Monday, March 30, 2009


I was gonna title this post 'Andy's New Toy', but I decided against it. The theme remains the same, just a different title.

I was walking around the neighborhood yesterday and noticed something really spectacular. The grass was turning from drab winter green to that unmistakable, vibrant spring green. I'm not talking about that mid-May green you get from dumping fertilizer on your grass. I'm talking about the late March, early April green that happens when the sun stays in the sky longer and the leaves of grass start to stretch their legs after a LONG winter. That green. Have you ever slowed down and considered the different shades of green that grass can take during a year?(I know, I need medication and perhaps therapy.)

I recently purchased an immersion circulator with the winnings from the Mid-Atlantic Taste of Elegance. Click here if you're not sure what I'm talking about. Basically, what I'm saying is that we cook the best pig in the mid-Atlantic. Get over it.
Anyhow, this little piece of equipment allows us to cook foods at a consistent temperature(like to a tenth of a degree celsius) for a specific period of time. All the cool kids on the playground have one, so I thought that even though we serve bigger portions of food than the 'cool kids'(by cool kids, I mean the 'we serve .25 ounces of food on a plate because it's 'artistic' and the food press is falling all over themselves covering our 'modern' chemical infused antics) and you don't have to go to Pat's Cheesesteaks after a very expensive meal to actually fill your stomach, I thought I should get one to experiment with how this technology could work within the scope of how WE do things. So, I was gonna write this post about how cool my new 'toy' was and all the things that we were able to do with it.....then I got inspired.

Inspired by what, you ask? My new toy. Wanna see a picture of it? No, really. Do you wanna? It's awesome.....really is..... OK, here it is.....

I know what you're thinking. 'What the hell, Andy? First, you give us a pic of a piece of cool electronic equipment and then tell us that your 'new toy' is some dirt and a few chive plants?' Well, yes. That's exactly what I'm telling you. Here's the thing....have you ever run your hands over warm chives reaching with all their might for the sun and thought about how amazing that feeling really is? Have you ever cupped a mound of sun-warmed on top, still cool underneath spring dirt in your hands and thought about the possibilities? The dirt is my 'new toy', not the immersion circulator and I couldn't be happier.

My parents just got home from their month long stay in South Carolina and during the middle of dinner service, yes, right in the middle, I took them out to see where I had already plucked the first asparagus shoot from the ground.(I also took some pride in knowing that my dad didn't have any asparagus poking through his soil yet. Mine's close to the Mansion and on the southern facing side, so I've got some warm dirt) Honestly, I was like a parent showing off the first school pictures of the year. That's how exciting this all is.

We also have tarragon and rhubarb poking through the still cool dirt.

Obviously, we get pretty excited about spring at The Sheppard Mansion. So excited, that we make a big celebration over the first asparagus. Yes, we cooked one single asparagus, plated it and ate it. Here's a movie of Karen savoring our first 'harvest' of the season.'s a video of me showing off the 'first cut' and sounding a little like a redneck. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

So, what's the moral of the story? Technology is fun, but playing in the dirt is the 'new toy' and yields sexy products that turn into soulful, restorative preparations. By the way, just because it's 'soulful and restorative' doesn't mean it isn't 'art' in its own right. It's just that this type of art leaves you full, both physically and emotionally.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

This is cool stuff.....

A couple of weeks ago, I approached friend of the blog, food enthusiast and awesome photographer Andy Smith and asked if he'd be interested in hanging out in the kitchen on a saturday night and shooting some photographs. This post is dedicated to the results of what he saw through his lense. I have to offer a huge amount of thanks to Andy. I look at the photos he took(no food styling was done to the food whatsoever. It was plate and shoot.) and am amazed that that food comes out of our kitchen. I'll offer a bit of explanation about each photo, but nothing other than that. The pics speak for themselves.

Pre Meal Meeting

Parker House Rolls


Mise en Place


Potato Chips

Bibb Lettuce Salad

Sheppard Mansion Farms Highland Beef Heart and Tongue Cheese Steak

Kitchen in Motion

Beet and Smoked Salmon Salad

The most amazing pic of vegetables in a pan

Season from above, big boy.

Pizza and Rettland Farms Egg

Plating Dessert

Monday, March 16, 2009

One of those times....

....There are times in your life when you meet people who, the first instant you meet them, 'get it'. I had one of those experiences this past September. I was fortunate enough to meet Staci Strauss and Craig McCord. They are the folks behind the awesome website I had long been an admirer of their work featuring farmers, producers and chefs, so one day I decided to drop them a line and see if they might be interested in telling my story. Thankfully for me, they thought my story was worthy of featuring on their site. From the minute we met, I knew they were both very interested in food's story from the ground to the plate. Not only were they interested in food's story, they were really interested in the folks who were producing the food. There were many times during their visit that I felt more like a proud sixteen year old showing off his new car than a chef!(Hey, look at how perfect this produce is and how flavorful it is. Check out Beau's hogs. Aren't they they most content animals you've ever seen?) The food community we are building in south central PA is so inspiring to me and I think was also very inspiring to Craig and Staci.

Last week, Craig e-mailed me and let me know that he had posted the film on their site. I couldn't have asked for two better people to tell our story. Please check it out and don't stop at my story. There are so many other inspiring stories on their site. Watch them all!!!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

My Favorite Things.

I'm celebrating my 35th birthday this friday. Yes, friday the 13th.

As I was considering the best way to celebrate, I thought it would be really fun to construct a tasting menu for this saturday that was built around my favorite things. Honestly, this was a little hard since some of my favorite things aren't in season right now and can't be put on the menu. So, let's consider this My Favorite Things - March Edition. If you're familiar with the blog and the restaurant, you'll see some of the usual suspects listed(what's a birthday celebration without country ham and foie gras?). We will be charging $75 for the menu this weekend and I think once you check out the courses, you'll agree that it's worth it. Just being able to sample Trent Hendricks' cheese is worth $75 in my book.

I encourage everyone to come out and help me celebrate my long, slow slide to 40 by eating some great food at a great restaurant. As with every saturday night, if you order the tasting menu every bottle on our wine list is 50% off. Hear that DC folks? You ARE NOT going to get a deal like this anywhere in the 202, 703, 301 or any area code other than the 717. Oh yeah, how about this? Our best available room is only $150.(yes, breakfast is included) So, get out of the city, eat great food, drink a lot of great wine and then head upstairs and do what you do.

Here's the menu. See you saturday.

‘My Favorite Things’

Barbequed Pig Trotter Sandwich
Crispy fried lard chips with Black truffle dip
A demitasse of celery root soup

12 Hour Berkshire Pork Belly
Napa cabbage, glazed turnips, grain mustard sabayon

Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras
Frisee and blood orange salad, Sorghum molasses gastrique,
Toasted Brioche

Seared Atlantic Scallop
Sheppard Mansion Country Ham pierogi,
warm caviar and meyer lemon vinaigrette

Sheppard Mansion Farms Highland Beef Rib Eye
bone marrow, baby carrots, potato cake, onion rings,
My Dad’s Horseradish Sauce

Trent Hendricks’ ‘Pub Cheddar’
Sheppard Mansion Bacon Pound Cake, hard cider glaze

Red Velvet Redux
Valrhona chocolate cake, cream cheese ice cream, toasted pecan brittle

Our Own ‘Nutter Butters’

p.s. if you're really savvy, you'll bring a package of Nutter Butters or Pop Tarts for the kitchen guys......