“I live here. I’m from here. I’m not going anywhere. Loudoun County is the end of the line.” After almost two years as chef and founding partner at the critically lauded Clarity, Sterling native Jason Maddens will open a solo project: Ah-So.
“We sort of always planned to expand,” says Maddens, so when he and Clarity’s Jon Krinn, whom he calls his “original mentor,” started discussing their next moves late last year, the two decided to split. Krinn will continue in Vienna, and Maddens is looking at spaces between Ashburn and Leesburg.
Coming from the kitchens of Central Michel Richard and 2941—plus Texas Roadhouse, where he worked during college before culinary school—Maddens didn’t start to really appreciate wine until he started leading the program at Clarity. Ah-so refers to the two-pronged wine opener usually used for delicate, older corks. “If a bottle of wine requires an Ah-So to open it, you’re generally in for some good wine,” Madden’s wrote on Ah-So’s Facebook page.
He also sees the potential for Northern Virginia’s wine scene. “We have great wine out here,” he say. “We all kind of look at the area as Napa Valley 20 years ago, but we have the infrastructure they didn’t necessarily have.”
Ah-So will be a modern American restaurant of the traditional appetizer-entree-dessert format with a focus on wine and, Maddens says, will “try to source locally, like most chefs do.” He plans to add new dishes to the menu daily and will also offer what he calls micro-wine dinners ($85) with four or five themed courses paired with glasses.
He’s currently workshopping his concepts and spreading the word about his new venture by hosting pop-up dinners at wineries, the first of which is tonight (sold out) at Stone Tower Winery in Leesburg, with a second tentatively scheduled for early April. He hopes to open in the coming months. “The goals is early summer,” he says. “But you know how that goes, could be June, could be December.”
Though he’s a father of two young girls, ages 5 and 2, and coordinating the various tasks needed to start a restaurant, he’s also studying for his Level 2 certification from the Court of Masters Sommeliers. The new, much shorter commute should help him fit his life back into his work: “Ten minutes would be fantastic.” Maddens is all of us.