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Photograph by Nikki Bowen
White Plate Special: The Farm's rustic tri-tip dinner is prepared with sophisticated touches like garlic-stuffed artichoke.

Restaurant Review: The Farm

A culinary journey to rustic and hearty, with a brief stop at elegance

By Denise Vivar

Imagine, if you will, the love child of Frida Kahlo and James Beard joining forces with the spawn of Martha Stewart and Jerry Seinfeld. Such a union might create an enterprise like the Farm—beautiful, iconic, simple, delicious, with an eye for ambience and a twist of humor to keep it all in perspective. The Farm is all this and home to a bakery, cafe and gift shop.

The cement floor and pitched open-beamed ceiling engender a barnlike feel, but thankfully the likeness ends there. Mexican folk art warms the walls, while sturdy and comfortable farmhouse tables and chairs fill the dining area behind the gift shop, where one can find beautiful books, jewelry and home décor as well as droll novelties like Jesus pencil toppers and Mary Magdalena matches. Not that there's time to shop while waiting for food here; it's brought out with bustling efficiency and a warm smile.

The days start early and end early here, but you can get three square meals and then some starting with breakfast at 6:30am weekdays. Quiche is a specialty here, with eight varieties offered daily, most of them vegetarian and all of them savory and delicious. A whole pie is $20, a slice $3.95. I would be hard-pressed to choose a favorite from among the spinach and gorgonzola, the portobello, and the Mediterranean with its artichokes, olives and sun-dried tomatoes.

All breads used in the cafe are baked on-site and are also available for purchase. Customers can take home farm seed and polenta loaves, country French or Mediterranean baguettes, rosemary deep dish or vegetable foccacias, and cinnamon, lemon, pumpkin or blueberry bread. The French toast ($4.95) is fashioned with the Farm's cinnamon raisin bread, three sturdy but modestly thin slices lightly battered and generously sprinkled with confectioner's sugar. A small cup of maple syrup accompanies the order, which seems like a great way to curb excessive swilling of the sweet stuff. I enjoyed a single slice and moved on to the breakfast croissant ($3.75).

Nothing says ooh la la in the morning quite like a well-made croissant—layer upon layer of buttery, flaky, lofty goodness, filled with melted cheddar folded into scrambled egg. The egg ran out halfway through the sandwich, and in the end it was just me and the croissant. In what other sandwich scenario is the bread alone such a treat?

Among the lunch offerings is a spread of soups, sandwiches and salads as well as savory tarts and lasagna. I had the twice-baked potato ($3.25), a small mixed green salad ($3.95) and a raspberry shortbread cookie ($0.95). This twice-baked potato has "comfort food" written all over it: a mound of well-mashed potato, parmesan and spinach filling topped with melted cheddar pocketed inside the crisp potato skin shell. I savored each bite and appreciated the rich yet not overly cheesy filling. I found the salad to be simple yet substantial with a perfect ratio of greens to vegetables and gorgonzola. Lightly dressed with the vinaigrette, it was satisfying on its own, but for $2 one can add chicken or tri-tip steak to the deal.

Dinner entrees are also offered, but the Farm closes at 7pm every night except Sunday (and then it's 6pm), which makes dinner an early affair. In any event, I recently managed to make it just in time to squeeze in a quick dinner. I had a choice between tri-tip steak or lasagna ($9.95), or any number of cold pre-made sandwiches left over from lunch. I opted for the tri-tip dinner, which arrived promptly. A cup of barbecue sauce reigned over the platter, with the steak strips to one side, baked beans on the other and garlic bread and grilled vegetables anchoring port and starboard. I was first drawn to the garlic bread, crispy with coarsely shredded parmesan and redolent with butter and garlic. The vegetable medley consisted of a quarter of an artichoke heart (also stuffed with miniscule pearls of minced garlic), yellow squash, zucchini and onion, all grilled. Garlic aside, the vegetables were unadorned and unseasoned, a welcome balance to the sweet and saucy baked beans. On a previous visit I had the tri-tip on a salad, done medium rare and tender. This time I found the tri-tip more well done and a bit resistant but still flavorful, even without the smoky, tangy barbecue sauce.

My vision of mealtime on the farm evokes images of hearty, simple and toothsome fare, straightforward and economical, amid modest yet comfortable surroundings, and the Farm fills the bill.

The Farm Bakery

Address: 6790 Soquel Dr., Aptos

Phone: 831.684.0266

Hours: 6:30am-7pm Mon-Fri, 7am-7pm Sat, 7am-6pm Sun

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