Thursday, 4 April 2013
Restaurant Review: Alfie's Wholesome Food
Greetings, fellow Foodie (or Foodie-in-Training)! I'm taking a slight break from my series of Boston posts to inform you of a new restaurant that recently rolled into town and opened today, with the proclaimed mission that it would "connect people to what they eat and each other by being the community’s best place for food." Well, that restaurant is Alfie's Wholesome Food of which CCA-trained Chef/Owner Sam Dodge has made his small business vision a reality. Located in the "cute" village of Granville, Alfie's officially opened this past Tuesday. The Grand Opening took place today, beckoning Granvillians and area folks to check out what this addition to Granville is all about.
After my initial look-around inside the quaint building that houses an apparent air of fresh, quality food, I stepped back outside in search of Sam, who shared the information with which I opened this post. Sam also shared that he was raised here in central Ohio and so a return from Berkeley to this area where his family still resides seems to have been both imminent and fitting, as further exemplified in the familial atmosphere also wafting in the space. Moreover, and whenever possible, Sam aims to source his food locally (undoubtedly with the help of the folks of Licking County's 30-Mile Meal), a major source of which is currently Bird's Haven Farm.
As we chatted, two samples passed by, both of which I of course tried. First up was the Fresh Daily Frittata, described in their menu as being made with "fresh local eggs whipped together with savory ingredients and baked to fluffy perfection." Fluffy perfection, indeed. It had a delicate crisp bite to the exterior, which protected the moist & flavourful interior. It wasn't overly eggy and had a smooth, comfort food mouthfeel to it. This softer option was then followed up by the Ginger Cranberry Almond Granola ("wholesome oats and goodies toasted with honey," typically served with nonfat Greek yogurt or milk), which had a nice toasty taste to them, broken up with brightness from the cranberry. As a random aside, this definitely reminded me of all the muesli I had sitting in my kitchen.
With the new found context in mind, my taste buds now active, my camera at the ready, and soon with a glass of Chardonnay in hand (offered at the art gallery just a few steps away from Alfie's, which is located to the immediate left of the Granville Public Library when facing the building), I made way back into the restaurant to try out fuller portions of the items that were available.
First up, in the foreground, was my self-initiated half and half bowl. On the left, I got half an order of the Roasted Chicken Apricot Salad with Almonds, a combination of flavours that on its own will be bringing me back to Alfie's. The chicken salad was moist (though not in the style of some basic, overly mayonnaised chicken salads, the mayonnaise of which often mutes the other flavours), particularly bright and refreshing, and had great textural diversity especially coming from the pulled chicken, dried apricots, celery and toasted almonds. To complete the bowl, I got half an order of what I was told was the best seller of the day: the Roasted Beet Salad (and I could see, er.. and taste, why). The description featured in the menu was right on, describing the beets as being tender and sweet (versus the overtly earthy flavour that is typical of beets), "simply dressed and showered" with crumbly feta cheese, the flavour of which you could taste with every bite, despite not necessarily biting into small chunks of feta. I should note that while the cost isn't outrageous, it may give one due pause in considering the value of good food done right. Indeed, each bite was truly justified in their own right, and spoke in such a way that respectfully highlighted the tastes of the region and the timing of the year.
When I earlier asked Sam what his favourite thing on the menu was, he rightfully struggled to come up with one dish in mind. A sure favourite for him is the Mr. Hunter's (roasted chicken, dates, almonds, chick peas, kidney beans and French feta with a citrus vinaigrette). But he then added that if he could only walk away with one thing currently available in the moment, it would have to be the Lemon Cake [layered] with Blackberry [Jam] and [beautifully frosted with] Cream Cheese Frosting, baked earlier that morning by Alfie's pastry chef (the mom of one of the employees). As I took my first bite, I picked up the subtle assertiveness of the lemon and blackberry, a beautiful and natural combination that tasted of nothing artificial, but rather of something that was fresh and pure. One dense layer at a time, the cake felt a bit like coffee cake and though filling it felt very manageable to take my time and finish it on the spot. For the extremely health conscious among you, or for those who (for some reason or another) don't like cream cheese frosting, you nearly forget you're eating cream cheese frosting (and this is coming from someone who typically doesn't go for frosting. And while I focused on the individual and overall flavours, I forgot for a slight moment that it was a cooler than usual spring (albeit the sun was out); rather, it seemed as though I had briefly been transported to a summer evening... and then I realised I probably shouldn't have been eating the cake as quickly as I did.
As Alfie's grows and becomes well established in Granville (which I hope it does), Sam noted that the menu may most likely change given the availability of ingredients, and thus we should expect seasonal options, especially from a chef who enjoys exercising his culinary genius. Most likely, though, the greatest change and rotation in the menu will occur with the creativity and skill of Alfie's pastry chef. In an environment where I've been witness to seeing at least three restaurants close in the last 2.5+ years I've lived in Granville, and with all due sincerity, this is one restaurant that we cannot allow to close. Alfie's is open daily from 8am-2pm and can be found at 221 E Broadway here in Granville. To view these and other photos taken earlier today, click here.