The Hope Farm
915 Nichols Ave.
Fairhope, AL 36532
There is Hope. And there is a fair amount of it. You’ll find it on Nichols Avenue directly across the street from Fairhope Brewery. When it seems the restaurant world is either crashing around us or at the very least being put on hold, out of nowhere comes The Hope Farm.
When I first heard about it, I figured it would be in a much more rural area than its surprising approximation to the beloved beer hall across the street, yet for some reason I was relieved. Urban farming is something I wish we had more of. Farm-to-table is easier for a restaurant if you are growing on premises, even if it’s only a portion of what you are serving.
I’ve been twice, and both times we didn’t pump the brakes.
I am certain The Hope Farm would make a wonderful date night outing with its more modern architecture and dimly lit rooms, but this place excels at group dining. With plates ranging from small to shareable, the group effort affords you myriad flavors. Be careful to not let your eyes get bigger than your stomach. Things can get a bit out of hand when passing the plates.
On our first trip, my sister Andrea was in town, joining our little “isolation group.” It was her idea, as the Bodhi Trio were playing that evening. We sat on the patio with the heat not as bad as you would expect, and the music even better than the last time we saw these guys.
I started the evening with a glass of rosé. As the rest of the table mostly chose various wines, a few took to the cocktail menu. The most notable of those was Katie’s Lavender Leia ($13). With Hendrick’s gin, lavender simple syrup, fresh lemon juice and Champagne, this was the best drink of the night.
I knew I’d get my sister to bite on sharing a deviled egg flight ($6). Done three ways, a pickled beet (the pink egg had been pickled in beet juice) with herbed goat cheese and microgreens was great. That was followed by a chilled egg stuffed with truffle, paddlefish, caviar and dill; and lastly, another one with house-made pimiento cheese that had a giant pork rind reaching from the stuffing. It was the one I thought I’d like the least, but enjoyed the most.
Andrea also had the beer-braised pork empanadas ($12). Naturally, they use Fairhope Brewing Co. beer. I’m guessing they don’t pay much shipping. The pickled red onions and tomatillo sauce were really good against the cotija cheese and lime crème fraîche.
That night I couldn’t avoid the Hope Farm pomme frites ($10). Hand-cut fries with garlic, parmesan and mushrooms were enough for me. There was a trio of sauces, but I barely dabbled.
We all shared some flatbreads. The Wellington ($15) had shaved beef tenderloin, mushrooms, horseradish cream sauce and wasabi arugula. It was great, but the seafood flatbread ($12) was better. Gulf shrimp, bay scallops, avocado, peppers, tomatoes, red onion and garlic aioli made sure of it.
I remember I finished that evening off with a Graham’s 20-year tawny port ($15). It was all the dessert I needed.
On our next visit, the entire group had the warm mushroom salad ($12). Caramelized mushrooms and onions helped the spinach and arugula to wilt a little in the sherry-honey vinaigrette, but it was the fried goat cheese ball that stole the show.
Chargrilled oysters ($14/half dozen) were right for sharing in their collard green butter and cornbread gremolata. The charcuterie board ($22) was three cheeses and three meats deep, the highlights being an Asher Blue from Sweet Grass in Georgia and the duck prosciutto from Smoking Goose in Indiana.
The marinated crab claws (MP) were mild in a satsuma vinaigrette and could have perhaps used a little salt. What really got our attention was the curried clams and mussels ($14.50). With blistered tomatoes and mustard greens, the curry in the broth had a hint of cilantro and the grilled bread wasn’t plentiful enough. Stellar broth like that cannot be wasted. We dipped crab claws in it with great results.
For the table we had Chateaubriand ($70). We all wanted it rare, and the waitress advised medium-rare is closer to rare at The Hope Farm. It was perfect. The accompanying fried Brussels sprouts had a crunch with the caramelized onions and fingerling potatoes crispy in a brûléed bourbon-mushroom butter. I need to learn how to do that.
The fish special was pompano (MP) served whole, buttery and with sides of Hoppin’ John that had a slight vinegar taste to it, as did the collard greens. I might have been outnumbered, but the pompano was my favorite of the night.
For dessert that evening we shared crème brûlée with a hint of mint, a layered flourless chocolate cake ($12) with mousse, chocolate pearls and al exhouse-made berry compote. But the best was the fondue ($14). Fruit and cookies were great, but the toasted marshmallows were done in house for a wonderful touch.
I am two for two on wonderfuperiences here, but we have spent a good bit of money. It mostly depends on what you’re drinking. There are some very decent whiskey choices in terms of bourbon. The cocktails are fantastic, and I should add the Gingersnap ($13) to the list of must-tries. You could back off the booze and get out of there with a very reasonable tab.
There are fewer things I haven’t tried than have. I’ll be back to cover that ground. With things as they are, I never felt unsafe. I actually felt at ease. Wearing a mask on the way in and out wasn’t a nuisance. Staff was friendly and face-covered. Everyone was having a good time. The Hope Farm seems to be just that: a place where hope can grow.
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