When it came to taking his current job at Red House Tavern, chef Joel Valente was more than a little reluctant. “I was like, ‘I never ate at a Hilton Garden Inn, and I probably never will,’” he now recounts. Who would blame him? Hotel chains aren’t exactly known as bastions of culinary mastery. But that’s exactly what the Inn at Little Washington alum brings to the brand-new Haymarket lodging.
“A lot of what we do is classic preparations,” explains Valente. “I think one of the things that gets lost in this life is craft — sticking to roots a little bit.”
Nowhere is this more evident than on Red House Tavern’s house charcuterie board. Featuring a trio of fresh (as opposed to dry-aged) meat preparations, the wooden platter is a tour of anatomy that’s used too little on local plates. Duck is served as spreadable rillettes, made from confit meat whipped with fat and herbs. Chicken liver mousse is surrounded in a gelée of chicken jus and crowned with jam. But perhaps best of all is the porchetta di testa, or headcheese. The tender flesh torn from pigs’ heads is set as a unit and sliced, then topped with house mustard. Combine all three with bread and seasonal house pickles, and you’ve got a meat party.
And those proteins, like practically everything else on the menu, are local. The beef for the burger, served on a housemade English muffin, hails from Laz E Hill Farm, right in Haymarket. House pastas are also of special importance on the menu, including pappardelle topped with Ovoka Farm wagyu short rib ragù and a raviolo all’uovo that oozes with a Whiffletree Farm egg yolk.
“Ultimately, I’d just like to create a place where I want to eat, and where my chef friends would want to dine,” says Valente. He already has. 15001 Washington St., Haymarket
This story originally ran in our August issue. For more stories like this, subscribe to our monthly magazine.