Sunday, June 17, 2012

To Prove that Dining in Southwest Virginia…

is more than just chicken fried steak and biscuits and gravy, we set forth one noon to dine at the restaurant at Chateau Morrisette whose official address is Floyd, but to me, seems nearer to Meadows of Dan.

“Chateau Morrisette is the result of a love affair between the Morrisette family and the rural Virginia countryside. In 1978, William, Nancy and David Morrisette planted the first vines and the vision of Chateau Morrisette became a small reality…. Nancy Morrisette stated…that the winery began as a hobby that soon got out of hand.

“David Morrisette is a graduate of Mississippi State University’s first class in enology and viticulture. After a brief stint working for classmate Bob Burgin’s winery in Mississippi, David came home to Virginia and became Chateau Morrisette’s first official winemaker. In 1982, the first commercial wines were produced, a modest 2,000 gallons….Not long thereafter, Bob Burgin joined David at the winery…Bob had been winemaker at his family winery and with facilities in Tennessee and North Carolina…(and) was a perfect fit for the vision of Chateau Morrisette…” (

But we weren’t there to taste wine, so we headed directly to the restaurant. You enter into a large lobby area where, immediately to the left, stands an impressive wine bar with a beautiful copper bar top.

To the back of the lobby were comfortable sofas and chairs positioned in front of a fireplace; this would be a cozy spot to sit in the winter and sip a glass of wine before heading to your table. But we are past the season for cozy fires so instead of logs, the hearth contained a number of potted plants.

Out the back windows you could see a panoramic view of the Blue Ridge Mountain area.

In addition to the two indoor dining rooms located off both sides of the lobby, there was an outdoor dining patio that commanded the same scenic view.

After what seemed to be an extremely long wait for us, along with about six other parties, to be seated (the most visible of the dining rooms was only one-quarter full), we were finally led into a large—almost cavernous—high ceiling dining room.

At one end of the room was a large stone fireplace above which was a framed print extolling in French some form of “adult” beverage.

The lunch and dinner menu is the same. For those wanting a light meal, the menu offered two sandwiches, three salads, and eight appetizers. But most of the offerings were more substantial entrees.

We decided to start by sharing an appetizer and debated between the Crawfish Beignets (deep fried fritters with crawfish tails, tasso ham, and scallions served with tartar sauce) and the Crab Fondue (lump crabmeat in a Vidal Blanc cream sauce and served with pita points). The Crab Fondue won out and was a dish of sweet crab in a creamy

white wine sauce. In this case, the wine—Chateau Morrisette’s Vidal Blanc—is described on their website as: “Refreshing flavors of citrus and apples are augmented by grapefruit, melon and floral aromas. Medium-bodied and smooth, this vintage features a lengthy, aromatic finish. Very food-friendly; pairs well with a wide variety of grilled or roasted poultry and seafood.” I did think that the fondue could have benefited from a bit of salt and maybe some white pepper for “oomph,” but was delicious nonetheless.

For my entrée, I flirted with the Low Country Crabcakes, but finally settled on the Shrimp and Grits, which was described on the menu as “black tiger shrimp sautéed with tasso ham, andouille sausage, bell peppers, onion, and fresh tomatoes, finished with a light shrimp broth and served over smoked gouda grits…” This was an entirely different rendering of this quintessential Southern comfort dish. Usually, the shrimp are cooked in a butter sauce with some garlic and maybe some bacon. Here, the shrimp component more closely resembled a shrimp gumbo. I don’t know if the sauce had been roux thickened, but it sure resembled a Creole dish you would find in New Orleans. And the cheesy grits were sinfully rich and delicious. Garnishing the dish, was spicy pickled cauliflower—another non-traditional component but a tasty one.

Chuck had planned to order the strip steak—until he learned that they were out of strip steak. So instead, he chose the Classic Ribeye—a 10-ounce choice cut topped with black truffle butter and served with red jacket buttermilk mashed potatoes and the vegetable of the day.

The steak came medium rare as ordered and had the slightly charred surface that comes from open fire grilling. And while he was dubious—very dubious—about the truffle butter, he did admit that it was pretty good. What I have learned about Chuck and fungi-like food items is that he doesn’t really object to the taste. Just don’t ask him to eat one because he doesn’t like the chewy texture.

The mashed potatoes were very good—even to me. But what he kept raving about, and specifically commented to the server about, were the quick sautéed vegetables. The mélange of green beans, green and yellow squash, corn nuggets, and cherry tomato halves were so perfectly cooked that one could have made a meal of the veggies alone.

The restaurant at Chateau Morrisette is certainly pricey in comparison to other restaurants in the area. At those prices, I would expect to have been blown away by the entire meal. While everything was certainly good, the only really exceptional item was the vegetable mélange and for that reason this restaurant only received 4.5 Addies.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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