Food & Wine

Restaurant 1, Unadventurous Friend 0

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One Block West wins again! Turns out having pork belly schnitzel for dessert caused a mid-life crisis for an old friend who now has to re-evaluate all previous opinions of food.

My friend dislikes most seafood and all pork except bacon. A great guy except for a strong preference mostly for chicken. So of course, I had to take him to One Block West the next time he was out in the Shenandoah. When I made the reservation for the chef’s whim tasting menu, I noted his dislike of seafood, asking to limit the number of seafood dishes to 1-2 if possible. That night there were none.

Instead there several exciting new creations from Chef Ed that I’m still dreaming about.

One Block West Chef's Tasting Whim Chicken Schnitzel

The first course was a “Chicken” Schnitzel with Chive Spätzle, Brussels Sprouts topped with Frangelico Brown Butter. It took me several bites to realize it was the Chicken of the Woods mushrooms I’d seen mentioned on the restaurant’s blog! Definitely my favorite dish, and my friend was secretly hoping the other 6 would be a repeat. 🙂

Next up was Elk Tartare made with Kimchee, Doenjang, Green Onions, and Sesame topped with a quail egg and a swoosh of  cilantro aioli on the side. The kimchee gave it a delicious spicy zest and the cilantro aioli was the perfect pairing.

One Block West Chef's Tasting Whim Elk Tartare Kimchee

It was my second favorite main course and left my friend mentioning every half hour or so “I ate raw elk” with a happy smile.

The third course was a Cabbage roll stuffed with Rabbit Bourguignon lightly fried and topped with Black truffles. My favorite part was the broth which had amazing flavors!

One Block West Chef's Tasting Whim Cabbage Roll Rabbit

My friend’s favorite — a blow to his anti-pork stance — was the Carnitas with Maíz Morado Flan (blue corn hominy), Curtido, one of the few slaws I actually really liked, Cotija cheese and Cilantro. Everything was quite good, but the tomatillo blew my mind!

One Block West Chef's Tasting Whim Carnitas

The palate cleanser was peach and chipotle sorbet, which was fun to try but was just weird enough we didn’t love it. The peach was amazing, but the chipotle waited until after you swallowed to sock you in the back of the throat.

One Block West Chef's Tasting Whim Peach Chipotle Palate cleanser

The sixth course was a Moulard Duck Breast with Country Ham Fried Rice, Baby Bok Choy, Pickled Saturn Peach, Green Onions, Fish Sauce Caramel and Black Vinegar Sauce. I love duck fat, as in duck fat potatoes from Dino’s, but overall not a huge fan of duck.

One Block West Chef's Tasting Whim duck moulard

It was grilled beautifully and had great flavors, but the texture of duck isn’t something I enjoy. Fortunately my normally squeamish friend loved it and the last slice on my plate didn’t go to waste.

The piece de resistance was the dessert though. I had been rather disappointed that no pork belly had shown up in any of the previous courses, and while hopeful for another repeat of the dinner I had with my dad, was resigning myself. And then it came out!

One Block West Chef's Tasting Whim Pork Belly Schnitzel

Pork Belly Schnitzel with Orange-Brown Sugar Spätzle and the greatest gelato, Maple-Cinnamon-Brown Butter, that I may ever have had. Even more impressive is when the chef came out say hi to us he mentioned the gelato had been a sudden recipe/experiment that popped in his head. I don’t know whether to be happy (calorie-wise) or extremely sad that recipes like that never occur to me. 

But it was wonderful. The pork belly lightly fried in panko and hazelnuts was a delight and perfectly paired! And supported my assertion that “good” pork belly is better than bacon!

The chef’s whim tasting menu runs $75 for 7 courses, $50 additional for the amazing wine pairings. I probably come as much for the wine pairings and the subsequent Ratatouille moment, as I do the food I then spend weeks dreaming about. And if you’re not up for that much adventure, ordering off the menu is still pretty exciting.

For the chef’s description of this meal, check out his blog. If you’ll be in the Virginia area

And yes, it was a life changing event for my friend who now realizes how wrong he was about pork and more interesting proteins.


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  1. J

    September 16, 2014 at 10:31 am

    Not saying the food wasn’t delicious because I am clearly not qualified to do so without tasting it, but that meal as a whole really seems to lack focus and is all over the place. Individual dishes contain elements of latin, asian, european cuisine. I’m all for different types of food, but when participating in a tasting menu, I like to see something that ties the whole meal together. Also, the chef really seems to like schnitzel and spaetzel.

    • Jeanne Marie Hoffman

      September 16, 2014 at 1:52 pm

      I’ve eaten there before too and I get what you are saying. The food tasted really good, but I had mussels followed by a heavy-pork gelée. Both were good, but weren’t linked in any sort of way.

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