Shared Happiness

Gather the family for a farm to table feast at FoodBar.

By Jan Walsh

Tonight, we bring our son Jordan here for the famous (off menu) burgers. But we bite off much more…

I don’t always order cocktails, but at FoodBar I do. Afterall, “Bar” is half the name here. And their drinks are seasonal, chic, and generous in portion. Tonight, we settle on Poolside, New Merkel Mai Tai, and Hot Child in the City. And as their titles imply, each is a story… Who needs a pool when we can sip Poolside right here? This tangy tini style thirst quencher is a blend of Tanqueray Rangpur Gin, Fever Tree Cucumber Tonic, and fresh cucumber, garnished with lime.

The Mai Tai is served in a whimsical tiki tumbler, garnished with fresh pineapple, and a colorful paper straw. But don’t let its playful presentation fool you. This refreshing rummy cocktail is the real deal with integrated notes of pineapple, tangerine and hints of almond. A balance of Bumbu and Plantation Pineapple dark rums, Orgeat, Cointreau, and lime, this classic cocktail has punch!

And Hot Child in the City takes me back to my grandfather’s watermelon patch, where I was a hot child in the country. Garnished with a slice of melon, this ravishing, red Rita is made of Espolon Blanco, fresh watermelon, agave, and jalapeño, rimmed with tajin, adding a tantalizing touch of salty spice.

Nibbling on heart-warming house made bread and steaming boiled peanuts we order other appetizers, both on the menu and off the menu. And as we split each warm shell and catch the soft, beany nuts along with their juices in our mouths… food memories of the old farm’s cast iron pot slow boiling green nuts add another layer of comfort to this bowl. And because my first childhood peanuts were boiled soft, I thought all peanuts were tender. So later when I bit into my first hard, roasted one it was a kick in the teeth… I have missed boiled peanuts.

For other apps we share a spread of in season delights: Vine Ripe Tomato Salad, Watermelon and Goat Cheese, House Made Burrata, and Fried Crab Claws. The tomato salad is a simple, scrumptious stack of beef steaks and local heirlooms slathered in white shrimp aioli. Each colorful variety is layered in large slices (no tiny tomatoes here). Every slice is a classic and historic example of its variety, expressing its vine ripe meaty textures and juicy flavors. Chef George has a penchant for surprises, which is on full display in this dish, which includes an unexpected, fried green tomato hidden among them. No other veggies are taking up space on this tomato lover’s plate. If you miss real tomatoes like you grew up with, go here. Order this. But don’t share.

Surprise! I delight in seeing Sugar Baby Watermelon crowned with balsamic pearls that at first glance, I think they are caviar. Chef George’s spherification, a molecular cooking technique, transformed the liquid into balsamic balls. And all this time I thought salt on watermelon was the bomb… This synthesis of acidic, jellied droplets and buttery, mellow goat cheese with of juicy, sweet melon is a black, white, and red all over plate of perfection, highlighted with patio mint, EVOO, and cracked peppercorn. Highly recommended!

Also made for sharing are off the menu dishes of burrata and crab claws. The generous ball of burrata is lavishly topped with a salty, briny olive tapenade, accompanied by toast points, fresh tomatoes alongside, and a bright herby fresh basil pesto. I cut through the firm skin into the creamy center and smear both onto the toast points, pop a tomato wedge on top, and drizzle with dressing, whereas the guys pretty much just dredge the bread in it all. Beautiful and perfect for sharing no matter how you eat it. And catching the crab claws, on or off the menu, is always a must for us. One of our favorite dishes here, Chef George’s claws are plump, golden, meaty, and addictive.

Jordan has been craving a FOODBAR Burger since my last review. So, he and Kev have burgers and beer for entrees. And I select the Pan Seared Black Grouper with Lanson Champagne from their stellar wine list, which is recommended by Sommelier John Rusiecki. He and I go way back… passed the Court of Master Sommeliers Level One together back when there were only three levels. The burgers are thick, hand ground, and hand patted. Caramelized onions, farm pickles, and a large crown of parmesan crisp rounds out each cooked to order moist, juicy burger. A mountain of fresh cut, skin on, golden fries accompany the burgers. These irresistible potatoes are fried crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and I can’t resist stealing many.

My entrée arrives finished with a crest of of blue crab beurre blanc. The grouper also presents a flawless golden sear, atop its snowy, glistening inside. Taking a fork to the fish, it flakes off in large moist, mild, sweet bites. The same exemplary beurre blanc, chock full of crabmeat, pools down on the plate. Towering between are the best herb roasted fingerlings ever! These babies taste like they were just dug. And crisp, vibrant haricot verts bring color, texture, and vegetal flavors to the dish. Par excellence! Never had a better fish dish. FoodBar’s menu changes often but catch it if you can.

At this point in the evening, we all agree that dessert must be shared. FOODBAR Doughnuts it is! We dip the gold-plated, sugar-coated balls into silky toffee caramel sauce and vanilla anglaise. And as they slowly melt in our happy mouths, we smile.

Walking out the door, Jordan says, “That was the best meal I’ve had in a long, long time.” And we share his happiness.

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