Food Feature: Down on the farm

Revamped menu makes Lickskillet Farm a pleasant place to spend the afternoon

At brunch, we got to eavesdrop on a bride and groom planning their rehearsal dinner. At lunch a week later, we were seated next to a bridesmaids' luncheon party. Lickskillet Farm is that kind of place, a place people think of when they want a special setting.
While urban sprawl gobbles space all around it, the 1846 farmhouse and its in-season herb and flower garden go on as if nothing at all were happening beyond the towering trees that separate Lickskillet Farm from the rest of the world. Inside, a welcoming fire glows in the fireplace — never mind that it is 70 degrees outside — a quilt is draped jauntily in the foyer, plates and pictures and all the loving touches that should be here, are here, just as they have been for years.
Luckily, however, some things do change. In this case, that would be the food.
It wasn't that long ago that the Lickskillet Farm menu was filled with such standards as cracklin' cornbread, escargot, rack of lamb and beef, beef, beef. The rack of lamb is still there (Australian, seared and roasted with rosemary plum sauce, herbed red bliss potatoes and baby bok choy) but otherwise, the menu is totally revamped. It wasn't the menu itself, though, that was the problem. The problem was that the food was curiously without flavor.
That isn't a problem anymore. Yes, there are misses in the kitchen. The spicy crab cakes, for example, are horribly burned on the outside. Scrape off the char (which also removes half of the crab meat) and what meat is left is flecked with the specks of pepper that do indeed, make the dish spicy. But the scorched aftertaste never goes away, not even after nibbling on the purple pickled onions and cucumber, and the rather dry, skinny carrot curls.
But for the most part, the food does not let its surroundings down. This is particularly true of the bountiful Sunday brunch. At $21.95 per person, it isn't cheap. It is, however, a good value considering the breadth of the offerings and how uniformly good they are. Not to mention that the price includes a mimosa or a glass of sparkling wine after noon.
If you are a fan of Lickskillet Farm's roasted garlic cheese grits — and who could not be? — then you definitely will want to do brunch; that's the only time they always appear. What makes them so good, other than their wonderful creaminess, of course, is that the garlic and cheese flavors, while subtle, are nevertheless distinctive. They're a lovely compliment to everything else (with the exception of the fresh fruit): the scrambled eggs, naturally, and the small wedges of quiche; the roasted potatoes and sweet glazed carrots; both kinds of salmon — blackened and the moist, savory, cold salmon that tastes of hickory smoking; the thick, luscious strips of country bacon; the tortellini in cream sauce; the peel-and-eat shrimp.
There's an omelet and crêpe station; a carving station with leg of lamb, turkey and a rare top round roast that is juicier than it has any right to be; and a table of desserts of which the star is the in-season berry cobbler. At least I think it was a berry cobbler. There wasn't much left of it by the time I got to it.
The fire twinkles, the sun shines, the piano player tickles the ivories in the corner of the main dining room ... it is a very pleasant way to spend the afternoon.
__Lickskillet Farm, 1380 Old Roswell Road, Roswell, 770-475-6484. Lunch: Tuesday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Dinner: Tuesday-Friday, 6-10 p.m.; Saturday, 5:30-10 p.m.; Sunday, 5:30-9 p.m. Brunch: Sunday, 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Brunch runs $21.95 per person. Credit cards. Dress: business and casual, but no matter how much you love that Minnesota sweatshirt, don't wear it. Ambiance: Americana, red, white and blue. Smoke-free environment. Reservations accepted and strongly suggested. Wheelchair accessible.


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