There’s a new kind of creature in town, and it’s called the locavore. It prefers to surround itself in a sustainable, organic habitat, subsisting on locally grown foods, and leaving the slightest carbon footprint as could be. The recently opened Woodberry Kitchen is a watering spot where you can find a handful of these creatures on any given night. More than a handful really, because this gem of a restaurant is almost always packed. And certainly justified, as the quality and freshness of the menu selections are beyond reproach.
Seasonality and locale are the key factors that determine what items make their way onto this forthright and uncomplicated menu. From snacks to oysters to supper, local greens and free range meats are well highlighted. What is refreshing is that every ingredient has a story to tell, of where and whence it came from, of how it was treated during its lifetime, and the few and proud hands it passed through to land on your plate. There’s a true and bright transparency to them, and to the mission of the creators of Woodberry Kitchen. What results is a unique approach to the dinnertable, linking us to a community of farmers and producers, and ultimately reinvigorating the most apathetic of palates.
And so, for Mr.S’s very recent birthday dinner, I (very difficultly) made a reservation at this hotspot in Clipper Mill. We instantly felt the energy of the place, the warmth and vibrance that was felt in every corner. There are spectacular views of the whole restaurant and the open kitchen from the lofted areas on the second floor, which is where we found ourselves, happily admiring all the antique pieces on display throughout the place. Our server brought us a hunk of artisan bread from a communal cart, which was delicious (the bread, not the cart).
My apple martini was unlike anything I’ve had. Forget about the green apple Pucker and scary alien glow! Woodberry infuses their own apple vodka for this drink, making it wonderfully layered in taste and quite potent. Mr.S had the Wolaver organically brewed IPA, which was good, if you’re into hoppy beers. We had a hard time deciding on starters. I wanted the Buchanan Valley pears with buckwheat honey and the deviled eggs; he wanted the pork buns with onion relish. We compromised on the pear and goat cheese flatbread, and the roasted beets salad.
The beets were tender and sweet, topped with a quenelle of whipped goat cheese, as light as mousse. The flatbread really made our night, if not our whole week. Phenomenally delicate from the brick oven, it was topped with sweet pears, a sprinkling of chevre, and fresh basil. It was difficult, but I had to let him have the last piece… it was his birthday, after all.
My cast-iron roast chicken was a little fella from Springfield Farms, juicy with perfectly crispy skin, tucked into a pile of creamy grits and swiss chard. I was disappointed it hadn’t arrived at the table in a cast-iron pan; it’d have made for a much better presentation. Albeit, the meat was savory and tender, and tasted like a chicken should. Mr.S’s “kitchen burger” was good as well, and the onion jam it came with was wonderfully caramelized. The fries came in a small paper pouch and were just so-so. An added plus were the red onions on the plate. Instead of being raw, they were pickled, a perfect complement to the beef.
We skipped dessert, since there was a nice big Jewish apple cake waiting for us at home. There were an assortment of specials that night, including lemon semolina pudding cake, black tea ice cream, and burnt orange sorbet.
In addition to the meat dishes, Woodberry offers a good selection for vegetarians. There are salads to start, crisp cheesy flatbreads, roast vegetables with cheddar dumplings, shellbeans and gold rice, amongst others. It was one of the better meals we’ve had in a long time, both comforting and refreshing at the same time. This whole eating local trend is a good thing, a much needed movement if we want to see our own food chains within our communities grow and strengthen. And the food tastes like it should, which is quite revelatory. So let’s not make it a trend, because that would be tragically hip, wouldn’t it? Let’s support it and the people who are part of the chain; there’s a strong moral fiber that holds it all together. Jump on the locavore wagon; it’s a delicious ride.