A castle of a meal at Manor House.
By Stefanie Gans / Photos by Jonathan Timmes
Did I have kale on the menu?” Howard Foer was unsure, but only for a second, as he thought about the leaf-of-the-moment and whether or not it made a recent appearance on his rotating line-up.
“I guess it’s trendy? See, I didn’t even know that,” the chef pauses into the silence. “I guess I did know it was trendy,” he finally stumbles into his answer, referring to kale’s contributions to the recent raw juicing madness.
At 51, Foer has a grip on what he wants from his food. Trends are not one of them. But what happens when you eat dinner in the woods? Do big city trends sneak into the unlit winding roads anyway?
Foer, the chef at Manor House—and the owner, with his wife, of Poplar Springs Inn (also known for its spa)—bought the property in 1995 and used the historic, wooded land in Casanova for wedding and corporate events before turning it into the multi-use facility it is today.
The kale at Manor House comes creamed under an order of lamb loin and above a cake made out of saffron potatoes. The entire dish sinks into a rich sauce, punctuated with olives to break up its intensity. It is heavy but luxurious and lets show Foer’s French training at Le Chandun D’Or, the 1980s-era restaurant in Alexandria’s Morrison House (the upscale The Grille is there now).
Foer takes time with his sauces, starting from bone, where 20 gallons turns into something dense and sophisticated. “A lot of restaurants that are getting a lot of hype are doing a lot of smears,” Foer says, defending his hours spent in the kitchen, hitting back at what is popular elsewhere (smears) and not (hours-long sauce-making) in this even-far-from-Warrenton part of Northern Virginia.
The Manor House isn’t only removed geographically from main roads; it also feels like a different time. In the 1920s, the owners reinterpreted 16th- and 17th-century homes they had seen in Europe to create the inn’s look: It still feels castle-like today with large stones as walls, a tapestry of a horse-riding-knight hanging over the fireplace and decorations of stained glass and a coat of arms. Foer sells Manor House as a destination restaurant, but surely he doesn’t mean time travel. While the inn’s old Euro decor feels genuine, unlike the unabashed Medieval Times, it feels dated and dreary nonetheless. The muzak contributes to the lack of modernity.
But on the plate, some things spark. Foer cold-smokes his tartare (where smoke hits the raw beef away from the heat source) blending it with marjoram and shallots. The raw smokiness pops through, rounded with herbs and slicked with oil for a delicately meaty opening act.
Actually, this is the third dish to land on the table, first: a bread basket with a sweetened spin on butter and an amuse bouche—maybe a slice of lamb belly with creamed broccoli or a fried spring roll with pressed, mixed meats.
There is a forced pre fixe dinner with three-, four- or five-course options, the latter topping out at $80 a person. Dinner also includes a mid-course palate cleansing sorbet— a gorgeous, but maybe too-sweet-for-dinner pomegranate cassis—and salted caramel truffles when the bill arrives. It’s a lot of food and Foer, a gracious host, answers that claim:
“I like giving people enough food.” But he knows the portions are plenty: he was forced to turn to the mandatory prix fixe because customers weren’t ordering dessert. Their checks were simply not high enough, and in this restaurant hidden off a dark road, higher checks make up for the lack of street traffic.
Another reason guests weren’t ordering dessert: they were probably finishing their plates because much is good here. A bisque balances creaminess by letting flavors of the sea pop through. Plump mussels, still in the shell, float in the almost gravy-like soup, as does a tender scallop.
A crab cake finds itself in an Indo-French meal: the plate packs in not only a mountain of crustacean, but a poached egg (where the yolk flies out completely—and strangely—intact) on a frisee and bacon lardon salad with a curry caper butter sauce circling the perimeter. It’s a lot for a second course and perhaps too many flavors packed onto one round of porcelain. Another second course of roasted barley risotto caters to a too sweet sauce and undercooked strips of varied root vegetables.
Cornish game hen stuffed with duck is back to pure regality—but also the 1700s. It’s a king’s feast, and glorious in its overt meatiness. The royals, however, would scoff at service one night: at these prices, you shouldn’t have to fill your own wine glass.
The night ends in a bold statement: a foie gras ice cream that is not at all meaty, but still indulgent and in line with the many unusual ice cream flavors offered in restaurants over the past few years. The fancier cake is glorified stale bread, but the merlot reduction cuts into the duck liver dessert to quell its lushness. It is worthy of tweeting, not just because of its outrageousness, but because you’ll want to relive the memory in those 140-characters.
The Manor may be a castle, and while dinner is not always a fairy tale, the story lives more in the present, which is a good thing.
The Manor House Restaurant
Call first—reservations are required, but not for the adjoining and cozy, Casanova Lounge.
Prix-fixe menu: Three courses for $65, four courses for $72 and five courses for $80, Sunday brunch, with champagne, is $62.
Open for lunch and dinner Thursday through Saturday; brunch on Sunday.
9245 Rogues Road, Casanova; poplarspringsinn.com
Posted by Stefanie Gans, Dining Editor / Thursday, April 25th, 2013
Knife skills, brought to you by GIFs. [Lifehacker]
Arlington makes it more hospitable for food trucks. [ARLnow]
Eat More Kale v. Eat More Chikin, a court battle. [Consumerist]
“American taxpayers subsidize the purchase of about $4 billion worth of soda products annually,” states a press release from National Center for Public Policy Research, on Coca-Cola lobbying for SNAP (food stamp) dollars. [NCPPR]
TV geeks unite: 30 Rock made-up cocktail reference on Mad Men. [Uproxx]
Food economist Tyler Cowen on Michael Pollan’s new book, “Cooked.” [TCEDG]
By Meredith Minx
’Tis the season for your new year’s resolution. If you are anything like me, you are waiting until after the Super Bowl bash to start your new diet. So whether you have already taken the dive into health and wellness for the new year, or are kicking off your own new season after the big game, here are some foods that you should have stocked in your kitchen – and of course, that you should be eating on a regular basis!
- Lean meats
- Kale (or dark green and leafy veggies)
- Black-eyed peas
- Plain yogurt or plain Greek yogurt
All of these foods have many properties in common. Aside from being packed with good things for you—fiber, vitamins, minerals, protein, amino acids and antioxidants to name a few—they also help reduce your risk for many diseases such as cancer, diabetes and Parkinson’s. In turn they increase your heart health, stabilize your blood sugars, increase your digestive health, give you more energy and last but not least, they all help you in your endeavor of weight loss! What’s not to like about that?
Meredith Minix is the owner of Fitness Together studios in Fairfax and Tysons. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Recreation and Leisure with an emphasis in Sports Fitness and Management. A married mother of three young children, Meredith excels at helping her clients juggle family, career and exercise –the balancing act of the 21st century! Find Meredith and her local Fitness Together colleagues at www.ftcustomfitness.com, follow them on Facebook and on Twitter to get their health tips and fitness news.
Posted by Melissa Lyden / Friday, December 14th, 2012
Kale has been a recent trend on restaurant plates. In November I had dinner at Mad Fox Brewing. Executive Chef Andrew Dixon served a kale salad and said to expect it more frequently on menus. But what about kale as a form of decor?
Heading to various wineries for work over the past few weeks showed me a new adornment. Of course, I didn’t put it together until later and had to rack my brain to remember the places I had seen it. I even texted my neighbor to ask if she was growing it, thinking maybe I had seen it in her yard. Turns out I was wrong. Or crazy.
Gut Check presents you le Kale Craze:
Where have you seen kale lately?
Posted by Melissa Lyden / Thursday, November 15th, 2012
Mad Fox Brewing Company‘s Executive Chef Andrew Dixon debuted his fall-turning-winter menu at a press event last night. Here are five bites to check out at your next visit to the Falls Church brewpub.
Mushroom Strudel: Crispy phyllo pastry filled with mushrooms and goat cheese
The combination of the crispiness from the phyllo pastry, the saltiness from the mushrooms, the creaminess from the goat cheese and the sweetness from the saison sauce tie together for a well-balanced appetizer that pairs with Mad Fox’s saison beer, of course.
Kale Salad: Farmer’s market kale, poached Bay Haven Farm egg, Caesar vinaigrette, garlic croutons, Pecorino cheese
Chef Dixon says that we can expect to see kale on more restaurant menus in the near future—with plenty of area restaurants already turning to the hearty green side dishes and appetizers (fried kale chips at Mokomandy).
The idea with this salad is to break open the egg and mix the yolk with everything else. The vinaigrette is egg-based, so the yolk helps add creaminess. Try it with the Madjacket Weizenbock Ale, a collaboration beer from Mad Fox and Bluejacket.
Read the rest of this entry »
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by The Editorial Desk / Wednesday, September 7th, 2011
Not everyone is as excited about kale as I am.
A relative of the cabbage, there is much more to this dark green, leafy vegetable than meets the eye. Full of antioxidants and vitamins, including 6x the daily amount of Vitamin K, kale is largely considered to be the most nutritious veggie in the world!
Ok, so it’s good for me.
But how does it taste?
Like many of you, I was skeptical that anything related to cabbage (and, therefore, to Brussels sprouts) could be palatable. And I don’t know about you but, first and foremost, I want my food to taste good. I don’t want to just eat my vegetables- I want to enjoy them. I truly believe that you can make just about anything taste good (yes, even Brussels sprouts). You just have to be willing to take the first bite!
Take for example, raw kale salad with lemon vinaigrette. First introduced to me by my mom who has always been, what I consider to be, a health nut, it is surprisingly refreshing and delicious. With with this one salad, she changed my mind about kale forever.
Mom’s Yummy-Yummy Kale Salad
Juice of 2 lemons
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons of olive oil (or to taste)
1 tablespoon brown mustard
½ teaspoon salt
1 bunch fresh kale with the hard stems removed
Handful of shredded carrots
Combine lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, mustard and salt. Pour over kale and carrots and mix.
For those who prefer their greens cooked, these baked kale chips are addicting and oh-so easy to make!
No Fuss Kale Chips
1 bunch fresh kale with the hard stems removed, chopped into bite sized pieces
Olive oil (to taste)
Salt (to taste)
Drizzle chopped kale with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt.
(If you’re feeling really frisky, add a few sprinkles of garlic powder)
Bake in a 400* oven for 10-12 minutes until chips are nice and crispy. Yes- crispy!
Voila! Chips, salads and much, much more. So dive right in, experiment with your own recipes and enjoy your new-found appreciation for this very versatile superfood!
- Jennie Whistler
Posted by The Editorial Desk / Thursday, August 18th, 2011
Wednesday was a beautiful night to spend outdoors, so I headed over to Arlington’s Central Library demonstration vegetable and herb garden, where Don Weber, USDA-ARS Entomologist and Plot Against Hunger volunteer, gave a talk and fielded questions about fall vegetable gardening. At the close of the night, attendees received seeds (including Bolero carrots) as well as collard, (Win Win) bok choy, and broccoli transplants for their own gardens.
Admittedly, I don’t know much about gardening, but it was clear that many of the approximately 35 attendees have been regularly getting their hands in the dirt (including a woman who brought a leaf from her pumpkin plants so that Weber could diagnose its ills—turns out her worries were ill-founded). Weber’s message for the night was that gardening fun does not have to end with the harvesting of warm season crops such as tomatoes, sweet corn and cucumber.
The end of summer and early fall is the most pleasant time of year to work in your garden, as the weather is milder. And your soil likes this season too—it retains water better. Generally, you will experience less of a pest problem (although the dreaded Harlequin bugs—related to the stink bug and also called “Sherman bugs” because they arrived in the South from Central America during the time of the Civil War—can wreck even more havoc in the fall.)
So what can you plant between now and mid-September? Cool season crops (broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, cabbage, lettuce and peas) prosper during the cooler days of autumn and can withstand light frosts; and frost-hardy crops (carrots, leeks, kale, Brussel sprouts, spinach, and turnips), as suggested by their moniker, are harvestable long after freezing weather.
Takeaway points of the night were:
1) Time of planting is essential.
2) Make sure that your soil is well taken care of before planting. You can use compost or some other nutrient amendment. Plant seeds deeper into the soil than you would for spring planting and consider placing a board (not cedar or pressure-treated) over the seeded soil until sprouts are visible.
3) Transplants are more resistant to heat, drought, and pests as opposed to seeds, so you may consider planting these during August and September. If you use seeds, you may want to invest in pelletized seeds for plants that are slow to germinate, like carrots, celery and spinach. These seeds are coated in clay, thereby retaining hydration better.
Weber presented attendees with a vegetable planting guide (available here), which details depth for planting, spacing of crops, and fall planting dates. He cautioned that it was specifically tailored for Arlington’s microclimate (where the first killing frost arrives around early to mid-November), so don’t expect to have the same success in, say, Leesburg. (To create your own guide for other microclimates, he suggests using the Johnny’s Selected Seed calculator.)
Are you a curious gardener who wants to get regular advice from the experts? Here are a few invaluable resources:
- Stop by the Plants Clinic held at the Central library by the Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia on Thursdays from 7 to 9 p.m.
- Visit the Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia tables at three area farners markets (Arlington from 8-11 a.m.; Old Town, Alexandria from 6:30 to 9:30 a.m.; and Del Ray from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.)
- Get help year round by calling the Master Gardener Help Desk: (703) 228-6414.
Other upcoming events at the library include an August 31 talk on both composting and “bodywise” gardening (i.e., how not to hurt yourself ) and inside the library in September, a lecture by Dan Redmond on the agricultural history of Arlington County.
Happy gardening! And speaking of gardens . . . be sure to read tomorrow’s Gut Check for more information on the Arlington Central library’s demonstration garden and the Arlington Food Assistance Center’s Plot Against Hunger program.
-Johnisha M. Levi