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Poppy Hill Tuscan Kitchen, Chef Scot Mahar in Old Town Fredericksburg - Closed Apr 6, 2016


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Had a chance this past weekend to visit a farm-to-table place that has received some real acclaim in recent years called Poppy Hill Tuscan Kitchen. Seems it really hit the map thanks to epicurious a few years ago, who had this to say (2008):

Bon Appétit and Gourmet's Epicurious showcases Poppy Hill on its list of The Top 10 Farm-to-Table Restaurants in the USA:
"The bottom line is that we're putting stuff into people's bodies, and we have an inherent responsibility to feed guests well from a health and flavor perspective."

 
Cutting to the chase, that sounds like a pretty different restaurant from the one we tried for brunch. Of course, take with the requisite grains of salt since it has been a few years since the "top 10" designation and we were there for brunch, which may not be a fair representation of what a dinner would be. That said, I'm usually not inclined to give a restaurant a pass for non-dinner meals. Either they are what they say they are or they're not. This feels kinda not. Specifics on food and service below.

Food:

App#1: Garden salad. Fine but nothing special. Greens were somewhat varied, a few small grape tomato halves, thinly sliced carrot. Mild viniagrette.

App#2: Tomato bisque. Evidently a hallmark of the place and headline like the garden salad. No complaints and we did finish it. Tomato was the dominant flavor (whew) with lighter touch on the cream. Probably the best thing we had.

Main #1: Sausage red pepper frittata. Flavorless. We were first very surprised followed, a few bites later, by deep disappointment. It's unusual to get a flavorless sausage but this was that. Likewise the overall dish.

Main #2: Ricotta pancakes with "maple syrup." Also pretty disappointing. The 'cakes were huge, heavy, and much more dense than ricotta cakes should be. Kind of shocking given the huge "farm to table" and "health" reputation, they served artificial syrup with it. Can you say corn syrup? C'mon!

Service:

Our servers were friendly and nice but also distracted, disorganized, and seemed to lack basic instincts or experience for table service. We waited 15-20 minutes before a waitress appeared who then wanted to take a drink order before telling us about specials. About 10 minutes later, coffees appeared. Condiments (incl the syrup) were served absent-mindedly in near empty containers. Again, they were very nice but just didn't seem to care much about providing a good (forget about great) level of service.

I'd recommend skipping this place if in F'burg, at least for brunch. Another spot called Bethem Bistro down the street looked more promising.

Related media issue. Epicurious.com isn't one of my go-to websites for restaurant reviews and this reinforces why. But, I'd be interested to know if others value it since I haven't really given it a fair chance beyond a few disappointments like Poppy Hill.

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