Plaudits: Washingtonian 2011 Top 100, Washingtonian 2010 #54, Washington Post's 2009 and 2010 Fall Dining Guide
Neighborhood: Clifton, Virginia
Having gone to school in DC, I used to have a strong dislike of all things VA (or as I refer to it to Official Co-Writer of DCWD CC, a "black hole of fun"). But as the years go on, and I get increasingly more 1) domestic, 2) fond of foliage, 3) willing to cross the river to see friends who've moved that way, I find myself eating at more VA restaurants. On this occasion, Official Girlfriend of DCWD Texas and I were meeting with her Aunt, and so we picked one of the classiest places we could find: Trummer's on Main.
Clifton, VA itself is a throwback to the 19th century, the kind of place that makes you feel like you should be driving down the road in a horse-drawn carriage (if not a 1950s Thunderbird). Trummer's itself sits on a rebuilt inn on Main Street. The result is absolutely stunning and one of the most beautiful dining areas I've ever seen.
The first floor is cobbled stone walls, but probably the only nod to a country-inn. An underlit marble bar sits stage left with a beautiful modern wooden wine cooler in the back. Up a set of stairs is the "Winter Garden," the setting for our dinner this night. With a color scheme of cream and red, the room is warm and inviting at night, but is probably gorgeous in the daytime, the product of full-length colonial windows taking up most of the wall space. Overhead is a high vaulted ceiling and those wonderful old fan contraptions, while an old wooden floor sits below. On one side of the room are the four-tops, while the two-tops consist mostly of a row of half-booths on one wall. In the center of it all is one-long community table.
It's hard to describe in any meaningful way just how beautiful the space is, or how wonderful the aura is, other than to just simply say, "wow." It's the sort of place that makes you instantly say, this is
To start, Texas ordered a yucca soup, topped with pineapple chunks, clams, and a coconut foam (the first of several foams on the menu). This was an unquestioned winner, creamy and succulent with each bite, but never over the top in any one flavor direction. The perfect balance was palpable, even in the face of such difficult ingredients; the saccharine pineapple or the briny clams, the starchy yucca versus the lightness of the foam, all of it melded together into a vichyssoise-like consistency that was altogether sweet but mellowing.
The glutton that I am, I ordered two appetizers, undecided between two equally decent choices. On the one hand was a goat cheese ravioli, plated on top of a tartare of smoked salmon held together by horseradish, all in a horseradish foam. The pasta was a little firm for me, and the goat cheese was a little lost, but the whole dish stood up well to the horseradish, which could otherwise have threatened to overtake its complexity.
For the second dish, I had seared foie gras with cherries and a cappuccino foam. It's been a while since I've had a good seared foie gras, but this was pleasant, a rich and fatty texture that was indicated the piece had been well cooked. The cappucino foam was interesting, as was the choice of cherries as the obligatory sweet fruit pairing, but the plate made me both wish I had not ordered two apps and wish this one wasn't the more expensive of the two (by almost twice as much).
For our main courses, Texas had a swiss chard cannelloni served with a mix of tomatoes and other vegetables, pine nuts, and a foam (which in memory, was unremarkable enough to not remember what it was). The cannelloni itself was good, a better representation of fresh, well-cooked pasta than its ravioli brethren from my appetizer, but for me, the dish was just missing something to balance out the chard.
On the other hand, my butter roasted chicken was just about amazing. Pieces of breast resting on a bed of pickled turnips and green grapes in a dijon mustard-tarragon foam, they were amazingly juicy and full of luscious flavor. The turnips and grapes provided great depth to the whole thing, sweet and earthy counterpoints to the soft and tender meat. A wonderfully and beautifully composed dish.
For dessert, we rounded up three of the desserts, the first a frozen banana mousse, with peanut butter ice cream; the second a duo of pumpkin sherbet and cheesecake ice cream, topped with toasted pumpkin seeds and a molasses cookie; the third a pot du creme. Of the three, the first two were solid: delightfully seasonal, with wonderful notes of sweet to accompany flavors that befitted the weather outside. The pot du creme, on the other hand, was all sorts of bad, bitter and murky and unfinishable.
A few notable missteps, but otherwise a kitchen that regularly creates dishes of magnificent balance and compelling flavors.
Food Rating: **** 1/2 (out of 5)
Date Rating: 5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code: Business
Bar Rating: Quiet Drinks
Cost: $$$$$ (out of 5) (more than $100 for two)
Pairing: We had a devastatingly good local wine (the label of which I asked to keep... that good), that literally came from down the road. I'm usually not into Virginia wines, but if that bottle came from around there, I can imagine that a tour of the local wineries would be a fun time.