Virginia Farm to Table
It is common to hear the term farm to table these days with many restaurants using it to describe their style of cuisine more than to note the freshness or sourcing of their product. But Virginia has a wealth of restaurants that truly do justice to the farm-to-table movement; delicious dining spots that work with local farmers and artisanal food providers to ensure their menus feature only that day’s very best Virginia ingredients. From restaurants that serve super fresh food, to the farms that produce the products, Virginia is a food-lovers dream destination.
Dishing Up Fresh
One of Virginia’s brightest stars on the farm front is The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm, located in Loudoun County, Virginia with views of the historic Potomac River. Conde Nast Traveler listed it in the Best Bars and Restaurants in the World: 2021 Gold List. ‘Our fields are the chef’s pantry’ state the owners, with the daily produce picked by the on-site farmer, at their peak, that morning or afternoon.
Dish from The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm
The only three-star restaurant in the Washington D.C. Michelin Guide is actually located a 1.5-hour drive outside the city. The Inn at Little Washington sits in Virginia farmland, benefitting from the wealth of fresh-daily local product. Chef Patrick O’Connell’s approach to cooking, while paying homage to the lawmakers of Classical French Cuisine, reflects a belief in “the cuisine of today”, healthy, eclectic, imaginative, unrestricted by ethnic boundaries and always growing. The Inn also features a Farmer in Residencewho oversees all farming operations at the Inn.
Chef Patrick O’Connell and crew picking fresh product at The Inn at Little Washington
Chef Ian Boden started The Shack with a simple idea – to serve the highest quality food with as little pretense as possible. The restaurant is in the middle of the Shenandoah Valley, an area that provides a quarter of Virginia’s farm product, from out of the ground to hoof and beak. It is easy to “Eat Like a Local” at The Shack where Chef Boden finds inspiration in Appalachia and the greater South and serves a constantly changing menu with dishes that highlight the full bounty of his home state. From working with local farmers to bring back the whippoorwill, an old heirloom field pea, to serving Virginia beers and wines, chef Boden’s philosophy at The Shack truly embodies the local food movement.
Chef Ian Boden at his restaurant The Shack
Fresh from the Farm
It’s easy to experience some of the bounty of Virginia’s farmlands; just visit one of the many farmers markets found throughout the state. The Old Town Alexandria's Market Square Farmer’s Market, established in 1753, is thought to be one of the nation's oldest continually operating farmers markets. It is here that George Washington sent his produce from Mount Vernon to be sold. Today, during the peak season, there are more than 70 vendors offering fruits and vegetables, meat, poultry, cheeses, breads, pastries, fresh pasta, pickled vegetables, cut flowers, potted plants, soaps, jewelry and art.
Alexandria Farmers Market - courtesy VTC
The Historic Roanoke City Market is also one of the oldest continuously operating open-air markets in Virginia. It began in 1882, when licenses were issued to 25 area "Hucksters" or vendors, as we would call them today. This market area has since gained popularity for its amazing selection of locally grown plants, fresh fruits, and vegetables. Be sure to stop by and visit the market area's oldest continuous vendor, Martin's Plant Farm. The Martin's have had a presence at the market since 1904!
Straight from the Source
If you prefer to see exactly where your food came from, Virginia’s numerous pick-your-own farms offer a fun experience for young and old alike. Whether apples and peaches at such locations as Carter Mountain Orchard near Charlottesville,or sun-ripened berries from the likes of You-Pick Strawberries at Greenbrier Farms, or herbs from places like Beagle Ridge Gardens and Herb Farm, it’s hard to beat the fun of a dayspent gathering some of nature’s own goodness.
Family picking apples - courtesy VTC
Produce is not the only Virginia farm-sourced food you can buy straight from the purveyor on the land where it was grown or raised. Fresh-made cheese is plentiful from places such as Caromont Farms near Charlottesville – where you can also snuggle baby goats! - and The Ag District in Loudoun County, home to Chrysalis Vineyards.
Content and Pictures courtesy: Virginia Tourism Corporation