Food Plenty: Plenty Good
I remember when they first started construction on what is now Clarksville Commons; it looked as if they were building a gigantic warehouse. I was instantly turned off by the concrete-and-mud eyesore. I always seem to forget that most things don’t look very pretty when they’re in process. Now, Clarksville Commons is mostly finished, and Food Plenty, the latest venture by the powerhouse-restaurateur Marriner family and its Victoria Restaurant Group, takes up a chunk of prime real estate on the second floor of the sprawling community complex, which was built with environmental sustainability in mind.
This sentiment is echoed in the very bones of the restaurant, which features wooden panels and beams the Marriners salvaged from area barns, and will soon feature a working greenhouse. The restaurant is named after the farm where the Marriner girls grew up. This connection to the land is also represented in the limited menu they’re serving during their “soft open” period.
Area farms are prominently featured, and seasonality and freshness is emphasized. The menu items scream home-style cooking with a flare for the fanciful: The appetizers range from cast-iron cornbread to beef carpaccio. From the entrees, you can choose from everything from a grilled cheese BLT to a pan-roasted rockfish.
From what I can see, wherever they can, Food Plenty seems to be sourcing things as locally and sustainably as possible. They’ve even got an invasive species of catfish on the menu—an interesting way to give native species more of a fighting chance.
As if this restaurant didn’t scream “home” to me enough already, one of my favorite area bartenders, Aemon—you remember him from that bourbon-chewing event I wrote about, don’t you?—recently hung his bottle opener at Food Plenty. Aemon is incredibly adept at listening to what you’re in the mood to drink and crafting a cocktail or choosing a brew that perfectly suits that desire. If you don’t feel like tapping into Aemon’s creativity, though, the restaurant has plenty of delicious offerings on its adult beverage menu (including one of my top three favorite red zinfandels, Plungerhead.)
I settled on the Brown Shugga cocktail, a delectable combination of bourbon, cider, maple syrup, and something I’d never heard of before but was glad to meet: apple cream liqueur. Joe asked Aemon to craft him an old fashioned.
We kept the eats pretty simple, opting to indulge in some appetizers and a dessert. We started off with the wedge salad, featuring a smoked tomato coulis and—get this—pork cracklins, and the beef carpaccio.
The salad was a solid salad—the flavors blended well together, and that’s saying something coming from someone who normally despises blue cheese. I don’t care how lacking in nutrition it is—iceberg lettuce will always be this girl’s favorite salad green.
The beef carpaccio positively sang itself into my mouth, where it promptly melted like butter. I don’t understand how thinly-sliced raw beef can melt, but this one can and did. Maybe it’s because it came from a local farm, and was still mooing much more recently than a lot of beef you get at other establishments? The horseradish and micro-mustard greens gave everything a nice kick, too. Beautiful dish.
We wanted something a little heavier for our third course, so we opted for the Maryland crab dip. I gobbled it up like someone who’d recently escaped from a fat farm, but Joe found it a little blah. To each his own salty, dairy-laden delight, I suppose. I thought the toasted pretzel slices were a nice change from the typical sliced white bread that comes with most crab dips.
We were still a tiny bit hungry afterward, and you know what that means: dessert! The dessert menu currently consists of one tart and three milkshakes, all of which look positively divine. However, we went with the tart—a banana cream pie tart, to be exact. It hit the spot perfectly. Creamy vanilla pudding, sliced bananas, whipped cream … it was so down-home that I could’ve been at my daddy’s house for Sunday dinner.
I can't wait to see Clarksville Commons in all its green glory once things warm up a bit around here. It’s hard to believe this is only a soft open for Food Plenty. The Marriners are seasoned restaurant professionals, and it shows in how smoothly things are running—and how deliciously they’re tasting—at Food Plenty.