, then give me a big plate of hearty food. If you want to be a speakeasy, then focus on the drinks and have some bar food/snacks as the theme of your menu. If you want to be a European beer hall, then set up your restaurant to have that kind of feel. Give me St. Paulie girls and big steins of beer. All in all, it turns out in this instance that a restaurants identity is better when it's basic and straightforward. Did the chef think, hey maybe he diners will be filled up on deviled eggs and an assortment of pickled products we offer. Maybe if they stuck to a game plan, they'd be able to better execute across the board. Farmers' Cabinet has numerous highlights but it mostly gets lost in the murky gray area they try to live in.

Then to further confuse everyone, an old-timey piano player started playing in the main dining area. He was fully dressed to the period, pounding on those keys, and singing in his old-timey way. Of course, we had no choice but to deconstruct his life and wonder how miserable he must be. What must drive a man to play for tips at Farmers' Cabinet in full regalia? What a dark, sad life he must lead.

We did make it to dessert with some room left in our stomachs. We all agreed that while the proportions were off, we were all pretty satisfied. Sadly, the dessert menu only consisted of a few items prompting all of us to order the chocolate bread pudding. Shockingly, there wasn't any strudel or whatever the hell people eat in New Zealand for dessert.

Overall, it was a fine, but less fulfilling experience. Everything was just the same mix of tasty, good, but odd and questionable. Enough to make you want to come back for drinks and maybe some charcuterie, but not for piano playing and a half pound piece of cornbread.

-Slobs out.

Farmers' Cabinet
1113 Walnut St.
Philadelphia, PA 19107

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