It happens when two people wearing riding clothes see each other, same with two bicyclists meeting on the road. An automatic camaraderie is formed once acknowledged. As with any comrade you find out more in shorter period of time after cutting through the fluff, never more so than with Chefs.
Cooks talk to Cooks always have, but with a bit more vigor and veracity since meetings are very sporadic and rare.
Walking into the orderly, structured kitchen at the new West End Wine Pub and Bar in Purcellville, Chef Justin Garrison and I quickly grocked over our favorite knives (he prefers Japanese steel where I like my old German blades), the hardship of winter produce and we both share the excitement of seeing an entire ham salted and aging in his cooler.
First thing I notice after the kitchens cleanliness is several boxes of fresh vegetables lined up after a delivery, each marked with the name of the local farm each its from alone with the harvest date. Chef Justin has cultivated these relationships with his local farmers over the past 6 years.
I grab his new menu and we start to dig into how he formulates his food. One can quickly access that Chef Justin, professionally experienced and relatively self-trained, is adamant about putting out a product that is based on exceptional native ingredients.
Take the Smoked Brisket Sloppy Joe, and relatively common in high school lunches and of “Manwitch” fame but West End’s Sloppy Joe takes over 2 days for the ingredients to be prepared. The meat is prepared with a 48-hour dry rub, then braised and smoked for eight hours.
Or his Burger, Which he simply titles “The Burger” but uses beef dry aged for 24 days before its ground give you most likely, the freshest, highest quality hamburger around.
The new menu won’t disappointment. The drunken Mussels that are soused with sake and bathed in Miso Butter and lemon grass broth accompanied with the house bread all baked on premises. Also the Southern Croque Monsieur, which has Chef’s own pimento cheese, fried green tomatoes and house made prosciutto is something that will soon become a local favorite.
Chef seems to beam when talking about his Charcuterie platter and his cheese board; all made using local meats and cheeses. That was first for me to see. During my visit, he took delivery of a whole hog from Spring House Farm where he’ll utilize the entire animal. I observed the curing of two legs that will be their house prosciutto in 11 more months. Patience is a Chefs’ best attribute at times.
The menu will change seasonally as it should and from talking to Chef Justin, the excitement for the upcoming spring harvest is easily seen in his face.
The West End Wine Bar is not a reiteration of an old tired building. Humble in its décor, the downstairs is now a relaxed gastro-pub with multiple micro brews on tab while the upstairs is a conformable “Date Night” ambience with a wine list put together by Ellie Bufkin, the full time Sommelier who has painstakingly put together selections to match any pocket book or wine snobs palette. But the great thing is all the food; wines and beers are available on both levels. The focus is they want you to be comfortable where you sit and they want to feed you well. Not a bad paradigm.
After our conversation was reduce sharing kitchen war stories (Showing the scars on our hands and sharing of recipes etc.) You walk away with the understanding that Chef Justin Garrison is concern with each and every element that goes into his food, on to the plate and to the customer.
We don’t see that often enough around here.