The Staunton Grocery

Timing and Taste

Since 2007, my wife Mary Catherine and I have wanted to eat at the Staunton Grocery.  We decided that our tenth anniversary was as good a time as any to try this esteemed eatery, located on Beverly Street in downtown Staunton.  A good date:  the four o’clock showing of “Julie and Julia” at the Dixie whetted our appetite for a great meal, followed by a trip to Kline’s Dairy Bar.

We showed up a little after our six-fifteen reservation, greeted with a kind “hello” from Kyle Boatwright, the general manager.  He looked like he was expecting us, recognizing our name, which was nice.  Our table was small and intimate, right in the middle of the room, but it still seemed like we had our own little corner.  The brick walls, wooden wine racks, tin ceiling, and antique armoires created a fine dining atmosphere.  Mary Catherine faced the huge picture window into the kitchen, which gave the illusion of being able to see all the action, but in reality, she couldn’t see much.  It’s still cool.

Our server, Steve, was unobtrusive, but carried on just enough conversation to show that he cared.  I mentioned it was our anniversary and minutes later he brought us two complimentary glasses of an Argentinean sparkling wine.  We split an aperitif, a Doubonnet Rouge, and my ignorance of fine wine showed its ugly head when I popped my eyes at the red wine in a highball glass with ice and a lemon rind…but it sure did taste good, complementing our appetizers perfectly.  And, hey, if it’s good enough for the Queen of England, it certainly worked for us.

And what a meal we ate.  The taste.  The food was sublime.  All the talk about local is boiled down to its essence at the Staunton Grocery.  From the amuse-bouche to the last cup of coffee, I have two words for you: AMA-ZING.  The ingredients to our root vegetable salad found their way to the plate from that morning’s farmer’s market.  The rib-eye I devoured used to eat grass in a field in the valley.  The sous-chefs made Mary Catherine’s fettuccini that afternoon, as well as the Japanese pumpkin tortellini. Chef  Ian Boden creates lasting tastes with few ingredients.  The glass of Cinon 2006 from the Loire Valley we shared was perfect.  Their wine list includes these descriptors: vibrant, expressive, supple, bold, sumptuous, and includes wines as far-flung as Virginia, Austria, Australia, France, California, Italy, Argentina, and New Zealand.  And they make in-house sodas, too—key lime, ginger, lemon, orange, and vanilla.  Crazy.

The chocolate soup with orange zest and cinnamon doughnuts tasted like heaven in a teacup.  Mary Catherine’s peanut and quince crème brulee (the PB & J) was not to our tastes, but that’s our shortcoming, not the dessert’s.  All the other desserts looked great, and Steve even served me a taste of the green apple sorbet that usually accompanies the pecan tart.  We would have tried them all, but we had to save room for our trip to Kline’s Dairy Bar.

Let’s talk about timing, as the tastes blossomed under the timing’s tutelage (Wow. That’s terrible).  The servers at the Grocery work effortlessly, which means they work hard, because we know that if something looks easy, it’s not.  We never had to wait for anything too long.  Courses came out in perfect concert with each other.  If another server walked by and saw that we needed bread or water, they would take care of it.  Same with clearing dishes.  No fuss.  Steve talked with us amiably and casually, but maintained an air of respect for our privacy.  If we needed something, he brought it quickly (even when Mary Catherine asked for salt, of all things—he brought us black sea salt, reassuring her that it was okay to ask.  And when I left for the bathroom, he folded my napkin on the table for me in a neat triangle).  Classy.

Check the restaurant’s website and notice how they resonate with Nelson County, donating to causes from Habitat for Humanity to Wintergreen Performing Arts.  Take a ride over the mountain and enjoy a wonderful afternoon in Staunton, capping it off with a fine dining experience.  The Staunton Grocery lives in my top five meals of all time.  I can’t wait to go back.  http://www.stauntongrocery.com

 

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