experiences

Pork Belly for Dessert and Other Wonderful Things at One Block West

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There are many reasons I love spending time out in the Shenandoah Valley, and One Block West in Winchester, VA is one of them! The restaurant was first recommended to me by my favorite Virginia winery who are friends with the chef. I was won over by the description of it being in downtown historic Winchester (one block west of the downtown) and the menu being decided by whatever the chef liked at the farmer’s market that day.

One Block West Winchester VA

For someone used to DC restaurant prices I find the menu an incredible value for fine dining. Appetizers are typically $7-$11 and entrees rarely more than $30. And the wine list! Amazing. Sometimes I think I should just come here for wine tasting since they have almost 70 bottles available by the glass. Decently priced, from wineries around the world that I’ve never heard of but wished I did!

When my Dad met me out in Winchester this weekend, I knew just where I wanted to take him. I’d seen One Block West had a recent innovation — a Chef’s Whim menu — 7 courses of whatever the chef felt like cooking for $65 and a wine pairing for $45. Knowing how great both the food and cellar was, I was as excited about this opportunity as I was going to City Zen and Mini bar, 2 of DC’s best (in my opinion) and most expensive restaurants ($200+). And my Dad never done a tasting menu or wine pairing before and he loves new experiences as much as I do, so the chance to be there for the first one was worth far more!

Keri Dad One block west wine tasting

The fun started with a glass of Adami Prosecco Valdobbiadene “Bosco di Gica” Brut, and I was curious to see what the accompanying first course would be.

Steak tartare served with gherkins and (local) egg in the shell. Apologies in advance –since the menu was literally whatever the chef wanted, nothing was written down and I can’t remember much of the exact descriptions.

One Block West Chef Whim Menu  Steak Tartare

It was amazing!

The second course started with Feffiñanes Albariño, a white that had lemon on the nose but had flavors of passion fruit on the tongue. And it paired perfectly with the razor clams served in a wine and garlic butter sauce.

One Block West Chef Whim Menu Razor Clams

Not a big clam person because of their rubbery texture, but this wasn’t clams. This was heaven! I was scraping the shell to get every tiny piece as if I didn’t still have 5 courses coming.

The third course was proscuitto wrapped rabbit with mustard greens and local goat cheese in a delicious sweet potato puree. I won’t bore you by going into raptures but WOW.

One Block West Chefs Whim proscuitto rabbit

It was paired with another of my favorite Viriginia wineries — the Linden Hardscrabble Chardonnay. My big problem with this course is I own a few bottles of the chardonnay, and I don’t know how I can drink them now without craving the rabbit.

The fourth course was almost my favorite. A puree of local mushrooms (maybe Maitake and Porcini — can’t remember all the kinds) served on toasted bread with garlic mushroom sauce and another mushroom aïoli. I wish I could remember all the details because this blew my mind. And it was perfectly paired with a Willamette Valley pinot noir from Ayres.

One Block West Chefs Whim mushroom puree

The 5th course was a surprisingly good, though I shouldn’t have been surprised by now, palate cleanser sorbet with apples, bourbon, and sour(?), which pleasantly removed all the mushroom and garlic flavors and left us ready for the next course.

One Block West Chefs Whim bourbon palate cleanser

And the next course was an Asian spiced pulled lamb with mustard greens and two types of rice — a coconut rice and a crispy rice with thai seasoning. I loved both, but the crispy rice was my favorite.

One Block West Chefs Whim asian spiced lamb

The last course was dessert, which didn’t come with a wine pairing so we took the server’s suggestion of what would go best (since the last course was still a mystery) and wound up with a glass of Raspberry Merlot from local Fabbioli Cellars which was not overly sweet.

As we were waiting for dessert, I commented that the one thing missing from the delicious meal had been pork belly, which One Black West does particularly well. On previous visits I’d ordered the pork and grits (not a fan of grits) and pork belly with scallop (even less a fan of scallops) just for the pork belly and both times wound up looking around to see if anyone would notice me licking my plate (I didn’t!).

So I was surprised and pleased when the dessert course featured a sweet glazed piece of perfectly grilled pork belly dusted with powdered sugar! And dark chocolate walnut bacon. And an amazing butternut squash flan (?), and a hazelnut gelato-like concoction.

One Block West Chefs Whim pork belly dessert

A perfect end to an amazing meal!

The second highlight came early the next morning when we were strolling around historic Winchester in search of breakfast. We’d stopped back by the restaurant so I could get a picture of the outside when it was daylight and “relive the glory” by looking at the menu again.

One block west chef ed matthews

The chef Ed Matthews happened to come out at that moment and we were able to meet him and chat for a few minutes. 🙂

So if you’re visiting or based in the DC area, I definitely think a meal at One Black West (and a tasting at Glen Manor Vineyards) is worth the hour drive!

Disclaimer: I will not receive any referral credit or free pork belly (sadly) if you visit the restaurant based on my recommendation. And I’m terrible at remembering ingredients, so apologies for destroying some of the food descriptions.

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2 Comments

  1. Jan Goldstein

    October 21, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    Terrific review! I’m hungty (and thirsty) just reading this! So glad you had a mini-vacation with your dad, Kerri. That Rick -what a wonderful guy!
    Love, Jan

  2. Ed Matthews

    October 24, 2013 at 11:57 am

    Keri,

    I think I was as surprised as you were to meet you in the parking lot the following morning! Sorry I didn’t get to visit your table while you were dining with us: I was just too busy to leave the kitchen.

    I think you did an awesome job of remembering the ingredients!

    The mind-blowing mushrooms is one of the best dishes I have ever come up with, out of tens of thousands. The pâté is made from oyster, shiitake, and maitake mushrooms that we get locally and is plated with black garlic aïoli and a porcini syrup.

    The palate cleanser sorbet is lemon juice, sugar, and Wild Turkey 101. Nothing but a great whiskey sour!

    Under the lamb and in addition to the fried rice was our attempt at a savory rice pudding: Arborio rice cooked in coconut milk with ginger, lemongrass, and kaffir lime. It turned out fine but I’m not sure I’d do it again.

    Glad we could squeeze in a little pork belly for you! This was candied with hickory syrup, brown sugar, and black pepper. Served with a maple-butternut crème caramel, black walnut-dark chocolate bark, Nutella powder, and what I call a chocolate milk cremoso, a confection that I devised and is made from two kinds of chocolate, cream, and eggs. With the Nutella powder sprinkled on, I can see how you thought it was hazelnut.

    Thank you for letting us do a tasting for you and it was great to meet you and your father!

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