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Le Bailliage du Greater Washington, DC Chapter

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A Summer Sojourn to Patowmack Farm

July 22, 2018

By Bill Babash, Vice Chargé de Presse, Bailliage of Greater Washington, D.C.

The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm provided the perfect Sunday afternoon escape from the summer heat and hectic pace of the nation's capital. A 50-mile drive through rolling hills and past the numerous wineries of Loudoun County takes one from Washington to Patowmack Farm, spectacularly sited on a hilltop in Lovettsville, Virginia, overlooking the Potomac River and the Point of Rocks Bridge between Virginia and Maryland. The prior week's never‑ending rain cleared just in time for the gathering, allowing the late afternoon sun to beautifully illuminate the river, bridge, and surrounding countryside.

Beverly Morton Billand, a nurse by profession, purchased the 40-acre Patowmack Farm in 1986 and has eagerly pursued her passion for sustainable farming and healthful food, completely embracing the farming lifestyle. Beginning 32 years ago growing just herbs and specialty vegetables, her farm and surrounding forests today have become "the chef's pantry," producing a bounty ranging from foraged mushrooms, greens, and berries to heritage vegetables and chicken – all organically and sustainably raised and responsibly harvested. Billand is an avid supporter of local small businesses, other local farmers, responsible purveyors, and the community. The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm, renowned for its innovative, seasonal, locally-sourced cuisine, opened in 1997 and has earned numerous awards. Washingtonian magazine placed it on its list of 100 Very Best Restaurants for 2017 and again in 2018.

Patowmack Farm's executive chef, Tarver King, was born into a culinary family. His grandmother, Tatiana McKenna, was the food editor of Vogue magazine in the 1960s, a cookbook author, and a friend of James Beard and Julia Child. He began his own career apprenticing under Alain Jackmin (the three-star chef of La Villa Lorraine in Brussels), followed by time at Le Bec Fin in Philadelphia, The Inn at Little Washington, The French Laundry, and the Fat Duck and the Waterside Inn in England. As head chef of The Dining Room at The Woodlands Inn & Resort in South Carolina, King earned the highest ratings from Mobil and AAA, and was named "Grand Chef" by Relais & Château. King has appeared in numerous magazines, including Esquire, which named him one of its five chefs to watch. He became Executive Chef of The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm in 2013 and has been nominated as Chef of the Year four times by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, winning this most prestigious award in 2017 – well-earned recognition of his creativity, innovation, and flawless execution in the kitchen.

Upon arrival, members and guests were greeted with a glass of Eric Bordelet Sidre Brut, a crisp and refreshing sparkling hard apple cider from Normandy. Passed canapés – pretzel gougères and mushroom crackers with truffle mayonnaise – completed the welcome. They then moved into the greenhouse dining room, a casual yet sophisticated venue with gorgeous views down the hill to the Potomac River and Point of Rocks Bridge. Chef King greeted the bailliage and commenced an extraordinary culinary journey, with each course telling a story through presentation, aroma, texture, and flavor.

The late-afternoon dinner began with a course the chef titled "Trading with the Piscataway Tribe." He explained that the native Piscataway tribe had settled along the river near the present‑day farm some 10,000 years ago. The tribe interacted with the first European settlers near the location of the current Point of Rocks Bridge and named the site the "Place of Trade" – "Patowmack" in the Piscataway language. A range of small bites inspired by this trade whetted appetites: Leg of Gloucestershire Old Spot pig was cured simply with salt and aged one year, producing a delectable prosciutto that was especially delicious with foraged pokeweed mustard. An amazingly crispy puffed wild rice cracker was topped with mild smoked trout butter and pickled mustard seed. A tart of pickled garlic scapes topped with maitake and cremini mushrooms was intensely flavorful. A bite-sized cornet was filled with a light and creamy rabbit liver mousse and a bit of red currant jelly and garnished with pickled red currant. Nutty and slightly sweet sunflower kernel cakes topped with roasted sunflower kernel butter and garnished with mint were presented in the top of a pair of stacked bowls. Lifting that bowl revealed the treasure in the lower bowl – oysters atop smoking hay, sage, and tobacco. Those gentle scents evoked a scene of an early trading camp and imparted wonderful flavor to the tender oysters caught wild from the coast of Long Island. Sparkling wine for the course was Gruet "Sauvage" Blanc de Blanc. This 100% chardonnay is produced in Engle, New Mexico, 170 miles south of Albuquerque. The Gruet family has produced Champagnes in France since 1952, and in 1984 established their New Mexico vineyard in a region with outstanding climate and soil conditions. The result is an excellent wine that, with no dosage, is bone-dry with mineral highlights and bright citrus notes.

A beautifully crafted "Chilled Summer Borscht" followed. Servers presented to each diner a bowl filled with colorful julienned radish, compressed cucumber, chopped cured egg yolk, and dill over which they poured the brilliant red borscht from ceramic pitchers. The light and tangy soup gained its flavor from beet, potato, carrot, onion, lactose-fermented beet juice, and kvass (an Eastern European fermented beverage made from dark, typically rye, bread). Hearty sprouted rye berry sourdough bread with butter and Appalachian sea salt (from an ancient ocean trapped below the Appalachian Mountains in the Kanawha Valley in West Virginia) was a splendid accompaniment. The acidity of a 2016 pinot blanc from Jean Luc Mader in Alsace paired wonderfully with this vibrant, refreshing soup.

"Chicken of the Woods" (not to be confused with hen-of-the-woods) mushrooms were the star of the next course. Chef King braised these foraged mushrooms in chicken stock, then lightly dusted and fried them, resulting a rich flavor, crispy exterior, and firm interior. Diners marveled how closely the texture and flavor resembled chicken. The mushrooms were served with a risotto flavored with a hint of Chinese rice wine, wild wineberry purée, sorrel leaves, and whipped sheep cheese. A bit of wineberry vinegar and okra and marigold flowers finished this surprising and most delicious composition. A vin gris pinot noir from Effort Winery in Arroyo Granda in the Edna Valley of the Central Coast of California was outstanding with the dish. "Vin gris" translates literally as "gray wine" – a term that simply means that there was minimal maceration of the grape skins in the juice, resulting in extremely light, straw-colored, rosé wine. With notes of white pepper, bay, dark berries, and thyme, the wine was a superb partner to the hearty mushrooms.

For the next course, "Homage to Linden," Chef King shared the spotlight with Linden Vineyards, owned by Jim Law and his family. Their winery, 50 miles southwest of Patowmack Farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Front Royal in Warren County, Virginia, has been making wine since 1987 and today produces 4,000 cases annually, with vintages on par with the finest anywhere. The chef chose Linden's 2015 Claret, a blend of 46% cabernet sauvignon, 25% merlot, 16% petit verdot, and 13% cabernet franc. Fruit for this wine originates from three vineyards at or near the winery, including the "Hardscrabble Vineyard," one of the oldest in Virginia. This medium-bodied wine with plenty of fruit and forest nuances was wonderful with Chef King's luxurious swordfish. Illustrating Patowmack Farm's emphasis on sustainable and responsible sourcing, the chef explained that the day's fish had been line-caught from the boat "Miss Behavin'" off Montauk, at the eastern tip of Long Island New York. Chef King marinated the fish in wine, dill, grape powder, and Vietnamese cilantro before grilling it over grape vines with a crust of flax and sesame seed. The skewers of fish arrived at each table on top of smoldering embers of grape vine stock, cedar, and chardonnay grape leaves, wisps of smoke conveying still more flavor in a truly multisensory experience. A bit of fig leaf mayonnaise was a wonderful garnish to this sophisticated course.

"SunPower Farm," the next course, honored the farm of that name in Round Hill, Virginia, just 22 miles southwest of Patowmack Farm. Jamie and Richard Pantel have owned the 100% solar powered SunPower Farm since 2010 and today raise chicken, ducks, and sheep, in addition to boarding horses. Chef King prepared a confit of white Pekin duck leg, served with Israeli couscous, tomato butter, cherry tomatoes with garlic oil, and a Swiss chard tapenade. Each plate was garnished with fresh tomato leaves, which the chef invited diners to crush between their fingers to release an aroma that was integral to enjoying the composition in a way that could not be achieved through taste alone. Wine for the course was La Rioja Alta "Viña Alberdi" Reserva 2012. This 100% tempranillo from vineyards in Rodezno and Labastida is aged for one year in new American oak barrels followed by a second year in three-year-old barrels. The result is a deep garnet wine with plenty of ripe fruit flavor smoothed by notes of vanilla and caramel – superb with the rich flavors of the duck.

As a hint of the dessert to come, the chef presented diners with "Snow White" – a single bite snow white peach and pineapple sage popsicle of frozen the fruit purée. It was a fun and delicious interlude to clear the palate for the delights to follow.

Donut peaches from Mackintosh Fruit Farm in Berryville, Virginia, 42 miles west of Patowmack Farm were at their seasonal peak and inspired the chef to create "Peaches and Grains." Chef King roasted the peaches en papillote with anise seed and served them atop a hot porridge of toasted sorghum, millet, wheat, and oat with anise and ginger ice cream and a garnished of bronze fennel seed confit. The result was amazing. The porridge, peaches, and ice cream were a diverse trio of textures, flavors, and temperatures that combined to capture the essence of the summer at the farm. Azienda Agricola 499 Moscato d'Asti 2016 was a nicely sweet and bubbly partner to the dish. "Azienda Agricola" translates as "farming business" and 499 refers to the altitude (in meters) of the winery's highest vineyard. This wine, from the town of Camo in the Asti region of Italy, is made from 100% moscato grapes and is the only certified organic moscato in the region. Its floral and mineral elements made it an elegant accompaniment to the earthy peach composition.

A tray of "Sweet Little Bites" was a final treat from the kitchen: sesame and millet cookies, peach pâte de fruit, raspberry marshmallows, and fresh ripe blueberries enrobed in white chocolate. They were the delightful finale to an outstanding meal.

Bailli Judy Mazza congratulated Chef King and his team on a superb dinner and their excellent service and presented him with a Chaîne des Rôtisseurs plate as a token of the bailliage's appreciation for a delicious and insightful afternoon.

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