Fall Feast at Patowmack Farm
by Bill Babash, Vice Chargé de Presse
A heavy morning rain had yielded to crystal clear blue sky and warm autumn sunshine as members and guests of the Bailliage of Greater Washington gathered at The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm, located 50 miles west of Washington in the rolling hills of Loudoun County, Virginia, overlooking the Potomac River and the bridge to Point of Rocks, Maryland. The vibrant yellows and golds of the turning leaves, illuminated by the late afternoon sun, provided a gorgeous setting for arriving confrères and guests to mingle on the terrace. Patowmack Farm’s owner, Beverly Morton Billand, welcomed each with a glass of Jean-Marc Lafont Blanc de Blanc Crémant de Bourgogne, NV, a 100% chardonnay from the Beaujolais region. This bubbly’s bright notes of pear and apple were delightful with Executive Chef Tarver King’s passed hors d’oeuvres: blue crab croquettes with gochujang aioli; watercress arancini with vacche rosse Parmesan; and yellow dent corn cakes with a relish of raven squash, a variety akin to zucchini.
As afternoon moved toward evening, the gathering moved into the sophisticated yet relaxed greenhouse for dinner. The bailliage dined at Patowmack Farm in July 2018 and was wowed by Chef King’s imaginative and superbly executed dinner, which showcased the summer bounty of the farm and other local purveyors. Chef King is well known for taking full advantage of the finest and freshest ingredients of each season, so members were eager to return see what creations from the fall harvest would emerge from his kitchen. Chef King presented seven courses, each of which demonstrated his unparalleled creativity, mastery of flavors, and impeccable technique.
“Seeds and Cheese” awaited as diners took their seats. Ethereally thin and crisp crackers of pumpkin, flax, and sesame seeds fried in beef fat paired with a cashew, sorrel, and fennel oil “cheese.” Chef King shared that a bit of nutritional yeast in the “cheese” gave it its wonderful umami.
With appetites thoroughly whetted, dinner opened with “Trading with the Piscataway.” Chef King explained that the indigenous 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 in 1699 near the location of the current Point of Rocks bridge and named the site the “Place of Trade” – “Patowmack” in the Piscataway language. In honor of this exchange, the course included a variety of bites inspired by the foods that the Piscataway and Europeans may have traded and eaten: a red bean fritter with sunflower oil and pickled radish; raw venison on a mushroom puff cracker with wild sumac aioli and a sweet pea garnish; Chesapeake oysters with preserved lemon aioli and pickled shiso; and black-eyed pea and mushroom parfait with lavender blossom and honey. The lively and complex flavors of “Barter and Trade” Sauvignon Blanc from the Columbia Valley in Washington made it a fitting match for this delicious course.
Introducing the “Fry Bread and Legumes” course, Chef King excitedly explained that one of the neighboring farms had had a bumper crop of adzuki, red kidney, and pinto beans. This abundance inspired him craft a soup with the flavors of “beans cooked in a Dutch oven over the dying embers of a fire.” To achieve this, he cooked the trio of beans with hickory bark and then emulsified them with charcoal oil to get the desired smoky element. Each diner was presented a bowl with pickled adzuki beans, whipped crème fraîche, dill oil, and crunchy fried chickpeas over which servers poured the soup. A traditional Navajo frybread completed the dish. Umani Ronchi Vellodoro Terre de Chieti Pecorino 2018 from Marche, Italy, was an outstanding choice to accompany the earthiness of the hearty soup. The pecorino grape variety, with its high aroma concentration and outstanding acidity, was typically used to improve the quality of wines made with other varieties. Because of its low productivity, pecorino had almost disappeared from vineyards. Beginning in 2005, the Bianchi-Bernetti family, owners of the Umani Ronchi estate since 1957, undertook a project to rediscover native Adriatic varieties, including pecorino.
For “Toasted Spoonbread and Dukkah,” Chef King began with organically grown Reid’s yellow dent corn produced by an artisanal grower near Patowmack Farm. Chef King roasted the corn to make it aromatic, ground it into a fine meal, and made polenta. He then folded crème fraîche, eggs, “and all these different little tasty things” into the cooled polenta, steamed it to make tender on the inside, and finally toasted it to bring out still more of the roasted corn flavor. The chef finished the dish with a house-made dukkah – an Egyptian spice blend made with 70% toasted and ground nuts – mixed with local Appalachian cheese from nearby Meadow Creek Creamery, and a vinaigrette made with black tea, wild yarrow, and rosemary. Walsh Family Chardonnay paired beautifully with the spoonbread. Sarah and Nathan Walsh founded their eponymous winery in 2014. They have 50 acres of vines on five sites in Loudoun County. Nate began his career at Horton Vineyards in Gordonsville, Virginia, before working at wineries in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and New Zealand. He was then winemaker at Sunset Hills Vineyard in Purcellville, Virginia, before opening his own winery with Sarah, whose background is in fine dining and wine sales and education.
“Swordfish and Shrimp Caviar” followed. Chef King shared how he takes great pride when he can present something truly special, and this course certainly was. The swordfish comes from a small family-owned company called Sea to Table. Sea to Table rigorously selects the fishermen it works with, ensuring they meet the highest standard of sustainable fishing and that they handle the seafood with the utmost care. As soon as the fish are caught, the fishermen send a picture to Sea to Table, which then sends those pictures to Chef King. He selects the exact fish he wants, and they arrive via FedEx the next day. The swordfish in this course had been caught off Montauk, New York, just two days earlier. Shrimp with aioli topped the fish. The chef pressure-cooked shrimp from off the coast of North Carolina for seven minutes. Once cooled, they pull apart, evoking texture, consistency, and sweetness of crab. For serving, Chef King completed each plate with whipped crème fraîche into which he had folded caviar, a drizzle of papalo sauce, popped basmati rice, and gem marigold. (Grown on the farm, papalo is a highly flavorful herb that was grown by the Aztecs). Domaine Roumagnac Fronton Ô Grand R 2016 from Fronton, France – a blend of 50% négrette and 50% cabernet sauvignon – was a marvelous accompaniment to the luxurious seafood. Located 18 miles north of Toulouse, Domaine Roumagnac was founded in 1880 and since 2008 has been run by the fourth generation of the Roumagnac family. Half of the estate’s 35 acres are planted in négrette grapes which are grown exclusively in the Fronton region (except for small amounts grown in California). Legend has it that the Knights Templar brought the grape to France from Cyprus. The two varietals in this wine come from the oldest vines on the estate and are separately vinified and blended just after fermentation. The négrette adds its intense fruit flavor and slightly spicy finish to this distinguished blend.
“Pork with Autumn Roots and Berries” was a delicious tribute to the some of the best products from Patowmack Farm and its neighbors. Chef King began his introduction to this course by explaining that nannyberries grown on the farm are delicious, with a taste of dried fruit, but are 90% pit. Chef King extracted their flavor by steeping them into a brine for pork belly sourced from Long Stone Farm in Lovettsville, less than 9 miles from Patowmack Farm. After three weeks in the nannyberry brine, the chef cooked the pork sous vide for 72 hours, then pressed and seared it, and finished it with a glaze of nannyberry vinaigrette. He served the beautifully flavored and meltingly tender pork with preparations of root vegetables from the farm – potato butter, celery root dauphine (a light fritter), and espuma of rutabaga that had been cooked with honey. Sage and beet leaves finished the plate. Bedrock Wine Co. Cabernet Sauvignon Montecillo Vineyard 2017 from Sonoma County, California, was a great match. Founded in 2007 by Morgan Twain‑Peterson, Bedrock’s mission is to preserve and rehabilitate old vineyards around California. The Montecillo Vineyard sits at the top of a winding and rough road on the northern edge of the Moon Mountain District and contains some of the oldest remaining cabernet vines in California. Bedrock’s block on the estate, planted at elevation of 2,000 feet in the 1960s, is dry-farmed on a widely spaced “California Sprawl” trellising system.
The evening’s cheese course – “Whipped Grayson Crunchy Choux” – featured Grayson cheese from the award-winning Meadow Creek Creamery in Galax, Virginia, on the North Carolina border in western Virginia. Meadow Creak models its Grayson after Italian Taleggio which is known for its strong aroma and fruity tang (or, as Chef King put it, it’s “stinky stinky”). Meadow Creek’s is a young cheese giving it a milder flavor with less funk than Taleggio. For this course, Chef King melted the Grayson and folded in crème fraîche to fill a choux puff. He covered the choux with a second dough of flour, sugar, and butter and baked it, resulting in a classic choux pastry but with a sweet and crunchy exterior. The chef used damson plums from his back yard along with horseradish, lemon, and rosemary to make a mostarda that that wonderfully highlighted the cheese. Toasted pistachios completed the dish, which the chef paired with Caraccioli Cellars Carbonic Fermentation Pinot Noir 2018 from Gonzales, California. The winery itself explains the distinctive attributes of the wine: “The esters resemble Hawaiian Punch and Bubble Tape wrapped up in a red fruit explosion, yet the experience on the palate is dry and clean with a subtle tannic touch.” In other words, it was an inspired choice that complemented the richness and touch of sweetness of the pastry and fruit of the mostarda. A family-run winery, Caraccioli Cellars was founded in 2006 in the Santa Lucia Highlands of Monterey County, California. Grapes for this wine were harvested by hand on 11 September 2018, using small totes instead of large bins to reduce pressure on the fruit. The whole-cluster grapes undergo carbonic fermentation (fermentation in a carbon dioxide-rich environment) before crushing. This process ferments most of the juice inside the grape, leading to wines low in tannins. This Beaujolais Nouveau-style wine, of which only 116 cases were produced, was aged for just one month in neutral French oak and was bottled on 29 November 2018.
For his “Asian Pear,” Chef King recreated the shape of a pear in white chocolate, with candied pear peel as the stem. Obeying the chef’s warning to eat the “pear” in one bite, diners popped the sphere into their mouths and bit down, releasing a gush of pear juice. The pears for this refreshing and fun palate cleanser were grown on nearby farm.
Dinner concluded with “Pavlova” – a pawpaw meringue filled with pawpaw curd and dehydrated pawpaw tuile plated with a bit of caramel. Pawpaw trees are native to the eastern half of the US, with fruit about the size of a russet potato and an almost tropical flavor that’s been described as fusion of mango, banana, and citrus. Chef King collects the pawpaw fruit from trees on the farm, competing for them with the deer, who also enjoy them. (He also noted that overripe pawpaws ferment, which the racoons seem to particularly enjoy.) A glass of Lovo Moscato Giallo was a great match with the light and flavorful dessert. Winemaker Salvatore Lovo and his daughter Silvia produce their organic wines in the village of Vò at the western end of the Colli Euganei (Euganean Hills) in the heart of Veneto’s the wine production area.
As members and guests concluded their dinner with mignardise, Bailli Judy Mazza thanked Chef King for again amazing, delighting, and educating us with his talent, creativity, and skill and his focus on local ingredients. She presented Chaîne pins to the service staff as a thank-you for their gracious and attentive service, and a silver Chaîne wine coaster to the Chef. Having now experienced both summer and autumn dinners at The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm, the bailliage is making plans to return for a spring dinner in April 2021.