A Game of X’s & O’s: XO Cafe’s Approach to the Farm Fresh Movement

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Lately we have been seeing more and more restaurants taking a farm-to-table approach when it comes to creating their menu. With the use of locally, harvested ingredients, places like Local 121, Farmstead, and Nicks on Broadway are food forces to be reckoned with. After enjoying a hefty dinner at XO Cafe, we can confidently add them to that ever-growing list. A member of the Chow Fun Food Group, XO Cafe, takes pride in crafting dishes with the help of many seasonal Southern New England farms. The atmosphere inside the restaurant can be described as upscale casual with white linen table tops and a bar which offers views of the kitchen.

Each of their menus (apps, dinner, dessert) consists of about 5-10 dishes, and all of them, for the most part, are very approachable. They even offer a nice selection of steaks and side dishes (Bacon Mac+Cheese, Truffle Fries) that’ll please any steakhouse enthusiast. On this night however, we decided to explore their set of Local Farm Fresh dishes.

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Bento Box – A quartet fusion of land and sea, this appetizer consists of lobster wontons, beef teriyaki skewers, fried calamari and portobello mushroom fries. This is an appetizer meant to be shared and we’d say it’s perfect for a hungry table of two to four. The portobello mushrooms fell short in comparison to the others mainly because of the batter’s overpowering taste and flavor. The beef skewers and wontons on the other hand, were smash hits.

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XO Meatloaf – Heads up folks. This is NOTHING like your Mom’s meatloaf. XO’s rendition of the family classic merges farm fresh ingredients to create a true stick-to-your-ribs meal. The duo of mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach creates a cozy base for the gigantic loaf of 100% Hereford beef. But the addition of Berkshire Bleu cheese is what separates this meatloaf from the rest. Slightly charred, the bleu cheese creates a crust that further complements the slab of meat. So moist. So succulent. So good.

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Grilled Pork Tenderloin – Without trying to sound cliché, the pork was incredibly tender, there’s really no other way to explain it. Thick cuts of Pork Belly added some rich, savory elements to complement the lean, yet juicy Tenderloin. It was like a delicious duo to celebrate all the amazing flavors of Pork. The creamy chive grits were a bit thick, but we really appreciated the overall components of the dish.

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Halibut with Succotash and Cucumber Vinaigrette – The Halibut was prepared beautifully. It was cooked to perfection, flaking against our fork. Resting  atop a bed of fresh, mixed local vegetables, it was simple, clean and straightforward. We would highly recommend this entrée.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp – It’s XO’s mantra to order dessert first because “life is short”. Their desserts actually appear on the first page of their dinner menu and we took it quite literally. We were willing to order dessert as our appetizer but our server steered us away from that notion. Either way, we loved the concept.

Served with vanilla ice cream, this savory crisp was loaded with warm, gooey rhubarb and strawberry goodness. It was sweet, tart, and most importantly, balanced.

Orange, Cardamom Crème Brûlée – We’ve never seen anyone use Orange and Cardamom in a Crème Brûlée before, so we were excited to give it a try. The flavors worked surprisingly well together and we even detected hints of coffee. We suppose the popcorn was added as a side for some texture in between bites of the custard, but in our opinion, it didn’t seem to fit. No big deal, we just focused on the Crème Brûlée instead.

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