Written by Diane Helentjaris
Photos by Kaitlin Hill
Whether you’re at grandma’s kitchen table or a café in Venice’s Piazza San Marco, distinctive settings make for memorable meals. No matter their point of origin, diners heading off to Goodstone Inn & Restaurant will spend the last miles of their journey in a quintessential Middleburg landscape. The narrow roads curve under a robust tree canopy. An old stone chimney, a relic from the past, stands alone in a field. Fence lines are punctuated with coops, the wooden plank jumps foxhunters clear when traversing the countryside.
At last, the road leads uphill through a pair of stone gate piers.
The property’s original horseshoe-shaped stable has been beautifully renovated and transformed over the years. Today, its wings enclose a garden with a flagstone walkway leading to the Bistro. The scent of boxwood has replaced that of leather, saddle soap, and horses. The Bistro is part cozy lounge seating just beyond the lobby, fireplace, and bar, and part balcony seating under the glass enclosure and overlooking the Conservatory dining room below.
Open Monday and Tuesday for more casual fare, the Bistro is managed by Jefferson Van Allen He’s also the chef. Van Allen’s passion for art, cooking, and hospitality make him well-suited to this role. “I want to be the male Martha Stewart,” Van Allen chuckles.
An upstate New York native, Van Allen first discovered his love of cooking as an adolescent in a required home economics course. In college, he studied interior design and fine art. After graduation, he dedicated himself to building a career in the hospitality and food industry. He shares Julia Child’s belief that folks should find their passion and devote themselves to it.
At one point he spent ten months traveling across the U.S. developing his enduring love of “Mom and Pop” food. Other notable experiences include honing his culinary skills in an Asian steakhouse and training under the prominent French contemporary chef and restaurateur Jean-Georges Vongerichten in New York for several years.
“I know what I like,” Van Allen emphasizes. And, it seems everyone else likes what he does too. He recounts a recent customer who declared Van Allen’s chowder “the best he ever had.” Van Allen can take an everyday dish like mashed potatoes and transform it into a culinary experience which leaves the diner wondering how he did it.
Left: Van Allen’s stew is topped with a generous square of puff pastry. Right: A towering crab stack with fresh summer tomatoes and avocado.
With his long-standing devotion to art, Van Allen believes the appearance of a meal is important. “I love plating. The food has to look pretty when you eat [it]. It has to sit on the plate just right. I add a little something and always make a composed plate.”
Locally sourced ingredients drive the menu at the Bistro. Chef Van Allen readily rattles off a long list of nearby farmers he taps for the building blocks of his cuisine. The Goodstone property is over two hundred acres in size and provides a steady stream of microgreens, lettuce, herbs, potatoes, cucumbers, artichokes, and onions. A greenhouse is used to increase the availability of produce. Van Allen extends the shelf life of ingredients by canning, preserving, and freezing fruits and vegetables such as sauces, jams, and marmalades. A staff member gathers eggs daily from the Goodstone chickens and these show up in breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.
As specific fruits, vegetables, and meats come into season, the menu changes to reflect what is available.
Left: The Bistro is warm and inviting. Right:The Bistro’s pantry stocked with breakfast essentials and looking pretty.
Each week Van Allen studies what is on offer and then tinkers and experiments his way to a menu of seven or eight entrees. He happily gathers opinions from volunteers. “I have lots of tasters around here,” he says with a smile. The result is a unique cuisine which is both seasonal and local. As much as wine expresses a terroir, the food at Goodstone Inn & Restaurant showcases the Virginia Piedmont.
Van Allen has a vision of the Bistro as a place where locals and visitors alike come for a lowkey, but memorable, meal.However, even more than a meal, Van Allen is curating a hospitality experience for all who enter Goodstone’s doors – which he can often be found holding open for arriving or departing guests. In the kitchen or gliding between tables, Van Allen’s secret ingredient seems to be enthusiasm for what he does, where he is, and the patrons he serves. ML
This article first appeared in the August 2022 Issue