Story and photography by Barbara Angelakis
2000 Busted Rock Road
Meadows of Dan, VA 24120
Toll Free: 866.960.7746
Located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, high above the Dan River Gorge, is the “something for everyone” Primland mountain sporting and leisure getaway resort.
If you are a golfer you will be captivated by the Donald Steel Highland Course, highly rated by many prestigious golf publications like Travel and Leisure Golf, Golfweek, and Golf Digest, to name but a few. If your pleasure leans toward hunting, Primland offers seasonal opportunities with staff guides that have spent their whole life in the Appalachia and know the wildlife and the territory. There are miles of nature trails for hiking or bird watching. Soft adventure beckons with a new clay shooting course, mountain biking, fly fishing, horseback riding, tennis, tree-climbing, or ATV trail riding, with 12,000 acres of prime woodland to explore. Primland’s territory is so vast, you hardly see other 2 legged creatures while you are exploring and enjoying nature. Primland also offers a destination Spa experience that is world-class (see Spa at Primland review).
It is the only U.S. resort to feature a Celestron CGE Pro 1400 in the Observatory Dome for sky watching. The ebullient Director of Astronomy, Scott Martin makes viewing the heavens as easy as reading a travel map and for those really into astronomy, experts in the field are invited for special weekends in the Master of the Universe series. There was a full moon the night I was there, spectacularly visible through the opened dome. On a previous visit the sky was perfect for outdoor viewing and Scott introduced us to many of the star systems visible in our nighttime sky. In addition to all the activities the resort offers, gastronomy was at the top of the list and the reason for this latest trip.
French trained Executive Chef Gunnar Thompson has integrated his early training with “Farm to Table” gastronomy which he has elevated to new heights. Primland’s grounds offer extensive opportunities for foraging for wild mushrooms, berries, nuts, and greens, makes the cooking classes Chef Gunnar offers a unique culinary experience. After a delicious breakfast of (new to me) corn flour pancakes and grilled local sausages, we donned long pants and hiking shoes to go into the forest which was still wet from the on and off again rains of the past few days. Being a city girl, this was my first foraging experience and I was excited at the prospect of learning a new skill. This is the season for chanterelles and the hillsides were filled with brightly colored golden patches of mushrooms there for the taking. We climbed to the highest hill to select the prime specimens while Chef Gunnar cautioned us on what to watch out for. We passed several different mushrooms species that while beautiful were not eatable, and even a chanterelle look-a-like with the identical shaped and colored top proved to be poisonous (hint: check the stem before picking). The ground was covered with nuts from the many nut bearing trees but they were past their prime and out of season so we regretfully passed them by.
After collecting buckets of mushrooms we returned to the prep kitchen to begin the class which was to focus on the versatile tomato. Gaspacho Primland, Chef Gunnar’s recipe includes apple cider vinegar and cornbread in the soup with fresh corn kernels as a garnish; roasted yellow plum tomatoes filled with a crab and zucchini salad; a peppery tomato jam; and tomato and country ham risotto (see Gastronomy for recipe). Lunch consisted of our cooking class items, but the piéce de résistance of the visit was the Chef’s Table tasting menu dinner that night.
We began with a Fitz-Ritter Riesling Sekt Extra Trocken NV (Pfalz) slightly bubbly, very like a Prosecco, which prepared the palate for the dishes to come. The watercress vichyssoise with country ham and chive chilled soup Amuse Bouche arrived in an aperitif glass. The first appetizer was roasted Sea Scallop with summer squash and heirloom tomato jus, paired with a Gérard Boulay Sancerre 2011. The delicate scallop, sliced paper thin, was balanced by the Sancerre to perfection. Second appetizer was an elegant Eggplant soup with yogurt panna cotta, mint, and dressed with coriander oil. Virginia’s Rockbridge Vineyard Tuscarora White 2011 added sharpness to the somewhat bland but flavorful vegetable soup. The first entrée was seared Evan’s Farm Duck Breast accompanied by a blackberry sauce and sweet potato, served with T. Mortet Bourgogne 2008 red, a perfect balance for the rich, tender and perfectly grilled, slightly sweet meat. Loin of Venison served with the chanterelles picked earlier in the day, green beans and yellow Finn potato purée, Smithfield ham and scallion jus came next accompanied by Napa Valley Trinchero Chicken Ranch Vineyard Merlot 2008. The venison was grilled to perfection, tender and flavorful (see Venison and Risotto at Gastronomy for recipes). For a palate cleaner, Flora Ridge Limestone lettuce - a locally grown green - was served with local cherries and Curtin’s Goat Dairy Farm Chévre which I found to be too bland and not a good counterbalance for the sweet, firm, cherries and crisp lettuce. I think a sharper cheese would have worked better especially after such a procession of rich dishes. Dessert was a pretty as a picture individual warm nectarine Upside Down Cake with Elderflower infusion, complimented by Virginia’s Foggy Ridge Pippin Gold dessert wine. The final dessert was a nitro frozen Gianduja chocolate mousse over a dark chocolate biscuit served with Blandy’s Five Year Bual.
We had other standout meals; notable were small plates of cucumber gelée, crab and kohlrabi ravigote, and my favorite “Biscuits and Gravy” with seared foie gras in a cherry cognac gravy. All in all it was an exercise in sustainable farm to table cooking, with chef preparing ingredients in innovative and tasty ways.
For program details and accommodation information visit: www.primland.com or call toll free 866.960.7746
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