A farmhouse is probably as good a metaphor as any for this Emmaus restaurant named after itself, so to speak that serves some of the classiest cuisine in the Lehigh Valley.
At one time The Farmhouse, an early 19th century stone house on Route 29, must have been the epicenter of a sowing, growing operation that reaped bounty from acres of the surrounding land.
Now as a restaurant, it still dishes up the harvest, but from other purveyors focusing on top-flight, farm-fresh food, based on ingredients such as free-range, organic chicken, sustainable fish and produce from local growers.
When I visited recently, the meal proved, once again, that mixing the best ingredients with talent, skill and intelligence in the kitchen yields a dining experience like none other.
The Farmhouse is a white- tablecloth, fine-dining establishment, the sort of restaurant a treat any time of year that makes any special occasion even more special. Even so, its ambience is unpretentious, cozy and comfortable.
Six intimate dining rooms, painted marbleized colors reminiscent of butternut squash or robins' eggs, are spare, save for a chair rail and a few paintings or prints.
A wood stove in the entry's massive fireplace radiated much appreciated country warmth the frigid night of my visit.
Chef Michael Adams' ''New American'' fare incorporates elements of cuisines from across the globe: Butternut squash soup gets coconut and curry flavors from the East; braised short ribs find a partner with that Italian favorite, risotto; and seared tuna benefits from the counterpoint of a French-inspired au poivre preparation.
The menu, which changes seasonally, features eight appetizers, eight entrees and two salads that would entice any epicurean palate: consider, for example, yellowfin tuna tartare with American sturgeon caviar; market oysters with green apple mignonette; pickled beets with goat cheese; roasted Alaskan black cod with candy-striped beets; and grilled flat-iron steak with chanterelle mushrooms.
Oh for the fortitude to try it all! Alas, though, choices had to be made, so we selected sweet potato gnocchi, a crabmeat cake, and foie gras for starters.
The pasta pockets, melt-in-your-mouth tender, were served with diced, caramelized butternut squash that added depth and sweetness.
Parsnip slaw, wonderfully fresh and crisp, contributed counterpoint taste and texture to the pan-fried crabmeat cake listed with the evening's specials.
Also from the list of specials, Chef Adams' foie gras stole the show. The seared goose liver's silky richness was enhanced by its contrast with the texture of the crostini on which it was served and the flavor of raspberry red onion marmalade topping. At once both sweet and zippy, the marmalade added complexity that made this delectable dish a one-act wonder.
We shared baby arugula salad with Anjou pear and local goat cheese. The impeccably fresh greens from Liberty Gardens, a farm in Coopersburg, were tossed with julienne pieces of fruit that brought sweet crunch to the salad, dressed with sherry walnut vinaigrette.
Crusty rolls, feathery inside, were a well-executed detail that exemplified the all-around excellence that permeated dinner here.
From the evening's entree specials, lamb paillard featured thinly sliced medallions, pounded even thinner, then grilled in a flash. Still pink in the middle, the pieces of meat tender, almost buttery offered unparalleled flavor.
The lamb was suitably paired with braised fennel, Yukon potatoes, pistachio pesto and tomato vinaigrette.
Savory, slow-roasted salmon, clearly cooked with precision, was served with fingerling potatoes and the tiniest Brussels sprouts that were big on flavor another winning entree from The Farmhouse kitchen.
At first bite, Australian lamb ''osso buco'' almost took my breath away; its flavor was so intense, deep and layered. The braised shanks, cooked in the manner of the same veal cuts in the original Italian dish, were oh-so-tender and infused with the tastes and seasonings of the braising liquid.
Parsnip potato mash was the perfect partner, serving as counterpoint in texture and a tabula rasa for the shanks' assertive flavor.
Since the kitchen would certainly apply no lesser standard to its desserts, we gave that menu the serious import and attention it deserved.
Overlooking creme brulee and handstretched apple strudel, we settled on white chocolate pumpkin bread pudding and molten-center chocolate cake with house-made vanilla bean ice cream.
Both, of course, were worthy of the hundreds of decadent calories they added to the meal.
Dining at The Farmhouse offers even more, however, than food, glorious food. The restaurant's beer bar features more than 150 bottled beers, draughts from Belgium, Germany and Oregon and hand drawn cask ale from New York. Seventy wines hail from Australia, Chile, France, Italy, New Zealand and South Africa as well as California and Oregon, and more than 70 Scotch selections include malts, Irish whiskey, small batch bourbon, rare malts and cognac.
We were three for dinner, but in keeping with established review style, dinner for two, including tax, tip and nonalcoholic beverages, totaled $126.
Susan Gottshall is a freelance restaurant reviewer for Go Guide. Gottshall, who tells it like it is, attempts to remain anonymous during restaurant visits. All meals are paid for by The Morning Call.
Linda O'Connell, Assistant
Managing Editor, Features