It’s hard, no, make that impossible, to categorize Winslow’s Home, the new restaurant/hardware store/variety store/gourmet food mart that opened on Delmar Boulevard in the old U. City Foods spot. As an eatery, it focuses on fresh, locally grown and raised provisions (many from the owner’s family farm in Augusta). As a retail store, it’s a throwback to the corner hardware store, where the shopkeeper greets you by name and helps you find the widget you’re looking for.
Of course, there are some differences. For one thing, the ‘widgets’ here are things like imported coffee accessories, artisan breads, children’s books and pet supplies. The food offerings, four entrees and some salads, soups and appetizers, come from a menu of the week built around seasonal produce, with hot meals-to-go likely to cost you about $20 per person (for two courses). But these are made-to-order by an on-site crew of chefs, and delicious, not to mention healthy. There is also a tempting array of home-baked goods.
A few tables for eat-in dining sit in the big window-front area facing Delmar, and there’s a nice patio, too, with several tables. A marked, and appealing, emphasis on sustainability here goes beyond the food. The interior has been restored, not replaced, with molded tin ceilings and distressed wooden floors.
You order food at the counter, and it’s brought to you. Depending on who’s at the register, you may have to get your own water glasses and eating utensils, most of which are compostable since they’re made from corn and potato! We started with apple-carrot soup, which was dense with the vegetable’s flavor and made, no doubt, from the farm’s carrots. It had a bit of vinegar flavor and a touch of cream, excellent.
Appetizers were beet salad ($7), made with baby beets from the farm, and citrus-cured salmon ($8). The salad had baby field greens, pine nuts, fresh fennel bulb and lots of sweet red beets with tangy, sweet, beet vinaigrette, more a beet puree than a dressing, but very good.
The star of the table, however, was the cured salmon, sliced paper thin and cured with lemon and orange. Much more delicate than the typical ‘smoked’ salmon, this was clean and fresh-tasting, with hints of citrus. Tiny bits of orange rind were on the plate as well as a remarkable lemon relish that consisted of very small pieces of lemon rind with fruit still attached. It was cold, fresh and a wonderful accompaniment to the fish.
We sampled several entrees, starting with roasted salmon ($15) and leg of lamb ($16). The salmon was served skin side up, not usual but interesting, and was nicely pan-seared. It was as fresh as could be (although only about 4 oz.). It, too, came with the lemon relish and potato salad made with fresh shucking peas (from the farm) and red-skinned new potatoes.
The leg of lamb, by contrast, was a hefty serving of thick-cut meat with barely a hint of fat. It was on the dry side, but delicately flavored and served with very attractively roasted potatoes browned to a dry, crisp coating. Also on the plate was a delicious caponata made with arugula, eggplant, red onion and a touch of roasted red pepper. It had a good coating of olive oil, which imparted a pleasant, creamy texture.
Also good, if a little stingy, was an order of gnocchi ($10), which were quite light and tossed, simply, with olive oil, broccoli, basil and roasted tomatoes. And the roasted chicken entree ($12) was picture-perfect in its browned-all-over, crisp skin, although I was a little surprised to see that only dark meat was served, two leg-thigh quarters. A liberal sprinkling of herbs and spices coated the skin, and the dish came with sautéed carrots and a wedge of spoon bread that was really more a cross between soufflé and cornbread.
For dessert, it was pretty much the sky’s the limit. There were pies, scones, muffins, cookies and more, making it a very tough decision. Our blueberry-peach pie ($4) was delicious, flavored heavily with lemon and having an excellent flaky crust. We also sampled an apple-pear galette, thin layers of fruit on top of unleavened dough folded over it. It was very tasty and fresh, the fruit clearly made from fresh pears and apples, and the dough good.
Winslow’s Home is an interesting neighborhood spot. Judging from the traffic, people have warmed to the idea, stopping in for fresh flowers, breads, wine, dinner to go, and other bits and pieces. The food is excellent, with executive chef Ben Poremba clearly emphasizing fresh and locally grown. And while it doesn’t offer a ‘fancy’ dining experience, there’s something distinctly appealing about the casual, ‘olde tyme’ ambience.