The Farmhouse in Cherry Hill opened last May to much fanfare offering a menu heavy on seasonal and local ingredients. The attractive farm to table restaurant, owned by Stu Wanicur, has hired new Executive Chef Bruce Santino who takes over for Chef David Murray who has moved on to another opportunity after less than a year.
Raised in Pennsauken, NJ, Chef Bruce comes from a family with Italian and German heritage where food and cooking was always a big deal. He attended Pennsauken High School where he was a dedicated musician, playing both trumpet & guitar in the school’s jazz band. After high school, Bruce followed his passion for food and attended the Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College in Philadelphia where he graduated with his Associates Degree in Food Science in 2011. Since then, he has worked everywhere for various catering companies, gastropubs, and fine dining restaurants like Forcella’s in Jenkintown and P Square Lounge, the sister restaurant of Macaroni’s, all the while building his trademark of unique culinary creations.
Bruce is an avid gardener and forager. For the past 3 years, he has supplied prominent Philadelphia restaurants with edible wild food such as boysenberries, wild raspberries, crab apples and high-end mushrooms like morels, chicken of the woods and chanterelles that have been featured on award winning dishes by well-known chefs in the region. He looks forward to working closely with local vendors and creating exciting new fine dining and casual dishes using fresh, seasonal ingredients at The Farmhouse.
We recently stopped by to try some of the new menu items by Chef Bruce.
Our meal started with House Made Buttery Pretzel Rolls ($9) topped with Smoked Sea Salt. They were served with a tasty honey mustard and a whipped maple hot sauce butter for slathering on the rolls, both made in-house, of course. So good!
The Fried Brussels Sprouts ($14) were scrumptious and packed with umami flavor thanks to the mushroom-soy caramel and toasted spiced acorn squash seeds. Pickled shallots round out the flavor while microgreens on top add color and texture. A very good dish. Hubby isn’t the biggest fan of sprouts, but he enjoyed these.
The Red Eye Shrimp & Grits ($13) are nicely done. The surprise ingredient was clementines. Fruit.. in shrimp & grits? Why not! I liked the citrusy-sweetness it brought to the dish, yet did not overwhelm it. The red-eye gravy was a nice addition, too. I wasn’t really into the fennel, though. On my plate, the piece I had was a bit too large and I would have much preferred it roasted or integrated into the grits. The menu mentioned horseradish, but I didn’t detect it. Just as well because horseradish really isn’t my thing. While I thought the clementines worked, I’m more of a purist and think shrimp and grits should just be… shrimp and grits. No need to overcomplicate a dish.
The Truffle Burger ($16) is outstanding. I’d say it’s worth going just for that. This uber juicy burger is made from a proprietary blend of Angus beef (short rib, dry aged ribeye and brisket) and topped with roasted wild mushrooms, caramelized onions, and gruyere cheese on a brioche bun served with housemade chips. The presentation on a wooden cutting board is rather handy because it’s so large you’ll need to cut it in half to eat it.
If you’re a burger lover, you will probably enjoy this earthy-flavored burger. If you’re not a fan of a pink center, they’ll cook it to your liking. But we like our burgers medium-to-rare so it was perfectly cooked for us. The housemade chips are stellar. If he sold these in a bag, I’d buy ’em! I don’t think my pictures will do this burger justice, so you’ll just have to try for yourself.
The Duroc Pork Tenderloin ($26) is rich and tender with another surprise ingredient — prunes! Yes, prunes. Shocking I know. While the thought of prunes may cause you to denounce this dish, don’t let it deter you. The roasted prunes add a deep unctuous flavor and actually pairs well with the pork. The hazelnuts bring a nice texture, too. The Brussels aren’t really necessary and don’t add anything to the dish, in my opinion. Perhaps another green like kale or mustard greens would have worked better. According to the menu, it was supposed to come with sweet potatoes but they were omitted. A shame because I think they would have pulled the whole dish together. It definitely needed a starch.
We sampled three desserts which were all good, but not perfect. The Deconstructed Tiramisu was my favorite. I loved the whipped mascarpone on top of rich chocolate mousse with charred marshmallows. Traditional tiramisu comes with coffee-soaked ladyfingers, none were found here. While I would have liked some texture, it was still rather tasty and I would eat it again.
The Creme Brûlée was pretty much a spot-on classic, with a rich custard on the bottom and a perfect crackly sugared top. The custard could have been more velvety for my liking, but the signature flavor was there and quite enjoyable.
Last, but not least, we tried the Housemade Chocolate Ice Cream. I like that they are making their own ice cream in-house. It shows ambition and desire to be creative. We were told that they offer cereal-flavored ice creams, too, but on this night they only had chocolate. Really creamy, classic milk chocolate flavor. A bit on the thick side for me, almost gelato-like, but hubby loved it. I’d love to go back to try the cereal ice creams sometime.
Overall, despite missing some ingredients and minor execution flaws, there’s plenty to enjoy about the food at The Farmhouse. Chef Bruce will be one to watch on the South Jersey chef scene for sure. This Spring he will be starting an organic garden off the patio and incorporating the ingredients into dishes. It doesn’t get more “local” than that.
Don’t forget that they are BYOB – so bring your own to enjoy with your meal. If you can get the table by the fireplace, I highly recommend that. It was warm and cozy – perfect for a cold winter night. Be sure to tell them Philly Grub sent ya!
The Farmhouse is located at 312 Kresson Road.
The Doyenne of Dining in Philadelphia and South Jersey.