Along with The Inn at Little Washington and The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm, I know of no restaurant in Northwestern Virginia equal to Ed Matthews’ One Block West, which is sadly closing on Aug 5, 2017. When I heard that One Block West was closing, and knew that I hadn’t yet even been there, I realized that it was because of people like me that it was closing – I always knew in the back of my mind that this was a great restaurant, based on feedback I received from trusted diners, but I’d never experienced it for myself, and I never quite knew *how* great it was – Winchester, VA is losing a culinary treasure.
Chef Ed wrote me after our meal, and told me that the menu that evening was “inspired in large part by a stroll through my home garden Saturday morning before coming to work.” That sounds like the boatload of BS many restaurants feed diners as a marketing tactic, but in this case, it was the absolute truth – it was obvious that basil was an important part of this meal, and the link that tied together all of the first courses.
I could rave, poke, prod, and urge everyone to get out to One Block West this week, but it won’t do any good, because neither hell nor high water could stop Ed from moving out to Oregon later this month. I reminded him that the total eclipse would be passing through his new home, and he seemed happy at having it as a bonus, but when I urged him not to leave the culinary field, he put his finger on his throat, made a cutting motion, and said, “I’m done,” adding that every restaurant in Portland had called him when they heard he was moving out that way. It’s their loss, it’s our loss – the only person who’s going to be happier because of this is Ed Matthews, who will finally have a chance to live the life he deserves. “I hope you become a realtor and make a fortune,” I told him, when I realized that he Really. Is. Done.
Before I went out to One Block West, I asked Ed what the tasting menu would be, and he said he wasn’t doing any more tasting menus, but when I arrived, he told me that he cobbled one together, and was offering it to others in the restaurant as well. What a meal this was – a meal which I’ll never forget, and a reminder that words alone do not support a business.
This post is a profound, albeit inadequate, show of my respect and gratitude towards Chef Ed Matthews: one of the great culinary geniuses ever to have graced the Washington, DC region.
The wines we had were perhaps my two favorite Virginia whites: one bottle each of Thibault-Janisson Blanc de Chardonnay Sparkling Wine, and Glen Manor Sauvignon Blanc. With dessert, we each had a wonderful glass of Calvados (what else should you have with a Clafoutis?)
Note: I asked Ed to take pictures of each dish before sending them out, so I wouldn’t have to fumble around with my iPhone during dinner – he was gracious enough to email them to me so I could use a copy. These are the actual dishes we were served:
Scallop Crudo – Scallop, Sweet Corn, Tomato, Basil Oil, JQ Dickinson Salt, Basil:
Wahoo Napoleon – Tomato, Half-Grilled Wahoo, Tomato Vinaigrette, Cilantro Aioli:
Insalata Caprese – House-Made Mozzarella, Pesto Oil, Balsamic-Marinated Cherry Tomatoes, Basil:
Thai Lamb Salad – Cold-Sliced Grilled Lamb (Lamb Marinated in Thai Basil, Mint, and Lemon Balm), Greens, Cilantro, Thai Basil, Cilantro, Cucumber, Carrot, Peanuts, Thai Lime-Fish Sauce Dressing:
Peach-Thai Basil Sorbet
Duck – Grilled Moulard Duck, Flageolets, Caramelized Tomatoes:
Cherry Clafoutis – Clafoutis, Blueberry Mascarpone, Crème Anglaise, Blueberries, Pickled Blueberries:
When we waved the white flag, we were told that only one course remained: the Clafoutis. I joked with our server that I was a Clafoutis snob, and that a true Clafoutis should always be served with unpitted cherries, knowing full-well that in a restaurant, that’s not the reality. We were, of course, served our Clafoutis with our cherries having been pitted. Until my final bite – that son-of-a-bitch somehow managed to sneak *one* unpitted cherry into the back of my dessert, just because he could. Hilarious and remarkable!
I’m raising One Block West to Bold in the Virginia Dining Guide, and that is how it shall be retired.