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New England Dining Reviews >>> Farmer in the Dell, Walpole MA, Dining Review

The Farmer in the Dell Features Farm-to-Table Cuisine in Walpole, Mass.
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  Farmer in the Dell, Walpole MAFarmer in the Dell (photo by Eric H.)

Just as you thought the barn door was closed on any unique, new food spots opening in the southwest Boston, Mass., suburbs, along comes the Farmer in the Dell in Walpole.

Named after the famous nursery rhyme game, the Farmer in the Dell recently became part of a growing downtown Walpole dining scene as the first farm-to-table restaurant within a 12-mile radius (Boston area driving translation: 25-minute drive). That's great news for residents of this pleasant small town as well as surrounding communities like Norwood, Medfield, Westwood, Dover, Foxboro, Norfolk and Sharon.

The farm-to-table theme -- using seasonal, fresh and wholesome ingredients that are sourced locally, whenever possible -- serves as a much-needed concept in a world that often favors fast food and "same old thing" dishes like pizza, burgers and chicken tenders.

Judging from the early stages, the Farmer in the Dell taps into the farm-to-table business model exceptionally well. "Day one" in business often suggests what's to come as grand openings test owner preparedness. Have menus been printed? Does the restaurant offer what's on the menu? Has the decor been finalized? Does staff present itself as professional, composed, pleasant and efficient?

The Farmer in the Dell delivered on its promise the very first day with a complete menu, full display cases of baked goods, an active kitchen with a chef presence, an appealing small sit-down dining room atmosphere with rural touches, and a staff that warmly welcomed customers upon arrival.

Farmer in the Dell, Walpole MA

Don't let the rural name fool you: this is not a hokey Hee Haw cornfield subsidiary. Farmer in the Dell feels more like a special dining spot you'd find in the city with a penchant for fine cuisine -- the kind of place you might expect to show up on the Food Network.

Owners Thi Bowles, and Adam and Brooke Laliberte live in town, have significant culinary experience and a mission to share their love of innovative cooking to their hometown. Executive chef Adam has a background in Italian cooking, Brooke as a baker and pastry chef, and Thi in Asian cuisine and as a catering director and cooking instructor.

"There's a tremendous need for this type of food in the Walpole, Norwood, Canton area," said Adam, a Biddeford, Maine, native who attended the Culinary Institute of America in New York City, N.Y., for three years and had most recently worked as a general manager at Au Bon Pain and as a chef Bon Caldo in Norwood. "There are a lot of places with burgers, Chinese food and pizza. We wanted something more and we know a lot of people in town feel the same way. People who come here will have a wide variety of food offerings and a place that it unique, that they can really call their own."

Farmer in the Dell, Walpole MA

It's hard to know where to start -- the myriad baked goods on display and, on the menu, an excellent variety of soups, salads, breakfast and lunch sandwiches and dinner entrees. Offerings include unique items like Green Eggs and Ham (herb omelet with country ham, farmers cheese and pesto), slow roasted brisket with horseradish cream and slaw on a pretzel roll,, Asian chili noodle salad, rotisserie chicken salad (tremendous!), lemongrass chicken, BBQ pork shoulder, potato gnocchi, slow roasted brisket, and a potted pork plate with pork rillettes, seasonal garnishes and toast points.

Baked goods include individual fruit pies, coconut cream tart, chocolate torte, whoopie pies, specialty brownies (one pictured below, and the best I've ever tasted!) and maple glazed cinnamon rolls. The baked goods have a lineage to the offerings of Butter Cafe and Bakery, which formerly occupied this building -- although the Farmer in the Dell's approach to baking has a more "natural ingedients" twist and many different offerings.

"It's exciting and ever evolving," said Laliberte, of the farm-to-table food selections. "We always ask ourselves 'How can we get better?' We always try to use local farms, keep prices reasonable and always do our homework on what we have to do to make this concept work."

Laliberte added that the menu will be revamped for the four New England seasons, tapping into the most relevant seasonal produce. He also said that while The Farmer in the Dell will always strive to source from local farms, the ultimate goal is to acquire the highest quality foods -- sometimes that means searching nationwide.

"Sometimes, local is not better," said Laliberte."It's all about finding the best sources that fit in with the (farm-to-table) concept."

So far, the concept has really taken off in Walpole, as the parking lot is often packed and lines can be seen inside several times during a given day. The Lalibertes and Bowles work on site together virtually the whole time, six days a week.

"Our families have known each other for several years," said Adam. "And this is what we want to do. The response has been great. We really like Walpole as a community and that is why we decided to live here and do business in town."

The most important element of this new downtown Walpole restaurant is that the Farmer in the Dell clearly gives one a reason to return. You'll find items here that can't be found anywhere else locally and the attention to customer service through its counter service is about the best we've seen at a restaurant in the past few years. Additionally, prices are reasonable for most items -- good news, given that this is all high-end food. The Farmer in the Dell also was approved for a beer and wine license and now offers gourmet, prix-fixe dinner events (call 508- 921-3647 for details).

Ultimately, small eateries can only succeed with pride of ownership  and the Farmer in the Dell clearly recognizes this crucial element. As other restaurants with myopic business vision are being put out to pasture in this rough economy, the Farmer in the Dell -- given its initial impeccable attention to detail and unique presentation -- has the potential to become a local favorite, "barn-none!"

The Farmer in the Dell is located at 935 East St., Walpole MA. Tel. (508) 921-3647. Hours: 7 a.m.-7 p.m., Monday-Saturday

Editor's note: stay tuned for frequent updates to this article, as we plan on interviewing the owners who will discuss their new restaurant, and its evolution!

Walpole Farmer in the Dell brownieAn amazing brownie! (photo by Eric)

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