Nathan Peitso

Executive farmer Nathan Peitso is the frontman of Farmhouse at the Beverly Center.

Andy Wang
March 14, 2018

Farmhouse, the 7,000-square-foot restaurant that Nathan Peitso is opening at L.A.’s Beverly Center on March 17, is all about seasonal ingredients and thoughtful sourcing. Farmhouse’s first menu has a list of “March menu highlights”: peas, carrots, broccolini and cauliflower. There’s a much longer list of “agricultural partners,” headlined by Kenter Canyon Farms and Roan Mills.

Kenter Canyon, known for its salad greens and herbs, is Peitso’s family farm. Roan Mills, which farms, mills and bakes its own wheat, specializes in heritage grains and was started by Peitso’s mother, Andrea Crawford.

Other California suppliers Farmhouse is using include Weiser Family Farms, which has potatoes and root vegetables Peitso likes. Farmhouse serves microgreens from Freyr Farms. There are peas from Kong Thao, a beloved fixture at L.A. farmers markets.

“Growing up in agriculture, you have friends that are also in agriculture,” Peitso says. “My group of friends is who’s supplying this restaurant.”

Andy Wang

Peitso has been around farming literally his entire life.

“I was raised in Berkeley,” he says. “My mother was a waitress at Chez Panisse. When she got pregnant with me, she couldn’t be a waitress anymore. Back then, that just wasn’t the thing. She had always had a lettuce garden in the back of the house. She grew tiny little baby lettuce greens.”

Back then, you couldn’t buy lettuce like this in Berkeley. Crawford would bring extra greens into Chez Panisse and chef Alice Waters would incorporate it into the menu of the pioneering California-cuisine restaurant.

After Crawford got pregnant in 1981, Waters had an idea.

“Alice said, ‘You know, if you have too much of that salad, you could just sell it to me,’” Peitso says. “My mom, being a go-getter, was like, ‘I can have too much all the time.’ So she filled up her backyard and then she filled up her front yard, and she was quickly filling up her friends’ yards and just growing all over Berkeley and driving from place to place to place.”

She would carry Peitso in a Babybjörn as she worked in the gardens.

In 1985, Crawford moved to Los Angeles, where she and her pre-K son grew baby greens for Wolfgang Puck.

“Our first farm in L.A. was in Venice on Rose Avenue,” Peitso says. “It was an empty lot. We were totally doing urban farming, way before it was even cool. It was what we had to do, out of necessity.”

They would later expand to a farm in the Encino backyard of Nancy Silverton’s father, Larry Silverton. More than three decades later, Kenter Canyon Farms is based in Sun Valley and Roan Mills has a bakery in Fillmore. And Peitso is about to open his 250-seat restaurant in the middle of L.A.

Because Peitso is sourcing a lot of his ingredients without middlemen, he’s able to keep his prices down: He’s looking at an average dinner check, including alcohol, of about $55 a person. Not bad for a restaurant inside a luxury shopping center at the edge of ritzy Beverly Hills and scenester West Hollywood.

The only thing better than fresh-squeezed is fresh-picked. #OrangeYouGladThatWeHandpick?

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“What I want is accessibility,” Peitso says. “Our price point isn’t high, and we’re able to offer it because of our connection to agriculture. There’s no reason to make it fancy. All you have to do is let the ingredients speak. We have a big wood-fired grill, so we throw things on it and they come out delicious.”

Here’s a first look at what Farmhouse will be serving:

Pizza and pasta

Farmhouse’s pizza dough is sourdough made out of a secret blend of five Roan Mills grains. Noel Brohner of Slow Rise Pizza Co., a consultant that Felix chef Evan Funke recommended to Peitso, is fermenting the dough and topping pizza with combinations like broccolini, pickled zucchini, Peads and Barnetts pork sausage and goat’s-milk ricotta.

There’s a pizza with four different kinds of mushrooms. It’s headlined by piopinnis and also has shiitakes, oysters and a purée of creminis.

“The texture of piopinnis is very different from other mushrooms,” Peitso says. “They’re very low-hydration mushrooms.”

The piopinnis are crunchy, meaty and deeply earthy. They pair nicely with the funk of the sourdough.

Pastas, like bright and wonderful pappardelle with pistachio pesto and slow-roasted cherry tomatoes, are made with semolina milled by Crawford and Peitso.

“It took me like three months of every weekend tinkering in the mill to get it right,” Peitso says. “What comes out is rustic. It has a nuttiness that you just don’t find elsewhere. Nobody else is getting this semolina.”

Real pasta doesn't come from a box, it comes from the heart. #MadeWithLove

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Executive chef Craig Hopson (formerly at Le Cirque in New York) is braising lamb shoulder for eight hours. The lamb is served as an entrée and also used as the stuffing of a vibrant pasta dish: creste di gallo with carrots and parmesan.

Salads and starters

Kenter Canyon Farms, of course, supplies greens and herbs for salads like one with radicchio, chicory, goat’s-milk ricotta, hazelnuts, parsley, chive, citrus vinaigrette and parsley oil. This is a restaurant where salads and simple starters, like a whole roasted cauliflower or peas with burrata, are a statement of purpose.

“We’re lucky here in Southern California,” Peitso says. “This should be the sort of stuff that everybody’s eating everyday. It’s local. It’s delicious.”

Simple food, Peitso believes, is the best food.

“I hope that becomes the norm [in restaurants],” he says. “It’s better for people to eat this way. It’s better for the environment to source as locally as possible. I think it’s better for the taste of food, just the quality of it. This is what I believe in. This is why I’m opening the restaurant. I love this stuff. I want to show everybody how cool it is.”

Other standout starters include hamachi crudo with clementine, passionfruit, micro cilantro and crispy ginger. The fish is sustainably farmed in Baja, and there’s a bit of leche de tigre for a jolt of Peruvian heat.

Fish and meat entrées

A little leche de tigre also shows up in a dish of local black cod with herbed potatoes and a soft-boiled egg. The entrée is made with Russian banana potatoes from Weiser Family Farms. The potatoes are tossed in a mix of mayo and herbs like dill, mint, cilantro, parsley, chives and chervil. The dish is finished with parsley oil.

Peitso is a fan of the crispy-skinned black cod, but he’s really amped about being able to serve a version of this dish with ling cod in the future.

“It could be even better,” he says. “Ling cod has a wonderful flake to a protein. I’ve been catching it since I was a little kid, and it’s always like Christmas when it shows up. It’s not a huge commercial species, so when it’s in season, we’ll have it on the menu.”

Peitso, not surprisingly, is tracing where all his seafood is coming from, down to the specific fishermen and docks. The black cod, for example, is from Santa Barbara.

On the meat side of things, there’s a burger made with Creekstone Farms beef and brioche that’s baked daily and features Sonora Gold wheat from Roan Mills. The ultra-dense brioche is also used for stuffing in a roasted Petaluma chicken that’s an ode to the standard-bearing chicken at Zuni in San Francisco.

Meanwhile, Hopson’s braised lamb shoulder is served with carrot-saffron romesco, roasted carrots and almonds. It’s total comfort for those 50-degree winter nights in L.A.

The wood-fired grill is used for shareable entrees like a bone-in 32-ounce rib eye that’s served with grilled mature arugula and mushroom jus. The mature arugula is one of the “special things” that Kenter Canyon Farms is growing to meet Farmhouse’s needs.

Desserts and dairy products

There’s a fennel pavlova with lemon shaved ice and Santa Barbara banana cream. A semifreddo is made with maple and eucalyptus. A dark chocolate custard has a Santa Barbara passionfruit mousse. There are rhubarb clafoutis.

“We’re getting our butter, milk and cream from Clover,” Peitso says.

Beyond using that Sonoma dairy, Peitso is sourcing cheese from Northern California suppliers like Marin French and Laura Chenel’s.

The drinks

Along with California wines, bar director Andrew Harbour (also at Norah) is serving cocktails made with organic spirits, fresh citrus and edible flowers. So Farmhouse’s gin and tonic is known as the geranium and tonic, and it includes elderflower, kumquat and lemon.

What’s called Our Martini at Farmhouse is a play on words: The martini, poured long with about six ounces in a carafe, is made with local Our/Vodka, which has a distillery in the Arts District. The martini is garnished with “oddball lemons” from Peitso’s farm.

“I took Andrew to the farm and showed him everything that was available,” Peitso says.

Expect to see a lot of herbs in the cocktails at Farmhouse.

Farmhouse, 8500 Beverly Blvd., suite 113, Los Angeles, 310-818-4925