July 12, 2014
Photo credit Jordan Wright
The minute you turn onto Snickersville Turnpike from the John Mosby Highway, the stress of the city begins to fall away like husk off corn. It’s the route I chose to drive to East Lynn Farm in Round Hill, Virginia for a field to plate dinner. In my book driving through a green leafy tunnel, pierced through by the afternoon sun’s golden rays, is a far better introduction to the charms of the countryside than the countless traffic lights, strip malls and gas stations along Route 7. But curving around country lanes and gazing out onto wide swaths of open farmland, allows the spirit to ease mindfully into a more peaceful dimension.
As I pulled into the driveway I noticed a few other guests had already arrived. One of the chefs greeted me from the front porch and steered me to a path behind the historic farmhouse where a long linen-covered table beckoned beneath tall pines. Edging the perimeter of the bucolic scene, farm baskets overflowed with yellow squash. And torches, raised up on bamboo poles, ringed the newly mown grass. On the patio guests introduced themselves and sipped wine in the softening light. Very quickly a shared sense of adventure and camaraderie took hold of the strangers.
Before dinner service farm owner Georgia Ravitz led the twenty or so of us on a brief tour. Surrounded by hayfields dotted with weathered red barns, we strolled down the neat rows of the four-acre vegetable and flower gardens, stopping along the way to nibble on vining peas and spearmint while imagining them in our supper-to-be. On the north end of the gardens pasture-raised chickens foraged on ground insects and a small pond edged in willows afforded ducks and frogs a calm respite from the day’s heat.
Inside the farmhouse’s state-of-the-art kitchen, three passionate chefs and their capable crew were abuzz with activity. Terence Tomlin, Mackenzie Kitburi and Kiril Stavrev had set the stage for their six-course dinner and all hands were on deck.
Kitburi and Tomlin had met at Range, Bryan Voltaggio’s American Modern restaurant in Friendship Heights. Coincidentally they had started their jobs there on the same day and, as Kitburi describes their friendship, “It took Terry awhile to warm up to me, but we’ve been clicking ever since.” Eventually Kitburi told his new friend about an idea he’d been hatching. He wanted to start a company that would stage elegant pop-up dinners in supper clubs and existing restaurants. “I told him about my plans and my vision and he got on board right away,” Kitburi explained. Stavrev, who brought along Marriott and Ritz-Carlton experience, came into the brotherly mix soon after. “He’s a great cook who complements us. We’re definitely on the same wave-length,” Kitburi says.
The company they formed, Capital Taste, is not a caterer per se. As Kitburi sees it, “My vision is to switch up the dining experience with unique menus and themes. I prefer a tasting style menu so people can experience a number of different tastes during one sitting. We want people to come to us for the food. We don’t plan to bring food to people.”
This evening’s pop-up was the young chefs’ first in a summer series of five farm dinners and it began with a beautiful amuse bouche of watermelon, fennel and mint, followed by zucchini mousse with herbs, and then, a sheer tomato consommé expressed by the fruit and liquid from heirloom tomatoes and crowned by a single squash blossom.
Potato rösti topped with a sunny hen egg (Thank you, little chicks!), became a foil for truffle hollandaise. And after segueing the wine pairings from whites to reds, a duo of rack of lamb and lamb sausage with chimichurri and eggplant purée was introduced.
As the light grew dim, candles and torches provided the table’s sole source of illumination, and our fourth course arrived. Slices of the farm’s Angus strip loin steak got the benefit of charred baby Japanese eggplant plus two sauces – a delicate soubise hinting of onions and a glistening summer truffle sauce.
The lively conversation and breathless compliments paused only when someone remarked on the moon. A zillion stars sparkled in the Western sky as fireflies performed their staccato dance across the darkened horizon, and the final dish was presented. On a magical night where every course had delivered the promise of pasture and garden, the chefs had given the final nod to the harvest with Tomlin’s specialty, vegetable ice cream – one of red beet, the other using white asparagus. Impossible concepts that proved transcendent before melting into a lasting memory.
To dine in such a way is a wonderment. To partake of nature’s bounty expressed in sublime artistry, is truly divine.
The next dinner at East Lynn Farm will be on Sunday evening, July 20th. To book your reservations go to info@CapitalTaste.com. To learn more about the Inn at East Lynn or the farm’s CSA program go to www.EastLynnFarm.com.