Town House

Town House in Chilhowie got plenty of buzz from the New York Times and Washington Post. But who in their mind would schlep more than 5 hours (I'm talking past Roanoke) to eat what the proprietors call "destination dining."  Us!

What we ate is similar to what others have had.

The course selections at Town House varied between 1-3, 4, and ten, but we were told we could get pretty much however many we want.  We ended up going with 10 just to say hey, we're on vacation, let's celebrate.  Why not?

It was a really interesting meal that was an adventure, but I can't say that the majority of dishes made me crave more.  I was more like hmm, what an interesting flavor/combination/texture.  In two cases I really didn't dig what I ate--both involved a little too much "essence of the sea" for me.  Part of it is that I don't have the most sophisticated palate (why must I be so self-depracating?).  I'm just looking for good eats.

I appreciate what the chefs are doing at Town House--there is no doubt that they are on the cutting edge of culinary creativity.  They are bravely playing with flavors (and nitrogen) in a way that would scare a lot of people, but it's cool.  The service was amazing, another group at the restaurant was super-friendly and chatty (even gave us some Asheville recommendations), and we did indeed see the chefs' faces (ahem, where are you Jose Andres???).  Maybe if we're ever driving to North Carolina again we'll go back.  We'll definitely recommend the exciting adventure to friends (at least those who are up to it).  I'll label the dishes below and note the favorites. 

No food in this picture, just an action shot of downtown Chilhowie, population 1,746, right across from the restaurant.

I don't have a photo of the amuse, but it was the black olive cookie sandwich with a lemony olive oil inside, and grated parm-reg on top. It was wonderful.

 Chilled vegetable "minestrone."  We liked this light broth with fresh, thinly rolled vegetables.  And it was beautiful

Brulee of Smoked Salmon Roe.  The description says "coconut, mustard, avocado and banana, celery, cilantro confit, and let me tell you, I was not looking forward to this.  But the surprise was that I really liked this dish--it might have been my favorite.  It was sweet and salty, the crunchy glass-like top contrasted with the soft squishier inside, and it was just fun.  Party in the mouth.  Not fishy at all.

The Orange from Valencia.  OK.  This I don't know about--there were cold mussels and other items inside this orangey orange-shaped hollow shell.  It was interesting, but not for me.

Foie Gras Butter.  Watermelon radish, hazelnut, dark ale, lovage, rye.  Not as exciting as it sounds.

 OMG.  These piping hot black pepper potato rolls were AMAZING.  Seriously, they appeared mid-meal and our server was all, "would you like more?" and we were like, "do birds have wings?"  I would love the recipe for these and then I'd just keep trying it until it worked.

I don't have a photo of the Scrambled Egg Mousse with birch syrup & sweet spices, but I rather liked it.  It was like a foamy pureed omelet, but not in a gross way, and it was kind of sweet, served in a martini-ish glass if my memory serves me right.  I definitely liked it, but didn't need quite so much.  One or two spoonfuls would have sufficed.

 Chorizo Boillon ("with various Spanish influences").  This dish (described here) confused me.  The broth was good, and then there were all these little bits--cheese, chorizo oil, cuttlefish, ink (!).  Let's just say I found out the hard way that ink is NOT for me. J liked this dish.  I get parts of it--the cuttlefish melts in your mouth--for a second you think, was that fish or cheese?

Ah, the sea.  Cured Hamachi & Bev Eggleston's Pig Tail.  This is the dish that scared me the most just from the name.  But so did the brulee of smoked salmon roe, and that turned out fine!  So I'm glad I didn't cross both off the list by judging on the names, but I ended up splitting the difference--liked the roe, but didn't care for this one.

Thorntree Farms Lamb.  Why not?  I bet I would have loved this lamb if I hadn't already been stuffed to the gills.  After eating so much I almost felt sick (I don't remember feeling this way at Citronelle, but maybe the portions were smaller and spaced out further??? Anyone?)

Foggy Ridge's Pomme Gris.  Similar technique to the hollowed "Valencia Orange" but this time it was actually dessert--phew.  A spicy but creamy chocolateyness was on the inside ("aerated milk chocolate, yellow curry, roasted peanut, cumin") but the frozen shell just didn't do it for me.  I didn't want something so cold.

I don't have a photo of my favorite dessert (and favorite dish??), Purple Mountains: latte, anise seed, black sesame oil, yogurt, poached fig.  It was rustic looking and richly delicious.  A perfect note to end on.

Chefs love their nitrogen.

Town House
Town House Blog (Just because you won't be back for a while doesn't mean you want to miss out on the new creations--they are like art.)
132 E. Main Street
Chilhowie, VA (Note to the city slickers: if you think Ballston is far, you ain't seen nothing yet.)


  1. Looks so fun... if nothing else it seemed to be quite the culinary experience!

  2. Definitely fun. I dream of those rolls...

  3. THe Town House Grill is two hours past Roanoke and well worth the drive.