Monday, June 25, 2018

Farm to Table Comes to Corona

Blackburn's Farm to Table
4300 Green River Road Unit 106
Corona, CA 92880

It's another trip out to Corona to visit our good friends Sabrina and Anthony. We met them about 8 years ago now, and can't get rid of them. We have been on vacations together, played in the same bowling league for way too long, and they even read at our wedding three years ago. Although we don't see each other all too often these days, when we do reconnect, we pick up like no time has passed. We alternate between heading out to see them and them coming this way.  As is my usual job, I pick where we are going to eat, and this time we headed to Backburn's Farm to Table.

Blackburn's is situated in a shopping center that I have driven by numerous times when I'm out this way but had never stopped at. There's a couple of retail shops, a Mediterranian, Mexican, and a pizza place in this 91 Freeway adjacent shopping plaza. Blackburn's has been open for coming up on three years next month and is brought to us by Bill Blackburn, who wants to share his passion for farm fresh, organic food with the people of the Inland Empire.

Blackburn left a lucrative job in telecommunications, went to culinary school, and opened up a catering company in OC. After a stint in Redlands, he opened up Blackburn's Farm to Table in these Corona foothills. He's gotten plenty of positive press from the Press Enterprise, Inland Empire Magazine, Dining Out Magazine, and Westway's Magazine. It's not just food publications that have given Blackburn's their seal of approval, they have a solid four-star rating with over 500 reviews on Yelp. I was intrigued to see how our visit would go on this evening.

We arrived at Blackburn's at 6pm on a recent Saturday evening with a reservation from OpenTable. We did not seem to need one, as we were one of two tables occupied at this rather early dinner hour. People must have known that Sabrina was going to be eating here, so they got out of Dodge. It did get a tad busier as the evening went along though, but never more than half the dining room was full at one time. The dining space is nice and sleek, with assorted artwork on the walls, pale wood table tops, and a darkened ceiling.

The one-page menu at Blackburn's is broken up into appetizers, soup and salads, entrees, and desserts. Entree prices range between $13 to $29 with ten options to choose from. Appetizers, salads, and soups hover around the ten dollar mark, and there are five choices offered. We made our meal selections leisurely since we hadn't seen each other for a long while. Here's how everything turned out for us at Blackburn's on this evening.

I have a weird relationship with mac and cheese. I never had it while I was growing up, not even the Kraft blue box variety. I put that fact on my online dating profile, and it's one of the reasons that Katie reached out to me, so I guess I have mac and cheese to thank for being married. Thus, I now have a soft spot for this very comforting dish and have learned an appreciation for it. We tried the Skillet Macaroni and Cheese ($9.95) on this evening at Blackburn's. This was a very good representation of a grown-up mac and cheese. A very good four cheese blend, which was equally delicious and clung to the noodles wonderfully. The top had a nice amount of bread crumbs which provided a nice textural element. The menu online states that this used to come with shrimp and crab, and that would make this version even better than it already was.

Katie and I are clearly salad people, as we both opted to add a salad to our dining experience at Blackburn's. She had the Organic Field Greens ($6.95), while I went with the Iceberg Wedge ($7.95). Her salad included cucumbers, sliced tomato, sunflower seeds, and a white balsamic vinaigrette that impressed her a lot. Blackburn's lived up to their name with this salad which featured some farm fresh produce and that very good dressing tying everything together. I love wedge salads but I am not a fan of having to chop it up myself, but I did not mind with the one here. The fresh iceberg was paired with plenty of blue cheese chunks, chopped tomato, and some of the best bacon I have had in awhile. It was very crisp and flavorful and went well with the other ingredients of the salad. I was happy with the change from my usual Caesar salad that I get almost everywhere I eat out. I definitely see more wedge salads in my future, especially if they are just as good as this one.

It's always a crapshoot as to what light eating Sabrina will get when we go out to eat, and she finally settled on this Garlic Pesto Chicken Flatbread ($9.95) after some great debate. Besides the chicken, garlic, and pesto, this also came with some balsamic onions, roasted red peppers, and mozzarella cheese. Sabrina was of course very stingy with giving me a taste of this, but she proclaimed that it had a good flavor, she thought the portion size was more than fair, and she would definitely get this again. High praise from hard to please Sabrina.

Katie wanted something light for dinner, so she zeroed in on this Vegan Bolognese Spaghetti ($19.95). Spaghetti squash was the base for this very healthy dish, while the bolognese sauce was made up of quinoa and lentils. Predictably, when I tried this I was not a fan, but Katie really enjoyed this different take on spaghetti. She claimed that she did not miss the noodles and meat in this, found the sauce wonderfully flavored, and it has even inspired her to try making this at home. I'll probably eat somewhere else when she finally gets around to doing this.

Anthony could not resist the allure of the Fresh Fish of the Day ($26.95) which happened to be sea bass on this evening. The sea bass was flaky, fork tender, and had a nice sear to it, but it was kind of plain tasting on its own. It definitely needed a sauce to help boost its flavor profile. The green beans and the mashed potatoes were nicely done sides that helped save this dish a bit. Not the best fish dish Anthony has had but it ended up being adequate.

I asked our server what the most popular entree was here, and she immediately stated it was this Center Cut Pork Chop ($21.95). This was a big double cut pork chop, which was topped with sliced peaches and a fruity sauce, which I could not detect what it was made from, maybe cranberry? It was good, but a little too much on the sweet side for my liking. Some bites of the pork chop were on the dry side, which is hard to get around with a piece of pork this big. I remedied this by alternating bites of the mashed potatoes and mixed veggies. A beautiful dish, but one that fell a little flat for me.

Dessert was going to be our last hurrah at Blackburn's and this Whiskey Bread Pudding ($6.95) might have been the best thing we had here. The bread pudding base was neither too soggy nor too dry, which is one of my major critiques with bread pudding. This one passed with flying colors. It was moist and had a nice structure to it, along with a nice caramel sauce and plenty of vanilla ice cream perched proudly on top. A very nice ending to our long overdue rendezvous with Sabrina and Anthony.

Blackburn's did have a few hiccups with their entrees on this evening, but it's easy to see that this is the kind of restaurant that Corona needs more of. Restauants that are chef-driven, independent restaurants serving food made with good quality and healthy ingredients. Higlights for me on this evening were the mac and cheese, salads, and the dessert, but the entrees were underwhelming and missed the mark for me. I've heard really good things about their breakfasts though, so that might be another opportunity for us to come here again. Service was pretty good, and our server kept things moving along nicely and did not seem to mind us sitting here for a while after our meals to continue catching up. Can't wait to see where the four of us end up next.

Out of five hawks, (because the hockey team based in Blackburn, England is known as the Blackburn Hawks, and I'm missing hockey this summer), five being best to zero being worst, Blackburn's Farm to Table gets 3 hawks.

For more information about Blackburn's Farm to Table, head to their website here:

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