by domenica marchetti | August 28, 2013 | Food & Drink
Rockfish with asparagus risotto and morels.
The main dining room, called the Winter Garden, features vaulted ceilings and communal tables.
Executive Chef Austin Fausett.
Trummer's on Main is housed in a charming 1869 building.
The Bunnyman cocktail includes cachaÇa, basil, strawberries, and a balsamic reduction.
In Clifton, Virginia—just 25 miles from Washington—graceful 19th-century homes and a spire-topped church line the town’s Main Street, which has no traffic lights. Perhaps it’s not a place where you would expect to find a fine-dining chef making his own burrata cheese, for instance, along with local rabbit ragù. But those are the sorts of dishes that Trummer’s on Main has been serving since Executive Chef Austin Fausett took over the kitchen this May. The 27-year-old has completely redrawn the menu at the four-year-old space owned by enterprising restaurateurs Stefan and Victoria Trummer.
Fausett, a veteran of Central Michel Richard, runs the kitchen with a simple food mantra in mind: “Seasonal, local, and sustainable,” he says, with a good dose of whimsy folded in. (To wit: Try his ginger sugar doughnuts with carrot-cantaloupe sorbet for dessert.) It’s a philosophy developed during a two-year stint as purchasing chef at the renowned Inn at Little Washington, where he worked closely with area farmers.
His new menu is divided into sections—seasonal, vegetarian, Low Country, and contemporary—that reflect the modern tone of his cooking while complementing the restaurant’s historic location. Among this fall’s standout dishes are grilled octopus and kale Caesar salad with Concord grapes and pine nuts; braised osso buco with Henselstone Farms creamed spinach, black-eyed peas, and gremolata; and a Cornish game hen with arugula pesto, a corn pancake, and bruléed mission figs. “Fall is my favorite season,” says Fausett. “It’s the harvest…. [and] the flavors are bigger and bolder.”
Victoria says Fausett’s style is a perfect match for the restaurant’s new direction. “After three years, we were looking for a fresh start,” she says. “Although we are extremely proud of what we’ve created so far, and of the team that put Trummer’s on the map, we wanted a fresh outlook on our position and who we are. We wanted a chef with an infectious passion, and as soon as we met Austin, we knew he had it.”
Guests will also find a revamped cocktail program designed by Stefan, who once worked as a mixologist in New York City. The Titanic, a blend of vodka, elderflower liqueur, and Champagne sorbet, remains the signature drink, and the Sage—Plymouth gin, elderflower syrup, and fresh sage—is another staple. Inspired new additions include the Blueberry Wheat, a concoction of Bulleit bourbon, fresh blueberries, and Bell’s Oberon wheat ale. “The bar gives me an opportunity to be creative,” says Stefan. “It’s almost like being in the kitchen, but you are still around people. I like that.” The couple met in New York and acknowledge that Clifton is a long way from there—and even farther from Graz, Austria, where Stefan grew up in a family of restaurateurs. In fact, the quaint Virginia town was once a railroad outpost for the Union army, and George Washington and Lord Fairfax hunted there.
But for Victoria, Clifton has always been home. It’s where she grew up, and where she and her husband ultimately decided they wanted to return to raise the kids they knew they wanted. Their son is now two and a half. “It was hard to convince my husband to leave New York City, but once he saw the beautiful building, he was sold.”
The couple kept the façade of the 1869 structure, including the welcoming front porch and a second-story balcony. But they made major changes to the interior, including the addition of an 8,000-bottle-capacity wine cellar beneath the kitchen. They spruced up the main dining room, an airy space called the Winter Garden, with vaulted ceilings, skylights, and two long communal tables that give the room a convivial atmosphere. Sitting side by side at one of the long tables, the Trummers talk about the updates. “The idea behind the renovation was New York City meets historic charm,” Victoria says. “We didn’t want to lose what makes the building so beautiful and warm—but we wanted to modernize the décor and make it more natural-feeling.”
Dining out should be more than just having a meal, adds Stefan. “It should be about having fun, meeting people, sharing a common experience.”
Although the decision to leave New York was tough, the couple knows it was the right one. Says Victoria: “We were used to city life, city guests, and city restaurants. But somehow we translated that experience to fit the small-town feel and the hospitality that I grew up with.” 7134 Main St., Clifton, VA, 703-266-1623
photography by albert nam (rockfish, fausett); thomas schaver (dining room); thomas schaver
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