The Three Blacksmiths: Ethan Taylor, John MacPherson, Diane MacPherson
Robert & I recently experienced an amazing six course dinner at the newly opened Three Blacksmiths, located in Sperryville, VA.
We have been friends with John & Diane MacPherson since they first moved to our area and operated the Foster Harris House B&B down the street from our shop in Little Washington. We've watched for the last year as they developed their dream and built this restaurant by hand. Literally.
Along with Cathay and Company, the exterior was completed in stucco. And, along with Sous Chef, Ethan Taylor (the third Blacksmith), family members and close friends, they personally installed/built/tiled/painted each aspect of the interior re-do. Which, as you can see, needed a lot of TLC.
Check out their blog posts about the building and the design of the structure. Dwight McNeill of McNeill Baker Design Associates can be credited for the architectural transformation of the building. Here is an image of the front before lighting was installed.
John, Diane, and their son Finn, also traveled throughout Europe for several months last year to experience food at some of the top restaurants, getting inspiration for their dishes and dining concept.
With the availability of a diverse menu of ingredients in the region from local farmers, winemakers, apothecaries, brewers and distillers (we have a lot of amazing local businesses to choose from here) they are able to offer the best in local, seasonal food (see Local Partners at end of post).
They announce their seasonal menu on their website, and this changes from week to week. They are only open three days a week, Thursday, Friday, Saturday. Reservations are made online, with instructions on pre-pay and beverage options.
From the moment we walked in, to the moment we left, we felt at home, with great attention to our needs. I will highlight some of the best features of our dining experience.
First, a warm welcome from Diane and then a complimentary glass of champagne. The table also had a hand written note of welcome to us, some romantic candle light, a cool, sparkling chandelier above, soft linen napkins, and a cute wooden salt cellar that Diane designed.
I will go more into the interior design soon, but first to some of the dishes. Not only did Diane greet and serve, but everyone including John arrived at some point at our table during the three hour dining event. It was a delight to be able to chat to each person and also to watch the open kitchen seamlessly create, cook, and plate all the dishes.
Our first of a six course meal was Whippoorwill Farm Charred Beets, with house-made lemon ricotta and basil pesto. Delicately charred beets with sweet and savory components that woke up the pallet without excessive seasoning or herbs.
The Wild Roots Carrot Soup was one of our favorite tastes of the evening, spicy and creamy with subtle tastes of peppercorn and turmeric. Perfect consistency.
And the Rappahannock Arboreal Honey Glazed Duck, cooked with just the right amount of amount of sweet: leeks mousseline, butter braised carrots, rhubarb gastrique, and charcoal galette. The presentation of all the dishes was spot on.
Thin slices of warm Blacksmith bread was accompanied by two delicious spreads presented on agate slabs.
There were other surprise delicacies brought to the table throughout the evening, and the meal ended with two desserts. The first was Peachwood Ice Cream and Day Lily Fritter (think southern Funnel Cake inspiration) with Ethan's Sherry Caramel and Cocoa Nibs. Again, attention to balance and sweetness made this just right.
The second dessert was exceptionally balanced, Napoleon of Fire Roasted Strawberries, with pecan frangipani, wood sorrel, and spruce tip whip.
The meal ended with a nightcap created by John and coffee. Loved the detail of the sand timer with the rose-gold coffee service.
We did not go away empty handed. Another treat was hand-made Pecan Coconut Granola and nutty little cookies. The granola was great to enjoy the next morning and to reminisce about the night before. A lovely touch.
Now onto design.
How a restaurant space is designed, the character of the space, how it flows, and why and how it works or doesn't work, is of major importance to the dining experience. The words I would use to describe the Three Blacksmiths interior is European-inspired, warm, inviting, comfortable, relaxed. It bridges contemporary and traditional elements throughout, with clean lines and spaciousness, without stuffiness or pretention. Comfortable seating is a must for a six-course dinner, and they offer two, long sofas and comfy nail-head leather chairs.
A blend of industrial pieces, and of course iron elements (a nod to the Blacksmiths who used to inhabit the Town of Sperryville) can be found as well in fixtures, tables, sconces, lamps, and door handles.
With only 16 seats you can easily carry on private conversations from any table as they are positioned far apart. The warm wood rafters assist with noise levels, and the lighting throughout the restaurant is well positioned and just right.
The interior evokes design elements from restaurants Robert and I discovered in Paris and elsewhere in Europe over the years. John and Diane have implemented their own vision, like unexpected, elegant wallpaper Diane found in Italy and used to cover the walls of the bathrooms--flamingos and flying hot-air balloons. Contemporary yet warm bathroom design which was also lightly scented with French and Italian hand soap and diffusers.
And the shearling covered stools for purses, phones, bags, etc... was such a fun idea. Diane was inspired by a restaurant they visited on their European tour last year. A soft stool for each guest's belongings at each table. No need to place your purse on the table or floor. Loved this! The stools are also creatively displayed on a wall near the bathrooms.
John & Diane have created a beautiful, personal and relaxed setting for dining, eclipsed only by John's inspired menu. If you haven't guessed already we will be returning.
Lastly, here are a few more images of the restaurant to leave you with.
Here is the list of local farmers and other businesses that the restaurant uses in creating their seasonal menu:
PHOTO CREDITS: Joanie Ballard, Dwight McNeill, John MacPherson, Diane MacPherson, Liz Taylor