When I hear the phrase “farm-to-table,” Carlstadt doesn’t spring to mind, but that’s where chef-owner Todd Villani opened his farm-to-table restaurant this past fall. It’s called Terre à Terre (a French expression meaning roughly “down to earth”), and I have to admit, it works. Step inside the cozy brick-walled entryway and you’re transported to a world of locally sourced goodness and eco-friendly décor: handmade mason-jar light fixtures, burlap tablecloths covered with butcher paper, and seating crafted from old wine barrels and recycled coffee sacks.
Here, everything on the birch-board menu—from the sea salt to the sea bass, the bread and butter to the baby arugula—is locally grown or produced, meaning it comes from within a 300-mile radius of Carlstadt. So the food is as fresh as food gets.
Our evening began with a bottle of extra-dry ginger ale (if you want wine, BYO) and a trio of warm mini baguettes served alongside a round of Amish butter sprinkled with an irresistible combination of chopped chives and sea salt from Amagansett, Long Island. It was difficult not to overdo the carbs, but we were glad we’d paced ourselves when we saw the appetizers: a light, refreshing beef tartare salad and crispy, bacon-wrapped stuffed artichokes.
We couldn’t decide on entrees, so we let Villani choose for us. Smart. The super-fresh sea bass was served atop a medley of heirloom carrots and finished with pistachios and arugula puree, which required another pretzel roll so that we (OK, I) could sop up every delicious drop. And the medium-rare filet mignon—cooked to perfection—was accompanied by creamed greens and potatoes whipped with bacon, sour cream and chives.
Typically, chefs don’t bake. But Villani does, and even though he “hates” it, he’s rather good at it, creating “simple” desserts like cinnamon bread pudding with caramel, elderflower and pignoli nut brittle. Definitely worth the calories. And this special place is worth a trip from anywhere in Bergen.
Terre à Terre, 312 Hackensack St., Carlstadt, 201.507.0500; terreaterre.biz. —CAROL BIALKOWSKI