December 2017


Author: Courtney Hampson | Photographer: M.Kat Photography

At just one-year young, the team at FARM is deepening the food—and drink—experience. Surviving a year in the business is a feat itself, especially in a resort town where some restaurant spaces see attrition two, three times a year. FARM has settled sweetly in Old Town Bluffton. The menu is sublime. The dining room always full. The bar active and brimming with bowties, whimsy and laughter. So, what else could the ownership trio want?


We’re sitting in the second-floor event space. The rusticity of the restaurant (reclaimed wood, corrugated metal, framed John McManus photographs) is carried through this second dining room, where two long farm tables are set with owner Ryan Williamson’s grandmother’s china. The room smells of smoke, good smoke. (More on that later.) Forty people have taken their seats, and co-owner Josh Heaton kicks the meal off with a poignant welcome: “We’re here tonight celebrating our one-year anniversary, in a room full of people we know—many of the same people who were here for our first night, our first week, our first month. And this, is our first wine dinner.”

Tonight’s meal is prepared by the third co-owner and executive chef Brandon Carter, who is working from an open kitchen, his signature smile on his lips, a sure sign that his sarcastic wit remains ever present, even at work. As Carter is prepping the meal themed “The Grill is Gone,” he explains that the menu is their goodbye to summer; the grill is gone, but we’ve still got smoke. And by smoke he means the smoker that has been in Williamson’s family for three decades. It’s sitting behind the building, sending its sweet smell right up into the event space, as if to remind everyone of its role in tonight’s meal: The butter for the oysters was smoked, as was the lamb for the main course and the apples featured at dessert.

Carter crafts a menu, brimming with ingredients “produced by our friends,” he said. By friends, he means the local farmers, Williamson included, and regional purveyors who make their menu come to life. The lamb isn’t just any lamb; it is Border Springs Lamb, raised by Virginia shepherd Craig Rogers. Carter has spent time on the farm, and much time with Rogers, their bond just as important to the product Rogers produces.

Speaking of bonds, Carters “bromance” (Heaton’s words, not mine) with Sommelier Thaddeus Miller is what makes the menus magical. According to Heaton, “No one can do what they do, like they do.” Having been a fan of their work for some time (full disclosure, we all worked together and I like to think made magic for a few years at Palmetto Bluff), I was super-excited to once again sit in a dining room with Miller as the emcee.
“Hi. My name is Thaddeus Miller and I am the Sommelier here at FARM. I have just managed to say the two most pretentious things I could possible say: My name is Thaddeus and I am a Sommelier, so now we can have some fun.”

The dining room bubbles with laughter and Miller is in his element, off and running and describing the first wine: the Ostatu. “There is no perfect pairing, but what grows together, goes together,” Miller said. When pairing, he seeks wines that have similar flavor profiles to the food. So, while his explanation of the Ostatu having a fossilized sea shell essence didn’t make much sense at first, it was the perfect complement to the oysters. (I ordered two bottles.)

When he got to the beets, he sought an earthy grape, something with acidity and a little kick; vivacious is how he described it. Who doesn’t love a vivacious wine? (I ordered a bottle.)

Miller described the Syrah, served with the main lamb course and its many sides, as “a bottle with age, comfortable, like slipping into a warm bath at the end of the day.” (I ordered one of those, too.) And the Viognier served with dessert was from a Virginia vineyard. Miller has a knack for scouring huge lists of wines and spotting the real gems; wines that don’t get the kind of attention they deserve and punch way above their weight class. “Virginia is going to be a wine destination in the next seven years,” Miller said. Mark his words.

Miller’s style is easy. He loves talking about wine. He can quickly move from a flavor profile to fielding a question from a guest who describes their favorite wine as…Beringer. Nothing stumps him. He can make even a wine-rookie feel wine-knowledgeable over the course of a meal.

So, it is only natural that wine events become the extension of what FARM and Chef Brandon Carter are already doing so well. They love wine, they love food, and they know we do, too. “This is about a communal meal, and it’s not just about the food. It’s about the people and the conversation, too,” Carter said.

So, as they look to winter Williamson quickly rattled off the details on what is currently in the ground, and what will find its place on their menus: turnips (Asian Red Round, Golden, and Purple Top); beets (Chioggia, Golden, Early Wonder, and Albino); radishes (French Breakfast, Easter Egg, Scarlet Globe, Pink Beauty, Chinese Green Luobo, Watermelon, and Spanish Black); greens (Swiss Chard, Collards, Red Mustard, Komatsuma Mustard, Red Russian Kale); baby greens (Arugula, Kale, Mustard); carrots (Tonda di Parigi, Atomic Red, Amarillo, and Chantenay Red Core); horseradish and sunchokes. A lot of inspiration for Carter as the season changes.

And, plenty for the team to play with as their Paired Wine Dinners pick up steam. Designed to, “Inspire thought, laughter, and lots of oohs and ahs,” sometimes the monthly theme starts with the wine. Sometimes it starts with the food. Sometimes it’s a random song lyric (Carter is a sucker for some Bon Jovi). It always comes together in sweet, delicious harmony.

If you’d prefer to start slowly, Miller’s monthly Stock Your Cellar Series may be what best tempts your taste buds. Each month, Miller will select wines that are interesting, off the beaten path, and always a fantastic value. Guests will sit for an hour or so and enjoy a generous tasting flight and some great conversation about grapes, people, dirt, food, and the magic that happens when it all comes together in a beautiful bottle of wine.
FARM is really onto something here. Heck, where else can you get dinner and a show?

The Menu
Poached May River Oysters
Smoked butter, fennel pollen, vermouth, crispy potatoes
Paired with Ostatu, Rioja Blanco, 2016

Sweet & Sour Beets
Caramelized yogurt, blue cheese, chorizo, everything crisp
Paired with Domaine Biulliat, Gamay, Moulin-a-Vent, France 2015

Roasted Leg of Border Springs Lamb
Green beans, curry leaves, coconut
Spiced collard greens, eggplant chutney, coriander chutney
Laurel aged rice, sea island white peas, crispy shallots
Paired with Michaud Vineyard, Syrah, Chalone, California 2001

Basted Apples
Golden raisins, green tea, goat’s milk ice cream
Barboursville Vineyard, Viognier, Virginia 2015

December 7
STOCK YOUR CELLARS: Eight Crazy Nights
Wines that are perfect for your holiday celebrations. Instead of six wines, we’re serving eight. It really is the season of giving.

December 14
WINE DINNER: Festivus, the Holiday for the Rest of Us
Holiday dishes with special meaning to our culinary team.

January 9
Cost effective wines to give the pocketbook a break after the holidays. All wines retail for $20 or less.

January 19
WINE DINNER: Resolution Solutions
Wonderfully flavorful dishes that will feel decadent, without causing anyone to break their commitment to a healthful New Year.

February 9
Sumptuous and flirtatious wines in preparation for Valentine’s Day.

February 16
WINE DINNER: Lonely Hearts Club Band
For those of us without a date or looking to have another date with our special someone.

March 8
STOCK YOUR CELLARS: Spring Forward, Knock ’em Back
A playful celebration of the coming of spring—with wine.

March 15
WINE DINNER: Et tu Brute!
The Ides of March make for a triumphant celebration of Roman influenced dishes.

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