Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Restaurant at Potawmack Farms

In another of our ongoing first Saturday of the month dinners out, Cyn and I took a one hour leisurely drive through the Virginia countryside to Lovettsville, VA and the Restaurant at Potowmack Farms. There, high on a hill overlooking the Potomac River, Chef Christopher Edwards treated us to what was, quite possibly, the very best restaurant meal we've had since moving to Virginia. Did you hear that Chef Patrick O'Connell?

Potowmack, named after George Washington's trading company and the local Indians of the time, is an real working farm, growing vegetables and herbs for use in the restaurant. They are committed to a farm to table, seasonal and certified organic dining experience. The menu reflects what is available from their own farm and from other local purveyors.

Before we get to the food, I need to mention one small but thoughtful touch that set the tone for the meal. When we arrived, we were greeted and seated by the owner, Beverly Billand, and presented with the evening's menu. Note the personalization at the top.

In keeping with the theme of serving what is locally available, the menus are printed daily and the chef offers a prix fixe menu (with paired wines optional), and a very nice selection of a la carte items. We both decided to go with the prix fixe menu although a few of the items on the a la carte menu were very tempting -- particularly the Briars Farmstead suckling pig. Maybe next time. Since we had the same meal (with one exception I'll note later), we'll both offer our individual comments on each course.

Amuse Bouche
Lobster beignet, sea urchin butter, jumbo crab, mustard vinaigrette

Come on, really? A beignet? With lobster and crab? This was like a little bit of perfection, several bites to be more precise since the portion was very generous. The sea urchin butter added a deep richness without overwhelming the other ingredients and the whole mustard seed vinaigrette provided the acid needed to complete the dish. Oh look, there was a pretty little purple flower too. Simply stated, I wanted more of this.

Yeah, what he said. The beignet was piping hot and full of chunks of lobster. Crispy outside, creamy inside. The crab was succulent and sweet and topped the beignet after it was tossed in the urchin butter. As a gardener, I deeply appreciated the fresh flowers adorning certain dishes on a visual level and as an eater, they added a beautiful freshness to the dish.  Could have embarrassed myself by climbing into chefs lap and eating these babies as they came out of the oil.  I don't say this often, but this was a perfect amuse, I couldn't wait for the next course.

Watermelon radish, asparagus, red cabbage, baby carrot, kimchi broth, garden herbs

I don't use the word pretty very often, but this dish was pretty, and right in the sweet spot for a restaurant that specializes in serving local and fresh ingredients. Everything seemed to be fresh out of the ground. Not quite a salad but more than the name crudite would typically imply, every element in this bowl was meant for each other. I particularly enjoyed the crisp purple cabbage that seemed designed to carry the kimchi broth in it's folds. I kept hoping everyone in the restaurant would simultaneously turn away so I could pick up the bowl and drink the broth -- didn't happen.

Umm, yeah, what he said.  Kimchi broth was a revelation and why didn't I think of this?  The salty umami-ness of it was the seasoning for the crispy veg, and the watermelon radish was luscious as it had soaked up some of the broth but kept a nice toothiness.  Balance was perfect and the dish was incredibly 'clean' - this chef doesn't feel the need to add more frou frou crap to create a masterpiece.  Great example of less is more.

Carolina Golden Rice Middlins
soft cooked farm egg, mirepoix vegetables, Ayrshire chicken foot gravy, aged jalapeno

My favorite course of the night, and that's saying a lot! The gold rice middlins were a revelation to me. They a a shorter grain rice, sometimes called "rice grits", or broken rice, that were perfectly suited to taking on flavors such as the chicken foot gravy that made this dish quite spectacular. The depth of flavor the chef developed here was almost the essence of chicken and the foot itself was wonderfully crispy on the outside without giving up that gelatinous quality that defines them. Note to the observant reader: I don't eat eggs, so I had this course without the soft cooked farm egg and wasn't clever enough to take a photo of Cynthia's, which had the egg. One last note, I don't know what aged jalapenos are, but they were perfectly suited to add both a little heat and acid to this dish. I need to find out what they are and where to get them.

At this point, after two fabu courses, I'm expecting a lull in the action.  Can they possibly maintain this level of delicious?  No. They can't.  They take delicious and crank it to crazy fabulous.  The rice middlins I could eat every day and never tire of them.  Rich with a slight chewiness, drenched in the chicken foot gravy, my mouth is watering just writing about them.  And with the fine dice of the vinegary jalapenos and the river of molten egg yolk, pretty damn perfect.  Balance, balance, balance.  I should mention that this dish is served with one of the feet from the chicken foot gravy.  If you're not into chicken feet, I just happen to be, but if you aren't or haven't had the experience yet, this should be the chicken foot that you give your virginity to.  Trust me.

sour cherry sorbet, rosemary blossom, creme fraiche

I'm going to be very picky here. This was the one course that wasn't a home run for me. The sorbet has a pleasant enough sour cherry flavor but the texture seemed a bit off, icy, more like a granita than a sorbet. The creme fraiche was at the bottom of the frozen shot glass and was rock hard. Like I said, I'm being picky here.

Yup, this was a hiccup.  It was palate cleansing and I enjoyed the hit of rosemary blossom astringency, but the creme fraiche didn't make sense - we're cleansing not coating, right?  Sour cherry flavor was fine and Al's right about the texture - we have an Italian gelato maker in house and he eats a lot of sorbet.

Hedgeapple Farm Beef Short Ribs
parsley potatoes, red wine marmalade, mushroom meleange

Hedgeapple Farm is a local (Buckeystown, MD) has been in existence since 1731and has been continuously operated by the Jorgenson family since 1956. I am not a huge beef eater, but these reminded me of just how good a well prepared beef dish can be. These were everything good short ribs should be: succulent, super tender, perfectly balance between lean and fat and just bursting with real beef flavor. The red wine marmalade added a slightly sweet element that complemented the the richness of the ribs.

Al forgot to mention the potatoes were butter poached and the short rib was sublimely glazed.  There are a lot of short ribs out there nowadays, they're trendy.  There aren't a lot of memorable short ribs out there. I knew the second my fork hit this bad boy that I would be remembering this rib - it sunk in, but there was a little resistance, and when I pulled, the meat parted and hallelujah! the juices ran.  Juice!  In a shortrib. Amazing. The juice and the marmalade and the butter from the potatoes, oh my.

Cherry Glen Monocacy Gold
andrew crush's smowmegeddon honey, beet meringue, pomegranate, orange

Those of you that follow along know that when it comes to dessert, I prefer cheese over sweets anytime. If you're following ever more closely, you know that I have mentioned Cherry Glen cheeses more than once before. So, I was more than happy to see that our dessert course consisted on their Monocacy gold, a soft ripened goat cheese! Paired perfectly with what seemed to be a raw honey, candied orange rind, beet meringue and pomegranate, this, for me, was the perfect finishing course.

Cherry Glen cheeses have an excellent depth of flavor tempered with a grassy backnote and a fresh cheese loveliness.  Paired perfectly with the honey and candied orange rind and my favorite bites were all that topped with pomegranate seeds.  Creamy, rich, sweet, chewy with a bright crispy pop.

I'm all for beets, love them.  This beet meringue did not work for me.  At all.  I tried to like them, I really did. But they were just so....beet-y.  I vote for a switch to a nut meringue, or perhaps mint.  Fennel?  Fennel would be perfect, candied fennel seeds even perfect-er.  I have my dessert for the next dinner party.

The menu called out one more item, a Friandise, which tuns out to translate to something small and dainty. To close the meal, we were served what was obviously a house made marshmallow that had been sprinkled with pink peppercorns. It was, as the menu indicated, a sweet surprise.

Al - the last word
I'll make this simple. One of the best meals I've ever had. We are already planning our return and will likely take advantage of an offer that the chef would prepare a vegetarian tasting menu if ordered in advance. 

Cyn - the last word
We didn't mention beverages, but upon arrival, I indulged in a Pimm's Cup cocktail that has to be mentioned - it was sprinkled with pink peppercorns which were a delight and a wonderful surprise. I should have known then that this restaurant was an incredible find and that I would have a truly delicious and memorable meal.  I can't wait for my next visit.

Restaurant at Patowmack Farm on Urbanspoon


  1. Wow, that is quite the course! And everything just looks and sounds so delicious...

  2. Seriously, we are fortunate to eat out at a lot of very good restaurants - this was pretty amazing.

  3. Brad and I went there for our anniversary one year. I was also pregnant so I really enjoyed the food but couldn't enjoy the wine. I've been dying to go back. Now that you've reminded me I'll tell Brad to start budgeting! It was unbelievably delicious!

  4. Many people choose great dining restaurants for a special occasion, so the food must not disappoint- in either selection or quality. You don’t need to feature a huge menu, but it should be interesting, offering unique items that patrons wouldn’t find at any other restaurant.

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