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At Six Friends Cabernet, Lancaster enjoys farm-to-table option
At Six Friends Cabernet, Lancaster enjoys farm-to-table option

At Six Friends Cabernet, Lancaster enjoys farm-to-table option

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For as long as I’ve been paying attention, Broadway in Lancaster has been a vale of fish fries, pierogi, pancakes and other staples of family dining.

Last year, that changed with the addition of Six Friends Cabernet, Tony and Kim Martino’s effort to offer the village an upscale alternative. In this case, it’s a restaurant that aims to creatively harness the work of local farmers whenever possible, and offer a wine tasting experience tilted toward New York State vintages.

Owner Tony Martino describes the restaurant and what it has to offer.

Despite the restaurant’s single-varietal name, it offers a wide variety of grapes in wine form, leading with tasting flights that encourage diners to have a little education for dinner.

Tasting flights ($10) give sippers four chances to hit pay dirt from a list of vintages grown in the Finger Lakes, Niagara and Chautauqua regions. There’s also a dozen straightforward choices from distant wine regions, like California, Italy and Argentina.

It’s when you turn to the food that things really start to get interesting. Chef Jessica Arends is a kitchen veteran who has gotten a chance to put her creativity to work at last, and it shows.

Executive chef Jessica Arends shapes Six Friends Cabernet menu

Executive chef Jessica Arends presents the squash tartine. 

Housemade potato chips are always a pleasure, and Six Friends Cabernet offers a hefty portion of bronzed shaved spuds as a side. If you’re feeling rakish, though, step out with the gorgonzola version ($7), accented with lots of melted blue cheese and a combination of fresh chopped herbs.

Baked brie ($18) might seem like an ‘80s fern bar relic until you see what Arends is up to. The most recent treatment tops the oozy baked cheese with a German chocolate cake treatment, meaning pecans, caramel, cocoa and a sprinkling of toasted coconut.

Baked brie German chocolate cake style at Six Friends Cabernet

The baked brie comes with a seasonal topping and is served with crostini. This one is the German chocolate cake presentation, topped with pecan caramel and toasted coconut.

Plus, a blossom. Many of Arends’ dishes arrive crowned with their own flower arrangements, providing bursts of color and, yes, flavor. If you’ve never noshed on a nasturtium, the ones Arends sources from Eden's Crown Hill Farm are a revelation. They aren’t just flagrantly beautiful, but deliver a burst of peppery melon with each bite.

Cider-brined pork belly ($17) arrives in crusty-edged slices, crispy with maple glaze but yielding, alongside caramelized Brussels sprouts and whole-grain honey mustard. A squash tartine ($16) posits roasted diced squash on a pillow of housemade ricotta, with arugula, toasted hazelnuts and a drizzle of local maple syrup.

Squash tartine at Six Points Cabernet

The squash tartine is made with roasted locally grown squash, housemade ricotta, toasted hazelnuts, arugula and local maple on toasted focaccia. 

For hearty pasta, consider yam gnocchi with sausage ($32), with seared dumplings jumbled with sausage, greens, apples, savory walnut granola and brown butter. The result was an autumnal romp of flavors and textures that never got boring.

Short rib beef bourguignon ($36) brought lots of local root vegetables to the party, rallying around a fist-sized chunk of beef that came apart at a fork’s tickle. Rich red-wine-based sauce, given further umami depth with Flat 12 mushrooms, gave plenty of reasons to repurpose focaccia from other plates.

Short rib bourguignon at Six Points Cabernet

The short rib bourguignon is 10 ounces of tender braised short ribs, fingerling potatoes, root vegetables and Flat 12 mushrooms in a hearty red wine broth.

Steak frites ($26), here a 10-ounce sirloin, was grilled to a proper medium rare as requested, and fanned over red wine sauce. Heaped with truffle-oil-scented french fries and onion strings, it kept a couple of red meat fiends happy.

Lentil stew, a humble dish in basic form, turns up at Six Friends Cabernet as a vegan tour de force, “chili-fried cauliflower with fall lentil stew” ($26), served with toasted focaccia.

Fall lentil stew at Six Friends Cabernet vegan tour de force

Chili-fried cauliflower with fall lentil stew is crispy fried cauliflower tossed in a housemade Crown Hill cayenne chile sauce served over Smita's spiced stewed lentils with coconut milk and fall vegetables.

Already facing East with its coconut milk base, the dish’s beguiling aroma prompted guesses around the table regarding which spices might be responsible. This was no mere curry powder. (The secret to the stew’s intoxicating complexity turned out to be a custom blend by local spice guru Smita Chutke.)

Topping the potage is fried cauliflower dressed with a housemade hot sauce with a base of fermented Crown Hill Farm cayenne peppers. As an all-vegetable ensemble act, it slayed.

If you decide to pass up the German chocolate brie for dessert, I’d head straight for the apple cheesecake ($13) with caramel sauce. Having succeeded in conveying both the lactic extravaganza of cheesecake and the fruit-and-crust pas de deux of apple pie, it’s a genuine two-sport threat.

Apple cheesecake at Six Friends Cabernet

Six Friends Cabernet's apple cheesecake with caramel sauce. 

A pumpkin latte pot de crème ($12) took pumpkin spice downtown as the spirit of a silky pudding, crowned with a cloud of lighter whipped coconut cream providing opportunity to enjoy contrasts.

Or perhaps you’d prefer the creampuff of the moment ($12). Last I checked it was filled with cranberry mascarpone and served with cranberry compote, vanilla bean creme anglaise and, of course, a pretty blossom.

At Six Friends Cabernet, the prices are ambitious, but so is the food, with extensive use of housemade components and fresh local produce. From the dining room crowd, I’d guess there’s a market for people who don’t want to drive into the city for interesting plates.

If you can’t line up five friends for dinner, don’t worry: They also have tables for two.

Maple-glazed pork belly at Six Friends Cabernet

Six Friends Cabernet's maple-glazed pork belly and Brussels sprouts is made with cider-brined pork belly with maple glaze, fried Brussels sprouts and maple mustard.

• • •

Restaurant review

Six Friends Cabernet

Location: 5259 Broadway, Lancaster,

Hours: 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Closed Sunday, Monday.

Prices: Small plates $6 to $18, entrees $18 to $36.

Atmosphere: Urbane enjoyment.

Parking: Lot.

Wheelchair accessible: Yes.

Gluten-free: Many options

Outside dining: Yes.

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The Buffalo News: Food & Drink

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