By Robin Garr
If you haven’t made your way out to Barn 8 Restaurant at Hermitage Farm in Goshen, take my advice: You ought to give it a try soon. You’ll be glad you did.
Walk in the front door of the black, red-trimmed former horse barn on U.S. 42, and one of the first things you see will be a small painting of local art enthusiast and 21c hotel founder Steve Wilson, showing a big smile and his trademark red glasses.
Yep, Barn 8 is related by family to Proof on Main, 21c’s much-lauded downtown eatery. I might not call Barn 8 “Proof East” or “Proof in the countryside,” but it’s fair to point out the similarities, and there are plenty of them.
Both restaurants give more than lip service to regional farm-to-table dining, particularly to respected local farms for meats and produce. Both restaurants also reach beyond the local area when it makes sense to seek out quality, such as Proof’s ?ra King salmon from New Zealand and Barn 8’s Riverence farmed trout from Idaho and Washington State.
You’ll find plenty of Steve Wilson’s beloved art pieces at Barn 8, too, although it’s not as much of an eatery-in-a-museum spectacle as is Proof. Barn 8’s revamped horse barn, with private rooms in former stable stalls and design by Bittner’s, is art enough in its own right.
It’s about a half-hour drive out to Goshen from Crescent Hill or the Highlands, but it’s a pretty drive on a long summer evening, straight out US 42 through fancy suburbs, forests and rolling farm fields. When you pass Francis Parker School (the just-renamed St. Francis School), watch out for the Hermitage Farm – Barn 8 sign on the right. Turn in between two large, intentionally rusted Corten steel sculptures by French artist Jean Dupuy, one reading “Here” and the other “Where.”
We summoned a couple of refreshingly bitter, light Campari-and-sodas ($9 each) to begin a celebratory anniversary dinner, and enjoyed the scene while checking out the current summer menu.
The 13-item menu doesn’t distinguish among appetizers, small plates, and main dishes, but it’s easy to make them out as sizes and prices increase as you go down the page.
Seven starter-type choices range in price from $11 (for a local greens salad) to $17 (for a fancy cauliflower puree). Six main-course-type choices are priced from $19 (for mushroom risotto) to $39 (for a pork chop from Groce Family Farm in English, Ind.)
The extensive bar menu includes nearly 100 bourbons, an interesting wine list, and short selections of creative cocktails and craft bottled and canned beers.
We started with a shared heirloom tomato tartine appetizer ($14), pictured at the top of the page. It was a daily special too attractive to resist. This seasonal chef’s whim started with a thick slice of house-made sourdough drizzled with olive oil and painted with intensely garlicky Lebanese-style toum sauce, then loaded with perfectly ripe, dark reddish-purple tomato wedges garnished with tiny basil, mint, and beet-leaf microgreens. It was just about perfect, and a shake of salt on the tomatoes added the final touch.
Mushroom risotto ($27) hit the spot, a rich, comforting and delicious Northern Italian-style rice dish. A generous portion of crisply sauteed wild mushrooms from Frondosa Farm in Simpsonville, Ky., made it a special treat, further elevated with thinly shaved Parmigiano slices and an anise-scented gremolata of minced Mexican mint marigold, an herb akin to tarragon.
I’m generally wary of farmed salmon and trout. But Riverence trout, from a sustainable, organic trout farm on Idaho’s Snake River, has won a “Best Choice” rating from the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch and other gurus of sustainability.
A good-size, skin-on fillet Riverence steelhead trout ($31) was a salmon-colored trout, seared until the silvery skin was crisp and crunchy. It broke easily with a fork. It was fresh, firm, and easily flaked; its flavor was distinctly stronger than the mild taste that some associate with trout.
It was garnished with fresh-pickled pink onions and sat atop a small ration of butterbeans and a salty sauce described as salsa verde. The six or eight beans were tasty but variably cooked, ranging from soft to almost underdone-crisp.
We didn’t order dessert, but our skillful server, Lynsey, presented an anniversary gift: A small but delicious portion of salty caramel crème brûlee garnished with spicy popcorn. It was a real treat.
A splendid dinner for two came to $95.40, plus a $22.50 tip.
Barn 8 Restaurant
10500 W. US Highway 42
Noise Level: Conversation was generally easy, except for occasional bursts from nearby tables and the open kitchen ebbs. Average sound level was 78.7 dB (your washing machine at work), with peaks to a near-deafening 87.4dB (electric lawnmower doing its job).
Accessibility: The dining room appears accessible to wheelchair users, although uneven spots in the brick floor could be an issue. More significantly, the main parking lot is up a long flight of concrete stairs from the dining room. I suggest checking in advance or stopping at the Hermitage Farm welcome center if you anticipate a problem.