By Evan Milberg
For half a century, the Airlie Center in Warrenton was a conference center with limited exposure to the public. With the opening of a brand new restaurant, Garden Bistro, they’re trying to change that.
“We’re rebranding ourselves a little bit,” says Executive Chef Jeremy Anderson. “Opening ourselves up to the public has really been the first time in 50 years that we’ve done that. So it’s very brand new to us.”
Rebranding is nothing new to Anderson. Before joining the team at the Airlie Center, Anderson worked at a number of mom and pop places. It wasn’t until Anderson joined the Airlie team that chefs Marvin Aguado and Jeff Witte pushed him to attend culinary school. After Anderson graduated from the Art Institute of Washington in Rosslyn six years ago, Airlie promoted him to executive sous chef and has since kept moving up.
The restaurant’s grand opening was last Thursday, but has had a word-of-mouth soft opening since March. The menu changes weekly based on what Anderson and Witte can purchase locally from Croftburn Farm in Culpeper, Whiffletree Farm in Warrenton and Belle Meade Farm in Sperryville.
Anderson recommends a dish called “Hen of the Woods,” a mushroom medley of maitake, cremini and blue oyster mushrooms, along with poached local quail egg, fromage frais mousse (with goat cheese coming from Albemarle County), local chestnut coulie from Central Virginia, grilled focaccia, Starr Hill Brewery malt gastrique (a vinegar and sugar reduction made with malts) and local radishes. Anderson also likes the local cucumber and apple salad with a a blue cheese mousse.
According to Airlie Center’s chef de cuisine William Corum, having a restaurant open to the public was all about becoming more known in the local Warrenton community. “A lot of people [in Warrenton] know we’re here, but they don’t know much about it,” says Corum. “Hopefully now that will change.” / Garden Bistro, 6809 Airlie Road, Warrenton; 540-347-1300; Open Thursday through Sunday nights.