Farm-to-table restaurants continue to dominate the dining scene. Everyone wants their food to be hyper-seasonal, locally sourced, and sustainable. Especially this time of year. Late spring is when the harvest begins. Chives. Fava beans. Fiddlehead ferns. Pea shoots. Ramps. Rhubarb. Stinging nettles. Are you drooling yet?
The farm-to-table movement began in the 1970s. Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California was at the forefront of the campaign, which slowly gained momentum in the years that followed. In the last 20 years, it’s become quite popular. People around the world now seek out these restaurants and consider themselves foodies.
The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm was among the East Coast’s first farm-to-table restaurants when it opened in 1986. The restaurant is in Lovettsville, a small farming community in the northern tip of Virginia. The 18-acre farm, which was the first in the state to be certified organic, sits on a hill overlooking the Potomac River. Paton Island, the Point of Rocks Bridge, and Maryland are in the distance.
A steep gravel driveway leads up to the restaurant. Don’t expect a formal dining room or even a traditional building. A glass conservatory with a covered patio sits at the top of the hill. There’s a wooden gazebo off to the side. Plus welcoming—and, as you’ll soon realize, quite knowledgable—servers await your arrival. You have a unique dining experience ahead of you.
Dinner is a seven-course tasting. The menu changes regularly; whatever was picked on the farm this afternoon will surely end up on your plate. Cocktails incorporate freshly snipped herbs and locally made spirits. The best wine pairings are those that allow you to sample what’s being produced right here in Virginia, especially here in Loudoun County. While the dishes are carefully plated, like works of art.
This time of year, you should expect a lot of early vegetables. That means greens from the garden, grilled onions, baby carrots, and fava shoots. The bread is served with roasted garlic butter. The flounder is cured in rhubarb brine. The skewered swordfish is grilled over a bed of pine. The roasted duck is paired with last year’s raspberries. Plus you’ll be begging for another scoop of the fried green tomato ice cream. Dinner is exciting, sophisticated, and downright delicious. But please don’t call it a trend.