Three Blacksmiths–Just As Good

Three Blacksmiths
20 Main St.
Sperryville, VA 22740
(540) 987-5105

American | $$$$

20211229_193257When word came that Three Blacksmiths founders Chef John and Dianne MacPherson decided to sell many wondered will it be as good? Will it be worth the months long wait to get a table? (Right now they are booked through July 2022) After last night’s dinner the answer is a resounding YES.

Even with some staff changes the new owners Chefs Jake and Sara Addeo didn’t miss a beat in delivering the dinning experience regular customers relish. The couple has a long history in the hospitality industry working at fine restaurants in New York, Washington, DC, and Hong Kong. For Three Blacksmiths regulars who know the effort John and Dianne put into creating and running the restaurant, they weren’t about to just sell to anyone with money. I suspected they would find someone who would be a perfect fit back in August when the email came announcing the sale.

The details are comforting.


The evening starting with a wonderful Elderberry Sparkling Water drink and this Blue Cheese Risotto Ball with a quail egg. It doesn’t take much for blue cheese to be over powering but with the risotto it was just the right combination.


Next came Crab with Pickled Beets and a Tangerine Olive Oil Aioli. The pickled beets provided a nice sweet and sour crunch with the crab.

Just about every table offers a view of the kitchen.

The staff is super friendly, can almost read your mind, and know every course if you have questions.



The first course was a Monkfish Ossobuco with Bone Marrow, Smoked Hakurei Purée, Winter Greens, and a Bacon and Seaweed Broth.  The monkfish was cooked perfectly and the bacon and seaweed broth was awesome. We asked for spoons to make sure we got it all. The noise level is low to moderate and comes in swells. In between courses it’s at it’s loudest. As the dishes make it to the tables it quiets considerably. At one point so many people were scraping to get every bit of broth it sounded like cicadas had returned.


A tradition started by Chef John, the bread came out in the box with heated rocks along with the excellent compounded butters. A Sea Salt Whipped butter and my favorite, a Lemon and Chive butter.



For the second course we had a Chanterelle Custard with Roasted Parsnips, Lemon Gems, and Truffled Hazelnut Sabayon. The sabayon is a super smooth dessert like custard that was delightful.


The pasta course was a Spaghetti Carbonara topped with Bluefin Toro Bacon, Tellicherry Black Pepper, Cured Duck Egg, and Pecorino Romano Cheese. The Bluefin Toro Bacon is made from the fatty part of the tuna, brined , and cured like bacon. It had a light smoke flavor that tastes nothing like tuna. We opted for the Shaved White Alba Truffles, which come at an additional cost, but are well worth it. The duck egg carbonara was delicious. The dish was a little on the salty side for us but we use no salt other than in cooking so we are more sensitive that most.


The entrée was Hearth Fired La Belle Duck with Charred Butternut Squash, Beluga Lentils, Yuzu Agrodolce, and Kalamata Olives. This is the way duck should always be made. Tender and juicy with a nice bark. The squash purée with the yuzu agrodolce is a great paring. The agrodolce was just the right consistency to drive the complexity of the dish. Cooked to long and you get lentils in a gooey mess.  Yuzu is a Japanese fruit which adds to the agrodolce’s sweetness, and everything benefited from the sweetness. Trying to get a little of everything on your fork was a challenge but the only way to eat the dish.

20211229_212243Baba au Rhum – I believe translates to Dessert is Why We Eat. A yeast risen cake with a crispy Huckleberry Sauce, Puffed Amaranth, and Espresso Gelato. An intense warm/cold,  sweet/sour dessert is a lovely way to end the dinner.

Relaxing with a French press of rich coffee was pleasant.

With a nice-looking Ginger Cookie to take home and personal goodbyes from Chefs Jake and Sara we were on our way home to make another reservation.

If you had some concerns about new ownership you can put them aside. Nothing in our dinning experience was missed. My wife summed it up saying “I like the Inn at Little Washington a lot, but I think I like this place better. It’s cozy and friendly, and the food is just as good.”

Chef Patrick O’Connell Opens Patty O’s Café

Patty O’s Café & Bakery
389 Main St.
Washington, VA 22747
(540) 675-3801

American | $$


20211021_175656Nearly 30 years after purchasing the property Chef Patrick O’Connell converted the old Post Office building into his latest show piece, Patty O’s Café and Bakery.

The transformation into an elegant corner café is remarkable. From the fanciest outdoor heater I have ever seen to ridiculously comfortable custom made wooden chairs, no expense was spared.

From the dinning room looking into the bar area we caught a glimpse of Chef Patrick, in his signature Dalmatian print chef pants, watching over even the smallest detail. There is a wonderful fire place in the dinning room and the lighting is spectacular. Too many restaurants feel a “fumble around in the dark” light setting is key to ambience then complain when all the pictures on Yelp are dark and look like crap.

For my first course I had a wonderful Crock of Pimento Cheese with paper thin Carraway Flatbread. Some of the finest Pimento Cheese in Virginia can be found at White’s Wayside Restaurant in Churchville, this is on par with that. The super thin flatbread was perfect, anything thicker would be too much.

For my entrée I chose the Half Pound Angus Burger with Tomato Jam, Crispy Onions, and Comte Cheese. The beef is from the renowned Ovoka Farm in Paris, VA. Ovoka is one of the few Virginia farms raising Angus and Wagyu beef.

For dessert I had the Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse. It was super smooth and not overly chocolate.


If you haven’t been to Washington, VA at night it’s a magical sight year round. The Inn and sounding area, which now includes the Café, is lit up. The Café is open for lunch and dinner Friday through Tuesday. The Bakery is located on the side of the building and opens early in the morning offering specialty coffee drinks and pastry.

The wait staff was professional and attentive. The noise level was low. The menu prices are reasonable considering the quality of the food.  If you want an “Inn at Little Washington” type experience at a fifth the price be sure to visit soon.

Old Dominion Doggery

Old Dominion Doggery & Burger Shoppe
133 E King St.
Strasburg, VA 22657

American | $

20210403_161052Many people know Strasburg, VA, about 80 miles west of Washington, DC, for it’s antique malls.  On our last trip we discovered Old Dominion Doggery right on the main street in town. We have probably driven passed it 10 or 15 times over the years. Something caught my eye and my brain screamed “HOT DOGS”.

A simple but fun décor.

They offer an extensive menu of unique hot dog and hamburger combinations. The wall board shows some of their more popular selections.

My wife had the Philly Burger with Grilled Peppers, Onions, Sautéed Mushrooms, and Cheese Whiz.  They use 100% grass fed beef and the burger was quite tasty.  The hand cut fries was great.

I had to go for the Chopper Dog, wrapped in Bacon, deep fried, then topped with BBQ Sauce, Onions, and Relish. It was off-the-charts good. A great combination of sweet, tangy, and a salty crunch from the deep fried bacon.

If you are rolling through the area and hungry for something different consider stopping in. The food is simple high quality fare at a reasonable price.  The staff is friendly and the noise level was low late in the afternoon.

Lot 12 Public House Crushed It

Lot 12 Public House
117 Warren St.
Berkeley Springs, WV 25411
(304) 258-6264

American | $$$


During a recent getaway trip to Berkeley Springs, West Virginia we were excited to try Lot 12 Public House. I had read good things about the restaurant and Chef Damian Heath. Our good fortune had us there the weekend  Chef Damian and his wife Betsy reopened after closing for some months due to COVID.


The dinning room is cozy and has the feel of eating at a friend’s house.

It starts with wonderful homemade bread.

Our appetizer was this amazing Toasted Gnocchi with roasted garlic, sautéed mushrooms, and parmigiano-reggiano cheese. The gnocchi was perfect and paired nicely with the mushrooms and cheese.

A nice Intermezzo came in the form of this Guava Ginger Sorbet.

For my entrée I chose a  Grilled NY Strip Steak with bacon scallion mashed potatoes, a shitake demi-glace, ramp butter, and chimichurri. The steak had a great sear and was cooked perfectly. The smooth potatoes and demi-glace were a great accompaniment for the steak.

For my side I continued my quest to order Mac & Cheese when ever it appears on a menu. This Smoked Gouda and Roasted Garlic Mac & Cheese was  delectable. Don’t hesitate to order this.

My wife ordered a special of Baked Halibut with grilled shrimp and grits in a cream sauce. She said the fish was divine and cooked flawlessly. I enjoyed a bit of the shrimp and grits and found them like the wonderful dishes served in our Southern food Meccas like Charleston or Savannah.

For my dessert I had to try the Lavender Crème Brûlée.  There was just a hint of the lavender giving it a delightful flavor.

My wife’s dessert was a simple House made Sorbet with fresh berries.

Chef Damian, a James Beard Foundation Awards 2012 semifinalist, and his wife Betsy opened Lot 12 Public House in 1999. It remains an upscale dinning destination in the northwest corner of West Virginia drawing local guests and diners from Maryland and Virginia. Berkeley Springs is a quaint town with plenty of history and worth an overnight stay if you can get reservations for dinner at Lot 12 Public House.

Culpeper Glory Days Grill – Fail

15295 Montanus Dr.
Culpeper, VA 22701
(540) 829-7133

American | $


On a recent Sunday drive we found our way to Culpeper, VA and decided to stop by Glory Days Gill for a late lunch.


I have had the Tortilla Soup at the Manassas location and loved it. The one here not so much. It was ok but not the same as the batch in Manassas.


I went with the crab cakes and was disappointed. They looked great but were mostly filler.


The golden rule of food photography is never take pictures of half eaten food, it’s not a good look. Crab cakes need filler to hold them together. Here there was little crab and mostly filler. The flavor came from the crispy panko, not crab.

If you find yourself at Glory Days you may want to pass on the crab cakes, they weren’t worth the money.

Rocktown Kitchen is a Hit

Rocktown Kitchen
217 S. Liberty Street #101
Harrisonburg, Virginia 22801

American | $

In the heart of Harrisonburg, VA, Rocktown Kitchen serves up quality scratch dishes that are delicious. Seating at the bar was closed and tables were spaced over 6 feet apart. Before being seated I could see a staff member giving our booth a serious cleaning. Staff and guests were all masked. We eat early to dine with minimal patrons. If we find a restaurant nearly half full, we will pass and try another day. We arrived around 4:30pm and only a couple of tables were occupied.

The wood and brick interior is simple and relaxing.

We usually have water or iced tea with dinner, I mention the tea here because it tasted like tea and not brown water made with one tea bag. Ordering iced tea shouldn’t be a crap shoot, but about 25% of the time I wish I had just asked for water.

My wife ordered the Meatloaf with Southern Style Green Beans, Mac & Cheese, and Tobacco Onion Rings. The green beans we cooked perfectly with just a slight crunch to them. The onion rings were great, thin, and breaded nicely. Not sure what the tobacco thing was all about but I would not hesitate to order them as a side. The meatloaf was perfect. It has a nice light mustard taste to it. The glaze was a tasty crisp caramelization that pared well with the mustard flavor.

For my entrée I chose the Grilled Pork Chop with Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes, Apple and Onion Chutney with a Red Wine BBQ sauce. My pork chop was bone in for extra flavor and moist. The chutney was scrumptious with just a few too many raisins for my taste. The sauce was delightful and a perfect complement to the chutney.

The Mac & Cheese side was simple but well done.

We split a Warm Sticky Toffee Cake that was moist and wonderful.

Our waitress was great and a number of staff members including the owner stopped by to check on us and clear the table. Since we ate early noise level was not a concern. This is our 3rd dinner in Harrisonburg a great college town. See my blog posts on Bella Luna Pizza and Joshua Wilton House.

If you are looking for a nice relaxing dinner consider Rocktown Kitchen, they have a great menu.

Crews Contain Market Street Fire in Leesburg

Firefighters from Leesburg, Purcellville and Ashburn worked this morning to battle a fire that began in the Yummy Pig restaurant on West Market Street. The fire was reported around 11:30 a.m.

Sorry to see this happen to any business. We wish Chef Jim and his crew the best. We will be there for the grand re-opening for sure.

Source: Crews Contain Market Street Fire in Leesburg

Two Years After Mike Isabella’s French Restaurant Closed, Workers Say He Still Owes Them Wages

Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

Former employees at Requin file a lawsuit and allege celebrity chef Mike Isabella and his partners issued irregular and fraudulent checks during the waterfront restaurant’s final months in late 2018.

Source: Two Years After Mike Isabella’s French Restaurant Closed, Workers Say He Still Owes Them Wages

Bella Luna Harrisonburg’s Best Pizza

Bella Luna Wood-Fired Pizza
80 W. Water Street
Harrisonburg VA  22801

Pizza | $


They run the pizza over at about 700 degrees.

They use Central Milling Company Organic Type 00 Wheat Flour to make the pizza dough in-house.


They source much of their ingredients locally.

My wife ordered her pizza with a tomato puree sauce, garlic, meatballs, mozzarella, and mushrooms.


For my pizza I selected a pie with the tomato puree sauce, sausage, mozzarella, and prosciutto. The pizza was really good. The dough was baked perfectly and the sauce had a great light tomato taste.  The sausage and prosciutto were wonderful and not to salty.

The restaurant follows state COVID-19 guidelines with tables spaced generously and the staff all worn masks. We ate early so there was little noise. The service was excellent and everyone was friendly. We can’t wait to go back.

Three Blacksmiths 5-Star Dinner

Three Blacksmiths
20 Main St.
Sperryville, VA 22740
(540) 987-5105

American | $$$$



The simple elegant décor is comfortably inviting. It is like having dinner in Chef John MacPherson’s dinning room at home.


Co-Owner and Chef’s wife Diane MacPherson oversees the dinning room where no detail, large or small, escapes her.


After being welcomed by Diane and Chef at the front door it’s wine or a non-alcoholic drink for starters.




Shortly after being seated this wonderful bread arrived, kept warm on a bed of hot rocks.


For the bread you had a choice of whipped butter or whipped onion butter made with smoked and charred onions. Always choose the onion butter.


For starters…


Work begins on the first course.


A Seared New Bedford Scallop with Coconut Saffron, Edamane, Peaches, and Crispy Pork Belly. The scallop was cooked perfectly and nicely paired with the crispy pork belly.



Next up, Sunnyside Farm Kabocha Squash Soup with Carolina Shrimp Sausage and Tomato-Hyssop Preserve. Kabocha Squash is a Japanese winter squash with a nice slightly sweet taste. The soup was a very good accompaniment for the amazing shrimp sausage. It took me a couple of minutes to wrap my head around shrimp sausage. A first for me, it was fantastic with a nice shrimp taste paired with a hint of fennel.



My favorite dish of the night, Sweet Corn & Summer Truffle Tortelloni with Pickled Aji-Dolce Pepper and Sungold Tomato Dashi. The home-made pasta was cooked perfectly with a super creamy sweet corn filling that was fabulous.



For the entrée Chef served a Sorghum Glazed Cavendish Quail with Toasted Wheat Berries, Romano Beans, Castelvetrano Relish, and Blackberry Agrodolce. The sweetness of the sorghum in the skin mitigated the gameyness of the flawlessly cooked quail. I especially like the Castelvetrano Relish.




Dessert was a Sunnyside Asian Pear Galette with Crème Fraiche Gelato, Shattered Almond Glass, Mascarpone, and Pear Caramel. Every element here worked, from the gelato on a crumble to the pear caramel. Just the right amount of sweetness to finish the meal.

We are fortunate to have many wonderful restaurants in Virginia, from the Inn at Little Washington, The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm, and the Shack to The Ashby Inn, Restaurant Eve, and FOODE, all offering fantastic food. Three Blacksmiths has an edge because they offer a world class dining experience. The food is phenomenal for sure, but it is the attention to detail and service that make the experience. The warm welcome, interaction with the chef, and attentive but not intrusive service. The plating is first class and the timing and flow of the courses is flawless. Something few people notice unless it is not working.

Open Wednesday through Saturday, reservations and pre-payment for dinner are required and right now there are no openings until late March 2021. This is not likely to get better since they have an ever-growing loyal clientele and a reduction in seating to comply with statewide COVID-19 restrictions. Find a reason to celebrate something and make a reservation now, it will be the best meal you have had.


Some mini scones as a parting gift from Chef John.

We joined my Executive Event Chef Ken and Dee at dinner to celebrate her birthday. The staff all signed a nice card for her.  A small but meaningful gesture.