Fountain heads

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Rafael Tal is evidently a modest man, eschewing the word “chef” when asked to describe his role in the kitchen at The Fountain Room at the Mark Addy Inn. So permit Restaurantarama to say what Tal will not: Based on the meal we shared last week at the recently renovated Nellysford inn, he is definitely more than a “slave in the kitchen” (as he endearingly puts it), and even perhaps a notch above “culinary artist,” which is what his wife and business partner Leslie calls him.
    Restaurantarama will start at the beginning—the appetizer course of this story, if you will! In February, the Tals took over the Nelson County inn from John Storck Maddox (who employed renowned chef Gail Hobbs Page in the kitchen). They set to work restoring the Italianate fountain in front of the century-old house, which these days features 10 guest rooms in addition to a couple of comfy parlors and a handsomely appointed dining room. They even converted an outbuilding to a game and leisure room. (We liked the pool table, by the way, and would like to urge this trend upon all bed-and-breakfasters because, after all, what better way is there to work off that hearty eye-opening meal than a game of 8 Ball?) By April they were ready for lodgers; by September they were ready for Restaurantarama to sit down for a bite.
    On second thought, make that a feast. The Tuscan Lamb Chops were as succulent as Leslie promised, although Restaurantarama refrained from the practice that has evidently become commonplace among diners at the Fountain Room—gnawing on the bone! (“To see grown adults in a sophisticated setting pick up a lamb chop and chew it says something,” Leslie remarked, with what we’d have to call understatement.) The filet mignon enjoyed by Restaurantarama’s Official Food and Wine Companion was like butter—and we really mean that, because we were able to cut the brandy cream-sauced meat with a butter knife! And let’s not even discuss the desserts.
    O.K., let’s. The chocolate cake had a pudding-rich middle that left us thinking we might order it for a main course next time, so lusty was its flavor. The three-layer chocolate mousse came artfully presented with kiwi, blueberry and a delicate dollop of creme fraiche.
Not content to let the food alone do the talking, the Tals are planning to play up their wine list, and perhaps even begin serving wine dinners. In the meantime, The Fountain Room offers a very respectable list of Virginia and French wines. We found the VR Veritas Premier 2004 backed up our meat dishes very nicely.

What’s hot
In other sections of this fine newspaper, Restaurantarama’s colleagues devote their efforts to finding out what new buildings are going up around town. Well, Restaurantarama is not too shabby in that department, either—especially where politically correct burritos are concerned. We speak, of course, of the Chipotle restaurant that’s been under construction for about a year (it seems), and which is slated to open next month at the Harris Teeter end of the Barracks Road Shopping Center. Twenty-five hundred square feet of all-natural burritos and tacos, Chipotle will be the latest “quick service” national eatery to come to town, and the latest in nonlocal stores to occupy Barracks Road. Katherine Smith, who’s running publicity for the venture, rang us up last week to fill us in on the details.
    Central to the menu: “naturally raised” beef, pork and chicken, about which Smith adds that the birds are “humanely raised.” “They’re in very serene, if you will, environments.” (We approve, and we’re not trying to be a smarty mouth here. We really do want all of our food to feel happy.)
    Smith dispelled a longstanding belief that Chipotle is owned by McDonald’s (which, incidentally, will be neighbors with the new restaurant). Seems McDonald’s was a corporate investor at one point when Chipotle was privately owned. Denver-based Chipotle is now a public corporation, and McDonald’s should be completely divested by October. That’s a relief. Now you needn’t worry that your humane chicken taco is indirectly supporting the oppression of chicken nuggets across the street.

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