Spotlight on… The Farm and Fisherman Tavern!
The locavore movement is gaining more and more traction, with people far and wide choosing to know not only what’s in their food, but wanting to know where it comes from. They choose to eat locally raised fruits, meats, and vegetables, sourcing locally whenever they are able.
Thankfully, sourcing locally speaks to our own core values and those of the wider craft beer movement. People want to #drinklocal, as well.
That’s why it’s a wonderful thing to see when a farm-to-table restaurant picks up the craft beer mantle and runs with it. Few restaurants have seen as much success with it as The Farm and Fisherman Tavern at 1442 Marlton Pike in Cherry Hill.
We got together with General Manager Ben Menk a few weeks ago to get the deets on their digs.
“We’re a family-friendly environment,” Ben says, “and that includes the whole staff and the family-oriented way that we’ve been here. A good majority of our staff has been here since the beginning. We believe in the movement and being sustainable and having a cuisine that supports all of that.”
Opened almost exactly five years ago, The Farm and Fisherman Tavern has made a name for itself with seasonal, sustainable cuisine that uses global inspiration on local ingredients.
“The concept started with our 30-seat, BYOB restaurant in Philadelphia,” Ben tells us.
Their farm-to-table concept started with the now-closed location on Pine Street in Philadelphia.
“We wanted to keep sourcing the way we did in Philadelphia, but make it a little more accessible to families,” he says. “We wanted to bring it to the suburban environment where there are a lot of chain restaurants.”
With ten draft lines, craft beer had always been very much a part of the concept. However, they try to stay as local with their beers as they do with their ingredients.
“It’s New Jersey and the three surrounding states: New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware,” Ben tells us. “Right now, we’re 80% Jersey and 20% Pennsylvania.”
They started with a few big-name breweries, but had their sights on us.
“When we started here,” Ben says, “we were asking for Cape May to please distribute up this far, because, at the time, you guys didn’t come up here.”
Head Chef and Owner Josh Lawler’s family lives in the Cape May area and he’d often come to the brewery to visit. We started working with them in 2013, and, at the time, we only had a few accounts in the area.
“We’ve had a great relationship with them,” says Distribution Manager Justin Vitti. “When they opened their second location in Philly, we went up to train them on all of our products.”
They’re known to experiment with our seasonal and limited offerings, as well as some of our core brands.
“Honey Porter goes over well,” Ben says. “The Bog goes over extremely well. Mop Water goes over extremely well. I think a lot of your core beers, when we put them on, people seem to like. I think, you know, they think about their vacation because they love the shore. You guys have a great reputation — pour solid beers — so they know whatever they get is going to be flavorful and fun.”
In May of 2016, we collaborated with Farm and Fisherman on an American Pale Ale called Beets by May, containing 250 pounds of red and golden beets from Formisano Farms in Buena, NJ, inspired by their Bloody Beet Salad.
“We like to make everything approachable,” Ben says. “If you’re in here with grandpop, he can get Fish and Chips. Once you learn how to trust us, you get the Goat Tacos and the Burrata, and all that fun stuff.”
While farm-to-table is the core of the concept at Farm and Fisherman, the menu itself is a little more difficult to pin down.
“We talk about that a lot,” Ben says. “I think it’s definitely using flavor profiles from around the globe while sourcing locally. Whether it be Moroccan or Mediterranean or what-have-you, we change with the seasons: keeping it light over the summer and a little heartier during the winter.”
As we sat at the bar, the Breads and Spreads board came out, an ever-changing array of hummus, romesco, chickpea fries, and pickles, all served with a warm and oiled puffed pita. Absolutely outstanding.
“It’s fun,” Ben says. “It’s a lot of different textures and flavors.”
Sales Manager Evan Kostka has been coming to The Farm and Fisherman for years — long before he started at CMBC — and he and his girlfriend Dayna start each meal with the Breads and Spreads board.
“Let me see if I can remember what everything is,” he said. (Spoiler alert: he failed.) “Romesco sauce? Hummus? Chickpea?”
“Those are quinoa and cauliflower fritters,” Ben corrected. “That’s a red pepper aioli, ricotta walnut dip.”
The entire spread was fantastic, and it all went down swimmingly with a Honey Porter, the roasty flavors in the porter playing nicely against the light creaminess of the ricotta walnut dip.
The Goat Taco-Pitas with goat, mint, radish, feta, and salsa roja, and local burrata with squash, sage, brown butter, and pepitas came out next, both of which looked excellent. We paired this with a Ties the Room Together, the chocolate and coffee notes in the beer bringing out the flavors of the goat.
“For some reason,” Ben joked, “Evan knows how to choose the correct dishes.”
Farm and Fisherman is a far cry from a sports bar; however, they make an exception for Eagles games — that’s the only time the sound is on for the game on television. Once a year, on the Eagles bye week — so we just missed it — Farm and Fisherman hosts “Beast Feast”.
This year, they did a whole swordfish.
“We’ve done a steamboat round, which is basically the whole hind leg of a cow,” Ben tells us. “I think it was about 80 pounds. Whole pigs. Whole poultry. And then we’ll do either a goat or a lamb. So it’s a whole smorgasbord. And there’s a whole dessert buffet after that. All of our ice creams and sorbets are all spun in house.”
“The desserts and the donuts here are absurd,” Evan says. “Unbelievable. And brunches here are out-of-control.”
They have a small garden out back from which they frequently pull ingredients for dishes and for their cocktail program, creating infused alcohols in-house, including absinthe.
In fact, they’re also a CSA pickup point. CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture, is an offshoot of the locavore movement, bringing together local farmers with interested consumers. While farm stands dot nearly every country road in South Jersey, in the more urbanized areas, farm-fresh foods may be more difficult to come by.
Generally, a farmer offers a certain number of shares to the public, in turn supplying them with a box of vegetables or other farm products each week throughout the farming season. It’s like a Wine of the Month Club, but you get delicious, nutritious, local foods instead of cheap wine that they couldn’t unload anywhere else.
“We work with Barry Savoie,” Ben tells us, “which is an organic farm in Williamstown. Pickup is on Thursdays. We just finished for the season, but signup will be again at the beginning of the year. You’ll be able to sign up in full- or half-shares, and we also do a meat share with Primal Supply Meats, also on Thursdays, year-round.”
Ben describes it as “very pick-and-choose”. If you want to skip a week, you can, and, when you do participate, you can get anything from a full share to only a dozen eggs.
They also offer a Family Take-Out Bundle — a $45 deal for a family of four, with a weekly-changing menu and fried chicken every Monday. The bundle contains an entree, a vegetable, and a dessert.
“It’s a lot of things that are homestyle,” Ben says. “A lot of people get it and bring it to relatives. I got one and brought it to my dad when he went through surgery. It’s nice as a gesture, it doesn’t put you out too much, and it works as a nice gift that people appreciate.”
It’s always great to see a business that so closely parallels our own core values, sourcing locally as much as possible and Being a Good Neighbor to those in need.
“Our goal is to be a friendly, neighborhood tavern,” Ben says. “Not to be anything more than that. Provide great food, atmosphere, and drinks to the people surrounding us, and support the community.”
For more information on The Farm and Fisherman Tavern, see their website or call (856) 356-2282.