A little less than 30 miles outside the sprawl and bumper-to-bumper traffic of Washington, DC lies the sleepy little town of Clifton, VA. With a population of just a few hundred, Clifton may be a lot more Norman Rockwell than Rock ‘n’ Roll, but it does have its own super star – Clayton Miller, the Executive chef of Trummer’s On Main. One of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs in 2010, Miller—who’s worked in well known establishments such as NYC’s Daniel and Napa’s French Laundry—is now causing many urbanites—like yours truly—to pull up Google Maps to find out the best way to get to the tiny town.
A few weeks ago, after I was re-reading the F&W article on Miller, I suggested to Chad that we take our spouses to his restaurant over the weekend. I need to start off by saying that everything about our experience was wonderful—from the handcrafted cocktails, to the attentive service, to the impeccable food served in the luminous and open dining room. At the end of the meal, we decided that not only was this meal totally worth the half hour drive there and back, but that Chad and I were complete and utter food DORKS! Over the course of the meal, it occurred to me that we were the food version of Trekkies at Comic-Con.
Thus, I present to you: You know you are food dork when – A Trummer’s On Main review!
1. A good 20-30 minutes is spent considering the possibilities of the tasting menu.
When Brian and I walked up to the menu posted outside the restaurant and saw they had a tasting menu option, I think I knew we’d end up getting it. But still the following conversation took place at our table.
Chad: They have a tasting menu.
Me: I know.
Chad: (muffled whispering to Ilyssa while covering his face with the menu)
Me: What are you whispering?
Chad: I’m trying to convince Ilyssa we should get the tasting menu…
Brian: Let’s try to calculate how much the tasting menu is compared to if we each got an appetizer and entrée…..it’s actually not that much more.
Chad: (raising his eyebrows in excitement to me and whispering again to Ilyssa)
Ilyssa: (breaking down to Chad’s persuasive powers) Well, we did drive all this way.
Me: Why don’t we ask the waiter about it?
Waiter: The tasting menu allows our Executive Chef creative dishes on the fly. He uses the night’s main menu for the core components but changes some ingredients depending on his feeling at the moment.
Me: So Clayton Miller will be back there cooking our meal?
(Interjection from Chad: Missy asked the waiter this question with the breathless excitement of a teenage Twilight fan asking if Taylor Lautner was in the next room. It was awkward.)
Chad: (sensing an unspoken consensus, looks at the three of us and then at the waiter) Alright, let’s do it.
More after the jump!
2. After ordering the tasting menu, you try to guess what dishes are going to come out of the kitchen next and have contests with your tablemates on who can guess the right ingredients in a dish.
While we waited for each course, we proceeded to play, “what dish is coming out of the kitchen next.” Somehow, I managed to call rabbit cannelloni, really impressing everyone with my food psychic abilities. We were all thrown when we guessed some sort of dessert next, and it ended up being steak. We were all glad we were wrong on that one. Chad and I, always a little bit competitive with each other, had to ask the waiter what delicious herbs were in the “cream-less” creamed corn.
Waiter: Parsley, tarragon, chervil, and chives.
Chad: I said Tarragon!
Me: I said Parsley!
Waiter: (thinking to himself as he walks away.….what complete dorks.)
Here is our full tasting menu at Trummer’s On Main:
- First Course: Lightly seared Wahoo, served with compressed cucumbers, mini-cucumbers, blueberries covered in extra virgin olive oil, sea beans, tapioca pearl caviar, soy caviar
- Second Course: Grouper basted in brown butter, served over “cream-less” creamed corn with parsley, tarragon, chervil, and chives, topped with a roasted mission fig
- Third Course: Homemade Cannelloni stuffed with braised rabbit thigh and leg served over a chicken consume with dehydrated olives and tomatoes, deep fried rosemary, topped with lighly-blowtorched parmesan
- Palate Cleanser: Strawberry sorbet with lavender crumble
- Fourth Course: Rib eye, with fried zucchini flower, dehydrated tomato tort and watercress purée
- Fifth Course: Catape shreds over peach sorbet and mascarpone mousse, with vanilla sponge cake
3. You not only carry the F&W magazine interview with the chef in your purse, but you ask at the end of the night if you can meet the chef.
At the end of our ridiculously amazing meal, the restaurant had cleared out. We thought it was a great opportunity to ask if we could give our complements to the chef. It was like we were waiting to meet the Queen of England or something. We were running strategy as if it was football Sunday in October. Clayton (can I call him by his first name?) came out, very casual and friendly. You might expect a cockier attitude from one that just received a pretty prestigious award in the chef biz. He answered our questions, and we promised we’d tell our friends and be back soon. Chad actually saw him at the Washingtonian “Best Of” party the other night – and he remembered us.
4. You can’t stop thinking about this meal and dedicate a good portion of your Sunday morning writing about it.
One of the things that struck me as I reflect back on the meal was the extraordinary attention to detail. Every single element on the plate was carefully chosen to elevate the dish. At times the garnishes were the highlight of the whole dish. Who knew a schmear of watercress could have so much flavor?
I also have to mention the cocktails. We arrived early to savor some of Stefan Trummer’s (head mixologist and owner) homemade libations in the swank, dimly lit first floor lounge. On the night we went, Chad ordered the house Titanic – a combination of grape vodka, muddled grapes, and Champagne sorbet floating on top! Other cocktails highlight the season – bartenders use fresh fruit to make icy granitas. We were impressed while watching the bartender break down a juicy peach to make granita for Ilyssa’s drink. For wine lovers, Trummer’s has an impressive list. Sommelier Tyler Packwood oversees a cellar of 8,000 bottles. We ordered a Domaine Olivier cuilleras cote du Rhone and Soter Vineyards Pinot Noir to accompany our meal.
When we come back, we will likley try the equally yummy sounding (but more reasonably priced) bar menu. Here, Miller has created a playful menu including what he calls “brisket on a biscuit,” tender pork with blackberry jam all piled up on a buttery, flaky biscuit.
By now, I’ve probably convinced you of two things. 1. Chad and I are complete food dorks. Go ahead, make fun. 2. You need to go to Trummer’s On Main. It’s not that far from your house. GO!
Open Monday through Saturday for dinner, Sunday for brunch; bar/lounge open until midnight