The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm: The Sublime of Earth to Table
A sinuously lovely drive over Virginia country roads precedes your arrival at the personal, intimate, and very peaceful Restaurant at Patowmack Farm in Lovettsville, VA. This very special destination restaurant is located north on Route 15 approximately 30 minutes from Leesburg. A short distance beyond the Lovettsville Road split, a small sign directs you up a graveled hill, steep but abbreviated. At the top, you park, step out. Tranquility registers immediately; further up the hill, a light breeze washes across still trees. Turn one eighty for a dizzying view of the wooded hillside beneath you. To the east, the distant Point of Rocks Bridge crosses a cerulean sliver of the Potomac River. You are high. An open dining gazebo is adjacent to the stone walkway that leads to the Restaurant which holds the unique distinction of being the first restaurant in the US to be connected to and operated on the grounds of an active organic farm. The Restaurant looks like a very large greenhouse. The entire eastern side bears an expanse of glass framing the outdoor panorama. The walls opposite and dining tables artistically display nature’s gifts…a simple arrangement of white birch branches hangs freely, large teardrop glass terrariums of stones and Tillandsias or air plants, grace each table, a notably oversized Jade plant is seated front and center.
Beverly Morton Billand’s grandfather was a dairy farmer. She, however, grew up in Washington, D.C., and had little to no practical knowledge of farming when thirty three years ago, she established Patowmack Farm. Her first intention was to farm, responsibly, in tandem with the seasons and without harming the landscape, the soil, or the ecosystem. I asked how she deterred the munching of random beasts. Her answer, “I plant for them as well.” All of this to nourish and grow her healthy family of “a lot” of children providing enough for “everybody and their animals” . Beverly knew she liked to cook. For that reason, she decided to invite and prepare dinner in her barn for twenty folks. News of this event reached Tom Sietsema, long time food critic for the Washington Post, who wanted to write about Beverly’s endeavors. Beverly resisted, didn’t consider herself a chef. But they came anyway, and the night the article posted the phone started ringing and didn’t stop. From there the restaurant has grown to include a terraced area fifteen years ago followed by the addition five years ago of the patio gazebo and more yet to dream and do.
The menu at The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm is an expression not so unlike a live art and sensory experience, a kind of theater for mind and appetite. Inside Loudoun had the privilege of meeting and enjoying a selection of dishes assuaged by drama as prepared by six year Patowmack veteran Chef Tarver King. As per Chef Tarver, there are several distinct parts to their menu as it ebbs and flows from farm and forest to Chef Tarver’s kitchen to the dining table. The spirit of the menu rides on the juxtaposition of sight, sound, aroma. Beef may be prepared on a perfectly smooth black river rock. “…As organic as it gets for our purposes…”, explains Chef Tarver. A rustic bowl of lushly ripe peaches steadily releases a steamy aromatic peach vapor while it’s eaten. With a near scientific refinement, diners are tantalized to experience every part of the meal with all their senses. Eyes or the visual experience inspires. The aroma engages. Sound alerts and recollects. In the fall when the leaves change, chestnut soup is nestled in a bed of collected fallen leaves, the aroma lit from underneath. Other “parts” are the grain, the ocean, the meat, the intermezzo, cheese, and at meal’s close, candies may appear set on tiny squares of parchment atop small beds of stone, clipped evergreens, fresh cut twigs. The menu changes with frequency. The staff is always anticipating what is coming out of the ground next. While we were there, “next” was ripe red tomatoes and the prior week was fried green ones. A harvested favorite is Tomato Tart over the grill and eaten with hands.
Beverly and the staff at Patowmack Farm maintain close and supportive relationships with local sourcers who share their vision. Drawing from these growers and producers in conjunction with Patowmack’s own 40 acre farm and its two to three acre foraging area where they find frost grapes, pawpaws, mushrooms, flower varieties and more, there is seemingly no pause in inspiration. In spite of that, Beverly claims she’s never worked a day in her life. No eat and run here. Beverly and Chef Tarver generously invite their guests to spend hours to bask and enjoy, to breathe, eat, feel, hear and see the bounty of nature and maybe to reflect on the question “Is cooking art or craft?” Their answer, “There is no question. It’s both and beyond.”
The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm; 42461 Lovettsville Road, Lovettsville, VA 20180 Patomackfarm.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; 540-822-9017
Reservations are required at all seatings. Consult the restaurant website for reservation information and details.
The Restaurant at Patowmack offers dinner Thursday through Saturday, a Weekend Brunch, a Progressive Dinner and a monthly Sunday supper.