FOOD- THE DISH- Hen house: Lexington's Red Hen lures local culinary talent

Lexington's new gastro-pub, the Ren Hen, has local talent serving up local food.

Lexington's Red Hen lures local culinary talent

Back in January, aspiring restaurateur John Blackburn told Dish he was looking for a talented chef willing to "flee the big 5-star kitchens" of Charlottesville for Lexington, where Blackburn has finally opened the Red Hen, a gastro-pub style restaurant in a renovated 150-year old former chapel.

"I'm hoping to identify and hire a chef in the next five months to take this on and make it her/his baby," said Blackburn. "In other words, we're looking for somebody who wants more than just a job."

Well, that willing chef turned out to be OXO's ex-impresario Tucker Yoder.

"I was blown away by how fast news traveled after that Hook piece," says Blackburn. " I got resumes from DC, New York, and one from Aspen. Ultimately, Tucker fit the profile we were looking for... smart, sane, ambitious, and ridiculously talented."

However, it appears that Blackburn, founding editor of Blue Ridge Outdoors and a former journalist for C-Ville Weekly in the early days, was not content to lure just one of our culinary pros to faraway Lexington; he's also recruited former Boar's Head employee Janelle Clark to manage, and he hired former OXO and L'etoile sous-chefs Michael Perry and Tyler Teass. In fact, the journalist in Blackburn couldn't help feeding us a headline when he sent news of Ren Hen's debut– Cville Dream Team Takes Lex by Storm!

And according to early returns, that appears to be what they've done. On his blog, The Humble Chef, Yoder writes that the Red Hen had 41 covers on its first night a month ago. Since then, the place has been "packed," says Blackburn.

"They're doing progressive fine dining in a way that has never been done here," he says, "serving local beef, lamb, chicken, and vegetables, and people are going crazy for it."

Indeed, a reviewer on Trip-Advisor writes, "We had heard this restaurant was opening soon and ate dinner there on its first Saturday night– definitely worth the wait. A meal made with fresh, local ingredients is supposed to be costly, but we were delighted with the entrée prices. The heirloom tomatoes on our amuse-bouche were delicious. We will be back frequently."

Sadly, it's unlikely that Yoder will be "amusing our mouths" at the Ren Hen frequently, seeing as Lexington is an hour away, but next time you feel your own desire to flee, perhaps a pilgrimage to the place where Lee and Traveller are buried is in order.

Get your fill of Apples this weekend!

On October 18 and 19 from 10am-4:30pm, Graves Mountain Lodge in Syria is having its apple festival, complete with good food and entertainment including bluegrass music, cloggers, arts and crafts, hay rides and horseback rides. Plus the orchards will be open for apple picking! Call 540-923-4231 for more information. 

Closer to home, Tufton Farm is having an apple tasting on Saturday, October 18 from 9:30am-12pm. Participants will taste, savor, and, most importantly, rate each apple in this 2.5-hour program. Tom Burford, "Professor Apple," will provide numerous apple varieties, each introduced with a discussion of their history and culture. A unique opportunity to explore the essence of the apple, this event has been among Monticello's most popular. The cost is $10. For more information call 984-9896. Tufton Farm is on Milton Road (Route 732), just a couple of miles from Monticello. 

Lexington's new gastro-pub, the Ren Hen, has local talent serving up local food.