Carrot puree and an arugula emulsion complement vegetables in their own creation
There are very few things in life for which I’ll purposely endure Friday-afternoon rush hour, but partaking in chef Tarver King’s food at The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm is now one of them. The culinary retreat, nestled in Loudoun County on a Blue Ridge foothill, is a setting so picturesque it befits a jigsaw puzzle.
A gravel driveway, nearly vertical, wends its way off Lovettsville Road to the farm’s house and public areas. You pass through a tented outdoor space (used for weekend brunch) and then into a large glass conservatory that serves as the dining room. Bare wooden tables fill the large, rectangular expanse, which mean the eyes rightly focus on the spectacular hillside view and the table appointments, which include a small vase of white and yellow field daisies, and artful food served on Amber Kendrick’s chic Cloud Terre pottery.
A server greets us warmly and explains that the restaurant sources its food from 11 of the farm’s 40 certified naturally grown acres. Everything else comes from as close by as possible. “You won’t find Pacific fish here,” he deadpans. He brings me the finest Hendrick’s gibson I’ve ever had, taking me up on my joke to garnish it with a ramp, which imparted a pleasant crunch and tang from quick pickling.
Owner Beverly Morton Billand stops by the table and explains that she bought the farm 28 years ago. Along the way, she hosted word-of-mouth dinners. Their popularity provoked her to take a leap of faith and become a bona fide restaurant. “I bet the farm,” says Billand, “and never regretted it.”
Last year, 35-year-old King heard through the grapevine that Billand’s chef, Chris Edwards, was leaving for Salamander Resort. King was making a name for himself at The Ashby Inn in Paris, Va., but wanted to be in a farm setting.
He’s clearly thriving at Patowmack Farm. On Fridays and Saturdays, King offers three composed menu options, all prix fixe and multicourse: Grown is mostly vegetarian; Raised is meatcentric; Found features more fish and seafood. Throughout the always-changing menu, the farm’s vegetables appear abundantly. Prix fixe meals begin with a profusion of snacks, and the table teems with the likes of tempura ramps with whipped labne, smoked-chicken rillettes, cherry radishes with ramp salt, country-ham hushpuppies and marble-size orbs of clear, golden clam consommé gelled with strips of country ham suspended inside. Sea saltiness and rich ham-fat smokiness mingle to stunning effect in that one bite. Among the three menus, various dishes stand out, all displaying a sophisticated balance of textures (soft, crunchy, chewy), colors and flavors (sweet, salt, acid). This is a chef with a sure hand, an intuitive palate and an active imagination.
Asparagus soup is mossy green and tastes of pure asparagus, its earthiness intensified by crumbs of dried cremini mushroom, pecorino fresco and fava-bean shoots. A cunning study of scallops consists of diced crudo; wafer-thin, dehydrated scallop chips; puffy scallop chicharrónes; and a guanciale emulsion. A square glass bowl holds two quivering ramp custards, one white and the other scallion green. They are onion-rich and lush, their smoothness complemented by pecorino crumbs, strips of crispy country ham and slices of pickled ramp. A risotto of razor clams and kale—sprinkled with arugula flowers—comes to life with piquant buttermilk chimichurri.
The proteins King presents include a chunk of grilled wahoo fillet topped with a cascade of meaty, smoky morels, charred parsnips and crunchy squares of decadent chicken skin. Two dishes meant to placate the meat-and-potatoes crowd still manage to shine with refinement: charcoal-dusted pork loin with whipped grits, as well as smoked Martin’s beef loin with black fermented garlic, quinoa, mushrooms and a pool of Stilton cream torched on top to toast it like meringue.
Wine pairings reveal some interesting pours, such as Réserve Durand Sancerre, RyZin Central Coast Zinfandel, Ponzi Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley, Monte Degli Angeli Barolo and Decero Malbec from Argentina.
King loves to mix sweet and savory desserts. Sorrel sorbet coexists with white chocolate foam, pine-nut powder and coriander-laced granola. It starts off odd but winds up appealing, as does green rhubarb granite with freeze-dried matcha (green tea), chia seeds and tiny lavender meringue kisses.
I prefer the more straightforward sweets. Milk curd—basically a big dollop of crème anglaise spooned over a pile of Oreo crumbs—is irresistible. I also adore the soured-milk cake with dark chocolate ganache, jam and toasted hazelnuts.
Gird yourself for the drive home with a few cups of Blackdog coffee while you down the sweet little bites that bring the curtain down: pate de fruits, rhubarb macarons, shortbread and peanut-chocolate coins. On your way back to the car, you’re likely to come across the affable King, who wears the smile of a man completely in his element. There’s no way he’s going back to Paris now that he’s been down on the farm.
The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm
42461 Lovettsville Road, Lovettsville, Va., 540.822.9017
Appetizers, $11-$14; entrees, $31-$35; desserts, $11-$15; Fri. and Sat. prix fixe dinners, $88; wine pairing, $45; brunch entrees, $23-$28
Thu.-Sat., 5:30-9PM; Sat.-Sun. brunch, 11AM-2PM; Sun. supper, 5:30-7:30PM
Once a month, Patowmack Farm hosts a Sunday supper served family style ($65, plus drinks, tax and gratuity). A recent menu included a charcuterie assortment (coppa di testa, turkey rillettes, Meadow Creek Appalachian cheese, rosemary jelly); roasted pork belly with black-eyed pea salad; smoked swordfish; Swiss chard risotto; and whipped grits.
Blue Ridge Brunch
Saturdays and Sundays, start with a spiral of crispy-onion funnel cake topped with a fried egg, bacon and green-tomato marmalade. For entrees, don’t miss the cornmeal-spiked souffle that conceals a perfectly runny egg, its richness heightened with bacon and hickory syrup. End the meal with ricotta zeppoles, blackberry puree and white-chocolate espuma.