By Tom Sietsema
Sunday, May 18, 2013
Then: Green acres with a twist (2005)
Again: More polish in the countryside
Lucky is the cook who has 11 acres of "pantry" outside his kitchen. And fortunate are the recipients of the fruits of that garden when they're assembled by Christopher Edwards. For the past 4-1/2 years, he has been the executive chef at Patowmack Farm in northern Loudoun County, a spread that features a glass-tented restaurant at the top of a steep hill. The shiny black chairs and Ping-Pong ball lights look a little tired, but the views of rolling hills and the Potomac River make up for the decor.
Then there's the really, truly farm-fresh food: berries, herbs, carrots, asparagus and "tons of greens," Edwards says. "If there's something leafy on the plate," it's practically from arm's reach away. Seasonal ingredients are great; knowing how to show them off is equally important.
Edwards, an alumnus of the late Maestro in Tysons Corner and the shuttered El Bulli in Spain, where he cooked for almost a year, demonstrates such on both his $65 a la carte "Origins" menu and $100 eight-course "Destination" list. Warm oysters served on their shells with garlic butter and turnip greens get a kick from jalapeños plucked from aged whiskey -- another excuse to eat more house-baked "bread with rosemary from the garden," as a server informs us. Fried pork terrine set off with tangy radishes and espelette pepper is scrapple the way it's done in heaven. (I have faith.) The chef's Catalan riff on bouillabaisse gathers prime scallops and clams in a saffron broth along with rice that has been dehydrated and deep-fried: puffier, prettier Rice Krispies.
The one dish I wouldn't want to repeat is the dense smoked duck breast with its over-salted beet tartare. Among the improvements from my pre-Edwards dinners are finer desserts and stronger coffee. The former has included a miniature apple souffle ringed in a tuile; the latter comes from McLean micro-roaster Sommo.
"Drive safely!" members of the sunny staff, including owner Beverly Morton Billand, call out as we exit for the trip home. There's no chance we'll be hungry again tonight, but just in case, the restaurant sends us on our way with a cellophane-wrapped cookie each. How sweet!