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Farmhouse Corner Market brings both down-home country and a city feel to SLO 

I knew I'd been to a market like this before. It's a place to multitask in metropolitan style. Pick up a bottle of wine and some organic essentials. Treat the kids to homemade ice cream. Meet friends for a locally sourced, downright interesting breakfast or lunch bite. It's a place where a fine, innovative chef can spread the love and talent.

On June 1, the owners of Farmhouse Catering opened their award-winning catering biz up to the rest of us, and the crafty, artisan vibe reminded me of following my nose and heart, stopping to count out dollars for gourmet eats along the promenade of the San Francisco Ferry Building. Only instead of a ferry terminal outside the windows, you see the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport. Either way, you're transported to another place.

click to enlarge DREAM TEAM Farmhouse Corner Market is co-owned by two married couples: Chef Will and Kari Torres (pictured), and partners Ryan and Leanne Harris. - PHOTOS BY BETH GIUFFRE
  • Photos By Beth Giuffre
  • DREAM TEAM Farmhouse Corner Market is co-owned by two married couples: Chef Will and Kari Torres (pictured), and partners Ryan and Leanne Harris.

The Farmhouse Corner Market is co-owned by Will and Kari Torres and Ryan and Leanne Harris. Between them, they have seven children, including the Harrises' twin first graders. Kari said it was Ryan and Leanne who approached them with the idea for the marketplace.

"We didn't really know what it was going to look like ... Leanne did all of the interior design," Kari said. "I would say Will and Leanne are the artists and dreamers, and Ryan and I are the ones that make the dream happen."

Chef Will is a California School of Culinary Arts graduate and winner of Food & Wine's The Best Winery Restaurants in America for The Restaurant at Justin Vineyards and Winery. Katy said after Will had been at Justin for nearly 13 years, they were ready to have their own place. They started with catering, and now, voila! SLO has a new favorite hangout.

click to enlarge SWEET MOTHER OF STRAWBERRIES House-made biscuits, creme fraiche, strawberries, lemon curd, and homemade lemon poppy ice cream make up this strawberry shortcake dessert special. - PHOTOS BY BETH GIUFFRE
  • Photos By Beth Giuffre
  • SWEET MOTHER OF STRAWBERRIES House-made biscuits, creme fraiche, strawberries, lemon curd, and homemade lemon poppy ice cream make up this strawberry shortcake dessert special.

Farmhouse is truly a marketplace. In the restaurant area, you can order from the pastry case or grab a coffee drink. You can sit along bar stools in front of the open kitchen, or choose from plenty of tables for sit-down service. Separated by a breezeway, you can also order from the market and sit nearby on one of the vehicles-turned-tables by the ice cream counter and grocery stands. Scandinavian-style steps reminiscent of a modern art museum are also fun to sit on for a quick bite.

At the media soft opening, chef Will was smiling and taking it all in, both hands in his apron pocket. I consider his new place a community service. It's also a treat-yo'-self kind of a joint: an eco-conscious, globally inspired grub hub for the sophisticated and/or health-aware foodie in all of us. The vibe is laid-back and doesn't take itself too seriously, but the plates in the restaurant are elevated.

It's refreshing that someone finally opened a little community that keeps sustainability and natural food in mind—it makes you feel cared for.

Farmhouse is located in a modern building in a fairly industrial area, and if it weren't for the telltale silver Farmhouse Airstream food truck and the old, black detailed Chevy pickup, you might mistake the square yellow-and-black building for an IKEA design center.

click to enlarge AMERICAN SUNSHINE The 5,500-square-foot, half-restaurant, half-market near the SLO County Regional Airport feels exciting, like a stroll through the San Francisco Ferry Building. - PHOTOS BY BETH GIUFFRE
  • Photos By Beth Giuffre
  • AMERICAN SUNSHINE The 5,500-square-foot, half-restaurant, half-market near the SLO County Regional Airport feels exciting, like a stroll through the San Francisco Ferry Building.

Inside the sky-high industrial entry is your focal point: a classic yellow Ford pick-up named "Ford." It's a table too, and you can reserve it. Natural light and fresh breezes flow through the California contemporary-style building. Splashes of live greenery pop in the yellow, black, and white landscape. Stainless steel saucepans hang from oven hoods. Retro geometric tile peers from the open kitchen.

The well-trained staff obviously went through culinary boot camp. Think of that Portlandia skit when Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen ask about the origin of their plate of chicken and the server hands them a photo of a chicken named Colin. In my fine dining server days, I remember when a fellow waiter was written up for describing one of Wolfgang Puck's famous entrees as "really cool and really neat." Not to get sidetracked, but that's not this staff. They know what they're doing.

At the opening, we sat at a two-top across from the open kitchen in the restaurant. Our server, Jessie, said everything is intended to be shared. For two of us, she suggested choosing two small and shared items: one raw dish and one large-format dish. I kept asking what was fresh, what was homemade, and eventually, I just stopped because Jessie just kept saying that it's all homemade. It's all fresh and locally and sustainably sourced.

We were given a pen and told to bubble in our choices. The small and shared items vary from $8 to $15, and include starters like the grilled Morro Bay avocado with mole verde and the charred snap pea salad. We ordered the Roasted Branden's Mushrooms from a small urban Santa Maria farm. The mushrooms were roasted to perfection, mixed in with Italian Taleggio cheese, and served over a rich and velvety onion soubise.

We also tried the grilled local artichoke, sliced in half and served in a hot bath of olive oil, butter, garlic, and anchovies ("bagna càuda," as the Italians from Piedmont say). The artichoke was soaked in summer—savory and tangy, with preserved Meyer lemon and capers adding just the right touch.

click to enlarge RAW FLAVOR The raw menu at Farmhouse ($15 to $18) offered albacore kinilaw, a Filipino-style ceviche. It tasted like the delicate art piece it was: melt-in-your-mouth opaque Hawaiian albacore in a gorgeous sweet coconut cream and hot Fresno chili sauce with crispy garlic on top. - PHOTOS BY BETH GIUFFRE
  • Photos By Beth Giuffre
  • RAW FLAVOR The raw menu at Farmhouse ($15 to $18) offered albacore kinilaw, a Filipino-style ceviche. It tasted like the delicate art piece it was: melt-in-your-mouth opaque Hawaiian albacore in a gorgeous sweet coconut cream and hot Fresno chili sauce with crispy garlic on top.

From the large format items, which run from $17 to $26, we saw some hearty, artful portions. We shared the adobo pork served with Kandarian Farms farro fried rice, green beans, and squash. The slices of pork tenderloin were the most tender, flavorful pork bites I've ever had. Farmhouse serves all sorts of delicacies: steamed whole shrimp and garlic chips; varying cuts of steak with flowering broccoli and salt-roasted potatoes; Mary's chicken with carrot grits and prosciutto; and braised beef pierogi with avocado chimichurri.

click to enlarge OLIVE OIL NOOK Every corner of Farmhouse Corner Market has co-owner Leanne Harris' bright and elegant interior design touches. The owners say they wanted to keep things family-friendly. - PHOTOS BY BETH GIUFFRE
  • Photos By Beth Giuffre
  • OLIVE OIL NOOK Every corner of Farmhouse Corner Market has co-owner Leanne Harris' bright and elegant interior design touches. The owners say they wanted to keep things family-friendly.

Most of the meat is locally raised and butchered by students at the Cal Poly meat processing center. The oysters are pulled from Morro Bay. The grass-fed beef comes from Santa Carota farm, where the non-GMO, hormone- and antibiotic-free cattle eat mostly carrots.

They serve organic, vanilla-infused root beer, made from real sugar cane. If you order a drink in a yellow to-go cup, someone, somewhere plants a plant.

The purpose here is distinctly farm-to-table, with wallpaper panels of farmland and whimsical art in every nook: even a wall of sinks that act as planters. It seems like the owners have thought of everything.

"We want everyone to feel welcome, any age," Kari said, and she promised there will be a kids menu too.

There's plenty of space to stretch out. I wanted to roller skate down those pristine floors.

Co-owner Leanne Harris summed up the vibe they were going for pretty well.

"We wanted a place that wasn't too stuffy," she said.

A place where you could buy a Snickers bar or a Diet Coke in the market if you felt like it, and you wouldn't be snubbed for it. And as a matter of fact, you can buy those, too.

But not me. I like the fancy foods. Δ

New Times contributor Beth Giuffre really likes the good stuff. Send your fancy food thoughts through the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com.

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