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The Ashby Inn, Paris, Virginia - Neal and Star Wavra Have Departed As Innkeepers, Chef David Dunlap Replaces Tarver King

Paris Inn Modern American Built in 1829 Wines Farm to Table Local and Seasonal Bed and Breakfast Separate 4-Room Inn for Let Patio

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#101 LauraB

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Posted 12 March 2014 - 01:39 PM

The Ashby Inn just posted on their FB page that Neal and Star Wavra are leaving the Ashby. There was no mention of where they're going. This is a huge loss -- Neal is a fantastic GM and Sommelier and they are both lovely people. They will be greatly missed. Wishing them well wherever their path takes them.

#102 Joe H

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Posted 12 March 2014 - 09:57 PM

From their Facebook page:

 

Dear Guests, Friends, and Colleagues,

After four plus years at the Ashby, our time has come to an end. We remain committed to all of you and regret not having the opportunity to say goodbye in person. Know you have our sincerest gratitude for the many wonderful experiences we shared and the memories we will cherish. We look forward to what the future may hold and hope it includes connecting with all of you again soon. 

Fondly,

Neal & Star



#103 Joe H

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Posted 12 March 2014 - 10:09 PM

I cannot tell you how much we loved the Ashby Inn.  Because of Neal.  Just an incredible loss:  this was a Great restaurant and a Great Inn.  And, for me, he was the primary reason. He drove it, he made it, he made our nights when we visited.  He was also a huge champion of the Virginia countryside and Virginia wine.  He directed the Ashby Inn into becoming one of the best restaurants in the mid Atlantic.

 

And, he was managing partner.  Their note says  they "regret not having the opportunity to say goodbye in person."  

 

Neal, please let us know wherever you are going.

 

I will toast you tomorrow night with a bottle of Granite Heights Humility '10.  If you read this I have two bottles left and would love to share one with you.  I even know where....

 

I'd also throw in a bottle of something from Walla Walla.



#104 DonRocks

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Posted 12 March 2014 - 10:28 PM

Neal, please let us know wherever you are going.

 

Yes, please, Neal. You were the greatest GM / innkeeper / whatever-the-term-is that I can think of. Your name is not mentioned on the Ashby Inn voice mail. I have such respect for you that you simply cannot believe. 

 

One thing people may not realize is the depth with which Neal knew Virginia wines. He is perhaps the only person to know more about them than Dave MacIntyre - Neal is a world-class expert, and his loss is devastating, just at the sommelier level, to The Ashby Inn. 

 

I'm so sorry, but honestly? I'm sorry for myself. 

 

My blessings, my kindest regards, and my support and very best wishes for whatever you do. Even though I've never seen you outside of The Ashby Inn, Neal, I am your close friend whether you know it or not - someone you and Star can call on first whenever you need them. I promise you I'll always be there for you.

 

Your friend,

Don


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#105 lion

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Posted 12 March 2014 - 11:51 PM

That's sad news. Look forward to hearing about Neal's next venture. 



#106 nealwavra

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Posted 13 March 2014 - 08:44 AM

Don and Friends,

 

Star and I are very moved by your sentiments.  We cannot thank you enough for the support.  We are gratified beyond words to know that our efforts at The Ashby were so well received. The Ashby will forever be a special place for us.  After four plus years of spending nearly every waking hour with The Ashby, we will be taking some time to tip the scales in the favor of family and some r & r. We have a couple of projects that we intend on devoting some time and attention to and will share them in due course.  I remain committed and very interested in promoting the VA wine industry and will continue to seek a role in this arena.  I will also be joining John Shields and Karen Urie for their monthly restaurant, Riverstead, located in Chilhowie, VA, which is set to debut in May.  John, Karen and I worked together at Charlie Trotters years ago and I look forward to working with them again.

 

We love this site and will keep you updated here.  You can also find us on facebook and twitter.

 

neal & star


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#107 B.A.R.

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Posted 13 March 2014 - 11:20 AM

My last meal at Ashby was very good. The dinner was extraordinary. Neal Wavra was the reason our dinner was far greater than what we merely ate and drank.

 

he setting was lovely. The dinner was impeccably prepared. The wines were well sourced and interesting. But Neal tied it all together and made it truly special.

 

Best of luck to them both (not that people this talented need luck).


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#108 lggl

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Posted 13 March 2014 - 12:27 PM

This news makes me terribly sad.  Thank you to the Wavra's for their tremendous hospitality over the last few years.  Thank you Neal for opening my eyes to wines I never would have tried.  I always looked forward to pleasant chats with you in our visits to the restaurant.  Your wine dinners were always entertaining and something we were very much looking forward to this spring and summer.  I trust the staff you leave behind will carry on your good work.  Best of luck to both of you in your new ventures.  



#109 Joe H

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Posted 13 March 2014 - 07:22 PM

Don and Friends,

 

Star and I are very moved by your sentiments.  We cannot thank you enough for the support.  We are gratified beyond words to know that our efforts at The Ashby were so well received. The Ashby will forever be a special place for us.  After four plus years of spending nearly every waking hour with The Ashby, we will be taking some time to tip the scales in the favor of family and some r & r. We have a couple of projects that we intend on devoting some time and attention to and will share them in due course.  I remain committed and very interested in promoting the VA wine industry and will continue to seek a role in this arena.  I will also be joining John Shields and Karen Urie for their monthly restaurant, Riverstead, located in Chilhowie, VA, which is set to debut in May.  John, Karen and I worked together at Charlie Trotters years ago and I look forward to working with them again.

 

We love this site and will keep you updated here.  You can also find us on facebook and twitter.

 

neal & star

 

I sincerely believe it will literally be a life's memory to visit you and the Shields at Riverstead.  Neal, for us, an experience to talk about in the nursing home!  An incredible, dream partnership that I hope someone reading this will appreciate, understand and consider bringing to D. C.  

 

There is nowhere else on earth than I would like to be except in Chilhowie this spring or summer.  



#110 Keithstg

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Posted 16 June 2014 - 01:57 PM

When planning to dine out our way, there used to be a very simple solution – just walk down to the Ashby. However, since the recent shift at the Inn, we have been much more reluctant to head over, mostly because friends of ours are no longer there. That said, the Inn is still within walking distance, and we still want to support our friends who remain, so we headed over Thursday night.

There have been some changes to the menu at the Inn – now the “snacks” that were once available on the ala carte menu are only available with the tasting menu. We always enjoyed starting our meals at the Inn with a few of the snacks and a drink before ordering the rest of our meal – oh well.

The ala carte menu now consists of first and second courses, with a dessert menu presented after second courses, and there are new menu covers. Fortunately, the wine list has not changed substantively in our two visits since Neal and Star’s departure.

We both started with the octopus carpaccio, which we first had on Chef Dunlap’s tasting menu back in March. I think that this is a great dish, with the octopus benefitting from a spicy chorizo vinaigrette which punched up the flavor profile considerably.

For mains, we had a roast duck with green curry risotto (me), and a “roast” (sous vide, then crisped?) chicken with ramp pasta for my wife. We enjoyed both our entrees – the duck was perfectly cooked and the green curry risotto was a good accompaniment, albeit less intense in curry flavor than I expected. I didn’t get a chance to try any of my wife’s chicken, but she enjoyed the ramp pasta most of all. One quibble – both dishes were somewhat lukewarm – I expect the meat to have rested and therefore not be piping hot, but this did stick out to me.

Since it was my wife’s birthday she had two desserts – a basil semifreddo, which she loved, and a chocolate cake which she was less enamored of. I had the cheese course, which was fine.

All in all, an enjoyable meal.  Certainly not the same as when Neal and Star were there – they are irreplaceable, and their departure is a huge loss for both the Inn and the village as a whole. However, what may have been lost in the transitions is that Chef Dunlap is still turning out excellent food in a beautiful setting.



#111 ALargeFarva

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Posted 18 June 2014 - 12:43 PM

I went to the Ashby Inn for dinner with my fiancee this past weekend.  This was our first time there, so I can't compare it to how it was when Tarver King was there.  The inn is beautiful and they have a dozen or so tables out back under a tent, which was perfect for an 80 degree June day without much humidity.

 

After some confusion, we each ordered the tasting menu.  My fiancee is pescatarian and so, 99% of the time the kitchen will just replace the two or three meat dishes with veggie or fish/seafood dishes.  The server was caught off-guard by the pescatarian/vegetarian request.  I called to inform them but nobody answered during normal business hours and I guess they didn't listen to the voicemail.  If I recall correctly, they only had one entree without meat on the entire menu.  However, they had a few appetizers which would have worked fine.  The server told us that the kitchen said we would be better off ordering a la carte since it would be too difficult to substitute the two dishes.  And, since they require the entire table to order the tasting menu, that I wouldn't be able to order it since my fiancee couldn't.  Well, we came to Ashby Inn to try the tasting menu.  After seeing my disappointment, the server went back to the kitchen for the third time and it turns out they would be able to accommodate us.  It was a odd situation that I haven't encountered before.  We've probably done this at 20+ restaurants and none of them ever had an issue.

 

On to the food.  In short, the food received a passing grade but I won't go back again.  Not because it was terrible but it was underwhelming and there are too many other good restaurants -- including several that offer a much better value than their $99 tasting menu.  Each element of each dish was cooked and/or prepared properly but the food combinations seemed somewhat random, rather than complementary and well-thought out.

 

The tasting menu began with snacks - three pastries served on a slate board.  One was a parmesan reggiano donut, another I think was a blue cheese fritter and I think the third was a puff pastry with a milder cheese.  They were pretty good, although it felt strange starting a tasting menu off with these very heavy and rich snacks.

 

Next was a radish, cucumber, grape and juniper salad.  The radishes were very fresh.  My fiancee's radishes were mild and pretty tasty.  Mine were very pungent and bitter.  I guess if you like really strong radishes, they'd be great but they needed the edge taken off them in my opinion.

 

Next was a dish I'm still trying to wrap my head around.  If you love broccoli, you might like their broccoli variations dish.  It was cooked broccoli, pickled broccoli, broccoli tempura, and pureed brocolli and what I think was dehydrated crumbled broccoli.  That's it.  No seasoning, no sauce, just broccoli.  If it was up to me, they would take this off the menu and never mention it again.

 

Next up was chicken liver mousse with pine nut, raisin and honey.  There wasn't anything noteworthy about it.  It tasted like every other good chicken liver mousse I've had.  I didn't think the pine nut, raisin and honey added much to it but I can see how some people might.  I think it could have used a little more salt.

 

Next up was a grilled quail leg, served with what they called an herb sauce (which was similar to a green chutney) and an incredibly sweet strawberry whipped cream-like concoction that would have been delicious by itself.  I didn't think either of the sauces paired well with the quail.  The quail was fine, but it definitely needed some more flavor.

 

Next up was salmon with quinoa.  Probably the best thing we had.  The salmon was well cooked and had a nice crispy skin.  It was served with the best quinoa I've ever had.  I've viewed quinoa as one of those things that's good for you but doesn't taste like much and has too dry a texture.  I'd love to know their secret to cooking it, because it was genuinely good.  It was soft and fluffy and had a good flavor to it.

 

Next up was pork with bbq sauce and corn bread gnocchi.  The pork was well-cooked.  The bbq sauce was quite good but I might not have included something so powerful with the dish.  The corn bread gnocchi was just fine, but a bit dry and didn't have much flavor to it.

 

The blueberry sorbet was good but I generally prefer something less sweet and more acidic as a palate cleanser.

 

Dessert was quite good.  Pineapple upside down cake with sassafras ice cream.  It didn't blow me away but it was good.

 

The service was very good but the food didn't wow either of us.


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#112 Bart

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Posted 12 August 2014 - 03:35 PM

Bottom line up front:  The Ashby Inn is as good as it ever was and there’s no reason you shouldn’t eat there tonight!!  As onetime food critic Homer Simpson once said, “Seven thumbs up!”

 

Background:  For the last 5 years or so in early August, my wife and I have had a midweek dinner at the Ashby Inn and we always get the tasting meal.  This was our first visit under the new chef (David Dunlap) and you’d never know there was a change in the kitchen.  The menu was every bit as inventive and special (and tasty) as in any of our previous visits.  The only thing we noticed that was different was the service.  There was nothing wrong with it, but it wasn’t quite as polished and it didn’t rise to the exquisite heights of “The Neal Years”.  That said, it was a perfect meal and a great night.

 

Setting:  Like I said before, we’ve been coming here in early August for the last 5 years or so and we always sit outside on the porch.  This may be the most beautiful setting in all of Virginia, if not the entire US!  You look out onto a beautiful flower garden to a field beyond that is dotted with grazing cows and flying birds.  You can’t help feeling relaxed and tranquil here as the only sounds you hear are birds and (later) crickets.

 

ashby wine.jpg

 

Food:  We did the tasting menu ($99) and it was as good (possibly better) as any one we had under Tarver King.  We skipped the wine pairings ($60) and ordered bottles instead.  We started with a wonderful dry rosé and then switched to a red Bordeaux.  For the red, we couldn’t decide between two different wines and the sommelier actually advised us to pick the cheaper one!  Yeah!

 

Here’s what we had:

 

Assorted Doughnuts – Sort of a bread and cheese course.   There were three little “doughnuts” with three different cheeses.  One looked like a tiny glazed doughnut that was dusted with parmesan cheese.  The next was shaped like a tiny éclair (no frosting on top) and was filled with bleu cheese which was very light and airy, almost like a mousse.  This was my favorite.  And the third was a sort of fluffy cheese puff.

 

Chilled Watermelon Soup, Smoked Pork Tongue, Feta, Marjoram – This was one of those dishes where there is a bunch of “stuff” in the bottom of the bowl and they pour the soup over it at the table.  Very nice presentation and lots of interesting flavors.  In fact, that could be said about every dish – beautiful to look at, and layers and layers of flavor.  (Best dish so far)

 

Tomato and Grilled Tomatillo Salad, Tequila, Cilantro – good, no strong memory

 

Crudo of Yellow Fin Tuna, Sweet Corn, Lime, Serrano Ham – lots of great flavors in addition to the fish.  I could have eaten 3 or 4 more of this.  (Best dish so far)

ashby tuna.JPG

Ricotta Stuffed Squash Blossom, Heirloom Tomato, Tarragon, Lemon, Cucumber – good, no strong memory

 

Branzini, Dashi, Pickled Maitake Mushrooms – this was another dish where all the “stuff” was in the bowl and they poured the dashi over and around it at the table.  Wow!  The fish and ‘shrooms were great, but the dashi really elevated this dish.  Amazing flavor. “Can I get a gallon to go, please?”  (Best dish so far)

 

Pekin Farm Duck Breast, Green Curry Risotto, Carrots, Turnips – another dish with lots of interesting things happening.  I’m not a huge fan of curry (read: avoid it when possible) and turnips and carrots are not my favorite vegetables but they all worked as a wonderful bed for the duck breast which was the real star of the dish.  It had it all:  crispy golden skin, a nearly liquid fatty layer and a succulent piece of meat.  My only complaint is that it wasn’t 5 times as big!  (Tied with the Branzini for the best dish of the night)

 

Next was a sort of sorbet (???) popsicle that wasn’t listed on the menu which transitioned into the desserts. 

 

Basil Semi Freddo, Poached Rhubarb, Elderflower, Meringue – that’s what the menu said, but the photo shows some thinly sliced peaches in there too.  A fine dessert (but I’d rather have another piece of duck!)

 

Mignardises – not sure what that means, but we got a couple small meringue puffs and a couple small bites of cake topped with blueberries and strawberries.  (edit – I used the google and found out that it means mini desserts……………..very true!)

 

I’m obviously not great at evocative descriptions of the food, so I’ll close by saying it was a wonderfully serene meal that was every bit as good as any Ashby meal we’ve had.  I’ve spent a lot of time over the last week thinking about it and going, “ahhhhh”.  If you’re looking for a beautiful dinner in a beautiful setting, head to Paris immediately!   

 

PS – I just checked this week’s menu and it looks to be 50-60% different from the one we had (which makes me want to go back ASAP!)

 

(Retweet this please.)


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#113 Bart

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Posted 25 August 2014 - 03:46 PM

Here's a copy of the August 7, 2014 menu per Don's request.

 

ashby inn menu 2014.JPG







Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: Paris, Inn, Modern American, Built in 1829, Wines, Farm to Table, Local and Seasonal, Bed and Breakfast, Separate 4-Room Inn for Let, Patio

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