May 28

Given its distance from metro DC, Fairfax Station is not an area you might typically venture out to in search of a good meal. One incentive to making the drive is that its picturesque country roads take you through the heart of Virginia horse country and drop you square in the center of the charming town of Clifton. Another is that Executive Chef Clayton Miller, recently picked as one of Food & Wine’s best new chefs of 2010, is dishing out some of the most mouthwatering cuisine on the Atlantic seaboard.

Trummer’s on Main occupies a spot in the old Clifton Hotel which is hard to miss on the east end of town. The entry level is a swanky lounge area with wood paneling and an irridescent lit marble bar that wraps around the center of the room. Its innovative cocktail menu often has the bartender concocting herb infused syrups over a small butane burner, or crushing fresh berries into a glass with a long wooden pestle.

The dining room itself is lined on three sides with floor to ceiling windows that display gardens in full spring bloom. The open feeling of the space is centered by a rectangular wood grain table that further emphasizes a sense of garden to table décor. The place accents are sparse presumably so as not to distract from the natural beauty of the architecture and outdoor landscape.

The restaurant’s menu, described as creative American in style, is in keeping with this theme and reflects a reliance on local, seasonal ingredients prepared simply so as to highlight their essential flavor. In each dish the Chef uses a whimsical combination of flavors, textures and temperatures that harmonize well together while showcasing superb ingredients.

On a recent night I enjoyed a salad of tender Bibb lettuce with finely shaved radishes and beets that were delicately dressed in a caramelized honey vinaigrette.  Another appetizer of English Pea ravioli was equally reminiscent of spring time, with delightful compliments of Serrano ham and a fragrant Manchego broth. Entrees of grilled lamb loin and slow roasted pork shoulder were more overpowering in flavor and presentation and while delicious, a bit heavy on the palate.

What clearly sets Trummer’s apart from neighboring restaurants is its attention to detail in desserts, with Pastry Chef Chris Ford at the helm. They are most certainly worth saving room for, if not planning an entire meal around. A brown sugar panna cotta provides a silken butterscotch backdrop to a strawberry sorbet that explodes with ripe, juicy sweetness. The palate of ice creams, listed as a separate category on the menu, clearly deserve their own attention as each is unusually smooth, creamy and pure in flavor. To use them simply as a garnish to a larger dessert ensemble would diminish their beauty.

To dine at this restaurant is to have an experience completely removed from the frenetic pace of downtown DC. Both in atmosphere and cuisine, eating at Trummer’s is like having a private table inside a well furnished greenhouse, where the chef has handpicked the finest of the lush, surrounding gardens and prepared a meal focused around them. You would be hard pressed to find a comparable restaurant in the District, in both aesthetics of space and pure quality of cooking.

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