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Riverstead (Formerly Town House), Chilhowie, VA - Chefs John and Karen Shields Have Reopened, GM Neal Wavra Comes From The Ashby Inn

Smyth County Chilhowie Modern American

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#101 Joe H

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Posted 03 March 2014 - 05:26 PM

Small world:  my mother was a waitress at Ben and Mary's for a couple of years in the mid '60's.  Serious.


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#102 southdenverhoo

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Posted 03 March 2014 - 06:26 PM

Small world:  my mother was a waitress at Ben and Mary's for a couple of years in the mid '60's.  Serious.

 

I hope she did OK--horse people of that era were legendarily cheap (with some notable and locally renowned exceptions) and the middle class folks--well my dad once gave me a stern talking-to in my late twenties over a 25% tip he saw me leave; I've never let him see any check I've paid since. He's a strict 15% man having been raised in the Depression, but compared to him a lot of the local entrenched/generational wealth tossed nickels around about as casually as if they were manhole covers.



#103 Joe H

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Posted 03 March 2014 - 07:22 PM

About the time that your dad was frugal in the Depression my mom took a job at the original Hot Shoppes at 14th and Park road.  She worked there until the mid '60's when she remarried and moved back to Bealeton where she grew up.  Ben and Mary's was her last job before retirement and she loved it.  I never lived in that area-when my mom remarried I stayed in Silver Spring where I grew up. 

 

It would be incredible if the Shields' would open where my mom had once worked.



#104 Joe H

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Posted 12 May 2014 - 11:00 AM

http://www.riverstead.com/  As of this morning they are now accepting reservations.  This is John and Karen Shields from Chilhowie's Town House Grill along with the Ashby Inn's Neil Wavra who are "reopening" for a total of six days in the Farmhouse that was associated with the Town House Grill.  Three days in June, three days in July.  Simply this is one of the Great dining destinations anywhere.  

 

There are also two rooms available in Riverstead.  Prices are $200 per person all inclusive for dinner.  $800 all inclusive for dinner for two, lodging and breakfast.  I am not sure if these prices include wine or if there is corkage.



#105 PappyVanWise

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Posted 12 May 2014 - 05:27 PM

June and July are one sale at Riverstead.   Now trying to figure out how much cereal I need to eat for dinner the next few months to make the August dinner.


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#106 DonRocks

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Posted 14 May 2014 - 02:29 AM

Hopefully John and Karen will become active here to keep us informed.


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#107 cocobinga

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Posted 17 May 2014 - 08:02 AM

I live within 150 miles of Riverstead. Needless to say, I'll be going at some point. I always lamented the fact that I didn't know about Town House until it was closed.


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#108 KMango

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Posted 18 May 2014 - 10:18 AM

Exciting news!  Cannot wait to hear how they thrive.

 

Per the website:  "For non-alcoholic beverages, we will offer vegetable and fruit juices..." 

 

I wonder if they mean straight-up juice bar beverages, or light and refreshing concoctions featuring freshly squeezed juices?  Hopefully the later.  From a pairing and satiation perspective, it's often better to have a glass of filtered water with a touch of watermelon and cucumber and fresh mint than it would be to have an entire glass of watermelon juice.

 

(so says kmango)

(who finds frozen kumquats diagonally halved, de-seeded, and bobbing about in a champagne flute of sparkling water)

(pairs amazingly well with many dishes)


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#109 nealwavra

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Posted 18 May 2014 - 09:29 PM

Greetings all, Neal Wavra here (formerly of The Ashby Inn). It has been some time since I contributed to this forum and I am pleased to note that Riverstead will launch officially in June. I will join John and Karen this weekend in Chilhowie to begin work on the menu and beverage offerings. For my part I will be putting together two wine pairings options. One will focus exclusively on the wines of the old dominion and the other will feature wines from the old world. I am looking forward to the opportunity to hone in on how best to support and accentuate the delicate and subtle that is found in their cuisine. Some courses will be very pure in their simplicity and others will have a depth derived from flavor developed over time through fermentations and the like or through the use of umami amplifying qualities. This arena will be a foray into pairing and matching that draws less from classic norms and more from a modern vanguard of food and wine affinity. Much to look forward to!
Neal

Oh and re the juices they will be more the latter than just straight juices.

Also RE Ben and Mary's I will mention it if only for the self serving benefit--I Iive 5 mins from there.
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#110 cocobinga

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Posted 23 May 2014 - 09:27 AM

Pricy (for me), but I dare not miss this opportunity. I'll be dining there next month. Prices include tax and gratuity, but a wine pairing is an additional $65, I do believe.



#111 Riverstead

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Posted 05 June 2014 - 11:13 AM

Hello everyone,

 

I want to personally thank you for the support over the years.We're excited to announce the opening of Riverstead!

 

If you haven't visited our website (www.riverstead.com), please do, as it "should" answer most of your questions about what we are trying to accomplish.

 

Aug & Sept dates are now available for booking and as we move forward, we'll start to increase the number of nights we're open. As of now, the June & July dates are fully reserved.

 

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask myself or my great friend & colleague Mr. Neal Wavra.

 

Thank you for welcoming us!

 

John Shields


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#112 johnb

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Posted 20 July 2014 - 10:59 PM

Just a quick update. Janet and I dined at Riverstead this evening. About 14 courses of cutting edge preparations somewhat reminiscent of Alinea but, I would say, less theatrical and more substantial. Rather than the wine pairing that Neal spoke of above we brought along a couple Pomerols from home, one to drink and a backup just in case. The first was fine, but we went ahead and opened the second to share around the room.

There were 13 in attendance, including Tony Conte (chef at the Oval Room) with his wife and a sous chef, and Trevor Moran, the new chef at Catbird Seat in Nashville (formerly sous chef at Noma in Copenhagen) with a group of four others, so it's apparent Riverstead is generating a lot of interest in the industry.

John and Karen are the two nicest people you could ever hope to meet -- Neal too. We had a great time. Lovely Karen is about to increase the family size by one.

Most importantly for all in DC, John and Karen are still actively looking for a location in the area.
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#113 jca76

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Posted 21 July 2014 - 01:12 AM

Deterred by the 350 mile drive, we'd never made it to Town House, ending up disappointed at the missed opportunity when it closed, and disappointed a second time when the DC project was put on hold.  We weren't going to miss the opportunity to attend one of the Riverstead dinners, which we did this past weekend.

 

Upon our arrival, we were immediately greeted warmly by Neil, whom we'd met previously when he was at the Ashby Inn.  (I would love to be a regular at a DC-based restaurant with John and Karen in the kitchen and Neil running the front of the house.)  Neil introduced us to Karen, who was the only one in the kitchen at that hour; main prep is done at the Town House space and then plastic wrapped and carted over around 4:30.  Given that she probably had lots of other things to finish up (not to mention that she's a month from giving birth!), I felt a bit bad about how long she spent standing around chatting with us, but we really enjoyed it.  (Thanks to a Kickstarter pledge, we were also able to spend a few hours on Sunday in the kitchen at Town House observing prep and generally pestering everyone with questions.  It was a great insight into the whole experience, and a lot of fun.) 

 

Big picture: we had some outstanding dishes, and an excellent experience.  I am glad we made the trek, and very excited to taste what they can do in a permanent restaurant setting.

 

We began the evening by enjoying the unseasonably pleasant weather -- thanks polar vortex! -- on the porch, where we were served a few canapes, including a delicious "sunchoke cannoli" of fried sunchoke skin filled with pureed sunchoke cream and topped with marigold petals.  (Marigolds are apparently in the same family as sunflowers, making their inclusion nicely thematic.)  The standout dish of the night was a seaweed-infused tomato water granita that got briny seasoning from sea grapes, trout roe, and dashi.  Fermented vegetable sourdough biscuits were accompanied by a fabulous butter mixed with Grayson cheese.  Desserts were outstanding:  A fascinating smear of rich, densely flavored beet fudge cake was topped with fresh mint, smokey embers ice cream -- made from infusing embers in the milk before churning -- and mint ash.  A combination of white chocolate and preserved carrot was paired with a gorgeous (in both appearance and flavor) salad including carrot flowers, lemon thyme, and purslane.

 

Other courses were less impressive -- although everything was enjoyable -- but our conversation with John on Sunday made clear that he has a great sense of the weaknesses and that many of the issues seem attributable to the kinks of this temporary format.  A last-minute replacement corn dish was a bit sweet; on Sunday John was tinkering it into a dessert.  A delicious combination of chard, roasted beet, slightly sour cooked raspberries, and grated preserved egg yolk felt a bit incomplete without a protein to replace duck heart omitted for our pescatarianism, although I imagine that this would be less likely to happen in a full restaurant than a set-menu pop-up.

 

Overnight guests are greeted in the morning by an array of cold breakfast items.  Homemade yogurt, blueberry chia seed compote, and granola made for a very good parfait, but the standout was a delicious chard and roasted spring onion crostata.  

 

Descriptions of everything we ate (and photos) on my blog.  


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#114 Cizuka Seki

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Posted 22 July 2014 - 08:31 PM

Deterred by the 350 mile drive, we'd never made it to Town House, ending up disappointed at the missed opportunity when it closed, and disappointed a second time when the DC project was put on hold.  We weren't going to miss the opportunity to attend one of the Riverstead dinners....

 
jca76, i feel the same way! and am very excited to dine at riverstead in october. thank you for the very thoughtful post. i have some vague notion of what to look forward to but you're the first to post a very thorough and thoughtful description of your experience.
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#115 Joe H

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Posted 22 July 2014 - 11:51 PM

I must add a comment about Neal Wavra and his participation in this.  My wife and I were viistors five times at the Ashby Inn, four when Tarver King was the chef and one when the chef de cuisine from the Inn at Little Washington took his place.  We passionately loved the Ashby Inn favoriing because of these men two birthdays and one anniversary.  I must also add from more than twenty years of heavy European travel, over time, I have eaten at more than 40 two Michelin star restaurants and 12 three stars-all over time.

 

Neal Wavra is as fine, as friendly and welcoming, as knowledgeable and reassuring as anyone that I met in any restaurant anywhere in Europe.  From Katherine Constant at Violon d'Ingres (the benchmark) to Schwarzwaldstube and Bareiss to Gagnaire and Ducasse to El Raco De Can Fabes to Le Calandre and Dal Pescatore and on and on and on.  Neal Wavra is the equal of anyone.  An absolute welcoming ambassador who presents a lifetime experience perhaps better than anyone on earth.

 

Then I could talk about his incredible knowledge as a world class sommelier (trained in Walla Walla),his successful operation of the Ashby Inn;  I can imagine "marrying" Neal with the proper chef for what would be a world class nightly adventure in Washington.  I deeply hope that someone considers this.  It is a direction that will greatly benefit the city and our perception around the country..  


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