This weekend we had the pleasure of dining at Trummer's on Main in the charming little town of Clifton, Virgina. Trummer's has received a tremendous amount of attention in the last few years. In 2010, Executive Chef Clayton Miller was named one of the Best New Chefs by Food & Wine magazine. That same year, Bon Appetit dubbed it one of the hot new romantic getaways in North America. In 2012, Washingtonian magazine named Trummer's one of the 100 Very Best Restaurants in DC, and a restaurant on the rise.
Clayton Miller has an impressive background, with experience cooking at Daniel, The French Laundry, and more recently opening the first expansion of Norman's at the Ritz-Carlton in Orlando. Miller is reportedly happy in his new Virginia locale, and was the co-designer of his current kitchen. He sources much of the produce on his menu from local Shenandoah Valley farms.
We arrived at the restaurant about 30 minutes early so we could grab a cocktail before dinner. The mixologists at Trummer's have crafted a short and thoughtful list of specialty drinks that do not disappoint. If you're lucky enough to grab one of the handful of seats at the bar, you are in for a show. Watch as your bartenders muddle bright green herbs, crush ice into fine powder, and strain freshly pressed juices and syrups to create stunning sips in pretty glasses. The restaurant's signature drink, the Titanic, a mix of grape vodka, muddled grapes, and champagne sounded good, but sweet. Thus, we opted for the Sage (Plymouth gin, elderflower liquor, and lots of crushed fresh sage) and the William Saunders (Bullet bourbon, Dolin sweet vermouth, and chocolate bitters, garnished with homemade maraschino cherries). The Sage was fresh and bright, and we both agreed it would be an awesome summer sipper. The William Saunders was a nice rift on a classic Manhattan, rich and subtly sweet, with added depth from the chocolate bitters.
We decided to pair our cocktails with the house made chips, served warm with a curry mayo dipping sauce. The chips, cut paper thin were addicting and not super filling. The warm spice from the curry mayo was a perfect contrast to the whisper thin, and oh so crunchy potato crisps.
When we were seated for dinner upstairs, we were greeted by our friendly server and handed flour-dusted ciabatta rolls with soft salted butter. Trummer's offers a tasting menu, so long as the whole table participates. An optional wine pairing with the menu is also offered. We asked our server to give us a rundown of the five courses and she politely went and checked with the chefs to see what Saturday's menu would entail. After hearing what would be on the tasting menu (snails and pork, to name a couple of the featured items), we decided that a few of the offerings on the regular menu were calling out to us.
For the first course, Mike selected the scallop tempura. The sea scallop was tender and perfectly cooked through, enveloped in a light shell of a crust. The plate was dressed with colorful watermelon radish, well-seasoned spaghetti squash, and ponzu butter--a memorable first impression.
I selected the oyster stew, which was both rich and flavorful. The stew was studded with perfectly cooked shrimp and oysters, enhanced with the mellow sweet smoky flavor of caramelized onions, and flecked with freshly cracked pepper. A thin parmesan crisp hovered over the dish, providing a textural contrast to the warm, velvety stew.
The portions at Trummer's are quite generous, so be forewarned that you will want to go hungry. Between courses, I slipped away to visit the wine cellar and peek around the other rooms of the restaurant.
For our main courses, Mike chose the strip steak and I chose the chilean sea bass. The strip was perfectly cooked as we had requested, medium rare, and served with three sauces: a dijon bearnaise, a tangy acidic steak sauce, and a house made ketchup. I was excited to try the ketchup, hoping it would be a huge departure from the sickly sweet red stuff I grew up with, but I still found it pretty sugar-laden. The steak sauce was nice and paired well with the steak, but the bearnaise really tickled my palate, dotted with whole mustard grains that added balance to an otherwise overly decadent sauce. The steak was topped with matchstick potatoes, flash fried until they practically shattered. Alongside the steak, mushrooms sauteed in plenty of butter and fresh herbs inhabited a cocotte pulled straight from the oven.
The sea bass was topped with a tower made of two enormous onion rings. Below the tower sat a beautiful piece of fish, flaky and moist with a pan-seared surface. The fish perched on a bed of braised oxtail that seemed to melt on the tongue. The dish was both delicate and hearty, all in one. Though the oxtail shreds were meaty, savory, and cooked until so tender that they barely stay on the fork, the fish was the star of this show, as it should have been.
We couldn't leave Trummer's without trying the desserts. Mike was drawn to the chocolate banana torte and the popcorn ice cream caught my eye. The pastry chef at Trummer's is having just as much fun as any of the other chefs, it would seem. There were a handful of intriguing desserts, tarts and chocolate alike, but there were also three churned desserts, a carefully selected menu of ice creams.
Mike's chocolate banana dessert was a work of art, a swipe of caramel and hazelnuts was painted below the cold banana custard. Shards of chocolate were placed on top. Beside the torte was a single scoop of hazelnut ice cream and chocolate crumbles.
The popcorn ice cream was buttery and sweet, evoking the sensation of the common movie theater snack in a way I've never experienced it. It was adorned with a sliver of caramel popcorn, flash frozen with liquid nitrogen. "Break off a piece with your hands," our waiter encouraged. The three scoops of ice cream sat atop a buttery sable cookie that yielded under the weight of my spoon.
We had a lovely evening at Trummer's and were so full of good food and wine upon leaving. The staff is friendly, unpretentious, and thoughtful. Should you find yourself in or near Clifton, this place if worth the trip. It's a fun and special place in an unassuming location. I'd go back just for cocktails, or at least use their cocktail menu to inspire creations of my own.