Earth movers: Trio of chefs delight at Keswick

Out the bay of magnificent windows at Fossett's Restaurant at Keswick Hall it looks like a huge shopping mall is being built. Where the golf course used to be there are giant earth-moving machines tearing up the landscape for a new course, one designed by world-renowned golf course designer Pete Dye, best known for creating the most feared tee shot in golf–-the 17th hole at TPC at Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. The course is expected to be finished in the spring of 2014. Inside Fossett's, however, a different kind of earth moving was taking place last Friday, August 9, as three chefs from Keswick's sister resorts teamed up to put the earth's local bounty on our plates.

Fossett's chef Aaron Cross, who took over early last year, was joined by his counterparts at Lemaire Restaurant at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond and The Capitol Grille at the Hermitage Hotel in Nashville. Since Richmond-based businessman and philanthropist William H. "Bill" Goodwin Jr. bought Keswick for $22 million, the luxury resort has had the benefit of being in a family of world-class resorts, including, along with the Jefferson and Hermitage, the Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Resort, in South Carolina, as well as the Sea Pines Resort at Hilton Head. Last Friday, chefs Walter Bundy from the Jefferson and Tyler Brown from Hermitage joined Cross to create a unique wine-paired dinner that was not so much a set of courses, but rather three signature entrées by the three chefs. Needless to say, there was plenty to eat, and the wine was flowing.

Wine notes, and a bit of humor, was provided by Keswick's Richard Hewitt, who said that the unusually wet season this year was driving winemakers a bit batty, and pointed out that the three chefs were on their way to perform at the Edible Foodfest in Orange the next day, where, Hewitt joked, the entire town would be air conditioned.

Hewitt also mentioned that the chefs were similar in that they were all gardeners. Indeed, while Brown of the Hermitage boasts his own four-acre garden, Bundy revealed that his garden was in the employee parking lot of the Jefferson Hotel, but he assured the crowd that everything was grown in actual dirt. For Cross, some of his offerings came from the grounds around Keswick.

First up was Bundy, who laid Chesapeake Bay crab meat on slices of ripe red and yellow tomatoes, surrounded by spikes of Bloomsberry cheese from Caramount Farms, and garnished with grilled vidalia onion and basil pesto. Barboursville's 2011 Vermentino complimented the simple, garden-fresh arrangement, which could have been a light summer meal all by itself.

"Pairing crab with these tomatoes, just knocks it out of the park," said Bundy.


Nashville's Brown headed to the sea, serving up chunks of Carolina flounder accompanied by an earthy black garlic sauce, sharp Swiss chard, and a sweet cucumber and melon relish. Along with sips of Michael Shaps 2009 Chardonnay, we swear we could hear the surf pounding.

Lastly, Cross delivered the meat. Bison ribeye, sitting on gratin potatoes and an arrangement of Keswick's summer giardiniera, perked up by a toasted anise seed sauce, and riding on a wave of a welcome red–-Pollak Vineyards 2010 Meritage.

The dinner offered just about everything–seafood, garden vegetables, local cheese, tender meat, and sauces that complimented but did not overwhelm. When the three chefs came out to the dinning room after dinner, they were greeted with applause.

Earth moving, whether from the garden to the table, or from tee to green, may just become an art form at Keswick.