Seasonal Ingredients, Four Wines Highlight new Chef’s Notebook Dinner Series at Gabriel Archer Tavern
Savor Virginia’s bounty on your plate as part of the Williamsburg Winery’s new Chef’s Notebook dinner series.
The first of these monthly epicurean journeys will be offered on Thursday, Feb. 24 at 6 p.m. It promises to be a special evening capped at no more than 36 guests. Unlike the larger banquet-style dinners hosted by the winery, the Chef’s Notebook series will be restaurant-style inside the Gabriel Archer Tavern, so you will sit only with the company you bring.
Every chef has a notebook and Williamsburg Winery Chef de Cuisine Jake Wechsler uses his moleskin ledger held together with a rubber band to sketch out ideas and doodle how best to plate dishes.
“I definitely enjoy being able to write things down as opposed to having it on a computer,” he said. “I sit there and plan a menu with four or five different versions until I settle on one I like.”
The Chef’s Notebook series was born from that idea with the added inspiration of featuring seasonal ingredients from Virginia when possible.
In this first dinner, Wechsler starts with oysters prepared three different ways. Trio of Oysters Raw, Fried and Rockefeller, will feature the fresh “Pearls” of Big Island Aquaculture in nearby Hayes. These oysters, the ideal balance of sweet and salty, come from Munday’s Creek, the York River and Mobjack Bay and are the only ones used at the winery. The raw oyster will be served with the Winery’s Rose Mignonette. The fried one will be seasoned with Old Bay and aioli and the classic baked oyster Rockefeller leaves a sweet finish.
A Wessex Hundred Salad will follow, filled with homegrown vegetables from Francoise Duffeler’s greenhouse on the property and seasonal selections from local farmers’ markets. Francoise is the wife of Williamsburg Winery founder Patrick Duffeler.
Buying local produce is an option Wechsler prefers when preparing food for an intimate occasion like this one.
“That’s something I am able to do when cooking on a smaller scale,” he said. “These dinners give me the opportunity to be a little more creative in the kitchen.”
This particular salad comes literally from the pages in his notebook, accented by the blood oranges and roasted beets — flavors from the season that work well together.
Wechsler regularly thumbs through food magazines and cookbooks from his favorite chefs, such as Thomas Keller and Eric Ripert. He’s a particular fan of Southern Cast Iron magazine, which inspired the idea for the pork entrée. He will stuff a pork loin with apple, bacon and sage, which will be served alongside roasted Brussels sprouts with a creamy Boursin Polenta Cider Jus.
“It melts in your mouth,” he said. “The cider fits in with the apple, bacon and sage; it all comes together.”
Wechsler consulted with Winery Sous Chef Chad Bergeron, whose expertise includes pastries, and the two devised dessert, a Tiramisu Bombe. When diners bite into it, they will experience a combination of flavors from the coffee cheesecake center wrapped around the mousse with a hint of chocolate glaze atop a pistachio cookie.
“When you cut into it, you see the different layers of flavor and then when you eat it altogether, you get that Tiramisu experience,” Wechsler said.
Four different Williamsburg Winery selections will be paired with each course.
Here’s the full menu for the Feb. 24 dinner:
Appetizer Trio of Oysters Raw | Fried | Rockefeller Rose Mignonette | Old Bay Aioli | Lemon Williamsburg Winery, Wessex Hundred Albariño 2020
Salad Blood Orange & Roasted Beet Salad Arugula | Toasted Almonds | Whipped Goat Cheese | Champagne Orange Vinaigrette Williamsburg Winery, Wessex Hundred Viognier 2019
Entrée Apple, Bacon & Sage Stuffed Pork Loin Roasted Brussels Sprouts | Creamy Boursin Polenta| Cider Jus Williamsburg Winery, Virginia Cabernet Sauvignon 2019
Dessert Tiramisu Bombe Pistachio Cookie Williamsburg Winery, Virginia Semi-Dry Rose 2020
Cost is $80 per person plus tax and gratuity and $75 per person plus tax and gratuity for Wine Club members. Reservations are a must. Contact the Tavern at 757-564-8869.