The folks at the JW Marriott recently opened two new entities, Whisper Creek Farm: The Kitchen and Whisper Creek Farm: The Brewery.
You’ll notice The Kitchen as soon as you walk through the front door of the hotel. It’s just off the lobby, to the right. The Brewery is a little harder to spot. In fact, you’d need a staff person to escort you through the warren of corridors and passageways to the kitchen office where the vats, tanks and necessary gauges have been set up in a corner. It’s definitely not a show brewery such as the one at Cask & Larder.
But the Kitchen is on full display, and what it’s churning out is surprisingly ambitious. I say surprisingly because when it was first announced it was downplayed somewhat, as though it would be more of a bar-menu venue.
But while portions are meant to be more of the small plate size — or, reasonable portions, as I like to think of them — the items are well above the ranks of bar snacks.
The menu was designed by chef de partie Jason Shapiro to showcase the produce and other ingredients sourced from Whisper Creek Farm, the on-site 7000-square-foot ultra garden that churns out vegetables, fruits, honey and, with the recent addition of some chickens, eggs for use by the various Grande Lakes restaurants. (The chefs probably have to fight over the eggs, since the hens couldn’t possibly produce all that are needed every day, but those are supplemented by the eggs from Lake Meadows Naturals, from whence came the chickens, too.)
I was invited to attend a media preview of the new restaurant recently. We were served an array of samplings from the menu, each dish paired with one of the beer offerings from The Brewery. Or from A Brewery, anyway. The space limitations prevent more than 28 gallons each week. Heck, that wouldn’t last through a happy hour reception with a contingent of conventioneering insurance salespeople in the house. But it does manage to keep five styles of beer going, including Dark, Wheat/Light, Amber, IPA and a Special Brew that changes with the season and also utilizes ingredients from the farm. Those might include Maple Bacon Stout, Soup of the Day IPA, or Ghost Pepper Wheat.
While I’m not personally a fan of flavored or infused beers, I could appreciate the clarity, crispness and qualities of the beers we sampled (and I loved the IPA).
The food was also quite good. We started with the a couple of the flatbread selections, including one with prosciutto, mascarpone and figs and another with eggplant, gruyere, balsamic onions and arugula. The crusts had some nice chew, and the toppings were ample. The flavors were brightened with the topping of lightly dressed arugula from the garden.
Biscuits were served with porked up butter and something called moonshine jam.
The WCF daily harvest is one of the best showcases for the garden’s bounty, made a little more special with fresh ricotta cheese.
One of the small plates featured seared grouper atop a plop of Anson Mills grits, surrounded by a lakelet of ham hock broth and topped with sauteed leeks.
And how do you improve on a ham sandwich? Top it with one of those hen-to-table eggs, fried with a still runny yolk, and some frizzled mustard greens to complement the smoked ham. Then add some of WCF’s “Smoke on the Lake” barbecue chips.
The space itself has a country farm feel. For the record, it’s nowhere near the actual farm — you can’t walk out onto the patio and hear the clucking from the coops — but wall murals and barnwood add a bucolic note.
I like this addition to the Grande Lakes diadem of dining options. And I applaud the resort’s continued commitment to sustainable and local cuisine.
Whisper Creek Farms: The Kitchen is located at the JW Marriott, Grande Lakes Orlando, 4040 Central Florida Parkway. It is open daily for dinner. The phone number is 407-393-4755.