Tuesday, April 1, 2008

What Kind of Food Do You Serve?

I hate to be pigeonholed by such a question. While my menus are firmly rooted in what is seasonal right here in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia right now, the treatments of these ingredients can be very far ranging indeed.

I have studied many, many of the great cuisines of the world and I bring those influences to bear on my menu. You should not be surprised to find an Indian dal paired with your local Virginia lamb chops. Nor should you be surprised to find a classic Thai fried rice paired with grilled Hawaiian king prawns. Nor should you be surprised to find a braised pork shank on a bed of silky Anson Mills grits and paired with wilted mustard greens. I can cook downhome Southern with the best of them.

I like to think that as I have matured as a chef, I have come to value simplicity in my food. My approach is clearly market driven. Those baby carrots that I found at the market this very morning will be on tonight's menu, although I haven't yet thought about how. What I do know is that there is very little that I as a chef can do to improve on beautiful, sweet, baby carrots, so I won't do much to them or mix them with a bunch of other ingredients. That's what I mean by simplicity.

In addition to local ingredients and a menu that favors simplicity of flavor versus complexity, I also reach out to find great game, amazing seafood, and artisanal products. I have an awesome game broker, several seafood suppliers, and countless suppliers of amazing ingredients ranging from hams and smoked sausages to honey to handmade cheeses. And from these people, all of whom are invested in their own small businesses and who have a profound respect for quality, I buy the best. My conversations with them never revolve around price. It's always a question of what's the best product you have right now.

As for the menu itself, it changes every day in response to what we have in stock and what we find at the markets. The composition of the menu itself is half first courses (appetizers in US restaurant-speak) and half second courses (entrées), with a balance that is about equal between seafood and game/meat. We always have or are happy to custom craft vegetarian offerings.

You can view typical menus on the restaurant web site.

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